Dundee’s On The Waterfront, Cairns

I have been hanging onto this review for a couple of weeks now. Not because I have been lazy but I have just been a little busy with work and as a result prioritising the things in my life. Who am I kidding my blog really does take priority over my work and lucky for me I am able to belt out a post or two while my boss (skipper) isn’t watching. So, MS and I went to Dundee’s for dinner a couple of weeks ago for a friend’s birthday. This would be the second friend’s birthday that I have attended at Dundee’s and the third time that I have dined there. Dundee’s is another restaurant that has been open in Cairns for a considerably long time. How long you ask? Well I have no idea since the website doesn’t tell me but I do remember it’s humble beginnings back on Spence St in the what is now a vacant restaurant/bar space that has been home to Little Aussie Bum, Zen Tapas and few other places that must have lasted such a short amount of time that I simply can’t recall their name. What we need there is one of those modern Mexican restaurants that have taken off down south. Anyone that has a monthly subscription to Delicious Magazine will know what I am talking about (Mamasita, yes please). Anyway I didn’t start this post to talk about what restaurants Cairns does and doesn’t need (it probably doesn’t need any new bars/restaurants considering the mortality rate of anything new that opens in Cairns) so back to Dundee’s.

On this particular Friday night Dundee’s was crawling with diners and tour groups alike. In fact I haven’t not seen it crawling with people on any given night, having dined there on a Monday night and also a Saturday. It certainly is popular or maybe like another Aussie cuisine restaurant in Cairns (Ochre) they just know how to advertise and advertise well? Their prime position on the waterfront may also have something to do with it but that doesn’t seem to help poor old Haveli whom I told MS (his favourite restaurant) I would give a shout out to for their amazing Butter Chicken that he longs for daily. At Dundee’s we were seated at the longest table off to the right side next to the barrier that separated Dundee’s from Haveli. Right in the direct line of sight for the owner of Haveli and MS. One glance said it all, without a word spoken between the two… “What are you doing over there at that restaurant and why aren’t you over here eating succulent Butter Chicken and delicate garlic Naan Bread with me?” Ahhh, there was always tomorrow.

One of the benefits of having large groups dine at Dundee’s is their willingness to split the bill, something that really bugs me when dining out and seems to be a problem at lots of restaurants. What the hell is the problem with splitting the bill? Especially considering I am NOT paying on my credit card (I don’t own a credit card, note: I have an excellent credit rating it’s a lifestyle choice). At Dundee’s they give each of you a little laminated number that everything including your drinks can go on and you simply take it up to the counter with you at the end of the night and BAM! there is your bill. Genius! It’s something that I wish more restaurants would incorporate since I don’t see myself dining at Barnacle Bills anytime soon (the only other restaurant I know in Cairns that does it). The table ordered drinks, which arrive in those tiny little glass bottles which hold barely a mouthful and are really just a gimmick. Give me post mix godammit! I don’t want my gin and tonic with a little bottle of tonic! Moving on.

Upon serving the drinks one of the waitresses (there were two serving our large table) spilled an entire glass of wine on my friend AA who was sitting right next to me. She is damn lucky she didn’t spill it on me and normally I would just class that as purely an accident but this is the second time that a waiter at Dundee’s has spilled an entire glass of wine on someone I was dining with, having it happen at MS’ staff work party a few months prior. Now either, Dundee’s needs to hire some better qualified staff or maybe they shouldn’t have the diners so tightly packed in such a small space and maybe, just maybe, their waiters would have a bit of space to move around. So poor old AA who wasn’t even drinking the wine (the person across from him was) was forced to sit there for the rest of our dining experience with wine all over his shorts (yes he was wearing shorts at dinner but that’s AA for you). I sincerely hope that he didn’t get pulled over by the booze bus on the way home because winding down the window and the subsequent waft of stale booze to follow may not have helped his answer… “Have you had anything to drink tonight?” “No I haven’t.” Bullshit.

