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)
We woke bright and early on our first full day in Rome, partly because my pillow was like sleeping on a bag of cement and partly because I can’t go to bed without an alarm set regardless if I’m on holiday. We had a light breakfast in the hotel, well I did. Espresso coffee and some fruit was plenty for me whereas old Fatty McFat Fat aka my other half stuffed himself with danishes, croissants filled with cream cheese, ham, fruit and more cheese.
We had a Skip the Line Tour booked at the Colosseum booked for later that afternoon but figured we would go and see a few of the other sights before then. Campo Dei Fiori where there was so many delicious things I wanted to buy but figured I am going to be in Florence later next week, then the Pantheon which we literally stumbled upon. It’s a pretty awe inspiring place especially when you just stumble around the corner not expecting to see it. Next up the Trevi Fountain. We threw a couple of Euro over our shoulder – apparently there is more than 3000 Euro thrown into it a day. God knows where it all goes but a good friend of mine said that last time she was there she saw a homeless lady fishing some of it out with a pole with a magnet on the end. I must say I’m impressed with her ingenuity and DGAF attitude.
By this time it was about lunchtime so after a toilet stop – and by toilet stop I mean having a coffee at a café with the ingenious disguise of wanting to use their restroom we found ourselves near the Colosseum at Angelino ai Fori – a restaurant within close proximity to the start of our tour. It did look like a bit of a tourist trap and considering how close it was to the Colosseum it most likely was but it was the best looking restaurant in the area so we gave it a go anyway. Are expectations were extremely low but we actually really enjoyed it and even went back a second time a couple of days later. Go figure.
Three and a bit hours later we finished our epic Colosseum tour and headed back towards our hotel with a short stop at a restaurant that I well and truly had my sights set on, hoping to get a seat. The waitress told us that the place was completely booked for the evening much to my despair but said we could come back in 45 minutes and try our luck. 45 minutes later and boy was I lucky. Straight in and straight to an upstairs table at the highly regarded Roscioli.
My sister gave me a book called “Where Chef’s Eat” a couple of years ago (there’s a new edition every year) and I finally decided that I would have a look through it before this holiday. I earmarked a heap of restaurants, cafes and patisseries in the places we were visiting and Roscioli was one them. After doing some Googling there isn’t a blogger that comes to Rome that doesn’t go to Roscioli so as they say, when in Rome.
The menu is literally mouthwatering! There were so many things on the menu that I wanted to eat and still now I am kicking myself for not getting the burrata (some of the best in Rome) but our entrée of Zucchini Flowers Stuffed with Roman Oxtail Stew and Peppered with White Cheese Fondue washed down with a glass of Italian Pinot Noir was a decadent and tear inducing hot start to our dinner.
Main for me was the Big Spaghetti with Albacore Tuna Marrow, Wild Fennel, Minced Tomatoes and Olives (19 Euro).
MS had La Carbonara with Crispy Cheek Pork, Malaisian Black Pepper, Paolo Parisi Eggs and Roman Pecorino Cheese Dop.
In the menu it states that all pasta dishes are cooked ‘al dente’ which is a little hard for my liking but again ‘when in Rome’. Plus I don’t believe in changing dishes at restaurants. You eat them how they are meant to be cooked and served. So far this is our one and only pasta meal in Rome so we really have nothing to compare it to however my tastebuds know a good meal when they taste it and they were beyond content.
I am glad that I did some research of places that I wanted to dine at before we visited Rome because to me it seems like there are more tourist traps that great places to dine. It does take a little bit of time to research but it’s so much more rewarding finding the hidden gems. Plus it saves aimlessly walking in circles trying to decide which place to go to. As for Roscioli, some reviews have said that the restaurant is too squishy inside but I actually really enjoyed the atmosphere and layout of the place plus being that close to the table next to us admittedly allowed me to eavesdrop on the miserable American couple next to us that clearly weren’t having a great holiday together. The pasta was excellent, the service I found to be exemplary. Whether this trip or another Roscioli is somewhere that I without a doubt want to go back to!
