Cairns – beautiful one day, torrential rain the next. That’s pretty much what it has been like for the last couple of weeks anyway. Last week it was such a lovely day that I thought it would be nice to book lunch at Salsa Bar and Grill for MS and I the following day. Fast forward to the next day and here is MS and I driving up to Port in torrential rains where we can barely see through the windscreen. In hindsight we probably should have turned around but no I was determined that we went for lunch at Salsa – rain, hail or shine.
Although I had made a booking the day before – this place regularly gets booked out – I called ahead and tell them we would be a bit late due to the weather conditions but that was no problem for the friendly waitress on the end of the phone. In the end we made it up there safely, soundly and hungry for what by all accounts was going to be a delicious lunch. Salsa Bar and Grill is renowned by the locals as ‘the’ place to dine in Port Douglas, plus I have heard rave reviews from plenty of others. I even overheard a woman on the plane from Darwin to Alice Springs telling another passenger that it was one of her favourite restaurants in all of Australia. Big call. Salsa certainly had my expectations set high and that was before we had even made it through the front door of the breezy low-set Queenslander just off Macrossan St. My mission was to see if Salsa lived up to the hype…
Upon entering MS and I were greeted by a smiling waitress and directed (in a friendly way) towards a table on the far left, right in front of the fountain. It was a nice little intimate spot – perfect for sharing our last lunch together before I headed off to sea, again. The waitress poured us a glass of water each and left us with the drinks menu for a few minutes. When she returned I ordered a glass of Shaw and Smith Sauvignon Blanc and after a little bit of persuasion from me (he’s always so responsible but one drink wasn’t going to hurt) MS ordered a Black Russian. In the meantime whilst waiting for the drinks to be poured we had a look over the menu’s and the waitress recited a well rehearsed run down of the specials for the day including Smoked Salmon and Goats Cheese Souffle, a tapas plate and a pan fried fillet of Mahi Mahi on an Indonesian rice cake with prawn curry broth and green mango sambal. My word.
A few minutes of conversing and MS and I had decided on two entrees and two mains to share for our lunch together. For our entrees we ordered the Tapa’s Plate with tuna tartar, red-hot chicken wings, prawn dumpling, chicken tortellini and shiitake arancini for AU$21.50 and the Squid and Chorizo Panzanella with buffalo mozzarella, slow roasted cherry tomatoes and salsa verde for AU$20.50. For our mains MS chose the Tandoori Leg Tenderloin with Split Lentil Dahl, Roti Bread and Mint Yogurt (AU$25.50), something I was most surprised about since he hates lentils, or at least refuses to eat my mum’s homemade Dahl so I assume that he does. I on the other hand was nearly swayed by Salsa’s famous Linguine Pepperincino (red claw pasta) but wasn’t all that keen on being in a carb coma for the rest of the day (plus I had big plans for visiting the new frozen yogurt shop YoMyGoodness on the esplanade later that day). Get on with it…. Ok so for my main I ordered the Japanese Seven Pepper Rubbed Beef Tataki with sushi rice tian, goma shabu emulsion and sweet pickled vegetables (AU$24).
Whilst waiting for our entrees to arrive MS and I took some selfies (no we did not post them on FB or Instagram, they were just for us) and pined over the fact that we were about to be apart for a total of four weeks. Distance in a relationship is something that we are very much used to, certainly not something we enjoy however… You have to do what you have to do and I have never had a normal 9-5 job, I’ve always been on shift one way or another. In the meantime and before I get too sentimental our entrees had arrived. The presentation was outstanding – crisp, clean and it all looked so good that neither of us wanted to touch it. Photo’s ensued and typically we both headed straight for the chicken wings. I’ve got to tell you these were the best damn chicken wings I’ve ever had. Slightly saucy and just the right amount of bite. I only wish that there was more than a couple and looking over the online menu it doesn’t look like these can be ordered on their own for next time. Sad panda.
We split the tortellini which I think was chicken tortellini – I can’t really be sure, nor can I remember. The tortellini was just ok. It looked really bloody good but the outside was a little dry and chewy. The filling inside however, was soft and creamy.
MS edged the tuna tartar towards me since he never eats raw seafood (the big sook) but I placed a small spoonful on the little piece of crostini that was laid over the top of the shot glass and put it on his plate. He really had no choice but to eat it. I didn’t get a word out of him after he ate it which means, in man terms, that he enjoyed it. He just didn’t want to give me the satisfaction of telling me that. The tuna tartar was fresh and flavoursome with slivers of Spanish onion mixed in for a bit of extra texture and crunch.
