Being a Cairns local I’ll admit that I don’t get out to Palm Cove as often as I should. It’s the same old story when you have so many amazing things right on your doorstep and you rarely take the time to visit… Whenever I make the effort and drive the 30 or so minutes out to Palm Cove I often wonder why I don’t visit more often because on a beautiful day Palm Cove is simply magic.
Palm Cove is also, arguably, Cairns’ best beach – we won’t mention Nudey Beach at Fitzroy Island being ranked Australia’s #1 beach – plus it has a plethora of fab cafes and restaurants all within walking distance include Temple of Tastes restaurant at the Pullman Palm Cove Sea Temple Resort and Spa.
Last week Mr Foodvixen and I were invited to dine at Temple of Tastes to check out their new South East Asian inspired menu. On this particularly balmy October evening we arrived at 6pm sharp and were seated on the outdoor terrace overlooking the tropical pool. The flames of the bamboo torches surrounding the terrace certainly added to the ambience and gave the place that real resort feel.
We flicked through the drinks menu including the extensive wine list, beers and weekend worthy cocktails. I was nearly swayed by Temple of Taste’s version of my all time fave drink the ‘Negroni’ featuring Kangaroo Island Wild Gin and Dubbonet but instead opted for a glass of Robert Oatley Pinot Noir. A nice drop and the glass that greeted me was almost literally the size of my head (apparently I have a giant head so believe me when I tell you this glass was massive).
The last time we’d dined at Temple of Tastes was well over a year ago so I was looking forward to giving the new menu a test run. For entrees we dined on Slow Braised Duck Dumplings with Ginger & Soy Broth and the Braised Cape Grim Beef Short Rib with Green Papaya & Crab Salad. Both dishes were generous servings particularly the Dumplings – I couldn’t finish all my broth!
For mains I ummed and ahhed over the Pan Fried Herb Gnocchi with Mushroom Puree having heard good things about it but true to form I chose the Sesame Crusted Tuna with Scorched Miso and Local Deep Sea Prawn. I’m a sucker for any kind of raw fish dish. Just as predictable as me my other half went for the Sous Vide Pork Loin with Apple Gel, Butternut Squash and Pork Crackling because no one in their right mind can resist pork crackling on a menu (I not so secretly hoped he would share). The pork was cooked to perfection and the tuna was picture perfect.
Finally, despite declaring to each other that we were to full for dessert we figured we’d have a look anyway and then typically decided to share one between us. We’re here now so might as well go the whole hog ha! For the Lover of Strawberry struck our fancy with Strawberry Consommé, Strawberry Meringue, Strawberry Panna Cotta and Strawberry Foam – that’s a whole lotta strawberry! Creamy, delicious and the perfect way to finish your meal on a sweet note.
If you’re looking for a romantic dinner spot in Palm Cove with elegantly presented food, a dish to suit every taste, chic service and polished drinks list to boot then the Temple of Tastes will tick all your boxes. Good food, good wine and even better company is the best way to spend a balmy Spring evening in Palm Cove. Is it not?
Tip for diners: Book a table on the terrace overlooking the pool.
Foodvixen was a guest of the Pullman Palm Cove Sea Temple Resort and Spa.
After a bit of gentle nudging from a couple of my readers to branch out from my usual stomping ground of the Cairns CBD (it’s just far too convenient for MS and I) I thought I would make more of an effort to go north. Anything past Edge Hill is a little foreign to me since I grew up on the south side of town. Anyway so another reader of mine recommended Harrison’s in Port Douglas. Seeing as I had a an Entertainment Book voucher for just the place I figured that MS and I would make the drive up to Port and try the four course menu. Unfortunately getting a booking there seemed to be a little harder than expected. I placed a booking through their website three days out from a Saturday night (yeah ok I probably could have planned that a bit better) and when Saturday arrived I had still not received any notification, confirmation or declination. After numerous phone calls we were just about to wing it and make the drive up there anyway when I got finally got through and it turns out the place was booked out for a wedding (that’s an expensive wedding right there). A reply email telling me that wouldn’t have gone astray. So we went to The Rising Sun in Palm Cove instead.
A few weeks later again I figured it was time to go to Harrison’s. I made another booking online requesting a table for two at 7pm on a Friday night. Two days later I received a sort of confirmation saying that the restaurant was all booked out for 7pm but would 6.45pm suit us? Silly me but I cannot see how 15 minutes could make a difference to whether a restaurant is booked out or not. Someone in the hospitality industry please explain? I replied that ‘yes 6.45pm would be fine’ and waited for a corresponding email to confirm our final booking. On Friday afternoon when I still hadn’t received any confirmation I was getting pretty annoyed after having the phone ring out a number of times. Around 4pm someone answered the phone at Harrison’s and confirmed our booking. It was a bit of pain in the ass have to chase someone down in order to get a dinner date locked in and frankly I did expect more from Harrison’s. Having an online booking service is great as long as it works not just for the restaurant but more importantly the diner. To be honest I just prefer the old-fashioned way of calling up to make a booking.
So MS and I made the drive from Cairns to Port on the Friday evening with me playing DJ from the passenger seat on my iPhone. Sadly we haven’t been seeing each other very much lately since we are both working away and with me leaving for another three-week stint the following evening it was a special night for us. We arrived at 6.45pm on the dot after having a bit of trouble finding a park in the bustling downtown part of Port Douglas. A waiter seated us up on the veranda of the restaurant overlooking the courtyard type area and the entrance. Harrison’s is an absolutely beautiful restaurant – an old low set Queenslander with a large veranda, cathedral ceilings, positioned right in the heart of Port and a lovely big mango tree right in the middle decorated with fairy lights. The place was pretty much full when we arrived apart from a large table behind us that turned up not long after we did. Our waitress for the evening introduced herself and I’ll be stuffed if I can remember her name but was lovely. She asked us if we would like to order drinks and we had a look over the drinks menu. I chose the only glass of Sauvignon Blanc on the menu (I certainly can’t drink a bottle to myself – not these days anyway), a glass of Ara for AU$12 while MS chose the Rekorderlig Strawberry and Lime Cider for AU$16. We had a look over the a la carte menu and the set menus but I had already chosen weeks before exactly what we were having. Yeah I do tend to ruin dining experiences a little because I have a tendency to trawl the internet for menu’s and restaurant reviews. Maybe we can just call it research?
Before ordering the waitress gave us a rundown of specials for the evening including oysters and scallops and where they were from. Lets just say her accent confused me because again I can’t remember where they were from but most importantly Harrison’s served Australian seafood. We (I) decided on the Menu Gormand 2 – a four course menu for AU$75 a head without wines or AU$125 with matched wines. Like I said we had already ordered drinks so we chose the menu without the wine. The Menu Gourmand 2 was as follows: Amuse Bouche, Malt Roasted Scallops with Veal Sweetbreads, Gingerbread, Pickled Raisins and Warmed Radishes; Tongue and Cheek – Braised and Pressed Pork, Black Pudding, Crispy Ears and Apple; Daube da Boeuf – 9hr Red Wine Braised Ox Cheek, Caramelised Onions, Smoked Bacon, Paris Mash and Bordelaise Sauce; and for dessert Daintree Estate Chocolate Fondant with Creme Fraiche Ice Cream and Hazlenut Praline. Sounds pretty good huh? MS and I lay in wait for the meal that was to come with me revelling in my new-found love that was Strawberry and Lime Rekorderlig Cider, even if MS had ordered it and not me. How the hell have I not tried that stuff before?! It’s frigin amazing!!!
