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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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Eato’s, Cairns

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Like most people I am always in search of somewhere new to eat out and experience.  In the past few days I’ve had two different people mention a newish café on Grafton Street that I had not yet heard of called Eato’s.  True to form I did a drive by late yesterday afternoon to scope out the place and stalk their menu – MS is well used to pulling over the car so that I can look at menu’s in the windows of random restaurants and cafe’s around the city. Then, yesterday after hearing about it from my friend HH the second time we decided to stop in for lunch.

Eato’s is not just a ‘newish café on Grafton Street’ but also a non profit organisation funded by the Australian Government that employs school leavers and people that have been unemployed for 12 months or more – it’s also sponsored by Neato Employment Services and Power of Pellets (more on them at the end of this post).  According to Wikipedia a non profit organisation is ‘an organisation that uses surplus revenues to achieve it’s goals rather than distributing them as profit or dividends’ and proceeds of all sales at Eato’s go to FNQ Hospital Foundation, YAPS, Harald’s House and Ruth’s Women’s Shelter.  Down the southern end of Grafton Street Eato’s occupies the old space that was once the long standing, fondue serving Swiss Inn.  (Possibly also a Thai place for a short time?)

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Back to our lunch… HH and I were greeted at the door and shown into the dining area by the friendly waitress who provided us with menu’s and water and directed us towards the counter for when we were ready to order.  HH who’d had coffee there earlier in the week gushed about the pallet furniture that is not only part of the décor at Eato’s but also up for sale, again with profits going to charity.  In fact according to their menu everything is for sale, including their staff.  Sadly though for HH the white three piece set that he wanted so badly for his garden had already been sold – yet to be picked up, although there is more on it’s way.

SOLD!

SOLD!

We had a look over the menu and although there is an All Day Breakfast Menu that sounds bloody awesome (Pulled Pork Eggs Benedict anyone?) it was nearly 2pm so I decided on something from the lunch menu.  I ordered the Shredded Organic Chicken in an Ash Roll with Mixed Baby Leaf, Lime and Yuzu Mayonnaise (AU$15) while HH went with the Risotto Special for AU$21.  Not long after ordering one of the lovely ladies at Eato’s who goes by the name of Shannon came out to inform me that they had run out of organic chicken and wanted to know if I would like pulled pork on it instead.  Shhhh-yeah!  Not exactly a bad thing in my book!

Whilst waiting for our lunch HH and I discussed important matters such as chewing gum at the table and phone etiquette.  Although I am known to be on my phone and in particular social media quite a lot I do know when to put my phone down and am a strong believer in ones phone being on silent as well as no texting or checking Facebook whilst dining in the company of others.  It’s just plain rude and I’m forever telling my younger brother to stop scrolling through Instagram (*insert shameless plug* follow me on food_vixen) and put his phone down whenever I have dinner with him.  Low and behold it turns out HH shares my same ‘no phones allowed’ views as I am sure would much of the *ahem* older generation.  But quick just let me take a photo of my lunch…

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Our beautifully presented lunch dishes arrived during the course of our conversation and we dug in.  The plentiful pork in place of the chicken was definitely a winner with just the right amount of mayonnaise mixed through it – although I am sure the organic chicken would be just as nice.  The roll was fresh and the salad was crunchy.  I also really enjoyed the little side salad topped off with some crunchy pepitas.

Shredded Organic Chicken *ahem Pork* in an Ash Roll with Mixed Baby Leave, Lime and Yuzu Mayonnaise for $15

Shredded Organic Chicken *ahem Pork* in an Ash Roll with Mixed Baby Leave, Lime and Yuzu Mayonnaise – $15

HH’s Risotto Special was, well, forgive me but I actually have no idea because I didn’t ask however we both decided that it was Pumpkin Risotto.  The portion wasn’t particularly big but with creamy, rich food like risotto smaller portions are usually better unless you want someone to roll you out the front door and back to the office after your hefty lunch.  HH ate the lot and said that it was lovely.

Risotto Special - $21

Risotto Special – $21

Halfway through our lunch we caught sight of an epic tiered pavlova that another customer had ordered at the table  right behind us.  Unfortunately for us though, it was the last one left for the day and instead Shannon recommended the Frangipane Tart which she said was so good the chef was making it for her wedding on Christmas Day.  Sounded pretty irresistable so HH and I ordered a Frangipane Tart to share between us.  This tart was absolutely beautiful to look at so much so that I almost didn’t want to stick my fork in and mess it up.  It was crunchy on the outside and soft and sweet on the inside – yum!

Frangipane Tart (a steal for only $5)

Frangipane Tart (a steal for only $5)

All this yummy food yet I have failed to mention one important part about Eato’s…  The kitchen is run by Thala Beach Resort’s ex Head Chef Catherine Pacey.  As Shannon (who is also Catherine’s cousin) explained to HH and I, Cath took up the position at Eato’s to do something a little different and give back to the community.  She is using her skills from many years as an Executive Chef to create a hands on learning environment where she can teach different cooking techniques to students and those that are unemployed.  It’s a unique concept that I am pretty sure is new to Cairns and even better when their focus is on using fresh local ingredients and supporting local suppliers.

This is a really great initiative and I urge you guys to get behind it however please be mindful that this is a training kitchen and things may not always go to plan but good things are happening at Eato’s I promise you that!  At Eato’s the staff are lovely, the menu sounds so good it’s hard to settle on just one thing and the atmosphere is well, caring and friendly I guess are the best words to describe it. The only bad thing that I can really say about Eato’s is that because it’s a government run organisation that means government hours.  ‘Monday to Friday 7am – 3pm’ translates to ‘you better get down there today to get your feed of Pulled Pork Egg’s Benedict or you will have to wait till next week’.  I personally don’t think I can wait that long…

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PS: The Power of Pallets is an organisation that is recycling timber pallets into useful items for local charities and organisations.  Be sure to check them out on Facebook!

Eato’s

45 Grafton St, Cairns QLD 4870

Opening Hours: Mon to Fri 7am – 3pm