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Mother’s Day Brunch @ Bazaar, Port Douglas

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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.)

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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.

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Orange Juice

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!

My selection of breakfast items (well the first plate anyway)

My selection of breakfast items (well the first plate anyway)

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.

See that table right on the left in the sun?  Yeah no thanks.

See that table right on the left in the sun? Yeah no thanks.

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

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Bazaar

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

Website: http://www.qtportdouglas.com.au

Bazaar, Port Douglas

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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.

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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).

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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.

Cheese and Salad Station

Cheese and Salad Station

Fresh Seafood Station

Fresh Seafood Station

Hot Dish Station

Hot Dish Station

Dessert Station

Dessert Station

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.

Plate #1

Plate #1 (I ate the cheese before I took a photo, oops)

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.

MS' Supreme Wood-fired Pizza with extra Chorizo

MS’ Supreme Wood-fired Pizza with extra Chorizo

Just one of the Salmon Fillets eaten that night

Just one of the Salmon Fillets eaten that night

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.

My Rose Pasta (it's a lot bigger than it looks)

My Rose Pasta (it’s a lot bigger than it looks)

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.

Tasting Platter with Chargrilled Scallops, Bacon Stuffed Zucchini and Mushrooms with Thyme and Parmesan

Tasting Platter with Chargrilled Scallops, Bacon Stuffed Zucchini and Mushrooms with Thyme and Parmesan

Dumplings and Pork Buns

Dumplings and Pork Buns

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.

Lemon Slice

Lemon Slice

Strawberry Macaroons

Strawberry Macaroons

Strawberry Macaroon, Chocolate Tart, Chocolate Cupcake, Lemon Slice and there's that yummy Pecan and Maple Cookie!

Strawberry Macaroon, Chocolate Tart, Chocolate Cupcake, Lemon Slice and there’s that yummy Pecan and Maple Cookie!

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.

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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.

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Bazaar

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

Website: http://www.qtportdouglas.com.au

Good Friday Seafood Buffet @ Canecutters Restaurant, Palm Cove

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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?

Capture

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.

And the prize for the world's most boring salad bar goes to...

And the prize for the world’s most boring salad bar goes to…

Asian Inspired Saddletail Snapper

Asian Inspired Saddletail Snapper

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.

Pippi's in Garlic Cream Sauce

Pippi’s with Garlic Cream

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.

Prawns, Crab and Oysters oh my!

Prawns, Crab and Oysters oh my!

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.

Paella

Paella

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.

Roast Pork

Roast Pork

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.

Dessert Buffet

Dessert Buffet

Cupcake with 'Yogurt' Icing and Rocky Road

Cupcake with ‘Yogurt’ Icing and Rocky Road

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.

 

Canecutters Restaurant

Novotel Palm Cove Resort, Coral Coast Drive, Palm Cove QLD 4879

Ph: (07) 4059 1234

Opening Hours: 7 days 5.30pm – 9.30pm

Website: http://www.novotelpalmcove.com.au/canecutters-restaurant.html

Koh-Ya Japanese BBQ Restaurant, Orchid Plaza *CLOSED DOWN*

I have been meaning/wanting to go to Koh-Ya for some time now and last weekend I finally stepped up to the plate so to speak and gave it a go.  Koh-ya is a Yakiniku Japanese BBQ restaurant upstairs at Orchid Plaza that has been there for since 2003.  According to www.yakiniku.com.au Yakiniku is an eating style in which fresh, seasoned ingredients such as meat, seafood and vegetables are cooked on a mesh over a direct flame.  Each individual booth at Koh-ya has it’s own grill for you to cook your food on.  This is exactly the reason why one of my friends declined my invitation to join ST and I for dinner on this particular night.  In his own words… ‘Why the hell would I want to pay to cook my own food?’  Each to their own I guess but I wanted to try it out.

Booth with Individual Grill

At Koh-ya there is an a-la-carte menu as well as two buffet options.  There are 44 dishes to choose from on the AU$39.90 buffet menu including dishes like prawns, octopus, mussels, chicken, beef, miso soup, mushrooms and sliced onion.  The more expensive buffet option of AU$49.90 includes all these dishes plus a few more such as sashimi, intenstine and tripe.  Although both ST and I love sashimi neither of us is keen on the latter so we just went for the AU$39.90 buffet.  There are a few ‘Terms and Conditions’ that one needs to be aware of when dining at Koh-ya.  These ‘Terms and Conditions’ are listed at the bottom of the menu and state that the buffet is 90 minutes long and this time begins from when you order your first dish.  No problem there… 90 minutes is pretty long time to eat for and I think we were only eating for about 40 minutes in total.  The second important condition is that any excess uneaten food must be paid for, i.e. if you order a sh*tload of food and don’t eat it all then expect to pay for it when you leave.  Having said that, I had a quick look at the food left behind by the table next to us that paid just before us and they had quite a lot of food leftover that they weren’t asked to pay for.

