Odyssey Kitchen, Cairns
I’ve had a few friends visiting Greece recently and the pictures they have been posting on Facebook have literally made me want to lick my computer screen. If I wasn’t already reeling from the costs of a recently European holiday AND home reno’s then I would be on the first flight to Santorini (wouldn’t we all!) In the meantime the new Greek charcoal barbeque restaurant, Odyssey Kitchen, is undoubtedly the next best thing!
MS and I headed down to check it out on Tuesday night since the only plans we had were watching the latest episode of The Walking Dead and we were pleasantly surprised with what we found! We were greeted by the lovely owner Pepi and her husband who have recently moved over here from Greece. After the recent troubles in Greece they decided that they would have a fresh start in Cairns opening Odyssey Kitchen only six weeks ago.
Pepi showed us to our table and I asked her for some recommendations from the menu since it all looked fantastic, we had trouble choosing. The menu is very reasonably priced with nothing over $27. First off Pepi recommended some Mythos Greek beer for MS a glass of Rose for myself. We chose a selection of entree’s and main’s from the menu and waited for our meals to arrive.
For entrée we ordered the Baked Fetta with slices of tomato, onion and capsicum with Greek spices ($11.50) and the Grilled Octopus Tentacle Garnished with Salad ($14). Both MS and I literally swooned over the Baked Feta. It was insanely good and we later found out that Odyssey Kitchen imports their own fetta from Greece. That would explain why the feta that I buy at Coles doesn’t even come close to this stuff!
The Octopus was unbelievably tender and even MS who is notorious for not liking seafood (especially something like Octopus) couldn’t get enough of it.
Our third entrée was the Greek Country Salad with Tomatoes, Onions, Feta, Olives, Capsicum and Capers served with a Greek Version of Croutons ($12). Again the Feta made this dish absolutely sing. Not often does a salad get completely demolished when we go out to dinner together but I can safely say there wasn’t a skerrick left in the bowl when we finished.
It seems that we may have bitten off more than we could chew with our entrees as they were bigger and more filling than we had expected but nevertheless we still had a bit of room for our mains. As we couldn’t make a decision we opted to share the Pastitsio ($18) and the Chicken and Bacon Charcoal Spit ($27). The Pastitsio is described on the menu as Risoni Pasta Mixed with Feta and Parmesan, Covered with Mince, Topped with Béchamel Sauce and Cooked in a Clay Pot. This dish was rich and creamy with flavours of cinnamon and nutmeg. Basically carb heaven in a clay pot.
The Chicken and Bacon Charcoal Spit (chosen because, well, all men love bacon don’t they?) was served with salad, chips, pita bread and dip. We had earlier watched the chef cooking the large skewers of meat over the charcoal grill not far from our al fresco table. I let MS consume the majority of the meaty skewer because I was pretty much up to Pussy’s Bow as my dad would say. Could have totally eaten more of that feta though.
And finally there was dessert (I know I just said I was full but no one told me there was dessert)… We tried three off the menu including the Baklava (my favourite), Halva – a semolina sweet filled with dried fruit and nuts dipped in syrup and the Yogurt and Homestyle Sweet – yogurt and traditional syrupy sweet made of fruit and sugar. It was a tough contest but the Yogurt and Homestyle Sweet was my favourite. It reminded me of a delicious sweet that my mum used to give me when I was a kid.
After all that food Pepi nearly had to roll us out of the restaurant and back to our car. Now I know why they call it a Greek feast! The hospitality and generosity we received from Pepi and her wait staff was some of the best we’ve received in a very long time. From the beer to the baklava at Odyssey Kitchen they are serving up delicious home style Greek cooking at very affordable prices.
Odyssey Kitchen – 41 Shields St, Cairns QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 4041 2112
Opening Times: Lunch 11.30am – 3pm, Dinner 17.30 till late (closed Sundays)
Martinelli Pizza Bar, Trinity Beach
Last week with my partner in crime and ‘Chief Pizza Eater’ in tow I headed out to Martinelli Pizza Bar at Trinity Beach. Clearly the two of us don’t get out there often enough as we tend to hang out mostly in the city (Swamp Donkey’s was what my old Chief Engineer used to call us) but I am attempting to branch out a little more.
Martinelli’s has only been open for a few months and we were both keen to test out the only Roman style slab pizzas (that I know of) in town. We arrived just behind a couple of bare-footed bogans whom I overheard asking the chef and owner Peter if they also sold ’round’ pizzas. Some people really do astound me. As ignorant as they were, not to mention stupid, surely they realise that pizzas tend to taste the same no matter what shape they are. Nevertheless Peter convinced them to try one of his popular Roman style pizzas and they took a seat.
Initially MS and I were only going to get takeaway because I wanted to watch The Bachelorette (don’t judge me) but after a bit of careful consideration we decided to stay. First up we ordered the Garlic and Herb Focaccia with Garlic Oil, Herb Butter and Rosemary Salt and I tell you what we were in for a treat. Does anyone remember the old Donnini’s when it was on the first floor at the Pier – back in around say 1990? Still to this day they had the best focaccia that I have ever eaten and a hell of a lot better than the focaccia they have on offer at the new Donnini’s (now Ciao Italia at the Hilton), which is actually really crap. I have to say that this focaccia at Martinelli’s is on par with that amazing focaccia from the old Donnini’s. Crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the side… It’s bloody superb and must try when you go there!
