I’m out at sea (well I was when I wrote this) and bored out of my frigin brain so I figured I might as well attempt to kill a couple of hours by starting my next post. Recently a friend of MS’, and subsequently mine, invited us out for dinner to celebrate his birthday with his new wife and a few mutual friends. They tossed around a few ideas in a group message on FB as to where to go and in the end went with Linga Longa. I was happy with that decision (not that it was up to me at all) because I had heard good things about Linga Longa but I hadn’t yet been there (story of my life).
Saturday night came and MS and I arrived at Linga Longa to find we were the last ones to get there. We were seated down the back of the restaurant at our table of 8 (4 couples). After a bit of chit chat, me filling people in on how awesome Shanghai was and oohing and ahhing about a friends new Dashund puppy we ordered some drinks and had a look over the menu. The restaurant was full for a Saturday with a couple of waitstaff working overtime to keep all the tables happy.
I ordered my usual glass of Sauvignon Blanc while MS, after finding out that the only Cider that Linga Longa had on the menu was Strongbow (why haven’t restaurants caught onto the whole cider thing yet and who the hell even drinks Strongbow?!), decided he would have a Black Russian. Yeah I had no idea what it was either or maybe I’m just not with the times, who knows. So… apparently a Black Russian is Coke with Vodka and Kahlua. I didn’t think it was something that would appeal to me at all – especially considering that I haven’t touched vodka with a 10 foot pole after an entire day spent with my head in a bucket after only 5 vodka’s during a State of Origin night at the Courthouse a few years ago (okay okay they were the more than lethal Smirnoff Black’s but still!). Turns out that Black Russian’s are actually alright, well the sip that I had of it anyway. The birthday boy, SG, liked the idea of a Black Russian so much that he ordered one for himself after consuming what I can only say is a girlie drink – a mojito (yes SG if you are reading this mojito’s are for girls).
Three out of four couples at the table had some sort of voucher to use for dinner. When I say ‘some sort’ I mean 2 x Table 52 cards plus MS and I had our Entertainment Book Gold Card. I wasn’t sure if we would be able to use all three together. Apparently there was quite a bit of commotion caused when some of the guys at our table had tried to use a few Table 52 cards at Wink 2 a few months prior to this birthday dinner – to put it lightly the waiter/owner whatever he was (I wasn’t there) was quite rude and as a result none of them will ever go back there again, and that is on top of the ordinary food that they had already had. Anyway, it remained to be seen how we would go with our vouchers, but I figured we would just wait till it came time to pay the bill to find out.
We all ordered entrees and mains with MS and I ordering a Salt and Pepper Squid and sourdough with a trio of dips (Hommus, Babaganoush and Tzatziki) to share between the two of us. The Salt and Pepper Squid seemed to be the most popular entree at our table with four servings ordered in total, however it took a good 40 minutes from when we arrived to when we received our entrees – hell we didn’t order until thirty minutes after we arrived! Just that little bit too long if you ask me. I had high expectations for Linga Longa since I had heard a lot of good things about it and people are always harping on about the fantastic service they receive there, but all was not lost.
In between waiting for our entrees and chatting we watched the torrential downpours outside from the warmth and dryness of our cosy table for eight. Our entrees arrived in a procession bought out by two of the waitstaff. The sourdough and dips were placed in front of me whilst the Salt and Pepper Squid which, let’s face it were actually meant for MS, were placed in front of him. There was a small pile of lightly seasoned squid next to a small garden salad with a lemon wedge and some tartare sauce. The squid was delicious, tender and an okay sized serving however for the AU$18 we paid I would have expected a little more. My trio of dips came with 6 slices of grilled bread, some a little burnt around the edges which didn’t get eaten.
The presentation of both the squid and the bread and dips was very homestyle and not nearly as fancy as I was expecting but then again the more I think about it I am pretty sure that homestyle cooking is part of the concept and the appeal at Linga Longa. The bread and dips weren’t anything to write home about – just bread and dip really. A couple of others at the table had chosen the Deep Fried Camembert with Tropical Fruit and Berry Coulis for AU$19.50 (didn’t get a photo) as their entrée. I was lucky enough to snavel a piece from someone else’s plate and it was very decadent – but good. Very good.
We waited another 15 or so minutes, ordering another round of drinks in the meantime (Black Russian #2) and then our mains arrived. MS had ordered the Chicken Breast Stuffed with Camembert, wrapped in Streaky Bacon, and finished with a Creamy Parmesan Sauce and Mashed Potato for AU$31.50. Although the Chicken Breast was stuffed with oozy Camembert Cheese MS found it to be very dry and chewy. The vegetables on the side of his plate were cold as though they had just been taken out of the fridge. He was pretty disappointed with his meal and didn’t finish it all, leaving about 1/3 behind. For what he got I think that $31.50 was a little steep – it’s just a chicken breast, really. In my opinion it’s really just one of those boring, ‘standard’ dishes that every restaurant has on the menu for the tame and unadventurous individuals like MS.
After tossing up a few different dishes on the menu I ended up going with the Roasted Pork Special (especially after finding out that it was pork belly because I have a major weakness for anything with crackling attached to it). It was Roasted Pork Belly with Sliced Apple and Sauerkraut on the side for around the AU$39 mark. I have to say that my dish was delicious. The Pork Belly was succulent and juicy with just the right amount of fat to meat ratio and shock horror the crackling was actually crispy (a mean feat for restaurants, and even myself sometimes). The sweet apple and sauerkraut were beautiful additions to my dish – I really, really enjoyed it!
Across the table from us the newlyweds were enjoying their own meals. After wondering if the Bugs were a little too messy for a dinner with friends, AM decided to order them anyway following a few words of encouragement from myself and SG. The Chargrilled Bugs with Lemon Butter, Peri Peri Sauce and served with Steamed Rice and Veggies for AU$38 was a more than generous dish with two and a half bugs in total nestled next to the rice and veggies. Turns out that AG didn’t make too much of a mess after all but she sure as hell enjoyed her meal and was more than happy with her choice of main.
