As planned months in advance and after my awesome dinner at Bazaar at the QT Resort in Port Douglas my family and I (plus a few extras) headed up there again for Mother’s Day brunch last Sunday. After many a ‘cheat dinner’ for MS and I we were looking forward to a ‘cheat breakfast’ for a change. I called up about two weeks prior to make a booking for 11 people and while on the phone I asked the guy on the other end what kind of food they would be serving out of interest and so MS and I could prepare ourselves for what was to come. The guy had no idea what they were going to serve and after putting me on hold to ask around the restaurant he came back with a blank. All he knew was that it was buffet style but had no idea what kind of food they would have. He apologised that he couldn’t be of any help to me but I was still disappointed that he couldn’t tell me anything. The Mother’s Day Brunch at Bazaar was being held from 10am – 12pm and AU$28 for adult’s and AU$15 for children with a glass of bubbly for mum on arrival. Being the highly organised person that I am (the majority of the time) and not wanting to follow in my mother’s foot steps of arriving late to every goddamn thing MS and I +2 arrived 30 minutes before the start time. I think I overestimated the time it took to drive to Port just a little. (Here’s a bit of trivia for you – apparently the head breakfast chef at Bazaar is Sri Lankan and also Mohamed Al-Fayed’s personal chef for 20 years.)
The four of us grabbed a seat near the bar and waited for 10am to arrive. The rest of my family, true to form, were still driving along the range anyway so there wasn’t a whole lot we could do. I saw heaps of people coming in and out of the restaurant with plates of food and sitting at the tables and chairs near the bar so I figured I would head on over and see what was going on. I was told by the girl at the counter that the brunch didn’t start for another 16 minutes and I could come back then. She could have fooled me because it looked like the service had already begun but I assumed that the people digging into the food must be the dregs from the resort’s breakfast buffet. I thought it was a bit strange considering that we only had 16 minutes till the Mother’s Day Brunch which was to be served in the same restaurant. Anyway I went and sat back down with my party of three and while we waited we drooled over the food being eaten around us. Croissants, pancakes and kransky’s, oh my.
Eventually the rest of our group arrived and wishing the four mother’s a Happy Mother’s Day we went and joined the large queue that had formed out the front of the restaurant. After about 20 minutes we finally made it to the front. We paid our brunch money and our table was given a ticket for the lucky door prize which I hung onto for safe keeping. One of the waitresses led us over to our table which was situated directly in the sun out on the deck and might I add the ONLY table in the sun out on the deck. The feisty one of our group TT politely told them that we weren’t going to sit there and to find us another table. I really don’t understand why someone would make the ridiculous decision to have one table out in the stinking hot mid-morning sun. Anyway so they moved us out of the sun and onto a smaller table (it was really only a table for 8) where we were all crammed in and to cut a long story short we complained about that table and ended up moving to the one next to it. We weren’t being difficult but from the get go I could see that this whole she-bang (aka Mother’s Day Brunch) was very poorly thought out and not very well executed. The powers that be eventually moved another group to the table in the sun but moved in a couple of poolside umbrellas for a bit of shade (in hindsight that probably would have been a smart thing to do before diners arrived). By the time we had waited in line, paid, moved tables twice it was already 10.30am the worms were biting. One of the waitresses poured out glasses of champagne for the mum’s at our table (my dad also managed to get in on the act), which surprisingly enough was the rather expensive French Champagne Moet and Chandon. To be honest, I was expecting some el-cheapo champagne to come out and mum nearly fell off her chair when she saw the Moet label on the bottle.
The first station of the buffet (the one that is the salad station at the dinner buffet) was full of juices (apple, orange and pineapple) in small milk-type bottle with straws. These were being replenished regularly as they looked to be pretty popular. Next to that was four different types of, well I didn’t know what they were because there was no signs. I asked a waitress that just so happened to be walking past and she said the one was a passion-fruit yogurt drink, the next was bircher muesli, the third one was a mixed berry smoothie and on the end in the shot glasses was watermelon and lime shots. The watermelon in the shots had separated from the lime juice but they were still really yummy! I grabbed an orange juice and another watermelon and lime shot for myself and left them back at my table to be consumed with my breakfast. Station no. 2 was pretty much all cut up bits of fresh fruit. It looked good but I wasn’t there to eat fruit and I don’t think anyone else was either since I didn’t see anyone serving themselves fruit that morning.
We all headed up to the buffet to take a look at what was on offer. There was already a large line of people hovering around the hot food station serving themselves what was on offer. I managed to snavel one of the mini Egg’s Benedict’s with poached eggs on top an English muffin with spinach and hollandaise sauce before they disappeared onto the plates of other awaiting diners. There was some sort of cold meat that I thought was a strange looking bacon but soon realised that it wasn’t when another chef brought out a plate of real bacon. I don’t know what it was. It looked like pastrami. Also at the buffet there was baked beans, a large bowl of chick peas (WTF?), fried eggs, scrambled eggs, poached eggs, hash browns, French toast, roasted tomato, some sort of creamy potato and mushroom thing that everyone was picking the mushrooms out of, baked veggies with capsicum and garlic in it and mini cheese kransky’s. And that was about it. I arrived to a large dish that had the leftovers of some sort of red sauce in it and MS informed me that it was bacon with BBQ sauce but I was obviously too late. The chef removed the dish and it was never replaced. The pancakes that we had drooled over had run out and one of the chef’s was busily trying to make some more. However, the pancakes that he did make were taken in about 3 seconds flat by a large pancake line that never seemed to subside. Let’s just say the chef never managed to get on top of that pancake line. Once the French toast had run out that was it for the French toast as well. The baked veggies with capsicum and garlic ran out quickly and were replaced by the large dish of chick peas that of course no one had eaten with a couple of pieces of zucchini tossed in with it. Pretty poor substitute if you ask me. Next to the hot buffet was a large stand with bread and toasters on it but there were no croissants to be found. If I hadn’t seen them on other peoples plates when we first arrived then I wouldn’t have even known that there was any croissants. Additionally, I have no frigin idea what other sweet selections and pastries were there before hand but when I got there at about 10.45am there was only empty wooden boards with a few measly crumbs remaining and a handful of ordinary looking muffins.
Suffice to say that in between all the pushing and shoving to get what little selection of food that was left I didn’t managed to get any photos of the breakfast except for the one photo that I took when I returned with my plate to the table. I am not going to write a whole lot more on this topic because frankly it pisses me off. I was disappointed, MS was disappointed and pretty much my whole table was a little disappointed in the lack of food. It was almost like a mad stampede for food between 10am and 11am and then everyone and everything just disappeared. I know that the Mother’s Day Brunch was only AU$28 a head but it seems to me that all they did was just tack it onto the end of the usual breakfast fare and hope for the best. By that stage a lot of the food was already gone and only half of it was replenished. Once a particular item (i.e. the BBQ Bacon, the French Toast and the croissants) was gone then that was it for that food item. I have no doubt that half of that stuff was already gone before the Mother’s Day Brunch had even started!
The waitstaff (especially the lovely female host) on the other hand did an excellent job with what they could even though by mine and MS’ calculations they were at least 3 people short as they were absolutely run off their feet the poor things. Despite the short comings with the food our table left ridiculously full since we did manage to more than fill up on the food that was actually there. I loved the little Egg’s Benedict’s with their perfectly poached eggs (a mean feat at a buffet) although the hollandaise sauce left much to be desired because it tasted like nothing. MS claimed that the coffee was some of the worst he had ever tasted. Another thing – MS and I were really enjoying the little cheese kransky’s until we saw one of the chefs pull out what had to be about a 3kg industrial sized bag of them and tip a pile into his frying pan. That sort of ruined the whole illusion for us and I guess that is one of the downfalls with having an open kitchen in that everyone can see what it is that you are doing. There is however, a mile of kitchen out the back for them to keep that big bag of kransky’s out of the gaze of buffet goers. The whole idea of the Bazaar buffet is to recreate the traditional marketplace and put an emphasis on produce and flavours. Somehow this seemed like a step back from that concept.
Reading over the online reviews of Bazaar‘s breakfast buffet it appears that running out of food is a regular occurrence with many diners saying that you ‘need to get in early’ to avoid disappointment. Isn’t the whole reason for holidaying/staying at a resort like QT to relax, unwind and maybe even sleep in a little? Surely no one wants to have to get up at the sparrow’s fart to make sure that they don’t miss out on the majority of the selections available at breakfast. A little more careful planning would go a long way to ensure that this wasn’t the case not just for the Mother’s Day Brunch but for their daily breakfast buffet in general. Well, lets get something straight here, the breakfast buffet and the Mother’s Day Brunch were from what I saw exactly the same thing (except we got champagne and the breakfast diners got more food).
