Perotta’s At The Gallery, Cairns
I’ve been to Perotta’s At The Gallery a million and one times for breakfast and lunch but I’ve only been there once for dinner way back in about 2004. After a long day in transit on my way home from the NT capital, MS picked me up at the airport and after deciding that neither of us wanted to cook – who am I kidding MS doesn’t cook! – we headed to Perotta’s for dinner. With my Entertainment Book Gold Card offering me ‘buy one get one free’ main meals I figured now was a good a time as any to try out the dinner menu.
The place was about ½ full when we arrived so we chose a seat near the entrance closest to the lagoon. We ordered wine to celebrate the first time seeing each other in 4 weeks and had a squiz at the menus. The menu at Perotta’s has something to suit most people with plenty of variety and not just your standard run of the mill boring dishes. My go to dish when I go there for lunch is the Chilli Salt Squid Salad and although that is featured on the dinner menu I figured it might be time to branch out.
To start with we ordered the Garlic Bruschetta with Fresh Ricotta, Mint and Calabrian Chilli (AU$9) and the Burrata Caprese with Heirloom Tomato, Watermelon, Rocket Pesto and Raspberry Vinegar (AU$21). MS asked me what Burrata was and thinking I was all sophisticated and smart I told him that it was a type of Cured Italian Meat. Boy did we get a surprise when it the Burrata arrived at our table a short while later – a good surprise though! Turns out Bresaola is the Italian Cured Meat that I’d gotten confused with and Burrata is actually an Italian Cheese. Pfft I totally knew that.
In all honesty the Garlic Bruschetta wasn’t really anything to write home about but it was actually perfect for mopping up the last bits of Burrata and Rocket Pesto. I’m normally hesitant to eat watermelon since I was a little kid and my dad told me a watermelon vine was going to grow in my stomach after I swallowed a seed. Thanks dad, way to scar me for life and now I absolutely refuse to eat any type of grape (unless in wine) or watermelon (even the ‘seedless’ variety). The Burrata with juicy Heirloom Tomatoes was a beautiful and tasty dish that we both enjoyed. It was a great start to the night – I highly recommend this one.
Next up for our mains MS had ordered the Pork Spare Ribs with Fennel, Apple Cider Vinegar and Pickled Pineapple (AU$37) which came with a big bowl of chips and I had the 8 Hour Lamb Shoulder, 3 Wheat Salad, Almond, Mint, Pomegranate and Spicy Cumin Yogurt (AU$36).
MS’ Pork Spare Ribs were literally falling off the bone – the way ribs should be IMO – and were covered in a delicious tangy glaze. The Pickled Pineapple was nice but needed to be pickled just that little bit longer. We both thought the serving size was a little bit small for $37 but MS was pretty full by the time he polished them off.
My 8 Hour Lamb Shoulder was super tasty albeit a little on the small side for the price ($36). The added crunchy strips of bacon/pancetta/prosciutto whatever the hell it was really added to the dish. Despite the size of the dish I actually struggled to finish it. I find rich cuts of meat like Lamb Shoulder, Lamb Shanks and Beef Cheeks fill me up really quick and I can’t eat a whole lot although I want to. Give me Garlic Bread however and I can eat that carby goodness till the cows come home! We wanted to stick around for dessert especially after I spotted the Eton Mess on the Dessert Menu (the only one I know of in town) but we just couldn’t fit it in.
It’s got to be the number one place in Cairns for people watching – with wine of course! The wait staff are very friendly and professional, in fact it’s consistently one of the better places in Cairns in terms of service (something Cairns is usually lacking in). I do find that the food, particularly the mains, are a little expensive for what you get and this is something that seems to be reiterated in other online reviews I’ve read. Nearly 20 years of good food and service is certainly a mean feat in this small town. According to their website Perotta’s (as the locals like to call it) has been around since 1997 would you believe? Yes I was a little surprised by that too so I guess you could also call this place a bit of a Cairns institution – seems I’m using that word a lot these days.
Perotta’s At The Gallery
38 Abbott St, Cairns QLD 4870. Ph: (07) 40315899
Opening Hours: 7 days a week 6.30am – 10pm
Bagus Cafe, Cairns Esplanade
Only yesterday I was told about this hidden gem so I went down to grab a bit of lunch for my family who are doing some reno’s just up the road. The Bagus Café has been open since December last year so I don’t know how I hadn’t bloody heard of it. Living just up the road I have driven past this place many times however I had no idea they sold Indonesian food (even though Bagus means good in Indonesian). The lovely owner Sri moved up from Melbourne with her family in 2013 to open the Bagus Café.
