We were spoilt for choice when it came to food. There are so many cafes, pubs, restaurants and eateries – more than we had ever seen on our travels – so we aimed for either the best or the offbeat. Perhaps the kookiest thing was a soft serve ice cream from Aqua S in the city. Their specialty is sea salt ice cream, a style of ice cream from Japan. Luckily we were there for popping candy week, so we sampled their sea salt flavour with cranberry, sprinkled with pop rocks.
While we had several coffees in Sydney, we had two favourites. The first came from Mecca Espresso, a small outlet on King Street that offers cheap take aways and makes a smooth and creamy coffee. The second came from The Fine Food Store on The Rocks. We sat in and had breakfast as well – a savoury Croque Sir Grill with prosciutto, a poached egg and aioli.
Who would have thought that stuff in bread could be so good. Mr Crackles on Oxford Street in Darlinghurst is open for lunch until late in the night for all your crackly cravings. We got the Crackle Classic and BBQ Pork Roll with onion rings for an awesome lunch.
Another great lunch was thanks to Marrickville Pork Roll. This popular spot is a tiny shop that usually has a line out the front. For $4.50, you get a flavoursome Vietnamese sandwich that is good until it’s gone.
North of the harbour is Vienna Sandwiches, another little outlet that smashes out a wicked sandwich. We got the Chicken Gangnam Style sandwich and it blew our minds.
Further north along the Pittwater is Newport Chicken. It might seem like a regular take away place but the boys behind the counter seem to love what they do and make a ripper chicken burger.
We sampled Asian from both ends of the scale – cheap food court fare to high end yum cha. Our favourite food court in the city was the Market City Food Court, where we got a massive feed for around $20.
In Chatswood, we met up with fans Chris and Betty at New Shanghai and had a few plates of delicious dumplings. In the shire, we had a fancy dinner at Din Tai Fung Restaurant with Dave’s uncle and his family. Apart from dishing out some great dumplings, their fried meats and noodle dishes were amazing too.
We took a break from pizza after our Cairns Pizza Quest, but by the time we got to Sydney, we were ready. Our first pizza was from Gourmet Pizza Pantry in Gladesville. We got two large pizzas – Caprice and Tijuana – and a regular garlic pizza for $37. The Caprice was essentially a capricciosa while the Tijuana was a Mexicana with chilli con carne, jalapenos, corn chips and guacamole – both were awesome.
In the shire, we had a pizza fest at Queen Margherita’s of Savoy. These pizzas have such a thin base, that they cook in less than 90 seconds. The bases are almost like pancakes but they taste so good and the toppings are top notch quality.
We sniffed out a few breweries in Sydney, only missing out on one in the Rocks. They all had a great selection of beers but our favourites were Young Henry’s in Newtown and Batch Brewing Co in Marrickville. Check out our post about Sydney Breweries here.
Cairns is a city in tropical north Queensland and is a major tourism destination for both Australians and Internationals. We were here for around 7 months and really got to know Cairns – we even got to meet a fellow blogger, Kate Richards (AdventureMumma).
Outdoor fitness is a big focus in Cairns, with a timetable of free activities on offer along the Esplanade, like yoga, Zumba and tai chi. The Lagoon is also popular with everyone. Many locals also run along the Promenade or work out at one of the fitness stations.
One thing you’ll notice about Cairns is the smelly bats. They hang around in the trees near the library and Cairns City bus terminal during the day and once the sun starts to set, they get active and take flight to find their dinner. If you’re looking for a car park and don’t mind a bit of poop on your car, there is usually a spot or two available next to the library.
Cairns is one of the fastest growing towns in Queensland, with a population of over 151,000 people and is a gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest.
Over 2 million Aussie and international tourists visit Cairns every year.
The region is home to the world’s most dangerous bird – the cassowary – and the world’s largest moth – the Hercules moth.
Queensland’s highest mountain Mount Bartle Frere (1622m) is 51km to the south.
