Last but not least … My fourth and final post about my foodie adventures in Tasmania. The next morning we woke bright and early for our trip back to Hobart. We were served a lovely home cooked breakfast in the cosy front room of the Freycinet Waters BnB overlooking the Great Oyster Bay. MS turned his nose up in disgust when our host Karen asked if we wanted some black pudding with our breakfast fare but I happily obliged. What was yesterday a beautiful sunny day was now a miserable wet and windy day but we had no plans to be outside just yet. An hour later we said goodbye to our Freycinet Waters hosts and were on the road headed to Hobart.
We didn’t get far down the road – say about 8 minutes – before we spotted Kate’s Berry Farm to our right. Stopping at a berry farm was non-negotiable so we turned off the main road and drove up to Kate’s for our second (shared) breakfast of Mixed Berry Pancakes on the patio.
Kate’s Berry Farm is perched up the top of the hill overlooking Swansea with more breathtaking views of the Great Oyster Bay and Kate herself is an absolutely delightful lady. We spent a small fortune on chocolate covered berries to take home for loved ones and also snack on in the car for driving sustenance.
Back on the road again we passed some absolutely stunning scenery and out of all the roads we travelled on our short stay in Tassie we both found the road from Swansea to Orford to be the most breathtaking and picturesque route of our journey. All up the drive back to Hobart took just over 2 hours which included two toilet stops for me and MS driving in the wrong direction as he came across the Tasman Bridge (twice) resulting in the one and only argument of our 5 day driving tour of Tasmania. I then gave him the silent treatment for the next hour.
Being lunchtime I took heed of the words of my Foodvixen followers and we made a beeline straight for Hobart bakery institution Jackman and McRoss for a bite to eat. Most of the parking nearby is permit only but being a Sunday we took the risk. As the sign out the front says “bakers of fine breads, cakes and pastries” and damn they weren’t kidding.
Upon entering J&MR we were met with the smell of freshly baked delights and cabinets of mouth-watering sweet and savoury goods.
As well as a ‘takeaway’ section Jackman and McRoss has a dining room which is exactly where MS and I parked ourselves for lunch.
The dining room was packed and there was a steady stream of people stopping in to take some treats home with them. What surprised me the most was how reasonable the prices were with everything on the specials board being no more than about $14.
After the great despair of finding out that they had run out of Scallop and Wakame Pies I settled for the second best offer of Pulled Pork Fillet in Roti Bread with Kale and Veg Vermicelli and Smoked Cherry Mayo for AU$12.50 while MS, the fatty, ordered a Meat Pie and the Lamb Rack Topped with Herbed Lemon Crust on a Stone Fruit and Salted Balsamic Tart for a mere AU$13.50. The Meat Pie was good but it had nothing on the one I had at JK’s in Ingham plus I wanted scallops godammit.
We waited a little longer than we both would have liked but in the meantime we buried the hatchet of our fight earlier that day caused by MS’ shitty driving and actually began to talk to each other again. The Pulled Pork Fillet Roti thing, which for some reason I didn’t get a photo of, was divine although I did find the filling a little on the sweet side.
MS decided that the Lamb Rack was a little too rare for his liking despite me insisting that was how it was supposed to be and instead helped himself to my Pulled Pork Roti. It was quite a large serving so I didn’t mind sharing it just this once.
We returned to our car just over an hour later and were pleasantly surprised to find that it hadn’t been towed. For something less food orientated we did a one hour tour of the harbour with Hobart Historic Cruises onboard the ‘Emmalisa’. It wasn’t nearly as flashy as the fandangle camouflaged cat that hurriedly ferries tourists across the Derwent to and from MONA but this boat had plenty of ‘character’. MS confessed he was a little concerned that it wasn’t particularly sea worthy but I assured him I had been on far less sea worthy boats in my time and the Emmalisa certainly wasn’t one of them. Again I feel like a dumba** that I didn’t get a photo of our Titanic BUT I did get a photo of the MONA cat.
With only four ‘tourists’ onboard, including us, the hour long tour took us past Salamanca Place and the CSIRO Marine Laboratories with their newly commissioned and impressive ship the ‘RV Investigator’ docked out the front, then onwards past the million dollar homes at Battery and Sandy Point, Bellerive, Kangaroo Bay and back to Franklin Wharf for an absolute steal of only AU$20 per person.
The commentary by the Captain was informative and entertaining and MS and I both really enjoyed the cruise although for us one hour was enough.
After our high sea adventures we were both famished – no not really but we ate anyway. We ended up across the road at new Hobart pleaser Frank – from the same people that run Smolt. Earlier that day I had tried in vain to get a booking at Frank for the evening but alas they were all booked out. Shock horror I would have to forgo a meal at a South American influenced restaurant whose menu I had already perused online so we went there for an afternoon ‘snack’.