In Bazaar‘s defense the four mums at our table were kept happy with the almost endless, but responsibly served, glasses of Moet and Chandon and they were more than a bit giggly. On the advertisement for the Mother’s Day Brunch it said a glass of bubbly on arrival – we certainly got more than that. In addition to the large amount of champagne consumed at our table we also won the lucky door prize which was a bottle of Moet. In the end I can whinge and complain as much as I like but last Sunday it was all about mum and she had a really good time even if she was half cut by midday – Love you mum x
87 – 109 Port Douglas Rd, Port Douglas QLD 4877
Ph: (07) 40 998900
Opening Hours: 7 days, Breakfast 6.30am – 10.30am, Dinner 6pm – 9.30pm
Tuesday night is usually cheat meal night for MS and I so we racked our brains all day to think of somewhere to go or more importantly something that we wanted to eat. I know this whole dieting and cheat meal crap probably sounds like a load of wank but it’s something that has to be done for the time being. I’m certainly not going to be giving up eating and/or writing about food that’s for sure. But, a word of warning… For the next few months you will probably see that the majority of my posts are going to be about foods that aren’t exactly healthy. Not all of them, but yeah most of them. Having said that I do have a couple of healthier posts in the pipeline. So yeah like I said we racked out brains all day about where we should go for dinner. Did we want pasta? No. Pizza? No. Fish and chips? No. Steak? No. Did we want to go to Fetta’s? No. Anyway after trolling the menus of a couple of restaurants online I came up with a bonza idea that would satisfy both MS’ craving for something big and meaty (haha) and my craving for… well anything with cheese on it. That is when we decided on the Green Ant Cantina.
Now I have already done a post for the Green Ant (as it’s known by locals) about a year and a half ago but I am going to do another one, firstly because I have written about nearly three quarters of the restaurants in Cairns already and am running out of ideas so some are bound to come around for a second write up sooner or later (please don’t bombard me with ideas because I know there are still plenty to write about, it was a joke). And secondly because MS and I were on the back end of our Melbourne Cup celebrations that particular night so I’ll be damned if I could remember much about the place, apart from what I wrote down.
When we arrived we were greeted by a friendly blonde barmaid who said we could sit anywhere we liked although the area out the back wasn’t opened because there wasn’t enough people in the restaurant to fill it. The barmaid informed us that if more people turned up then she would open it up but for now we were confined to the front area and inside adjacent to the bar. We were happy to sit at one of the roomy booths inside and set up shop at the closest one to the bar. I did notice that the chair part of the booth was a little bit far away from the table which for someone who is 5 foot nothing like me is a little annoying especially considering I drop food and drink on myself at the best of times. It wasn’t a problem however for 6 foot something MS who didn’t seem to mind.
The waitress brought over a couple of menus for us to look over and took our drink order. Although I rarely drink I did feel like a glass of white wine and asked the waitress if they had any Sauvignon Blanc. I couldn’t see a drinks menu so I trusted her to do the right thing by me but made sure she wasn’t going to fetch me a glass of house wine. MS ordered a Green Ant Cider to wet his whistle and we continued looking over the menu. Being the fatties that we were feeling like on this particular night we decided that we would both get an entree and a main each. The best thing about this whole cheat meal thing apart from the obvious (another joke) is that I can get whatever I like on the menu. Normally when I was just eating, ummm normally, I would look for a healthy-ish option on the menu instead of the really mouth watering-ly fatty ones that I really wanted. Not now, oh no. Now I want the biggest, fattiest, cheesiest thing with the most carbs that I can find (oh god I hope my trainer doesn’t know about this blog).
Although there was a little encouragement from the waitress to try the “Wings of Death” which are chicken wings “doused in secret sauces from the hottest chillies known to man” MS and I opted for a couple of tastier sounding entrees. Plus a free beer and my name on the wall doesn’t particularly float my boat since I have seen video footage of someone eating these things and it really wasn’t pretty. MS and I were at the Green Ant to enjoy our meals not cry over them. Well hopefully not anyway. So after looking over the entree menu MS couldn’t go past the Pork Belly Taquitos for AU$15. They are described on the menu as ‘Crispy fried tortillas stuffed with Mexican style shredded pork belly and served with sour cream’. Sounds amazing to me and I was glad that he chose them because it was something that I was more than happy to share. Having developed a recent craving for ‘fake’ tasting cheese (I could smash a box of Easy Mac I really could) I chose the Chilli Con Queso Dip – Warm Mexican cheese dip with herbs and spices served with toasted corn chips for AU$14.
Next up for the mains true to form MS just can’t go past anything that has chorizo in it so he chose the Choice Chorizo Quesadilla – Grilled 12″ flour tortilla folded and stuffed with chorizo, spinach, spanish onion, capsicum and cheese served with fresh tomato salsa, aioli and fresh lime on the side for AU$25. Myself? Well I stopped reading after the Chilli Cheese Fries. Everything on the menu sounded great but this… well, this was in a field of it’s own. It reads as ‘A mountain of famous chunky chips topped with our Texan style chilli con carne slow cooked for 8 hours, made with diced rump steak and a dash of Jack Daniel’s, oven baked with melted cheese and served with sour cream’ for AU$25. Ay caramba!
There was probably only about 30 people in the place, most of which were only there for a few quiet drinks so we got our entrees pretty quickly. After a couple of photos we dug into the Pork Belly Taquitos, dipping them in a bit of chilli sauce and then sour cream. They were ok. After the description on the menu I was expecting a lot more and these things sort of resembled samosas more than a taquito. They were almost certainly pre-made and then tossed in the deep fryer for a little bit too long since they were overcooked and a little too crispy. They were also very… flavourless I guess is the word I am looking for. Also the sour cream seemed like it had been watered down a bit. It wasn’t thick and creamy like sour cream should be but more watery and tasteless. Disappointing and not what we were expecting. I had a couple of taquitos while MS wolfed down the rest.
The Chilli Con Queso Dip was still nothing spectacular although we ate the lot – we were so hungry! The dip just wasn’t cheesy enough. It was a good sized serve with a good amount of corn chips (probably should have been more) but it wasn’t all I had imagined it to be. Like the sour cream it was also a little runny and not thick enough for a dip. I was sad I didn’t get the fake cheese flavour that I had so desired (or any cheese flavour for that matter). Here’s hoping the mains were a bit better!
Our mains arrived about 10 minutes after our entrees dishes were cleared. The waitress asked if there was anything more that she could get for us (there wasn’t) and left us alone with our food. MS’ Chorizo Quesadilla was about the same size as his dinner plate and cut into three fat portions. He squeezed a bit of lime over the top (I’m assuming that’s what you do with it) and hoed into it dipping each forkful into his aioli as he went. Apparently it was exactly what the cheat doctor ordered because he absolutely destroyed it (that’s my way of saying demolished). In fact he even said that he could have eaten another one it was that good. It left him rather full though so he probably couldn’t have fitted another one in. I tasted a bite of it and it was delicious although I didn’t like the capsicum inside, that’s just me though.
My Chilli Cheese Fries were enormous. I felt like a total pig when it was placed in front of me but also secretly thanked myself for ordering it. The thick cut chips were perfect having been baked in the oven till they had just the right amount of crisp on them. The slow cooked pieces of beef were delicious although a little few and far between. They may have been hidden underneath since I didn’t get very far. I was in Chilli Cheese Fry heaven but unfortunately only got through about a third of it before I was stuffed. Maybe it was the large plate of Chilli Con Queso Dip, corn chips and the taquito that I had eaten prior or maybe it was the fact that I am not used to eating that kind of food. I only wish that I had ordered some guacamole on the side because that would have been the cherry on top. It was everything that I though it would be. Pure unadulterated carby goodness.
So the mains had come through with the goods and saved our very ordinary entrees. In the grand scheme of things if we did it all over again I think MS and I would just order the mains on their own because they are certainly enough food but on this occasion our eyes were too big for our stomachs. We had a most enjoyable meal on what was a nice quiet night at the Green Ant Cantina. There are some really yummy dishes on the menu and although I do think that some of them are slightly overpriced (it is a backpacker hangout after all) they are all pretty large serves. I remember they used to do a 2-4-1 locals deal with all main meals but this seems to be only for steaks now which is a bit of a shame but I haven’t tried their steaks yet (check out my dinner page for more info here). The service was friendly and maybe a slightly overbearing but that could also be because we were seated so close to the bar and cash register. The atmosphere is laid back and chilled out during the week but picks up a little bit over the weekend so if you want a quiet(ish) meal then head there between Mon and Thursday. If you think you are all tough and reckon you could destroy a plate of the “Wings of Death” and get your name on the wall then be my guest. Just don’t blame me when you are a snotty, drooling mess by the end of your dinner. They don’t just serve Mexican food and eye-wateringly hot chicken wings at the Green Ant, there is also burgers (a world famous Kangaroo Burger apparently), salads and some sh*t hot sounding desserts. Stoner’s Delight with chocolate fudge brownies and Kahlua chocolate sauce anyone? *wipes away drool*
Green Ant Cantina
183 Bunda St, Cairns QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 4041 5061
Opening Hours: Mon – Sat from 4pm till 12am
After some encouraging words from one of my readers regarding the new breakfast menu at The Edge Food Store I figured I would bury the hatchet and head there last Sunday with MS in tow. We really needed to dine out for breakfast (for our psyche) since it was something that we used to do at least twice a week before we starting eating nothing but broccoli, chicken and brown rice about 12 weeks ago. Currently my breakfast consists of two pieces of rye bread and four eggs (two whole, two whites) so I figured that they would surely have something similar that I could munch on and still get my dining out ‘kicks’. To be honest I can’t even remember why I had been holding a grudge towards The Edge but something about rude staff and waiting nearly 20 minutes for two coffees seems vaguely familiar. I am definitely one to hold a grudge and it takes quite a bit to get off my sh*t list once someone or something is on there.