Cairns has the highest youth unemployment rate in Queensland with over 21% of 15 to 24 year olds not working (December 2014)
Cairns, like many other towns in Australia, was founded after the discovery of gold. The city was named after Sir William Wellington Cairns, an Irish fellow who was appointed the governor of Queensland in 1875, one year before Cairns was founded.
Cairns started off as an uninhabitable swamp with nothing much to offer until a railway was built to connect the coast to the Tablelands. After nearly 30 years of settlement, Cairns finally became a town in 1903 with a population of 3,500. Once the gold rush died down, the railway was used for agricultural purposes to transport fruit and dairy to the coastal flats, where the sugar cane grew and still grows to this day.
Being in the tropics isn’t all sunshine and coconuts – cyclones can sweep through at any time during the wet season and cause some serious damage. Cairns met Cyclone Willis in 1927 and Cyclone Agnes in 1956, and while both were fairly destructive, Cairns recovered.
Tourism in Cairns became a major industry in the 1980s with the opening of the international airport and listing of World Heritage areas in the surrounding rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef. It is still a major tourism city that attracts visitors from all over the world who want to see the reef and explore the Daintree.
Places of Interest
Cairns Zoom and Wildlife Dome
This awesome place is located in the dome on top of the Casino. Meet some cute Aussie animals and brave the zip line and rope course above, all in one day!
The Esplanade & Marina
Cairns may be a major tourism centre but for the locals, outdoor fitness and activities make up a big part of the culture. The Esplanade is reclaimed land that has been renovated into a wonderful outdoor venue for everyone. Have a picnic on the grass, go for a run along the promenade, or have a splash in the lagoon. There are free fitness activities on every week, like yoga, volleyball or Zumba, and there is also a Saturday morning market.
The marina is just around the corner and is a great place to buy some fresh seafood straight from the fishing boats. The Pier Shopping Centre nearby has a variety of bars, restaurants and retail shops.
Rusty’s is open on Friday night, Saturday and Sunday, but the best time to go for cheap fruit and vegetable is between 2pm and 4pm on Sunday. There’s a huge variety of tropical fruits, Asian greens and unusual produce. There’s also a few food trucks and stalls selling bags, bibs and bobs.
The Night Markets
On every night from 4:30pm, the night markets are accessible from the Esplanade and feature a variety of stalls from jewellery and lanolin creams to massage and souvenirs galore. The food court on the Esplanade side is a good place for a cheap feed. For $14.90, purchase an extra large tub and fill it with ALL THE FOODS – octopus, battered fish, fried prawns, omelette, everything…
Centenary Lakes Botanic Garden
A few clicks out of town you’ll find the Cairns botanic gardens. There is a beautiful rainforest section, bamboo gardens, lakes with turtles and a variety of birds and for the fabulously fit, the Red Arrow Walk will reward you with great views over the airport.
Nearby is the Tanks Art Centre, which holds monthly markets during the dry season, and the Flecker Gardens display a diverse range of tropical plants and pretty flowers – keep your eyes open for the White Bat Flower – amazing.
About 27km north of Cairns is Palm Cove – a little beach community that is popular with holiday makers and weddings. The esplanade is choc-a-block with fancy and award-winning restaurants, hotels and tourist outlets that are built around old Melaleuca trees, while the long white beach lined with palm trees is perfect for wedding photos or a great holiday snap.
We rocked up to Palm Cove just in time for the Reef Feast festival, and sampled some of the food on offer from some of the best restaurants in the village.
Behana Gorge & Walsh’s Pyramid
Walsh’s Pyramid is visible from the top of the Casino in Cairns, but it is about 28km south along the A1 highway. At 922m, it is believed to be the highest freestanding pyramid in the world, and is a part of the same mountain range as Queensland’s two highest mountains, Mount Bartle Frere (1622 m) and Mount Bellenden Ker (1593 m).
Nestled in between the peaks is Behana Gorge. Be prepared for the long walk but it’s worth it once you get to explore the gorge and cool off in the waters that make up Cairns’ water supply.
