Good Friday Seafood Buffet @ Canecutters Restaurant, Palm Cove
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