We arrived just before midday and headed inside to have a look over the menu and order before we sat down. For those of you that haven’t been to The Edge you have to order food and drinks at the counter, grab a number and they bring it out to you. Inside there is a multitude of gourmet products from truffle oil to curry powders to cheeses to ready-made meals. I could spend a ridiculous amount of money in there since gourmet foods are a huge weakness of mine (along with platters and other homewares – would they just hurry up and open a Wheel and Barrow in Cairns already?!) My ex mother in law JC and I drool over the Cherry Balsamic Vinegar that they stock. Buy it, dip some fresh bread in it and eat it. It’s life changing. Anyway so after drooling over the sweet biscuits and chocolates in jars and bowls on the counter we quickly decided on what we wanted. Was there ever any doubt? MS went for the closest thing to a Big Breakfast that he could find and ordered The Edge Signature with ‘The Lot’ – Poached eggs, Byron Bay bacon, locally made cheese kransky, garlic roast field mushroom, roasted tomato, herbed sweet potato, tomato apple relish and wood fired Italian ciabatta for AU$21.50. While I, looking for the closest thing (but tastiest thing) I could find to my ‘at home’ breakfast chose the Vegetarian Brekky with poached eggs, roasted tomato, sweet potato, dukkah crusted avocado wedge, sheep’s feta and spinach on toasted rye bread with truffled hollandaise for AU$20.50. Initially I asked them if I could have the hollandaise on the side but was met with a side ways glance from MS so then I just asked the man at the counter to leave it out altogether *sad panda*.
While MS and I were being served at the counter I saw some diners seated near me receive their meals. Although all three were the same they looked really damn good. I had another look over the menu and saw that they had ordered the Olive Bread Toasty with Avocado, Fresh Tomato, Basil with a Poached Egg on top for a very reasonable price of AU$10.50. Something else that caught my attention on the breakfast menu was The Edge Omelette with Avocado, Gruyere, Spinach, Caramelised Onion, Pumpkin and Cheese Kransky for AU$19.50. Are they frigin serious? I think I just died and went to breakfast menu heaven. Not to mention the ‘Bacon Jam’ (AU$3.50) that I didn’t actually read on the menu until we were outside and seated, otherwise I would have ordered it just to see what the hell it was.
Okay so enough about the actual sound of the items of the menu I haven’t even told you if they tasted good! So we waited about 5 – 10 minutes for our flat whites to arrive and then soon after our breakfast’s arrived. The place was about 2/3 full for this Sunday morning and we were sitting outside on the pathway after initially sitting at one of the benches next to the road and decided it was too uncomfortable. Also my six-foot something love was much too big for it. When the food arrived I have to say that initially I was surprised because I didn’t expect it to look so visually pleasing or so big! Mine was enormous and far bigger than I needed as was MS’ but he is more than double my size anyway so he needs that much.
Straight away MS transferred the roasted tomato from his plate to mine (he has something against roasted tomato, strange but at least it means more for me). MS wasn’t too impressed with the tomato apple relish but I think it was because I had made the mistake of telling him about the Bacon Jam, again after we had already ordered our food. MS’ eggs were a little on the hard side but it turns out that is actually the way he prefers them not 2 seconds away from undercooked and running all over the plate like I prefer them. He practically inhaled the bacon and after eating half of the cheesy kransky and then deciding that he probably shouldn’t be eating cheesy sausages he left it on the side of his plate, only to succumb to his primal instincts and eat the rest of it about five minutes later. In the words of MS ‘Oh god it tastes so good!’
Me – I loved the dark rye bread which was a little dry without the buttery goodness of hollandaise sauce that it was supposed to come with although that was my own fault for not getting it. The egg yolks were a little on the hard side and not quite perfectly poached. The sweet potato was delicious and yes you guessed it, sweet. I really loved the dukkah crusted avocado which was more like half an avocado than a wedge. I shared half of my half with MS who was kind enough to share a taste of his big thick kransky with me (pardon the pun – I couldn’t help myself). The sheep’s feta that I had vowed to leave on the side of the plate (as wasteful as that is) got the better of me after I had just a tiny taste and I ended up gobbling up the entire ramekin of it along with the spinach. It was beautiful and creamy but not too salty like I tend to find most types of feta. It was a generous dish, both in taste and serving size.
Yum, it was truly a great breakfast. I have said in the past that I think paying over AU$20 for a breakfast meal is almost a joke in Cairns and having said that anywhere really but I am leaning towards acceptable on this particular occasion since the meals were huge and the quality of the food was excellent. If the meals had been crap then I probably would have lost my sh*t but we left smiling and our bellies were full. If I can give one criticism, the coffee wasn’t too exciting. Unfortunately although this breakfast menu has only recently been refurbished these breakfasts might soon be a thing of the past since The Edge Food Store has been up for sale for a couple of months now. Hopefully if and when it does sell things will only get bigger and better for everyone involved because I would certainly like to enjoy some more breakfasts there. I can almost hear you saying ‘I’m pretty sure she said they were having the closest thing to an at home type breakfast’. Well I can assure you that feta cheese, bacon and cheese cransky is definitely not on the list of things we eat at home but I’ll live with the guilt just this once don’t you worry about me.
A special thanks goes to one of my reader’s RH for steering me in the right direction with The Edge Food Store
The Edge Food Store
1/138 Collins Ave, Edge Hill QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 4053 2977
Opening Hours: Mon – Sat 7am – 5.30pm, Sun 8am – 3pm
I had been wanting to try the banquet at Hanuman at the Hilton for quite some time now so you can imagine my delight when my flamboyant friend HH invited me for dinner with friends one Friday night. I met HH and SR in the lobby at the Hilton at 8pm and after get acquainted (I had never met SR before) and re-acquainted (I hadn’t seen HH since a Christmas Party in December) we headed on into Hanuman to meet three more of his friends waiting inside. DR I already knew but the other two men at the table I had never met before. I cannot for the life of me remember either of their names but it doesn’t really matter since I only initials anyway. The one sitting directly across from me was a dead ringer for Jeremy Clarkson, at least I thought so anyway. I informed him of his resemblance to the tv star and he thought it was very funny. Apparently no one had ever told him that he looked like JC before. I like to think I have a strange knack for comparing peoples looks to celebrities (and sometimes even animals) but then no one else seems to agree with me.
On walking into Hanuman I was surprised to find that half of Cairns seemed to be dining there on this particular Friday night. I know that Hanuman is a very popular restaurant – in Cairns, Darwin and Alice Springs – but because I have only ever been there for lunch before I guess I am only used to seeing a couple of tables occupied. After introductions were made at the table the waitress took our drink orders. I ordered a glass of Squealing Pig Sauvignon Blanc for AU$11 from the Wine Menu while the rest of the men at the table (I was the only female, story of my life) ordered beers. All except for the other guy whose name I can’t remember whom for some reason decided to order a cocktail called a Coconut Kiss. He was horrified to find that when it turned up it was all pink and girlie and subsequently tried to palm it off to me down the other end of the table. The responsible person that I am politely declined his offer since I was driving and one glass of wine was almost more than enough for little old me.
There are three banquet menu’s to choose from on the menu at Hanuman, the Rama Banquet for AU$39.50 per person, the Sita Banquet for AU$49.50 per person and the Hanuman Banquet for AU$62 per person. Each banquet is basically a more grandiose version of the last. HH had already taken the liberty of choosing the Sita Banquet for our table, as he tends to do. It included a selection of entrees, mains and a dessert. Even though our food didn’t take long I was absolutely famished by the time the entrees arrived on two platters placed at either end of the table. This was my one and only cheat meal for the week (FML) so I wanted it to be good. Each platter included three entree dishes including Kashmiri Chicken Tikka marinated with yogurt, ginger, kashmiri chilli and fragrant rose petal garam masala, Vegetable Samosas (Indian pastry filled with potato and peas slow cooked with roasted cumin and spices) and Nonya Pork Rolls flavoured with Chinese five spice and wrapped in bean curd sheets. The presentation was elegant yet simple although if I am really going to nitpick (which I am) then I think they could have removed the seeds from the wedge of lemon on the plate. There was also a yogurt and mint dipping sauce and a sweet and sour type dipping sauce. We ate while we chatted about politics (something I can never escape in my line of work – everyone has an opinion unfortunately), other restaurants in Cairns (my favourite topic of conversation) and the Paleo diet (more on that in another post). The entrees were all delicious with my favourite hands-down being the Kashmiri Chicken Tikka. The yogurt and spices on the chicken gave a nice little burst of flavour when you bit into the chicken which literally melted in my mouth. Each entree was a couple of bites for each person but I could have easily eaten more.
About 15 minutes later our mains arrived with a parade of waiters. There was two plates/bowls of each dish placed on the table in front of us followed by a large platter of whole fish right in the middle. SR (who just happens to be a chef) asked what kind of fish it was. The waitress said that it was barramundi. SR and I looked at each other with a deeply puzzled look because even though we didn’t know what kind of fish it was we knew that it sure as hell wasn’t a barramundi. The fish before us had no signature ‘curved head’ or elongated body as barramundi tend to. SR assured the waitress that she was indeed mistaken to which she looked surprised and said that it was probably a rock cod. Nope, still wrong. The menu doesn’t actually specify what type of fish it is it just says ‘Crispy Whole Fish’. The waitress was a little flustered when we continued to question her and I felt bad but waitstaff at a restaurant as prominent and popular as Hanuman should know what kind of fish they are serving. I’m sure plenty of people would have been happy to think that their fish was in fact a barramundi but not us. The waitress said that she would check with the chef and get back to us. In the meantime another waiter came over to fill our glasses so SR asked him what type of fish it was to which the reply was also Barramundi and then cod. Anyway to cut a long story short in the end the waitress came back and told us that it was a Goldband Snapper. Problem solvered more than 30 minutes later when our fish no longer resembled a fish and hopefully the waitstaff won’t make assumptions about what they are serving next time. You probably think it’s quite a petty thing to question but as someone whose parents owned a wholesale seafood business for a significant portion of my life and works on a boat it’s not to me.