Like the tortellini before it, the shitake arancini was carefully split into two halves so we could both enjoy it. MS who has absolutely no foodie culture, except what he derives from me as I drag him along for the ride, wouldn’t know an arancini ball if it jumped up and bit him on the ass so he was pleasantly surprised when he realised it was essentially a crumbed rice ball. Another soft and chewy morsel on our tapas plate filled with a delightful earthy shiitake flavour.
And last but not least on our tapas plate was the prawn dumpling in a small dish covered in an aromatic broth. Hey it was no Xiao Long Bao, (it’s a bit rough to compare the two… I fear my dumpling expectations have been forever ruined after going to Shanghai) but it was tasty none-the-less.
Still on the entrees it was time to divert our hungry gaze to the Squid and Chorizo Panzanella. We each served ourselves a share from the entrée plate and dug in. The flavours of the chorizo, squid, bread and mozzarella with the salsa verde were a match made in heaven. I’m pretty sure that chorizo has come straight from hell for it is wickedly tasty in all it’s fatty goodness. Why must it be so damn good?! MS and I both agreed that the liberal amounts of cucumber were a little bit overpowering in the end. Don’t get me wrong I love cucumber but a little less and this salad would be absolutely spot on!
As the waitress came and cleared our plates we told her that the chicken wings were in fact our favourite part of the whole entrée spread, to which she didn’t seem very surprised. Perhaps she has a penchant for the chicken wings herself? About 5 minutes later our mains had arrived…
Again we were impressed with the presentation as our meals were laid out in front of us. MS’ lamb tenderloin was topped with a small pile of very fine strips cucumber which he gently pushed to the side as he dug into the rest. The tenderloin was as it should be – tender and juicy – atop the soft, buttery roti underneath. Obviously the roti was his favourite part of his main but that’s a roti for you. I remember buying freshly made roti’s from a road side vendor in Sri Lanka for 10 cents each for breakfast a couple of years ago. One of the best breakfasts I have ever had I reckon! MS even ate all of his dahl god love him.
Next up was my lunch – the Beef Tataki, which pretty much had me sold at sushi rice tian. The beef was lean and tender, the sushi tian was sweet and the mayonnaise was kewpi (#winning) but my favourite part, although I enjoyed the entire dish, was the pickled vegetables on the top. They reminded me of Rahmah’s – my childhood fave for all you true blue Cairns locals.
So we MS and I finished up our romantic ‘last lunch’ at Salsa’s Bar and Grill, contemplating a coffee before the drive home but were informed by the waitress that they only had whole milk and soy milk. What kind of restaurant doesn’t have skim milk for people’s coffee? Full cream was out of the question since I was the one that had to sit in the car with MS on the drive home and flatulence is an understatement when it comes to MS and dairy. We politely declined and trudged back to the car for the long drive home.
I do feel that our lunch at Salsa was over a little too quickly. After driving an hour to get up there you kind of don’t want lunch to be over in less than an hour, only to drive back to Cairns for another hour. It would have been nice to have a little more of a break between meals and lingered just a little longer – I probably would have needed another glass of wine though. One is a enough nowadays for this little Cadbury kid.
Our lunch at Salsa Bar and Grill was excellent and I guess it did live up to my expectations although I will need to return for dinner and indulge in a main dish of that infamous red claw linguine just to be certain! Dinner would be a whole different experience since the place seems to be regularly booked out during the evenings whereas we were only one of about 6 tables occupied this lunch time, although that may have been due to the severe weather. The menu at Salsa was well thought out but not pretentious, the food was both flavoursome and satisfying, the presentation was outstanding and perfectly prepared, the service was attentive without being pushy and the airy atmosphere was a splendid showcase for the laid-back FNQ lifestyle.
Salsa Bar and Grill
26 Wharf St, Port Douglas QLD 4871
Ph: (07) 40994922
Opening Hours: 7 days 12pm – 3pm, 5.30pm – 9.30pm
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
As planned months in advance and after my awesome dinner at Bazaar at the QT Resort in Port Douglas my family and I (plus a few extras) headed up there again for Mother’s Day brunch last Sunday. After many a ‘cheat dinner’ for MS and I we were looking forward to a ‘cheat breakfast’ for a change. I called up about two weeks prior to make a booking for 11 people and while on the phone I asked the guy on the other end what kind of food they would be serving out of interest and so MS and I could prepare ourselves for what was to come. The guy had no idea what they were going to serve and after putting me on hold to ask around the restaurant he came back with a blank. All he knew was that it was buffet style but had no idea what kind of food they would have. He apologised that he couldn’t be of any help to me but I was still disappointed that he couldn’t tell me anything. The Mother’s Day Brunch at Bazaar was being held from 10am – 12pm and AU$28 for adult’s and AU$15 for children with a glass of bubbly for mum on arrival. Being the highly organised person that I am (the majority of the time) and not wanting to follow in my mother’s foot steps of arriving late to every goddamn thing MS and I +2 arrived 30 minutes before the start time. I think I overestimated the time it took to drive to Port just a little. (Here’s a bit of trivia for you – apparently the head breakfast chef at Bazaar is Sri Lankan and also Mohamed Al-Fayed’s personal chef for 20 years.)
