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Eating Ourselves Stupid in Tasmania – East Coast

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Continuing on from my last post where I rambled about wine and cheese platters in the Tamar Valley the next day we were leaving Launceston bound for Swansea. Being a Saturday I was well aware that one of the biggest and best markets in the country, the Salamanca Markets, was on in Hobart but alas we were a couple of hundred km’s away. I tried to plan our initial itinerary around being in Hobart on that very day but logistics just didn’t allow for it so instead we found ourselves at the Harvest Markets in Launceston.

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I’ll admit that I wasn’t expecting much but I was actually pleasantly surprised by the size of the markets and the variety. I mean it was no Salamanca Markets that’s for sure – Salamanca Markets has over 300 stall holders while the Harvest Market in Launceston probably had about 30 but you know what they say ‘size doesn’t matter’. The Harvest Market is held in a carpark in the heart of Launceston every Saturday from 8.30am – 12.30pm. Awarded the Most Outstanding Farmers Market by ABC Delicious Magazine in 2013 it brings the farm gate to you and after my visit I can highly recommend it.

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When we arrived it seemed like the majority of Launceston was there for a look and to sample some of the local delights. There’s artisan bread, wine, cider, cheese, preserved, fresh fruit and vege, seafood, meat, coffee and also a handful of food trucks serving everything from gozlemes to waffles to Reuben sandwiches. Typically MS and I just couldn’t go past the stall selling Reuben sandwiches so aptly called ‘Meat Bread Cheese’.

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It seems many other people attending had the same idea because they had quite a following of people also keen to have a Reuben. MS and I shared their apparently famous Reuben sandwich with Pastrami, Swiss Cheese, Russian Dressing and Sauerkraut on Fresh Rye for those of you that don’t know what a Reuben is (you should be ashamed of yourself). It was a fantastic Reuben and probably the best I’ve had but that will most likely change when I go to Katz Deli in New York for THE Reuben in a couple of months time.

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When we first walked into the markets I spied a stall selling fresh blackberries that was doing an absolute roaring trade. A few stalls over I also spied another stall selling blackberries but with no one buying them. Ever the bleeding heart – I still have pangs of guilt about not buying a piece of fruit cake from an old man trying to sell fruit cake at the weekend markets in Broome over three years ago – I went over and bought a punnet of blackberries from this couple for about $5. Turns out no one was buying their berries because they weren’t very friendly and their blackberries were that sour that we couldn’t even eat them. Anyways we bought a gozleme for the road and jumped in the car headed for Swansea.

The berry stall I should have gone to

The berry stall I should have gone to

The road to Swansea was winding and littered with dead wildlife – I have seriously never seen so much roadkill as I have in Tasmania, it’s a little sad. MS thought it would be a fantastic road to travel on his GSXR and even fantasised about moving to Tasmania just so he could explore new roads at high speeds (and no I do not condone speeding). We were overtaken by a convoy of classic cars and premium sports car prompting an argument about which car we would rather own. In the end the silver Aston Martin won out for me whilst MS refused to go past the 1972 Ford Falcon XY GT.  Come on the two don’t even compare!

We were staying at a cosy little BnB in Swansea that night but we weren’t due to check in till later that afternoon so in the meantime we stopped off at the Bark Mill Tavern and Bakery for a bite to eat because god forbid we had been a good hour and a half without food. I ordered a Curried Scallop pie while MS got a sausage roll and a Steak and Bacon pie. I’ve only ever eaten three scallop pies in my lifetime – in Hobart back in 2009, Bairnsdale in 2002 and this one in Swansea. It wasn’t amazing with no more than 5 or 6 scallops inside but given that it was in fact a scallop pie it automatically gets a few extra points.

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Scallops should only ever be served with their roe on

We jumped back in the car and headed off towards Coles Bay and the Freycinet National Park because I had a mission to eat oysters at the Freycinet Marine Farm. Due to my awesome navigating skills and MS’ lack of sign reading ability (someone navigating for you does not take away from your responsibility to pay attention to any and all signs on your journey) we ended up driving straight past the oyster farm and into Coles Bay. It wasn’t a major drama since we had planned on heading there to get some photos of The Hazards before heading back to Swansea. We parked down at the boat ramp and the place was packed with boaties either launching or recovering their boats after a morning of fishing. By the looks of the boats and the 4WD’s towing them there was certainly a bit of money in the area.

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Beyond the boat ramp though were the spectacular Hazards – rugged mountains that separate Wineglass Bay from Coles Bay. It was a stunning view.  The whole area is just so pristine and beautiful I would love to spend a bit more time there and do the hike up to the Wineglass Bay lookout one day – just not this day.  One things for sure I will be coming back to spend a night or two at Saffire Freycinet – when I win the lotto.

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There was a nice French man fishing off the pontoon and I asked him if I could get a photo of him fishing. He happily obliged as long as I was happy to send the photos to his email address because he said he didn’t have any photos of himself fishing. I put his email address into my phone and sent the photos to him later that evening only to have them bounce back. I tried a few different alternatives to the email he had given me but with no luck. If you are reading this nice French man I am sorry you didn’t receive the photos but I really did try to send them.  I’m a woman of my word!