Anyway so we all dug into a our food… I piled a mountain of rice onto my plate to soak up all the juices from the delicious curries laid out in front of me because like I have said before rice and sauce is the best part. Who cares about the meat (except for the purpose of this post), I want the sauce! My family used to have Sri Lankan curry nights when I was little (still do) and all I used to eat was bowls of rice and sour cream (now I eat curry). Lucky for me each dish came with copious amounts of sauce/gravy with them. The dishes included Kapitan Prawns a rich curry of fresh turmeric, lemon grass, galangal, coconut and ground dried shrimps, Thai Crispy Whole Fish served with three flavoured sauce – hot, sweet and sour, Butter Chicken silky cashew and tomato curry, infused with cardamom and cumin, Beef Massaman aromatic curry with potato, ginger, nutmeg, tamarind and peanuts and Kang Kong Greens water spinach, stir fried with yellow soya beans, garlic and chilli. I’m not going to go into ridiculous amounts of detail about the taste, creaminess and spice infusions of each dish but I have to say that I couldn’t really choose a favourite other than the obvious creamy Butter Chicken (food of the God’s!) The Butter Chicken was exactly as it should be… f**king awesome!
The Kapitan Prawns were sweet and flavoursome and they left the tails on the prawns for presentation and because it retains the flavour, an absolute must. I’ve had arguments out at sea with crew members while making prawn curry about leaving the prawn tails intact. It’s something that my parents have always done no matter how we have the prawns and I think it makes the dish more visually appealing, not mention the prawns look bigger than they actually are. One criticism for the Kapitan Prawns… It was too small! I could have eaten that entire bowl by myself no questions asked. C’mon Hanuman surely throwing another 3 or 4 prawns in there won’t break the bank?
The Massaman Curry (another favourite of mine) was in fact not Massaman Curry but more like a Lamb Korma. Well okay it was a Lamb Korma smartass. The chunks of lamb were a little bit on the chewy side which is not really what you want when the chunks are large because it makes the risk of choking that much higher (one of my greatest fears other than centipedes). It was disappointing that the Massaman didn’t turn up because a rich peanut-ty Massaman can be almost life changing. I don’t know, maybe they ran out of Massaman and figured that the Lamb Korma, which is served in the more expensive banquet would be a step up? Not in my books it’s not.
The Thai Crispy Whole Fish was very good, nothing too fantastic I didn’t think but whole fish on a platter doesn’t really turn me on. It was met with ooh’s, ahh’s and photos on it’s arrival at the table. Meh. Call me simple but I think you really just can’t beat a good piece of battered fish with lemon and tartare sauce. While the rest of the table was busy dividing up pieces of Crispy Whole Fish I was busy sampling and re-sampling the other dishes.
Lastly there was the Kang Kong Greens which well, they were fresh and crisp in a light garlic and chilli sauce but because there was so much other yummy stuff on the table and because I have been eating broccoli and beans for three of my five meals a day for nearly 12 weeks now I didn’t feel too much like eating more greens. I had limited room in my stomach and it wasn’t being taken up by vegetables that’s for sure.
It wasn’t long till I was full as a goog after eating about 2 and a half plates of rice, meat, seafood and sauce. There was quite a bit of food left over at the table however the Butter Chicken and the Kapitan Prawns were all gone. Easily the best two curries of the night! Then as the waitress was clearing the tables I remembered that we still had dessert to go, which arrived soon after the clearing of the plates with offers of tea and coffee to finish off the evening. Everyone at the table declined tea and coffee as I think we had all eaten more than our fair share at the main course and a mug of hot tea or coffee just wouldn’t go down well.
Dessert was Thai Basil Cheesecake with Kaffir Lime Leaves and Strawberries and I have to say that it was, well, disappointing. I expected some sort of Asian flair in a cheesecake but it was just plain, boring old cheesecake that they had pulled out of the fridge and plopped on a plate. In fact it was probably already on a plate in the fridge waiting to be served. There was nothing special about it and no one at the table really even ate it. I also think there was too much gelatine in it. I was full but I still could’ve fit a good dessert in. It was a shitty end to a great meal. Something more fitting to what we had just eaten like a Coconut Sago or Mango Pudding would have been more appropriate than cheesecake. Oh well, I didn’t really need it anyway.
We all finished up not long after our mediocre cheesecake and after spending about 10 minutes assuring HH that I didn’t want to kick on at the Salt House I headed home. My company and I were well satisfied and I think that the Sita Banquet was certainly a fitting ‘cheat meal’ despite a couple of hangups. To wrap it all up the service at Hanuman is excellent without being overbearing. Good service in Cairns is as hard to find as an outside table at the Lillipad Cafe on a Sunday. Our receptive waitress for the evening ensured that our water glasses were kept filled, beers were flowing and any other needs met with a smile. Hanuman is definitely doing something right on the Cairns scene judging by the turnout of diners on the evening. The atmosphere is classy but not snobby with a beautiful outlook onto the Hilton’s manicured gardens adjacent to the chapel and beyond to the inlet. The food is flavoursome, filling and indulgent however still reasonably priced for a fine dining restaurant. The banquets are definitely good value for money because you get to taste a little bit of everything, although you must dine with a group because they are only available for six people or more. To be honest I was expecting a little more out of Hanuman and I think the size of some of the dishes, the lack of some dishes, as well as the lack of knowledge by staff as to what was being served to the final dish was a bit of a let down, although I did have very high expectations. I would still love to go back and try the more expensive Hanuman Banquet which includes oysters, two types of prawn dishes, fish, two types of lamb dishes, wok tossed seafood, Thai Crispy Whole Fish, Butter Chicken and vegetables but until then I’m wondering if I should tone down on the banquets and buffets for a little while, well for this week anyway.
Hilton Hotel Cairns, 34 Esplanade, Cairns QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 4051 6075
Opening Hours: Lunch Mon – Fri 12pm – 3pm, Dinner 7 nights from 6pm till late
Crispy Pork Knuckle with Colcannon Mash (obviously I opted for chips), Green Beans and Beer Jus for AU$35. If only it tasted as good as it looked and sounded on the menu. The Pork was dry and tough and I would have needed an entire bottle of Apple Sauce just to get through even half of it. It was pretty disappointing but not as disappointing as the fact that the three people that ate it including myself had upset stomachs for the rest of the night. And what the hell is Colcannon Mash anyway huh?
7 Kitchener Driver, Darwin Waterfront NT
Ph: (08) 8941 9000
I’ve been hearing about Mary’s famous Laksa at Parap Markets for a couple of years now and being up here (Darwin) regularly it’s always been on my ‘to do’ list I am just normally really busy on a Saturday. This Saturday however was a different story (let’s just say we weren’t very busy) so I rallied two of my crew and we headed down to Parap to try this famous Laksa that I had h eard so much about. Parap Markets are a little a little bit like Rusty’s Markets in Cairns with plenty of fresh produce but heaps more food stalls in a village-like setting. For those of you that haven’t been to my second home of Darwin picture Rusty’s Markets in Edge Hill and you might have an idea of what Parap Markets are like. The food stalls are mostly Asian type cuisine with a few others thrown in. Walking through reminded me of being in Thailand with the aroma of char-grilled chicken satays and fresh coriander. We arrived early in the morning, not long after 8am, but the place was still bustling with people buying fresh fruit and veg, fresh fruit smoothies and spring rolls.
The Parap Markets are held every Saturday from 8am till 2pm rain, hail or shine, unlike Mindil Beach Markets which are only on in the dry season and like the Mindil Beach Markets they are also a Darwin institution. The Parap Markets are a lot smaller than the Mindil Beach Markets with probably only about a quarter of the amount of stalls and a sh*tload less people to contend with. That’s not to say it’s not busy but Getting there early in the morning as we did is definitely a good idea, plus that way you don’t get too beaten down by the god-awful Darwin sun and humidity. Thankfully summer is over so it wasn’t too bad while we were there.
When we arrived we were both elated and horrified to find that there were in fact no less than 8 stalls selling Laksa. Mary’s stall could have been anyone of them so we decided that each of us would have to get a different one (that makes three out of eight but still a better chance of getting ‘the one’). Then, randomly enough I ran into a guy I used to go to school with (only random because I went to school in Cairns) and while chatting to him and doing a bit of catching up I asked him just which stall was Mary’s famous Laksa stall. AM said that he hadn’t had this famous Laksa before as he chowed down on a Satay Stick but was pretty sure he knew which one I was talking about. He pointed towards the middle of the stalls and told us to walk down the end and look for the large queue of people. So that’s exactly what we did. We soon found a large group of people hovering around a small stall with about 6 people working busily behind the counter ladling hot soup from humungous pots into containers, chopping fresh coriander, prepping noodles and dealing with the throngs of people that all wanted a piece of the action, or should I say Laksa.