Back to the food – we literally only waited about 5 minutes before our Amuse Bouche arrived. An amuse bouche (something I had no idea about until I saw it on MKR – Jake and Elle totally should have won that by the way) according to Wikipedia is “a single bite-sized hor’s d’oeuvre… served both to prepare the guest for the meal and to offer a glimpse into the chef’s approach into the art of cuisine”. Ours was a Cauliflower and Blue Cheese something or rather with Rye. Again forgive me but I am so shit house at understanding people’s accents. This makes dinner at Harrison’s difficult for me because the entire wait staff seemed to be European. For what it’s worth I can’t even understand my own aunties a lot of the time with their thick Sri Lankan accents not to mention the many foreigners I deal with in my profession. Okay so lets just say it was a fancy word for Cauliflower Soup. It arrived in a small shot glass and was delicious and creamy although I did find the temperature of it to be a little bit off-putting. It was slightly colder than room temperature and I thought it would have been much nicer had it been slightly warmer. The blue cheese however was a winner for me. “You can keep the Cauliflower and just give me a shot glass of blue cheese next time thank you waiter”. A nice dish but nothing spectacular like I was expecting for a Chef’s Hat Winning restaurant’s Amuse Bouche. It didn’t exactly give me a glimpse into anything really.
Next up was the Malt Roasted Scallops with Veal Sweetbreads, Gingerbread, Pickled Raisins and Warmed Radishes. The presentation of the dish was clean and eye-popping. The veal absolutely melted in your mouth (it kind of reminded me of a pork riblet – nothing wrong with that because pork riblets rock! At least they did when I was in grade 6.) The pickled raisins were to die for. Those things on a cheese platter would be sh*t hot. Not sure about the warmed radishes. They weren’t particularly warm and I just pushed them to the side since I don’t really like radishes anyway. I think they were really just there to look pretty? Like chokoes people don’t really eat radishes do they? My cousin PD is an exception but he also drinks Lime Milkshakes (who does that?!). Anyway cutting to the chase and without saving it for later on in this post, this dish was the standout one for both MS and I.
The third course was the Tongue and Cheek – Braised and Pressed Pork, Black Pudding, Crispy Ears and Apple. Before this dish even came out MS was full of questions for the waitress. After seeing a mention of Black Pudding on the menu he was a little concerned and wanted to know if it was separate on the plate so if he didn’t want to eat it then he wouldn’t have to – he had already made up his mind long before that he didn’t want to eat it. I on the other hand had never tried black pudding nor did I have any idea what it was going to look like so I just figured I would give it a go and see what I thought. Our Tongue and Cheek dishes arrived and the Black Pudding was two large ‘globs’ of black stuff on the edge of the food. MS pushed his food away from it but I incorporated it in with mouthfuls of my food. It was… okay. I guess it wasn’t really the taste I didn’t like but more the texture. It was just a bit runnier than I expected, sort of like a really thin pate. Not something that I would order by choice. The Braised and Pressed Pork reminded MS and myself of the brawn that you see in the deli section at Coles but then again maybe that’s what it’s supposed to be like? MS didn’t like it while again I thought it was ok. The best part of the dish was the pigs ears which were all crispy and cut thin just like crackling. YUM! Those decorative radishes made another appearance on this dish and again I pushed them to the side.
About 10 – 12 minutes was all that stood between our Braised Pork and our Daube de Boeuf. The braised ox cheek was lovely and rich which was offset perfectly by the sweet caramelised onions and the creamy Paris mash. It reminded me of a similar dish that is the signature dish at Wink II on the Esplanade. I do love cheeks – they get so damn tender and just melt in your mouth. Last work rotation I made a delicious Beef Cheek Pappardelle with a recipe I found on the Gourmet Traveller website that was so damn decadent I could only eat half of what I wanted to. Sad face. But, it was amazing. Happy face. This dish was excellent but I think a little bit out-of-place in the set menu. It was very filling, extremely rich and left MS and I shifting uncomfortably in our seats and adjusting our waistlines.
When the waitress arrived to take our plates she asked us if we wanted dessert to be brought out. We happily accepted although I had no idea how I was going to fit it in. She informed us that it would take 20 minutes presumably because it had to cook. About 8 minutes later our desserts arrived. Either they have a stellar oven or the 20 minutes had started before we finished our mains. The dessert was Daintree Estate Chocolate Fondant with Creme Fraiche Ice Cream and Hazlenut Praline – it was warm and oozy. I placed my spoon into a corner and scooped off a piece and the rich chocolate gently oozed out from the inside. The chocolate was quite dark and bitter, probably a little too much for me but that didn’t stop me from destroying the entire plate. MS couldn’t quite finish it, the Ox Cheek had pretty much put him out for the count (light weight). I really loved the Hazlenut Praline, it gave a lovely crunch and added sweetness to the bitter chocolate.
That pretty much concluded our 4 course meal at Harrison’s. Although we would have politely declined tea or coffee we weren’t actually asked if we wanted any, something I thought to be a little odd. Our meals were done and dusted by about 8.30 and I have to say that it felt a little rushed for a four course menu. There was hardly any time between us ordering the Menu Gormand 2 and our Amuse Bouche’s arriving. I know that they would have been pre-prepared anyway but surely it’s nice to create the illusion that they are made to order? Following that there was no longer than 10 minutes between each of our courses and even when we were told that dessert would be a 20 minute wait it arrived well under the 10 minute mark. I’m not sure if they wanted to clear the table in hope to get another couple in before closing or that’s just how they do things at Harrison’s. The food, time taken and the overall experience fell well short of what I was expecting. My expectations were a little closer to the decadent dining date we’d had at NuNu’s late last year where we were there for over two and half hours and literally wallowed in the fantastic food and service. Now not to compare apples to oranges but they are the only two fine dining, highly regarded, award-winning restaurants that I have eaten more than the standard three courses at in the last financial year, so for me it seems ideal to compare the two. The service at Harrison’s was very good although we were served by no less than 4 different wait staff during our time there, something I thought was a little excessive and each were at varying stages of giving a sh*t, i.e. the explanation of the each dish that we were being served right down to their general friendliness and apparent care factor.
Our Entertainment Voucher got us AU$50 off our total bill but when the standout part of the meal was MS’s Strawberry and Lime Rekorderleig Cider then it makes me wonder what I had been looking forward to for so many weeks and why we had made the long drive up there (should have gone to Salsa Bar next door). Again I don’t dine at places like Harrison’s often but when I do, I expect nothing but the best from the service, to the food, to the overall experience and the booking system. The food was good not amazing, the service was great but not personable and the whole thing just wasn’t quite up to that imaginary bar that Harrison’s had set so high. It takes a lot to get me away from dining at mid range restaurants and step up to the fine dining restaurants, not because I have no class, but because lets face it – there are so many fantastic mid range restaurants out there these days sometimes going fine dining begs the question ‘is it really worth the extra money?’