MS and I took a seat adjacent to the front window just in time to see the Australian ice breaker ‘Aurora Australis’ coming into port. From the Frank menu I ordered the Prawn, Scallop and White Fish Ceviche, Leche De Tigre (AU$21) washed down with a glass of Smolt Pinot Noir 2013 from Tasmania.
MS who is undoubtedly always that much more hungry that I am ordered the Entrana – inside skirt steak with chimichurri and salsa picante (AU$32) and the Charred Sweet Potato, Goat’s Curd, Muddled Almonds, Garlic and Coriander to share (AU$11).
I found the Ceviche to be pretty ‘meh’. More flavour would have been a treat but I think I had built the whole dish up a little too much by drooling over pictures of it on Instagram a few days before.
MS’ steak was certainly better than you’re average steak but the real star of the meal for both of us was the Charred Sweet Potato. I only yesterday wrote to the Gourmet Traveller recipe request section to see if they will publish the recipe because this dish was simply sensational. In fact I would go as far to say that it’s one of the best things I think I have ever put in this big mouth of mine.
Fast forward a few hours (after a nap and some more tennis) and we were dressed and on our way to dinner at Tassie favourite Smolt – another restaurant recommended to me by some of my readers. We couldn’t get a booking but decided we would try out luck with a walk in. Things were coming up Milhouse for our last meal in Tassie we managed to snavel ourselves an intimate table for two down the back of the Italian eating house.
More wine and cider ensued with a complimentary starter of fresh baked bread with olive oil and balsamic for dipping. The flavour of the olive oil was exceptional – so much so that I went straight to Victor’s to find my own dipping oil upon returning home. We had the Jamon Croquettes with Smoked Peppers and Aioli for entree and then backed it up with a couple of pizzas as our main.
The White Anchovy, Olive, Calamari, Watercress, Bechamel and Reggiano Pizza came up trumps for me because as some of you may know I’m a sucker for anchovies (and pickles) while MS loves the sausage so he chose the pizza with Pork Sausage, Chorizo, Chilli, Red Onion, Peppers, Lemon and Reggiano (both AU$25.90). The service at Smolt was excellent and the atmosphere was laid back yet sophisticated plus neither of us could fault the food – I can’t recommend that place enough if you’re in Hobart.
Well there you have it… our trip to Tasmania in a nutshell – or should I say about 1500 words (this post). I’ve travelled overseas and around our beautiful country many times but I can put my hand on my heart and say that Tasmania has been one of my absolute favourite destinations. In the short time that MS and I spent down there we barely scratched the surface of all the things to see and do (and of course eat) in the Apple Isle. MS enjoyed the place so much that he wants to move there permanently. In a state where Scallop Pies are the norm, there’s a vineyard on nearly every corner, world famous oysters, award winning cheeses and cherries are the size of a baby’s fist it’s no wonder that Tasmania was just named in Lonely Planet’s Top 10 Regions to visit in 2015.
Anyone that regularly reads my blog – or at least ‘likes’ my Facebook page (that’s all of you right?) might recall that I have a bucketlist of food experiences that I keep in my phone consisting mostly of restaurants that I want to dine at around the world. Some of the restaurants listed are fine dining (Tetsuya’s, Las Bravas and Ultraviolet), some aren’t (Tim Ho Wan, The Salt Lick, Pimenti’s) and some are simply food experiences that I want to tick off (eating oysters at Coffin Bay, fish and chips on Bronte Beach, lobster rolls in Maine). There are only a few restaurants within Australia that I have listed and the first one that I was able to tick off last month was Vue De Monde in Melbourne.
Late last year MS tried desperately to get us a reservation whilst down in Melbourne for our birthday weekend in December but to no avail. VDM is so popular that it can be booked out months in advance. It just so happened that we planned another Melbourne trip for the Fitness Expo in March and lucky enough this time around MS was able to secure a booking on a Friday night for the two of us. MS knows the way to my heart – through food. The guy on the other end of the phone at VDM took a deposit after asking MS “You do know how much this restaurant costs right?” – ahem yes thank you very much! Yes it wasn’t going to be a cheap night out that’s for sure but not something we do very often (if ever).
Now I’m not going to go into logistics or fancy words in my ‘review’ of VDM because this restaurant has been reviewed countless times by much more qualified and ‘in the know’ people than this Vixen however I thought I would give my take on the whole experience…
After setting off from our holiday apartment in St Kilda with ample time to arrive at our destination – the Rialto only 6km away – we ended up getting stuck in crazy afternoon traffic on St Kilda Rd and arrived 20 minutes late for our 6pm booking (we left at 5pm!!!) There is nothing that gets me more wild than being late for something and I managed to keep my cool for the entire time, only losing it in the last 10 minutes. So then of course ultra cool, calm and collective MS lost it totally as well. Great start to our romantic evening together. FML.
