Archive for the ‘Dining and nightlife’ Category

Cairns beer is back - Blue Sky Brewery

Monday, August 11th, 2008

Opened only a couple of weeks ago, Blue Sky Brewery is already attracting the crowds in search of home brewed beer.

I won’t be able to describe the beer at this new Cairns venue in depth, as I was the designated driver and was allowed to have only a couple of the lightest beer that they served. But from the amount of beers Steve and our others friends had, I think the experience they had must have been very good.

Apart from serving all the spirits you can think of and having an extensive wine cellar, the main attraction of this new venue is the handcrafted beer they brew onsine. Six different boutique beers, from the lightest one to the darkest variety, that will delight beer lovers. I started, and carried on with their lager, a really light but tasty and refreshing drink. Steve, even though he was determined to try each beer, only tried three different ones until he found the one he really loved: the blue sky pilsner, as he said that the taste was unusual although delicious. Our friend Dan started from the lightest one and finished with the darkest one, but I cannot say how many times he went over the menu, as we left around 11.30pm and he was still going back to the bar.

We also tried their food, as the Spaniards know very well, it’s not healthy drinking on a empty stomach. Most of us had pizza, and mine was delicious. Steve wasn’t as happy with his choice, Daintree pizza, it was a bit plain. Hehe, I don’t know why he keeps choosing his own food, more than frequently whatever I order is usually much better than his order. And this time it wasn’t otherwise.

All in all, we loved the place and we will definetely go back there again, hopefully very soon. We still have to try their ginger beer, so far the only ginger beer I have tried is the non alcoholic one, and I’m more than eager to try the real stuff. Only one little complain, the lights are too bright and it wouldn’t hurt to turn them down a bit after a certain time.

We’ve been busy these last days meeting with Spanish people. It’s great to know that more and more Spaniards are keen to travel to the other side of the world. Hopefully we will stop thinking that Australia is too far away and will be eager to discover this fabulous country. So we met up with Sonia and Javi, from Bilbao, with Monica and her group, from Madrid, with Isabel and Arkaitz, also from Bilbao, with Roger and Miriam, from Barcelona… I guess I cannot complain, I love meeting up with them and share a bit of our culture. I will never get tired of saying how small the world is, I knew one of the guys from Madrid from going to the same venues in the city.

But what’s news this week is that WE FINALLY HAVE THE TICKETS TO GO TO MADRID IN DECEMBER!!! I will try to keep it quiet from my family and surprise them. So shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh everyone!

Tapas style dining: 2 Tone Tapas Bar, Cairns

Saturday, July 19th, 2008

Tapas dining is a rich cultural pastime of Spain. Its origins date back to the 16th century under King Felipe the 3rd. Tapas meaning ‘lid’ was introduced in an attempt to curb the increasing levels of alcohol related offences. The law then stated, when a customer purchases a drink the bartender was to provide a small portion of food, which was then placed on a ‘lid’ on top of the glass. Today Tapas is a time honoured tradition in Spain, and has been adopted around the world.   2Tone Tapas Restaurant and Cocktail Lounge in central Cairns has based their Tapas menu on healthy Mediterranean cuisine with modern Australian influences. Maria and I have been looking forward to dining at 2Tone, and last week we finally had the opportunity.

It was a drizzly Tuesday evening, but 2Tone had a few tables full just the same. The atmosphere was comfortable and relaxed, with soft ambient lighting. Maria recognized some of the Spanish music playing in the background.

Service was professional and efficient, and it wasn’t long before we were gazing at a large plate of flatbread and dips. Now, I always say you can tell a lot about a restaurant by the ‘little things’; their attention to detail, and the effort they put into aspects that some may not deem very important. It reminded me of a function Maria and I attended some time ago - the lunch buffet included chicken, ham, and a variety of salads but the only comments that I heard from other guests over the course of the afternoon were that the bread was stale. Well, not at 2Tone…

I made a mental note to ask 2Tone’s owner/manager at the end of the night where in the world he sourced such magnificent bread. This was not the packaged supermarket pita that you may be served in some eateries; this was authentic flatbread the likes of which I have only ever found in the Middle East or North Africa. For the record, he did share his source with us, but we are bound to secrecy.

The dips were a selection of a cream cheese-based tomato dip, an unusual tangy capsicum dip and a 2Tone version of babaganouche; eggplant dip with roasted garlic. The serving was extremely generous, so to ensure Maria didn’t ruin her appetitie for main course, I ate the lion’s share.

For main course, we choose four Tapas dishes to share; Tortilla (Spanish Omelette), Albondigas (Spanish meatballs), Chorizo (Spanish sausage), and Barramundi Fish Goujons (not Spanish in any way!) We both selected the Cabernet Sauvignon to accompany.

