Salt House, Cairns

A friend of mine has been bugging me to make an appearance on foodvixen and be a part of one of my reviews. My friend EG accompanied me to the Salt House for a quiet Tuesday lunch. Now like I said in a previous post first impressions last for me and I do tend to hold a grudge so after a bad dining experience at the Salt House not last Christmas but the Christmas before I haven’t returned. That lunch turned into a debacle with meals being forgotten, apologies not being made and rude and inappropriately dressed wait staff so you can understand my apprehension in going back. On reading Trip Advisor it’s clear the reviews are many and varied. Some like it, some don’t. Some say it’s the best place to dine in Cairns, some say they will never go back. Well I had a Table 52 card in my little hand and I wasn’t afraid to use it.

Upon arrival EG and I were greeted by one of the waitstaff and shown to a table. That particular table was out in the middle pretty much in direct sunlight so we asked if we could move to another table that had four seats since there seemed to be no other two seater tables out of the sun. The reply we got was “I need to keep those tables for other diners but ok”. Which other diners? The place was empty and looking around Salt House is a pretty big restaurant with plenty of places to sit. If they could fill all those tables for lunch on Tuesday then I take it all back. Everything I have said.  They do however have a new Chef so I have been told.

So we took a seat, the two of us at our table for four and had a look over the menu. The Salt House does have a two course lunch menu with a glass of wine but we decided to forgo that and went with the Main Menu. I have to say that the menu wasn’t exactly exciting and it sort of forced me to choose something to eat rather than have something stand out that I wanted to eat. It appears that EG had the same problem but in the end she went with the Fish of the Day which after consultation with the waiter was confirmed as Barramundi with Vegetables, not sure what the vegetables were but they were vegetables.

When I dined at Salt House those many moons ago I ordered the Seafood Platter, which was at the time a lot more expensive at AU$50. I remember this because I ordered with my $50 voucher that I won at a Trivia Night there only a few weeks before. Seeing that the Seafood Platter was now $14 cheaper at AU$36 I decided to go with the Seafood Platter again.

Looking around at the restaurant I noticed (it didn’t seem to phase EG at all) that the chairs and furniture were all covered with mould. Considering that the main theme for the furniture is white leather it was quite noticeable. I know that the Salt House is kind of an outdoor restaurant but the furniture looks tired and weathered. It would certainly do with a good scrub of Exit Mould (mind the fumes, they are lethal) or maybe even a refurbish? The Salt House has been around for a few years now and you can tell by the state of the furniture. Still I have to give it to them it is an impressive looking restaurant, particularly by night and somewhere that I always bring friends and family from interstate for a drink in the evening during their visit.

Mouldy Chairs

The waiter bought me out a bowl of water with some floating lemons for my fingers and another white bowl to put my shells and what not in. Even then I noticed that the bowls were old and stained and could really do with a good old blast in the dishwasher with some Finish Powerball tablets. It was a little bit disappointing for a restaurant as exy as the Salt House.

Scabby looking finger bowl

Our meals arrived in good time and after a bit of a photo shoot of the meals we tucked in. EG’s fillet of Barramundi was a very decent serve and was succulent and cooked to perfection. The greyish skin that was still on top was slightly crispy and contrasted well with the bright green asparagus on top. The asparagus was crisp and not overcooked, the way asparagus and any other greens for that matter should be. The only problem with E’s meal was the cold vegetables on the side. It looked a bit like Ratatouille to me and tasted like it. There was some zucchini, some capsicum and Tomato as well. It was cold and had been served pretty much straight from the fridge which kind of took away from the meal a little and E said that it would have been much nicer if they had heated it up a to match the temperature of the rest of the meal. I tended to agree with her.

Salt House Fish of the Day (Barramundi) AU$32

Next up was my Seafood Platter (for one) which consisted of a whole Moreton Bay Bug (halved), Glazed Tuna Tateki, King Prawns still in the shell (maybe 4?), two oysters, a red claw crayfish, some dipping sauces (Dill Marscapone, tzatziki and guacamole) and half a lemon. Last time I had the seafood platter there was a few extras on there like Smoked Salmon, Fish Roe, 3 oysters instead of 2, wakame seaweed and some squid, amongst a couple of other things that I can’t identify from the picture. But like I said the current Seafood Platter is AU$36 while the old one was AU$50. I am assuming that they got rid of the squid because it was horrible imported squid and no one should serve that least of all a fancy restaurant. I was pretty happy with my Seafood Platter although it was a little small and missing the wakame seafood that I so adore. Although the description of the Seafood Platter on the Salt House website does appear to be different to what I got All the items were cold, as I would expect from a Seafood Platter. That extra oyster wouldn’t have gone astray because the oysters were pretty small with not much meat in them. The dipping sauces were yummy especially the guacamole which which was nice and chunky. Um what else can I say? The presentation was good?