So MS and I browsed through the menu, and browsed through the menu, and browsed through the menu. I couldn’t really find anything that I wanted to eat and having already served us three lots of Garlic Bread at the table neither of us wanted an entree. I have had the Calamari Strips here before and they were very nice but I didn’t feel like them tonight. The menu is quite extensive with everything from Pasta, to Seafood, to Seafood Pasta and the synonymous Bush Tucker that you would expect. After much deliberation and almost going with the mussels, only to be stopped by the memory of a previous ‘small mussel’ dining experience at Dundee’s, I chose the Kangaroo Loin. I have developed quite a penchant for Kangaroo (dog food I hear some of you say) of late but apparently it only tastes good when I cook it? My Kangaroo was described as Peppered Kangaroo Loin Fillet, Char-Grilled and Sliced with Crispy Proscuitto , Red Wine Jus and Wild Rosella Jam (AU$29.00). Sounded pretty good to me. MS, dodging the many seafood dishes, went for the safest option on the menu as would be expected for him and chose the Chicken Breast pocketed with Sundried Tomatoes and Avocado, oven baked and served with Sweet Potato and Creamy Macadamia Nut Pesto Sauce (AU$27.50).

We chatted with our fellow birthday party diners while we waited watching the large seafood platters emerge from the kitchen and proceed to the tables of excited Japanese couples, whereby photos and peace hand gestures ensued. I was super jealous, wishing that I had the $180 odd to spend on a Seafood Platter adorned with a mudcrab but alas, I did not. (I’d rather spend it on a new dress). Despite our large table size (20 odd) our meals arrived pretty much all together with a parade of waiter’s. One older waiter whose attitude I did not like one bit. Standing at one end of the table he bellowed “Who ordered the Barramundi?” No one responded since half the table didn’t even hear him since it was such a large table. “No one?” And then he just put it down at an empty seat and walked away! WTF? Hello Dundee’s website that states that their mission is to “maintain professional service that consistently exceed customer expectations”, amongst other things. He certainly exceeded my frigin customer expectations. Had he had any patience about him whatsoever he would have hung onto that damn Barramundi Fillet until he had found it’s rightful owner. I couldn’t believe it. Moving on…

Next up mine and MS’ meals arrived. Presentation? Hmmm, pretty lacklustre if you ask me. We waited the obligatory two to three minutes until everyone else got their meal and then we started. MS’ Chicken Breast came with lashings of Macadamia Nut Pesto Sauce that was creamy (as stated in the menu) but was also extremely bland and boring. The masses of Sweet Potato hiding underneath were nothing desirable and probably would have been better off either roasted or mashed but it seems that Sweet Potato chunks are the plate filler at Dundee’s, coming out with quite a few meals including my own. There was hardly any Sundried Tomato and Avocado filling inside at all and although MS enjoyed his Chicken Breast, lets be honest it was just a Chicken Breast with sauce on it. Nothing special but then again maybe MS’ should have ordered something a little more shall we say adventurous?

Chicken Breast – Chicken Pocketed with Sundried Tomatoes and Avocado. Oven baked and served with Sweet Potato and a Creamy Macadamia Nut Pesto Sauce (AU$27.50)

Next up was my main which came with a rather large steak knife, apparently the same steak knife that I needed to saw through my tough, stringy, absolutely horrible piece of Kangaroo Loin that should only be fed to a labrador and certainly not at a fine dining restaurant. Where was my tender, succulent, melt in your mouth Kangaroo Loin that I had so excitedly ordered? There were two pieces of Kangaroo Loin on my plate and I barely got through one. So much for sliced Kangaroo Loin as stated on the menu. I’m not one to waste food since my dad always taught me to eat everything on my plate, a teaching that plagues me this day but I just couldn’t eat it. And to make matters worse I couldn’t give away the other piece to any of my fellow 19 diners. I had strayed off the garden path just this one time with my selection, figuring that people (tourists) come to Dundee’s for a truly Aussie dining experience so it must be good, right? Wrong.