Martinelli’s are currently running with a Spanish theme this month and I couldn’t go past the Smoked Reef Fish Escabeche, South Australian Mussels, Chorizo, Olive Tapenade, Romesco Sauce and Basil, served with Charred Lemon. Pretty much what dreams are made of.
Despite me trying my best to convince MS to order the Melaleuca Smoked Beef Brisket, Housemade BBQ Sauce, Slaw and Mozzarella pizza – he went for the Potato and Sausage with White Reduction, Shaved Potato, Italian Sausage, Mozzarella and Provolone Dolce. We ordered and waited at our table with baited breath for our pizza to arrive.
Next to us, the bogans that had originally asked for round pizza were pretty much making love to their brisket pizza. They were certainly enjoying themselves and it was pretty much like that scene in Where Harry Met Sally where Meg Ryan fakes an orgasm, except they weren’t faking. It was clear to both MS and I that these two were now converted and they would never look at a round pizza the same again. After they finished they thanked the chef profusely, vowed to return again and happily left just as our pizza’s arrived. Not since the NRL Grand Final have I seen such a turnaround – not that I watch football.
A lovely older man with a thick Italian accent whom I can only assume was the chef’s father showed me how to squeeze the lemon over the top of my Spanish style pizza for full flavour effect. We dug in. The Romesco Sauce and the fresh Basil leaves on top of my pizza gave it the perfect sweet kick. It was just divine and I don’t know what the hell the chef does to those pizza bases but wow. MS loved his Potato and Sausage pizza but we both agreed that mine was the pick of the litter.
To top it all off we had a couple of pieces of freshly made Chocolate Cannoli to satisfy our sweet tooth before we pretty much rolled out of the store. We were full as a goog. The cannoli’s were not too little but not too big and the perfect was to top of our meal. Without getting into the nitty gritty of the delicate flavours, textures of the meal because that’s just not how I roll I can highly recommend Martinelli Pizza Bar. It’s seriously some of best pizza I have ever eaten and that Focaccia bread, well you will just have to see for yourself (just don’t forget that the Spanish theme runs until the end of October). The pizza’s here take a little longer to cook and aren’t entirely cheap but if you want a round Domino’s pizza thrown together on a production line with absolutely no love then knock yourself out. Martinelli Pizza Bar is where it’s at.
Martinelli Pizza Bar – Shop 2 11-13 Rabaul St, Trinity Beach QLD 4879 Ph: (07) 40575895. Open Wed – Sun 12pm – 10pm.
Eating Ourselves Stupid in the USA – Ess A Bagel, New York
One cannot go to New York without eating a bagel – or several. In fact eating a bagel in New York (and everywhere else in the USA) became a daily ritual for us. One of the most famous places to get a bagel in New York is at Ess A Bagel which luckily enough wasn’t too far from our humble abode at the Waldorf Astoria. I’m not too sure how I heard about it but it was on my ‘must do’ list of places to eat at and we were not disappointed despite waiting in line for well over thirty minutes. The line up for the bagels was snaked through the store and out the front door (I had a video but the damn thing won’t upload).
The bagel teams assembling the bagels at the front of the store were like a well oiled machine and there were so many different ingredients to get on your bagel including 18 different flavours of cream cheese with everything from raisin walnut cream cheese to jalapeno cream cheese to chocolate chip cream cheese. The choices of what you could have on your bagel were literally endless, so much so that I found it a little overwhelming. I tend to stick with tradition and can’t go past the Lox (Smoked Salmon as we call it) with Cream Cheese and Capers.Never had I heard of lox before and it took some secret Googling in the line to make sure that it was in fact Smoked Salmon. MS went for the cream cheese with turkey bacon option with extra cheese, another tried and true tradition for him because he’s a fatty. The bagels were so fresh out of the oven they were still steaming when our expert bagel maker Gavin and his buddy Mad Rican cut them open and yet some dumbasses in the customer line still wanted theirs toasted. WTF?! Because American’s love variety with their 18 flavours of cream cheese there are also 14 different types of bagel to choose from at Ess A Bagel. You can get plain, sesame, poppy, salt, onion, garlic, oat bran, cinnamon raisin, 9-grain, pumpernickel, pumpernickel raisin, everything, whole wheat everything and bialy’s (a pastry/bagel type thing). By the time Gavin was done there was that much cream cheese and lox on my bagel that it weighed half a pound! That’s a whole lot of bagel!!!! It was without a doubt the best bagel we had on our trip, and we ate a sh*tload of bagels, much to the dismay of my size 9 jeans that I’m still having trouble fitting into 2 months later. It was warm, crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside with the perfect blend of lox and cream cheese and you seriously can’t beat a poppy seed bagel. Sadly for us though we went to go back another day and the line was even longer and we had a Broadway show to catch so we couldn’t hang around and I never got to go back for another *insert sad face*. One thing’s for sure though Ess A Bagel will be high on our priority list when we do return to NYC and it should definitely be on yours!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
I just wanted to take a moment to wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! 2014 has been a huge year for foodvixen and I look forward to bringing you plenty more in 2015. Thank you to everyone for your support, comments and feedback. May your Christmas Day be filled with free flowing glasses of champas, Mango Daiquiri’s, cooked prawns, Baked Ham and never ending bowls of pudding!