A little closer to town is a secluded swimming hole that is quite the local hotspot. Crystal Cascades is about 5km south of Redlynch and is popular during the summer months as visitors cool off in the fresh water pools.
Big Captain Cook & Big Marlin
Cairns has two Big Things – one can be seen as you drive along the Cook Highway while the other is near Stockland Shopping Centre in Earlville.
Food & Drink
Our first visit to Cairns started with a pub crawl through town, and from that venture, we can say that the Union Jack and the Courthouse Hotel are great pubs for a Sunday sesh, while the Croc Bar at the Grand Hotel is a sight to see. If you prefer to party, check out Gilligan’s.
We also went to a few trivia nights throughout the week. Thursday nights was at the Salthouse – meals and drinks are expensive but the pork belly pizza is delicious, and there are plenty of prizes to be won. Sunday nights at the Serpent Bar at Nomads on Lake Street is a very cheap night in terms of meals and drinks, but there is only one prize – a round of drinks for the winning team. Monday nights at the Red Beret in Redlynch was our favourite trivia spot – not only because it was close to home and the trivia format was good, but the chicken fajitas won Juz over. Don’t try the pizza though – Roscoe’s across the road is much better.
Here are a few other eateries worth mentioning…
If you love noodle soup and dumplings, there are two locations that are perfect. Rest assured that if the wait for a table at Ganbaranba Noodle Colosseum is too long, you can wander around the corner to Tokyo Dumpling and still be satisfied with a great value meal. Another great Asian place is BaMienVietnamese Cafe. We had visitors from Melbourne and took them here for lunch. It was a fluke that this place turned out to be fantastic. The dishes were well priced, well portioned and absolutely delicious.
Coffee lovers can head to two locations in the city – Caffiend and Smith Street Cafe. Both offer great coffee in a funky environment. If you’re after a tasty breakfast, try the Lillipad Cafe or Ozmosis near the Botanic Gardens. Lillipad has some great vegetarian options while Ozmosis gets you out of the city with their scrumptious Eggs Benedict.
Having won multiple awards, Ochre Restaurant is considered to be the best restaurant in Cairns. Juz’s awesome sister got us an Ochre gift voucher for Christmas so we got to indulge in a bit of modern Australian cuisine, like wallaby steak, Davidson plum jam and lemon myrtle sweet chilli sauce.
We were in Cairns for around 6 months and took it upon ourselves to find the best pizza. Some pizzas were too soggy, lacked flavour or were overpriced. All in all, we found some great pizzas…
Information & Accommodation
Cairns Tourist Information Centre – Cnr Alplin St & The Esplanade, Cairns. Ph: (07) 4031 1751
Just in case you didn’t know, ramen is a Japanese noodle dish served with broth. The base of the broth can be miso, soy, fish, pork, or chicken and the dish can be served with a variety of things like slices of meat or poultry, boiled eggs, fish cakes, sesame seeds, a few vegetables like cabbage, kelp, sprouts or corn. It is essentially a Japanese noodle soup and is mega delicious.
There are two fantastic restaurants in Cairns that serve up a wicked bowl of ramen – Ganbaranba Noodle Colosseum and Tokyo Dumpling.
Ganbaranba Noodle Colosseum
We visited this place many times and even got loyalty cards so we could score a plate of their delicious, freshly made gyoza (Japanese dumplings). They are quite popular with visitors and locals alike, and at peak times there is usually a wait for a table.
They specialise in ramen, but also do a few rice dishes too. You can pretty much order anything from the menu and win in one way or another. When the waitress takes your order, you can choose whether you want your noodles done soft, medium or hard, and later on when you’re halfway through your meal, the waitress comes back to ask if you want another dose of noodles.