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The nice French man (if anyone recognises him tell him to PM me)

About 20 minutes later we found ourselves at the Freycinet Marine Farm which was pretty much exactly what the reviews on Trip Advisor had said – a shack in the middle of nowhere. Still we weren’t there for the view we were there for the oysters (well I was anyway). Despite being in the middle of nowhere they were doing a roaring trade with a few actual meals on the

specials board as well as some variations of oysters, mussels and crayfish.

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I ordered a dozen of the natural jumbo sized oysters and a half dozen of the Kilpatrick simply because I’m a glutton plus a glass of Sauvignon Blanc to wash it all down. Despite my desperate pleas for MS to order something he stuck to his guns and instead watched me eat my mollusc delights. The jumbo oysters ($20 for a dozen) were excellent – big and meaty however the Kilpatrick were pretty damn ordinary but personally I’m the kind of person that doesn’t really believe in dressing up oysters, they taste great just the way they are.  Yeah that kind of defeats the purpose of me ordering them I guess.

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Later that afternoon we found ourselves checking into our bnb in Swansea followed by a little afternoon nap. The Freycinet Waters bnb building was a lovely former post office with plenty of character and friendly owners to boot. We spent the afternoon snoozing with the free wifi and the tennis on in the background before heading across the road for some ciders overlooking the Great Oyster Bay on the balcony of local restaurant Salt Shaker.

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That evening at the Salt Shaker restaurant we dined on Seafood Chowder, Calamari and Chicken Parmigiana (not me).  The Calamari was pretty ordinary especially for the price and so was the Chicken Parmi.  I had been longing for Seafood Chowder since arriving in Tasmania and this one was excellent despite the hair that I found in it…  We totted off back to our room at the bnb finishing the night with a tipple of port supplied by our hosts and dreams of Scallop Pies and fresh shucked oysters (me) and MS most likely his other girlfriend (his motorbike).

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Stay tuned for my final post as we head back to Hobart xox

Eating Ourselves Stupid in Tasmania – Launceston

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After our brief adventures in Hobart we headed north to Launceston in our little white ASX fuelled by fresh apricots, cherries the size of a baby’s fist and ginger fudge also from Tasmania.  Apparently MS doesn’t like fudge but that didn’t stop him from eating most of it the fatty.  We arrived in Launceston at about 7.30 in the evening and after checking into our cheap and cheerful hotel the Balmoral on York I found myself googling places to go for dinner.  Ever the organiser I usually have a comprehensive list of places that I want to go for breakfast, lunch, dinner and even just a bite to eat at but in Launceston I have to admit I was really stumped.  In all honesty I wanted to come to Launceston for the wineries and the gorge and that’s it.

Stillwater had been recommended to me by a few of my readers but after our dinner the night before both MS and I were looking forward to a meal that didn’t involve someone refilling our water every 10 minutes and describing each dish in exquisite detail as it was placed in front of us.  Black Bow Bistro was booked out so after reading some ‘decent’ reviews online we headed to Cataract on Paterson. I don’t need to say a whole lot about Cataract on Paterson other than that it was probably the worst meal that we had on our short stay in Tasmania.  I asked for the chowder that I had seen online but according to the girl that was on their old menu that had literally only just changed a few days prior to our visit.  The service was terrible, the food was ordinary, the wait for the food was lengthy and it took over 20 minutes before we received our drinks.  Couple that with the fact that they have just introduced the unique Stone Grill cooking method.  You know the one where you cook your own meat on the hot rock?  I’m sorry but that was just so 10 years ago (remember the Fermented Grape days?)   I learned my lesson. Be more prepared and since when do I ever trust Trip Advisor anyway?

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My scallop dish with white bean puree was actually alright but not good enough to detract from the long list of things that weren’t right that night

The next day was Tamar Valley wine route day.  We started off with a light breakfast at some random breakfast place in the middle of Launceston.  I had begged and pleaded with MS to go to much hyped vegetarian café ‘Fresh on Charles’ but he downright refused it because there was no bacon.  Apparently we were spending the day doing stuff that I wanted to do (visiting vineyards) so the least I could do is choose somewhere that had bacon for him.  Sigh.

As a little detour before our wine tour and with me playing tour guide we took the ‘steep hikers walk’ up to Cataract Gorge only realising when we got there that there was actually a flat, concreted walk on the other side that would have been far easier.  And here’s me wondering why there were women in full Lorna Jane getup huffing and puffing their way past us while I’m climbing mountains of stairs around in a tiny skater dress and ballet flats.  And then to make matters worse we realised there was indeed a car park that took you right up to Cataract Gorge and we needn’t have walked at all.

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Behold the beauty of Cataract Gorge

There was plenty of locals sunning themselves at the gorge and taking advantage of the glorious day as well as a few Chinese tourists running around with their now all too common selfie sticks.  MS and I paid $12 each to take the chair lift from one side of the Gorge to the other with me worrying about the possibility of dropping my shoes in the water the entire way over.  We finally made it back to the car (on the flat walk this time) and continued on to the Tamar Wine Route.  Where’s the food you say?  Yes, yes, I’m getting to it.  Haven’t you heard of a preamble?