Fremantle Markets, WA
Today I got the opportunity to visit and wander around the Fremantle Markets. The last time that I was in Fremantle was for the America’s Cup way back in 1987 when I was about 3 years old – hmmm so how old am I? All I can remember from that time is fireworks, which frankly I’m surprised I’m able to remember that much. This time around I am surely old enough to remember a little more – unfortunately there was no fireworks to speak of. As I am over here for work I haven’t really had a chance to get out and do much but today I got the opportunity to go somewhere other than the gym.
One of my workmates and I headed down to check out the markets on what has been a ridiculously cold, wet and windy day – the wind is still howling outside. Sadly hoping for warming weather I left my trusty ugg’s in Cairns and despite being confined to the space of the little apartment I’m staying in my toes are like ice. Yes I’m bred in the tropics that’s for sure.
Anyway so as usual I read a few reviews on Trip Advisor about the markets – some good, some bad – and I decided I wouldn’t listen to the haters and I would have to check it out for myself and after running in soaked from the car park because it was literally bucketing down I was greeted with the smell of sizzling bratwurst. Wouldn’t every day be a good day if you were greeted with the smell of sizzling bratwurst?
My workmate and I parted ways, agreeing on a time to meet back at the bratwurst stand and off we went…
There’s quite an array of food to choose from at the Fremantle Markets. One of the reviews on Trip Advisor said that the Fremantle Markets was disappointing and no where near as good as Adelaide Central Markets. Well, as someone that has never been to the Adelaide Markets I cannot confirm or deny but seriously why can’t people just enjoy the markets for what they are rather than comparing them to one over 2700km away? If I compared the toned figure that I had this time last year to the one I have right now well I’d be pretty damn disappointed now wouldn’t but it’s kind of like comparing apples to oranges, or lemons to oranges (whatever the hell that saying is). You just don’t do it.
The Fremantle Markets, according to the Fremantle Markets website, is situated in a heritage listed grand old Victorian building that was first opened in 1897. With a mix of fresh produce, food stalls, arts, crafts, jewellery stalls, home wares and even buskers it’s home to more than 150 stalls and is a bit of a must-see for locals and tourists alike.
When I arrived at the markets I actually had every intention of observing but not eating anything, despite the aroma of bratwurst and the homemade blackberry jam donuts a couple of stalls down. That was until I came along a little stall that sold Indian and Sri Lankan food. Given my Sri Lankan heritage I know all too well the delectable savoury treats that my nana used to make when I was a little girl. Sadly though my nana passed away over 20 years ago now and pan rolls and fish roti are pretty much non-existent in Cairns. My mum was just 8 years old when she immigrated to Australia with the rest of her family and although she makes a mean curry, deep fried Sri Lankan pastries take a little more time and care. To get my fix I have to rely on either travelling to Melbourne or begging my aunties to bring some with them when they come to Cairns for a visit. Given this rarity when I saw a stall selling pan rolls at the Fremantle Markets all my observation bets were off. I bought a Beef and Potato Pancake Roll and a Seeni Sambol Paan roll. They were both delicious, albeit a little doughy, and devoured in less than 5 minutes.
I continued on passing a few other food stalls… Crepes, Japanese Noodles, a Burger Bar, raw food, a bakery, cookies, cupcakes, a deli, Hot Dog stand, Argentinian food, paella, gozlemes, fudge, sushi, jerky, honey and plenty more! It all looked delicious and there were plenty of tourists and locals enjoying the fare these stalls had to offer.
At the other end of the market is a large selection of fresh produce – a bit like Rusty’s Market’s in Cairns but smaller. Both my workmate and I were a little upset that we hadn’t come to the markets sooner as we only have a few more days in Fremantle left. We would have saved a lot more money if we had spent last Saturday buying fresh fruit and vegetables from the Fremantle Markets rather having daily visits to Coles down the road *sigh*.
Anyway so after a pancake roll, a paan roll, a bag of jerky and a taste of my workmates Beef, Spinach and Fetta Gozleme I was as my father would say “up to pussy’s bow”. So much for my self control *sigh*.
The Fremantle Markets are well worth a look for anyone that is visiting Fremantle but do yourself a favour and unless you’re going specifically to eat, don’t go when you are hungry because if you can resist the pan rolls, the fresh made jam filled donuts, the paella, the bratwurst hotdogs or the giant cookies I guarantee you won’t be able to resist the copious amounts of locally grown juicy strawberries or the freshly baked sourdough bread. Mmmm sourdough….
Corner of South Terrace and Henderson St, Fremantle WA 6959
Opening hours : Fri 8am – 8pm, Sat and Sun 8am – 6pm
Today I hit 100,000 views since I first started! That’s a total of 149 posts! I just wanted to say a huge thank you to everyone that has ever logged onto foodvixen! My passion for eating out and just food in general prompted me to set up this blog back in April 2011. Since then my website has grown from the few readers that I had back then to the loyal little following of lovers (and haters) that I have today. There’s a few hits and certainly a few misses but I still love it just as much now as I did then. I may not get as many posts up as we both would like but I can only hope that you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy eating the food! Thanks again everyone! Have a great weekend 🙂
Cafe China Express At The Marina, Cairns
It’s been a ridiculously long time between posts for this vixen. It turns out that life without a laptop/computer is pretty damn debilitating for me. I have had nothing but dramas with a Toshiba Ultrabook I bought less than two years ago (brand new) having the operating system ‘break down’ no less than three times and also the hard drive replaced once in that period. Many a file have I lost over this time because although I have the best of intentions to back files up, it’s just something that usually gets put on the back-burner for me. I do however usually save at least two copies of everything – one on my laptop and one on my hard drive but it really doesn’t matter because I get f**ked by technology one way or another (apparently portable hard drives don’t like to be dropped).