22 Wharf St, Port Douglas QLD 4877
Ph: (07) 4099 4011
Opening Hours: Tues – Sat 6pm – 10pm
I had been wanting to try the banquet at Hanuman at the Hilton for quite some time now so you can imagine my delight when my flamboyant friend HH invited me for dinner with friends one Friday night. I met HH and SR in the lobby at the Hilton at 8pm and after get acquainted (I had never met SR before) and re-acquainted (I hadn’t seen HH since a Christmas Party in December) we headed on into Hanuman to meet three more of his friends waiting inside. DR I already knew but the other two men at the table I had never met before. I cannot for the life of me remember either of their names but it doesn’t really matter since I only initials anyway. The one sitting directly across from me was a dead ringer for Jeremy Clarkson, at least I thought so anyway. I informed him of his resemblance to the tv star and he thought it was very funny. Apparently no one had ever told him that he looked like JC before. I like to think I have a strange knack for comparing peoples looks to celebrities (and sometimes even animals) but then no one else seems to agree with me.
On walking into Hanuman I was surprised to find that half of Cairns seemed to be dining there on this particular Friday night. I know that Hanuman is a very popular restaurant – in Cairns, Darwin and Alice Springs – but because I have only ever been there for lunch before I guess I am only used to seeing a couple of tables occupied. After introductions were made at the table the waitress took our drink orders. I ordered a glass of Squealing Pig Sauvignon Blanc for AU$11 from the Wine Menu while the rest of the men at the table (I was the only female, story of my life) ordered beers. All except for the other guy whose name I can’t remember whom for some reason decided to order a cocktail called a Coconut Kiss. He was horrified to find that when it turned up it was all pink and girlie and subsequently tried to palm it off to me down the other end of the table. The responsible person that I am politely declined his offer since I was driving and one glass of wine was almost more than enough for little old me.
There are three banquet menu’s to choose from on the menu at Hanuman, the Rama Banquet for AU$39.50 per person, the Sita Banquet for AU$49.50 per person and the Hanuman Banquet for AU$62 per person. Each banquet is basically a more grandiose version of the last. HH had already taken the liberty of choosing the Sita Banquet for our table, as he tends to do. It included a selection of entrees, mains and a dessert. Even though our food didn’t take long I was absolutely famished by the time the entrees arrived on two platters placed at either end of the table. This was my one and only cheat meal for the week (FML) so I wanted it to be good. Each platter included three entree dishes including Kashmiri Chicken Tikka marinated with yogurt, ginger, kashmiri chilli and fragrant rose petal garam masala, Vegetable Samosas (Indian pastry filled with potato and peas slow cooked with roasted cumin and spices) and Nonya Pork Rolls flavoured with Chinese five spice and wrapped in bean curd sheets. The presentation was elegant yet simple although if I am really going to nitpick (which I am) then I think they could have removed the seeds from the wedge of lemon on the plate. There was also a yogurt and mint dipping sauce and a sweet and sour type dipping sauce. We ate while we chatted about politics (something I can never escape in my line of work – everyone has an opinion unfortunately), other restaurants in Cairns (my favourite topic of conversation) and the Paleo diet (more on that in another post). The entrees were all delicious with my favourite hands-down being the Kashmiri Chicken Tikka. The yogurt and spices on the chicken gave a nice little burst of flavour when you bit into the chicken which literally melted in my mouth. Each entree was a couple of bites for each person but I could have easily eaten more.
About 15 minutes later our mains arrived with a parade of waiters. There was two plates/bowls of each dish placed on the table in front of us followed by a large platter of whole fish right in the middle. SR (who just happens to be a chef) asked what kind of fish it was. The waitress said that it was barramundi. SR and I looked at each other with a deeply puzzled look because even though we didn’t know what kind of fish it was we knew that it sure as hell wasn’t a barramundi. The fish before us had no signature ‘curved head’ or elongated body as barramundi tend to. SR assured the waitress that she was indeed mistaken to which she looked surprised and said that it was probably a rock cod. Nope, still wrong. The menu doesn’t actually specify what type of fish it is it just says ‘Crispy Whole Fish’. The waitress was a little flustered when we continued to question her and I felt bad but waitstaff at a restaurant as prominent and popular as Hanuman should know what kind of fish they are serving. I’m sure plenty of people would have been happy to think that their fish was in fact a barramundi but not us. The waitress said that she would check with the chef and get back to us. In the meantime another waiter came over to fill our glasses so SR asked him what type of fish it was to which the reply was also Barramundi and then cod. Anyway to cut a long story short in the end the waitress came back and told us that it was a Goldband Snapper. Problem solvered more than 30 minutes later when our fish no longer resembled a fish and hopefully the waitstaff won’t make assumptions about what they are serving next time. You probably think it’s quite a petty thing to question but as someone whose parents owned a wholesale seafood business for a significant portion of my life and works on a boat it’s not to me.
Anyway so we all dug into a our food… I piled a mountain of rice onto my plate to soak up all the juices from the delicious curries laid out in front of me because like I have said before rice and sauce is the best part. Who cares about the meat (except for the purpose of this post), I want the sauce! My family used to have Sri Lankan curry nights when I was little (still do) and all I used to eat was bowls of rice and sour cream (now I eat curry). Lucky for me each dish came with copious amounts of sauce/gravy with them. The dishes included Kapitan Prawns a rich curry of fresh turmeric, lemon grass, galangal, coconut and ground dried shrimps, Thai Crispy Whole Fish served with three flavoured sauce – hot, sweet and sour, Butter Chicken silky cashew and tomato curry, infused with cardamom and cumin, Beef Massaman aromatic curry with potato, ginger, nutmeg, tamarind and peanuts and Kang Kong Greens water spinach, stir fried with yellow soya beans, garlic and chilli. I’m not going to go into ridiculous amounts of detail about the taste, creaminess and spice infusions of each dish but I have to say that I couldn’t really choose a favourite other than the obvious creamy Butter Chicken (food of the God’s!) The Butter Chicken was exactly as it should be… f**king awesome!
The Kapitan Prawns were sweet and flavoursome and they left the tails on the prawns for presentation and because it retains the flavour, an absolute must. I’ve had arguments out at sea with crew members while making prawn curry about leaving the prawn tails intact. It’s something that my parents have always done no matter how we have the prawns and I think it makes the dish more visually appealing, not mention the prawns look bigger than they actually are. One criticism for the Kapitan Prawns… It was too small! I could have eaten that entire bowl by myself no questions asked. C’mon Hanuman surely throwing another 3 or 4 prawns in there won’t break the bank?
The Massaman Curry (another favourite of mine) was in fact not Massaman Curry but more like a Lamb Korma. Well okay it was a Lamb Korma smartass. The chunks of lamb were a little bit on the chewy side which is not really what you want when the chunks are large because it makes the risk of choking that much higher (one of my greatest fears other than centipedes). It was disappointing that the Massaman didn’t turn up because a rich peanut-ty Massaman can be almost life changing. I don’t know, maybe they ran out of Massaman and figured that the Lamb Korma, which is served in the more expensive banquet would be a step up? Not in my books it’s not.
The Thai Crispy Whole Fish was very good, nothing too fantastic I didn’t think but whole fish on a platter doesn’t really turn me on. It was met with ooh’s, ahh’s and photos on it’s arrival at the table. Meh. Call me simple but I think you really just can’t beat a good piece of battered fish with lemon and tartare sauce. While the rest of the table was busy dividing up pieces of Crispy Whole Fish I was busy sampling and re-sampling the other dishes.