This place is much more casual than Ganbaranba Noodle Colosseum but is just as good in its own way. They have a few ramen and rice bowl items on the menu, but their main treat is dumplings. Choose between pork, chicken, vegetable, cheese potato, curry beef and potato or prawn! They cook them fresh and either pan fry or deep fry. If you have a sweet tooth, they even do chocolate banana dumplings…
Juz fell in love with the Tan Tan Noodles– pork mince, a boiled egg and some vegetables on top of ramen in a delicious soy milk broth. Luscious, satisfying, addictive – and with their lunch or dinner special that includes three dumplings, how can you refuse?
While we were in Cairns, we decided to go and try to find the best pizza in town. We sampled 11 pizzas from places in the city centre and surrounding suburbs, and were surprised by the amount of variation you can find. The criteria for a good pizza included choice, quality ingredients, a hardy base, great flavour and the price, as well as customer service and atmosphere.
Here is our list from worst to best…
The Red Beret
We love the Red Beret and would go there every Monday for trivia, but they provided the worst contender on our pizza quest. Poor selection on the menu, soggy base, cheap toppings, bland and overpriced. Can’t say the same about the chicken fajitas, though – they are consistently delicious.
Score: 4/10 – points earned only because it looked decent enough to coax us into buying one.
This was the second challenger on our pizza quest. We were lured in by the bargain of a large pizza for $15.
Juz’s mexicana had good flavour and a good amount of chilli but the base was soggy and doughy. The swirl of sour cream was visually appealing though. Dave wasn’t impressed with his Capricciosa. It had a soggy base, too much onion and no olives. He also had to pay extra for anchovies. Not bad if you’re on a budget but certainly not the best pizza…
Score: 6/10 – points lost because of soggy base and the Capricciosa lacked olives and having to pay extra for anchovies.
We visited La Pizza for lunch while Juz’s mum was in town. We ordered a small supreme pizza for $15.
The base was thin and well cooked with a crunchy crust, but while it wasn’t soggy, it was probably too thin to handle the toppings. The toppings were nice and fresh, but perhaps some more seasoning or garlic would have made the flavours pop. All in all, it was a little lacklustre.
Score: 6.5/10 – points lost due to floppy base and lack of flavour punch.
We drove out to the northern beaches to give Holloways Pizza a go. We got a large Italian pizza for $24 topped with bacon, pepperoni, ham, mushroom, capsicum, onion, olives and anchovies. The first thing we noticed was the base – amazing base with a lip of crust, ready to hold whatever toppings were thrown at it.
The massive let down was the toppings – everything was there but not enough. We hardly noticed any tomato sauce, anchovies were occasional and it needed more olives, salt, seasoning, something! It had so much potential but missed the mark on flavour. Also, the 40 minute wait was too long – they need to upgrade their pizza oven to accommodate for the demand on a Friday night.
Score: 7/10 – points lost due to the poor amount of toppings, lack of flavour, no Capricciosa option, steep price and long wait. All the points go to the base.
Little Ricardo’s on Sheridan Street claims to have been voted the best pizza place in Cairns and we were curious to see if this was true. Juz got a large Mexicana for $19.90 with extra olives and the toppings were spicy and spot on. Dave wasn’t as impressed with his Capricciosa ($17.90), which lacked olives and ham! Both of our pizzas had a really thin base that didn’t have the structural integrity to handle the toppings. Tasty, but not the best… However, the service was good and our waiter, Giovanni was a really friendly guy.
Score: 7/10 – points lost due to the Capricciosa lacking olives and the base was way too thin.
The next pizza is proudly brought to you by Pedro’s on Sheridan Street. We got two large pizzas, two garlic breads and a bottle of drink for around $42.
Dave’s Capricciosa was delicious, with plenty of olives and anchovies while Juz’s Mexicana was a surprise with fresh chilli and minced beef instead of ham. What really blew us away was the thick, crusty base that handled all the toppings with gusto, but it could have done with a bit more salt. In fact, the base was so thick, that we ended up saving some slices for breakfast because we were so full. Their garlic bread was also fantastic.
Score: 8/10 – points lost due to super-thick bland base that made the pizza a little dry and too filling.