Next to her SG had the Duck Al’Orange – Half Semi De-Boned Duck twice cooked with Buttered Pomme Landaise and Orange and Cointreau Sauce for AU$34.50, a dish that I had also tossed up getting because let’s face it “duck is the shit!” No, not “shit”, “the shit”. I love duck… but not as much as I love pork belly. Anyway, so again we were all surprised with the portion size. One reason that I didn’t order it was because I assumed it would be just a small duck leg and I would be left hungry but no, not this Duck Al’Orange. I think there was a little jealousy around the table when SG’s main arrived. It has to be said that SG thought it to be pretty tasty too. Sizeable and tasty = winning!
To be honest I don’t remember a whole lot about the dessert part of the night. Most likely because neither MS or I decided to have any (there was no Sticky Date Pudding *sad face*). I do recall something about the rest of the table ordering Chocolate Fondant’s in proliferation around us though and by all reports they were full of gooey, chocolate-y goodness.
So to wrap things up for our Saturday night dinner at Linga Longa… It appears that good old fashioned service and home style food is the biggest draw card for diners at Linga Longa. The owner personally welcomes people as they arrive at his restaurant and from what I observed it seems that a lot of them are regulars at his restaurant. The owner and his staff have obviously taken the time to get to know many of these people whom most likely live in the immediate Edge Hill area, or close by.
The majority of the food (except for MS’ chicken and my sourdough) was exceptional albeit a little on the pricey side but I think that’s what most diners are happy to pay for good French style, home-cooked food, often generous portions (well for fine dining anyway) and service in a relaxed and cosy but still classy atmosphere. Also worth mentioning was the fact that we were able to use our Entertainment Book Gold Card and the others also used their Table 52 cards without a single word of protest uttered by the waiter who organised the bill. Another win! Linga Longa certainly lived up to it’s name because we were there for over two and a half hours but unlike the horrible Smirnoff Black’s that will never see the light of day with me again this restaurant is well worth a revisit.
120 Collins Ave, Edge Hill QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 4032 2136
Opening Hours: Tues – Thurs 5.30pm – 10pm, Fri 11.30am – 2.30pm & 5.30pm – 10pm, Sat 5.30pm – 10pm, Sun 11.30am – 2.30pm & 5.30pm – 10pm
Ok I can’t put it off any longer. My last post was well over two weeks ago, slack I know but I have been caught up in birthday celebrations for both MS and myself as well as a bit of Christmas cheer and a nasty middle ear infection that is yet to subside. Next cab off the rank with my Table 52 cards was Mother India on Sheridan Street a couple of weeks ago for a farewell dinner with my good friend EG. Seems my Table 52 cards are running rather low and I only really have ones from the Northern Beaches and Port Douglas left. Might be time to invest in the 2013 Edition to even out the playing field. I will use the Northern Beaches and Port Douglas, I just haven’t got around to it yet and I have to admit I don’t go up to Port very much. So back to Mother India. EG had already been to Mother India many times and even considers herself a regular. The owner remembered her from a few days earlier when she had dined there with her mother. I have dined at Mother India once many years ago for lunch but I can’t really remember what it was like. I have avoided it in more recent times after I called up one day to find out about their lunch specials to put on my Lunch page and had the person on the other end of the phone (I’m assuming the owner) give me an earful about how his chef had quit and he couldn’t open because he didn’t have anyone to cook. Needless to say I didn’t end up hearing the lunch specials and I decided I didn’t particularly want to know them but hey we all have our bad days.
I’ll admit I am the kind to hold grudges and my phone conversation did leave a pretty bad taste in my mouth but after reassurances from EG that it was ‘really good’ I thought I would stick my head in for a look and some curry. We got there around 8pm on a Friday night and there was about three other tables occupied at the time. A man who introduced himself as the owner showed us to a table and bought us some menus and water while we had a look over the menu. The owner was really friendly and chatted with myself and EG about her earlier dining experience and whether or not I had been to Mother India before (I didn’t mention the phone conversation). He was very gracious and happy to have us dining at Mother India, I think because out of all the Indian restaurants in Cairns Mother India is the one that gets most overlooked. Most likely because of its location on Sheridan Street, just that little bit out-of-the-way of the main thoroughfare. Although that doesn’t seem to be a problem for Happy 4 10 which appears to be doing a roaring trade.
After insisting upon a serving of papadums and chutney to start with and a glass of Giesen each, EG and I decided that we would both order a meal and share it. That was fine with me I had already picked out the Butter Chicken (isn’t that what everyone orders at an Indian restaurant?) but much to my dismay and something I did not know about my friend was that she didn’t eat chicken. She then went on to tell me a hilarious childhood story about her pet chicken that she got for her birthday that she did everything with (he waited in her room for her to come home from school and slept in her bed) until one day she came home from school to find a pile of feathers in the backyard and her favourite chicken missing. She then went on to say that this story wasn’t actually the reason that she didn’t eat chicken more that she just didn’t like it. It was a funny story none the less.
EG’s story reminded me of a story about my Nana (my mum’s mum who is now passed away) who had a favourite chicken when she was a child living in Sri Lanka. One day her favourite chicken stopped laying eggs so her father told her that they would have to kill it since it wasn’t doing its chicken-ly duties anymore. So after much reluctance and tears (from my Nana not the chicken) my Nana’s favourite chicken got the axe and when they chopped it open they found an egg inside. My Nana was so upset at the loss of her beloved chicken that she never ate chicken again. Up until she passed away my dad used to take great delight in feeding her pate and biscuits when she came over (something she absolutely loved), little did she know what she was actually eating. My dad thinks he’s so funny. So after all the chicken stories were exchanged I still longed for Butter Chicken but knew I had to decide on something else so I chose the Lamb Korma – Mildly spiced diced lamb curried in a creamy cashew and almond gravy for AU$16.95, while EG went with a vegetarian dish to add to the mix. She chose the Palak Paneer – Fresh ground spinach cooked with cottage cheese in fresh ginger, garlic and onions for AU$15.95. We ordered some Garlic Naan (AU$3.95), Steamed Rice (AU$2.50) and some Cucumber Raita (AU$4.25) to go with our dishes. I may dine at an Indian restaurant and go without Butter Chicken but I’ll be damned if I dine at an Indian restaurant and go without Garlic Naan, no matter how many times I need to do the Red Arrow the next day.
