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Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Fresh and local at Luxe

EVERY now and again you come across a restaurateur who truly loves what they do. Jamie and Anne Ah Gee are a prime example.

I met Anne Ah Gee after my father paid an awful amount of money for one of her artworks generously donated at a Harald's House fundraising event. I did not know until this week she was one half of Luxe Bistro and Bar in Lake Street. In fact, I did not even know Luxe Bistro existed.

Her husband, Jamie Ah Gee, is the head chef and inspiration for the re-launch of the restaurant. Not sure exactly what the name, Luxe Bistro, means but as they explain it, Jamie no longer wanted to be constrained by the stricly Italian menu of its previous incarnation and let's face it, Rimini came with some bad press and baggage that was hard for the new owners to offload!

Instead, he prefers to work out a menu based on what is in season and available locally, from week to week. As such, I could tell you about the Griddle seared pork loin cutlet with surprisingly moist and favoursome baked red onions, fresh pea puree and truffle scented honey ($32) I tried on Tuesday, or the intense flavours of the Broccoli, zucchini and blue cheese frittata on seasonal greens with a Napoli sauce ($22) ordered by my friend, but by the end of the week it may be replaced if something else takes the chef's fancy at Rusty's Market on Friday.

This is by no means an original concept. Jamie credits his former boss and mentor, Stefano di Pieri for the inspiration to stay true to ingredients based on freshness, seasonality and local availability. But it is refreshing to discover a Cairns restaurant prepared to put quality and taste ahead of the ever present pressure posed by other outlets willing to sacrifice both to get bums on seats.

With our meals, my companion enjoyed a glass of lively, international award-winning Maven sauvignon blanc ($9/$38) while I discovered the delight of a previously untried Villa Calappiano merlot ($10/$44) - just a couple of the 30 wines on offer by the glass with an sophisticated and interesting wine list.

While I declined dessert, I was quietly relieved when the waitress delivered two spoons with the Chocolate fudge cake with housemade raspberry gelato ($12) ordered by my friend. The dense, decadent texture of the cake was in stark contrast to the sharpness and softness of the real raspberry, rounded off by the sweet and complex bouquet of the Orange Valley Botrytis semillon ($10).

Luxe Bistro offers a dining experience which will be enjoyed by anyone who is as concerned about where their food comes from as how good it tastes!

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