Finally, I’d had enough of my laptop failing me and tried for the 500th and final time to get it replaced under the extended warranty that I had purchased. The dude in JB HIFI proceeded to tell me that it was something that I was doing with it that was causing it to fail and they couldn’t replace it. With MS by my side I usually feel 10 feet tall but without him my eyes began to well up. I kept it together long enough to ask the guy to speak to the ‘big manager’ but make sure he takes my side when explaining the situation. Two minutes later he returns and tells me they are going to replace it with a product of equal or lesser value (that really could have saved 10 minutes of arguing). The two computer guys tried in vain to get me to consider an Apple – something I didn’t want to have a bar of. I DGAF how good Mac’s are nor do I want to approach them with my ‘non-PC’ brain on. I’m a PC for life kind of girl so save your breath. In the end I got some new ASUS Zenbook thingy with some Norton Antivirus to go with it. Now if I could just figure out how to use Windows 8 then life would be sweet.
So here I am trying to get back on the blogging bandwagon and recap all the wonderful and not so wonderful places that I have dined in the last, say 3 months. Firstly I think I will start with one of my most recent outings – Cafe China Express at the Marina. Having been there a few months now Cafe China Express has taken over from the long-standing, and probably too long, Boardwalk Cafe. A place that was once upon a time known for its huge cafe style meals and delicious Egg’s Benedict. I personally hadn’t returned since I received a particularly violent case of food poisoning there after consuming an Open Grilled Turkey Sandwich on my 23rd birthday about three years ago (haha just kidding, it was two). It turns out that the toilets at Rosse and Locke are few and far between, especially when you’re in a ‘hurry’. Big thumbs up for my birthday that year. FML.
Anyway, Cafe China Express was so carefully selected by my brothers beautiful girlfriend GH for her 20th birthday dinner last weekend, presumably because well they have pork buns and we all know that everyone loves pork buns. The fact that you pay and order at the counter is perfect for a large group because divvying up a bill can often be a painful experience, something I found recently whilst dining at an Italian restaurant in Sydney’s Pyrmont a couple of weeks ago with a couple of wines under my belt, or smoking hot pair of Wayne Cooper pants (in a size 6 might I add, awwww yeah!). Anyway so cunningly GH told my family – minus myself – that dinner was at 6.30pm when it fact it was at 7. My family is notorious for being at least 20 minutes late no matter how much warning they have and anyone who knows them knows this. Apparently leaving home with ample time to arrive at their given destination is far too difficult because my dad always finds it imperative that he walk the dog at the exact time they should be leaving home. Mum always blames dad for them being late and all you can do is shake your head and sigh. So you can imagine my delight when I arrived at Cafe China Express to find that my entire family already seated and waiting – apparently I was the late one. Whatever makes them feel better.
We all perused the menu whilst waiting for the birthday girl to arrive. Since it was a bit chilly outside I thought I would go for a noodle soup type dish to warm my insides. There was pork buns and dumplings to be shared as well. About 20 minutes later the whole party had arrived and after greetings and salutations were made and presents were opened we all went up to order. I chose the Fish Ball Soup (AU$11.90 for regular size) with an entrée of Har Gow or steamed prawn dumplings (3 for AU$7.90). Like me, my dad has a lot of trouble understanding people with certain accents. It’s nothing personal, maybe we are both hard of hearing – some would say ignorant – but even I sometimes have trouble understanding my Sri Lankan aunties when they talk too fast. After a 5 minute struggle to order dishes, my dad decided it would be better to point it all out instead. Upon returning to the table he claimed that he really had no idea what the bubbly Chinese girl behind the counter was saying and he thought she sounded like she was singing a song when she talked. Dad has such an eloquent way of describing things sometimes but he means it in the best possible way.
There was 12 or so people seated at the table and it took about 20 minutes for the meals to start arriving. My dumplings arrived somewhere in the middle, closely followed by my Fish Ball Soup. Most of the meals arrived a little scattered, and not in any kind of order.
I tasted a selection of the dishes around me including my younger brother’s Roasted Duck Laksa, which he managed to eat the majority of in between his constant scrolling through Facebook and Instagram despite my repeated requests for him to put his phone away, was delicious, creamy and extremely decadent.
Mum and Dad’s plate of Roasted Duck – tough and chewy although a very reasonable sized quarter serving for AU$9.90.
The majority of my family had ordered BBQ Pork Buns to share – except for me. According to my dad they were cold on the inside like they had been put in the microwave and barely heated through. That and they were more dough than anything else. How hard is it to serve a warm pork bun? My dumplings were also ridiculously doughy to the point where I was unsure if there was in fact any filling inside them. Dad and I debated whether or not they were made in-house, especially considering that Café China has about 3 other eateries in Cairns. In the end we concluded that they were pulled straight from a box in the freezer along with the pork buns.