After the owner took our order he asked us how spicy we wanted it. Both being spice lovers we decided that we would have them both ‘Hot’. To which the owner replied ‘Indian Hot’ or just ‘Normal Hot’. Hmmm I was unsure about this one as was EG so we asked for a bit more of an explanation. Apparently ‘Indian Hot’ is only upon request and usually only for Indian diners but he figured he would ask after finding out my heritage and knowing that EG doesn’t mind a bit of spice. In the end we decided we would stick with ‘Normal Hot’ just to be on the safe side.
The decor at Mother India was a little dated but also very homely and cosy so it was kind of nice. There was a beautiful big tapestry on the wall behind us that looked very expensive and also looks good in a photo. I was just happy that we were sitting inside in the air conditioning as opposed to outside at some other restaurant. When you are eating hot food you don’t want to be sweating from both the food and the ambient temperature. I pointed out to EG the newly wed Indian couple seated behind us (noticeably newly wed because of the traces of henna on her hand and the large amounts of bangles she displayed on her forearms). They couldn’t have been more disinterested in each others company. Shame since they had probably only been married a couple of days. There was also a young child that from another table that kept harassing me because he apparently thought I was his mother due to me having a similar haircut as her (she wasn’t at the restaurant). *Insert my super awkwardness with children*. I’ll be honest I do want kids one day but I’m sure I am not alone when I say that I don’t like other people’s kids, hopefully I will like my own. Moving on, we waited probably about 15 minutes for our meals to arrive and when they did I realised just how much food the two of us had ordered especially considering we had already had papadums earlier.
We served ourselves a bit of each curry with some rice and a piece of naan bread and dug in. I have always wanted to order a variant of the Cottage Cheese type vegetarian dishes I see on Indian menus but never had the balls to do it for one reason or another. I was delighted when EG chose the Palak Paneer although I was a little hesitant about the onion part. I eat onion I just don’t like it when its chunky and crunchy. The onion was not like this at all in the Palak Paneer. It was soft and delicate. The Palak Paneer was a beautiful dish but sh*t was it spicy! Nothing I couldn’t handle but it was still bloody hot. I really loved the small lumps of Cottage Cheese in the dish which isn’t like your usual supermarket variety. The Indian Paneer (or Cottage Cheese) has much more of a milky flavour to it and a completely different texture to that I am used to.
The Lamb Korma was also lovely with tender pieces of lamb hidden within the thick nutty gravy. I actually think that the best part of eating Indian food is mopping up all the sauces with the rice and naan bread. Although we did order the Lamb Korma to be ‘Normal Hot’, the same as the Palak Paneer, it didn’t seem to be quite as hot as the other dish which was actually a good thing in the end because that and the Raita provided a bit of heat relief for us both.
The four pieces of Garlic Naan weren’t the best I have tasted and not as soft, moist and garlic-y as Garlic Naan should be. I don’t think that it was cooked fresh because it was a little bit dry and hard. It was also served rather un-elegantly in a bread basket wrapped in alfoil but maybe they were trying to save on washing up. It was a bit of shame but this was the only thing that let the meal down.
During our dinner the owner came over to check on us a couple of times to ensure that we were enjoying our meal and ask if there was anything else that we wanted or needed. He also made sure that the ‘Normal Hot’ wasn’t too hot for us and joked that maybe next time we could try the ‘Indian Hot’. The service was excellent and as I already said that owner was very accommodating and super happy that we had chosen his restaurant for our Friday night dinner. He made us promise that we would tell all our friends about it. The food at Mother India was delicious and there was plenty left by the time we were finished. One thing I must say is that both mains that we ordered had plenty of Cottage Cheese and Lamb in them. They weren’t just all sauce with only a couple of pieces of meat or cheese in them. A nice change from what I have experienced at some other Indian restaurants in town. I kicked myself that I hadn’t given Mother India a chance and used my Table 52 card sooner. I would most certainly dine there again without a Table 52 card, the same can’t be said for a few other Table 52 card restaurants I have been to. Upon presenting it at the counter to pay at the end the owner’s wife was most obliging (unlike the nasty woman at Taste of China) and even asked if we would like to split the bill between us, something the two of us were most happy about after neither of us had brought cash. How delightful! If you are not a lover of hot food then don’t worry about it Mother India ensure their curries are made to your liking. Like I said I’m not too sure about the ‘Indian Hot’ but I have to admit I am a little intrigued. Never say never right?
2/80 Sheridan St, Cairns QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 4041 1000
Opening Hours: Lunch 11.30am – 2pm Tues – Fri, Dinner 5.30pm – 10pm Tues – Sun
Early last week MS and I took his dad KS for a catch up lunch at the Cairns Cruising Yacht Squadron in Portsmith. It was a beautiful day outside, despite the near 20 knot winds so where better to enjoy it than on the waterfront with our Table 52 card in tow. Despite my parents owning a business in the Portsmith area for well over 20 years and me being a born and bred Cairns local I actually don’t think I have been to the Yacht Squadron in all my 20 something years but there is a first for everything.
We rocked on into the Yacht Squadron just after midday and took up a table outside on the patio overlooking Smith’s Creek and beyond that Admiralty Island. The friendly waitress came out to our table to greet us with a bottle of water, glasses and a menu each. She told us the specials including Fish of the Day – Red Throat Emperor, a Mexican Chicken Wrap with Chips (AU$14.50) and the ‘Worker’s Lunch’, a Pork and Gravy Roll with Chips for around the AU$7 mark. The waitress even managed to recite the specials off the top of her head and left us to have a think about what we were going to order. I had a look over the very reasonably priced menu with options such as a Greek Salad, Caesar Salad, BLT, Steak Sandwich, Burgers (I’ll be back for the Beef and Bacon Burger with Swiss Cheese, Caramelised Onion and Chilli Jam – sh*t yeah!), Calamari Fritti, Seafood Basket and Quiche.
