Cue Valentines Day a couple of weeks ago and seems my friends and I were desperate and dateless… Well not entirely… MS was out-of-town for work, so too was my BFF’s BF, my sister’s housemates BF, and well my sister is currently dateless (but not desperate). It seemed all too appropriate that we all (four of us) venture out for our own, all female, romantic dinner with each other for company. Due to the fact that two of my dates had certain dietary requirements I was in search for a restaurant with a good amount of protein on the menu, especially since our man meat was missing haha. Having done Waterbar and Grill to death – love the place – I thought we would try somewhere else and on the waterfront because no Valentines Day dinner is complete without a bit of a view. In the end after scouring the internet for appropriate and dietary satisfying menu’s I came up with Mecca Bah.
Down on the boardwalk right next door to Dundee’s Mecca Bah has been serving up Moroccan food to Cairns for just over three years now – I did ask the guy at the counter when we were paying and I am pretty sure that’s what he said anyway. I do remember being taken aback as to the time he gave me because I was almost positive that Mecca Bah had been open for longer than that. Meh, it doesn’t really matter anyway. Mecca Bah have a delicious sounding menu with a ‘Grills’ section that would especially suit my culinary challenges dates for the evening. I also remembered (from a few years ago when it first opened) seeing a couple of romantic looking booths to sit at with white curtains and candles adjacent to the boardwalk also at Mecca Bah. Now I did leave it a little late when booking for Valentines Day and Friday night (four days before) and I figured that the booths would surely be booked out but I called up anyway. You can imagine my surprise when we easily nabbed a booth for the evening. Surely intimate booths with white flowing curtains and candles would be a ‘mecca’ for lovebirds on this particular Friday night? Guess not.
Anyway so we turned up and because I am such an awesome date I bought my three dates a single red rose each which seemed to be pretty stoked about. Having literally flown in from sea that afternoon I was looking forward to a nice dinner with a glass of white, some catch ups and of course some gossip. Upon arrival I noticed that the restaurant was probably about 3/4 full of diners, mostly couples, then I spotted our reserved ‘intimate’ booth. It certainly wasn’t what I remembered. The flowing white curtains appeared to be missing although the curtain hangers weren’t. The booth had also been pulled back from the boardwalk and now just sat to the side of all the other tables. It wasn’t exactly what I would call intimate, in fact it was pretty disappointing.
We were shown to our table and then proceeded to wait more than 15 minutes for the waitress to come over and take our drinks order. The waiters and waitress’ walked past our table multiple times until someone finally seemed to notice that we were sans menu’s, wine or anything else for that matter. I ordered a glass of Sauvignon Blanc while the others girls stuck to water and/or Coke Zero. F that. I had just been drinking desalinated water out at sea for the last three weeks. I was having wine goddamnit! After our drinks arrived the waitress who was apologetic – I’m pretty she noticed my unimpressed ice queen gaze. We ordered a couple of entrees – Labna (AU$4) and Sumac dusted hand cut sweet potato chips with Harissa Mayonnaise (AU$5) to share. Three of us ordered the 300g Sirloin Steak Dry rubbed with House Spices served with Slow Roasted Baby Beetroot, Persian Fetta and Local Rocket for AU$28. My sister chose the Chargrilled Chicken Shish with Vegetable Cous Cous and tabouleh for AU$26.
We caught up on stories passed since I had been out at sea and I retold grand stories of how my crew and I overcome squall like seas and mystical Kraken’s in our quest to *cough* ok I’m kidding. Being girls we had a nice little bitch about a few things and had a good laugh at a couple of, oh maybe 16 year olds – guy and a girl – obviously on a first date that had absolutely nothing to say to one another. It was so damn awkward that I felt awkward for them. The awkward silence was only broken by the guy excusing himself to go to the toilet at which point the girl broke out her phone to check what was going on in the world of Facebook. Nothing of course.
Our entrees arrived about 10 minutes later and we tucked into our Sweet Potato Chips and Labna. The Sweet Potato Chips were crunchy and well, sweet of course. It’s a bit of a mean feat to get Sweet Potato Chips just right but the chef was pretty spot on with these ones. Not too oily and I really enjoyed them as did the other girls. I thought that it was really good value for AU$5. The labna (yogurt cheese) was slightly salty, slightly creamy and very delicious. For those of you who have no idea what it is or have never tasted it – you’re missing out!
Within five minutes our mains had arrived. To my left my BFF and I looked at each other and then down at the ‘300g’ steak and then back at each other again. Having gone through a significant period of serious dieting together last year (she’s going through it again at present) we are pretty much human digital scales. The look we gave each other said it all… That steak was NOT 300g. In fact I would say after all the fat we cut off the damn thing – and that is all three steak eaters at the table – it was lucky to be just over 200g. The Slow Roasted Baby Beetroot was somewhat lacklustre and I had a slight suspicion that the beetroot was actually canned beetroot. The 150 or so grams of meat that we did eat was juicy, tender and sweet. It was made all that bit better by the delicious rub that the steak had been cooked in. This steak was however, a particularly fatty cut of sirloin, to the point where it really retracted from the meal. There was a lot of fat and I’m talking big fat chunks of oozy gristle. As for the Persian Feta? Well there was none.
Across the table from me my sister was complaining that her cous cous was flavourless and that her chicken was cold. I thought she was slightly over-exagerating until I actually tasted her chicken. It wasn’t ‘left on the counter for 10 minutes kind of cold’, oh no, it was almost fridge cold, that’s how cold it was! I questioned whether it was even cooked through but it was hard to tell with the dim lighting at our ‘intimate’ booth. The cous cous itself was in fact flavourless and unseasoned. When the waitress came over to clear our plates she asked us how the food was to which I told her about the cold chicken and she could clearly see the amount of fat that we had trimmed from our supposed 300 gram steaks. She apologised and offered to replace the Chargrilled Chicken Shish with a freshly cooked one however my sister politely declined because she couldn’t eat a whole new meal. We finished up our meals and went to the counter to pay, each separately, something the owner (I think that’s who it was) seemed to be fairly accommodating of. The four of us did find him a little rude and not exactly friendly.
I will give Mecca Bah a thumbs up for the presence of local seafood, some local veg and Silkwood cattle on their menu whilst the dim lighting and candles does attempt to create a certain ambience for the place but this doesn’t make up for the ill prepared, cold chicken, fatty steak and lack of service we received during our meal. The restaurants decor is tired and the atmosphere, in my opinion, is somewhat uninviting. The dim lighting only aids in hiding that the restaurant’s décor is looking pretty tired. If it wasn’t for the awesome three friends I had for company along with the glass of white wine that went straight to my head I would have had a pretty ordinary dinner. Mecca Bar might be a ‘mecca’ for unsuspecting tourists that get drawn in by the ambient lighting, electric candles and prime position on the waterfront, but our romantic all female, Valentine’s Day dinner was mediocre at best.
1 Marlin Pde, Cairns QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 4051 3737
Opening Hours: Mon – Fri 11am – 11.30pm, Sat & Sun 7am – 11.30pm