Houdini’s Pizza – Best Pizza Base
This was the first pizza on our quest and was the leader for a long time. We were hoping for a Capricciosa pizza but there was no such option so we went with a pizza that we both agreed on – Houdini’s Favourite. It had a great crust that was crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, while the toppings were of high quality, flavour and freshness. It cost us $21 for a large 12″ Houdini’s Favourite and we enjoyed every delicious bite.
It has been a few months since we’ve eaten there and it seems that they have since expanded their menu to include more traditional pizzas.
Score: 8/10 – points lost for lack of Capricciosa option, price and snotty customer service.
Il Forno – Best Quality Toppings
Just before our two-week hiatus in Melbourne, we drove up to Palm Cove to try the infamous Il Forno. These 12″ pizzas were $22 each which is quite dear, but the toppings were top notch quality and tasted fantastic.
Dave got the closest thing to a Capricciosa, which was the San Pietro and got extra anchovies while Juz got the mega spicy Il Forno. Both pizzas were served piping hot, too hot to touch initially. The thin base struggled to handle the toppings but was superb at the crust. Great pizza, truly… but the base was a major let down.
Score: 8/10 – point lost due to soggy base, extreme temperature when it was served and steep price.
Roscoe’s Pizza in Redlynch – Best Value for Money (Thursdays Only)
Roscoe’s in Redlynch was the closest pizza place to where we were living and we were blown away by the value. On Thursdays, they do 2 large pizzas for $20 so we opted for their Anchovy, Olive and Mushroom pizza, as well as a Salami pizza with additional olive and onion at no extra charge.
Both pizzas had a thin but hardy base that was not soggy at all. The olives were quality kalamata and there was enough anchovies and mushroom to satisfy Dave. The salami pizza had the perfect amount of cheese, and the extra toppings really set it off. Of all the pizzas we have tried in Cairns, Roscoe’s Pizza sits at the top for value.
Score: 9/10 – point lost because we suspect they don’t make their own base. It was just so neat!
Stratford Pizza – Equal Best Overall Pizza
This was the final adventure on our epic pizza quest – a little place called Stratford Pizza. Careful or you’ll miss it – it’s only open a few nights a week and is hidden away in the back streets. We’d had our eyes on this place for a while and with high hopes, we were pleasantly surprised. We ordered half and half Capricciosa and Neapolitan with bacon for $22, which was fair because of the extra charges for half and half and extra bacon.
The base was solid and the toppings delicious, plentiful and flavourful. The only thing about the pizza was that it was only cut three times instead of four, so we ended up with a massive slice each. This is easily ignored though because not only was the pizza great, but the licensed BYO courtyard had a lovely ukulele songstress serenading us with a cute tune about puppies.
Score: 9.5/10 – trivial half point lost due to incomplete slicing, but the base, toppings, flavour, price and atmosphere of the place makes it such a gem in the burbs. We highly recommend this place.
La Porchetta – Equal Best Overall Pizza
La Porchetta is conveniently located in the city centre, right next to the cinemas. We ordered a large half & half, Capricciosa and Italian for $19.50. Dave was happy with his pizza, it had all the standard ingredients and tasted great. For Juz, the Italian was the ultimate in pizza – bacon, hot salami, olives, anchovies, garlic and herbs. Wow! What a great combination of flavours. The base was nice and thin but with enough guts to hold up the toppings. Our La Porchetta Pizza rated so highly, it hit the top without hesitation.
Score: 9.5/10 – it ticked all the flavour boxes. Half point off for staff lazing around on couches.
We’ve visited Port Douglas three times and found all occasions to be quite pleasant.
The first time was for our birthdays in 2013, when we flew over from Darwin and met up with our friends and family, who flew up from Melbourne to celebrate with us. It was a week of eating and drinking, late nights and plenty of injury, and it was during the peak tourism season so there were plenty of holiday makers around. The second time was with the Troopy, as we began our descent down the east coast of Australia. Tourism was still bustling in October but it just seemed a lot quieter without our mates around.
