True Cairns local’s like myself – or at least ones that have lived in Cairns prior to 2001 – would remember George’s Greek Taverna on the corner of Aplin and Grafton Street. Many a plate was smashed in a furore of music and dancing at George’s over the years. After it was George’s, it was Yanni’s and then finally before closing down last year (or maybe even the year before) it was Adelfia.
I remember going to George’s back in the day many times for dinner. It was always great service, delicious food and there was even the possibility of spotting teenage heart throb Peter Andre (anyone that thinks Mysterious Girl was not an awesome song can kindly escort themselves from this page – that song still rocks).
Unless you read that dubious publication that is the Cairns Life Magazine you probably aren’t aware that George’s has returned to Cairns once again. What was previously long standing Mediterranean and Tapa’s restaurant Casa De Meze upstairs on the esplanade is now Yaya’s Hellenic Kitchen and Bar (aka the old George’s Greek Taverna).
With my crew in town (and no I don’t mean that like a dance crew, more like sea men haha) and with me being the only local in my crew AND their resident food critic the pressure was on to choose somewhere good for us all to go to dinner. After a bit of a stouche about the previously decided on location, Waterbar and Grill I decided on somewhere that I hadn’t yet been but wanted to try… Yaya’s Hellenic Kitchen. It wasn’t Waterbar and Grill that was the problem, lets just say we don’t all get along with our *ahem* esteemed leader.
I booked us a table for 10 for 6.30pm and we all headed down to Yaya’s, minus that one person. We were greeted by the female owner who swiftly showed us to our table all the while giving what must have been a new staff member a bit of a helping hand along the way. The new staff member (a waiter) handed us our menu’s and asked us what we would like to drink. Due to us being ‘dry’ or should I say alcohol free whilst at work (yes dinner was still technically considered work) we ordered a couple of cokes, a lemon lime and bitters and the rest of us had water. From the look of surprise we got from the waiter he must have thought we were from the local AA group or something. I guess it’s not very often they get an entire table of 10 ask for non-alcoholic beverages.
We moved onto the menu’s and after a bit of umming and ahhing we (I) decided on the Sharing Banquet for AU$40 per person. Although the rest of the menu looked delicious we figured the banquet was the best bang for your buck with such a large group plus it encourages a little more interaction amongst the people at the table. Yeah because more interaction is exactly what you need after 2.5 weeks at sea together.
There was a little bit of a wait between us ordering and then getting our first lot of food but after that the meals just kept on coming. First up was the Three Dips with Homemade Bread, Saganaki Cheese, Greek Salad and the Chef’s Choice of Mezedes (small sharing plates).
When I first sat down for dinner I had every intention of ‘going easy’ on the food. That idea was scrapped almost instantly when I spotted the Homemade Bread. It pretty much went downhill from there for me sadly. One thing I simply cannot resist no matter how strong my willpower is fresh, warm bread but I am almost positive I’m not entirely alone on that one. The Three Dips to go with the bread were Tzatziki, Taramosolata and Eggplant. These dips coupled with the crunchy on the outside and warm on the inside homemade bread were way too bloody moorish!
Sometimes I wonder if some of my crew live under a rock because none of them had heard of nor eaten Saganaki Cheese before. But, seriously aside from pork cracking and blue vein cheese it’s got to be one of the tastiest things I have ever eaten. Squeeze that lemon juice over the top and you’re good to go. My workmates all gushed about it for days afterwards.
After hogging ourselves on cheese, bread, dips and mezedes our empty plates were cleared away to make way for the next course.
The Calamari had a light coating of flour and was pan-fried with lemon and olive oil dressing. It was cooked to perfection and melted in your mouth – exactly the way calamari should be! The Fish of the Day was Swordfish with a balsamic drizzle and again cooked to perfection.
The last dish of this course was the Chargrilled Prawns. They were big and juicy although we only got one each, something that we were all a little disappointed about.
Our third and final savoury course was the Chicken Souvlaki and Yaya’s Arni (Baked Lamb and Potatoes). My personal favourite dish of the evening (other than the homemade bread) was the Baked Lamb and Potatoes. Tender pieces of lamb will do it for me every time.
After all this we were pretty much stuffed but there was still dessert to come. George himself (at least I think his name is George) came out from behind the open kitchen to greet us and thank us for coming as our plates of mixed sweets arrived. He offered to toast our dinner with a small glass of port each, including one for himself, but sadly we all had to decline. Typically the only time that I get an offer of free alcohol is when I can’t have it!
As you may have already guessed my crew and I thoroughly enjoyed our sharing banquet at Yaya’s Hellenic Kitchen and Bar. The simply presented food is both delightful and plentiful (except the prawns). Post banquet I felt like I might need to be rolled out of there having completely gutsed myself, a far cry from my initial thoughts of ‘just having a small dinner’. If the Sharing Banquet sounds a little too much food to bear then there is also an a la carte menu to choose from with no dish over AU$30. There’s even a funky lounge setting inside for those just looking to enjoy some Mezedes and a cocktail from the bar. At Yaya’s the service is efficient, friendly and a little loud but frankly who doesn’t expect a little yelling with their Greek food. Ah just like old times! Just make sure you get the okay from George before you start smashing the plates.
Yaya’s Hellenic Kitchen and Bar
Level 1, Corner Aplin St and the Esplanade, Cairns QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 4031 3033
Opening Hours: Dinner from 5pm 7 days a week, Lunch on Fridays from 12pm