Posts Tagged ‘Restaurants’

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!!

Our previous trip to Tropical North Queensland. Part II

Thursday, December 15th, 2005

Maria’s jealous that I’m getting all the attention, and that I don’t write enough about her in this journal. So in the name of healthy relations during the rest of our holiday and perhaps beyond I hereby dedicate this page to mi carino, mi dulce, mi amor and I hope you enjoy these photos.

But wait! I’m getting ahead of myself. It’s true that we didn’t do much today. We deliberately scheduled today as a chill out day; some swimming and relaxing back at Calypso, a little exploring in our neat little rental car, and a chance for me to catch up with my way overdue journal updates.

But do we have a story to tell about last night! Do you see the photo of Maria above? That was taken outside one of Cairns’ most highly awarded restaurants- and unarguably the most unique dining experience in town, the Red Ochre Grill. While Maria and I were out window shopping, we stopped to look at the menu and couldn’t help but reserve a table for later that evening. I was surprised to be asked which table we would like, and kind of suspected that we were in for something really special. My only set of good clothes were dragged from the bottom of my daypack, and after much encouragement, Maria ironed them for me while I finished my work on the computer. This was going to be a dinner worth dressing up for.

But I couldn’t have even imagined…

First came the wine list, and although I’m no conossieur, there were a number of wines that I recognized as being highly regarded in the industry. Maria chose a Semillon Sauvignon Blanc which was exactly to her taste, and I went for the safe bet, a nice cold oaky Chardonnay. Ordering the food was easy; Red Ochre Grill does a meal called the “Taste of Australia”, a multi-course feast of all the best that our great southern land has to offer. For starters, we were brought a freshly baked loaf of wholemeal damper (traditional Australian bread), accompanied by a dipping bowl of peanut oil and a small plate of dukka to roll it in. The dukka in this case was a mix of crushed macadamia nuts and Australian herbs and spices.

After that, two large plates were brought to our table. The first was a medley of strips of crocodile, and fat, fat juicy prawns, with a side serve of pickles with lemon aspen sambal. The prawns and crocodile seemed to be dipped in some sort of light-as-air tempura batter and fried, but I’m not sure. Either way, they were mouth watering. I don’t even usually like prawns, but I guarantee you that I ate my share this time. And the strips of crocodile? Divine! On the other plate, was a selection of five different Australian-influenced dishes; tasty little crocodile wontons, a bowl of emu pate, slices of smoked kangaroo with horseradish, morsels of raw swordfish with pickled ginger, and small omelettes rolled with pesto, sundried capsicum and rocket. What a banquet!

Funny thing is that after finishing our platter of mixed native Australian fauna, I had forgotten that the main course was yet to come. Out came a large plate piled with slabs of grilled kangaroo sirloin, a stack of emu fillets accompanied by slices of proscuitto and a riberry glaze, a generously proportioned sweet potato fritter and some whole steamed bok choy. This was really the Red Ochre’s crowning glory. Kangaroo meat is delicious if prepared and cooked properly, but the wafer thin slices that had made up part of the first course were a little too well done for my liking, and lacked the wild flavour that separates kangaroo fom beef. But these inch thick strips of roo were perfect. Medium rare, tender but not bloody. Tastier than any beef you would ever eat, and with less cholesterol and more vitamins. The smaller emu steaks had a strong, gamey flavour and an unusually appealing saltiness, but we both agreed that the kangaroo was the better of the two meats.

We certainly weren’t in any way hungry by the time we had battled our way through Australia’s national emblem, yet we both eagerly awaited dessert. Sweet, rich wattleseed pavlova served with a scoop of refreshing berry (or plum apparently) sorbet, macadamia toast and a giant strawberry filled with fresh whipped cream. What a perfect end to a perfect dining experience! Out of ten, I give Red Ochre Grill’s ‘Taste Of Australia’ … eleven and a half!

MARIA’S ADDENDUM…The restaurant where we had dinner last night, The Red Ochre Grill, specialises in traditional Australian food. So if anybody out there wants to experience the taste of real Australian food and have had enough BBQs to last a life time, this is the place to go.By ordering the Taste of Australia platter you will make sure you savour a bit of everything Australia has to offer, from crocodile to kangaroo, from emu to swordfish. Also the sauces that accompany each dish are made with fruits and berries found in the bush. It is worth mentioning the extensive Australian wine list, ranging from the modest white wines to the most expensive reds, without forgetting sparkling and dessert wines.The chef makes sure everything you are being serve is very well presented, attractive to the eye of the customer. He chooses not only the right flavours but also the right colours to ensure that eating at The Red Ochre is an experience difficult to forget.