The four of us grabbed a seat near the bar and waited for 10am to arrive. The rest of my family, true to form, were still driving along the range anyway so there wasn’t a whole lot we could do. I saw heaps of people coming in and out of the restaurant with plates of food and sitting at the tables and chairs near the bar so I figured I would head on over and see what was going on. I was told by the girl at the counter that the brunch didn’t start for another 16 minutes and I could come back then. She could have fooled me because it looked like the service had already begun but I assumed that the people digging into the food must be the dregs from the resort’s breakfast buffet. I thought it was a bit strange considering that we only had 16 minutes till the Mother’s Day Brunch which was to be served in the same restaurant. Anyway I went and sat back down with my party of three and while we waited we drooled over the food being eaten around us. Croissants, pancakes and kransky’s, oh my.
Eventually the rest of our group arrived and wishing the four mother’s a Happy Mother’s Day we went and joined the large queue that had formed out the front of the restaurant. After about 20 minutes we finally made it to the front. We paid our brunch money and our table was given a ticket for the lucky door prize which I hung onto for safe keeping. One of the waitresses led us over to our table which was situated directly in the sun out on the deck and might I add the ONLY table in the sun out on the deck. The feisty one of our group TT politely told them that we weren’t going to sit there and to find us another table. I really don’t understand why someone would make the ridiculous decision to have one table out in the stinking hot mid-morning sun. Anyway so they moved us out of the sun and onto a smaller table (it was really only a table for 8) where we were all crammed in and to cut a long story short we complained about that table and ended up moving to the one next to it. We weren’t being difficult but from the get go I could see that this whole she-bang (aka Mother’s Day Brunch) was very poorly thought out and not very well executed. The powers that be eventually moved another group to the table in the sun but moved in a couple of poolside umbrellas for a bit of shade (in hindsight that probably would have been a smart thing to do before diners arrived). By the time we had waited in line, paid, moved tables twice it was already 10.30am the worms were biting. One of the waitresses poured out glasses of champagne for the mum’s at our table (my dad also managed to get in on the act), which surprisingly enough was the rather expensive French Champagne Moet and Chandon. To be honest, I was expecting some el-cheapo champagne to come out and mum nearly fell off her chair when she saw the Moet label on the bottle.
The first station of the buffet (the one that is the salad station at the dinner buffet) was full of juices (apple, orange and pineapple) in small milk-type bottle with straws. These were being replenished regularly as they looked to be pretty popular. Next to that was four different types of, well I didn’t know what they were because there was no signs. I asked a waitress that just so happened to be walking past and she said the one was a passion-fruit yogurt drink, the next was bircher muesli, the third one was a mixed berry smoothie and on the end in the shot glasses was watermelon and lime shots. The watermelon in the shots had separated from the lime juice but they were still really yummy! I grabbed an orange juice and another watermelon and lime shot for myself and left them back at my table to be consumed with my breakfast. Station no. 2 was pretty much all cut up bits of fresh fruit. It looked good but I wasn’t there to eat fruit and I don’t think anyone else was either since I didn’t see anyone serving themselves fruit that morning.