Myself and DC had soon made up our minds that we were getting the Seafood Laksa (even though the seafood was imported, yes). It seemed to be the one that everyone was getting and I’m no sheep but I figured that if I was going to try one of Mary’s reputed Laksa’s then it had to be the one that everyone else was having. MJ on the other hand changed his mind at the last minute and ended up wandering off to some Greek stall to buy something else for breakfast where I had earlier eyes off pastries with Haloumi in them. Oh well his loss (and mine so it seems for not getting one of those damn pastries). Despite the long line DC and I waited less than five minutes to be served. They have containers already prepped with the noodles and greens inside which the well oiled machine of workers behind the counter add the steaming hot Laksa to, followed by whatever additions you have chosen (in our case seafood). The lady collecting your money adds your choice of coriander, sambal chilli paste and fried onions. DC went the whole hog and had all three whereas I opted for no coriander. Yuck I hate that stuff.
Afterwards we wandered back through the market searching for somewhere to sit but it seems that we weren’t the only one with that idea. There are a few tables and chairs scattered around the market but they appeared to all be taken with people eating nutella crepes, ladies sipping their coffees and various people happily slurping down their own Laksa’s. In the end DC and I decided that rather than save our Laksa’s till we got back to the boat (that would take away from the experience) we would just sit on the edge of the gutter to eat our Laksa. I have no aversion to sitting on the ground, especially when I’m gagging to get hot Laksa in my belly. We sat down and opened up our containers to be met with a rich and fragrant aroma of coconut milk, fish, chilli and in DC’s case coriander. Both of our Laksa’s were piled high with noodles, tofu, BBQ pork, a wanton and seafood (imported but I’ll come back to that). The seafood included prawns, squid and seafood extender. Apparently that comes with the Laksa territory but hey I’m no expert. I left that to the side and didn’t eat it.
The Laksa was delicious and flavoursome particularly with the addition of the Sambal Chilli paste on the top. I only wish that I had gotten more chilli paste because this stuff was the business! It had just enough kick to it without making you wish you didn’t eat an entire soup spoon full. The seafood, albeit imported, was nice and not chewy or overcooked as were the noodles. The best part for me was the tofu and the wanton as they had both soaked up the rich soup and were full of juice and flavour. DC sitting on the gutter to my right didn’t like the tofu at all but then again most men don’t. It was a large serve for AU$8 but not too large since by the end of it I was content but not bursting.
The only thing that I can fault the Laksa on is the lack of chilli. I really would have liked more so that the dish had a little bit more bite to it because it just seemed a wee bit sweet without the chilli. I realise that I am a little bit of a chilli fiend though and a lot of people don’t really dig it. Also I have to take points off for using imported seafood. C’mon Mary there is just no excuse for it, especially in a place like Darwin where local seafood is plentiful. By the time MJ returned with his spinach/pastry thing from the Greek stall DC and I were halfway through happily enjoying our Laksa’s in the gutter. I wouldn’t say it’s the best Laksa I have ever had (nor am I am expert on Laksa) and upon doing a bit more research it appears that the Rendezvous Cafe in Darwin actually holds the title according to numerous comments posted on the world wide web. DC and I m0re than enjoyed our breakfast Laksa’s. If you are ever visiting Darwin on a Saturday morning then forget the greasy bacon, eggs and hash brown from one of the dodgy cafe’s on Mitchell Street with the seedy backpackers and the street cleaner hosing the leftover kebab off the sidewalk. Stick with the locals and opt for a fresh and piping hot Laksa from Parap Markets washed down with a fresh fruit smoothie. I guarantee it’s a much better way to start your day.
Parap Village Markets
Every Saturday 8am – 2pm
After our woeful Good Friday Seafood Buffet and a waste of a cheat meal for MS and I we were looking for somewhere new to indulge the week after. I had also organised catchups with a friend, AL, that couldn’t make the Good Friday catchups (just his luck) plus a couple more that did. Since I had made such a shitty choice the week before the pressure was on for me to choose somewhere good that we (I) hadn’t been to before. Wanting to stick to the buffet theme so we could all get our money’s worth and so MS and I could eat ourselves stupid I came up with Bazaar in Port Douglas at the QT Resort. I had randomly stumbled across an article about it a few months earlier and after reading up on it Bazaar was on my list of “to do” restaurants in the Far North. Although I didn’t think that my friends would be willing to make the hour and a bit journey to Port and then back again just to go for dinner I asked anyway and slap my ass and call me foodvixen, they agreed! To say that I was excited was an understatement. Nothing gets me more excited than food. Nothing. Except maybe buffets. Yep, still food.
So I called up and made a booking with the restaurant for six people a day earlier. The lovely man on the other end of the phone asked if we had ever been to Bazaar before to which I replied ‘no’. He then said ‘Well you are in for a treat. Make sure you bring your appetite!’ As I hung up the phone I did a little dance in front of MS. He is used to me getting super excited over food. Unfortunately he never really shares my enthusiasm for food and likes to think of it more as fuel for his body. Pfft whatever, who even says that? I was hoping that he would get excited when we actually got there. And boy did he excited! Along with the rest of us when we were greeted by the waitress at the entrance to Bazaar. The first thing you notice is how visually pleasing the place is. The chef’s station is in the middle of three large food stations behind which is a huge double fridge with glass doors filled to the brim with fresh produce on display. Bazaar at the QT Resort in Port Douglas is the sister restaurant to a popular Gold Coast joint with the same name and is a re-creation of the traditional marketplace with a 21st century twist (yep I pulled that straight off the website).
After introductions we were given a detailed ‘tour’ of the buffet by our friendly waitress who for once seemed to be actually happy to be there (a mean feat for a Far North Qld restaurant no?) At the first station there was a selection of cold meats, cheese and salads (I saw MS’ eyes light up at the large wheel of brie or camembert laid out in the centre just waiting for him to eat it). The second station was the fresh seafood station with mounds of mussels in the shell, spanner crab, oysters and prawns. Around the bend from that was the hot selection with a few classic dishes like Osso Bucco, Beef Cheeks, Eggplant Parmigiana and some sort of Asian inspired dish right down the end. The waitress told us that the hot station changed regularly with inclusions such as Pork Ribs and Lamb Shanks to name the only two things I can remember her saying. I was too captivated by the sights, smells and sounds around me to pay close attention. Then lastly was the dessert station filled with Macaroons, Chocolate Tarts, Lamingtons and so much more! Doesn’t sound like much? Yeah I know but I forgot the best part. The best part about the buffet at Bazaar is that they also have an a la carte section where they make many dishes to order – sirloin steak, salmon fillets, wood-fired pizzas, tasting platters (more on that in a minute), dumplings, BBQ pork buns and pasta (all included in the AU$65). You simply head on up to the hot food station and have a word to one of the two friendly chefs about what you want to eat and how you want it cooked! I was already well aware of this having done my research before asking my friends to make the journey to Port and ensuring that we weren’t going to be disappointed. My friends however weren’t really aware of this part of the deal and their tongues nearly fell out of their mouths when they realised the true proportions of the epic feast we were about to embark on.
The waitress then showed us to a table down on the lower deck and without further adieu (we didn’t even sit down) we headed straight for the buffet. Myself? I headed for the cheese and salad bar first, hastily followed by the fresh seafood station. I must admit that after my crab experience the week before I was a little off crab so I loaded my plate with mussels, oysters and prawns and sat myself back down at the table where I was soon joined by the rest of the group, all of whom had managed to pile a plate high with whatever tickled their fancy. I had helped myself to quite a large portion of heavenly Gorgonzola Cheese from the 1st station, because lets face it, cheese is nothing without mold on it! The salads were delicious and fresh and didn’t taste like they had been sitting there all day. My absolute favourite would have to be the marinated eggplant. It was so yummy, even LL commented on how good it was. All in all there was probably about seven different salads to choose from, no boring pasta salads or sh*tty garden salads to waste your time with. These salads were full of colour, herbs and spices and had obviously been well planned out. Cudos to the chef’s at Bazaar.
Moving onto the seafood, I’ll start with the mussels first. Wow! I haven’t seen such large mussels in like forever! These mussels were enormous and even LL and ER were gushing over their size and how delicious they were. According to the waitress who seemed to know her sh*t they were from Tasmania. They were large and meaty with a mild saltiness to them. I couldn’t get enough of them and between the mussels and the oysters I ate plate-loads of the slippery little suckers (whoops wrong type of seafood). Next up the prawns were also beautiful and fresh. Not the biggest prawns in the world but still a good size to peel and dip into a little seafood sauce. YUM! Lastly was the oysters, which were Pacific Oysters from Coffin Bay in South Australia the waitress informed us as she cleared our scrap bowls away and replaced them with new ones (without us asking might I add). I’m gonna go out on another limb here and say that these are probably some of the best oysters that I have ever eaten. I think I only got one oyster with a little bit of grit in it, the rest were just to die for. The plump delicate oyster meat with a small squeeze of fresh lemon over the top just melted in my mouth. These oysters really were something special and again LL and ER commented on how frigin fantastic they were and also agreed they were some of the best oysters they had ever eaten. That’s plate number one for me, back for round two.