Unlike his son, MS who claims to detest seafood in any shape or form (it’s a cover) KS loves it nearly as much as I do so he went with the Reef Fish which you can choose to have Battered, Crumbed or Grilled and served with a side of Golden Fries, homemade Tartare Sauce and a fresh Garden Salad. KS chose to have his fish lightly crumbed in Panko breadcrumbs (how Masterchef of them). Feeling a bit meaty MS decided on the 200gm Juicy Rump Steak with Golden Fries, Salad and a choice of Mushroom Sauce, Pepper Sauce or Gravy for AU$15.50. Before choosing the Calamari Fritti I asked the waitress if the seafood was sourced locally. She said that although she wasn’t entirely sure if it was local seafood it did come in frozen boxes from the wholesaler. I can’t really be too sure from that statement however I decided to err on a side of caution and went with the Mexican Chicken Wrap with Crumbed Chicken, Avocado, Lettuce, Tomato, Sour Cream and Sweet Chilli Sauce with Chips for AU$14.50. I asked if I could swap the lettuce for Rocket or Baby Spinach since I just don’t like lettuce and the waitress said they could swap it for Rocket and it was no problem. I was actually surprised that they had Rocket available since I have been to two cafes in the last couple of weeks that only have Iceberg Lettuce. Yucky. Anyway the waitress took all three orders including my little change out without a notepad and we received exactly what we ordered. I was stunned since many waitstaff at some of the expensive restaurants in city take your order with a notepad and still manage to stuff it up.
While we waited for our meals to arrive we took in the beautiful weather and tried to ignore the wind that almost made us move inside. It wasn’t too bad especially considering that only two of us actually have hair for the wind blow around. The two lonely seagulls floating around didn’t bother us even when our food arrived. There is a huge grassed area right in front of the eating area where kids can run around and do kid things and there is even a small playground for them to play on so it’s an ideal place to take your family (mind the large exposed body of water that is Smith’s Creek).
Our meals took about 15 minutes to arrive and they were a good sized serve for each of us. KS (whose meal I didn’t get a chance to take a photo of before he put pepper all over it) enjoyed his fish and chips although I think the salad was his favourite part since he ate the entire salad before anything else. He did comment on the shoe string fries and said that he would have preferred fatter ones. I tend to agree with him but technically I shouldn’t even be eating fries. MS’ steak was cooked to his liking (medium), a mean feat in this day and age when dining out and we both thought the mushroom sauce was delicious (he shared a piece of steak with me). There wasn’t a single piece of food left on his plate by the time he was finished so either he was really hungry or he really enjoyed it. It was both.
Lastly my Mexican Chicken Wrap was super tasty despite how it looks in the picture below. The slightly toasted wrap wasn’t too heavy like a tortilla, there was plenty of crumbed juicy chicken inside, the rocket was fresh and crunchy and it was a really decent serve. I loved that they included both Sweet Chilli Sauce and Sour Cream in the wrap because lets face it one just doesn’t go without the other.
We all really enjoyed our lunch at the Cairns Cruising Yacht Squadron. It was nice to get away from the usual city fare and try somewhere just a little bit off the beaten track. I was, however a little disappointed that the seafood is brought in frozen from the wholesaler considering the Squadron’s close proximity to local fishing trawlers. The venue isn’t five-star but it has a nice laid back feel to it and a great little outlook over Smith’s Creek where you can watch the boats coming and going. The meals are both tasty and very reasonably priced. Two big thumbs up to the lovely waitress who gave us fantastic service that these days is as rare as seeing Tarzan doing his shuffle along the side of the road on the southside of town.
The Cairns Cruising Yacht Squadron
42-48 Tingira St, Portsmith QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 4035 5115
Opening Hours: Lunch 11.30am – 2pm, Dinner 6pm – 8pm Sunday Brunch 8.30am – 11am
A friend of mine has been bugging me to make an appearance on foodvixen and be a part of one of my reviews. My friend EG accompanied me to the Salt House for a quiet Tuesday lunch. Now like I said in a previous post first impressions last for me and I do tend to hold a grudge so after a bad dining experience at the Salt House not last Christmas but the Christmas before I haven’t returned. That lunch turned into a debacle with meals being forgotten, apologies not being made and rude and inappropriately dressed wait staff so you can understand my apprehension in going back. On reading Trip Advisor it’s clear the reviews are many and varied. Some like it, some don’t. Some say it’s the best place to dine in Cairns, some say they will never go back. Well I had a Table 52 card in my little hand and I wasn’t afraid to use it.
Upon arrival EG and I were greeted by one of the waitstaff and shown to a table. That particular table was out in the middle pretty much in direct sunlight so we asked if we could move to another table that had four seats since there seemed to be no other two seater tables out of the sun. The reply we got was “I need to keep those tables for other diners but ok”. Which other diners? The place was empty and looking around Salt House is a pretty big restaurant with plenty of places to sit. If they could fill all those tables for lunch on Tuesday then I take it all back. Everything I have said. They do however have a new Chef so I have been told.
So we took a seat, the two of us at our table for four and had a look over the menu. The Salt House does have a two course lunch menu with a glass of wine but we decided to forgo that and went with the Main Menu. I have to say that the menu wasn’t exactly exciting and it sort of forced me to choose something to eat rather than have something stand out that I wanted to eat. It appears that EG had the same problem but in the end she went with the Fish of the Day which after consultation with the waiter was confirmed as Barramundi with Vegetables, not sure what the vegetables were but they were vegetables.
When I dined at Salt House those many moons ago I ordered the Seafood Platter, which was at the time a lot more expensive at AU$50. I remember this because I ordered with my $50 voucher that I won at a Trivia Night there only a few weeks before. Seeing that the Seafood Platter was now $14 cheaper at AU$36 I decided to go with the Seafood Platter again.
Looking around at the restaurant I noticed (it didn’t seem to phase EG at all) that the chairs and furniture were all covered with mould. Considering that the main theme for the furniture is white leather it was quite noticeable. I know that the Salt House is kind of an outdoor restaurant but the furniture looks tired and weathered. It would certainly do with a good scrub of Exit Mould (mind the fumes, they are lethal) or maybe even a refurbish? The Salt House has been around for a few years now and you can tell by the state of the furniture. Still I have to give it to them it is an impressive looking restaurant, particularly by night and somewhere that I always bring friends and family from interstate for a drink in the evening during their visit.
The waiter bought me out a bowl of water with some floating lemons for my fingers and another white bowl to put my shells and what not in. Even then I noticed that the bowls were old and stained and could really do with a good old blast in the dishwasher with some Finish Powerball tablets. It was a little bit disappointing for a restaurant as exy as the Salt House.