Lastly there was the Kang Kong Greens which well, they were fresh and crisp in a light garlic and chilli sauce but because there was so much other yummy stuff on the table and because I have been eating broccoli and beans for three of my five meals a day for nearly 12 weeks now I didn’t feel too much like eating more greens. I had limited room in my stomach and it wasn’t being taken up by vegetables that’s for sure.
It wasn’t long till I was full as a goog after eating about 2 and a half plates of rice, meat, seafood and sauce. There was quite a bit of food left over at the table however the Butter Chicken and the Kapitan Prawns were all gone. Easily the best two curries of the night! Then as the waitress was clearing the tables I remembered that we still had dessert to go, which arrived soon after the clearing of the plates with offers of tea and coffee to finish off the evening. Everyone at the table declined tea and coffee as I think we had all eaten more than our fair share at the main course and a mug of hot tea or coffee just wouldn’t go down well.
Dessert was Thai Basil Cheesecake with Kaffir Lime Leaves and Strawberries and I have to say that it was, well, disappointing. I expected some sort of Asian flair in a cheesecake but it was just plain, boring old cheesecake that they had pulled out of the fridge and plopped on a plate. In fact it was probably already on a plate in the fridge waiting to be served. There was nothing special about it and no one at the table really even ate it. I also think there was too much gelatine in it. I was full but I still could’ve fit a good dessert in. It was a shitty end to a great meal. Something more fitting to what we had just eaten like a Coconut Sago or Mango Pudding would have been more appropriate than cheesecake. Oh well, I didn’t really need it anyway.
We all finished up not long after our mediocre cheesecake and after spending about 10 minutes assuring HH that I didn’t want to kick on at the Salt House I headed home. My company and I were well satisfied and I think that the Sita Banquet was certainly a fitting ‘cheat meal’ despite a couple of hangups. To wrap it all up the service at Hanuman is excellent without being overbearing. Good service in Cairns is as hard to find as an outside table at the Lillipad Cafe on a Sunday. Our receptive waitress for the evening ensured that our water glasses were kept filled, beers were flowing and any other needs met with a smile. Hanuman is definitely doing something right on the Cairns scene judging by the turnout of diners on the evening. The atmosphere is classy but not snobby with a beautiful outlook onto the Hilton’s manicured gardens adjacent to the chapel and beyond to the inlet. The food is flavoursome, filling and indulgent however still reasonably priced for a fine dining restaurant. The banquets are definitely good value for money because you get to taste a little bit of everything, although you must dine with a group because they are only available for six people or more. To be honest I was expecting a little more out of Hanuman and I think the size of some of the dishes, the lack of some dishes, as well as the lack of knowledge by staff as to what was being served to the final dish was a bit of a let down, although I did have very high expectations. I would still love to go back and try the more expensive Hanuman Banquet which includes oysters, two types of prawn dishes, fish, two types of lamb dishes, wok tossed seafood, Thai Crispy Whole Fish, Butter Chicken and vegetables but until then I’m wondering if I should tone down on the banquets and buffets for a little while, well for this week anyway.
Hilton Hotel Cairns, 34 Esplanade, Cairns QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 4051 6075
Opening Hours: Lunch Mon – Fri 12pm – 3pm, Dinner 7 nights from 6pm till late
Firstly I must apologise for taking a little too long to put up another post on foodvixen. My two month old Toshiba Ultrabook has recently decided that it doesn’t like the Hard Drive that Toshiba gave it and figures it needs a new one. What’s that you say? Should have gotten a Mac. If I wanted to relearn everything that I have learnt about computers since I was 11 years old then yeah maybe but I don’t do Mac. PC for life! Anyway moving on. So after years and years of wanting to go to NuNu and dreaming about it I finally got to go there for mine and MS’ anniversary dinner last month. Yes I know that was last month but did you not read the beginning of this paragraph? So, like I said I have wanted to go to NuNu for a ridiculously long time, since they won the Gourmet Traveller Regional Restaurant of the Year Award in 2008 and I was finally able to fulfill my wish and baby it did not let me down. Before I get down to business I must again apologise for the quality of the photos in this post. I use the iPhone app Hipstamatic for all of my pictures which does not work well when the lighting is dim and the flash photography just doesn’t do the photos justice. I’m not one to pull out an SLR while eating plus it keeps my WordPress costs low by uploading photos that are only a couple of KB’s in size. Righto, you get the gist.
I rang up about 5 days prior and made a booking for two for 8pm on a Saturday. Since we were staying out that way for the night at Sea Temple (don’t waste your time, stay somewhere else) we sauntered on down about 45 minutes early hoping to grab a cocktail from somewhere along the way. So much for that idea since everywhere was absolutely packed and we ended up arriving at NuNu a little earlier than expected. This was no problem as our table was ready for us anyway. As we were walking in a guy stopped in front of the restaurant and told us not to bother because NuNu and the one next door (Bella Baci) were both full. Sucks to be him, lucky we had a booking. The lighting was romantically dim and despite the modern furnishings and pompous Palm Cove atmosphere the place had a cosy relaxed feel to it. The waitress seated us at a table in between two couples at the front of the restaurant. Unfortunately we were seated so damn close to their tables that MS felt like he should introduce himself to the people on either side. This close proximity not only made us privy to their conversations but them to ours. The waitress bought us a Dinner Menu each and a Wine Menu along with some glasses which she filled with water from a silver jug. She gave us a couple of minutes and came back to take our drinks order. We both chose a glass of Clyde Park Sauvignon Blanc (AU$9.50) purely because it was the only Sav Blanc on the menu. Prior to taking our drink order the waitress whose name was Karen told us the specials of the day at NuNu (without us asking) along with a rundown of the seafood on the menu (the fish was Red Throat Emperor caught locally and the Oysters were Pacific Oysters from SA). My dreams had come true. Finally a restaurant with staff that knew the in’s and out’s of the seafood they were selling. It was truly a miracle!
Having sighted the 5 course tasting menu (AU$95 or AU$155 with matched wines) we asked Karen exactly what it consisted of since MS being the big sissy that he is doesn’t like seafood all that much. Karen told us in the nicest possible way that it was supposed to be a surprise and the chefs didn’t like to tell what was on it so we would have to wait and see. That was good enough for me and MS decided that as long as brain wasn’t part of the 5 course menu he would eat it too (there is in fact brain on the menu). I actually kind of liked the idea that we had no idea what was to come out. I felt it really added to the excitement of the meal and anyone that knows me well knows that nothing excites me more than food.
First off, our meal began with some bread. It was fresh out of the oven and as she placed it on the table Karen warned us to be careful of the steam that would escape when we cut it open. We were both surprised at just how large the bread was, taking up almost the entire plate but our surprise turned to relief as we cut it open to find the bread was in fact hollow. The sprinkling of salt and lemon over the top of the crust gave it just that little extra flavour that it needed and we soon devoured the crusty outside both looking forward to the next dish.