I ordered takeaway this time however there is a handful of tables of chairs out the front should you choose to ‘dine in’. All the food is made fresh on-site which meant about a 15 minute wait for the three dishes that I ordered. Knowing the food is cooked to order I didn’t mind the wait at all. With traditional dishes like Nasi Goreng, Satay and Rendang it’s one of only two places I know in Cairns that sells Indonesian food (the other being the Bayleaf of course). For the non traditional eaters there is also a selection of Western breakfast and lunch fare including a Smoked Beef Breakfast Burrito with Jalapeno’s that sounds right up my alley.
Occupying a small space out the front of the backpackers across the road from Muddies the Bagus Café is quaint, unassuming and kind of like the real roadside experience in Indo. Located at 149 The Esplanade Bagus is open daily for breakfast and lunch from 6.45am – 3pm and for dinner on Tuesday, Thursday – Sunday from 5.30pm – 8.30pm with nothing on the menu over AU$16. Don’t forget to ask for some of their spicy Anchovy Sambal!
Spicy Bite, Cairns
Last Friday night my good friend SH and I ventured out in search of some dinner. Due to some communication problems (aka my iPhone shat itself) we didn’t actually get into town till almost 9.30 at night so of course being Cairns a lot of places were shut. Ganbaranba, the place we had originally planned on going to, shut it’s door just before 9.30pm (pretty sure they used to be open till 10 but hey). So we wandered over to Corea Corea upstairs at Orchid Plaza. They too shut up shop at 9.30pm that night. SH suggested The Courthouse for dinner but I wasn’t in the mood for fried food so we headed towards the Esplanade to see what we could find. We walked past Spicy Bite just a little down from Dolce and Caffe and right next door to Coast Roast. SH reckoned that she had eaten there many times and they had amazing Butter Goat that I simply had to try. It was nearing 10pm now and although they looked like they were closing up because the waitress was removing cutlery and serviettes from some of the tables it appears that they were in fact open. We were both delighted to find a restaurant open in Cairns at this time of night so we promptly sat down and perused the menu. In all the years they have been open I have never actually dined at Spicy Bite, probably due to the location (just another tourist trap) and also the fact that I figured that I already knew where to get good Indian food (more on that later).
We both ordered a glass of wine when the waitress brought over the menus. SH had already decided on what she was having, the critically acclaimed Butter Goat. It wasn’t exactly listed on the menu but SH claimed that she had ordered it before and the waitress approved. I had a look over the menu and decided on the Lamb Buriyani with Raita. Having travelled to Sri Lanka (yes I realise that Sri Lanka isn’t India) I ate some truly amazing Buriyani’s along the way (the best in a road side ‘cafe’ in the busy city of Colombo for a mere 180 rupees) and was hoping that this one may come a little close to my previous experience. We also ordered a serve of Garlic Naan figuring we could share each of our meals. Not long after ordering the waitress returned and informed us that they had in fact run out of Butter Goat so SH and I decided that Butter Chicken would have to suffice. It was disappointing since SH had talked up the Butter Goat so much but oh well.
While we were waiting and sipping our glasses of Sauvignon Blanc (me) and Rose (SH) a few more people arrived to take up tables at Spicy Bite. Seems Spicy Bite is open till quite late on a Friday, no doubt taking advantage of hungry diners looking for somewhere to eat out when most places have closed up for the night and not wanting to stoop so low as to venture to the Golden Arches across the road. We waited about 15 minutes for our dishes to arrive. First up came the Garlic Naan, then the Lamb Buriyani and Raita, followed closely by the Butter Chicken. By this stage I was absolutely starving since I had only eaten a Som Tum at about midday and nothing since.
I reached over and grabbed a piece of Garlic Naan out of the basket. There were four triangular pieces in total and they were all as dry and hard as a piece of cardboard. No soft, warm, doughy Garlic Naan here. I was pretty disappointed because Naan is what you go to Indian Restaurants for isn’t it? Next up I put a couple of spoonfulls of Lamb Buriyani on my plate, digging out a couple of super large lamb chunks from amongst the rice. I drizzled a little bit of raita over the top and took a bite. The raita was so damn watery and flavourless I don’t know why they bothered even serving the buriyani with raita. I literally couldn’t taste it, even when I dipped the end of my Garlic Naan directly into the bowl. The lamb in the buriyani was dry and chewy. Not soft and moist like the lamb I was longing for. This dish tasted like the Lamb Buriyani that I used to make out of the CSIRO cookbook except mine was far superior. The rice that was accompanying the lamb was gluggy and horrible. I am pretty sure that it was just reheated from earlier that evening.
