I’ve been to Perotta’s At The Gallery a million and one times for breakfast and lunch but I’ve only been there once for dinner way back in about 2004. After a long day in transit on my way home from the NT capital, MS picked me up at the airport and after deciding that neither of us wanted to cook – who am I kidding MS doesn’t cook! – we headed to Perotta’s for dinner. With my Entertainment Book Gold Card offering me ‘buy one get one free’ main meals I figured now was a good a time as any to try out the dinner menu.
The place was about ½ full when we arrived so we chose a seat near the entrance closest to the lagoon. We ordered wine to celebrate the first time seeing each other in 4 weeks and had a squiz at the menus. The menu at Perotta’s has something to suit most people with plenty of variety and not just your standard run of the mill boring dishes. My go to dish when I go there for lunch is the Chilli Salt Squid Salad and although that is featured on the dinner menu I figured it might be time to branch out.
To start with we ordered the Garlic Bruschetta with Fresh Ricotta, Mint and Calabrian Chilli (AU$9) and the Burrata Caprese with Heirloom Tomato, Watermelon, Rocket Pesto and Raspberry Vinegar (AU$21). MS asked me what Burrata was and thinking I was all sophisticated and smart I told him that it was a type of Cured Italian Meat. Boy did we get a surprise when it the Burrata arrived at our table a short while later – a good surprise though! Turns out Bresaola is the Italian Cured Meat that I’d gotten confused with and Burrata is actually an Italian Cheese. Pfft I totally knew that.
In all honesty the Garlic Bruschetta wasn’t really anything to write home about but it was actually perfect for mopping up the last bits of Burrata and Rocket Pesto. I’m normally hesitant to eat watermelon since I was a little kid and my dad told me a watermelon vine was going to grow in my stomach after I swallowed a seed. Thanks dad, way to scar me for life and now I absolutely refuse to eat any type of grape (unless in wine) or watermelon (even the ‘seedless’ variety). The Burrata with juicy Heirloom Tomatoes was a beautiful and tasty dish that we both enjoyed. It was a great start to the night – I highly recommend this one.
Next up for our mains MS had ordered the Pork Spare Ribs with Fennel, Apple Cider Vinegar and Pickled Pineapple (AU$37) which came with a big bowl of chips and I had the 8 Hour Lamb Shoulder, 3 Wheat Salad, Almond, Mint, Pomegranate and Spicy Cumin Yogurt (AU$36).
MS’ Pork Spare Ribs were literally falling off the bone – the way ribs should be IMO – and were covered in a delicious tangy glaze. The Pickled Pineapple was nice but needed to be pickled just that little bit longer. We both thought the serving size was a little bit small for $37 but MS was pretty full by the time he polished them off.
My 8 Hour Lamb Shoulder was super tasty albeit a little on the small side for the price ($36). The added crunchy strips of bacon/pancetta/prosciutto whatever the hell it was really added to the dish. Despite the size of the dish I actually struggled to finish it. I find rich cuts of meat like Lamb Shoulder, Lamb Shanks and Beef Cheeks fill me up really quick and I can’t eat a whole lot although I want to. Give me Garlic Bread however and I can eat that carby goodness till the cows come home! We wanted to stick around for dessert especially after I spotted the Eton Mess on the Dessert Menu (the only one I know of in town) but we just couldn’t fit it in.
It’s got to be the number one place in Cairns for people watching – with wine of course! The wait staff are very friendly and professional, in fact it’s consistently one of the better places in Cairns in terms of service (something Cairns is usually lacking in). I do find that the food, particularly the mains, are a little expensive for what you get and this is something that seems to be reiterated in other online reviews I’ve read. Nearly 20 years of good food and service is certainly a mean feat in this small town. According to their website Perotta’s (as the locals like to call it) has been around since 1997 would you believe? Yes I was a little surprised by that too so I guess you could also call this place a bit of a Cairns institution – seems I’m using that word a lot these days.