We all headed up to the buffet to take a look at what was on offer. There was already a large line of people hovering around the hot food station serving themselves what was on offer. I managed to snavel one of the mini Egg’s Benedict’s with poached eggs on top an English muffin with spinach and hollandaise sauce before they disappeared onto the plates of other awaiting diners. There was some sort of cold meat that I thought was a strange looking bacon but soon realised that it wasn’t when another chef brought out a plate of real bacon. I don’t know what it was. It looked like pastrami. Also at the buffet there was baked beans, a large bowl of chick peas (WTF?), fried eggs, scrambled eggs, poached eggs, hash browns, French toast, roasted tomato, some sort of creamy potato and mushroom thing that everyone was picking the mushrooms out of, baked veggies with capsicum and garlic in it and mini cheese kransky’s. And that was about it. I arrived to a large dish that had the leftovers of some sort of red sauce in it and MS informed me that it was bacon with BBQ sauce but I was obviously too late. The chef removed the dish and it was never replaced. The pancakes that we had drooled over had run out and one of the chef’s was busily trying to make some more. However, the pancakes that he did make were taken in about 3 seconds flat by a large pancake line that never seemed to subside. Let’s just say the chef never managed to get on top of that pancake line. Once the French toast had run out that was it for the French toast as well. The baked veggies with capsicum and garlic ran out quickly and were replaced by the large dish of chick peas that of course no one had eaten with a couple of pieces of zucchini tossed in with it. Pretty poor substitute if you ask me. Next to the hot buffet was a large stand with bread and toasters on it but there were no croissants to be found. If I hadn’t seen them on other peoples plates when we first arrived then I wouldn’t have even known that there was any croissants. Additionally, I have no frigin idea what other sweet selections and pastries were there before hand but when I got there at about 10.45am there was only empty wooden boards with a few measly crumbs remaining and a handful of ordinary looking muffins.
Suffice to say that in between all the pushing and shoving to get what little selection of food that was left I didn’t managed to get any photos of the breakfast except for the one photo that I took when I returned with my plate to the table. I am not going to write a whole lot more on this topic because frankly it pisses me off. I was disappointed, MS was disappointed and pretty much my whole table was a little disappointed in the lack of food. It was almost like a mad stampede for food between 10am and 11am and then everyone and everything just disappeared. I know that the Mother’s Day Brunch was only AU$28 a head but it seems to me that all they did was just tack it onto the end of the usual breakfast fare and hope for the best. By that stage a lot of the food was already gone and only half of it was replenished. Once a particular item (i.e. the BBQ Bacon, the French Toast and the croissants) was gone then that was it for that food item. I have no doubt that half of that stuff was already gone before the Mother’s Day Brunch had even started!
The waitstaff (especially the lovely female host) on the other hand did an excellent job with what they could even though by mine and MS’ calculations they were at least 3 people short as they were absolutely run off their feet the poor things. Despite the short comings with the food our table left ridiculously full since we did manage to more than fill up on the food that was actually there. I loved the little Egg’s Benedict’s with their perfectly poached eggs (a mean feat at a buffet) although the hollandaise sauce left much to be desired because it tasted like nothing. MS claimed that the coffee was some of the worst he had ever tasted. Another thing – MS and I were really enjoying the little cheese kransky’s until we saw one of the chefs pull out what had to be about a 3kg industrial sized bag of them and tip a pile into his frying pan. That sort of ruined the whole illusion for us and I guess that is one of the downfalls with having an open kitchen in that everyone can see what it is that you are doing. There is however, a mile of kitchen out the back for them to keep that big bag of kransky’s out of the gaze of buffet goers. The whole idea of the Bazaar buffet is to recreate the traditional marketplace and put an emphasis on produce and flavours. Somehow this seemed like a step back from that concept.
Reading over the online reviews of Bazaar‘s breakfast buffet it appears that running out of food is a regular occurrence with many diners saying that you ‘need to get in early’ to avoid disappointment. Isn’t the whole reason for holidaying/staying at a resort like QT to relax, unwind and maybe even sleep in a little? Surely no one wants to have to get up at the sparrow’s fart to make sure that they don’t miss out on the majority of the selections available at breakfast. A little more careful planning would go a long way to ensure that this wasn’t the case not just for the Mother’s Day Brunch but for their daily breakfast buffet in general. Well, lets get something straight here, the breakfast buffet and the Mother’s Day Brunch were from what I saw exactly the same thing (except we got champagne and the breakfast diners got more food).
In Bazaar‘s defense the four mums at our table were kept happy with the almost endless, but responsibly served, glasses of Moet and Chandon and they were more than a bit giggly. On the advertisement for the Mother’s Day Brunch it said a glass of bubbly on arrival – we certainly got more than that. In addition to the large amount of champagne consumed at our table we also won the lucky door prize which was a bottle of Moet. In the end I can whinge and complain as much as I like but last Sunday it was all about mum and she had a really good time even if she was half cut by midday – Love you mum x
87 – 109 Port Douglas Rd, Port Douglas QLD 4877
Ph: (07) 40 998900
Opening Hours: 7 days, Breakfast 6.30am – 10.30am, Dinner 6pm – 9.30pm
After our woeful Good Friday Seafood Buffet and a waste of a cheat meal for MS and I we were looking for somewhere new to indulge the week after. I had also organised catchups with a friend, AL, that couldn’t make the Good Friday catchups (just his luck) plus a couple more that did. Since I had made such a shitty choice the week before the pressure was on for me to choose somewhere good that we (I) hadn’t been to before. Wanting to stick to the buffet theme so we could all get our money’s worth and so MS and I could eat ourselves stupid I came up with Bazaar in Port Douglas at the QT Resort. I had randomly stumbled across an article about it a few months earlier and after reading up on it Bazaar was on my list of “to do” restaurants in the Far North. Although I didn’t think that my friends would be willing to make the hour and a bit journey to Port and then back again just to go for dinner I asked anyway and slap my ass and call me foodvixen, they agreed! To say that I was excited was an understatement. Nothing gets me more excited than food. Nothing. Except maybe buffets. Yep, still food.