Lastly I fished out one of three pieces of Butter Chicken that was absolutely swimming in sauce. It was the smallest damn Butter Chicken I had ever seen! I was hoping that a bite of the chicken would save this dish but alas the chicken was overcooked and dry. Not moist and succulent like chicken pieces in Butter Chicken are supposed to be. The most disappointing thing about this dish was the sauce. Butter Chicken sauce is another food that I could literally shower in. I would be happy with a large bowl of the sauce and just some rice (or decent Naan bread) but I do exert self control and don’t allow myself to do things like that. The sauce tasted like the chef had just dumped a can of Heinz Big Red Tomato Soup in and mixed it around with the chicken. It did not taste like the creamy, tomatoey, sweet Butter Chicken sauce that we all know and love at all. How disappointing.
Well, I have to say that poor old SH definitely gave us a bum steer with Spicy Bite, that said I didn’t get to try the famous Butter Goat that she was going on about. The service that we received from the waitress at Spicy Bite was friendly and efficient and I really cannot say a bad thing about it. However, the same cannot be said about the food. It was tasteless, dry and disappointing with a distinctly Heinz flavour about it. I know where I will be going if I want good Indian food and it certainly isn’t Spicy Bite or Haveli. After the good wrap that I gave Haveli earlier this year seems their standards and food portions have gone down while their prices have gone up. Looks like it’s back to tried and true Cairns favourite Marinades on Spence St where you simply can’t go past the Lunch Thali’s for around the $13 mark. MS and I had a fantastic meal there recently and the host even served us with a friendly smile this time around.
Note: I didn’t get to take any pictures of the food because if you were paying attention my iPhone shat itself earlier that evening. A quick visit to the guys under the stairs at Cairns Central fixed that and I am up and running again.
Shop 6/52 The Esplanade, Cairns
Ph: (07) 4041 3700
Grill’d, Cairns Esplanade
Went down to Grill’d last week to use my Table 52 card and apparently MS and I were the first people to use ours! I have avoided Grill’d up until this point mostly due to the fact that I try not to actively encourage myself to eat burgers (despite the content of my next and as yet unwritten post) and also because I tend to think that the burgers are just a little bit expensive at Grill’d. Not when it’s two for one burgers of course. Grill’d has a pretty large menu and most if not all of the burgers sound super delicious which made my decision a little difficult. Long after MS had pinpointed exactly which burger he wanted I was still umming and ahhing. MS chose the Front Bar Steak Sandwich – Grilled Scotch Fillet, Free Range Egg, Rocket, Tomato, Spanish Onion, Mustard, Beetroot Relish and Herbed Mayo on Ciabatta (AU$16.50). I was still tossing up between the ‘Baa Baa’ Burger – Grilled Lamb Pattie with Roasted Peppers, Tzatziki, Salad and Relish (AU$13.50) and the Mustard and Pickled – Grilled 100% Lean Beef, Dijon Mustard, Dill Pickle, Tasty Cheese, Salad and Relish (AU$12.50). In the end I went with the Mustard and Pickled because I just love pickles. My mum even caught me eating them out of the jar in her fridge the other day and wondered if I was pregnant. No. I am not pregnant. Moving on…
I asked the owner if I could have rocket instead of lettuce on my burger (not a fan of iceberg lettuce because it tastes like leaves – go figure), while MS asked if he could have the Beetroot Relish removed from his burger and I ummed and ahhed about which type of roll I wanted – Panini or Traditional. None of this was a problem for the friendly man behind the counter who waited patiently while we (I) made up our mind. He even gave us a taste of the Beetroot Relish to see if he could sway MS into having it on his Steak Sandwich. He was fighting a losing battle but it was worth a try. We took a seat and our burgers arrived not long afterwards. I’m not going to ramble on and on about my burger but it was goooood. Crispy bun, nice amount of filling, not too much sauce running down my hands and a good size – not too big, not too little. I really enjoyed my burger and so did MS and it cost us all of about AU$16.50. How good is that?
