It's a tough job I know, but someone has to do it. How could we possibly share with you the secrets of Cairns' dining scene unless we tried it first hand. We are forever exploring the local Cairns restaurant scene, and new venues will be added to this page as we discover them.

OCHRE RESTAURANT & CATERING, 43 Shields Street, Cairns
We first dined at Ochre Restaurant & Catering, formerly known as Red Ochre Grill, years ago, when Cairns Unlimited was nothing more than a sparkle in our eyes. We were well aware of the restaurant's reputation for innovative and exciting Australian cuisine, but we couldn't have even imagined...

First came the wine list, and there were a number of wines that I quickly 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; Ochre Restaurant & Catering 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 Ochre Restaurant & Catering's 'Taste Of Australia' ... eleven and a half!

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. The sauces that accompany each dish are made with fruits and berries found in the bush. The chefs makes sure everything you are being served is beautifully presented, attractive to the eye of the customer. They choose not only the right flavours but also the right colours to ensure that eating at The Red Ochre is an experience difficult to forget.

Ochre Restaurant & Catering, in Cairns, is famous for top quality Australian food, prepared and presented with flair.

C'est Bon award winning French restaurant in central Cairns.