Next up two of our dishes arrived at the table. Karen gave us a nice run down of each dish and left us to sample our two entree’s… The Taste Paradise which was Shaved Local Heart of Palm, Melon, Lime, Baby Herbs and Chilli and the Hot Smoked Red Emperor Miang with Chilli, Pink Pomelo, Green Papaya Relish and Salmon Pearls. Both dishes looked amazing and the Taste Paradise even had those cute little edible flowers on the top which I had never eaten before. It was a beautiful dish and the melon mixed so well with the delicately sweet dressing, a slight hint of Fish Sauce just detectable. I really loved the soft and crunchy texture of the Palm Heart and the Melon. MS didn’t think this dish was so amazing (probably because of the Fish Sauce flavour) but I thought it was fantastic.
The two portions of Hot Smoked Red Emperor Miang et al was wrapped up ever so nicely in Betel Leaf. Having had something very similar at Iyara Thai Restaurant on the Esplanade I already kind of knew what to expect. We both ate it at the same time and although MS was a little skeptical because of the seafood content and the Chilli he thought it was a taste sensation and he was right. The mixture of the all the different flavours (sweet, sour, spicy) and textures in this one small bite (ok maybe two bites) was to die for. The Hot Smoked Red Emperor Miang has to be one of my favourite dishes of the 5 course menu.
About ten to fifteen minutes passed before our next meal was bought out – our 3rd entrée of Crisped Pacific Oysters with hand rolled Green Tea Noodle, Jellyfish, Sesame and Ginger Caramel. I almost knocked my glass of wine over in excitement. I had spied this dish on the Entrée Menu and my mouth literally salivated at the thought of it. I had no idea that I was actually going to get the chance to eat it though! This dish was OMG so good. The Crisped Pacific Oysters had a slight batter around them that was deliciously crispy and light and the oysters literally melted in my mouth. Even MS who again doesn’t appreciate the sheer delight that comes with eating seafood (yet) thought the oysters were delicious. The green tea noodles and the sesame and ginger caramel were the perfect accompaniment to this dish. It was another absolutely stunning course in NuNu‘s 5 course menu.
Right about now was when we moved onto the mains of the evening. Next up, our 4th course (or was it?) was the Local Line Caught Reef Fish with Ricotta Dumplings, Tomato Essence, Fennel, Crispy Sage and Lemon. The Red Throat Emperor was cooked perfectly as you would expect from such a notoriously good restaurant as NuNu. The portion size of the fish was not too little and not too big. Again, the fish melted in my mouth along with the small balls of cheesy Ricotta-y goodness. MS ate the lot so that says something for what he though of it. This dish was the perfect way to showcase the freshness of the Red Throat Emperor without marring the flavour. The accompaniments were not overpowering and allowed the subtle flavour of the fish to shine through.
By both our calculations the 5th course was next but for some reason I didn’t think that was it for our 5 course menu. Karen arrived with the Mushroom Poached Cape Grim Tenderloin, Jerusalem Artichoke, Assorted Fungi, Whipped Feta and Bacon Broth. MS nearly fell off his chair when she returned with a jug containing Bacon Broth to pour over the top of our Tenderloin offering over his water glass for Karen to fill up. Karen laughed at his joke but I think he was only half kidding. The Tenderloin was medium rare in the middle and so damn tender, in fact I think it was the most tender steak I have ever eaten in my life. The Bacon Broth was rich and hearty and we both slurped it up with the soup spoon that was provided, no doubt for that very reason. MS was in Carnivore Heaven with this dish and I think it’s safe to say that this was his favourite of the 5 course menu.
Much to our delight after clearing away our plates and finding amusement in MS’ new found love for Bacon Broth Karen bought us out a palate cleanser in the form of a small scoop of Rose Petal Sorbet. It was sweet and tangy and although the Rose Petal Sorbet was something unlike any Sorbet I have ever tasted before it was superb. If NuNu started selling this stuff at Coles tomorrow I would buy it by the tub. It was exquisite and just what we needed to cleanse our palate after our rich and hearty main.
Last but not least, our dessert emerged (that’s 6 courses, 8 dishes in total). It was Roast Banana Souffle with Coconut Caramel Sugar, Banana Twinkie and Coconut Sorbet. Wow. I was surprised by just how big the dessert was and the fact that we got one each! I love Banana Bread, Banana Cake, Banana Smoothies, etc, so this was always going to be a winner for me. The Roast Banana Souffle was light and eggy and the added touch of Coconut Caramel Sugar at the bottom of the Souffle made it all the more delicious. My absolute favourite had to be the Banana Twinkie, something we both agreed on. According to Karen this Banana themed dessert is the most popular dessert item on the menu at NuNu and with good reason. It was so damn good but because of the sheer amount of food that we had consumed both MS and I struggled to finish it.
The 5 course menu at NuNu is most certainly in my Top 10 most memorable dining experiences along with Hot Ramen at a Kiosk in Osaka, Freshly Shucked Oysters in the Gulf of Mexico (before the oil spill) and Peking Duck with all the theatrics in Beijing. By the end of our 5 course menu we were one of only two occupied tables in the restaurant since everyone else had finished up. We had been eating for just over two hours, arriving a little before 8pm and finishing up after 10pm. It honestly didn’t feel like we had been there for anywhere near that long! The service that we received from our waitress Karen was outstanding from the moment we walked into NuNu to the moment we left. Our water glasses were never empty, for each dish she gave us a run down of what it was as it was placed in front of us, she always had a friendly smile on her face and she even managed to get MS’ quirky sense of humour (a struggle for some). Her service was attentive without being intrusive on our intimate evening together. Dining at such a classy restaurant I was expecting very small portion sizes with an emphasis on presentation rather than content and even partly expected to be hungry at the end of the night. Man was I wrong. The portion sizes were perfect for each of the 5 (or 6) courses, not too little and not too big and like I said previously we were both stuffed by the end of it all. The 5 course menu for AU$95 represents amazing value for money since adding up each of the items equates to just over AU$300 if you order them individually from the Dinner Menu, plus this way you get to sample a bit of everything. Our evening at NuNu was a truly memorable one that I will never forget, not only for the food and the service but also for the company. Happy Anniversary baby x
123 Williams Esplanade, Palm Cove QLD 4879
Ph: (07) 4059 1880
Opening Hours: Mon – 11.30am till late, Tues – Closed, Wed – Fri 11.30am till late, Sat & Sun 8am till late
Last Sunday I attended a friend’s birthday brunch at Coco’s Restaurant at The Sebel in the city. I have long said that this particular buffet, though expensive, is the best in town. Alas this is no longer the case. I have observed the price rise of the buffet over the years from $40 odd dollars including alcohol to their current pricing ($58 per person without the drinks or $70 with the drinks). The buffet includes seafood (crab, prawns, bugs and oysters) as well as hot and cold dishes and the delectable dessert bar. The drinks package includes selected cocktails (margaritas, mango and strawberry daquiris), sparkling wine and soft drinks, although the alcohol content of the cocktails is questionable but with the amount of food that one normally eats at a buffet alcohol intoxication isn’t really a factor.