In the meantime next to me MS had ordered a whole supreme pizza with extra Chorizo and a Sirloin Steak cooked medium as well as a Tasting Platter for the table to share (because that’s what you do with a tasting platter isn’t it?) In the meantime (while he waited for his pizza and steak) MS hoed into the hot selection of Beef Cheeks and Osso Bucco as well as a huge lump of cheese and dried apricots. Around the table a few more people had ordered Sirloin’s and Salmon Fillets. Someone also put in an order for dumplings and BBQ pork buns to be brought over as well. I had no idea where we were going to fit all this food but one thing I did know is that I was sure as hell going to try. The ‘made to order’ dishes only took about 10 minutes to arrive at our table – you didn’t have to go up to the buffet to get it, it was brought to your table. MS said his steak was excellent. Put it this way he ate two that night and the only reason he didn’t have a third was because he was too full by the end of it. AR, a friend of AL’s up from Sydney for the week, ate three Salmon Fillets over the course of the evening and declared them to be the best Salmon Fillet’s he had ever eaten. Big call but he was chuffed. To my right ER also said that her Salmon was cooked to perfection as she tried to protect it from being stolen off her plate by LL who also gave it two thumbs up. MS’ demolished his pizza, saving a slice for me. It was thin-based and crispy with plenty of yummy toppings scattered over the top. If I had a bigger stomach I would have gotten a pizza but alas I wanted to forgo the bread for a bowl of pasta.
I went up and asked one of the friendly chefs to make me a bowl of pasta. He asked me what I liked and I told him to surprise me but not to put any Capsicum or Celery in it (I know what you are saying, “No one puts celery in pasta”, yeah well smartass my mum does so best to be on the safe-side then isn’t it?) I opted for a rose base with a little bit of tomato and a little bit of cream. He said he would bring it out to me very soon and I moved back along to the seafood and the cheese and salad station piling my plate high with another serve of oysters and mussels with a little bit (okay a huge chunk) of gorgonzola on the side. Damn you moldy cheese! Why do you have to taste so good?! About five minutes passed and the chef approached our table to confirm what I would like in my pasta. Would I like asparagus, how about bacon, some chorizo even? Yes, yes and hell yes! I’ll have all of those thank you to which he returned to the ‘kitchen’ finish off my pasta dish with a little bit more confidence about what I wanted. Another 5 minutes and a large bowl of creamy, tomato-ey pasta was laid out in front of me. The chef said that he had made a little extra in case I wanted to share it with the table. Well I didn’t ‘want’ to share it with the table but my stomach said otherwise and was fast approaching the full mark (or as my dad likes to say ‘pussy’s bow’, I don’t know must be an old person thing). A couple of my fellow diners happily helped themselves to my large bowl of pasta and we all agreed it was delicious and full of flavour with plenty of extras mixed through like sundried tomato and that crispy chorizo that I was so excited about.
In between all this kerfuffle over creamy pasta, delicate oysters and mussels the size of hub caps our Tasting Platter, dumplings and BBQ Pork Buns arrived. The dumplings were pork and some sort of vegetarian one that the waitress said was edamame (I think she was wrong but she can think that if she likes). They were lovely but the outer casing was a little too thick for my liking and took over from the taste of the savoury inside a little too much. We didn’t end up eating them all. As for the BBQ Pork Buns they were demolished and I may or may not have had three all to myself. Let’s be honest here though you can’t really stuff up a pork bun. At least I don’t think you can. The Tasting Platter had one bite sized morsel of three different things for the six of us including BBQ’d Scallops (without the roe *sad face*), Zucchini’s Stuffed with Bacon and Mushrooms with Thyme and Parmesan Cheese. We passed the platter around until we had a gotten our share apart from MS who gave me his scallop to eat much to my delight. It was an almost unanimous decision that the BBQ’d Scallops were the best followed closely by the soft and slightly crispy mushrooms. The Stuffed Zucchinis were nice but not the greatest I don’t think.
Lastly, it was time to hit the dessert bar, since I had little to no room left in my stomach I had to do it quickly so AL and I headed over to scope it out. I grabbed five bite sized desserts after colluding with AL about what was what and we sat back down to devour our sweet choices. I chose a pink macaroon, a chocolate tart, a lemon slice, a chocolate cupcake and some sort of biscuit with what I think was pecans in it. I didn’t really like the macaroon, I think it might have been strawberry flavour and just not my cup of tea. Also the lemon slice was a little too tart for my little taste-buds (but AL seemed to think it was nice). The other three were excellent though the standout had to be the pecan cookie. It was extra crumbly and literally melted in my mouth plus it was the only dessert that I convinced myself I had enough room to have a second one of. After that I was so stuffed ER and I sat there groaning too afraid to even have a sip of water for fear of pushing ourselves ‘over the edge’ of fullness. I wanted to eat more but I just couldn’t fit it in.
We sat there for another 20 minutes or so chatting and waiting for our food to subside a little before realising that we had to drive all the way back to Cairns on a windy road. MS joked that he would be making plenty of sudden movements in the car to aid us with our digestion. Yay. We made our way to the counter to pay and after thanking the chefs, waitresses and host for a lovely evening we made our way back through the lobby towards the car park admiring QT’s own Mini Moke parked near the front entrance. I’d love a Mini Moke but they really look like death traps. My friends commended me on choosing Bazaar and admitted they were a little concerned after our last encounter at the ‘Buffet of Death’ (aka Canecutters). Each of them said they really enjoyed the meal from beginning to end and also remarked on the quality of the food that Bazaar had on offer. To be honest I really loved the variety. The service was excellent with our scrap bowls and empty plates cleared regularly and without any prompting from us. Each of the waitstaff and the chefs seemed genuinely happy to be there, always had a smile on their face and were happy to help with any queries that we had. One of the chefs even made LL a wasabi paste with wasabi powder since they didn’t have any wasabi paste on hand to go with his oysters. Mixing some powder up probably takes about 3 seconds but I thought that was still pretty cool.
There are only two things that I can fault Bazaar on: 1) The lack of labels on the food. I am sure that the buffet was designed that way but none of the food had any labels so if you are like me and lack any form of concentration what-so-ever or things go in one ear and out the other then most of the time you had no idea what you were actually looking at. Okay that’s an exaggeration but labels certainly go a long way in helping you choose exactly what you want to eat. For an example, was that cheese brie or camembert? How will I ever know? These are the first world problems that keep me awake at night. 2) There were quite a few mozzies around the places, probably because the restaurant is located literally on top of a large pond. They didn’t bother me but a couple of my friends had to borrow some insect repellant from the bar to spray themselves with. A little disconcerting when you know there is a bit of a dengue outbreak in the Far North at the moment. For you Cairns folk, Bazaar is most certainly worth the drive or you could even stay the night at the uber cool boutique resort that is QT. I am looking forward to my next Bazaar visit for breakfast on Mother’s Day, which is sure to be another epic feast of monstrous portions. Just look for the brunette in the baggy pants with an expandable waistband piling her plate high and stuffing her face.
87 – 109 Port Douglas Rd, Port Douglas QLD 4877
Ph: (07) 40 998900
Opening Hours: 7 days, Breakfast 6.30am – 10.30am, Dinner 6pm – 9.30pm
It has been brought to my attention that the Botanical Gardens Restaurant and Cafe no longer serves the Best Eggs Benedict in town. I have read a few really bad reviews on the place and how downhill it’s gone. What the hell happened?! I would hate to think that my previous post “Best Eggs Benedict in Cairns” is directly people to a now defunct Eggs Benedict so I am putting a call out to find the new “Best Eggs Benedict in Cairns” . Any ideas?
You know when you have been looking forward to something all week and then the time that you have been waiting for finally arrives only for you to be massively disappointed? Yeah well that happened to me last Friday (Good Friday) when a group of friends and I went out to the Canecutters Restaurant at the Novotel Palm Cove for their ‘famous’ Good Friday Seafood Buffet. After finding out that my parent’s would be in Adelaide over the Easter weekend I figured I would need to organise some sort of Easter affair myself this year. Leading up to the Easter weekend I noticed a few advertisements in The Cairns Post for the Good Friday Seafood Buffet and after doing a little bit of research online and seeing that it was a regular thing on a Saturday night out at the Novotel I figured it might be a good place to take a group of friends for a catch up. I made a booking for 13 people for 7pm and at 6.50pm we all met in the lobby looking forward to a big feed and for AU$59 a head we were all expecting a good one.
I’m no stranger to buffets having been to some amazing buffets around the world while travelling with my family. The two absolute knockouts would have to be Cafe One in Hong Kong and the Bellagio buffet in Las Vegas. Words simply cannot describe the sheer magnitude of delights that these buffets had to offer, you really have to go and see for yourself. But then at the complete other end of the scale I have also been to some truly dismal buffets like the Circus Circus one in Las Vegas. Dad thought that US$6.95 was an absolute steal but it turns out that you can only eat so many chops swimming in gravy. Now I wasn’t expecting Canecutters to be anything on par with Hong Kong or Las Vegas or Circus Circus for that matter but I was expecting something on par with other pricey seafood buffets in Cairns like the one at the at the now Pullman Cairns International.