I’ve been to Perotta’s At The Gallery a million and one times for breakfast and lunch but I’ve only been there once for dinner way back in about 2004. After a long day in transit on my way home from the NT capital, MS picked me up at the airport and after deciding that neither of us wanted to cook – who am I kidding MS doesn’t cook! – we headed to Perotta’s for dinner. With my Entertainment Book Gold Card offering me ‘buy one get one free’ main meals I figured now was a good a time as any to try out the dinner menu.
The place was about ½ full when we arrived so we chose a seat near the entrance closest to the lagoon. We ordered wine to celebrate the first time seeing each other in 4 weeks and had a squiz at the menus. The menu at Perotta’s has something to suit most people with plenty of variety and not just your standard run of the mill boring dishes. My go to dish when I go there for lunch is the Chilli Salt Squid Salad and although that is featured on the dinner menu I figured it might be time to branch out.
To start with we ordered the Garlic Bruschetta with Fresh Ricotta, Mint and Calabrian Chilli (AU$9) and the Burrata Caprese with Heirloom Tomato, Watermelon, Rocket Pesto and Raspberry Vinegar (AU$21). MS asked me what Burrata was and thinking I was all sophisticated and smart I told him that it was a type of Cured Italian Meat. Boy did we get a surprise when it the Burrata arrived at our table a short while later – a good surprise though! Turns out Bresaola is the Italian Cured Meat that I’d gotten confused with and Burrata is actually an Italian Cheese. Pfft I totally knew that.
In all honesty the Garlic Bruschetta wasn’t really anything to write home about but it was actually perfect for mopping up the last bits of Burrata and Rocket Pesto. I’m normally hesitant to eat watermelon since I was a little kid and my dad told me a watermelon vine was going to grow in my stomach after I swallowed a seed. Thanks dad, way to scar me for life and now I absolutely refuse to eat any type of grape (unless in wine) or watermelon (even the ‘seedless’ variety). The Burrata with juicy Heirloom Tomatoes was a beautiful and tasty dish that we both enjoyed. It was a great start to the night – I highly recommend this one.
Next up for our mains MS had ordered the Pork Spare Ribs with Fennel, Apple Cider Vinegar and Pickled Pineapple (AU$37) which came with a big bowl of chips and I had the 8 Hour Lamb Shoulder, 3 Wheat Salad, Almond, Mint, Pomegranate and Spicy Cumin Yogurt (AU$36).
MS’ Pork Spare Ribs were literally falling off the bone – the way ribs should be IMO – and were covered in a delicious tangy glaze. The Pickled Pineapple was nice but needed to be pickled just that little bit longer. We both thought the serving size was a little bit small for $37 but MS was pretty full by the time he polished them off.
My 8 Hour Lamb Shoulder was super tasty albeit a little on the small side for the price ($36). The added crunchy strips of bacon/pancetta/prosciutto whatever the hell it was really added to the dish. Despite the size of the dish I actually struggled to finish it. I find rich cuts of meat like Lamb Shoulder, Lamb Shanks and Beef Cheeks fill me up really quick and I can’t eat a whole lot although I want to. Give me Garlic Bread however and I can eat that carby goodness till the cows come home! We wanted to stick around for dessert especially after I spotted the Eton Mess on the Dessert Menu (the only one I know of in town) but we just couldn’t fit it in.
It’s got to be the number one place in Cairns for people watching – with wine of course! The wait staff are very friendly and professional, in fact it’s consistently one of the better places in Cairns in terms of service (something Cairns is usually lacking in). I do find that the food, particularly the mains, are a little expensive for what you get and this is something that seems to be reiterated in other online reviews I’ve read. Nearly 20 years of good food and service is certainly a mean feat in this small town. According to their website Perotta’s (as the locals like to call it) has been around since 1997 would you believe? Yes I was a little surprised by that too so I guess you could also call this place a bit of a Cairns institution – seems I’m using that word a lot these days.