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Hang onto your shoes kids

There are over 30 wineries in the Tamar Valley so the night before I had a look over each and every one and decided which ones I wanted to go to. First up we headed to Moores Hill Winery which was about a 25 minute drive from the heart of Launceston – after a brief detour to Beaconsfield to see the mine and get a sausage roll for sustenance from the local bakery.  “Enjoy the vineyard views from the verandah and try and Tasmanian tasting plate” said the Moores Hill Winery website.  That’s it I didn’t need to read anymore.

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As we pulled up at the vineyard I realised we were the only ones there which meant we had the place all to ourselves – though this didn’t last long.  There was a lovely lady whose name I can’t remember for the life of me that ran us (mostly me) through the wine tasting – starting with the sparkling, onto the whites, the reds and finally finishing with a taste of the CGR Late Harvest Riesling which was my pick of the bunch (MS preferred the NV Sparkling).  Because of the cooler climate Pinot noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are the mostly commonly produced wines in Tasmania.

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MS and chose a glass of our favourite drop from the tastings and kicked back on the veranda overlooking the vineyard with a cheese and meat platter to share.

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Not bad for $25

We got to meet the gorgeous neighbourhood hound Otto – I mean neighbourhood because according to local legend he often turns up at more than just one vineyard throughout the day.  (I may or may not have fed him cheese).

I'm more of a cat person but how could you not love this beautiful dog?

I’m more of a cat person but how could you not love this beautiful dog?

Halfway through our wine and blissful cheese platter another couple arrived for a wine tasting.  The woman had obviously had a little too much to drink at previously wineries and was very loud and annoying.  Maybe it was her Mickey Mouse trackpants or her Adelaide Churchgoers 2012 t-shirt or maybe it was just the fact that she just couldn’t pick up on our ‘please go away and let us enjoy our wine and cheese platter’ cues but she was a real pain the ass and I felt sorry for the lady behind the counter that was stuck with her and her husband when we left. Due to the ridiculous 7kg baggage limit we didn’t buy any wine to take home with us but I haven’t forgotten my promise, nor my desire to buy some of the Moores Hill wines online.

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After Moores Hill I had every intention on going to the Goaty Hill Winery down the road but time was getting away from us and those wine tastings had started to go to my head so we skipped Goaty Hill and headed to the Bay of Fires Winery.  Across the Batman Bridge and about thirty minutes up the road we found ourselves lining up for some wine tastings at the Bay of Fires Winery.  Before I go any further it goes without saying that that MS (my designated driver for the day) despite having a few wine tastings is a very responsible driver and at no point would he risk going over 0.05.

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We tasted most of the wines at the Bay of Fires winery and I wasn’t particularly taken with any of them to be honest.  The only reason that I wanted to go there was because I liked the name but it turns out that the Bay of Fires is actually no where near this winery and is actually about 170km away.  Good marketing ploy though.  I chose a glass of pinot noir to go with the Tasting Platter and we sat out on the patio eating cheese, beetroot relish and quail legs – something we both decided that we didn’t like.  The Tasting Platter was a little extravagant for two people but hey we were on holidays and technically this was lunch.  Plus it had plenty of blue cheese to keep me happy and plenty of non blue cheese to keep MS happy.

Tasmanian Tasting Plate - Two Tasmanian Cheeses, Smoked Quail, Chorizo, Blue Banner Pickled Onions, Wursthaus Terrine, Coal River Olives, Bills Beetroot Marmalade served with Sourdough for $40

Tasmanian Tasting Plate – Two Tasmanian Cheeses, Smoked Quail, Chorizo, Blue Banner Pickled Onions, Wursthaus Terrine, Coal River Olives, Bills Beetroot Marmalade served with Sourdough for $40

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I've certainly had worse days than this...

I’ve certainly had worse days than this…

On the way home we stopped at one of the many fruit farms that we had seen along the way to pick up some cherries and of course some more fudge.  Unfortunately the fruit farm that we stopped at had sold out of XXL cherries so we had to settle for the XL cherries, poor us.  These things were just enormous and so sweet and fleshy I would probably say they are the best cherries I have ever eaten.

The photo just doesn't do it justice but my hands are tiny

The photo just doesn’t do it justice but my hands are tiny

Upon returning to our humble abode at the Balmoral On York we promptly fell into a food coma for the rest of the afternoon.  Yes our day of wineries turned into only two wineries – complete amateurs compared to much of you wino’s I’m sure but any more and I would probably be passed out cold in the shower for the rest of the evening.  Dinner for us that night was fairly low key and we opted for some fish and chips overlooking the Tamar River with a glass of locally made Pagan Cider it was super romantic especially with the Bunnings Warehouse looming in the background.

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If you’re heading to the Tamar Wine Route I would definitely recommend a stop at Moores Hill Winery.  The Bay of Fires was great but we both preferred the wines, the outlook and the warm hospitality at Moores Hill. Stay tuned for the next instalment of my Tassie adventure featuring the Freycinet National Park, Swansea and of course the Oyster Farm x

Eating Ourselves Stupid in Tasmania – Hobart (Part 1)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Huon Valley Pinot, don't mind if I do

Huon Valley Pinot, don’t mind if I do

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.

Egg, Asparagus, Kombu, Magentaspreen and Chickweed (the reason it doesn't look like much is because I took this photo after I had already eaten some, whoops)

Egg, Asparagus, Kombu, Magentaspreen and Chickweed (the reason it doesn’t look like much is because I took this photo after I had already eaten some, whoops)

Bonito, Spring Onion, Apple and Lime

Bonito, Spring Onion, Apple and Lime

Bruny Island Goat with Smoked Eggplant, Beetroot and Cucumber

Bruny Island Goat with Smoked Eggplant, Beetroot and Cucumber

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.