So I called up and made a booking with the restaurant for six people a day earlier. The lovely man on the other end of the phone asked if we had ever been to Bazaar before to which I replied ‘no’. He then said ‘Well you are in for a treat. Make sure you bring your appetite!’ As I hung up the phone I did a little dance in front of MS. He is used to me getting super excited over food. Unfortunately he never really shares my enthusiasm for food and likes to think of it more as fuel for his body. Pfft whatever, who even says that? I was hoping that he would get excited when we actually got there. And boy did he excited! Along with the rest of us when we were greeted by the waitress at the entrance to Bazaar. The first thing you notice is how visually pleasing the place is. The chef’s station is in the middle of three large food stations behind which is a huge double fridge with glass doors filled to the brim with fresh produce on display. Bazaar at the QT Resort in Port Douglas is the sister restaurant to a popular Gold Coast joint with the same name and is a re-creation of the traditional marketplace with a 21st century twist (yep I pulled that straight off the website).
After introductions we were given a detailed ‘tour’ of the buffet by our friendly waitress who for once seemed to be actually happy to be there (a mean feat for a Far North Qld restaurant no?) At the first station there was a selection of cold meats, cheese and salads (I saw MS’ eyes light up at the large wheel of brie or camembert laid out in the centre just waiting for him to eat it). The second station was the fresh seafood station with mounds of mussels in the shell, spanner crab, oysters and prawns. Around the bend from that was the hot selection with a few classic dishes like Osso Bucco, Beef Cheeks, Eggplant Parmigiana and some sort of Asian inspired dish right down the end. The waitress told us that the hot station changed regularly with inclusions such as Pork Ribs and Lamb Shanks to name the only two things I can remember her saying. I was too captivated by the sights, smells and sounds around me to pay close attention. Then lastly was the dessert station filled with Macaroons, Chocolate Tarts, Lamingtons and so much more! Doesn’t sound like much? Yeah I know but I forgot the best part. The best part about the buffet at Bazaar is that they also have an a la carte section where they make many dishes to order – sirloin steak, salmon fillets, wood-fired pizzas, tasting platters (more on that in a minute), dumplings, BBQ pork buns and pasta (all included in the AU$65). You simply head on up to the hot food station and have a word to one of the two friendly chefs about what you want to eat and how you want it cooked! I was already well aware of this having done my research before asking my friends to make the journey to Port and ensuring that we weren’t going to be disappointed. My friends however weren’t really aware of this part of the deal and their tongues nearly fell out of their mouths when they realised the true proportions of the epic feast we were about to embark on.
The waitress then showed us to a table down on the lower deck and without further adieu (we didn’t even sit down) we headed straight for the buffet. Myself? I headed for the cheese and salad bar first, hastily followed by the fresh seafood station. I must admit that after my crab experience the week before I was a little off crab so I loaded my plate with mussels, oysters and prawns and sat myself back down at the table where I was soon joined by the rest of the group, all of whom had managed to pile a plate high with whatever tickled their fancy. I had helped myself to quite a large portion of heavenly Gorgonzola Cheese from the 1st station, because lets face it, cheese is nothing without mold on it! The salads were delicious and fresh and didn’t taste like they had been sitting there all day. My absolute favourite would have to be the marinated eggplant. It was so yummy, even LL commented on how good it was. All in all there was probably about seven different salads to choose from, no boring pasta salads or sh*tty garden salads to waste your time with. These salads were full of colour, herbs and spices and had obviously been well planned out. Cudos to the chef’s at Bazaar.