Perotta’s At The Gallery
38 Abbott St, Cairns QLD 4870. Ph: (07) 40315899
Opening Hours: 7 days a week 6.30am – 10pm
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.
Have you ever wanted to try somewhere new to eat out and then arrive there only to take one look at the menu and walk out again? Well that happened to my mum and I yesterday. Unfortunately for you I’m not going to divulge any more the details or give you the name of the place I am referring to because I didn’t try their food and it might just be amazing, it was just the menu didn’t really float my boat. Lucky for me, due to my incessant hourly scrolling through Instagram I already had a backup so mum and I jumped in the car and headed straight there.
My backup lunch destination was the newly opened (as of yesterday in fact) Petit Café on Lake Street. Directly across the road from Woolworths mum and I were both blown away when we entered the schmick Sydney-esque interior with soft blue walls, IKEA type retro furniture and mirror like polished floors (although much to mums dismay no communal table).
The whole place is very ‘not Cairns’ in a very good way! The Petit Café on Lake Street is the second such branch of it’s kind in FNQ with the first one being the ever so popular (so I have heard anyway) shop in Kuranda.
Mum and I took up a table for two in the middle of the floor and had a look over their extensive menus with a page each for Traditional Crepes, Gourmet Crepes and of course Sweet Crepes. With over 30 different types of crepes on the menu it was quite a difficult choice for both of us, even mum who is still – despite my initial thoughts that she would barely last 2 weeks – a vegetarian. Sorry mum!
She chose a Traditional Crepe with Creamy Goats Cheese, Homemade Onion Jam, Toasted Almonds, Cherry Tomatoes, Cheese and Spinach while after a tough choice I ended up choosing a Gourmet Crepe with Medium Rare Roast Beef, Homemade Tartar Sauce, Egg, Cherry Tomatoes, Cheese, Cornichons and Baby Spinach. Initially I did think that the prices were a little high – a couple of the Gourmet Crepes are around the $23 mark I instantly changed my mind when I saw the sheer size of the things and the generous toppings.
Mum’s Traditional Crepe came out pizza style whilst mine was folded up a little like a calzone. I’m going to try and keep this short and sweet because there’s not a whole lot that needs to be said other than both of our crepes were absolutely delicious. Mum thought her crepe had a few too many almonds on it but I tasted it and disagreed with her.
My egg was runny and the homemade tartar sauce along with the cornichons gave my Gourmet Crepe a lovely zing! It was so big that I was in fact full for the rest of the afternoon but I am looking forward to my next visit to try the Kangaroo Prosciutto Crepe and of a course one of their amazing sounding Sweet Crepes – and yes of course they have Nutella Crepes for those of you that were wondering!
Attentive service, knockout decor, beautiful fresh ingredients and crepes made with love I have absolutely no doubt that it’s going to be on for young and old at the newly opened Petit Café.
Lake St, Cairns
Opening Hours: 7 days 7.30am – 3.30pm
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.
No longer a ’20 something chick who likes to eat out in and around Cairns’ I recently celebrated my 30th birthday and MS who knows the way to my heart (food and travel) took me to Tasmania a couple of weeks ago to celebrate. Having travelled to Tassie a few times to attend the Maritime College in Launceston and Beauty Point for various work courses I hadn’t actually had the opportunity to spend any ‘leisurely’ time down there until now.
With jaw dropping scenery, a thriving food culture built on a diverse range of produce, a plethora of vineyards selling some of the finest drops of pinot noir you’re likely to ever taste, excellent roads and sh*tloads of native roadkill it’s easy to see why Tasmania has been named in Lonely Planet’s Top 10 Regions to travel to in 2015. For such a small state there is much to see and do in Tasmania and in an ideal world two weeks would be a perfect amount of time to spend there however due to work schedules and upcoming surgical procedures (no I am not getting a boob job) five days in Tassie was all we could muster.