Seafood Platter for One (AU$36)

So where to from now? The food at Salt House was, how do I say this? Better than expected I guess. We both enjoyed our meals but had we paid full price (cue Table 52 card) I would have been a little disappointed. The service was better, not outstanding but at least the staff’s uniforms were clean this time. I tried to leave my expectations and past experience at Salt House at the door but it was a little hard to do that. I guess my beef with the Salt House is that for somewhere as high profile and as expensive as the Salt House I do expect just a little bit more from the decor, to the service, to the food.  Love it or hate it, the Salt House is certainly a Cairns institution but I think I’ll just stick to ordering G and T’s from the bar from now on rather than go the dining option, after I try the new 2 course lunch menu of course.

Salt House

6/2 Pier Point Rd, Cairns QLD 4807

Ph: (07) 4041 7733

Opening Hours: Mon – Thurs 12pm – midnight, Fri – Sat 7am – 2am, Sun 7am – midnight


Posted on September 14, 2012, in Cairns and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. I agree with your assessment. I was there for dinner a few weeks ago with an out-of-town guest and found the menu supremely limited and the food and service so-so. For such a great location and potentially good dining ambience, they don’t deliver the goods. Plus, I think they make their money off the bar, which was at an uncomfortable decibel for dining – I felt like I was eating in the middle of a raging house party. Won’t return to dine.

  2. Over rated, bad food, disgraceful service& agree with the filthy state of the place. Had to remind one of the surly bartenders that he was in the “hospitality industry” not the “hostile industry” after he was snarky with me one night. Was sober & not impressed. Haven’t been back since… Cairns service leaves a lot to be desired, hiring young backpackers & not caring about the regular locals makes for constantly below par meals….

    • How right you are! The bar staff have to be the rudest I have ever come across. I bought a cocktail there the other night and the bar tenders attitude was atrocious. They definitely need to smarten their act up.

  3. Have to agree with everyones comments!The service, food and atmosphere is so lacking at the Salthouse. We were there to try the lunch special (burgers- shocking cardboard-like meat patties and they arrived stone cold after we had to physically go tell staff that our meals had been sitting on the pass for 8 minutes) and saw their FROZEN seafood delivery arrive, with boxes of FROZEN ;fresh’ prawns, pre-crumbled calamari, imported barramundi and precut chips…….

  4. I ate there last night ONLY because I had a table 52 card & my partner had never eaten there. Last time for me was 3 yrs ago. Was being optimistic thinking it might have improved. The staff were sweet for a bunch of young kids but I doubt they would know the menu or the wine list if it bit them on the arse.
    The place is looking GROTTY, really grotty as in I am going to email them & tell them its looking feral. Food was average, as in don’t waste your time…just go for drinks & bar food if your drunk. I would never take clients or visitors there to eat….would prefer Mondos & pray they are having a good night!!
    FoodVixen can you do a page where you get your regular readers to post their favourite restaurants? Im starting to get bummed with all the bad meals….truly there must be some little gems out there (& its making me feel & look like a grumpy old b*tch with all my negative comments haha!!)

    • I’m not surprised at all. Seems Salt House is resting on their laurels a little too much. A friend of mine went there last night for dinner with her family and said that it was terrible. They waited 20 minutes for a lemonade not to mention the rest of their drinks. Steaks full of sinew, dry overcooked fish and just general shitty service. I like your idea of a page just for the readers. Let me have a bit of a think about it and see how I go 🙂

  5. A very fair appraisal I feel. A group of four of us dined there recently and the location is spot on but the service and food average. The herb crusted Barramundi was a dry disaster bordering on fish fingers quality, then fresh salad and complimentary fresher grub feasting away! If you even dared to question the manager about anything not up to standard god help you. The arrogance we received was straight up; I don’t care if you come back. So, there we go, we will not. Back to Mossman we go.

  6. The owner is relying on the bar and location. Hiring backpacker staff to keep his costs down. Their are plenty of other bars in town. Think they should sell up and cut their losses, Give some decent restaurateur/chef a chance to get this place back on its feet. Why bother arguing with staff that don’t know their place, They don’t even care that at a guess 22% of people walk out with out paying …because they can. That’s how good the staff are!

    • Yes it would be nice if the food and staff at the Salt House reflected the location and people’s expectations but I’ve never found this to be the case at the many times I have dined there. I went there for drinks with friends recently and even their wine list is well below par.

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