Our meals arrived in good time and after a bit of a photo shoot of the meals we tucked in. EG’s fillet of Barramundi was a very decent serve and was succulent and cooked to perfection. The greyish skin that was still on top was slightly crispy and contrasted well with the bright green asparagus on top. The asparagus was crisp and not overcooked, the way asparagus and any other greens for that matter should be. The only problem with E’s meal was the cold vegetables on the side. It looked a bit like Ratatouille to me and tasted like it. There was some zucchini, some capsicum and Tomato as well. It was cold and had been served pretty much straight from the fridge which kind of took away from the meal a little and E said that it would have been much nicer if they had heated it up a to match the temperature of the rest of the meal. I tended to agree with her.
Next up was my Seafood Platter (for one) which consisted of a whole Moreton Bay Bug (halved), Glazed Tuna Tateki, King Prawns still in the shell (maybe 4?), two oysters, a red claw crayfish, some dipping sauces (Dill Marscapone, tzatziki and guacamole) and half a lemon. Last time I had the seafood platter there was a few extras on there like Smoked Salmon, Fish Roe, 3 oysters instead of 2, wakame seaweed and some squid, amongst a couple of other things that I can’t identify from the picture. But like I said the current Seafood Platter is AU$36 while the old one was AU$50. I am assuming that they got rid of the squid because it was horrible imported squid and no one should serve that least of all a fancy restaurant. I was pretty happy with my Seafood Platter although it was a little small and missing the wakame seafood that I so adore. Although the description of the Seafood Platter on the Salt House website does appear to be different to what I got All the items were cold, as I would expect from a Seafood Platter. That extra oyster wouldn’t have gone astray because the oysters were pretty small with not much meat in them. The dipping sauces were yummy especially the guacamole which which was nice and chunky. Um what else can I say? The presentation was good?
So where to from now? The food at Salt House was, how do I say this? Better than expected I guess. We both enjoyed our meals but had we paid full price (cue Table 52 card) I would have been a little disappointed. The service was better, not outstanding but at least the staff’s uniforms were clean this time. I tried to leave my expectations and past experience at Salt House at the door but it was a little hard to do that. I guess my beef with the Salt House is that for somewhere as high profile and as expensive as the Salt House I do expect just a little bit more from the decor, to the service, to the food. Love it or hate it, the Salt House is certainly a Cairns institution but I think I’ll just stick to ordering G and T’s from the bar from now on rather than go the dining option, after I try the new 2 course lunch menu of course.
6/2 Pier Point Rd, Cairns QLD 4807
Ph: (07) 4041 7733
Opening Hours: Mon – Thurs 12pm – midnight, Fri – Sat 7am – 2am, Sun 7am – midnight
It was Sunday night and MS and I were so damn hungover that all we really wanted to do was eat crap food (or as the professionals call it – Carb Load). The whole hangover thing really isn’t doing wonders for my self esteem especially when we end up at La Porchetta with our Table 52 card. No carbs as of next week I swear! So yeah like I said we rocked up at La Porchetta on the Sunday and we were greeted by an unfriendly lady at the counter that showed us to a table right next to another couple. Being the ‘you can’t tell me what to do’ type person that he is MS promptly moved us to another table a little further down and outside the 1 metre radius to other diners that was expected of us. I know that waitstaff do that so it’s easier to serve you but it just seemed a little close to everyone else considering we were pretty much in an empty restaurant.
The lady bought us some water since that was probably all I could stomach and it made me feel better about the content of the meal I was about to consume. We had a look over their extensive menu and I mean it is a pretty extensive menu from Parmigiana’s to Calzones to Salad. We both knew what we wanted (pizza and pasta) but it was just choosing which type that proved difficult. MS chose the Pollo Et Fungi which was Lean Chicken Pieces, Spring Onions, Mushrooms and Parmesan Cheese in a Cream Sauce with Fettucine (AU$19.40) and in the end true to form I chose the Mushroom Pasta also with Fettucine (AU$18.20) because how good are mushrooms in pasta? We also chose a medium Caprese Pizza with Tomato Base, Bocconcini, Fresh Tomato, Basil and Olive Oil to share for AU$18.80 (don’t judge us).
There was only two other occupied tables in the entire, extremely large restaurant and these tables were already eating or had finished their meals so I knew it wouldn’t take long for our meals to arrive. We chatted about our extremely large night on the town that ended up in, well lets just say some practical jokes being played and a fire hose being discharged in an alley way to ease chilli burns in the nether regions (note: no revellers were injured in our escapades but MS may have suffered a little blow to his huge ego). It was still a good night had by all despite the ensuing and cripling hangover that was continuing well into the evening for me.
Looking around the restaurant I noticed that the kitchen seems to be run by about 3 or 4 apprentice chefs. I mean they could have been qualified but they were very young. I didn’t care as long as my meal came out in good time and it tasted good. Our meals arrived in good time and by god I am pretty sure my hangover eased just at the sight of that pizza. It was cheesy, the base was crunchy, it had pesto on it and by all accounts I would have to say it’s one of the best pizzas that I have had in a long time. I know one of my readers commented a little while back that La Porchetta has the best pizzas in town and I did say I would get there eventually. Right you were my friend! Ok, so the only other pizzas that I have had in the last 6 months would probably be a AU$5 pizza at Bella Vista 2-4-1’s on a Friday or the 4 Cheese Pizza from Bel Paese that I raved about a couple of months ago. I’m going to have to break rank here and say that this La Porcetta Bocconcini and Tomato Pizza was better. Oh god it was good.
Next up, our pasta dishes. MS started out eating his. I asked him how it was and he replied “Yeah it’s ok” but by halfway through the dish he decided that it was delicious and apparently just what the doctor ordered. Since then MS’ review of his pasta dish has only improved and upon departure he confirmed that his pasta was in fact awesome. Not quite as good as his first experience at Bel Paese but it was up there for sure.
After I doused my pasta in Tabasco Sauce because lets face it, all pasta benefits from Tabasco Sauce, I dug in and I have to agree it was awesome in it’s carby goodness. There was plenty of mushrooms in there and the serving size was massive for little old me but I still put a fair dint in it with very little left in my bowl when I finally decided I was finished.
So it turns out the unfriendly lady wasn’t so unfriendly after all, MS won her over with his wit and charm throughout our meal and she loosened up a little and even smiled in the end. Seems to me that she had had a long week and was looking forward to closing time but she was nice enough. First impressions really do count for me but she came good in the end.