We had a really tasty and relatively healthy lunch at Grill’d and were really impressed by the friendly, ‘of course we can do that for you’ service that we received, not to mention their monthly donations to community groups (see note below). The burgers at Grill’d are so much tastier and healthier than the alternative fast food burger establishment on the Esplanade (not naming anyone) and probably not far off the price. I may have used up my 2-4-1 Table 52 Card but I enjoyed my burger so much that I will go back, pay full price and actively encourage myself to eat another burger at Grill’d no worries.
PS: Grill’d also has a community donation program which means that every month they donate $500 to the local community. Everytime you buy a Grill’d burger you get a token that you can put in one of three jars representing three different community groups that have been selected for that month. This donation program is supported by every Grill’d in the country which is a pretty fantastic idea and also Grill’d way of ‘giving back to the community’. Good on you guys!
77 The Esplanade
Ph: (07) 4041 4200
Opening Hours: Sun – Thur 11am – 10pm, Fri – Sat 11am – 10.30pm
$16.90 Lunch Specials @ Barnacle Bill’s, Cairns
I’m loving the amount of lunch specials that are available in Cairns at the moment. There really are so many to choose from thats it’s hard to keep track of them all (check out my ‘Lunch’ page). Having dined at both Splash and The Raw Prawn I decided that after walking past many, many times I would finally give Barnacle Bill’s a go. Last Friday I dined there with a group of friends and knew that some of the people that I was dining with had well, simple tastes. I guess this is why I chose Barnacle Bill’s in the first place for our Friday lunch catch-up. Still, there is something on the menu for everyone so I think this is why Barnacle Bill’s is always so busy at lunch time. Another reason is because they split the bill, which is perfect for group and business lunches and hard to find at Cairns restaurants.
I perused the menu and went with the Barramundi and Salad (Estuary Fish in Tempura Batter Served with Salad) but I’ll be honest there wasn’t really anything on the menu that excited me. Nothing on the menu stood out to me and made me think ‘That’s what I’m ordering!’ Our meals arrived in ample time. FW and TT also ordered the same dish as I did while across from me HT ordered the Pasta of the Day, which was a Creamy Salmon number. It was quite a large serve of pasta especially considering it was only $16.90 but HT claimed it was very bland. I tasted it and it was very bland. Half a bottle of Tabasco Sauce would have made it a little more worthwhile but then again everything tastes good with Tabasco Sauce.
My meal, as the menu explained it, was just two pieces of fish on a plate with a bit of salad and a very light soy type sauce that pretty much dissolved into nothing when I poured it over the fish. A bit of an odd sauce to have with tempura fish I think. Aioli or the old favourite Tartare Sauce would have been more memorable. The barramundi was cooked well and tasted nice and fresh. The batter encasing the fish was crisp and golden. I just wasn’t feeling it I guess. It must be said that FW and TT enjoyed their Barramundi and Salad lunch more than I did.
The menu at Barnacle Bill’s is varied but boring. There is 14 different dishes to choose from for $16.90 each and with menu items like Lasagna, Beef Curry, and Tandoori Chicken Pizza it certainly caters for the non-seafood eaters. Another possible reason why Barnacle Bill’s is such a popular lunch spot. The service was very good and the waiters were very jovial and chatty which is always nice when dining out since I have encountered some super miserable retaurant staff in recent times around Cairns. I guess my beef with the place is that I don’t think it’s anything special. I don’t understand why it’s so damn busy. I know that Barnacle Bill’s has been around nearly longer than I have so they must be doing something right but in my view the two restaurants on either side that I mentioned at the beginning of this post serve better food. It’s as simple as that. Barnacle Bill’s doesn’t need my endorsement. They seem to be doing pretty well already.
103 The Esplanade, Cairns QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 4051 2241
Opening Hours: Lunch from 11.30 am daily and Dinner from 5 pm till late
Iyara Restaurant and Bar, Cairns Esplanade
Another Friday night and another attempt by my friends and I to stay away from the pubs and clubs. This time we decided to go to Iyara Restaurant and Bar upstairs at what used to be (back in the day) The Chapel. I dined at Iyara about a year ago and found the food delicious so I thought it was worthy of another visit. On arrival we were greeted by the owner Feng who we chatted with about the mysteries of the universe while we ordered some drinks from the Drinks Menu. JM and FM decided to stick with the risque jug of water while myself and HH went for an alcoholic beverage each (beer and wine). As is typical when dining with HH we go ‘the whole hog’ as the saying goes, no expense spared and its always a pleasure. We asked our host to choose 4 entree meals for us followed by 4 mains. He asked if there was anything that we particularly wanted to try and I mentioned a Chicken and Lemongrass dish that I had spied on the list of mains that sounded particularly tasty, other than that Feng had free range to choose our dishes for us.