Housemade butter that takes a week to make with red sauerkraut salt

House made butter that takes a week to make with red sauerkraut salt

That delicious home made sour dough with butter that took a week to make sprinkled with red sauerkraut salt

Homemade sour dough bread slathered in that homemade butter

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.

Random Hobart backstreets on our way to Ginger Brown

Random Hobart backstreets on our way to Ginger Brown but look at that Mt Wellington back drop!

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).

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Red wine braised beef cheek omelette with sweet chilli, avocado, fried shallots and bean shoots (with a side of bacon).  This photo just doesn’t do it justice.

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.

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House baked crumpets with whipped vanilla bean butter, caramelised nectarines and honey. Pretty sure that’s the perfect breakfast right there.

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.

One of the more controversial exhibits at MONA... 'The wall of vaginas' which features over 70 real plaster vaginas

One of the more controversial exhibits at MONA… ‘The wall of vaginas’ which features over 70 real plaster vaginas

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.

This photo doesn't really capture how sweet a** this place actually is but you get the gist

This photo doesn’t really capture how sweet a** this place actually is but you get the gist

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’.

My morning tea of Shropshire Blue Cheese (not from Tassie) with Lavosh, Quince Paste and Fig (AU$10).  Don't you wish all morning teas were like this?

My morning tea of Shropshire Blue Cheese (not from Tassie) with Lavosh, Quince Paste and Fig (AU$10). Don’t you wish all morning teas were like this?

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.

IMG_6540The 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.

Woodbridge cold smoked trout, labneh, sourdough and lemon (AU$18)

Woodbridge cold smoked trout, labneh, sourdough and lemon (AU$18)

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.

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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

Vivo Bar and Grill, Palm Cove

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A few days ago it was a good friend of mine’s birthday but because of some boy problems she was too upset on her birthday to do anything the poor love – she even turned down Thai takeaway at a picnic table on the Esplanade.  Yesterday much to my delight she was feeling a bit better and up for a belated birthday dinner.  After seeing a mention of a Weekly Set Menu out at Vivo in Palm Cove I decided we should give it a go and made a booking for three people for 7pm.  As self-appointed designated driver for one friend for the evening two of us arrived together on-time while the birthday girl arrived about ten minutes later.

Greetings and salutations were made along with some random chit-chat and an interim entrée of Garlic Ciabatta and we got down to business having a look over the Weekly Set Menu.  Having already viewed it online and deciding exactly what I was going to have (I had my heart set on Salmon Tataki) I was slightly disappointed to see that the online menu was different than the one we were presented.  With three choices each (one vegetarian) for the entrée, main and dessert the ‘new’ weekly set menu options I had were just as good if not better than what I had seen.  Although the three course menu sounded delish we all decided on the 2 course menu with a glass of Cape Mentelle Sauvignon Blanc because there was birthday cake lovingly made my moi.

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First up for our entrée LL and I ordered the Barramundi Croquettes with Smoked Capsicum Coulis, Basil Pesto and a Watercress/Radish Salad.  The panko crumbed croquettes were deliciously crunchy on the outside and soft and flavoursome on the inside.  The serving size was much larger than both of us were expecting for an entrée.  The Smoked Capsicum Coulis was flavoursome but not too overpowering and the radishes added a nice extra ‘organic’ crunch to the dish although I did notice that LL left his radish to the side.  Typical male.

Entrée - Panko Crumbed Barramundi Croquettes, Smoked Capsicum Coulis, Basil Pesto, Watercress and Radish Salad

Entrée – Panko Crumbed Barramundi Croquettes, Smoked Capsicum Coulis, Basil Pesto, Watercress and Radish Salad

On my right ST ordered the Thai Beef Salad with Roasted Veal Backstrap, Nam Jim Dressing, Crispy Shallots and Fried Wonton Skins.  ST thought that her entrée was delish although she said she wasn’t sold on the beef (probably because it was actually veal).  Again her entrée was a very decent serving size and ST said she would D.E.F.I.N.I.T.E.L.Y order it again.

Entrée - Thai Beef Salad with Medium Roasted Veal Back Strap, Cucumber, Fresh Herbs, Nam Jim Dressing, Crispy Shallots and Fried Wonton Skins

Entrée – Thai Beef Salad with Medium Roasted Veal Back Strap, Cucumber, Fresh Herbs, Nam Jim Dressing, Crispy Shallots and Fried Wonton Skins

Next up came our mains… although the other two dishes sounded inviting I simply couldn’t go past the Calamari Risotto with Squid Ink, Sautéed Calamari (local Calamari might I add), Garlic, Cherry Tomatoes, Spinach, Red Onion, Pecorino, Lobster Foam and Micro Herbs.  Sheesh – how’s that for a main?  This dish was quite large and I actually struggled to eat it.  Would it be bad if I said that my favourite part was actually the pecorino?  That stuff is just devilishly good and really they could have served me the entire block all on its own and I would have been beyond satisfied but the risotto was also quite lovely.