The Mesh Grill

On arriving at Koh-ya the friendly Japanese waitress showed us to our booth where we both ordered the buffet and she promptly lit up our grill to allow it to preheat while we waited for our first orders to arrive.  She then brought us each a dipping sauce that was like a light soy sauce accompanied with a wedge of lemon and some chilli powder (I’m pretty sure that’s what it was).

Dipping Sauce with Lemon and Chilli Powder

On arriving ST was most excited to see one of her all-time favourite dishes on the buffet menu – Yukke.  According to Wikipedia Yukke is made from raw minced beef seasoned with various spices or sauces, usually with a raw egg cracked over the top.  The most tender part of the beef is used, the fat is removed and the beef is julienned and then mixed with the seasoning.  The seasoning is soy sauce, sugar, salt, sesame oil and a few other bits and bobs.  ST ordered a Yukke for herself and decided that I had to have one too.  I was a little dubious about eating raw beef.  I have absolutely no qualms about eating raw seafood but meat is a little different.  I gave it a go, breaking my egg yolk with my spoon and mixing it into the red mince.  Once I got over the texture of the raw mince it was delicious, and I mean REALLY good.  In fact I could go another bowl right now just thinking about it!  The meat was almost sweet from the various seasoning that had been mixed into it and unfortunately I got into it so quickly I didn’t even get a picture of it so you will just have to go and have one for yourself.  We ordered about 10 dishes all up including Shake Gohan (Salmon Rice), prawns, squid, octopus, mussels and beef rib.

Shake Gohan

Prawns

Octopus

Squid

We ordered about 3 plates of beef rib between us just because it was so juicy and tender.

Beef Rib

ST ordered a bowl of edamame to nibble on whilst we were waiting for our food to cook on the grill.  I love those yummy little pods of salty goodness and they are also good for fidgeters like me since they keep your hands busy.

Edamame

Each item comes out on a small serving plate with 2 or 3 pieces each, depending on what you order.  If you like a particular item you can just keep ordering more and it’s better this way because you don’t have hardly any waste.  The food at Koh-ya is pretty basic, not at all fancy however it’s pretty healthy (as long as you control your portion size) and it’s tasty too.  I’m no butcher but the meat that they serve you is really lean and good quality.  The wait staff are also very friendly and helpful albeit a little hard to understand.  Disappointingly, as is the case all too often, the seafood at Koh-ya is imported which wasn’t a surprise to me.  You need to take a bit of a systematic approach to cooking your food otherwise you sit there and wait too long and that’s no good for an impatient person like me (that’s what people tell me anyway).  The best way to do it is to have something on the grill while you are eating and have something on order as well, that way you always have something to eat and everything flows nicely.  It’s a good and bad thing that you have to cook your own food depending on which way you look at it.  I thought it was kind of fun and and you can just chat with your company while you work your little BBQ and tongs.  The best thing about doing the cooking at Koh-ya is that you don’t have to clean up the mess afterwards.

Koh-Ya Japanese BBQ Restaurant

Orchid Plaza Shop 50 12-14 Lake St, Cairns QLD 4870

Ph: (07) 4041 6006

Coco’s Sunday Brunch, The Sebel Cairns

Last Sunday I attended a friend’s birthday brunch at Coco’s Restaurant at The Sebel in the city.  I have long said that this particular buffet, though expensive, is the best in town.  Alas this is no longer the case.  I have observed the price rise of the buffet over the years from $40 odd dollars including alcohol to their current pricing ($58 per person without the drinks or $70 with the drinks).  The buffet includes seafood (crab, prawns, bugs and oysters) as well as hot and cold dishes and the delectable dessert bar.  The drinks package includes selected cocktails (margaritas, mango and strawberry daquiris), sparkling wine and soft drinks, although the alcohol content of the cocktails is questionable but with the amount of food that one normally eats at a buffet alcohol intoxication isn’t really a factor.