One of the best things about Iyara Restaurant and Bar is the decor and the view. We were seated out on the balcony, overlooking the esplanade. The city was alive with people strolling along the foreshore and the full moon rising against the mountain backdrop. Inside, the atmosphere in the restaurant is relaxing yet classy with candles flickering, comfy couches, oriental vases and sleek wooden floors. It didn’t take long for our entrees to arrive and it wasn’t just my camera (ok iPhone) that emerged to take photos of them. The entrees looked and tasted delicious. Feng gave us a rundown of the entrees that he has selected for us paying particular attention to the Mieng Kham – Betel Leaf Served with Shrimp, Coconut, Ginger, Peanut, Chilli and Fresh Lime (AU$15). He told us that this entree either needed to be eaten first or last to truly taste the dish. Since it looked so good, it got eaten first. Everyone thought it was divine and I found myself a little sad that we only got one each. Oh well, onto the other entrees.
Next entree was the Pla Hoy Shell – Thai Spicy Salad, Warm Scallop, Fresh Herbs, Lemongrass, Kaffir Lime Leaves and Mint (AU$18). Each was served on a white porcelain appertizer spoon (i.e. just one mouthful) and the flavours of sweet, sour and chilli along with the plump, juicy scallop was the perfect blend for this delectable entree.
Next entree was the Goong Hom Pha – Prawn Wrapped in Rice Paper Served with Homemade Chilli Sauce (AU$16). The prawns were nice and big and the rice paper wrapped around them was golden and crisp. These entrees were so crispy I even ate the prawn tail (yum). Again I found myself wishing that we didn’t just get to eat one each.
The last entree of the night was the Tod Mun Pla – Fish Cakes with Snake Bean, Lime Leaf, Crushed Peanut and Sweet Chilli Sauce (AU$17). The fish cakes were, well, they tasted like any other Thai Fish Cakes that I have had. Not to say that they weren’t yummy but compared to the other entrees they weren’t particularly exciting.
Now onto the mains… They arrived in good time as we were only left waiting for about 20 minutes. Along with my Chicken and Lemongrass dish (Gai Takroi) Feng had chosen us the Gaeng Massaman Neur – Rich Massaman Curry of Chuck Beef, Potato, Peanut and Shallot (AU$28), Pla Sam Rod – Boned Fried Whole Barramundi with a Hot, Sweet and Sour Sauce Garnished with Thai Basil (AU$34), Pad Pak – A Fresh Stir Fry of Green Asian Vegetables with Thai Basil (AU$19). Feng served us each a portion of steamed Jasmine Rice each and we all tucked into the mains in front of us (sharing of course). The Gai Takroi was placed closest to me so naturally I tried that one first. The chicken served in bite sized pieces was succulent and tender. Everyone enjoyed this dish.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t try the Stir fry vegetables for two reasons. It was placed at the opposite end of the table so it was a bit out of reach (yeah, ok I could have asked FM to pass it up) and secondly because I just don’t like bean sprouts. Again everyone else seemed to enjoy it but there was a little over half of it left by the end of the meal. I can only guess this is because the other non-vegetarian dishes were well, non-vegetarian.
The Massaman Curry was probably my highlight of the dishes that Feng chose for us. The meat was tender, the potato nice and soft and the sweet sauce was fantastic drizzled over my Jasmine Rice. This dish was delicious but I do have a massive weak spot for Massaman Curry at the best of times. HH and JM, however were also digging into this dish and enjoying it immensely so I guess it wasn’t just me.
Lastly, was the Whole Barramundi and wow did it look good. Once again everyones cameras or phones came out to take a picture of the meal. The Barramundi had been deep fried whole with bite sized pieces of fish fillet for us to share around. Once that was gone however the crispy fish was broken into pieces and eaten skeleton and all by the four of us. I asked Feng where he sourced the Barramundi from and he said that it was farmed Barramundi from Australia. The reason that he bought farmed Barramundi to serve at Iyara is because of its bred to plate size (something I did actually already know but I thought I would ask anyway).
