Thursday, 29 May 2008

travelling temptations

The kitchenslut is currently wandering around the declining cultural wastelands of the northern hemisphere and while its a looooong way from Cairns we will jot some notes and maybe update as we go on the culinary highlights .....

1) The Neal's Yard Dairy cheese shop in Soho is brilliant iwth an eclectic selection of English farm produce cheeses. I posted in a rush on this a few days ago over at the comments on Mungalli Farm. So I wont repeat myself other than to emphasise this is not to be missed by any desciples of fromage!!

2) After procuring your rare designer cheese wander just a few streets away for some Coffee, Cake & Kink! Here you can enjoy tasty treats and fine coffee while you browse the latest trends in some very artistic ceramic sex toy design, or only the best quality whips and feathers . Or savour your espresso while perusing the latest in erotic literature. A great place perhaps for a girls morning coffee?!

3) Ok, if you haven't coped with that last one maybe this will bring your head back into equilibrium? I haven't actually been inisde because 'Garlic and Shots' in Soho is only open in the evening and I wandered by in the morning on a London Walk tour of the area and it was recommended by the guide. This is a speciality shop in Frith St for all things garlic. If your are so inclined, you and your lover can even do a late night garlic icecream after a night out to fuel your passion!!

4) Fish & Chips is an English speciality and surprisingly given our many British tourists i'm not sure we have any outstanding specialist fish'n'chippery in Cairns to match the better Pommy establishments?? Near Covent Garden, the 'Rock & Sole Place' lives up to the traditional image, including optional mushy peas. Although it's somewhat disturbing to be joined at the table by some local lads intent on a simple diet of just chips n mushy peas ..... hmmm i'm just a visitor, whats their excuse for the mushy peas I wonder?

5) Cornwall is a great experience for simple good local seafood, local farm produce .... and veges!! They are damned proud of their local fresh produce and never miss an opportunity to spruik it. Without doubt the best veges I have ever had (sorry mum) were consistently in Cornwall every night at the Dolphin Inn pub, and Sophia's in Penzance, and the Old Coastguard Hotel in Mousehole (pronounced mowsell). Cauliflower, asparagus, potato ..... simply steamed but perfectly exceptional ..... mmmmm!!

Best meal so far in the UK at Sophia's on the Promenade in Penzance. Langoustines (or Norway lobsters) in a light bisquey sauce to start, small crayfish about the size of redclaw. Local beef in makeson stout with horseradish mash ..... and those veges ..... simple but superb!

6) The Pump Room in Bath. The food was fine and cultivated, as was to be expected. But the attraction here is the ambience. A room with fantastic English atmosphere within the Roman Baths buildings and a pianist accompanied by cello and violin in the heart of the 'Venice of Britain' .... throw in some good company, a bottle of wine, and typical English drizzle fogging the windows for a very memorable lunch. And the option of a glass of genuine warm Bath water at the end of your meal :-/

To be continued .......

Monday, 26 May 2008

King Bladud's Pigs

In a more interesting public art concept the streets of Bath are home to a colourful herd of 100 pigs this summer. King Bladud's Pigs decorate the streets and nearby villages. There is even a flying pig in a tree. Bladud is claimed to be the founder of Bath, famous for its preserved Roman bath, after he recognised the beneficial effects of the muddy spring fed bog land on his pigs and was so cured of leprosy by the spa water.
The pigs have all been painted by different artists, they are all named and can be sponsored by local groups. After the summer the pigs will be auctioned for charity. Certainly a different concept than the usually less than inspiring public art around, and maybe an idea that we could adapt in Cairns to a relevant theme?

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Unbeaten bush track reveals rainforest oasis only 40 minutes from Cairns

EVER driven past a sign on the road but never taken the time to find out where it may lead; then when you finally do, you wonder why you left it so long to satisfy your curiosity?

Getting to the Cedar Park Rainforest Resort, 12 kilometres west of Kuranda, is only part of the adventure. Turn left off the Kennedy Highway just a few hundred metres past the Koah service station (30 minutes from Cairns), then follow the sealed road until arriving at a fork at which point you veer left and continue carefully along a winding, unsealed road. Just as that seed of doubt starts creeping into your mind, a makeshift sign appears from the edge of the dense forest reassuring the driver and his/her passengers ‘YOU ARE NOT LOST… yet!’ After several more kilometres of track, precarious corners and humorous directional signs, you drive through the gates of the luscious grounds and proceed to the well-signed car park and reception area.

