Eating Ourselves Stupid in Tasmania – Launceston
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
$16.90 Lunch Specials @ Barnacle Bill’s, Cairns
I’m loving the amount of lunch specials that are available in Cairns at the moment. There really are so many to choose from thats it’s hard to keep track of them all (check out my ‘Lunch’ page). Having dined at both Splash and The Raw Prawn I decided that after walking past many, many times I would finally give Barnacle Bill’s a go. Last Friday I dined there with a group of friends and knew that some of the people that I was dining with had well, simple tastes. I guess this is why I chose Barnacle Bill’s in the first place for our Friday lunch catch-up. Still, there is something on the menu for everyone so I think this is why Barnacle Bill’s is always so busy at lunch time. Another reason is because they split the bill, which is perfect for group and business lunches and hard to find at Cairns restaurants.
I perused the menu and went with the Barramundi and Salad (Estuary Fish in Tempura Batter Served with Salad) but I’ll be honest there wasn’t really anything on the menu that excited me. Nothing on the menu stood out to me and made me think ‘That’s what I’m ordering!’ Our meals arrived in ample time. FW and TT also ordered the same dish as I did while across from me HT ordered the Pasta of the Day, which was a Creamy Salmon number. It was quite a large serve of pasta especially considering it was only $16.90 but HT claimed it was very bland. I tasted it and it was very bland. Half a bottle of Tabasco Sauce would have made it a little more worthwhile but then again everything tastes good with Tabasco Sauce.
My meal, as the menu explained it, was just two pieces of fish on a plate with a bit of salad and a very light soy type sauce that pretty much dissolved into nothing when I poured it over the fish. A bit of an odd sauce to have with tempura fish I think. Aioli or the old favourite Tartare Sauce would have been more memorable. The barramundi was cooked well and tasted nice and fresh. The batter encasing the fish was crisp and golden. I just wasn’t feeling it I guess. It must be said that FW and TT enjoyed their Barramundi and Salad lunch more than I did.
The menu at Barnacle Bill’s is varied but boring. There is 14 different dishes to choose from for $16.90 each and with menu items like Lasagna, Beef Curry, and Tandoori Chicken Pizza it certainly caters for the non-seafood eaters. Another possible reason why Barnacle Bill’s is such a popular lunch spot. The service was very good and the waiters were very jovial and chatty which is always nice when dining out since I have encountered some super miserable retaurant staff in recent times around Cairns. I guess my beef with the place is that I don’t think it’s anything special. I don’t understand why it’s so damn busy. I know that Barnacle Bill’s has been around nearly longer than I have so they must be doing something right but in my view the two restaurants on either side that I mentioned at the beginning of this post serve better food. It’s as simple as that. Barnacle Bill’s doesn’t need my endorsement. They seem to be doing pretty well already.
103 The Esplanade, Cairns QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 4051 2241
Opening Hours: Lunch from 11.30 am daily and Dinner from 5 pm till late
$10 Dozen Oysters @ Yorkeys Knob Boat Club
I have a huge appetite for oysters, natural and kilpatrick, they’re both amazing! Every Saturday for a limited time Driftaways Restaurant and Bar at Yorkeys Knob Boat Club are serving natural and kilpatrick South Australian oysters for just $10 a dozen from 10am. The oysters are super tasty and yeah, ok, they aren’t enormous but who cares? Are you listening to me? They are $10 a dozen! Get to Yorkey’s Knob Boat Club on a Saturday and enjoy the views and the oysters!
Yorkeys Knob Boating Club
25-29 Buckley St, Yorkeys Knob QLD 4878
Ph: (07) 4055 7711
Opening Hours: Mon – Thur 10am – midnight, Fri 9am – 2am, Sat 8am-2am, Sun 8am – midnight
Worst Salt and Pepper Squid EVER @ Trinity Beach Tavern
Yesterday I was unlucky enough to have the worst Salt and Pepper Squid I have ever tasted at the Trinity Beach Tavern. The menu described it as ‘Salt and Pepper Squid with Pickled Cucumber Salad and Dipping Sauce’. Sounds pretty damn good but it tasted like it came straight from a frozen packet, which I suspect it did. I have eaten a lot of Salt and Pepper Squid in my time and I know my sh*t when it comes to seafood. I would even go as far to say that my parents actually make the BEST Salt and Pepper Squid I have EVER tasted (NO KIDDING) but this was absolutely foul and even dousing it in the dipping sauce made no improvement. Sorry I didn’t get a picture but it really didn’t warrant one, just thinking about it makes me feel sick. I ate two pieces and left the rest. There is NO EXCUSE for serving crappy, imported seafood! That is my second and last disappointing meal at the Trinity Beach Tavern. Yeah, ok, the atmosphere is good, but I ain’t coming back for a third and most likely disappointing round!
The Raw Prawn, Cairns
Oh how I love my lunches in town on the weekends and again I thought I would take advantage of another one of the lunch specials going in the city but this time at The Raw Prawn on the esplanade. The Raw Prawn is a local seafood restaurant situated in a great spot on the esplanade that has been open for over 10 years. I have been here for lunch a few times and always enjoyed it. There is $22.50 lunch specials which includes two courses plus a glass of wine, beer or soft drink. There is also a $14.90 lunch special which is just for a main but my friends and I opted for the more expensive one ordering an entree and a main along with a couple of glasses of white wine and a beer. There are 9 entrees to choose from, 10 mains and 3 desserts. Again, its not all just seafood and there is a couple of non-seafood dishes for the non-seafood lover. AL ordered the Soft Shell Crab with Crisp Garlic Flakes and Sweet Chilli on a Thai Salad for entree and for a main he ordered the Chicken Pasta thigh pieces tossed with garlic and olive oil, since he isn’t that much of a seafood lover.