We finally arrived and leaving the car with the valet we made our way to reception where we were met by a friendly lady that took us to VDM personal elevator. Less than a minute later we were 55 storeys up and being greeted at the elevator door by a male host. He led us past the bar and to a large tinted glass door to which he opened to the restaurant.
As the door opened we were greeted with a breathtaking 180 degree view of Melbourne – hence the name Vue De Monde. The dining room with its 20 or so tables each with a candle flickering, polished black floors and enormous windows looking out onto the twilight was nearly equally as impressive. The host led us to our table for the evening where we were seated and left momentarily until we were again greeted by our host for the evening.
Since we were seated slightly back from the windows with an empty table directly in front of us he asked if we would like to move closer to the window to which we happily obliged. He then explained the course of the evening to us – basically they bring out 7 courses and then you decide if you want to continue (are you still hungry?) or if you have had enough. Directly behind us the busy kitchen was a hive of activity with no less than 20 chefs cooking up a storm at various cooking stations. It was actually quite theatrical to watch and as the sun went down the reflection of the kitchen behind us provided a beautiful backdrop for our prime position overlooking Melbourne. Damn I’m poetic.
The host left us momentarily whilst the sommelier came over and introduced himself. He handed the two of us the wine ‘bible’ which I reluctantly took drawing in a deep breath as I opened the first page. I mean I don’t want to sound cheap but I know how much the wines cost at these kind of restaurants. I’m happy to spend a few hundred dollars on dinner once in a blue moon (don’t think I’m a toff because I’m really not) but I sure as hell won’t spend $80 on a glass of wine.
The sommelier asked me what kind of wine I liked – I’m a white wine kind of girl – and directed me towards some ridiculously expensive wines. To an uneducated wine drinker like myself the difference in taste between a $200 bottle of wine and a $20 bottle is negligable (ha who am I kidding – I’ve never had a $200 bottle of wine). In the end I tastefully directed the guy towards a cheap(er) glass that he recommended (AU$38), although I did feel a bit of pressure to go more expensive, something that made me mildly uncomfortable and I did feel a little judged by Mr Sommelier. Pfft. He then moved onto MS who asked him what wine he preferred. MS is no wine drinker – this man barely drinks at all – so he ordered a cider and after getting the shock of his life when the sommelier recommended an AU$80 bottle of cider (for 330ml!!!!) he chose the cheapest one on the menu (AU$18). Although I can’t remember for the life of me what we ordered, both the wine and the cider tasted pretty darn good.
And so the meal began. First off we were given some salt and vinegar crisps with hazelnut cream pate to entice our taste buds. Someone must have secretly called ahead and told the kitchen about mine and MS massive penchant for anything Salt and Vinegar – my favourite flavour. It used to be Atomic Tomato until I got really drunk a few years ago, ate an entire large packet to myself and then threw it up again. Yeah, you know what? A post about Vue De Monde probably isn’t the right place to talk about that story. And so the meal progressed from there.
In the middle of our table was a collection of, well they can only be described as rocks, but nice smooth ones of all different shapes and sizes. Through the course of the evening our waitress overturned them to reveal various grooves for holding the ornate cutlery and hidden reserves of salt and pepper. It was quite cool as I initially thought they were just for decoration.
Following our salt and vinegar ‘chips’ a selection of grilled meats on skewers were brought out. We ate eel, oysters, rock wallaby, sea urchin, ducks tongue and lambs hearts. And although neither of us would normally eat some of the things (namely the lambs heart and duck tongue) that were laid out in front of us we both respected the prestigious restaurant that we (I) had chosen to dine in – and as they say ‘when in Rome…’
We even had some tea…
Each dish was presented by a different chef, sometimes in a very theatrical way that even sometimes required diner participation – we used a pestle to grind up our own mortar of wood sorrel that had been frozen with liquid nitrogen. After crushing the wood sorrel the waitress added a small scoop of refreshingly different cucumber sorbet. Unfortunately the photo below was post grinding and sorbet. The presentation of each dish, as one would expect, was flawless and each presented in its own creative way.
About 4 dishes in our waitress brought out a large basket of ‘butter’ with freshly baked sour dough bread. Both MS and I were in awe of the enormous amount of hand churned butter that she presented in front of us and I can honestly say this ‘bread and butter’ was one of the highlights of our meal. Yes, it’s true. We were dining at one of Australia’s premier restaurants and we were loving the bread and butter. To say that I slathered that butter on thick was an understatement. It was TO. DIE. FOR.
Later on our host for the evening came over for a chat and asked what our favourite dish had been so far. Old Cadbury ‘one glass of wine goes straight to my head’ me couldn’t for the life of me remember any of the dishes that had come out off the top of my head other than the bread and butter. I think he was a little taken a-back that that’s what I came up with but he did bring us another serve since we liked it so much. High fives all around!