MS and I arrived at The Sebel, which is a beautiful hotel I might add.  There was live music playing and while we waited in line to pay for our buffet we were offered a glass of champagne (whoops I mean sparkling wine).  We both chose the $58 non-drinking package which didn’t seem to matter because the staff continued to top up my glass of sparkling wine long after I placed it down in front of me at the table.  This was much to my detriment later on in the afternoon as I wasn’t feeling too great following my 4 or 5 glasses of sparkling.  I certainly wasn’t complaining about the free refills at the time.  MS and I sat down at the table, did the introductions and then waited the obligatory 56 seconds or so before we raced to the buffet.  I went straight to the seafood while MS, well… who knows I wasn’t paying any attention because I was consumed with the pile of bugs and oysters in front of me.  First things first, I know my seafood.  Lets just say my parents have owned a seafood business since I was just a twinkle in their eye so I do know what I am talking about and if I don’t I just ask my dad.  After dreaming about oysters since having the most amazing oysters of my life on Christmas Day (they were NZ oysters) I was finally going to get my fill of them again.  Initially I was most disappointed with the size of the oysters.  They were small.  Tiny.  Minute.  Nothing compared to the delicious oysters that I had been fantasising about or had recently consumed.  Size isn’t everything though.  I piled a few oysters on my plate, grabbed two bug halfs, a handful of prawns (with tongs might I add) and took my seat at the table.  I am all for oysters being small as long as they taste good but these didn’t.  They didn’t taste nice.  I don’t want to go on and on about the oysters but good, fresh seafood is so important!  I asked one of the waiters where the oysters were from and he informed me they were from Tasmania.  I’ll wrap up my oyster rant with this…  It’s no wonder so many people don’t eat oysters because I wouldn’t either if I had only ever tried oysters that tasted like these ones.  Now I’m going to move onto the bugs.  The bugs were overcooked and tough.  Not sweet and juicy like bugs should be.  I wasn’t the only one that noticed the distasteful bugs.  On a lighter note there were two types of prawns available at the buffet – tigers and endeavours – and these were delicious but for someone who had intended on dining on almost nothing but bugs and oysters at the buffet I was reduced to look elsewhere on the buffet for a feed after my disappointing seafood encounter.

Prawns, Bug and Oysters

Further down at the hot buffet station there was the usual breakfast fare… English Muffin Eggs Benedict (the eggs were runny mind you – HALLELUJAH), Bacon, Chipolatas, Frittata and Raspberry and White Chocolate Pancakes.  Other dishes at the hot buffet station included Roast Lamb, Salmon, Chicken Laksa, Pork (with crackling), Steamed Vegetables and Soup.  The Roast Lamb was amazing but then again isn’t all Roast Lamb amazing?  I think I actually went back for thirds of the lamb.  The pork was dry but then again, most pork is dry.  That is really all I helped myself to at the Hot Buffet section and spent the rest of my time in the salad section eating things like the Mushroom, Goats Cheese and Red Onion Tart and the White Anchovies that someone had left just for me near the ‘make your own’ Caesar Salad’ section.  I’m pretty sure the website calls this the ‘Sushi and Salad Bar’ but there was no Sushi there on this particular day much to my dismay.

A section of the Sushi and Salad Bar

Because it was a friends birthday there was birthday cake so I only had a tiny taste of the desserts that were on offer.  The dessert display looks amazing and the pastry chef at Coco’s Restaurant really does know how to make some enticing desserts.  Unfortunately I only managed to try the Coconut Pannacotta since the guilt of eating Chocolate Ganache birthday cake as well as Cheesecake, Frangipane Tart and other yummy desserts had caught up with me, along with the 3 or 4 plates of food I had already eaten and the disapproving looks from MS.

Dessert Bar

The last time I had Sunday brunch at The Sebel was almost a year ago and I found it to be a little disappointing then.  When I say disappointing I mean everything other than the seafood was delicious however the seafood just isn’t up to the standard that it used to be so I hardly ate any this time around.  But lets be honest here it’s really not worth paying a minimum of $58 if you are not going to eat the seafood.  The service is fantastic and you never have an empty glass or a dirty plate in front of you and I guess the service is part of what you are paying with the hefty price tag.  It seems to me that the standard of food at Coco’s Restaurant has taken a bit of a turn for the worse since Mirvac Hotels took over from the Cairns International Hotel and it then became The Sebel.  It is important to note that they are serving Australian Seafood and not the imported crap but I’m still not feeling it.  So in my opinion the Sunday Brunch buffet at Coco’s Restaurant is no longer the Best Seafood Buffet in Cairns and for now the title is up for grabs.  Any takers?

Coco’s Restaurant

17 Abbott St, Cairns QLD 4870

Ph: (07) 4050 2101

Opening Hours: Every Sunday 11.30am – 2.30pm

Website: www.mirvachotels.com/sebel-cairns/sunday-brunch