We all enjoyed our meal at Iyara Restaurant and Bar so much so that my friend FM was raving about the Barramundi for the next week until she went back and ordered it again. The atmosphere is fantastic and would be a good choice for a romantic dinner on the balcony for two. The service however was lacking in some areas and while our waters and drinks were topped up at the beginning of the night it seems we were forgotten about after that. It was also very difficult to get anyones attention if you wanted another drink. Feng however was a gratuitous and friendly host, it was more the rest of the staff that let down the service. From the entrees to the mains the food was delicious but paying upward of AU$28 for a Thai dish is (I think) a little steep, especially when the service is lacking. The restaurant was quite full on this particular Friday night but there was still plenty of room down the back for more diners. If more people had come the three wait staff would not have been able to keep up at all considering they were struggling with the number of people already there. If the service was improved I would have no problem paying the higher price for these meals but as it stands hmmm I think I might stick to the cheaper Thai restaurants in town. But then again, that Massaman Curry was pretty damn good.
Iyara Restaurant and Bar
91 Esplanade, Cairns QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 4041 4748
Opening Hours: Open till late for dinner 7 days
Dinner @ Wink II Restaurant and Wine Bar, Cairns Esplanade
A few months ago AA and I met some friends for a couple of drinks at Wink II upstairs at the Mantra Esplanade. As we arrived a little earlier than expected our friends were still eating their main course of Slow Braised Beef Cheeks with Pumpkin and Brown Onion Puree, Garlic Mustard Seed Mashed Potato, Topped with Orange Roasted Carrots and Port Wine Red Sauce, which they insisted we try. Last week AA and I were contemplating just where to go for a ‘classy’ Friday night dinner with friends when I suggested Wink II. Both AA and I instantly recalled the Beef Cheeks that we had tasted on that memorable night a few months back and agreed that this was where we should go. On arrival at Wink II we were greeted by a friendly waitress who escorted us to a table for four that we had booked on the balcony. Most of the balcony was taken up by other diners however the restaurant did seem a little ‘unoccupied’ for 7.30pm on a Friday night. Water was poured and drinks were ordered, however this did take a little longer than usual as there seemed to be a little bit of confusion as to just which one of the four waitresses was actually in charge of our table. In the end it seemed that in fact all four were in charge of serving our table which was a little overkill as I would prefer just to have one waitress to deal with since it does help to personalise the whole overall dining out experience. Moving on….
At Wink II they have a set menu for dinner to choose from as well as an a-la-carte menu but since we noticed that a lot of the menu items that are on the a-la-carte menu are also availabe on the set menu we all opted for the two course set menu for $39.50 per person. Pretty damn good deal I think, plus the Beef Cheeks were featured of the list of available mains for the set menu so I was ‘in’. We ordered our entrees, mains and desserts in one hit and anxiously waited for our first meal to arrive however before our entrees came out we were each brought a ‘palate cleanser’ consisting of a morsel of Chicken and Avocado Puree beautifully presented on a white porcelain spoon. It was small, delectable and really set the mood for the entrees to come.
Impressing my friend PM with the elegant but somewhat minimalistic food at Wink II (as would be expected at a fine dining restaurant) was going to be a problem considering his rather impressive appetite at local buffets in and around town (I mean it, this guy can eat). However tonight was not about eating as much as you could eat, much to his dismay, but more about a chic dining experience with friends. PM ordered the Wink Oysters Kilpatrick style and since PM doesn’t tend to say a whole lot the fact that he gobbled all four oysters down in record time and then proceeded to eye everyone elses entrees goes to show that he certainly enjoyed his entree.
On my left AA ordered the Local Gazpacho with Avocado Mousse Drizzled with Smoked Oil and Crispy Crouton. On ordering the Gazpacho the waitress asked AA if he was aware that Gazpacho was actually cold soup. As I had expected, AA being a knowledgable friend with a plethora of both useless and useful information stored in his cranium, was fully aware of this. He enjoyed his cold Gazpacho very much and I do remember the words ‘Oh wow, this is really good’ escape from his mouth in between mouthfuls quite regularly.
To my right LL ordered the Stuffed Avocado with Spicy Creole Prawns and Pickled Watermelon, Carrot Ginger Puree and Wink Salad, which he was most pleased with. Enough so to declare that he had in fact ordered the best entree out of everyone at the table both prior to tasting our dishes and after.
I ordered the Lightly Curried Lemon Scented Goat Cheese Served with Crispy Crouton and Pickled Beetroot Puree and Salad, as I am ever the cheese lover and the description of the Pickled Beetroot Puree on the menu really sold me. The goats cheese was delicious and light, matched perfectly with the Crispy Crouton and the brightly coloured Pickled Beetroot Puree. It was a suberb entree and also a very good sized serve, not too little and not too big.