Earlier I said that although MS and I don’t normally eat adventurous things like duck tongue and lambs hearts but we try to go with the flow at a place like VDM. MS was doing surprisingly well, that was until the duck yolk came out. He just has a thing about runny yolk and not even dining at VDM was going to make him eat it. I however thought the velvety duck yolk was absolutely delicious especially paired with the pear and truffle that it was served alongside. The egg was cooked sous vide at 64 degrees resulting in a rich, creamy and delightful egg yolk. Wow it was just so damn decadent that I ate MS’ as well. Yes I may have to change my name to fatvixen soon.
And yet there was more! (In no particular order – not that I could remember anyway).
The desserts followed not long after our parade of meals. First up was the Chocolate Souffle. Now I don’t know about you but I tend to get disappointed with souffles. They look so damn delicious and then you stick your spoon in and it’s mostly air. I’m a lover of dense and moist desserts but the souffle was sweet and decadent, nonetheless.
Our final dish for the evening was a selection of petit fours… (I forgot to take a photo of the Eucalyptus Ice Cream)
Lastly our host asked us if we would like anything else, to which MS replied that he would love some tea. Uh oh. Big mistake. The tea sommelier ensued with his book of teas from around the world. I think the cheapest tea in the book was AU$33, and that was for only one person. After receiving the rundown of all the teas that were available and where they had come from – some so damn expensive you would think they were grown in a hydroponic setup on Mars! MS was ever so forthcoming when he asked if he could just have ‘normal’ English Breakfast tea. The tea guy did his very best to hide his disgust but I saw it flit across his face ever so gently. In the end we got some whizz bang flash tea that was a little higher in price than we expected but still very reasonable compared to what was on offer.
When we finished up there was an awkward period of not knowing if all the meals were finished or still coming and how we actually paid the bill and left. Do you just raise your hand and click your fingers in a fancy restaurant or is that only in the movies? In the end we figured it out and upon leaving we were given a foodie gift bag filled with tasty sweets as well as all the ingredients for an impromptu Vue De Monde breakfast ‘for the morning after’. Inside the bag was cookies, tea, a freshly baked loaf of brioche, honey, muesli and a book of restaurants around the world. The cookies were gone before we even made it back to our apartment – MS didn’t want his so I ate them both (oops fatvixen strikes again). It was a lovely surprise to receive upon leaving and certainly not something I expected. It really topped off what was a fantastic and memorable evening for both MS and I.
In conclusion (my long drawn out one): I thought that the food was exemplary at Vue De Monde but it didn’t blow my mind. We tried some things but that we would never have eaten had we not have been at a very fancy restaurant. Still, the beef tongue, lambs hearts and duck tongues were actually kind of tasty. Hmmm, ok well you can have the duck tongues, the texture was just too weird for me.
The only drawback(s) from our fantastic dinner at Vue De Monde was, for both MS and I, the wine guy and the tea guy. Although we only saw the tea guy once, right at the end of our meal, unlike the wine guy who came to our table fairly regularly, they both made us feel uneasy. Maybe it was because I felt that the wine guy was (secretly) hell-bent on trying to sell us a $200 glass of wine and that made me feel pretty uncomfortable and almost obligated to buy expensive alcohol. It’s hard for me to convey in this post – without sounding like a complete twit or even worse ‘stingy’ – why I think that spending $200 on a glass of wine is unreasonable especially considering how much dinner had cost us.
Anyhow it was the experience of a once in a lifetime meal with the love of my life that really made it for me, as cliché as that sounds. It certainly wasn’t to sample the extensive wine list that was so carefully chosen by Vue De Monde’s team of sommelier’s over many months. And then again I don’t want to take away from the exemplary job that both the tea and wine sommelier were doing but I guess wine and tea isn’t really something that I have learnt to appreciate – certainly no where near as much as food anyway. Again I think I sound like an idiot attempting to explain myself and my amateur review but I guess that’s just it. I’m an amateur blogger that does restaurant reviews in her spare time as a hobby. My regular posts consist of things like ‘where does one find the best fish and chips in Cairns?’ and where I think the best Som Tum is. I don’t review restaurants like Vue De Monde on a regular basis but it’s nice to get all fancy and posh once in a while whilst taking in the views of the Melbourne skyline from the 55th floor of the Rialto and gushing about just how amazing their bread and butter is.
PS: And just for the record, the next day MS and I went to Nando’s for lunch.
PPS: The total bill at Vue De Monde for anyone that would like to know came to $579… That was for 2 degustations, a glass of wine and 2 ciders.
Vue De Monde
Level 55 Rialto 525 Collins St, Melbourne VIC 3000
Ph: (03) 9691 3888
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
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