LL went for the Natural Oysters for entree and the Pacific Fusion Reef Fish, Prawns, Calamari and Mussels poached in coconut basil sauce with rice and bok choy for main.
I order the Mussels in homestyle napoli sauce for entree and Tempura Prawns with salad and chips for main (I tend to get these everytime I come here because the prawns are pretty good).
I asked the waiter if the seafood was local and he assured me that the mussels and the oysters were from Tasmania. We didn’t wait very long for our entrees to come out and they all came out at once which is always a good start. All the servings were of a good size for an entree and we were all very happy with them. The mussels weren’t very big but apparently its hard to find big mussels these days. The soft shell crab was crispy and the oysters were juicy. Next up our mains came out, again all at once and we only waited about 10 minutes. My prawns were big and the tempura was extra crunchy just the way it should bewhile AL seemed pretty pleased with his pasta, so much so that he hooked into it before I got a chance to take a photo of it.
LL said that his Pacific Fish was really good but he got a bit of food envy when he saw my main. The only problem with Luke’s dish is that the prawns were small and imported which was a little strange considering that my prawns were big and local. A little disappointing but he didn’t mind too much.
The Raw Prawn = good atmosphere, good service, great price. I’ll be back.
The Raw Prawn
101 Esplanade, Cairns QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 40 315400
Splash Seafood Restaurant, Cairns
Today my mate LL and I decided to take advantage of some of the many lunch specials that are available in Cairns. We ended up at local seafood restaurant Splash, located on the esplanade just down from Barnacle Bills and Villa Romana. For $14.90 you can choose from 7 lunch specials which change regularly. There is even a couple of dishes on the menu entice the non-seafood lover however being avid seafood lovers LL and I opted for a seafood dish each. Luke, being a typical male, ordered the Fish and Chips. The fish was lightly battered coral sea bream direct from the restaurants own fishing vessel (very impressive) with Beer Battered fries and tartare sauce.
I ordered the Chilli Squid and Cucumber Salad with Spanish Onions, Shallots, Mesculin and Passionfruit Dressing. On ordering I asked the waitress if the squid was imported and I was assured that it wasn’t however I wasn’t entirely convinced with her assurance, she seemed a bit unsure.
Splash has great atmosphere and it was a beautiful day to enjoy a bit of lunch on the esplanade. One of the things that I think is pretty cool about Splash is the Australian Charts that are laminated to the table tops. Its something different and gives you something to look at and point to while you are waiting for your food to arrive. We didn’t wait long for our mains at all, probably only about 10-15 minutes which was good. My salad was very eye-catching with the passionfruit dressing drizzled around the plate and it tasted pretty good too. The squid was cooked nicely and the serving size was just right. LL’s Fish and Chips was a good size and the fish pieces looked, well just as the menu said ‘lightly battered’ but delicious also. The chips were crunchy and he seemed pretty satisfied by the end of it. Delicious lunch at Splash! I’ll be back for sure.
103 Esplanade Cairns QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 40 319300
Tha Fish, Cairns
Last night I was lucky enough to have dinner with friends at local seafood restaurant Tha Fish. It was a last minute invite by my good friend HH but it turned into a three and a half hour, four course feast. Being the slight control freak that I am coupled with my love for food I usually pour over menus and don’t decide exactly what I want to order until the very last minute. However, last night HH took the liberty of ordering for the seven of us. It was something different for me but I went with it and was more than pleasantly surprised at the food that come out. The best part was not knowing what was coming next! Our first entree was oysters – natural and kilpatrick. ST almost couldn’t contain her excitement when she saw the two platters of oysters arrive at our table. The oysters were absolutely delicious! Lucky for us two of the girls at the table don’t eat seafood (wtf- why come to a seafood restaurant?) so that meant more for us!!! Second entree was Cajun Calamari with Orange, Fennel and Rocket salad. The squid was cooked perfectly! Its nice to see a restaurant using local squid! It’s often hard to find, even with dedicated seafood restaurants, since local squid is hard to source but its certainly worth the effort! Our mains followed… HH ordered a Seafood Paella that was accompanied by a white bait fritter, while the waiter chose dishes for the rest of us. ST was brought out fillet of coral trout on mash with sauteed asparagus. She claims it was some of the best fish she has ever eaten and almost licked the plate at the end!
Myself? I was ordered Atlantic Salmon, cooked medium rare (the way it should be) on a bed of hokkien noodles with Asian vegetables. It was cooked perfectly and absolutely devine!
Following our main, we were all pretty well satisfied but HH insisted that we have some dessert so he asked the waiter to choose a few dessert dishes for us to share. The waiter chose well! He chose us four dishes: Chocolate assiette, black rice puddings and lychee balls, the old classic creme brulee and a Frangipane and Honey Tart that ST and MT proceeded to fight over. ST won.
Ah thankyou Tha Fish and HH for a fantastic feast!
On the Boardwalk, Pier Shopping, Cairns QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 40 415350
Opening Hours: Mon-Wed, Fri-Sun: 12pm-3pm, 6pm-11pm, Thu 12pm-3pm, 5pm-11pm