MS and I arrived at The Sebel, which is a beautiful hotel I might add. There was live music playing and while we waited in line to pay for our buffet we were offered a glass of champagne (whoops I mean sparkling wine). We both chose the $58 non-drinking package which didn’t seem to matter because the staff continued to top up my glass of sparkling wine long after I placed it down in front of me at the table. This was much to my detriment later on in the afternoon as I wasn’t feeling too great following my 4 or 5 glasses of sparkling. I certainly wasn’t complaining about the free refills at the time. MS and I sat down at the table, did the introductions and then waited the obligatory 56 seconds or so before we raced to the buffet. I went straight to the seafood while MS, well… who knows I wasn’t paying any attention because I was consumed with the pile of bugs and oysters in front of me. First things first, I know my seafood. Lets just say my parents have owned a seafood business since I was just a twinkle in their eye so I do know what I am talking about and if I don’t I just ask my dad. After dreaming about oysters since having the most amazing oysters of my life on Christmas Day (they were NZ oysters) I was finally going to get my fill of them again. Initially I was most disappointed with the size of the oysters. They were small. Tiny. Minute. Nothing compared to the delicious oysters that I had been fantasising about or had recently consumed. Size isn’t everything though. I piled a few oysters on my plate, grabbed two bug halfs, a handful of prawns (with tongs might I add) and took my seat at the table. I am all for oysters being small as long as they taste good but these didn’t. They didn’t taste nice. I don’t want to go on and on about the oysters but good, fresh seafood is so important! I asked one of the waiters where the oysters were from and he informed me they were from Tasmania. I’ll wrap up my oyster rant with this… It’s no wonder so many people don’t eat oysters because I wouldn’t either if I had only ever tried oysters that tasted like these ones. Now I’m going to move onto the bugs. The bugs were overcooked and tough. Not sweet and juicy like bugs should be. I wasn’t the only one that noticed the distasteful bugs. On a lighter note there were two types of prawns available at the buffet – tigers and endeavours – and these were delicious but for someone who had intended on dining on almost nothing but bugs and oysters at the buffet I was reduced to look elsewhere on the buffet for a feed after my disappointing seafood encounter.
Further down at the hot buffet station there was the usual breakfast fare… English Muffin Eggs Benedict (the eggs were runny mind you – HALLELUJAH), Bacon, Chipolatas, Frittata and Raspberry and White Chocolate Pancakes. Other dishes at the hot buffet station included Roast Lamb, Salmon, Chicken Laksa, Pork (with crackling), Steamed Vegetables and Soup. The Roast Lamb was amazing but then again isn’t all Roast Lamb amazing? I think I actually went back for thirds of the lamb. The pork was dry but then again, most pork is dry. That is really all I helped myself to at the Hot Buffet section and spent the rest of my time in the salad section eating things like the Mushroom, Goats Cheese and Red Onion Tart and the White Anchovies that someone had left just for me near the ‘make your own’ Caesar Salad’ section. I’m pretty sure the website calls this the ‘Sushi and Salad Bar’ but there was no Sushi there on this particular day much to my dismay.
Because it was a friends birthday there was birthday cake so I only had a tiny taste of the desserts that were on offer. The dessert display looks amazing and the pastry chef at Coco’s Restaurant really does know how to make some enticing desserts. Unfortunately I only managed to try the Coconut Pannacotta since the guilt of eating Chocolate Ganache birthday cake as well as Cheesecake, Frangipane Tart and other yummy desserts had caught up with me, along with the 3 or 4 plates of food I had already eaten and the disapproving looks from MS.
The last time I had Sunday brunch at The Sebel was almost a year ago and I found it to be a little disappointing then. When I say disappointing I mean everything other than the seafood was delicious however the seafood just isn’t up to the standard that it used to be so I hardly ate any this time around. But lets be honest here it’s really not worth paying a minimum of $58 if you are not going to eat the seafood. The service is fantastic and you never have an empty glass or a dirty plate in front of you and I guess the service is part of what you are paying with the hefty price tag. It seems to me that the standard of food at Coco’s Restaurant has taken a bit of a turn for the worse since Mirvac Hotels took over from the Cairns International Hotel and it then became The Sebel. It is important to note that they are serving Australian Seafood and not the imported crap but I’m still not feeling it. So in my opinion the Sunday Brunch buffet at Coco’s Restaurant is no longer the Best Seafood Buffet in Cairns and for now the title is up for grabs. Any takers?
17 Abbott St, Cairns QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 4050 2101
Opening Hours: Every Sunday 11.30am – 2.30pm
A few months ago AA and I met some friends for a couple of drinks at Wink II upstairs at the Mantra Esplanade. As we arrived a little earlier than expected our friends were still eating their main course of Slow Braised Beef Cheeks with Pumpkin and Brown Onion Puree, Garlic Mustard Seed Mashed Potato, Topped with Orange Roasted Carrots and Port Wine Red Sauce, which they insisted we try. Last week AA and I were contemplating just where to go for a ‘classy’ Friday night dinner with friends when I suggested Wink II. Both AA and I instantly recalled the Beef Cheeks that we had tasted on that memorable night a few months back and agreed that this was where we should go. On arrival at Wink II we were greeted by a friendly waitress who escorted us to a table for four that we had booked on the balcony. Most of the balcony was taken up by other diners however the restaurant did seem a little ‘unoccupied’ for 7.30pm on a Friday night. Water was poured and drinks were ordered, however this did take a little longer than usual as there seemed to be a little bit of confusion as to just which one of the four waitresses was actually in charge of our table. In the end it seemed that in fact all four were in charge of serving our table which was a little overkill as I would prefer just to have one waitress to deal with since it does help to personalise the whole overall dining out experience. Moving on….
At Wink II they have a set menu for dinner to choose from as well as an a-la-carte menu but since we noticed that a lot of the menu items that are on the a-la-carte menu are also availabe on the set menu we all opted for the two course set menu for $39.50 per person. Pretty damn good deal I think, plus the Beef Cheeks were featured of the list of available mains for the set menu so I was ‘in’. We ordered our entrees, mains and desserts in one hit and anxiously waited for our first meal to arrive however before our entrees came out we were each brought a ‘palate cleanser’ consisting of a morsel of Chicken and Avocado Puree beautifully presented on a white porcelain spoon. It was small, delectable and really set the mood for the entrees to come.
Impressing my friend PM with the elegant but somewhat minimalistic food at Wink II (as would be expected at a fine dining restaurant) was going to be a problem considering his rather impressive appetite at local buffets in and around town (I mean it, this guy can eat). However tonight was not about eating as much as you could eat, much to his dismay, but more about a chic dining experience with friends. PM ordered the Wink Oysters Kilpatrick style and since PM doesn’t tend to say a whole lot the fact that he gobbled all four oysters down in record time and then proceeded to eye everyone elses entrees goes to show that he certainly enjoyed his entree.
On my left AA ordered the Local Gazpacho with Avocado Mousse Drizzled with Smoked Oil and Crispy Crouton. On ordering the Gazpacho the waitress asked AA if he was aware that Gazpacho was actually cold soup. As I had expected, AA being a knowledgable friend with a plethora of both useless and useful information stored in his cranium, was fully aware of this. He enjoyed his cold Gazpacho very much and I do remember the words ‘Oh wow, this is really good’ escape from his mouth in between mouthfuls quite regularly.
To my right LL ordered the Stuffed Avocado with Spicy Creole Prawns and Pickled Watermelon, Carrot Ginger Puree and Wink Salad, which he was most pleased with. Enough so to declare that he had in fact ordered the best entree out of everyone at the table both prior to tasting our dishes and after.
I ordered the Lightly Curried Lemon Scented Goat Cheese Served with Crispy Crouton and Pickled Beetroot Puree and Salad, as I am ever the cheese lover and the description of the Pickled Beetroot Puree on the menu really sold me. The goats cheese was delicious and light, matched perfectly with the Crispy Crouton and the brightly coloured Pickled Beetroot Puree. It was a suberb entree and also a very good sized serve, not too little and not too big.