In the end, after finishing off two bowls of pasta and a medium pizza (I’m pretty sure we shared a kebab in the wee hours of the morning – again don’t judge us) we went home and only communicated through grunts and moans from reclined positions on the couch. But seriously, if you want a good feed of Pasta and (I’m gonna go out on a limb here) probably what some would consider to be the best pizzas in town (I’m an advocate) then head down to La Porchetta. Hangover or no hangover it’s still gonna be just what the doctor ordered.
108 – 114 Grafton St, Cairns QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 4031 6661
Opening Hours: Mon – Sun 11.30am – 10pm
A couple of weeks ago on one particularly busy Friday night MS and I ventured into the Cairns CBD in search of a quiet dinner together before he flew out for work the next morning. Eager to satisfy my craving for a Red Duck Curry we ended up at Cafe Thailand on Aplin St, somewhere I have been a few times before and always enjoyed my meal. Unfortunately this time around the restaurant was quite busy and we stood at the door waiting to be seated only to be ignored by up to six waitstaff aimlessly milling around, including the male host behind another counter accepting payments and then looked on in horror as a group of five that had arrived minutes after us were readily ushered to an available table. No, they didn’t have a booking and yes, there were plenty of tables for two that we could have been seated at. At this point MS and I promptly turned and walked out. They had lost our business for the night and the sour taste that was left in my mouth will cause me to not return for quite a while. It was incredibly rude and I was pretty pissed off about the whole affair as we walked away. We decided to continue on our Asian quest and ended up at Taste of China on Abbott St. A restaurant that has been in Cairns for years and years. I remember doing seafood deliveries with my dad about 15 odd years ago when I was just a wee one. Never in the time that MS and I have lived in Cairns (all our lives) have we eaten there so we decided to give it a go. Well, it was my idea, MS was persuaded by the idea that he coulde order BBQ Pork Buns which he has only recently discovered the wonders of. Something that I have been privy to since I was old enough to say Chinese.
We were greeted at the door by a friendly older hostess who ushered us to a table right at the front near the window with a couple of menus to peruse. I ordered a glass of Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc for AU$9 while ever the sensible M “I don’t drink” S ordered a glass of Coke. There was a meal deal for AU$39 per person including the choice of two entrees, one main, fried rice and dessert, however we decided that we didn’t want to eat quite that much and went for an entree and two mains to share with some steamed rice included. Of course we ordered the pork buns for entree, however we ordered Shanghai Pork Buns thinking that they were the same thing. On ordering the hostess was cluey enough to inform us that they weren’t infact the BBQ Pork Buns that we thought they were but said that Taste of China did also have those. We’ll have those thanks.
Next up, sticking with the Pork theme MS ordered the BBQ Pork for a main. I wasn’t concerned. BBQ Pork in a bun and on a plate. Hell yes! Being the creature of habit that I am I ordered my usual Boneless Lemon Chicken. We waited between five to ten minutes for our BBQ Pork Bun entree to arrive. As always the buns were light, fluffy and slightly sweet with the yummy pork filling in the middle. We were both a little sad that we only got two Pork Buns for our entree but that is the norm when ordering them at any Chinese restaurant. Our plates were cleared quickly and soon after our mains arrived along with our small steamed rice to share.
Firstly the BBQ Pork that MS ordered was bought out and placed between us. The sauce that accompanied the Pork was dark and sticky. A lot more sticky than usual and resembled and tasted much like molasses. It was delicious and the Pork pieces were very tender with just a little bit of fat marbled along the side. We were both very happy with the serving size. The only problem with this dish is that the sauce was so sticky that it was difficult to transfer the sauce from the serving plate onto my own plate of rice. Not exactly something that I would call a big deal but the sauce was so sweet and delicious that I wanted it on my rice. A task that proved most difficult.
Next up my order of Boneless Lemon Chicken arrived. Now I do have to say that due to my families long running loyalty to Cairns’ favourite Chinese Takeway Kin-Wah my view or idea on Lemon Chicken is a little skewed. I may or may not be a little biased to the way they serve their Lemon Chicken at Kin-Wah and am forever in search of one to match it. I have said in a previous post how amazing the Lemon Chicken at Kin-Wah is and I still haven’t changed my tune. The Lemon Chicken at Taste of China was good but it wasn’t as good as my tried and true. The batter just wasn’t the same, the sauce just wasn’t quite ‘lemony’ enough and as was the case with the BBQ Pork, the consistency of the sauce was a little too thick. Might have to lay off the cornflour just a little next time chef.
We received really good service at Taste of China right up until the point where MS went to pay and pulled out our Table 52 card. Upon this swift movement from his wallet the “I’m happy to serve you in my restaurant” demeanour that we had received from the hostess promptly changed to a “Give me your money and get the hell out of my restaurant” tone. Something neither of us saw coming because she seemed like such a nice lady, happy to accommodate us for dinner. Apparently this wasn’t the case and I’m pretty sure that Table 52 encourage you to produce your card at your dining establishment before ordering. This is something I absolutely refuse to do it for fear of that particular restaurant serving me or my dining companion a smaller amount or giving me any less than the outstanding service that I deserve if I were to pay full price for my meal. Obviously this premise of mine has nothing to do with Table 52 but a sneaking suspicion that MS and I have with certain restaurants that we have dined at.
So, in conclusion, despite the proliferance of MSG in the food at Taste of China, which was something that only became apparent when neither MS or I got a wink of sleep all night even though my alarm was set for 5.30am to get up to take MS to the airport. There was also the odd litre or so of water that I drank through the night because I was just so damn parched! Yeah so despite all this we actually did enjoy our meal at Taste of China. The service was really good (up until a certain point), the food was equally as good and the serving sizes ample. It’s up to you as to whether you produce your Table 52 card early on or later in the piece but me… I would much rather smiles from the hostess serving me than evil glances in between polishing cutlery and spitting in my food.
Taste of China
36 Abbott St, Cairns QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 4031 3668
Got to fulfill my wish of having the Award-Winning Four Cheese Pizza (Ricotta, Mozzarella, Parmesan and Blue) at Bel Paese last week and I have to say it was amazing! Not to mention their yummy Puttanesca and the Fettucine Casa Nostra that MS ordered. The only thing that could make this pizza better would be five cheeses! So gooooood!