Perotta’s At The Gallery
38 Abbott St, Cairns QLD 4870. Ph: (07) 40315899
Opening Hours: 7 days a week 6.30am – 10pm
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Wharf, Wharf St, Cairns QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 4031 2840
It’s been a ridiculously long time between posts for this vixen. It turns out that life without a laptop/computer is pretty damn debilitating for me. I have had nothing but dramas with a Toshiba Ultrabook I bought less than two years ago (brand new) having the operating system ‘break down’ no less than three times and also the hard drive replaced once in that period. Many a file have I lost over this time because although I have the best of intentions to back files up, it’s just something that usually gets put on the back-burner for me. I do however usually save at least two copies of everything – one on my laptop and one on my hard drive but it really doesn’t matter because I get f**ked by technology one way or another (apparently portable hard drives don’t like to be dropped).
Finally, I’d had enough of my laptop failing me and tried for the 500th and final time to get it replaced under the extended warranty that I had purchased. The dude in JB HIFI proceeded to tell me that it was something that I was doing with it that was causing it to fail and they couldn’t replace it. With MS by my side I usually feel 10 feet tall but without him my eyes began to well up. I kept it together long enough to ask the guy to speak to the ‘big manager’ but make sure he takes my side when explaining the situation. Two minutes later he returns and tells me they are going to replace it with a product of equal or lesser value (that really could have saved 10 minutes of arguing). The two computer guys tried in vain to get me to consider an Apple – something I didn’t want to have a bar of. I DGAF how good Mac’s are nor do I want to approach them with my ‘non-PC’ brain on. I’m a PC for life kind of girl so save your breath. In the end I got some new ASUS Zenbook thingy with some Norton Antivirus to go with it. Now if I could just figure out how to use Windows 8 then life would be sweet.
So here I am trying to get back on the blogging bandwagon and recap all the wonderful and not so wonderful places that I have dined in the last, say 3 months. Firstly I think I will start with one of my most recent outings – Cafe China Express at the Marina. Having been there a few months now Cafe China Express has taken over from the long-standing, and probably too long, Boardwalk Cafe. A place that was once upon a time known for its huge cafe style meals and delicious Egg’s Benedict. I personally hadn’t returned since I received a particularly violent case of food poisoning there after consuming an Open Grilled Turkey Sandwich on my 23rd birthday about three years ago (haha just kidding, it was two). It turns out that the toilets at Rosse and Locke are few and far between, especially when you’re in a ‘hurry’. Big thumbs up for my birthday that year. FML.
Anyway, Cafe China Express was so carefully selected by my brothers beautiful girlfriend GH for her 20th birthday dinner last weekend, presumably because well they have pork buns and we all know that everyone loves pork buns. The fact that you pay and order at the counter is perfect for a large group because divvying up a bill can often be a painful experience, something I found recently whilst dining at an Italian restaurant in Sydney’s Pyrmont a couple of weeks ago with a couple of wines under my belt, or smoking hot pair of Wayne Cooper pants (in a size 6 might I add, awwww yeah!). Anyway so cunningly GH told my family – minus myself – that dinner was at 6.30pm when it fact it was at 7. My family is notorious for being at least 20 minutes late no matter how much warning they have and anyone who knows them knows this. Apparently leaving home with ample time to arrive at their given destination is far too difficult because my dad always finds it imperative that he walk the dog at the exact time they should be leaving home. Mum always blames dad for them being late and all you can do is shake your head and sigh. So you can imagine my delight when I arrived at Cafe China Express to find that my entire family already seated and waiting – apparently I was the late one. Whatever makes them feel better.
We all perused the menu whilst waiting for the birthday girl to arrive. Since it was a bit chilly outside I thought I would go for a noodle soup type dish to warm my insides. There was pork buns and dumplings to be shared as well. About 20 minutes later the whole party had arrived and after greetings and salutations were made and presents were opened we all went up to order. I chose the Fish Ball Soup (AU$11.90 for regular size) with an entrée of Har Gow or steamed prawn dumplings (3 for AU$7.90). Like me, my dad has a lot of trouble understanding people with certain accents. It’s nothing personal, maybe we are both hard of hearing – some would say ignorant – but even I sometimes have trouble understanding my Sri Lankan aunties when they talk too fast. After a 5 minute struggle to order dishes, my dad decided it would be better to point it all out instead. Upon returning to the table he claimed that he really had no idea what the bubbly Chinese girl behind the counter was saying and he thought she sounded like she was singing a song when she talked. Dad has such an eloquent way of describing things sometimes but he means it in the best possible way.