Kangaroo Loin – Peppered Kangaroo Fillet, Char-Grilled and Sliced with Crispy Prosciutto, Red-Wine Jus and Wild Rosella Jam (AU$29.00)

I conferred with a few people around me and apart from AA next to me who had some sort of pasta dish no one was impressed and there was large amounts of food left behind and wasted on peoples plates. MS was disappointed that we had wasted our money at Dundee’s when we could have been eating right next door at Haveli and actually enjoyed our meal and received much better service. But, we were at a birthday and we were there to celebrate so we carefully hid our disappointment. Having had my third mediocre dining experience at Dundee’s I do have to say I won’t be back, unless of course another one of my friends decides to have a birthday there, which I will strongly protest towards. Yeah it’s a good place to have a group booking and the atmosphere is nice but you can’t choose a restaurant just because they split the bill and there are sh*tloads of better restaurants on the waterfront in Cairns. Surely the food has to come into account somewhere? Maybe Dundee’s needs to put a bit more money into hiring a better chef(s) and more qualified staff (come at me professional service!) rather than spending so much money on advertising? Am I being unreasonable here? I don’t think so. All I want is a nice piece of Kangaroo Loin on my Friday night dinner is that asking too much? ‘Flavours of Australia’ my ass! Yep, I have a bee in my bonnet and it’s going to be damn hard to remove it.

Dundee’s Restaurant on the Waterfront

Cairns Harbour Lights, 1 Marlin Pde, Cairns QLD 4870

Ph: (07) 4051 0399

Website: www.dundees.com.au

Posted on June 21, 2012, in Cairns and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. My one and only experience at Dundees was a lunch paid for by someone else (Phew) and I will never grace their doors again. A QP with fries would have been more acceptable!!

    • It is very disappointing that the mediocre restaurants (in my opinion) like Dundee’s, Salt House and Barnacle Bills get so many diners while the more deserving ones like Splash and Wink II get stuff all.

  2. So happy to have found your blog – I am moving to Cairns soon and have been looking for some local restaurant knowledge. Will be trawling through all of your previous posts 🙂

    • I’m glad you have found my blog too 🙂 Some of my pics off the top of my head are Caffiend, Mama Coco, Perotta’s, Ever After, Ganbaranba Noodle Colosseum, Raw Prawn (for lunch), Waterbar and Grill (for a good steak) and El Mundo Tapas (for something different). Make sure you grab a pack of Table 52 cards from the Newsagent as well! Happy eating 🙂

  3. Dundee’s does do a good job of marketing itself in the tour group segment and I guess that is the business model. My only experience was ok there at a function but guess I didn’t really expect it to be something exceptional either rather than a format experience, if that makes sense. If there is a lesson maybe it is on expectations of places in tourist venues with large menus which must really struggle to maintain consistency and quality across the range! Kangaroo is definitely only for those who don’t mind meat on the rare side also.

    P.S. Re Haveli’s I think too many Indian places opened in too short a time about a year or more ago. We seem to be ‘Over-Indianed’ at the moment?

    • Just another tourist trap for the locals to stay away from I reckon and yeah I do agree about the overload of Indian Restaurants in town. I think we need an overload of something new like Moroccan or Turkish instead 😉

  4. I am slowly working my way through your reviews! Love them. Are there many/any good options for Greek/Lebanese/Turkish in Cairns?

    • Hi 🙂 Sorry I haven’t gotten back to you I have been out of phone range unfortunately. There aren’t too many Greek/Lebanese/Turkish options in Cairns I’m afraid. We have only one Greek restaurant that I can think of and that is Fetta’s (I don’t rate the place or the food but many people do). The only other Turkish/Lebanese places I can think of are Mecca Bah (a chain which is ok, sometimes) and Alla Turka on the Esplanade, which I haven’t been to.

  5. Went there for Lunch yesterday…. service was very slow (they were more interested in cleaning tables than taking orders even though there were maybe only 10 people in there (it was almost like they were ignoring us… seating new people, then walking off)). Waited 20 minutes after being seated to order… Ended up ordering the Steak Burger… was impressed. Steak was tender as, the bun was fresh, the chips were cooked properly and was very filling! So we were quite please in the end…

    Got a work dinner there this friday night, and after reading some of the reviews, I’m worried…

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