Moving onto the seafood, I’ll start with the mussels first. Wow! I haven’t seen such large mussels in like forever! These mussels were enormous and even LL and ER were gushing over their size and how delicious they were. According to the waitress who seemed to know her sh*t they were from Tasmania. They were large and meaty with a mild saltiness to them. I couldn’t get enough of them and between the mussels and the oysters I ate plate-loads of the slippery little suckers (whoops wrong type of seafood). Next up the prawns were also beautiful and fresh. Not the biggest prawns in the world but still a good size to peel and dip into a little seafood sauce. YUM! Lastly was the oysters, which were Pacific Oysters from Coffin Bay in South Australia the waitress informed us as she cleared our scrap bowls away and replaced them with new ones (without us asking might I add). I’m gonna go out on another limb here and say that these are probably some of the best oysters that I have ever eaten. I think I only got one oyster with a little bit of grit in it, the rest were just to die for. The plump delicate oyster meat with a small squeeze of fresh lemon over the top just melted in my mouth. These oysters really were something special and again LL and ER commented on how frigin fantastic they were and also agreed they were some of the best oysters they had ever eaten. That’s plate number one for me, back for round two.
In the meantime next to me MS had ordered a whole supreme pizza with extra Chorizo and a Sirloin Steak cooked medium as well as a Tasting Platter for the table to share (because that’s what you do with a tasting platter isn’t it?) In the meantime (while he waited for his pizza and steak) MS hoed into the hot selection of Beef Cheeks and Osso Bucco as well as a huge lump of cheese and dried apricots. Around the table a few more people had ordered Sirloin’s and Salmon Fillets. Someone also put in an order for dumplings and BBQ pork buns to be brought over as well. I had no idea where we were going to fit all this food but one thing I did know is that I was sure as hell going to try. The ‘made to order’ dishes only took about 10 minutes to arrive at our table – you didn’t have to go up to the buffet to get it, it was brought to your table. MS said his steak was excellent. Put it this way he ate two that night and the only reason he didn’t have a third was because he was too full by the end of it. AR, a friend of AL’s up from Sydney for the week, ate three Salmon Fillets over the course of the evening and declared them to be the best Salmon Fillet’s he had ever eaten. Big call but he was chuffed. To my right ER also said that her Salmon was cooked to perfection as she tried to protect it from being stolen off her plate by LL who also gave it two thumbs up. MS’ demolished his pizza, saving a slice for me. It was thin-based and crispy with plenty of yummy toppings scattered over the top. If I had a bigger stomach I would have gotten a pizza but alas I wanted to forgo the bread for a bowl of pasta.
I went up and asked one of the friendly chefs to make me a bowl of pasta. He asked me what I liked and I told him to surprise me but not to put any Capsicum or Celery in it (I know what you are saying, “No one puts celery in pasta”, yeah well smartass my mum does so best to be on the safe-side then isn’t it?) I opted for a rose base with a little bit of tomato and a little bit of cream. He said he would bring it out to me very soon and I moved back along to the seafood and the cheese and salad station piling my plate high with another serve of oysters and mussels with a little bit (okay a huge chunk) of gorgonzola on the side. Damn you moldy cheese! Why do you have to taste so good?! About five minutes passed and the chef approached our table to confirm what I would like in my pasta. Would I like asparagus, how about bacon, some chorizo even? Yes, yes and hell yes! I’ll have all of those thank you to which he returned to the ‘kitchen’ finish off my pasta dish with a little bit more confidence about what I wanted. Another 5 minutes and a large bowl of creamy, tomato-ey pasta was laid out in front of me. The chef said that he had made a little extra in case I wanted to share it with the table. Well I didn’t ‘want’ to share it with the table but my stomach said otherwise and was fast approaching the full mark (or as my dad likes to say ‘pussy’s bow’, I don’t know must be an old person thing). A couple of my fellow diners happily helped themselves to my large bowl of pasta and we all agreed it was delicious and full of flavour with plenty of extras mixed through like sundried tomato and that crispy chorizo that I was so excited about.
In between all this kerfuffle over creamy pasta, delicate oysters and mussels the size of hub caps our Tasting Platter, dumplings and BBQ Pork Buns arrived. The dumplings were pork and some sort of vegetarian one that the waitress said was edamame (I think she was wrong but she can think that if she likes). They were lovely but the outer casing was a little too thick for my liking and took over from the taste of the savoury inside a little too much. We didn’t end up eating them all. As for the BBQ Pork Buns they were demolished and I may or may not have had three all to myself. Let’s be honest here though you can’t really stuff up a pork bun. At least I don’t think you can. The Tasting Platter had one bite sized morsel of three different things for the six of us including BBQ’d Scallops (without the roe *sad face*), Zucchini’s Stuffed with Bacon and Mushrooms with Thyme and Parmesan Cheese. We passed the platter around until we had a gotten our share apart from MS who gave me his scallop to eat much to my delight. It was an almost unanimous decision that the BBQ’d Scallops were the best followed closely by the soft and slightly crispy mushrooms. The Stuffed Zucchinis were nice but not the greatest I don’t think.