Main - Calamari Risotto with Squid Ink Arborio Rice, Sauteed Calamari, Garlic, Cherru, Tomato, Spinach, Red Onion, Pecorino, Lobster Foam and Micro Herbs

Main – Calamari Risotto with Squid Ink Arborio Rice, Sauteed Calamari, Garlic, Cherru, Tomato, Spinach, Red Onion, Pecorino, Lobster Foam and Micro Herbs

On either side of me both LL and ST had selected the Lamb Kalamaki, or Greek Style Marinated Lamb Skewers for those of you like me who have no idea what that is, with Tomato and Quinoa Tabouli, Almond Skordalia, Grilled Pita and Garlic Yogurt.  It seems I made a good choice for her birthday because ST raved about her main.  She even went as far as saying it was the best dish she had eaten out in quite a while and how come the Quinoa that she made never tasted like that?  Well if her Quinoa ends up anything like mine (bubbling all over the stove) then I’m not surprised.  LL agreed with ST and said that it was the best Lamb Kalamaki he’d had in a long time.  Great success!

Main - Lamb Kalamaki - Greek Style Marinated Lamb Skewers, Tomato/Quinoa Tabouli, Almond Skordalia, Grilled Pita and Garlic Yogurt

Main – Lamb Kalamaki – Greek Style Marinated Lamb Skewers, Tomato/Quinoa Tabouli, Almond Skordalia, Grilled Pita and Garlic Yogurt

So finally after it was all said and done the waiter bought out the Coconut Cake with Lime Icing and Pop Rocks and sparklers to boot (note to readers: Pop Rocks wait for no one and pop upon immediate application to the icing).  ST was delighted at having a homemade cake as a chorus of Happy Birthday erupted around her.  I have never really had a great deal of luck with baked goods in the past.  According to my entire family I am super crap at making cakes.  I made a pretty ordinary cake for my dad’s birthday back in 2010 and the assholes have never let me forget it.  And let’s not forget the all out family war I started with my extended family in Melbourne because I got angry at my cousin on Facebook after I found out his mum (my aunty) was baking her own birthday cake.  SERIOUSLY???!!!  So before tucking in I warned my two dining companions that the cake probably looked a lot better than it tasted and that in itself wasn’t great.  Much to my delight it turns out I was onto a winner with my coconut/pop rocks cake and ST took the leftover 3/4’s home with her to devour later on.

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So there you have it… Our two course meal at Vivo which was an absolute steal for only AU$39 per person including a glass of Cape Mentelle Sauvignon Blanc or Shiraz (AU$49 for three courses plus wine).  The service from our lovely waiter was attentive but not obtrusive.  The wait period between meals was spot on and all meals arrived together  with no one left waiting.  Breakfast, lunch or dinner any day of the week you can certainly count on a crowd but this still doesn’t take away from the laid back tropical atmosphere that Vivo has to offer.  Vivo Bar and Grill is one of Cairns’ and the surrounding areas very few ‘bankable’ restaurants and one of the best in Palm Cove.  I have eaten there many times and never been disappointed with the food or the service, the atmosphere and stunning beach front location is just a bonus.

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What’s your all time best foodie experiences?

After over 150 posts of me talking about myself I want to hear about you!  I want to hear the all time best foodie experiences of you guys – my foodvixen readers.  It doesn’t have to be fancy and it certainly doesn’t have to be expensive – the best meals are often the cheapest meals! For me food is all about the experience – who you dined with, where you dined or what you ate.  It doesn’t have to be overseas, it could be a memorable picnic on the Cairns Esplanade or fish and chips at Palm Cove… Whatever is it I want to hear about it!  For those of you that have followed my blog some of you might remember me recounting my top foodie experiences in previous posts but for those of you that missed it, I’ll recount one more time in the hope of unlocking some of your top foodie experiences.

1.  Peking Duck in Beijing – I travelled to China for the first time in 2006 and as part of the tour we were on my family and I ended up at a restaurant in the heart of Beijing.  I had never had Peking Duck before – the world famous dish that actually originates from Beijing and was first prepared during the Imperial era – nor did I know what it entailed.  The duck was sliced in front of our table by the chef and then the waitresses showed us how to eat it with spring onions, cucumber, sweet bean sauce all wrapped up in a little pancake.  The thin and crispy skin of the duck was out of this world and to this day I still dream about returning to Beijing to eat their amazing Peking Duck.

A Peking Duck Chef doing his thing in Beijing

A Peking Duck Chef doing his thing in Beijing

2.  Oysters in Florida – Before the big oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico – 2004 to be exact.  My family and I did an RV tour of the USA and we stopped in at the Eastpoint Oyster House in Florida for some fresh seafood.  There is nothing my family loves more than fresh seafood – apart from my sister who only just discovered wine (yes she hasn’t quite grown up yet).  We bought 12 dozen oysters to eat between three of us – me, mum and dad.  The oysters were only US$3.99 a dozen if you shucked them yourself.  Having owned a seafood factory for many years my dad was and still is no stranger to shucking oysters.  He would also tell you he once won a prawn peeling competition against the prawning peeling ladies that worked at his factory.  What he won’t tell you is that he cheated and those ladies should have beat him hands down.  Anyway we sat out of the front of the Eastpoint Oyster House on a rickety old table overlooking the Apalachicola Bay, surrounded by mountains of discarded old oyster shells and ate dozens of Apalachicola Bay oysters straight from the shell with savoury biscuits, hot sauce and lemon.  Absolute bliss.

