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

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!!

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