Before the arrival of our mains another palate cleanser was brought to our table but this time it was a shot glass with a small mouthful of Orange and Mango Sorbet. No one at the table was expecting these little palate cleansers but they were certainly a nice little surprise which everyone enjoyed very much.
For the mains PM, AA and myself finally got to fulfill our dreams and ordered the Slow Braised Beef Cheeks with Pumpkin and Brown Onion Puree, Garlic Mustard Seed Mashed Potato, Topped with Orange Roasted Carrots and Port Wine Red Sauce. The Beef Cheeks were just as good as we remembered except to our delight the serving size was larger than our friends had been a few months ago when we had sampled theirs. The Beef Cheeks were so tender that they melted in my mouth and the Pumpkin and Brown Onion Puree was heavenly and hearty. Beef Cheeks verdict = simply delicious!
LL ordered the Chargrilled Angus Rump with Crispy Potato Skins, Sour Cream and Red Wine Sauce and on tasting some of my Beef Cheeks declared ‘Your’s is really good but mine is better’. The steak was ‘amazing’ and cooked medium rare just as he had ordered it and although that should be a given at any restaurant anyone that dines out even once a year knows that steak cooked to order is hard to find.
One thing that must be noted is that when your food first arrives you notice that it really is like art on a plate. Head Chef Leon has truly and admirably mastered the skill of both aesthetically pleasing and delicious food. As the saying goes… ‘It’s almost too good to eat’. My friends and I really enjoyed our ‘classy’ dinner at Wink II and we were not let down by our mouth-watering memory of the Slow Braised Beef Cheeks. The palate cleansers that were bought out between courses was both a delightful and tantalising touch to our memorable Friday night meal.
53-57 The Esplanade, Cairns QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 4041 6346
Dinner Menu: 6pm – late Mon – Sat
Ibiza Beach Bar Cafe, Cairns
Some friends and I went to check out the recently opened but not ‘officially’ opened Ibiza Beach Bar Cafe on the Cairns Esplanade for dinner. It’s taken over from where Cocoa Amour used to be, right next door to La Pizza. The girl at the bar told me that they have been open for a couple of weeks now on the sly but haven’t officially been announced as open which I am assuming will happen in the next few weeks. It’s a very funky looking bar with a few tables out the front and inside a dancing area, some booths, comfy couches and neon lights to complete the overall bar feel. We were after a cheap meal on this particular Wednesday night and the Ibiza Beach Bar Cafe seemed like the perfect option with its menu consisting of a selection of reasonably priced wraps, burgers and old favourites like Chicken Parmigiana, Steak and Fish and Chips.
My three friends and I ordered at the bar and then took up a table out the front near the footpath so we could people watch. We probably only waited about 15 minutes for our food, which was a nice change from some other restaurants I have been to lately. All wraps and burgers come with chips and your choice of Garden Salad or Caesar Salad. SM ordered the Portugese Chicken Wrap with Peri-Peri Tenderloin, Grilled Onion, Feta, Avocado and Roasted Peppers (AU$12.90). In her words it was ‘pretty good’ and she gave it a 7/10.
Next up LL ordered the Double Bacon Cheeseburger with a Grilled Beef Patty, Two Bacon Rashers, Double Cheese, Dijon-Aioli and Salad (AU$13.90). In his words it was a ‘good’ size, the meat was ‘good’, the chips were ‘good’ and the salad was awesome (we all ordered the garden salad).
On my right AL ordered the Peri-Peri Chicken Burger with Special Chilli Sauce, Chicken Tenderloin, Peppers, Salad and Avocado (AU$14.90). In AL’s words the bun was nice and soft, the chips were good, the size of the meal was ‘just right’ and the salad was dressed just right (that’s very important with salads). He enjoyed it but apparently would have preferred it as a wrap instead of a burger.
Lastly, I ordered the Greek Lamb Wrap with Marinated Lamb, Sundried Tomatoes, Olives, Rocket, Fetta, Yogurt and Garlic (AU$12.90). Ever the kebab lover I was taken with the words ‘yogurt and garlic’. The wrap was delish and I really like that they had rocket on it instead of plain old lettuce and the chips were super yummy!
