Sunday, 6 July 2008

Cairns Food Report

Well, I promised so I'd better get to it before I forget. This week has been a bit problematic for blogging - apart from writing for the paper, and trying to go back to work, I've also been unwell. Some kind of virus, probably - headaches & exhaustion. As I settle back into routine I should do better. Maybe even get another internet salmagundi up.

Anyway, four of us went to Cairns, and stayed in a small apartment in a resort complex. In between lounging about, soaking in the spa, lazing around and chilling out, we also managed a few activities and a few meals. On Sunday we went to Rusty's Markets in town, and spent up big on fruit. We came back to our resort apartment with pomelo, pineapple, passionfruit, custard apple, dragonfruit, bananas, starfruit, black sapote, pink papaya and limes, all very cheaply. We also bought a few cookies, a big bunch of flowers, and some shiny things - the Sunday market features some craft stalls, too. I picked up a freshwater pearl ring, little abalone shell earrings and some purple shell earrings for $5 a piece.

We had Sunday dinner with my family and a guest of theirs, at Tamarind restaurant. This place is in the casino downtown, but it's nevertheless tasteful. Lot of warm brown wood and bamboo decor, and a menu of modern Oz/Asian fusion. In typical Cairns fashion it's a little too air-conditioned, so I was very glad I had my purple pashmina (from Darjeeling, part of last year's Bhutan trip). The food and service were terrific; and I recommend it to anyone who wants a high end meal out in Cairns.

I had a tasting entree plate, a spatchcock with black rice, and a kaffir lime scented creme brulee. The mixed entree pla
te ($21) here has a coconut battered prawn, a vietnamese vegetable ricepaper roll, a scallop with nashi, lychee and watercress salad, and an oxtail consomm
é with enoki mushrooms. The consommé was wonderfully rich, with shreds of meat at the bottom; and was my favourite of the set. For a main course, I had the crispy skinned lemon glazed spatchcock with roasted chilli and coconut salad, and black rice ($34). Imagine if lemon chicken could be transmogrified from a cheap Chinese restaurant standard into excellence... I don't remember what everyone else had for mains, but the bloke had a braised Angus beef cheek red curry, which was a huge serving. We had some mixed asian greens, as well, beautifully crisp.

Desserts were a must for some of us, although the bloke was so full from his red curry that he even passed up the cheese plate. I went for the kaffir lime creme brulee with peanut wafers ($12), while some others picked the waiter's recommendation of the iced hazelnut and cassia souffle with frangelico cream. I was quite glad I didn't, as it was very rich. I didn't finish my brulee, either, but the sharp lime tang was very refreshing.

The next day we had lunch at Far Horizons, in Palm Cove, which is where the top photo comes from. The food was lovely, and the place has a great outlook through palm trees out to the beach, but the service was rather slow. I had a very good marinara pasta, and shared a papaya risotto dessert with Belinda. Mmmm, glorified rice pudding.

So we were off to a great start. We ate a lot of the fruit during the week. The black sapote, which is also called chocolate pudding fruit, was good with coffee blossom honey and greek yoghurt. It's not actually chocolatey in taste, it's the colour and texture that gives it the name. I especially love this coffee blossom honey, it's very dark and strong and waxy, and comes from Jaques coffee plantation up on the Atherton tableland. We didn't go there, my sister got it for me specially, so thanks, Gill!

We also ate at the German sausage shop in Kuranda, where we had lunch and pints of a light, refreshing Swiss honey beer, before browsing the markets and the aviary. I had an icecream from the famous tropical fruit icecream cart, but was not a little disappointed with the lumpy icy texture of the macadamia and tropical flavours that I tried. I'm sure it was better when I was there two years ago. Dolce & Gelato in town did a lot better at the tropical fruit flavours - their passionfruit and dragonfruit were really great, and so was the dark chocolate and jersey caramel.

The cafe in the Botanic Gardens was a lovely spot for lunch. Several of us tried their special seafood pie, which was fresh baked, piping hot with a creamy filling of scallops and prawns in mornay sauce. Sadly the pastry was underdone, and the coffee was weak - which seems to be normal in Cairns - but it's a nice place anyway; I'd go back. We also got excellent Thai takeaway from the Banana Leaf restaurant in the city. We had melt in the mouth grain fed steaks at the Bull Bar. Mostly we avoided the esplanade, as rather too backpacker-laden and overpriced, though we did try a couple of the cafes and found them, umm, unspecial. And with weak coffee.

But on our last night we took my sister's advice again for the Raw Prawn, which is on the esplanade, and although pricy it's also pretty good. I had a very pleasant cream soup, that was supposed to be a chowder, and a barramundi fillet with asparagus, guacamole and kipfler potatoes. But unfortunately I got a nasty headache and had to leave - so no dessert for me :( Maybe next time.

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