We flew in and out of Hobart via Melbourne on Jetstar, somehow managed to bypass the Jetstar baggage Nazi’s for the entire trip down and back to Cairns. I must have just been lucky because my carry on was 8.5kg before I even left home – slightly above the 7kg allowance. We picked up our rental and headed into the city to our room at the Travelodge on Macquarie Street. Clean simple rooms around the $120 a night mark within good walking distance to pretty much everything and most importantly Salamanca Place is only about a 10 minute walk.
That night I had booked us in for dinner at lovacore restaurant Ethos, a place I picked after reading about in a recent issue of Gourmet Traveller. For those of you wondering what a ‘lovacore’ restaurant is according to Wikipedia it’s a ‘person that’s interested in eating food that is locally produced, not moved long distances to market’ with the term being ‘spawned as a result of interest in sustainability’. From the sounds of it we were certainly in the right place because there’s no shortage of this type of thing in Tasmania.
The restaurant itself is housed in a space over 190 years old and illustrates an important part of Hobart’s history. We were impressed from the moment we entered the arched laneway to Ethos, walking through the thriving veggie garden and onwards into the main part of the restaurant.
The menu at Ethos is determined by the seasonal produce and offerings that arrive that day therefore each day it is different. MS and I chose the 6 courses for AU$85 without wine ($160 with a wine pairing) and instead chose our own drinks from the menu. I chose a Pinot Noir from the Huon Valley while MS ever the non wine drinker chose the locally made Pagan Apple Cider.
Over the 6 courses we dined on dehydrated kingfish, rats tail radish, Bruny Island goat and bonito just to name a few things but my personal favourite was without a doubt the Egg, Asparagus, Kombu (kelp), Magentaspreen (some weird leafy vegetable) and Chickweed (another plant) dish. I know it sounds complicated but it really wasn’t. The flavour combination of the of the egg yolk, tempura asparagus and seaweed was exquisite.
The entire meal was excellent with exceptionally knowledgeable, albeit seemingly nervous staff to boot but more importantly I love eating somewhere with such an emphasis on fresh, local ingredients. It really excites me and by excited I mean the ‘gosh what’s going to happen next’ kind rather than the piss your pants kind. Before I move on I must give a mention to the house made sourdough with butter that is churned in house for a week before serving. Yes typical me, I go to an expensive restaurant and the most memorable thing for me is the bread.
The next day we headed up the road to highly recommended café Ginger Brown. I must admit we were both a little disappointed when we arrived. To put it bluntly it was an unassuming café on a random backstreet of Hobart.
I was kind of hoping to have some delightful harbour views while sipping my morning flat white but the predominantly brown vintage décor would have to do. I chose the House baked crumpets with whipped vanilla bean butter, caramelised nectarines and honey whilst MS chose the Red wine braised beef cheek omelette with sweet chilli, avocado, fried shallots and bean shoots (with a side of bacon of course).
Despite the immense ‘heaviness’ of his breakfast MS enjoyed it but couldn’t finish it, I however nearly licked my plate clean. My breakfast of House baked crumpets was in fact one of the best breakfasts I have ever had the pleasure of eating.
Next up we headed to Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) which houses the largest privately owned art collection in Australia and without going into it too much because no doubt it’s either somewhere you have already been or heard of, neither of MS or I particularly enjoyed it. Call me uneducated, call me ignorant, call me what you like but it just wasn’t my cup of tea. According to the lady at the front counter apparently peoples views on MONA are few and far between – some love it, some hate and some just leave confused. Having said that I highly recommend that anyone visiting Hobart takes a trip to MONA to see it for themselves.
Beyond the art the museum itself is very impressive having cost over $70 million to build, including a winery, a brewery and a restaurant as well as a sweet a** outdoor area where you can sit on bean bags whilst drinking wine and eating cheese. Pretty sure that right there is my lifelong dream.
At the MONA’s above ground Wine Bar (yes there is a below ground one also) MS ordered a Lemon Tart that he didn’t realise was a Lemon Tart (he sure is special sometimes) while I ordered a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and some cheese and biccies to ‘nibble on’.