There was 12 or so people seated at the table and it took about 20 minutes for the meals to start arriving. My dumplings arrived somewhere in the middle, closely followed by my Fish Ball Soup. Most of the meals arrived a little scattered, and not in any kind of order.
I tasted a selection of the dishes around me including my younger brother’s Roasted Duck Laksa, which he managed to eat the majority of in between his constant scrolling through Facebook and Instagram despite my repeated requests for him to put his phone away, was delicious, creamy and extremely decadent.
Mum and Dad’s plate of Roasted Duck – tough and chewy although a very reasonable sized quarter serving for AU$9.90.
The majority of my family had ordered BBQ Pork Buns to share – except for me. According to my dad they were cold on the inside like they had been put in the microwave and barely heated through. That and they were more dough than anything else. How hard is it to serve a warm pork bun? My dumplings were also ridiculously doughy to the point where I was unsure if there was in fact any filling inside them. Dad and I debated whether or not they were made in-house, especially considering that Café China has about 3 other eateries in Cairns. In the end we concluded that they were pulled straight from a box in the freezer along with the pork buns.
My Fish Ball Soup was as I said earlier quite flavorless. The broth had very little depth to it and although the fish balls were nice, in that artificial kind of way, I found myself wishing that I had ordered something else, like my brother’s laksa.
Next to me mum and dad’s plate of Stir-fry Spinach in Garlic had arrived. A staple for them whenever they go to a Chinese restaurant. I shovelled some into my mouth with my chopsticks to be met with what I can only describe as ‘liquid hot magma’ style spinach. Holy crap they must have literally pulled that stuff straight out of a volcano it was that frigin hot! With tears welling up in my eyes and my taste buds burnt clean off it still tasted pretty good but there was lots of oil on it – presumably what caused my third degree burns (who needs taste buds anyway).
My sister, across from me, had ordered the Chicken Teriyaki. This arrived at the table no less than 30 long minutes after everyone else received their meals. It took that long that we actually thought they had forgotten since all we could see in the open kitchen were people washing up and doing non Chicken Teriyaki related jobs. I tried to do the right thing and wait for her meal to arrive before I started mine but it became beyond ridiculous and in the end my near flavorless soup was getting cold. When it finally did arrive we exchanged glances across the table to say ‘is that seriously it?’ I guess Chicken Teriyaki can’t really be too elaborate a dish but it was literally a piece of whole chicken breast thrown on a plate with some rice, a bit of tomato and kewpie mayonnaise. I wondered what the hell had taken them so long? Presumably because she had ordered a Japanese dish in a Chinese restaurant – a cardinal sin in my books and a sure-fire way to screw up your meal – or get food poisoning especially in a foreign country.
Our dinner at Cafe China Express at the Marina wasn’t particularly fantastic and certainly didn’t even come close to some of the fantastic Chinese dinners I have had in the last 12 months – to be fair most of those were actually in China. The service was great but I wouldn’t consider the place to be express (my sister wasn’t the only one who waited more than 20 minutes for her meal to arrive and the restaurant was barely a quarter full). It was all pretty cheap but more the cheap and nasty type of cheap not the ‘woo hoo we paid next to nothing’ exciting kind of cheap – although the birthday girls mum did score a free glass of red wine. The food itself was somewhat lacklustre and although there was a few yummy dishes amongst our table on the whole it all seemed pretty thrown together. Maybe that’s where the express part comes in…
Cafe China Express At The Marina
Pier Shopping Centre, Pier Point Rd, Cairns QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 4051 6887