This is the best I could do photo wise so you're going to have to use your imagination but check out those prices!

This is the best I could do photo wise so you’re going to have to use your imagination but check out those prices!

3. Chicken Biryani in Colombo – I travelled to my mother’s birth country in 2011 where I did a three week Intrepid tour with my cousin.  The first day that we arrived in Sri Lanka we found ourselves at a rundown little restaurant on the main strip not far down from the famous Galle Face Hotel.  We had no idea what to order so we pointed to what everyone else was having which turned out to be the best Chicken Biryani of my life for all of about 200 rupees (about AU$2).  Although I was the only female in there the owner made us both feel very welcome, in fact he was beside himself with excitement at having some Australian tourists dine at his humble roadside restaurant.  It was the perfect beginning to what was an amazing 3 week adventure in Sri Lanka.

For those of you that ever travel to Colombo - no idea what it was called but that's it under the EGB sign

For those of you that ever travel to Colombo – no idea what it was called but that’s it under the EGB sign

Sometimes the best restaurants are the dodgiest ones

Sometimes the best restaurants are the dodgiest ones

The BEST Chicken Biryani of my life

The BEST Chicken Biryani of my life

I couldn't resist putting in a picture of the happy owner - he's just happy because he gets to eat that Biryani everyday

I couldn’t resist putting in a picture of the happy owner – he’s just happy because he gets to eat that Biryani everyday

4.  Stand up noodles in Osaka – Tachigui soba is a fast food that is unique to Japan and literally means ‘standing up eating’ soba noodles.  I first travelled to Japan in 2009 where my friends and I stumbled upon a tiny Tachigui soba bar in the Osaka suburb of Fukushima (no not that Fukushima).  The four of us crammed into the noodle bar on a cold and wet day and slurped our steaming hot bowls of noodles with a couple of friendly Japanese business men who found it all highly amusing.  It was my first introduction to stand-up noodles and I made sure that I returned to this very place in my most recent trip to Japan in November last year.

Who could resist steaming hot soba noodles served by this lovely lady?

Who could resist steaming hot soba noodles served by this lovely lady?

Others moments worth a mention are gobbling up cherries the size of a baby’s fist at the Salamanca Markets in Hobart, baby back ribs in a dingy bar in Nashville, a birthday picnic organised by my love MS and courtesy of Davy at Mama Coco at Lake Eacham, a 10 course degustation atop the Rialto in Melbourne at Vue De Monde also with my love, xiao long bao amongst Chinese breakfast-goers in Shanghai and fish and chips on Bondi Beach in Sydney.  I could go on forever here because I have had some truly memorable foodie moments in my travels.  As you can tell I love food and I love travel but this was only supposed to be a relatively short post.  Now it’s over to you x

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

I just wanted to take a moment to wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!  2014 has been a huge year for foodvixen and I look forward to bringing you plenty more in 2015.  Thank you to everyone for your support, comments and feedback.  May your Christmas Day be filled with free flowing glasses of champas, Mango Daiquiri’s, cooked prawns, Baked Ham and never ending bowls of pudding!

xmas

The Rising Sun, Palm Cove

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A couple of weekends ago I put up a post on my Facebook page not long ago asking for suggestions for a birthday breakfast out at the beaches – my birthday breakfast in fact. I received numerous suggestions from my followers and despite what the majority said I ended up booking a table at The Rising Sun at Palm Cove. I figured I had an Entertainment Book voucher and I enjoyed dinner there (mostly) a couple of years ago so it was worth a try right? I made a booking for 6 people and we met out at Palm Cove early one Sunday morning. When we turned up we were the only people in the restaurant bar one other occupied table – a couple of what looked like tourists. I found this a little strange considering everywhere else I passed on the way in seemed to be quite busy, especially the Chill Cafe which was almost spilling over it was that full.  Couple that with the stunning weather that day and by all my calculations The Rising Sun should have had far more people dining there.  I briefly considered going to the Chill Café or Vivo down the road but I figured we were here now and I’d already made a booking.

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Half of my family were already there when I arrived however two were running about 10-15 minutes late. The waitress handed out some menus and walked away with absolutely no mention of ordering coffees in the meantime. She returned about 5 minutes later asking if we were ready to order yet. Umm well no because two people still hadn’t arrived. She returned on two more occasions asking if we were ready to order yet each time sounding a little more annoyed than the last.  She came back again no more than a minute after the last person turned up and asked one last time.  Lets for a moment consider that maybe this person hasn’t even had a chance to look at the menu yet? Alas common sense did not prevail that day.

Anyway so we ordered our breakfasts finally (heaven forbid should the waitress have to wait on others) whilst I sipped on my horrendously bad coffee which took far longer than it should have to arrive. About 15 minutes later our breakfasts arrived in dribs and drabs. First of all my mum’s breakfast, the Baked Mexican Eggs, arrived. Mum, who has recently decided she wants to be a vegetarian (although I support her in her endeavours I give her till Christmas Day), asked if there was any meat in the Mexican Eggs when she ordered. Apparently there was so she asked if there was a vegetarian alternative. The waitress got the confirmation that was ok from the chef however mum had a sneaking suspicion that they simply scooped the bits of meat out of her dish and then served it to her. Considering how our breakfast was paning out, I actually wouldn’t be at all surprised. Mum said that it lacked flavour and didn’t enjoy it very much.