Restaurants that have set up in this location haven’t done particularly well in the past but considering Ibiza Beach Bar Cafe’s good food, funky fitout, friendly staff and good service they might just stand the test of time. With competition like Grill’d just down the way Ibiza Beach Bar Cafe’s owners have obviously recognised the need to serve tasty but cheap burgers and the like. My friends and I will be back without a doubt (in fact I know my friends already have). The only thing for this funky bar/cafe to do now is open (officially).
Ibiza Beach Bar Cafe
91 The Esplanade, Cairns QLD 4870
Opening Hours: 7 days 10am – 2pm
The Raw Prawn, Cairns
Oh how I love my lunches in town on the weekends and again I thought I would take advantage of another one of the lunch specials going in the city but this time at The Raw Prawn on the esplanade. The Raw Prawn is a local seafood restaurant situated in a great spot on the esplanade that has been open for over 10 years. I have been here for lunch a few times and always enjoyed it. There is $22.50 lunch specials which includes two courses plus a glass of wine, beer or soft drink. There is also a $14.90 lunch special which is just for a main but my friends and I opted for the more expensive one ordering an entree and a main along with a couple of glasses of white wine and a beer. There are 9 entrees to choose from, 10 mains and 3 desserts. Again, its not all just seafood and there is a couple of non-seafood dishes for the non-seafood lover. AL ordered the Soft Shell Crab with Crisp Garlic Flakes and Sweet Chilli on a Thai Salad for entree and for a main he ordered the Chicken Pasta thigh pieces tossed with garlic and olive oil, since he isn’t that much of a seafood lover.
LL went for the Natural Oysters for entree and the Pacific Fusion Reef Fish, Prawns, Calamari and Mussels poached in coconut basil sauce with rice and bok choy for main.
I order the Mussels in homestyle napoli sauce for entree and Tempura Prawns with salad and chips for main (I tend to get these everytime I come here because the prawns are pretty good).
I asked the waiter if the seafood was local and he assured me that the mussels and the oysters were from Tasmania. We didn’t wait very long for our entrees to come out and they all came out at once which is always a good start. All the servings were of a good size for an entree and we were all very happy with them. The mussels weren’t very big but apparently its hard to find big mussels these days. The soft shell crab was crispy and the oysters were juicy. Next up our mains came out, again all at once and we only waited about 10 minutes. My prawns were big and the tempura was extra crunchy just the way it should bewhile AL seemed pretty pleased with his pasta, so much so that he hooked into it before I got a chance to take a photo of it.
LL said that his Pacific Fish was really good but he got a bit of food envy when he saw my main. The only problem with Luke’s dish is that the prawns were small and imported which was a little strange considering that my prawns were big and local. A little disappointing but he didn’t mind too much.
The Raw Prawn = good atmosphere, good service, great price. I’ll be back.
The Raw Prawn
101 Esplanade, Cairns QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 40 315400
Splash Seafood Restaurant, Cairns
Today my mate LL and I decided to take advantage of some of the many lunch specials that are available in Cairns. We ended up at local seafood restaurant Splash, located on the esplanade just down from Barnacle Bills and Villa Romana. For $14.90 you can choose from 7 lunch specials which change regularly. There is even a couple of dishes on the menu entice the non-seafood lover however being avid seafood lovers LL and I opted for a seafood dish each. Luke, being a typical male, ordered the Fish and Chips. The fish was lightly battered coral sea bream direct from the restaurants own fishing vessel (very impressive) with Beer Battered fries and tartare sauce.
I ordered the Chilli Squid and Cucumber Salad with Spanish Onions, Shallots, Mesculin and Passionfruit Dressing. On ordering I asked the waitress if the squid was imported and I was assured that it wasn’t however I wasn’t entirely convinced with her assurance, she seemed a bit unsure.
Splash has great atmosphere and it was a beautiful day to enjoy a bit of lunch on the esplanade. One of the things that I think is pretty cool about Splash is the Australian Charts that are laminated to the table tops. Its something different and gives you something to look at and point to while you are waiting for your food to arrive. We didn’t wait long for our mains at all, probably only about 10-15 minutes which was good. My salad was very eye-catching with the passionfruit dressing drizzled around the plate and it tasted pretty good too. The squid was cooked nicely and the serving size was just right. LL’s Fish and Chips was a good size and the fish pieces looked, well just as the menu said ‘lightly battered’ but delicious also. The chips were crunchy and he seemed pretty satisfied by the end of it. Delicious lunch at Splash! I’ll be back for sure.
103 Esplanade Cairns QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 40 319300