My Fish Ball Soup was as I said earlier quite flavorless. The broth had very little depth to it and although the fish balls were nice, in that artificial kind of way, I found myself wishing that I had ordered something else, like my brother’s laksa.
Next to me mum and dad’s plate of Stir-fry Spinach in Garlic had arrived. A staple for them whenever they go to a Chinese restaurant. I shovelled some into my mouth with my chopsticks to be met with what I can only describe as ‘liquid hot magma’ style spinach. Holy crap they must have literally pulled that stuff straight out of a volcano it was that frigin hot! With tears welling up in my eyes and my taste buds burnt clean off it still tasted pretty good but there was lots of oil on it – presumably what caused my third degree burns (who needs taste buds anyway).
My sister, across from me, had ordered the Chicken Teriyaki. This arrived at the table no less than 30 long minutes after everyone else received their meals. It took that long that we actually thought they had forgotten since all we could see in the open kitchen were people washing up and doing non Chicken Teriyaki related jobs. I tried to do the right thing and wait for her meal to arrive before I started mine but it became beyond ridiculous and in the end my near flavorless soup was getting cold. When it finally did arrive we exchanged glances across the table to say ‘is that seriously it?’ I guess Chicken Teriyaki can’t really be too elaborate a dish but it was literally a piece of whole chicken breast thrown on a plate with some rice, a bit of tomato and kewpie mayonnaise. I wondered what the hell had taken them so long? Presumably because she had ordered a Japanese dish in a Chinese restaurant – a cardinal sin in my books and a sure-fire way to screw up your meal – or get food poisoning especially in a foreign country.
Our dinner at Cafe China Express at the Marina wasn’t particularly fantastic and certainly didn’t even come close to some of the fantastic Chinese dinners I have had in the last 12 months – to be fair most of those were actually in China. The service was great but I wouldn’t consider the place to be express (my sister wasn’t the only one who waited more than 20 minutes for her meal to arrive and the restaurant was barely a quarter full). It was all pretty cheap but more the cheap and nasty type of cheap not the ‘woo hoo we paid next to nothing’ exciting kind of cheap – although the birthday girls mum did score a free glass of red wine. The food itself was somewhat lacklustre and although there was a few yummy dishes amongst our table on the whole it all seemed pretty thrown together. Maybe that’s where the express part comes in…
Cafe China Express At The Marina
Pier Shopping Centre, Pier Point Rd, Cairns QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 4051 6887
The Clever Canteen @ The Clever Duck, Forest Gardens *CLOSED DOWN*
There have been a few places I have been wanting to go and eat in the last few months but being so restricted food wise all I could do was dream about them and lay in waiting for the time when I could eat real food again. That time has finally come, well about a month ago anyway. Two of those such places were The Clever Duck and Mama Coco who coincidently are run by the same people. I have previously written posts on both of The Clever Duck and Mama Coco however Davey, Bill and co are doing exciting new things at both establishments and I thought that called for a brand new post. Besides if I was going to eat there then I was definitely going to post about it! I’ll have to save the Mama Coco one for another day because this post is reserved for The Clever Duck.
Having only been open since April this year The Clever Duck has already developed a huge following of locals and fellow foodies because of it’s delicious food and breezy, serene location in Forest Gardens. Only recently they have come up with The Clever Canteen on Saturday’s and Sunday’s from midday to 4pm. This particular time we went was for the Labour Day Long Weekend on the 6th of October (yes I realise that was nearly a month ago but I have been overseas, no not working but on holiday). More on that very soon.
I got a group of friends together and we headed out to Forest Gardens for an afternoon of eating and drinking. When we arrived the TCD was only about a third full but our group of 9 filled the place up a little bit more. Bill, the host, politely showed us to our table and explained the menu to us. The menu at The Clever Canteen is designed for grazing with a choice of four different types of meats for $9 per portion and salads, grains and veggies $5 per portion. There is also the option of three tasty sauces for $1, grazing plates with sour dough and antipasto for $25 plus things for the ducklings (kiddies) at around the $5 mark.
Since The Clever Canteen is currently BYO with no corkage MS and I took full advantage and planned to get absolutely wasted so we pulled out our bottle of tequila and some shot glasses. Haha, just kidding. A couple of Rekorderlig Ciders on a Sunday afternoon at TCD was just what the doctor ordered (I think Rekorderlig is amazing or as my good friend TW would say are ‘like angels peeing on my tongue’).
After having a look over the menu which true-to-form I had already looked over many times on TCD‘s Facebook page we ordered a few plates each and went from there. First up I went for the Dry Rubbed Smoked Pork Shoulder with Southern Style Whiskey and Sweet Onion Sauce and a side of Saffron Basmati Rice, Dried Cranberries, Pistachios and Mixed Herbs all for $15. Shit yeah! Pretty good if you ask me. MS ordered the same except instead of the Basmati Rice he chose the Pink Eye Potato Salad, Radish, Dill, Sour Cream and Horseradish as his side. Across from me my favourite sweet toothed blogger Baking Myself Happy ordered the Prosciutto Wrapped Rosemary and Chicken Thigh with Thyme Roasted Pumpkin, Mushroom, Tomato and Shallot. With the delicious aromas of the BBQ sizzling away outside with Davy at the helm our first round of food didn’t take long to arrive. Initially I thought the portion size was a little small but then I looked at the size of the cut of Pork Shoulder that was in front of me and remembered that it had cost a mere $15 and soon realised what awesome value The Clever Canteen was.