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Baked Mexican Eggs with Chilli Beans, Salsa and Toasted Tortilla for $19

Next up my brothers girlfriend GH had ordered the Rainforest Honey Granola with Poached Fruit and Mungalli Yogurt for AU$10. Now despite the fact that the near incompetent waitress had given her a fork to eat the damn thing it was literally a bowl of nuts with yogurt on it. Just to be sure I did a quick Google search to check that the rest of the world agrees on what I think granola is – yep just as I suspected… it’s muesli although I didn’t spy any form of grain in this so-called granola.  GH said that the yogurt was very sour and had to ask the waiter for some honey to put on top to sweeten it up. Wasn’t it supposed to be Rainforest Honey Granola, I’m confused…

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Rainforest Honey Granola with Poached Fruit and Mungalli Yogurt for $10

To my left my dad ordered the Benny Royale – poached eggs, smoked salmon, muffin and lime hollandaise for AU$19. He said it was pretty good although he said he didn’t like the plain old ‘straight out of a packet’ English Muffin that was underneath. I personally think the portion size was far too small for $19 – a rort if you ask me.

Benny Royale with Poached Eggs, Smoked Salmon, Muffin and Lime Hollandaise for $19

Benny Royale with Poached Eggs, Smoked Salmon, Muffin and Lime Hollandaise for $19

And then sitting towards the end of the table was myself, my sister and my brothers girlfriends mother KH. We all ordered various versions of the Stockman’s Free Range eggs – poached eggs on toast for AU$9 with a few sides to ‘jazz it up’. My house made beans were forgotten and then when they arrived they were still cold in the middle, the roast cherry tomatoes were also forgotten and we got two dishes of minted labne when we only ordered one. It really was the most visually lacking breakfast I think I have ever laid eyes on. I will however say that the Zucchini Pickles that I ordered on the side were quite delicious but this didn’t make up for the sheer lack of organisation that should go hand in hand with eating out.

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Stockman’s Free Range Eggs – Poached, Scrambled or Fried with Toast for $9

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Zucchini Pickle for $3

So there you have it – despite the awesome company my birthday breakfast turned out to be quite a disaster. It seems quite ironic that the person (me) that lives, eats and breathes dining out chose one of the worst places to go for her own birthday breakfast. I must also give a small mention to the presence of ants in the dining area. All three people sitting across from me complained on ants crawling over them while they ate (and yes although we were technically at the beach, we were sitting inside). And whilst the food left a lot to be desired, it was the service that was most lacking. Both the wait staff on hand appeared to be lacking certain ‘people skills’ that I think are mandatory when serving in a restaurant.

You may think I am being a little harsh but frankly my dear I don’t give a damn. This sort of thing sh*t’s me to tears. It’s because of restaurants like this that I started this blog in the first place – I like to call them tourist traps. These tourist traps are located in well frequented areas of Cairns with clientele that are mostly tourists who most likely won’t return.  These restaurants seem to have missed the point of serving decent food or providing half decent service because it doesn’t really matter to them either way. Any Cairns local reading this knows there are plenty of restaurants that fit this description in the Cairns area and you know what?  It’s not ok.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a tourist or a local, if you pay the money to dine out you should reap the damn benefits! Such a shame because the last time I dined at The Rising Sun (for dinner) it was actually pretty good. It turns out I learnt a valuable lesson that day… When you ask your readers for advice on where to go for a birthday breakfast out at the beaches, majority rules and I’m still kicking myself for not listening.

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P.S: For those of you wondering what the majority ruled on… It was the Lime Tree out at Trinity Beach.

Wharf One, Cairns

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One place that I have been frequenting of late is the little café located at the Cairns Wharf so aptly named Wharf One. Opening in June this year with stunning uninterrupted views of Trinity Inlet, Wharf One has a position that most cafes could only dream of. What’s more is it’s a great spot for parents to grab a coffee as it’s right next to the fig tree playground that reminds me dearly of my favourite Enid Blyton book – The Magic Faraway Tree. For the non-parents it’s just enough out of ear shot for you to enjoy your morning or afternoon in peace.

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I discovered Wharf One how I discover most new restaurants and cafe’s – through Facebook when I saw the Taste Paradise page’s picture of the Salmon Poke (one of the menu items on offer at Wharf One). I was there the very next day. With nothing on the breakfast or lunch menu over AU$14 Wharf One is a breath of fresh air in the current Cairns café climate. I don’t know about you but frankly I am getting a little over the over-priced breakfasts around Cairns. This is a rant I have been on before but some Cairns cafes are charging over $20 a dish, something I think is absolutely absurd. This is Cairns not bloody Surry Hills FFS!

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Back to Wharf One – With an emphasis on local produce such as Mungalli Creek Yogurt, Madella Coffee from Mourilyan and local cane cured salmon the menu quickly caught my attention. Breakfast includes items such as Pomodoro Sardines on Toast (apparently sardines are making a comeback) for only $8, Quinoa and Brown Rice Chai Porridge with Mixed Berries ($8) and Smashed Local Avocado, Ricotta, Lime Oil on Ciabatta, also for $8. Lunch is even tastier with items such as the Wharf One Local Prawn Burger for $13 and Shredded Chicken, Avocado and Mango Baguette for $10 and my personal favourite Local Salmon Poke with Avocado and Woodfired Ciabatta – a Hawaiian Sashimi (not Sushimi) style salad for a mere $9.