After our MONA visit we headed up to the top of Mt Wellington for stunning 360 degree views and if it wasn’t for little bit of cloud cover to the north I am pretty sure we could have almost seen Melbourne the views are that vast. Before we made the two hour drive to Launceston where we were booked in for the next night we drove in completely the other direction (stupidly at my request) to Peppermint Bay for a bite to eat.
The Peppermint Bay restaurant in Woodbridge was also suggested by one of my readers (thanks Bernard) as somewhere to visit and after having a look at it online I decided it was a must-do. The food there was great with an exciting lunch menu and a few specials on the board but the best part was probably the location.
The former resting place for Tassie favourite ‘The Stackings’ Peppermint Bay looks out over the pristine Tasmanian waterway towards Bruny Island where you can watch the barges making their way in and out of Hobart whilst enjoying a glass of wine and lifes simple pleasures.
Peppermint Bay would also be a fantastic place to go for dinner and drinks during winter. With the fire crackling in the background and the cold chill of the outside air pressing up against the floor to ceiling glass windows I think it would be absolute magic. Yes it’s a tough life but someone’s got to do it.
Stay tuned for my next post about Launceston and the Tamar Valley Wine Region xox
To plan your own trip to Tasmania check out the Discover Tasmania website here
I don’t often gush about restaurants but recently I have found one that is worthy of just that. Currently I am spending quite a bit of time in WA for work and more specifically Fremantle. As with many towns and cities there is always the quintessential tourist trap restaurants, we have them in Cairns and Fremantle is the same. Most prominently there is the Kailis Wharf with its barrage of seafood restaurants, takeaways, the expensive steakhouse and let’s not forget Little Creatures where you can pay anywhere between $13 & $15 for a pint of beer.
Determined not to fall into the trap myself I was given a recommendation to a newish restaurant called Bread In Common by one of crewmates that lives in Perth. Armed with local knowledge I took charge of a dinner ‘date’ I had planned with one of MS’ good friends also currently residing in Perth. GL had been trying in vain to get me to go to the Raw Kitchen – a vegan restaurant that from many a review sounds far too pretentious and expensive (for no meat?), not to mention high in fat, for my liking. Sorry if you’re reading this GL, but I promise to humour you and go to The Raw Kitchen… soon.
Tucked down a quiet street with a bountiful sidewalk garden of herbs and vegetables I found Bread In Common. Whilst GL was still navigating Fremantle’s narrow lanes looking for a car park, I had arrived on foot and early. Upon entering Bread In Common I am met with a small bakery shopfront. The story goes… South of Fremantle in Yallingup there is a boutique bakery that sells this amazing Wood-Fired Organic Flour Bread – apparently their fruit loaf is sensational. People come from miles around to buy it. The bakery owner joins forces with a Perth property giant and owners of Perth landmark restaurants Il Lido and Balthazar and hence the licensed restaurant/cafe/bakery Bread In Common is born.
Beyond the bakery is a truly awesome dining room that needs to be seen to be appreciated. What was once a pharmaceutical warehouse built in the 1890’s is now a dimly lit restaurant adorned with the original red brick walls, high ceilings, polished concrete floors and large communal tables. Earlier this year Bread In Common took out four awards at the 2014 WA Architectural Awards for its ‘conceptual approach to the reinvention of the warehouse’.
My gushing began after I found out that one of the entrees (Mousetraps) was actually little Vegemite and Cheese toasts. I got so excited that I nearly fell off my chair and I’m pretty sure the waiter thought I was a little cuckoo – excess sodium intake perhaps? My penchant for Vegemite has become so ravenous that MS has started to put me on rations in an attempt to lower my salt levels. I’m almost positive that he took a jar of Vegemite back out of our trolley at Coles the other day. I probably shouldn’t tell him about the takeaway packs that I smuggled out of the Qantas Club recently. For our second entree we ordered the Anchovy Toast with Egg Yolk. Those delicious furry fish are another salty delight that I enjoy straight out of the jar. No guys I’m not pregnant.