The third time was during our seven-month stint in Cairns. We’d been playing trivia every week at the Red Beret Hotel and the prizes were vouchers for various places in Port Douglas. After collecting a booty of vouchers, we put aside a day to drive up and use them. Despite being warm and sunny, March is right in the middle of cyclone season, and one was expected to hit the coast in a day or two – Port Douglas was deserted.
We felt like we had the whole town to ourselves and had an amazing, action packed day that included a delicious breakfast at Cafe Fresq, shopping at various gift stores, a mind-blowing sandwich from the Little Larder, a walking tour around town, and a sunset dinner at the Yacht Club.
Port Douglas is essentially a tourism town that can be fully experienced in a day or two. If you can’t afford to stay at one of the lavish resorts and spend the rest of your time drinking cocktails by the pool, Port Douglas has a few budget accommodation options, including a YHA, and is a great place to base yourself while you visit the various attractions in the region.
Port Douglas is #3 on Australian Traveller magazine’s list of Australia’s 100 Best Towns. It’s about 1 hour north of Cairns.
It is the gateway to two World Heritage listed areas – the Daintree Rainforest and Great Barrier Reef.
There have been several films shot in and around Port Douglas – Sniper (1993), Paradise Road (1997), The Thin Red Line (1998), Paradise Found (2003), Fools Gold (2008) and Nim’s Island (2008).
Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter, died off the coast of Port Douglas after a stingray shot its barb into his heart. He was filming a new documentary called The Ocean’s Deadliest.
The traditional owners of the area are the Kuku Yalanji people, and their country stretches from the Mowbray River to the south of Port Douglas to the Annan River just south of Cooktown.
Port Douglas was established in 1877 after the discovery of gold in a valley near the Mowbray River. At its peak, it had a population of 12,000, with 26 legal and registered pubs and even a few opium dens! The schoolhouse built in 1878 and it is the oldest building in the region and was still operating until the 1960s when it was closed due to lack of population.
Scandal hit Port Douglas in 1887 when Ellen Thomson was convicted of murdering her husband. She pleaded innocent but she and her lover were both sent to Brisbane where they were sentenced and hung. She became the only women to ever be hung in QLD.
In 1911, a devastating cyclone hit Port Douglas and once it had past, two people were dead and only seven buildings were left standing. The impact of the cyclone lingered for several decades, and the population dwindled to abound 100 people in the 1960s.
Who would have thought that the town’s saviour would later be known as Australia’s most wanted fugitive and fraudster. In 1988, Christopher Skase unveiled his new 5-star Sheraton Mirage Resort, which triggered a massive tourism boom. Because of this, it’s said that Skase is responsible for reviving Port Douglas and thus creating a successful tourism-based economy. He is also responsible for the relocation the St Mary’s Church from up on the hill to down near the water’s edge in 1988, because its position was on valuable real estate land! The non-denominational church was originally built in 1880 but was flattened by that cyclone in 1911. It was rebuilt and remained in its spot on the hill until Skase’s arrival.
These days, the St Mary’s By The Sea is a popular place to get married. Port Douglas is a thriving tourism town with a population is around 3,200, but this figure can double during the tourist season between May and October.
Places of Interest
There are a few things to do in town, such as browsing shops along the main street, having a drink and a meal at one of the pubs, or lazing on the best beach in town – Four Mile Beach. The sand at Four Mile Beach is so flat and firm, that many years ago planes were often landed on the sand. There’s also a market on every Sunday in the park opposite the Courthouse Hotel.
If you are interested in learning about the town and the area, we recommend going on a K-Star Walking Tour. Kevin is really knowledgeable about the geography, history and flora in the area and it’s a great introduction to tropical Queensland. Alternatively, hire some electric bikes; an easy and super fun way to get around town. Prices start at $20 for 2hrs.
As we said earlier, Port Douglas can be explored in a day or two, but it is a great place to station yourself while you explore the surrounding wonders.