Broken eggs, wood-fired bread with local avocado (AU$12) plantain rosti and double smoked ham (both $3 extra)

Broken eggs, wood-fired bread with local avocado (AU$12) plantain rosti and double smoked ham (both $3 extra)

Unfortunately the atmosphere and the tasty sounding menu are really the only positive things I could find about Wharf One. My fellow blogger friend Baking Myself Happy is one person’s opinion that I rely heavily upon, usually because she takes the words right out of my mouth. Her recent text regarding Wharf One reads as so… “I’ve been to Wharf One four times now and am so disappointed with their food and their presentation. The food had been average at best. Such a shame as it’s the prettiest spot.”

Sadly I tend to agree with everything she wrote. I, myself have been to Wharf One no less than five times prior to writing this post hoping that things would improve despite really enjoying my initial visit – the Salmon Poke was innovative, fresh and flavoursome. Alas since that first visit Wharf One seems to be on a steady decline. The service which was dubious on my initial visit has only gotten worse with meals arriving up to 15 minutes apart and although the owner seems lovely and always keen for a chat, the young staff (in between texting on their phones) appear to have absolutely no idea what’s going on nor do they care about providing even remotely reasonable service.

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The coffee has often been terrible but considering they use what I assume are world-class beans from Madella Coffee in Mourilyan I can only assume that it’s the barista that provides the burnt and bitter aftertaste. The Kale and Quinoa salad I had as a side serve to my Salmon Poke was so bland and tasteless that even one mouthful was all I could stomach (a little seasoning wouldn’t go astray) and I just can’t omit the hair that my friend found in her baguette that was removed at the table by the waitress who expected her to continue eating said baguette.

Local Salmon Poke with Wood-fired Ciabatta for AU$9 (Kale and Quinoa side salad extra $3)

Local Salmon Poke with Wood-fired Ciabatta for AU$9 (Kale and Quinoa side salad extra $3)

Despite what some may think I am always loathe to write non-positive things about restaurants and cafe’s but as I said above, I went back five times in hopes of improvement because I want to like Wharf One so much. Most recently my sister went to Wharf One last Saturday morning. She ordered poached eggs with salmon which arrived on a broken plate with eggs that were almost raw and the salmon was forgotten completely. How many chances do you give a place? I started this blog because I tell it how it is and I think my readers deserve that. At Wharf One the menu is great (in theory), the location is second to none and the prices are probably some of the best I have seen in Cairns but the very thing they are setting out to do – provide good service and serve good food – is being overlooked. Like the old Queenslander on Martyn Street that MS and I looked at buying recently, Wharf One has plenty of potential but in the end there are tonnes other places that require far less work.

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Wharf One

The Wharf, Wharf St, Cairns QLD 4870

Ph: (07) 4031 2840

Bread In Common, Fremantle

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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.

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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.

Herb and Veggie garden outside Bread In Common

Herb and Veggie garden outside Bread In Common

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.

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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’.

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Bread In Common by day…

By night...

By night…

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.

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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.

Mousetraps (front) Anchovy Toasts with Egg Yolk (back) both AU$8

Mousetraps (front) Anchovy Toasts with Egg Yolk (back) both AU$8

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.

Anchovy toasts with egg yolk (AU$8)

Anchovy toasts with egg yolk (AU$8)

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.

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Broccoli, Apple, Quinoa, Soy, Mustard Seeds, Puffed Amaranth (AU$16)

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.

 Mushrooms, Chickpeas, Rocket, Hummus, Sorrel for AU$17

Mushrooms, Chickpeas, Rocket, Hummus, Sorrel for AU$17

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.

Beef Rump, Wood Roasted Pumpkin, Capers, Pepita, Fennel, Hay Ash for AU$25

Beef Rump, Wood Roasted Pumpkin, Capers, Pepita, Fennel, Hay Ash for AU$25

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).

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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.

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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.

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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

Website: http://www.breadincommon.com.au

 

Yaya’s Hellenic Kitchen and Bar, Cairns

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.

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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).

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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.

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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).

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Clockwise from left: Three Dips, Homemade Bread, Mezede of Oven Baked Broad Beans in Spicy Tomato Sauce and Saganaki Cheese

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!

Three Dips: Tzatziki, Taramosalata, Eggplant

Three Dips: Tzatziki, Taramosalata, Eggplant

Mezedes of Chargrilled Red Peppers

Mezedes of Chargrilled Red Peppers

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.

Saganaki Cheese of the Greek Gods

Saganaki Cheese of the Greek Gods

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.

Calamari (front) Swordfish (back)

Calamari (front) Swordfish (back)

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.

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Chargrilled Prawns

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.

Chicken Souvlaki

Chicken Souvlaki

Yaya's Arni - Baked Lamb and Potato

Yaya’s Arni – Baked Lamb and Potato

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!

Mixed sweets

Mixed sweets

George's lonely glass of port

George’s lonely glass of port

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

Website: http://www.yayashellenickitchen.com.au