The Dry Rubbed Smoked Pork Shoulder was probably some of the best, if not the best pork I have ever had. All too many times I have had dry, chewy pork but this… this was something else. It was juicy and succulent and the Southern Style Whiskey and Sweet Onion Sauce was that good that I pretty much licked the ramekin clean to finish it off after my pork was gone. The Saffron Basmati Rice was also a hit at our table with just the right amount of sweetness from the cranberries, crunch from the pistachios and herbs to flavour the dish. MS and I also ordered some Wood Fired Sour Dough with Wattle Seed Dukkah and EVOO for AU$5 because lets face it, who can resist dukkah and sour dough! Everyone declared how excellent their respective meals were and after we finished our first plate half the table was already looking at the menu for what they were going to have for their next plate – not because we were still hungry (well I was but I am an eating machine to put it lightly) but because we wanted to try more of the amazing dishes that were on offer.
Next up I chose the Herb Crusted Roast Tableland Sirloin this time with Smokey Chimichurri for the sauce and the Pink Eye Potato Salad and MS got Sirloin also except he chose the Roasted Pumpkin and Mushroom Salad. As we finished off our first cider and moved onto our 2nd (I had 2, MS was driving so he only had one) our second plates of food arrived at the table. My big cut of sirloin, like the pork, was cooked to perfection and had that lovely grilled/BBQ taste. The chimichurri sauce was the perfect accompaniment and the potato salad was definitely my favourite side dish of the day. I have a massive weak spot for potato salad. And macaroni cheese. I loved the sirloin but I just couldn’t go past the pork. That was an absolute standout for me whilst MS thought the sirloin was better. Different strokes, different folks but they were both awesome.
Across from me KK who was still relishing in her first meal of Dry Rubbed Pork had ordered a Grazing Plate of Soft, Hard and Blue Cheese with Chutney Fruit and Sourdough for $25. The Grazing Plate served on a large wooden bread board was presented beautifully and neatly and I secretly wished that I had ordered one. Lucky for the rest of us at the table KK ate as much as she could (hardly any) and then moved the board into the middle of the table for the rest of us to devour. I went straight for the blue cheese because lets face it, a cheese platter isn’t a cheese platter without that mouldy goodness. The soaked dried fruits were delicious and I am now kicking myself for not finding out what they were soaked in.
Although I wanted to keep eating savoury dishes and get through all four of the main BBQ portions – fish and chicken still to go – I knew that it was time to check out the dessert dishes inside the cabinet near the counter. MS and I went over and had a look and after at least 10 minutes of umming and ahhing what each of us should get and then what the other could get so one could taste it and then consulting the waitress as to which one was better than the other. We finally chose a small slice of the Chocolate and Sultana Brownie with Ice Cream, the Almond, Pear and Frangipane Tart and a slice of Banana Bread, warmed up with butter. It was a hard choice and if I could have had my way I would have eaten one of everything in the cabinet but alas I have to exert a little bit of self control. Yes MS and I are fatties (on the inside) but we workout *insert chorus for the song I’m sexy and I know it*. A lot. All three of the desserts were fantastic with the exception of the Almond and Frangipane Tart which was exceptional. There is something about the texture of the tart that just did it for me. MS was content eating his boring slice of Banana Bread (good but boring) and left me to my own devices with the entire tart and the brownie.
About halfway through our lunch more people started to arrive until the place was chock a block. Not too many people but enough to fill the place up both outside on the deck and inside where we were sitting. The amazingly talented and beautiful singer Amy Chase and her guitarist set up outside on the deck and played some lazy tunes whilst families set up picnic blankets in the afternoon sun out on the lawn in front of the deck. It was the perfect afternoon to end finish off a perfect Sunday with fantastic food, great service and great friends in a relaxed atmosphere by the pond. I really like the concept of The Clever Canteen – being able to mix and match your food. There are exciting times ahead as the team at The Clever Duck and Mama Coco are doing some great things for the local food scene with pop up restaurants and weekend BBQ’s like The Clever Canteen. I only hope that other cafe’s and restaurants take a leaf out of their book to help create a more diverse Melbournesque food culture for our vibrant city. Bring it on!
PS: If you haven’t got your tickets for the Melbourne Cup Soiree at TCD then you better get in soon. With canapés, a bountiful banquet and a dessert pony (whatever that is) it’s the winning trifecta for a kick ass day.
PPS: After all the ranting and raving I have done about these guys I just want to say that I have no ties or links to Mama Coco or TCD. I do however believe that if a café or restaurant in Cairns is up to scratch then I will shout it from the rooftops, or at least from the safety of my couch and my Toshiba Ultrabook. As many of my readers should know it’s hard to find good food, good service and good atmosphere in Cairns so when you find all three you know you’re onto a winner.