Having not read or heard a thing about Cedar Park, nothing prepared me for the curious assault on my senses of walking through the front door not completely sure if I had entered a monastery, much less a resort. Within the first 60 seconds a visitor can become immersed in the eclectic furnishings – an impressive stone sculpture of the ‘hand of Buddha’, a collection of Papuan New Guinean artifacts, dour European portraits, indigenous rock art, classic outback scenes framed in recycled timber, some handmade jewellery on display for sale, a fireplace and bookshelf… and that’s all before being seated in the restaurant! The somewhat schizophrenic architectural style featuring low, timber arched doorways and a patchwork of stone masonry, bricks and timber, is apparently the legacy of a previous owner whose protracted and unorthodox building techniques were renowned to locals.

Situated on a large timber decking with a rainforest backdrop, the restaurant’s natural surrounds and simplicity give an immediate sense of peace and intimacy. Nothing is overstated. It is a bit like sitting down to a laidback picnic with friends complete with a white linen tablecloth and five-star service. Our host managed the floor impeccably, efficiently attending to drinks, orders and serving of meals almost single-handedly with brief glimpses of the ‘celebrity’ chefs, Christophe Huber (formerly owner of Atlantis Restaurant at Trinity Beach) and Markus Ryf (formerly of Sebel Reef House at Palm Cove and Thala Beach Lodge at Port Douglas), who emerged occasionally from the busy kitchen to deposit their culinary creations.

Obviously the rationale is to provide a limited selection of meals done exceptionally well. The paperbark menus offer a choice of five a la carte main courses, with several lighter lunch options for less than $20. The presentation and quality of the meals were excellent and drew not a single negative comment from our party of seven. The Atlantic Salmon ‘Mother’s Day special’ was served perfectly medium rare offset with a visually appealing saffron sauce and tasty risotto cake; the prime rib eye fillet steak ($29.50) was cooked well done (tragically) with no blood in sight as requested with lashings of garlic mash; the Thai green curry, both vegetable ($19.50) and seafood ($22.50) versions, had just the right amount of bite; and the herb-crusted barramundi topped with prawns on a champagne sauce, steamed vegetables and jasmine rice was delicious and very reasonably priced at $26.50.

Before the arrival of our meals, we had time to enjoy a drink and a short walk along the banks of a nearby running creek and rock pool which made me instantly regret not bringing my swimming togs (although I revised that opinion after plunging both feet into the icy water). I walked barefoot back to the restaurant and remained without shoes for the rest of our meal such was the relaxed vibe of the place. During our stay I noticed other guests wandering freely around the grounds and was impressed by the easy way the place seemed to operate. A glance at the visitor’s book on a nearby coffee table gave me an insight to the experience of others, mainly international tourists, and their delight at discovering Cedar Park and all it offered. Good food, hospitable service, relaxed privacy, native fauna and flora in a wonderful and accessible setting. As one guest put it: “Who needs Bird World when you wake up to the sound of nature all around?”

Our family thoroughly enjoyed the Cedar Park experience. We departed resolving to return for a more thorough exploration of the rainforest walks, swimming hole and other natural delights on offer. The moral of our story: sometimes in life you need to choose the path less traveled. Next time you pass a sign on the highway that stimulates your curiosity, turn around, go back and you may just discover a hidden gem you will cherish forever.

Cedar Park Rainforest Resort is open to the public on Friday, Saturday and Sunday; and 7 days to guests who can stay in one of six individually themed rooms, described accurately on the website as “an interesting experience not found anywhere else” for $125 (single)/$155 (twin double). Go to or phone & fax (07) 4093 7892.

Friday, 9 May 2008

eBar revisited

The usual evening walk along The Esplanade was yet again interrupted on a friday by the live blues at eBar ..... which is the front balcony of the Tradewinds. We have posted on this before when Rydges first started trying different formats at the long neglected Esplanade frontage.

Good on Rydges for trying different formats, and I was disappointed when they gave away the wok stir fry format after our first post. There were other ideas trialled such as a gourmet hot dog's. Any new format needs to be given a decent go and it was good to see the wok back on the Tradewinds balcony again tonight after a long hiatus!

The range wasn't quite as wide as the previous post, just beef or chicken with 2 choices of noodle, and now in a cardboard container ...... but the fresh wok smell on the balcony was just too much to resist and lured me in from the boardwalk. Fresh, tasty with the blues pumping away in the background for atmosphere on a fine night.

Check whats on as it can vary, and as before with the first post on this location give this a go, maybe the best friday after work option around and Cairns needs to give this kind of thing a decent go and let it work!

12BC (Bar & Cafe) in City Place well recommended

Thank you "anonomous" for your helpful referal to try 12BC on the corner of Lake and Shield Sts under the Cairns Historical Society at City Place... I was whinging about bad coffee shop service and you recommended giving these guys a try...