Before the arrival of our mains another palate cleanser was brought to our table but this time it was a shot glass with a small mouthful of Orange and Mango Sorbet. No one at the table was expecting these little palate cleansers but they were certainly a nice little surprise which everyone enjoyed very much.
For the mains PM, AA and myself finally got to fulfill our dreams and ordered the Slow Braised Beef Cheeks with Pumpkin and Brown Onion Puree, Garlic Mustard Seed Mashed Potato, Topped with Orange Roasted Carrots and Port Wine Red Sauce. The Beef Cheeks were just as good as we remembered except to our delight the serving size was larger than our friends had been a few months ago when we had sampled theirs. The Beef Cheeks were so tender that they melted in my mouth and the Pumpkin and Brown Onion Puree was heavenly and hearty. Beef Cheeks verdict = simply delicious!
LL ordered the Chargrilled Angus Rump with Crispy Potato Skins, Sour Cream and Red Wine Sauce and on tasting some of my Beef Cheeks declared ‘Your’s is really good but mine is better’. The steak was ‘amazing’ and cooked medium rare just as he had ordered it and although that should be a given at any restaurant anyone that dines out even once a year knows that steak cooked to order is hard to find.
One thing that must be noted is that when your food first arrives you notice that it really is like art on a plate. Head Chef Leon has truly and admirably mastered the skill of both aesthetically pleasing and delicious food. As the saying goes… ‘It’s almost too good to eat’. My friends and I really enjoyed our ‘classy’ dinner at Wink II and we were not let down by our mouth-watering memory of the Slow Braised Beef Cheeks. The palate cleansers that were bought out between courses was both a delightful and tantalising touch to our memorable Friday night meal.
53-57 The Esplanade, Cairns QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 4041 6346
Dinner Menu: 6pm – late Mon – Sat
I am currently attempting to trawl through the enormous amount of lunch specials that are on offer in Cairns during the week. Coco’s Restaurant at The Sebel (formerly the Cairns International Hotel) is one of those places, offering a three course lunch with a glass of wine for a mere $30 a head. Sounds too good to be true! I have dined at the Sebel many times over the years usually for their highly regarded Sunday Brunch, which is said to be one of the best in town. We chose The Sebel because it was pretty windy and cold outside so we went for a nice indoor setting and Coco’s Restaurant certainly provides that. We were greeted by a waitress who ushered us to our seats, right next to a couple dining in the restaurant. Since there was only four tables of two occupying the restaurant I thought it was bit strange to seat us all on top of each other. Maybe she was trying to plan ahead for the rush of people at lunch time? Alas, this was the not the case as no one else turned up.
The waitress handed us our menus and poured us a glass of water and a glass of Goodwyn Semillion Sauvignon Blanc. The wine wasn’t very nice but then again I’m not a big fan of semillion at the best of times. FW and I perused the menu and made a selection from three entrees, three mains and three desserts. We both commented that the menu was a little bit heavy for lunch especially one termed the “Business Lunch” with the assumption being that those business and executive types can come and have a three course lunch and go back and not fall asleep at their desk with a ridiculously full stomach. Still, we didn’t have to go to work after. For entree FW ordered the Sweet Potato, Kessler Bacon Arancini and Tomato Salsa with Rocket and Parmesan Salad. It looked delicious when it came out and FW said it was ‘nice’ and that’s all well and good but it seems that the chef forgot to put the tomato salsa on the plate.
I ordered the Tempura Soft Shell Crab with Fennel and Citrus Salad and Smoked Paprika Aioli. The crab was nice and crispy and it was delicious. I asked the waitress if she could find out where the crab was from and she looked at me like I was from another planet, tottered off into the kitchen and came back and said she couldn’t find the chef. Bit strange considering he was supposed to be in there preparing our mains. The fennel salad was tasty but consisted mostly of very woody endive leaves that I found difficult to eat. I would have preferred if it was just fennel and citrus as stated on the menu.
For main FW ordered the Vegetable and Tofu Spring Roll with Baby Bok Choy, Peanut Sauce and Steamed Rice. It seems the presentation for the meal took more effort than the actual preparation of the meal because the spring rolls certainly looked appetising but FW claimed they tasted horrible and ended up only eating the bok choy and the rice and leaving the spring rolls on the side.
For my main I ordered the Braised Lamb Shanks with Garlic Mash, Root Vegetables and Shiraz Jus. The entire meal was delicious and the mash was nice and creamy, the lamb shanks were just a little bit tough and didn’t quite fall off the bone. A little bit heavy for lunch but like I said I wasn’t working after our meal so no skin off my nose.
Now last but not least were the desserts, FW ordered the House Brie, Walnut Bread, Apple and Drunken Muscatel. This was by far her favourite dish of the three, it was simple yet effective (and yummy too). FW said she would have preferred more walnut bread as opposed to the assortment of water crackers but then anything with brie in it usually has FW’s seal of approval.
I chose the old favourite Sticky Date Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream. You really can’t go wrong with sticky date pudding. It was light and fluffy and there was a plethora of butterscotch sauce to mop it up with. Yum!
Business lunch at Coco’s Restaurant, would I go there again? Probably not, no. The food wasn’t very exciting nor special, with the desserts being the highlight of the three courses. The choices on the menu for the three courses could have been a bit more imaginative and also a bit lighter and on top of that the waitress was extremely disinterested but maybe she was just having a bad day. Sunday brunch at Coco’s Restaurant is pretty spectacular (for Cairns anyway) but the business lunch during the week is no more than mediocre at best.
The Sebel 17 Abbott St, Cairns
Ph: 1800 079 100
Opening Hours: 11.30am till 4pm daily
When you are in Darwin it is hard not to notice all the advertisements for the hugely popular Char Restaurant. I have walked past it many times as I have walked down the Darwin esplanade so I figured that its only fair that I give it a go. Char Restaurant has received many awards for their food, wine list and a range of other things. The most recent awards received from the Australian Hotel’s Association include the 2010 Best Steak Restaurant and 2010 Best Stand Alone Restaurant. My five acquaintances and I made a booking for Tuesday night and went along. It was surprisingly busy for a Tuesday night so it was lucky that we booked. The first thing you notice about Char, even if you are just walking past, is the atmosphere – it’s great. The lantern and tree filled grounds of the heritage listed Admiralty House provide the perfect backdrop for a special dinner.
On entry we were greeted with great enthusiasm by the maitre d, so much so that myself and MF turned to each and said “Wow, he was nice”. We were given a restaurant card with the booking name on it take to the bar area for the tab while while we waited for our friends to arrive. I had a glass of Stella Bella Sauvignon Blanc (WA) while MF had a Heineken. The wine list was quite comprehensive with the cheapest glass of wine being $13, I thought this was a bit steep. We sat on one of the comfy lounges under a large tree and drank our beverages while we waited. When our other friends arrived the attentive maitre d came over with menu’s in hand and asked if we would like to move to our table. On arrival at our table we took our seats and were introduced to our waiter for the evening who I found a little hard to understand but then again I am terrible with accents. The waiter was very knowledgeable with the menu and told us the specials for the evening without any prompting, something you would expect from an award-winning restaurant like Char. I have to admit the menu did sound delicious, particularly the items on the Jellyfish menu, however since I was at a steak restaurant that had won awards for its steak I decided I should probably have a steak. Again, we pretty much skipped the entrees apart from the bread which a few of us ordered. Char corn Rolls with Moo Jus Dipping Sauce, Pistachio Dukkah and Cold Pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil (AU$5). Sounds good huh? It was really just a bread roll with butter and sauce, it wasn’t even warm.