45 Spence St, Cairns QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 4051 6165
Opening Hours: Mon – Sat 5pm till late
Last Saturday my friend RS and I were looking for somewhere to go for a cheap feed and decided on (well I decided on) Lan’s Vietnamese Restaurant after hearing a few good things about it on Facebook and via other online sources (Trip Advisor). My Lan’s Vietnamese Restaurant Table 52 card may have also had something to do with my selection. Being a BYO (Wine Only) Restaurant I asked RS if she would like to get a bottle of wine for herself and I would be the designated driver. She politely declined and after a big night a few nights earlier on a nasty spirit starting with T and ending with Ila I also opted for the water. We arrived just after 8 at Lan’s to find the restaurant about a third full. After a little bit of confusion from the two waitstaff as to who was going to seat us we were shown to a seat at the front of the restaurant, right near the entrance.
The waitress that claimed us fetched some water and some glasses and bought us some menus. RS and I had a lot of catching up to do after a slight falling out between us late last year but we were moving on with a friendly Saturday night dinner pretty much picking up right where we left off. In between catching up the waitress came over a few times to ask us for our order but neither of us had had a chance to even glance at the menu yet. The waitress wasn’t bothered and I told her that I would let her know when we were ready. We both had a look at the menu and I have to say that nothing on the menu interested either of us in the slightest. It all sounded very boring, so much so that RS pulled a 2-4-1 meal voucher out of her bag for another restaurant in town and asked if we should go there instead. I figured that since we were here already and seated with water that we should give it a try. Eventually I gave the waitress the old ‘nod’ and she came over and took our order. We both decided to skip the entrees and went straight for the mains. RS ordered the Vietnamese Chicken Ginger and Rice for AU$18.50 and I ordered the Stir-fry Chicken Lemongrass and Rice (AU$18.50) from the Special’s Menu that surprisingly (much like the specials board out the front of Fetta’s) hasn’t changed since I dined at Lan’s well over 6 months ago. According to the menu the Stiryfry Chicken Lemongrass is ‘cooked with love’ so I figured it must be good!
We waited about 10 minutes for our meals to arrive which is almost too quick but hey there isn’t much to a Stir-fry Chicken, really. The meals looked very similar except my Stir-fry Chicken Lemongrass was darker in colour than RS’ Vietnamese Chicken Ginger. Each meal came with a large plate of rice. A plate that I thought was much too big for me when I saw it but typically I ate the lot as did RS.
We both dug into our meals sharing a little so we could each taste what the other had ordered. RS told me she didn’t care much for my Chicken Lemongrass because it was too salty while I told her I didn’t care much for her Chicken Ginger because it was too bland. RS enjoyed her meal although she did say that it was nothing special and she also managed to pull a couple of ‘questionable’ looking pieces of chicken out of it and put them on the side. To me her meal had almost no flavour at all except for a few slivers of fresh ginger stirred through it. She did however finish the entire meal.
I enjoyed my Chicken Lemongrass but I do have to admit that it wasn’t anything special and it really was very salty but then again I would rather it be salty than taste like nothing. It really just looked like something that had been carelessly thrown together, not like something ‘cooked with love’ as stated on the menu. I did finish it and minus a few stray bits of capsicum that I pushed to the side (another vegetable I’m not fond of).
I have to say after two occasions of dining at Lan’s (I didn’t write about the last one) I am really not very impressed at all. The service is good yeah but the food is very ordinary and the atmosphere is terrible. I can’t put my finger on why but it’s just feels very sterile. There is more atmosphere at the Nightmarkets food hall. I am assuming that the majority of the customers that dine there are staying at the Discovery Resort that Lan’s is attached to. In the end I can’t really complain since the meal did only cost us just under AU$10 each but the fact that the menu was so undesirable that we nearly left in search of somewhere else to eat is pretty bad. The only thing that’s going for it really is the ‘BYO Wine’. Our decision not to drink is a decision that RS and I probably should have reconsidered.
Lan’s Vietnamese Restaurant
183 Lake St, Cairns QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 4044 9796
Opening Hours: 7 days 6am – 10am, 6pm-10pm
After months of thinking about it I finally managed to get myself down to local Italian restaurant Bel Paese last night after some encouragement from a friend of mine who dined there last week and loved it. I have heard quite a bit about this little restaurant from a few people and from some reviews online so I decided I should ignore the carb content and go check it out. I was accompanied by my good friend LL who recommended the Puttanesca. I do know that Bel Paese has won awards for it’s Four Cheese Pizza but tonight I was looking for a pasta hit and since the Puttanesca came highly recommended that is exactly what I chose. The Puttanesca is Pasta with Anchovies, Olives, Capers, Chilli, Garlic and Tomato (AU$18.90). Some of you probably say “yuck” to the anchovies but I say “give me extra”! I eat those things out of the jar! While we waited for our mains to arrive LL and I argued about how long Bel Paese had been open in Cairns for. He claimed that it had opened just after the Bavarian Beerhouse nextdoor (mid last year-ish) while I argued that it had been open for a few years. The friendly waitress halted our bickering when she told us that it had indeed been open for a few years. I won.
We waited about 15 minutes for our Puttanesca’s to arrive and they came chockers with olives, capers and little slivers of anchovies. The chilli gave it that little bit of spice that I think every pasta needs. I will have to be honest, I haven’t had too many Puttanesca’s in my time but this one was the best and I would have to say the best Italian meal that I have had in a while. It was simply delicious and just the right serving size… Not too little, not too much. We both really enjoyed our Puttanesca’s and after I finished my meal I had to thank LL for the pasta recommendation. YUM!
Now I am asking myself if this little gem of an Italian restaurant has been open in Cairns for “a few years” then why oh why haven’t I been there earlier? The decor at Bel Paese is nothing flash. Well… the office chairs that you sit on certainly give it a bit of character but they are cushy to say the least. We received great service and the food (well my Puttanesca) was fantastic and at AU$18.90 it was pretty cheap really. There is none of this bullsh*t entree/main sized pasta dishes on the menu. One size fits all at Bel Paese.
45 Spence St, Cairns QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 4051 6165
Opening Hours: 5pm till late Mon-Sat
Right. Where do I start? I guess the beginning would be the best place. Sorry about the lateness of this post. I have been working out of phone range so I have literally been unable to post anything until now. The last restaurant that MS and I went to before I left was Ochre, formerly Red Ochre. A restaurant that you could probably describe as a Cairns institution since it has been here so damn long. Up until a couple of weeks ago I had never been there before, for two reasons: 1) Because I have never really been a fan of eating my coat of arms (that would be the kangaroo and the emu, and 2) because I always thought it was too expensive. Cue Table 52 card. Anyway after reading all about it on Trip Advisor (great website by the way) and hearing about it from a few other people MS and I decided (ok I decided) to go there for dinner.