Took the same out-of-town time-poor friend there for coffee today and the service was fast, friendly and helpful. The coffee was good and my friend's ham cheese and tomato toasted panini came out quickly and was the right antidote to a missed breakfast.

We sat in the sunshine at their outdoor tables, enjoyed the autumn day and the free live entertainment under the 'mushroom', and caught up on all the news. Isn't that what coffee shops are for...

Would recommend 12BC, give them a go.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Laidback ‘Lillypad’ leapfrogs into the night

The discovery of nocturnal life along the left bank of Grafton St by contributor "So, wot's for dinner" didn't last. This is sad as the Lilypad by night provided the kind of ambience, experience and diversty badly needed in Cairns. However, Lilypad continues as a favorite place to linger for a healthy breakfast, brunch, or lunch ........

WHEN the lights go down, the Lillypad Cafe beats to the sound of a different drum… or should I say piano?? Yes, the boldly coloured walls and eclectic array of original local art remain the same, but the soft lighting, live jazz and table service make for a new dining experience. With the usual frenetic activity of the kitchen discreetly screened from public view, comfortable couches squeezed in among the regular tables and the piano player cranking out tunes, the space has been transformed in a subtle way that is familiar yet different.
For Lillypad regulars familiar with the routine of a lazy brunch and reading the Saturday newspapers after stocking up on fresh fruit & veggies at Rusty’s, prepare to be surprised by the Lilypad’s foray into the twilight set and beyond. While those who avoid Grafton Street like the plague when the markets are on, may find the allure of the Lillypad by night a more tempting proposition.

Take for instance the Lillypad’s adventurous approach to its evening menu in which it offers twice as many entrée options (9) as main meals (5). This will be welcomed by anyone like myself who struggles to limit themselves to just a single item when it is time to order. Usually I overcome this dilemma by insisting my dining companions share but now the Lilypad has the ultimate compromise. Order any 3 entrée items for $18. Or else if your appetite demands a more substantial meal, options for mains range from $18 to $26 and cover all the bases… just… with marinated lamb, grilled garlic quail, pan-fried Atlantic salmon, sirloin steak, pasta and baby spinach salad. Simple but original appetizers of Borsch (beetroot) soup ($10), Cheese Platter for 2 and Trio of dips ($18) are available until 11pm and would serve as ideal gap fillers before or after a show.

Our group of 4 was seated out front and perused the wine list provided promptly by our friendly waitress, Nina. Any disappointment at the unavailability of the Jindalee Sauvignon Blanc ($22) was quickly overcome when Nina offered the Twin Islands ($36) as an alternative at no extra cost. Apart from the obvious satisfaction of being upgraded to a more expensive wine, we were delighted to find a waitress who anticipated the problem and offered a solution rather than putting the onus back on us to make another selection.

Back to the menu and three of us opted for the entrée deal which meant ordering one of everything on the menu (I’ve always wanted to do that!) and gave each of us three different taste sensations for the price of one meal. Highlights included the moist Oven Baked Mushrooms stuffed with couscous blended with creamy blue cheese; Lamb marinated in Mediterranean spices described as “subtle but strong enough to know it is there”; Spiced Prawns with a Louisiana cocktail sauce; tempting Georgian-style quail with “not too many bones” and Oysters Natural (3) with spicy coriander salsa on the side cleverly served in scooped out tomato halves.

The fourth member of our group chose the Vegan Lasagne ($19), a piping hot serving of al dente pasta sheets layered with sweet potato, eggplant, zucchini and spinach, in a portion so generous at least half went home in a much appreciated ‘doggy bag’. Although it was a little odd the Lilypad offered only one vegetarian meal (apart from the soup & salad), this dish would satisfy the most discerning vegan, not to mention carnivore.

The meals were rather slow to emerge from the kitchen – we figured we tested the chef with our wide selection – but again the waitress was attentive and handled the situation well.

On this occasion our group forewent dessert which meant the four of us dined for under $100, including a bottle of wine. The tempting dessert selection must have made an impression because the very next day my partner and I found ourselves in town unexpectedly early for a movie and decided to return to sample what we had missed.

A slab of lemon meringue pie and an enormous piece of berry and vanilla cheesecake served with cream and fresh sprigs of mint accompanied by hot, strong macchiato provided the perfect prelude to our movie; at $12 each it was at the higher end of the scale for dessert but the quality and quantity of the serving made it justified. In hindsight, we could easily have shared… but I am glad we didn’t!

The Lillypad Cafe by night offers a welcome addition to the emerging Grafton Street dining precinct. At a time when this town is aching for more sophisticated evening venues in contrast to the proliferation of noisy clubs, titty bars and 2 for 1 drink promotions, I for one hope it is an experiment that works.

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