The Clever Duck
Lakeside, Forest Gardens Blvd, Forest Gardens QLD 4868
Ph: (07) 4036 3936
Opening Hours: The Clever Canteen – Sat and Sun 12pm – 4pm, normal hours Wed – Fri 7.30am – 2.30pm, Sat and Sun 7.30am – 4pm
The Rising Sun, Palm Cove
First cab off the rank with my new Tropical Far North Queensland Entertainment Book was The Rising Sun Bar and Bistro at Palm Cove a couple of weeks ago. A few months ago MS and I attended a friend’s engagement party on the rooftop terrace at the hotel Sarayi where the two of us were smacking our lips at the delicious canapes that were being brought around by the waitstaff from the restaurant below. That restaurant below was The Rising Sun, somewhere I had never heard of before and after a little research I found out that it is also co-owned by co-owner and head chef at NuNu, Nick Holloway. After our fantastic five course degustation menu at Palm Cove in August last year I was keen to come back and try just what The Rising Sun had on the menu and see if it was anywhere near as good as I had cracked it up to be.
Initially, after hearing some great reviews I tried in vain to get a table for two at Harrison’s in Port Douglas for the night but alas it was booked out for a wedding so I made a last minute booking for my second choice, The Rising Sun, and we headed out to Palm Cove. It was a drizzly night out in Palm Cove and it was difficult to find a park out there because the place was chockers with diners. We managed to find ourselves a park a little out off the beaten path and made our way to the restaurant. The staff had reserved us a nice little table right at the front of the restaurant overlooking the outside tables (unoccupied due to rain) and the footpath beyond. The Rising Sun Bar and Bistro was probably about 3/4 full when we sat down at our table but quickly filled up to close to capacity in the hour or two we were there. A friendly waitress came to take our drink orders – I ordered a glass of Sauvignon Blanc while MS ordered some sort of Cider (whoops I took no notice of either). Due to the drizzle outside all the windows had been closed up to keep any water out but in order to counteract the lack of breeze the staff had turned the ceiling fans up ‘full bull’ making it a little chilly for us especially considering our table was right in the middle of two large fans. We asked the waitress if she would mind turning them down which she happily obliged, never mind what the other diners wanted this was about us (that’s a joke).
We both decided well before we arrived that we were going to go the whole hog and get an entree, main and dessert each but when we had a look over the menu we were a little disappointed. The entrees looked fantastic! In fact I would have been happy to build my entire meal just out of the entree part of the menu since MS and I quite a difficult time choosing only two, and which two to be more precise. After considering the Roast Duck Rolls with Cucumber and Plum Sauce as well as the BBQ Sugar Cane Pork with Chilli Vinegar we settled on the Crispy Fried Squid with Hot and Sour Dressing and Peanuts for AU$16 and the Coconut Roasted Pork Ribs with Ginger Caramel and Thai Basil for AU$18. After assessing the mains over and over again… To be honest there was just nothing in the main menu that grabbed me. I mean there was only 6 items on the main menu to choose from aside from the Fresh Reef Fish or Steak which was another section of the menu and the 2 or 3 specials on the board which didn’t excite me. It was a choice between the 6 main dishes – Chicken Parmigiana (it IS a bistro after all), Crispy Duck Leg, Roast Chicken Masala, BBQ Lamb Cutlets, Grilled Pork Chop and Paella. Ultimately the Crispy Duck Leg with Jasmine Rice, Papaya and Young Coconut Salad for AU$34 was the pick of the litter, or so I thought. MS however ended up choosing the ‘Pasta of the Day’ from the specials board which was Fusilli with Feta, Olives, Sausagei (or was it Chorizo?) and Croutons. That isn’t actually how it was described on the board but I cannot for the life of me find where I wrote it down (my description was still pretty damn close). The price wasn’t written up on the board so we never actually found out how much it was but I am assuming around the usual AU$25 mark.
So we ordered and sat and drank our wine and cider while we waited. By this time the drizzle had stopped and the waitress opened up a couple of the windows at the front of the restaurant to let some breeze through. The atmosphere at The Rising Sun was second to none and everyone seemed to be having a great time whether it be enjoying a cocktail at the bar or a glass of wine with friends over dinner. The lighting however, was just dim enough to make it difficult for me to take photos of the food that was to come (I hate it when that happens). We waited about 15 minutes before our entrees arrived and as the waitress carefully laid them down in front of us she said that she would go and fetch a share plate for us since that is what we had planned on doing. We waited about 17 seconds until we decided that we couldn’t wait any longer for the share plate and dug in (luckily because she only returned with it about 10 minutes too late).
The Crispy Fried Squid was absolutely scrumptious (the below photo just doesn’t do it justice). I mean this squid was so good that it was on par with probably the best squid I have ever had. For all my regular readers you know I compare all squid to my mum and dad’s salt and pepper squid. It was cooked to perfection with just a slight dusting of flour and spices on the outside to give it just a little bit of crunch but still delicious and tender on the inside. It was, in essence, the sauce that made the dish so damn good. It was just the right mix of hot and sour sauce drizzled over the squid and mixed in with the cucumber and peanuts with a generous ‘sprinkling’ of Thai Basil leaves. We ate every last piece of squid, peanut and cucumber in that dish and if I was at home I would have licked the dressing clean off the plate but I figured it probably wasn’t appropriate while out at a restaurant.