I booked us a table the previous day and lucky I did because Ochre was quite busy for a Tuesday night. I would say about 2/3 full with a large majority of those diners being tourists. (Whoever does the marketing for Ochre is doing an exceptional job particularly in the overseas visitor department). Upon arriving we were shown to our table for two near the window amongst the other diners and the dim lighting where we ordered our drinks. Ignoring the descriptions of wine on the menu I was taken by the name of the wine and asked for a bottle of Stonefish Sauvignon Blanc for the two of us. Note to self: In future, don’t just choose it because you like the name of it. The waiter poured us a glass of water each and fetched out bottle of wine.
In the mean time we looked over the menu and each decided on an entree and a main. MS went with the Twice Cooked Pork Belly, seared Queensland Scallops with Davidson Plum Jam and Cauliflower Puree (AU$21) for an entree while I, going against my previous statement about eating Australia’s coat of arms, was hell bent on trying what Ochre is best known for… local tucker. I ordered the Australian Antipasto Tasting Plate which consisted of Kangaroo Terrine with Pickled Kakadu Plum, Crocodile Wonton with Red Pepper Jam, Lemon Aspen Ocean Trout Gravlax, Emu Carpaccio, Goats Cheese and Roast Capsicum Roulade (AU$23).
For a main, MS was torn between the pork and the lamb but ended up opting for the Lamb Short Loin with Preserved Lemon Risotto, Sunrise Lime, Date and Sultana Salsa and Harissa Glaze (AU$34), which if you ask me is very Australian of him. I chose the Tempura Bay Bugs on Lemongrass, Green Papaya Salad and Sweet Chilli Lemon Myrtle Dipping Sauce (AU$36). All of the items on the menu sounded absolutely delicious and I have to say I did have a hard time finally choosing that dish over the rest on the menu. While waiting for our meals to arrive we toasted our evening at Ochre and had a sip of our wine. Turns out that Stonefish wasn’t a particularly good choice of wine on my behalf as it was much too sweet, and sour. (I’m not a wine reviewer ok so don’t judge me on my wine description). We still drank it but it just wasn’t the best tasting wine I have had to be honest.
We waited about 15-20 minutes for our entrees to arrive which the waitress placed in the middle of the table so we could share. The presentation of the entrees was outstanding, though as I had expected there was a lot of vacant space on the plates and not really that much food present. We started with the Australian Antipasto Tasting Plate. MS and I split the Crocodile Wonton in two and each had a bite. It was nice but nothing fantastic. The flavours of the Red Pepper Jam overtook the flavour of the crocodile so you couldn’t really taste anything other than Jam. Next up the Kangaroo Terrine which I quite enjoyed. MS didn’t like it at all and let me eat his share. The Ocean Trout Gravlax was delicious and even MS with his “I don’t like seafood” attitude enjoyed it saying that it tasted much different to what he was expecting. Not sure what he was expecting but apparently that wasn’t it. And lastly was the Emu Carpaccio. Hmmm, I wasn’t a fan and neither was MS. I think it tasted a little like an old boot, not that I am prone to the odd boot but if I was I think that is what it would taste like. I think that the Australian Antipasto Tasting Plate is just a bit of a gimmick for the tourists who want to sample Australia’s unique wildlife and I’m not just talking visually here. I’m glad we tried it but I wouldn’t order it again.
Next entree was the Twice Cooked Pork Belly, Seared Queensland Scallops with Davidson Plum Jam and Cauliflower Puree. We both really enjoyed this dish. The only problem with it was that it was too small and we were both left wanting more. MS gobbled up two of the scallops so quickly I was left wondering if he actually knew that scallops came from the ocean. Apparently he did and apparently he also liked them. Hmmm I am beginning to think that this whole “I don’t like seafood” thing is a bit of a sham. Underneath the scallops was a cauliflower puree which was light, fluffy and oh so tasty. The pork belly was delicious and tender and the Davidson Plum sauce that was underneath these tender morsels was beautiful and rich. The Davidson Plum Jam was so good that I nearly licked remainder clean off the plate.
Next up were our mains, which after our entree plates were cleared took easily less than 15 minutes to arrive. Again, the presentation of the main dishes was exceptional but I was left with meal envy when I saw what MS had in front of him. Don’t get me wrong my bugs looked amazing but his lamb looked insanely good and tasted as good as it looked. The pieces of lamb were super tender and cooked to perfection (slightly rare) along with the delicious date and sultana salsa that matched it so well. It was quite a decent serve for a main. Not at all what either of us were expecting after the size of the entrees. MS really enjoyed his lamb and so did I.
My expertly cooked bugs were fantastic. They were not at all overcooked and were plump and juicy with crispy tempura on the outside that was not overly oily. MS had a taste and decided that not only did this non seafood lover like scallops but apparently he liked bugs too. The sweet, tender bug meat was a perfect match for the papaya salad which it was placed on top of. I loved this dish because it was cooked so delicately and even though it was fried it wasn’t too heavy. The serving size was also quite decent and not lacking in any respect.
Both MS and I enjoyed our main meals at Ochre along with one of our entrees (the scallop and pork belly one). You can keep the emu and crocodile as it seems that eating Australia’s coat of arms just isn’t my thing. Still I am prone to the odd Kangaroo steak at home but we won’t go into that. The service at Ochre was fantastic, the food just one step down from outstanding and the prices were very reasonable for a fine dining restaurant which is why Ochre has certainly stood the test of time in what is a struggling Cairns economy. Having finally had a chance dine at Ochre I have to say it that it wasn’t everything that I had hoped that it would be. It didn’t blow my socks off. After reading some reviews I was expecting Ochre to be my new number one restaurant in Cairns but it didn’t quite make it to that coveted position. What is my number one restaurant in Cairns you ask? Well, sadly I am yet to find a restaurant that ticks all the boxes, and ticks them well. In the meantime, I’ll keep you posted.
43 Shields St, Cairns QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 4051 0100