The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Recommended Eats in Cairns, Qld Australia

During our very short stay in Cairns, we ate some good tucker and I feel it's my duty to pass the good word along, because good eats always enhance one's holiday/trip to a different city. (We also had a bad dining experience at one of the restaurants on the Esplanade where you'd expect good service for the price they ask (including having to wait more than 20 minutes for someone to take our payment for the dinner bill - and this was on a weeknight when the restaurant was perhaps only half-full!), but I'm not about to waste my time writing about that.)

Breakfast, brunch or lunch

Head to Hide's Coffee Cafe (Shop 7, 87 Lake Street) for some good breakfast or lunch under $10. We arrived in Cairns hungry and starving at 6:30am because - annoyingly - our flight did not serve us any breakfast! But a huge scone with jam 'n cream (AU$3.50) and a plate of bacon, eggs & toast (AU$7.50) really hit the hunger spot in our bellies. Not a very healthy breakfast choice (although there were healthier options available at this cafe like muesli, yoghurt and fruit), but when you're pregnant and hungry at 7am in the morning when no other shops are open, you'll also want a hearty and satisfying brekkie.

Devonshire-style scone and bacon & eggs at Hide's:

Another good lunch eats was the good ol' doner kebab, which I hadn't eaten for years! In Perth, a fried egg is an optional (delicious) extra in doner kebabs, but in Cairns (and Brisbane) we found that the optional fried egg was absent from the menu. Nevertheless, the doner kebab sans egg was still good - and hummus, garlic sauce and sour cream go really well together on the palate. There are a couple of kebab stalls on the Esplanade (one of which is open for 24 hours), and the kebab pictured below is from Oz Kebab in the food court at the Central Shopping Centre. (This Wikipedia entry gives a good description of the various types of doner kebabs available around the world.)

A doner kebab:


We had an excellent meal at Donnini's Ciao Italia at the Pier Marketplace on the Esplanade. Donnini's serves Italian cuisine, and features indoor and outdoor dining options. The atmosphere was wonderfully relaxed, and our waitress' service was commendable - she was friendly, helpful and very good at her job (the others seemed slack compared to her). The menu offered the usual entree options like bruschetta and garlic bread, and there are several options for pizza and pasta as well as non-pizza/pasta main courses of seafood, poultry and meat. There was also a menu of daily specials available.

To start with, we ordered the bruschetta of the day: Roasted Pumpkin Bruschetta (AU$8.90). It didn't come out in the usual style we were used to (slices of bread with toppings), but instead was served pizza-style (see photo). The roasted flavours of the pumpkin was beautiful, and went well with the cheese.

Roasted Pumpkin Bruschetta:

For mains, Rob ordered the Oven-baked Barramundi Rolls (AU$34.90) which had a leek and prawn filling with saffron, chive and butter sauce, served on top sautéed spinach. It was good, although the barramundi was little over-cooked (we've come to expect overcooked fish and seafood outside of Japan). The buttery sauce was a good accompaniment and added extra flavours to the relatively mild barramundi flesh. I ordered the Seafood Linguine containing salmon, scallop, spinach and chunks of tomatoes, and it was satisfyingly good. I opted for the smaller entree-sized portion (AU$17.90) which was a fairly generous portion and I had a little trouble with it. I would definitely not have been able to tackle the mains-sized portion of this pasta dish!

Seafood Linguine and Oven-baked Barramundi Rolls:

We were pretty full by the time we'd finished with our main courses, but we spotted Trio di Cannoli (AU$12.95) on the daily specials menu and were curious about it. So we enquired our friendly waitress about this dessert who highly recommended the dessert ("to die for" were the words she used). Apparently it used to be on the regular menu and people would drop by the restaurant just for these cannoli. Needless to say, we didn't hesitate to order this dessert. I am not usually a big fan of custard- or cream-filled pastries like profiterole because they can become soggy and soggy pastry is not a very nice texture on the tongue. However, these cannoli were very well-made and the waitress was right - they were very good indeed. As the name suggests, there were three types of fillings: strawberry, chocolate and vanilla for each of the cannoli. The cannoli were served three sauces: strawberry sauce, chocolate sauce and runny custard, placed at complementary sections of the plate (e.g. the chocolate sauce was placed between the strawberry and vanilla cannoli). And in the middle of the plate was a scoop of chocolate chip gelato which was heavenly on its own. And the pastry was divine - crisp and perfectly baked, it was the highlight of the dish. Look at me going on and on about the dessert - you'd think that I'm a pastry lover!

Delicious Cannoli!

The cost of this dinner for two came to around AU$80, and it was worth every cent we paid. That little extra effort put in by the waitress while serving us made the dining experience that much nicer.

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