The Coconut Roasted Pork Ribs with Ginger Caramel and Thai Basil were up next and like the Crispy Fried Squid they didn’t disappoint. The fall off the bone pork with the ginger caramel sauce was a match made in heaven. Again I wanted to lick the plate clean (like Manu Fieldel I’m a sauce girl). The dish was generously decorated with Thai Basil and also finely chopped birdseye chillies which were eye-wateringly spicy. The birdseye chillies weren’t mentioned on the menu description so MS (the big pussy) got quite the shock when one accidentally made it’s way into his unsuspecting mouth. He then dared me to eat one which being the tough ‘I can do anything’ kind of girl that I am happily accepted the challenge only to declare/pretend that they ‘weren’t very hot at all’. THEY WERE HOT!
When we were finished the waitress cleared our plates and our mains arrived about 15 minutes later. MS looked down at his dish and wondered where the sauce was for it. I poked around a bit and noticed some resemblance of a sauce in the bottom of the bowl. MS was disappointed even though he hadn’t tasted it yet. I thought it looked quite nice. He dug into his big bowl of fusilli and his opinion didn’t change to much. The croutons were just a very random edition and apart from that it didn’t have much else going on. MS said that without the feta the dish wouldn’t have had any flavour at all. The sauce at the bottom was a bit like a very mild vinaigrette I guess but nothing like what he was hoping for. In the end he ate about two thirds of it and left it. I actually liked his dish with it’s slight vinegary taste but that doesn’t say too much. Here’s a hideous confession: I used to be about 15 kg’s overweight (a mean feat for someone who’s 5ft nothing) and used to binge on pasta with vinegar and feta cheese. Wait… maybe I should divulge that kind of embarrassing stuff on here. Too late. Anyway my point is that my opinion is a little skewed when it comes to pasta and vinegar because it’s always going to get the thumbs up when realistically it’s not actually very good at all.
Now my dish – well I wasn’t sure if there even was a Crispy Duck Leg under the mountains of bean sprouts and Thai basil (again). I dug underneath and sure enough it was there but how was I supposed to get to it? Now I’m all for the use of fresh ingredients and what not but the using Thai basil in 3 out of the 4 dishes that we ordered is a little too much don’t you think? And the fact that neither the bean sprouts or the Thai basil were actually mentioned in the menu description just pissed me off since I frigin hate bean sprouts. If I had of known they were going to be so liberally included in my dish I would have opted to not have them. Even more annoying was the fact that due to the dim lighting they blended into the young coconut salad so I couldn’t tell if I was eating nasty bean sprouts of delicious young coconut until I bit into whatever it was. In the end I gave up and just went for the duck which disappointingly was dry and overcooked. The creamy curry-like sauce that it was encased it was delicious but that didn’t make up for all the other areas in which this dish failed for me. I think I ate about half of it and then left it. It’s a bad night when I only eat half of my dish and then eye off my partners meal. Okay, okay, I normally eye off my partners meal but I still only ate half my dish.
So after our lacklustre main meals following our standout entrees we didn’t really know what to think but we did know one thing for sure – we wanted dessert. The waitress brought us out a menu each to peruse the dessert menu. MS ordered the Roast Pineapple, Bread and Butter Pudding with White Chocolate and Macadamia Brittle Ice Cream for AU$16. I didn’t think that sounded very nice to be honest although I was definitely going to taste it when it came out. I was pretty keen on the Crispy Fried Banana Fritters but Chocolate Brownie is always going to come up trumps against any competitor so I chose the Hot Chocolate and Turkish Delight Brownie with Chocolate Sauce and House made Vanilla Ice Cream for AU$15.
Another 10 minutes later and out came our desserts, placed in the middle of the table. Disappointingly though they both looked exactly the same, except one was a light caramel colour and one was a dark chocolate colour. We had a taste of each of our own desserts and then the others, both decided with 100% conviction that we had each made the right choice in respect to our desserts and then positions our prospective plates firmly back to each side of the table. The hot pineapple in MS pudding just didn’t do it for me. I thought it was weird and nothing like a bread and butter pudding but MS liked it.
My brownie on the other hand was warm and soft with oozy chocolate sauce but a severe lack of Turkish Delight. I think I only found one piece. The brownie was just okay and nothing like the ‘Best Brownie in the World’ from the Pedlar’s Inn Cafe in Galle, Sri Lanka that I had while on a tour last year. TO. DIE. FOR.
So what can I say… The atmosphere at The Rising Sun was nice and relaxed but still classy as was the service but the mains definitely let the whole experience down. By the time it came to pay for the bill we got 25% off the total up to a maximum of AU$35 which resulted in it all costing us just over AU$100. I thought that was a pretty good deal for a wine, a cider, two entrees, two mains and two desserts although for a restaurant that advertises itself as a bistro I think that some of the menu items are a tad overpriced. I wouldn’t say that our meal at The Rising Sun was particularly bad but it failed mostly because I’d had such high expectations about the place. After the gorgeous canapes we had at the engagement party a few weeks prior and reading about their affiliations with NuNu it was a little hard not to get a little excited. Our meals certainly peaked too soon with excellent entrees, ordinary mains and then ‘just ok’ desserts. The over use of Thai basil was a little bit too much in the end. I get what they were trying to do with all the fresh ingredients but hey, ease up a little on the Thai basil there tiger this is Palm Cove not Patong.
The Rising Sun
95 Williams Esplanade, Palm Cove QLD 4879
Ph: (07) 4059 0889
Opening Hours: 7 days 11am – 12pm