The Tortilla and Albondigas were a bit dry compared to the authentic Spanish product (Maria’s mother’s home cooking!) but the Chorizo was delicious, glazed in sherry and topped with finely sliced red, green and yellow capsicum.

But it was the Barramundi fish fingers (I shudder to call them f’ish fingers’) that left a lasting memory on me. Maria thinks I don’t like fish, on account of I almost never order it. That’s not because I don’t like it, but because I am very particular with my fish. Barramundi has always been one of my favourite fish, but this was the most I have enjoyed fish in recent memory. The ‘fingers’ were too big to deserve such a diminutive name, and were moist, juicy flavoursome portions of white Barramundi flesh, coated in a crispy coconut crumbing, with a lime tartare on the side. I could have sat and eaten nothing but  Barramundi Fish Goujons till I fell off the chair, but that would not be Maria’s ideal night out… and besides, she was already eyeing off the dessert menu.

I wanted to order the ‘Death By Chocolate’, but Maria beat me to it. It didn’t make sense to order the same, so I chose the Citrus Tart. Mine was delicious, although the waiter did pass on the chef’s apologies for my tart not being set, and for the filling spreading onto the plate. Maria’s ’Death By Chocolate’ was nothing short of divine, a thick chocolate mousse in its own chocolate bowl, topped with mango icrecream… the perfect end to a great dinner!

Spanish food in Australia … a bit of a challenge: Spanish Bar and Grill in Clifton Beach

Friday, June 20th, 2008

You might imagine that Maria is quite the food critic when it comes to Spanish food outside of her home country, and rightly so. The gunk that some restaurants pass off as paella is just insulting. And if you order empanadillas in a restaurant, you don’t expect to get the exact same product that you can find in the freezer aisle of your local supermarket.

Which somehow reminds me… have you seen the price of fuel lately? I paid over ninety bucks to fill the Cairnsunlimitedmobile earlier this week, and prices aren’t set to go anywhere but up, so the experts say. But back to the point - I really just wanted an excuse to link to our car :)

When we heard that a new Spanish restaurant had opened its doors in Clifton Beach recently, it was only a matter of time until we found an excuse to try it out. We had planned to visit on Wednesday night, but then received a phone call from a hapless customer of ours who had somehow lost one of our brand new Digital Underwater Cameras, and that sort of knocked the wind out of our sails.

Then about mid-morning yesterday, our neighbour had a visit from some tradesman who set to work trying to drive us insane with the use of a hammer drill just through the wall. We had already had our normally peaceful Yorkeys Knob morning disrupted by the arrival of no less than four noisy Ergon trucks in our quiet little street, and it’s hard to concentrate on work with your teeth shaking from a hammer drill. When the four Ergon trucks made their reappearance a little after noon, that was the last straw. We jumped in the beast (I just can’t help it) and roared off in search of the Spanish Bar and Grill.

At first, our quest was fruitless, as I had assumed that such a restaurant would be on the beachfront, or at least no more than  a block back from the esplanade. But we finally found it in the local shopping centre, adjacent to the Captain Cook Highway. An unassuming location, I thought, but let’s give it a try…

After being seated on their pleasant patio, Maria suggested that we should have checked the menu. “Nonsense” I said with false bravado, “we can afford it” as I imagined myself washing dishes for the rest of the afternoon to pay for our lunch. But we needn’t have concerned ourselves, as the waitress quickly explained their lunch deal; any starter, any main, any dessert, and a glass of wine for $22.50. Did she say $22.50? Surely that would be just the price of the main, no?

Well, we both started with an entree of red pepper stuffed with meat and rice. Delicious, but served on a ludicrously large and deep plate/bowl which only served to make the food difficult to get to. I don’t want to ruin the suspense, but that would prove to be my only criticism of the whole meal.

Maria chose paella as a main, and it was stuffed with quality seafood; mussells, scallops, prawns and generous chunks of fleshy fish. How they can put that much into a main as part of a three course lunch special is beyond me. My rib fillet was equally impressive - and surprising, considering the price of the whole meal. It was cooked to a textbook ‘medium’ (which, thakfully was what I had requested) and was a delight from the first bite to the last lick of the plate. It had been so long since I’d had a great steak that I had almost forgotten how good it can be.

For dessert, Maria chose a apricot frangipani tart, and also ate most of my flourless chocolate gateaux with chocolate icecream.

I do have one other complaint… that we had to come back to work, and couldn;t spend the rest of the day soaking up the perfect Cairns afternoon and sipping wine. One of us took a siesta as soon as we got home… I’ll leave it to you to guess whom!!