According to Bread In Common’s website their kitchen food philosophy is about locally sourced, seasonal produce and house made. The constantly evolving menu is constructed to be about sharing and enjoying time in common. GL arrived and we were shown to our table up the back of the restaurant. Bread In Common had already set the mood for sharing – figuring we would go with the flow we ordered two entrees and three mains for the two of us we sipped our wine and caught up whilst waiting for our entrees to arrive.
The Mouse Traps were bite sized toasts of Vegemite-y goodness and although delicious I do think they used the wrong cheese. A slightly stronger cheese flavour would have been better but instead the cheese reminded me of pre-sliced Light and Tasty variety.
The Anchovy Toast with Egg Yolk was a little different to what GL were expecting but probably the highlight of our entrees. The toasts were a little more like crispy pancakes than actual toast with anchovies pressed into them and the egg yolk appeared to be cooked and pureed. A unique combination that worked oh so well.
Next up came our trilogy of mains with the first one for sharing being Broccoli, Apple, Quinoa, Soy, Mustard Seeds, Puffed Amaranth (AU$16). After developing a slight aversion to Broccoli from nearly a year of ‘eating clean’ in 2013 for no other reason than plain stupidity it was nice to have a dish where the broccoli sang (in a good way). The simple but diverse flavours of this dish just can’t be put on paper, nor Toshiba laptop. It was crisp, fresh and flavoursome. Note to self: Google what the hell Amaranth is when I get back into phone range.
GL’s main of choice was the Mushrooms, Chickpeas, Rocket, Hummus, Sorrel for AU$17. I had a taste of the mushrooms with hummus and they literally melted in your mouth. Like the Broccoli Salad it too was full of flavour and fresh ingredients. GL loved this dish.
Lastly, my chosen main was the Beef Rump, Wood Roasted Pumpkin, Capers, Pepita, Fennel, Hay Ash for AU$25 – chosen for the simple fact that I needed some meat with my dinner. The chunks of Beef Rump were cooked to perfection – medium rare, with a slight char on the outside and soft and juicy on the inside. Couple that with the super sweet roasted pumpkin and the crunchy pepitas I thought this dish was faultless.
Finally we were again offered the menu to look over the (only) three desserts listed at the bottom. Although three desserts is plenty there is also the Cheese List to choose from with cheeses from as far and wide as Italy, England and Northern California. Figuring we had probably already eaten enough GL and I opted to share a dessert – Pear, Cheesecake Mousse, Shortbread, Sultana, Saffron, Thyme (AU$18).
My first taste was met with applause and adoration. This dessert dish was one of the best I have eaten in a very long time – on par with that delicious pudding thing I ate at the Newmarket in Melbourne late last year and gelato from that heavenly place we call Gelato Messina. Everything just worked so perfectly together but the absolute pinnacle of the dessert was the thyme ice cream. So good in fact I was gushing about it for weeks afterward and returned for a second helping a few days later – just to make sure it wasn’t all a sweet dream.
After all this food I’m not sure where to finish. I know where I started and that was over 1000 words ago. Earlier I said I don’t often gush about restaurants but this dinner at Bread In Common has to be one of my most memorable in terms of food, service and ambience. Everything at Bread In Common is in my opinion pretty close to top notch. The space is industrial yet modern, the food fresh and innovative and the service is friendly and efficient with just a touch of quirk. Our dinner set us back just over AU$140 – 2 entrees, 3 mains, 1 dessert and 4 glasses of wine, which in my opinion is quite reasonable despite what some reviews on Trip Advisor might say. I know of a few cafes in Cairns charging more than that just for breakfast! Bread In Common is communal dining at its finest, so good in fact I have already been back twice – a mean feat for a girl that doesn’t actually like to share.
Bread In Common
43 Pakenham St, Fremantle WA
Ph: (08) 9336 1032
Opening Hours: 7 days Mon – Thurs 10am – 10pm, Fri 10am – late, Sat 9am – late, Sun 9am – 10pm
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