Now I have to interject here… When I first mentioned the idea to MS he was extremely apprehensive since he doesn’t really eat seafood so a Good Friday Seafood Buffet didn’t really appeal to him (he wasn’t jumping for joy at the idea like I was). Although the Novotel website assured me that MS and the other two or three non seafood eaters that were coming along that there would indeed be plenty of other things to eat and I quote “For those who are non seafood eaters we have you covered with a tasty variety of hot and cold dishes”. Fair enough but I thought I would call up and make just sure while I was still finalising numbers amongst my friends. Upon speaking to the chef at the restaurant I was again assured that there would be plenty of dishes for the non seafood eaters as he rattled off a long list of things they could expect to eat, the only one that I can remember thanks to my goldfish memory being Fried Rice. So, I figured two confirmations was enough for me and soon enough MS reluctantly agreed after a little more encouragement from me. Below you can see an exert of what I read on the Novotel Palm Cove website. It sounds good right?
We entered the busy restaurant and were greeted by a friendly waiter who led us towards the buffet (a large island in the middle of the restaurant) to give us a quick tour before ushering us over to our table. It was right about that moment that I began to regret my decision to come to Canecutters. I looked back at my friends behind me who also had looks off regret on their faces and I began to feel embarrassed. We all sat down at the table feeling very deflated and a little concerned. I thought to myself there had to be more to the buffet than what we had just had the displeasure of touring. Surely?! Well there was no time like the present so off we trotted towards the buffet. I had a closer look over what was on offer at this so-called famous buffet. There was a large bain-marie of Paella with what looked like imported marinara mix from the supermarket mixed through it. Next there was a whole Asian Inspired Saddletail Snapper that had been picked clean and pretty much only had the carcass left. The chef assured me that there would be a new one out in the next 10 minutes so I moved on. Then there was a Chicken and Cashew Nut Curry (I wish I got a photo of it) that looked so horrible I am pretty sure that nobody in the entire restaurant ate it and I think I can safely say that they didn’t have to replace that dish all night. On the other side was Pippi’s with a Garlic Cream Sauce, Roast Pork and Roasted Vegetables. The Salad Bar consisted of four very unimaginative salads including Potato Salad, Garden Salad, Coleslaw and the world’s most boring Pasta Salad that pretty much only had pasta in it. Unfortunately for my dining companions and I our frowns had not been turned upside down on closer inspection of the buffet.
True to form as with every seafood buffet I went straight for the seafood loading my plate up with some Pippi’s with Garlic Cream Sauce, whole cooked prawns, oysters and half a spanner crab. Ahem… pretty sure that little exert from the internet up above says that we should have expected Mud Crab. Spanner Crab is a pretty sh*thouse substitute I reckon. I sat down at the table and after exchanging disappointed glances with my friends sitting opposite me KK and JM I hooked into my seafood. The prawns were delicious and sweet and I had a bit of seafood sauce on the side of my plate to dip the lovely freshly peeled meat into. I don’t mind getting my hands dirty peeling prawns because I think the reward is far greater than the trouble. Across the table KK remarked at how horrible and tasteless the Paella was. I hadn’t gotten any because it didn’t look at all appealing and there was also no room on my plate because of the large pile of seafood.
JM asked me what I thought of the Spanner Crab because his was watery and tasteless. That was my next venture so I broke open the body of the crab and picked a couple of pieces out. He was right but saying that it was watery and tasteless was an understatement. It was probably the most horrible piece of crab that I have ever eaten to this day. The crab had been left for too long in the ice slurry before being bought out to the buffet and as a result it was just full of water and runny inside. There was no delicious sweet crab meat that you normally get when you eat crabs (jeez I could have really gone some mud crab right about now). It was that bad that I just sat there astonished and lost for words. The oysters, well, they were okay. They were reasonably sized but there was a little bit of grit in them and they weren’t beautiful and buttery like oysters should be. The Pippi’s were also only ‘okay’ but I realised that more than half of the ones on my plate were just shells with no meat in them as they must have fallen out into the bottom of the bain-marie. The Garlic Cream sauce was just weird tasting. Almost like a fake cream sauce with some sort of soup mix mixed through it. Nothing to write home about or go back for seconds for.
I looked around the table at the large group of friends that I had invited. Some were not eating anything at all, having already tried the six or so dishes on offer and deciding that none of them were worth going back for. Others like me were trying to make the best of a bad situation by eating as much seafood as they possibly could and the rest had already moved onto dessert since they figured that had to better than the savoury options on display.
I went back up to the buffet and grabbing another empty plate I got a small spoonful of Paella (I had to taste it) and some Roast Pork. The fish had been replaced with another whole fish that by the time I had gotten there was already half eaten. I didn’t get any since my sister reckoned that it hadn’t been descaled and wasn’t very nice. That’s enough to turn me off completely plus I’m not a big fan of whole baked fish to be honest. I looked around for some Apple Sauce to go with my Roast Pork but there wasn’t any in sight. Nor was there any other type of sauce for that matter except for some truly horrible homemade Tartare Sauce. Apparently the whole restaurant agreed because the large bowl of Tartare was full and had been since we’d arrived. The Seafood Sauce next to it, however was empty. Plain Roast Pork it is! First up I tried a forkful of Paella and was seriously taken aback at just how disgusting it was. I thought that KK was being dramatic and being a lover of all things ‘rice’ I figured it would be half edible. How wrong I was and I’m going to go as far as to award it as worst dish on the entire buffet. I’m almost 100% sure that the seafood mixed through it was the imported seafood mix you see at Coles and Woolies with the little diced up pieces of salmon, little mussels and big chewy pieces of squid. It was actually the rice that tasted the worst. It just tasted like tomatoes and water. Not even a whole bottle of Tabasco Sauce could have saved that puppy. I pushed it to the side after conferring with KK about how gross it was and moved onto the Roast Pork.
Finally a dish that I actually liked! The Roast Pork was actually sliced Pork Belly, which didn’t bother me at all because I frigin love pork belly! There was just the right amount of meat to fat ratio although if I had to be picky (which I do – you know me) it would have been nice if the skin was actually crispy. Instead it was chewy and underdone, no crackling in sight *sad face*. If there was one food item that I could eat as much as I wanted and never get sick or fat from it would be pork crackling. I would go to the supermarket and buy those rolls of pork rind, crackle it up in the oven and sit on the couch and watch episodes of Ellen. I really am a fatty at heart. I asked a couple of my crew members what they would like to eat as much of and never get sick, one of them replied lamb fat and the other replied Wild Turkey. Alcohol doesn’t count. Duh. Okay I’m getting off subject.
The large scrap bowl of seafood shells and scraps situated in front of me that myself and everyone down my end of the table was using was so full that we had resorted to leaving entire plates of seafood and other scraps in the middle of the table. The plates hadn’t been cleared and replaced with new ones since about 15 minutes after we had sat down( at least 40 minutes ago). The place was well understaffed and I looked over at the waiter (only 1 of 3 for the entire restaurant) who was run off his feet trying to keep up with the demands of about 50 people on our side of the restaurant that we were seated on. It didn’t look like we would be getting our plates cleared or new seafood scrap bowls anytime soon.
After my plate of sinful but yummy pork I went back and ate some more seafood, this time forgoing the crab (which the majority of which I am almost positive went in the bin at the end of the night) and just sticking to the prawns and oysters. I had to get my money’s worth since the rest of the dishes were certainly not at home at a buffet costly almost AU$60 each. Then I headed over to the Dessert Buffet to see what I could get from there. Each of the desserts looked yummy and there was about 6 different bite sized sweets to choose from plus some Apple Pie looking thing. I grabbed what looked like a Chocolate Brownie, a cupcake with an Easter Egg on top and a piece of Rocky Road and went back to my table. First up I tried the Chocolate Brownie which was really just a piece of Chocolate Cake that tasted like it came out of a Sara Lee packet but Sara Lee is probably 10 times better to be honest. I took one bite and left it. Next up was the Cupcake. On top was some sort of weird but yucky yogurt tasting pink icing. Again I took one bite and left the rest (yeah okay I ate the Easter Egg of course). Lastly was the Rocky Road. Now I’m not really a fan of peanuts at the best of times (unless they are chocolate coated ones) but this Rocky Road tasted just like you had shoved a whole handful of dry peanuts into your mouth. The peanut taste completely took over from the chewy marshmallow and the creamy chocolate. I took two bites of this one just to be sure and but it back down. I am not normally one to waste food since my dad and I used to have eating competitions and I was always taught to eat every last bite but the dessert was dismal and again I wasn’t the only one that thought that. Another friend across from me MG said that the Chocolate Mousse was actually very good to which KK next to her agreed. MS disappointed with the desserts that he had chosen went over to the Dessert Buffet to get a chocolate mousse only to be told that there were none left and that the desserts that were laid out on the buffet were all that was left for the night. Way to crush his spirits.
To my left my sister was poking a couple of items around her plate with her fork complaining about how terrible the food was and how I had told her that there would be plenty of food for non seafood eaters. To my right MS had eaten an entire plate of pork and some bread rolls (he never eats bread rolls) and basically called it quits after being told there was no chocolate mousse left. I looked across the table at my vegetarian friend who had stopped eating about 10 minutes after we arrived finding there was little to nothing for him to eat. Down the other end of the table I was met with looks of discouragement and frustration. Again I felt embarrassed and disappointed because I had gotten all my friends (and one family member) to drive all the way out to Palm Cove and asked them to pay AU$59 a head only to have an absolutely godawful feed and it was all my fault. We had all expected to come out and stuff our faces at Canecutters ‘Famous’ Seafood Buffet and have a great meal but alas we (I) were sadly mistaken.