Lastly, it was time to hit the dessert bar, since I had little to no room left in my stomach I had to do it quickly so AL and I headed over to scope it out. I grabbed five bite sized desserts after colluding with AL about what was what and we sat back down to devour our sweet choices. I chose a pink macaroon, a chocolate tart, a lemon slice, a chocolate cupcake and some sort of biscuit with what I think was pecans in it. I didn’t really like the macaroon, I think it might have been strawberry flavour and just not my cup of tea. Also the lemon slice was a little too tart for my little taste-buds (but AL seemed to think it was nice). The other three were excellent though the standout had to be the pecan cookie. It was extra crumbly and literally melted in my mouth plus it was the only dessert that I convinced myself I had enough room to have a second one of. After that I was so stuffed ER and I sat there groaning too afraid to even have a sip of water for fear of pushing ourselves ‘over the edge’ of fullness. I wanted to eat more but I just couldn’t fit it in.
We sat there for another 20 minutes or so chatting and waiting for our food to subside a little before realising that we had to drive all the way back to Cairns on a windy road. MS joked that he would be making plenty of sudden movements in the car to aid us with our digestion. Yay. We made our way to the counter to pay and after thanking the chefs, waitresses and host for a lovely evening we made our way back through the lobby towards the car park admiring QT’s own Mini Moke parked near the front entrance. I’d love a Mini Moke but they really look like death traps. My friends commended me on choosing Bazaar and admitted they were a little concerned after our last encounter at the ‘Buffet of Death’ (aka Canecutters). Each of them said they really enjoyed the meal from beginning to end and also remarked on the quality of the food that Bazaar had on offer. To be honest I really loved the variety. The service was excellent with our scrap bowls and empty plates cleared regularly and without any prompting from us. Each of the waitstaff and the chefs seemed genuinely happy to be there, always had a smile on their face and were happy to help with any queries that we had. One of the chefs even made LL a wasabi paste with wasabi powder since they didn’t have any wasabi paste on hand to go with his oysters. Mixing some powder up probably takes about 3 seconds but I thought that was still pretty cool.
There are only two things that I can fault Bazaar on: 1) The lack of labels on the food. I am sure that the buffet was designed that way but none of the food had any labels so if you are like me and lack any form of concentration what-so-ever or things go in one ear and out the other then most of the time you had no idea what you were actually looking at. Okay that’s an exaggeration but labels certainly go a long way in helping you choose exactly what you want to eat. For an example, was that cheese brie or camembert? How will I ever know? These are the first world problems that keep me awake at night. 2) There were quite a few mozzies around the places, probably because the restaurant is located literally on top of a large pond. They didn’t bother me but a couple of my friends had to borrow some insect repellant from the bar to spray themselves with. A little disconcerting when you know there is a bit of a dengue outbreak in the Far North at the moment. For you Cairns folk, Bazaar is most certainly worth the drive or you could even stay the night at the uber cool boutique resort that is QT. I am looking forward to my next Bazaar visit for breakfast on Mother’s Day, which is sure to be another epic feast of monstrous portions. Just look for the brunette in the baggy pants with an expandable waistband piling her plate high and stuffing her face.
87 – 109 Port Douglas Rd, Port Douglas QLD 4877
Ph: (07) 40 998900
Opening Hours: 7 days, Breakfast 6.30am – 10.30am, Dinner 6pm – 9.30pm
A couple of weekends ago I had the pleasure of joining my two good friends JM and KK on a Sunday drive up to Port Douglas so they could inspect some stand up paddle boards they were looking at buying. Of course we had to stop for lunch at some point and being a complete stranger to Port Douglas dining I let the very capable and avid diner KK take the reins. She chose On the Inlet, having been there before and thoroughly enjoyed it. It did however take us a little bit of time to find tucked away down near Marina Mirage. On The Inlet is a breezy restaurant with a huge deck built out over the water of Dickson Inlet. Upon entering On the Inlet we were greeted by a friendly Irish waitress who showed us to a table for three out at the front of the deck right next to an older couple. Almost every time I dine it out I am seated nearly on top of the only other diners in the whole restaurant. I would much prefer not to be privy to the closest table’s lunch conversations so why do restaurants insist on doing this? Someone from hospitality please explain?