Everyone except one person at the table ordered the same thing and we pretty much chose that item as soon as we spotted it on the menu. Being squid lovers we chose the 250gm Scotch Fillet with Chilli salt squid, roast tomato, green olives and watercress salad (AU$35) while MF ordered the 200gm Eye Fillet with Potato Puree, Broad Bean, Crispy Prosciutto and Horseradish Cream (AU$37). The sauces were all extra ($AU5) and we all ordered the green peppercorn sauce while MG ordered the Red wine jus. I ordered a side of Roast beetroot, Goats Cheese and Orange with my steak (AU$8).
The meals came out very quickly and the first thing that my friends noted was the small portions on the plate. I wasn’t surprised since I do dine out quite regularly and it seems these days the more expensive the restaurant, the less food you get so I was expecting none the less from Char Restaurant . The steaks were cooked to order although I think mine may have been medium, rather than medium rare. I also noticed that the roast tomato was cold, not just ‘it had been left on the plate cold’ but more like ‘just been taken out of the fridge cold’. That was pretty disappointing, and the olives were well, nothing special and I think that olives from the deli section at the local supermarket may have tasted better than these ones. The scotch fillet was nice, not fantastic, and I have to admit that MF, who just happened to be sitting right next to me, actually frequently cooks the best steak I have ever had. The squid, albeit imported, was delicious and this was reiterrated from the other four that ordered the same meal as I did.
MF’s eye fillet looked delicious and tender and he said that it was cooked just right, he didn’t however like the horseradish cream that came with it and left that on the side.
Overall the atmosphere was great, the service was good and so was the food but nothing to write home about really. Char Restaurant? Meh.
Cnr The Esplanade and Knuckey St, Darwin NT 0800
Ph: (08) 8981 4544
Open: Mon-Sun 12.00pm-11pm
Oh how I am enjoying this whole writing about food journey that I have recently embarked on because it means that I can always have an excuse to go out for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner. Last Thursday was no different so a couple of my close friends and I went to Oliver’s Australian Fine Cuisine restaurant on Spence St in the city. Now this was actually my first time to Oliver’s, not so for my friend HH and I was informed by Oliver himself that the restaurant will have been open for five years this August. Like many of the restaurants in Cairns business is tough due to the the lack of tourist numbers and locals dining out but hey we were there.
The restaurant was fairly empty with only about five tables occupied this evening. The service was spot on with the waitress pouring our glasses of water and taking our drink orders (we ordered a bottle of champagne). Oliver bought over some bread with eggplant dip to get our appetites going and then recommended a few dishes for entree that we might like to try. The entrees came out in good time and we weren’t waiting too long, which was a nice change from some of the restaurants I have been to lately. I ordered the ‘Queensland Sea Scallops, Green Mango and Sesame Seed Ceviche with Wakame Tempura and Passion Fruit Foam’. I think this is the first time that I have actually had foam on my food. Yes I have heard about it and read about it and all that but again this is the first time I have actually tried it. I quite liked it. It made for great presentation and it tasted good too. The three of us shared the three scallops on the plate and we certainly enjoyed them.
For our second entree we chose the ‘Sautéed Tiger Prawns, Cashew Nuts and Crunchy Vegetables served with Prawn Crackers and Garlic Creamy Sauce’. When it came out I have to say that it wasn’t what I was expecting both in size and presentation. I guess it was just a little disappointing compared to the scallops which looked fantastic. It was a great tasting dish but the tiger prawns were chopped up and not exactly plentiful.
The last entree was recommended by Oliver and also something a bit different to what I would normally order. Oliver recommended the ‘Macadamia Nut Crumbed Pig Trotters Salad with Glazed Beetroot, Tasmanian Double Brie and Dijon Mustard dressing’. It was quite a big serve and looked great despite my crappy photography but it certainly didn’t look like pig trotters. The trotters were crumbed as described on the menu and they were juicy and tender but maybe a little bit too fatty for my liking.
We finished our entrees, ordered another bottle of champagne and this time asked Oliver for some recommendations for our main. HH said that he wanted something juicy and meaty (typical male) while I said that I would like a fish dish. Our other dining companion TH decided she had eaten too much and stuck with the champagne. Oliver ordered HH the ‘Slowly Roast Lamb Back Strap in Thai Basil Crust, Steer Fried Green Vegetables, Kaffir Lime Sauce and Fluffy Pumpkin Puree’. The lamb was rare in the middle (the way it should be) and the crust was beautiful and crunchy. Now I have to say the fluffy pumpkin puree was divine and so damn tasty I could have drunk it straight out of the gravy boat that it was served in.
Oliver ordered me the ‘Steamed Salmon Stuffed with Shitake Mushrooms and Wrapped in Seaweed Sheet served with Lemongrass Broth and Wasabi Butter Sauce’. The presentation was really pretty special and the piece of salmon looked enormous to me. Now I have to say this is one of the best salmon dishes I have ever eaten. So many places I have been to have overcooked salmon and its so disappointing when a lovely piece of fish is wrecked by bad cooking, however this salmon fillet was fantastic. It literally melted in my mouth and I think my friends actually had food envy when they tasted it. The seaweed sheet with the zucchini wrapped around it on the outside of the salmon was also delicious and again I would go back to Oliver’s just for this dish. It really was something else!
After all this food we were pretty much stuffed and I really couldn’t fit anything else in but of course HH insisted that we try some dessert, so Oliver suggested that we try the tasting platter of desserts then we could try a bit of everything. The David Bres’ assortment of desserts came out with four small desserts each occupying a corner of the platter. The desserts included Vanilla Mousse and Crepes Layered Cake, Raspberry and Rosella Flower Coulis, Davidson Plum Tart with Caramelised Meringue with Pistachio Short Bread, Mareeba Fruit Salad with Red Wine-Balsamic Vinegar Syrup, Honey Ice Cream and Wattle Seed Crostini and Chocolate and Mango Delight: Coco Pops Biscuit, Chocolate Mousse, Mango Sorbet and Marmalade, Bitter Cocoa Waffles (P.S: David Bres’ is the head chef). Again the presentation was really something and I almost didn’t want to touch it, still it didn’t take long till we dug in. Oliver informed us that his chef was the only one in Cairns that could make ‘caviar’ out of dessert ingredients. These were sprinkled on the Vanilla Mousse and Crepes Layered Cake and although they didn’t really taste like anything they looked great. Without rambling on too much the desserts were great and even TH decided she could fit some in and bypass the champagne for a little bit.
So the verdict for Oliver’s… Great cosy, little restaurant, the food was very good, the service was exemplary and the personal touch and recommendations provided by Oliver on the night really made it a memorable dinner.
Oliver’s Australian Fine Cuisine
Located on the Cnr of Spence and Abbott St, Cairns
Ph: (07) 40 411221
Opening Hours: Wed – Mon from 6pm (closed Tues)