We all decided that we had eaten enough and headed to the counter to pay for our meal. Normally I am not one to pipe up and complain, much preferring to go home and write about it later, but like I said I was so disappointed and embarrassed at the meal that I made the Restaurant Supervisor aware of the situation. I explained to her that there were a few non seafood eaters in the group and I had been assured that there would be plenty of non seafood options for them and also how absolutely appalling the quality and selection of the food was. To give her some credit she did take the time to listen to me and offered her sincerest apologies to myself and the rest of the group. She also offered to let the non seafood eaters pay only AU$29 which was the price of the buffet for a child. Although I wasn’t trying to get out of paying or anything like that there was no way in hell I was paying full price. C’mon if you pay AU$59 a head for a buffet you expect it to be good and this wasn’t worth the price at all, we might as well have gone to Charlie’s on the Esplanade. We all agreed that AU$29 was a fair price to pay. Upon leaving the restaurant we were approached by a local couple who had also complained about the food again saying how disappointed they were. They too were embarrassed because they had taken friends from England to the buffet as a way to showcase the local seafood and fresh produce that Cairns has to offer but were left more than a little red-faced. I sympathised with both of them and we all vowed that we would never return to the now famously bad Seafood Buffet at Canecutters.
PS: Sorry about the terrible photos in this post. There were heaps of people around and the lens on my phone kept fogging up. Yeah, yeah, excuses, excuses. I know.
Novotel Palm Cove Resort, Coral Coast Drive, Palm Cove QLD 4879
Ph: (07) 4059 1234
Opening Hours: 7 days 5.30pm – 9.30pm
After our massive binge in Sydney the last thing that MS and I wanted to do was come home and continue on our downward spiral… NOT! We started out with the best of intentions but at some point in time on our flight home we decided that we would re-start our healthy eating the next day and not that afternoon as originally planned. (Disclaimer: I’m not going to be one of those people that harp on about healthy eating and me being on a diet and other boring sh*t like that because when it comes down to it I normally eat what I want, within reason, but like I said I have a particular goal in mind – no it’s not just to lose weight – and all this is part of the story, ok?)
Then the conversation of just where we were going to eat that night began. MS, true to form, wanted to go to Bel Paese since he had quite a penchant for large creamy bowls of pasta and cheesy garlic bread. I was a little reluctant to go to Bel Paese, firstly because our last dining experience there wasn’t anything to write home about and because, well, I have already written about that place. If I was only allowed one cheat meal a week then in theory it needed to be somewhere that we hadn’t already been so I could post about it on foodvixen later. So, we decided on the pasta theme but couldn’t think of where to go. I suggested Fasta Pasta, La Fettuccina and Villa Romana but neither of us were really excited by any of those suggestions. Last time I went to Villa Romana, which was years ago, my dining buddy found a giant moth in her salad and last time MS and I went to Fasta Pasta we ordered two completely different dishes to find they both tasted exactly the same. As for La Fettuccina, well, I am saving that one for a special occasion. Then I remembered a little place that we had walked past on Sheridan Street about six months ago. Hell, we drive past it nearly every day. So off to Little Ricardo’s we went.
Little Ricardo’s is located on the strip of cheap motels directly across the road from Cairns High. Everyone has driven past and seen it there, as have I. It’s just inside, near the pool area of the Adobe Motel. I don’t know how long it’s been there but at the very least it’s been there since 2008 because an outdated sign out the front claims that Little Ricardo’s was voted Best Pizza in 2008 by Cairns locals. We went inside and found ourselves in a quaint little restaurant with dim lighting, a stocked wooden bar over to the left and the air conditioner turned up full bull. We were greeted by a friendly waitress whose name was Julie Ann and since there was no one else in the restaurant at the time she let us choose our table. With a bit of a shiver from the aircon MS and I chose one-off to the side out of the direct breeze. Julie Ann asked if we would like her to turn the fan above us off to make us a little more comfortable to which we happily obliged. She then brought us over a couple of menu’s and a jug of water with some glasses and left us for a few minutes returning to take our drinks order. I was happy to stick to water but MS asked if he could have a glass of Coke to be brought out with dinner. The menu had the usual Italian fare and although the pizza’s were voted the ‘Best in Town’ in 2008 we were both there for the pasta.
There was no dilly dallying in deciding what we wanted at Little Ricardo’s, even MS made up his mind quickly for once. We chose the Garlic Bread (AU$5.90) as our entrée but asked if we could have cheese on it as well. Julie Ann happily obliged and assured us it wouldn’t be a problem. Then for his main meal MS chose a large Boscaola with Tasty Cheese, Mushroom and Parmesan for AU$23.90 with Fettucine. He also added bacon, chicken and a hint of chilli to his dish (we’re not difficult customers I swear!), which Julie Ann said was also not a problem at all. After tossing up between the Amatriciana and the Marinara pasta I ended up going with the Marinara which was described on the menu as Fresh Local Seafood Combination with the choice of Cream or Tomato Base for AU$25.90. The Fresh Local Seafood Combination sold me pretty much straight away. I also chose the fettuccine and opted for the tomato base as opposed to the heavy cream base. Ok, ok I have a confession to make… I ordered a large serve too. Don’t judge me.
While we were waiting for our meals to arrive a couple more tables filled up and then a couple more until there was about 5 more occupied tables in the restaurant. I was pretty impressed considering that it was a Monday night. Many restaurants in the city would struggle to get that amount of people in on a Monday. Julie Ann brought over a big bowl of ‘stinky cheese’ as MS calls it whereas I just call it powdered Parmesan Cheese and some little plates and cutlery followed closely by our entrée of Cheesy Garlic Bread. We got three pieces each and after fighting over who got the three biggest pieces we dug in. The Garlic Bread was simple, yet tasty and with just the right amount of cheese melted over the top. It was really yummy and not as yellow as it looks in the picture below. We even managed to save a couple of pieces to mop up our pasta sauce with. I have a massive weakness for Garlic Bread and if I were religious I would ask god “Why, oh why did you invent Garlic Bread?” Just when I think I am going good and eating well. BAM! Someone brings out a loaf of Garlic Bread (or I order it) aaaaaaand I’m screwed.
Right before our meals arrived and without prompting Julie Ann brought MS over a glass of coke and placed it on the table in front of us. Again I was impressed. I hadn’t had service this pleasing in Cairns for a long time (with the exception of Waterbar and Grill). The owner of the restaurant Richard brought us out our main meals which were placed steaming hot in front of us. He saw me whip my iPhone out to take a couple of pictures of the food and politely offered to take a picture of the two of us. Errr, yeah sure! Richard was lovely and friendly and we had a bit of a laugh with him about him covering half of the photo with his thumb. Never mind, nothing a little photo cropping won’t fix and I have sh*t tins of photos of MS and I at dinner anyway. The large serve really was a large serve. Each of our bowls were overflowing with large mounds of pasta. There was plenty of extra bacon and chicken mixed through MS’ Boscaola and he was beside himself as he twirled his first mouthful of fettuccine around his fork. After a few mouthfuls the only sentence that escaped his mouth was ‘Oh god this is good’ as he twirled more fettuccine around his fork. It was that good that he ate till he couldn’t fit another mouthful in, leaving only a couple of strands of pasta in the bottom of his bowl and announced that Little Ricardo’s was his new favourite restaurant.
Looking down at my pasta I could see two big fat juicy scallops with the bright orange roe on them (as it should be!) and my mouth began to salivate. There was also prawns, fish and super tender pieces of squid mixed in as well. My Marinara was absolutely to die for and I was glad that I had chosen that over the Amatriciana (even though I hadn’t had the Amatriciana yet). The pasta was cooked ‘al dente’ and the bountiful bits of seafood throughout my dish were all full of flavour and cooked to perfection. My mouth is seriously drooling thinking about this dish. There was just the right amount of sauce, not too little, not too much and with a bit of ‘stinky cheese’ sprinkled over the top I too ate nearly the entire bowl and mopped up the remaining sauce with my ‘smaller’ pieces of Garlic Bread. The only thing that I think it needed was a little hint of chilli but that was my own fault for not asking for it. Where’s my bottle of Tabasco sauce when I need it?
MS and I joked that we had just traveled to a foodie lovers paradise (AKA Sydney) and then flown back to Cairns and had the best meal and service of the entire weekend. Even though the restaurant picked up with more arrivals after our own Julie Ann didn’t miss a beat and delivered fantastic, efficient and friendly service from the moment we arrived to the moment we left. The atmosphere and dining setting isn’t fantastic and to be honest it’s pretty dated but you know what? I think it works. On doing a little bit of online research it appears that Little Ricardo’s is ranked 5th in Cairns out of over 200 restaurants on Trip Advisor, which doesn’t mean a whole lot since I am still trying to figure out why an ice cream shop is number one, but it definitely pays homage to the wonderful things Richard and his team are doing down there at the Adobe Motel. (No offence to the ice cream shop.) The only problem with going to Little Ricardo’s for the first time is that now MS and I want to go there all the time and have already been back again (this time for more Cheesy Garlic Bread and to try the Amatriciana). Little Ricardo’s where have you been all my life?
191 Sheridan Street, Cairns QLD 4870 (Adobe Motel)
Ph: (07) 4051 5266
Opening Hours: 6 days Mon – Sat 5pm till late