After the long drive from Cairns KK and I (the two girls of course) made a quick stop for the Ladies Room and discovered that it is bloody freezing in there with the two cubicles being cooled by what seems to be a house sized airconditioner running flat out. Seems some people don’t mind paying exhorbitant electricity bills but is an airconditioner in the bathroom really necessary? After having a bit of a joke about the ice box Ladies Room we took our seats out on the deck with JM and ordered some drinks. Feeling a little on the heavy side I was happy to stick with water while my companions chose a beer each. The Lunch Menu at On The Inlet had a wide selection of mostly seafood driven dishes as I would expect at a Seafood Restaurant built out over the water. After about 15 minutes of being indecisive the three of us finally figured out what we wanted – it all sounded yummy. KK went with the Seafood Paella with Prawn, Scallop, Mussels, Reef Fish, Yabbie, Smoked Chicken, Chorizo and Crusty Bread for AU$34.50. JM ordered the Crispy Whole Fried Baby Barramundi with Asian Slaw, Thai Caramel and Steamed Jasmine Rice for AU$42 while I decided to go for the two entree option. I ordered the Goats Cheese and Pableno Chilli Quesadilla with Mexican Oregano and Cherry Tomato Jam for AU$8.50 (it had me at Goat’s Cheese) and the Chilli Salt Calamari with Crisp Asian, Fried Shallots and Nahm Jim Sauce for $19.50. Ok yes there is a common theme to my ordering when I dine out. If there is squid on the menu you can almost bank on me ordering it. One – because I love it and two – because I am forever in search of Salt and Pepper Squid as good as my mum and dad’s.
While we waited for our meals I observed the entree of the couple next to us with envy. They ordered the Sashimi Plate consisting of a daily selection of fish with Pickled Ginger, Wakame, Soy and Wasabi for AU$19.50. I almost ordered it but I thought that it would be a very small serve. It turns out the Sashimi Plate was quite a reasonable size and looked delicious. Hey, anything that comes with Wakame has got my vote! Our meals arrived not long after the couple next to us and we all oohed and ahhed about JM’s Crispy Fried Barramundi and KK’s Seafood Paella as well. Not to say that my two entrees didn’t look good I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I had a bit of food envy at my own table. KK really enjoyed her Seafood Paella which was chock full of goodies. It certainly wasn’t light on with the Prawns, Scallops and other bits and bobs that were listed on the menu. Despite what the picture looks like below it was actually quite a big serve, so much so that KK couldn’t finish it all even with JM sitting across from her who is the equivalent of a Labrador when it comes to other peoples food.
JM absolutely devoured his Crispy Fried Barramundi but not before KK and I managed to snavel a bit to taste. The sweet and sour flavours of the Thai Caramel were absolutely delicious on the tender flesh of the Barramundi and JM seemed pretty happy with himself having chosen well. When he was finished there was hardly any fish left since he had eaten most of the bones too, even one of the eye balls was missing. I guess thats the sign of a meal well enjoyed.
I was super happy with my two entree selections, which I pretty much ate all to myself (so much for feeling ‘heavy’). The Chilli Salt Calamari was tender, a good sized serve and cooked to perfection (still not as good as mum and dads). The waitress ensured me that On The Inlet only uses Australian Seafood and she didn’t have to ask the kitchen for the details when I enquired.
My Quesadilla was ‘oh so good’ especially with the melted goats cheese in the middle and the sweet Cherry Tomato Jam. YUM! Huge serve of Quesadilla’s too but I guess they are supposed to be ordered for a table and not just one person. Hey, I certainly wasn’t complaining because I polished off the lot and was left feeling very satisfied!
It’s not very often that I get to travel out of Cairns and try new restaurants, except of course when I am working or on holidays (that has been quite a lot lately) but it was nice to check some of what Port Douglas has to offer. I do consider Port Douglas to be a little overrated but it was nice to have a little bit of ‘local knowledge’ shall we say when it came to choosing a restaurant for lunch since there is so damn many. The three of us really enjoyed our lunch at On The Inlet and it seems so do many other people judging by the cache of restaurant awards on the Wall near the entrance. I will say that the meals were a little on the expensive side but sometimes that is a given and you probably wouldn’t mind so much if you had payed those prices for dinner. I recommend On the Inlet to anyone heading up Port Douglas way, especially if you have a 2012 Entertainment book which KK did because you can get two for one main meals although it expires in June if I remember correctly. The food is superb, the service is friendly and punctual and the views are great. A word of warning though bring some insect repellant since there are a few sand flies about. Well the restaurant is ‘On The Inlet’.
On the Inlet
3 Inlet St, Port Douglas QLD 4877
Ph: (07) 4099 5939