Located within the Daintree Rainforest, Cape Tribulation is a headland that was named by Captain Cook after his ship was damaged on the Great Barrier Reef. It was named so because it was where Cook’s troubles began, but despite this, it is a wonderful beach to visit. On the road to Cape Tribulation are various cafes and ice creameries which certainly don’t hurt to visit.
Due to efforts to conserve this naturally beautiful place, a regular shuttle bus that runs from the Mossman Gorge Centre is the only way to visit the Gorge. It has a relatively low fee and does allow multiple trips on the day of purchase if required. We recommend exploring the walking trail before having a dip in the cool waters.
For the off road enthusiasts, check out the two tracks that go through the Daintree. We only did a small portion of the CREB Track before turning around to follow the Bloomfield Track. Our brakes weren’t in great shape at the time and we had been told by locals that the Bloomfield Track was the safer option – plus, there were a few bush fires around and we needed to put safety first.
Food & Drink
There are heaps of places that offer a great feed in Port Douglas. For a decent coffee, check out Moonshine Bay and while you’re there, browse through all of the colourful things in the shop. Moonshine Bay uses coffee from Four Mile Roasters, local coffee bean aficionados who have a great little cafe called Origin Espresso. Located in the backstreets away from the hustle and bustle of the tourist-ridden main street, sip a quality coffee while sitting on hessian sack milk crates and contemplating which baked treat to eat next. Very Melbourne…
Many of the good cheap eats in Port Douglas are on Grant Street. The French toast at Cafe Fresq is delicious, all the food from Menu Thai Restaurant is incredible and for a late night snack after the pub, go to Get Ya Kebabs for a juicy meal. However, one of our favourite places was an award-winning bakery…
Not only do they have a great selection of pies, including Kangaroo and Crocodile Laksa, but they are absolutely scrumptious. Mocka’s regularly participate in the Official Great Aussie Pie Competition and their pies win medals every year.
On The Inlet
This restaurant is a little on the pricey side, so it should probably be put aside for special occasions, but the food is quite good and they have a resident groper called George… and by groper, we mean fish, not pervert.
The Little Larder
This place is a popular spot amongst the locals and visitors alike. They do a wicked breakfast and cup of coffee but the main attraction is the ‘serious sandwiches made by chefs’. We had lunch here and our lives are ruined because all future sandwiches will never be as good as the sandwiches we had here! Check out our post about this excellent food outlet…
Off The Track
There is a wicked food joint on Warner Street, just behind Coles. They have an awesome selection of gourmet burgers, including beef, pork, chicken and vegetarian, and each burger comes with a little pile of perfectly cooked chips. They also do breakfast and can brew a very nice Lavazza coffee.
Port Douglas Yacht Club
For a more local experience, you must visit the PDYC! This open air bar and restaurant is a great place to meet friendly locals and watch the sun set over the estuary. We enjoyed a delicious and well priced dinner that included fresh, crisp chips and a lovely side salad. Their chicken parma is juicy and thick with all the correct toppings, and they also offer Cargill steak.
We drove up to Port Douglas to spend the day and stopped in at the Little Larder for lunch. What drew us in was their sign that read, “serious sandwiches made by chefs”. Sandwiches have a lot of potential. They don’t have to be soggy, stale sandwiches that are left half eaten in your lunchbox – they can be culinary works of art and completely transform your midday meal.
We sat outside to do some people watching while we read the menu. They had a great selection of breakfast meals but what really stood out was their list of sandwiches. It was easy to pick what we wanted, and we even ordered some drinks because the Little Larder is licensed.
Dave got the pulled pork sandwich – toasted ciabatta filled with spice-rubbed slow cooked pork and mixed slaw, accompanied by a Mountain Goat Organic Steam Ale. The meat was wonderfully tender and matched perfectly with the unique slaw. What really stood out though was the bread, which was buttered and toasted on both sides! The sandwich didn’t stand a chance against Dave’s hunger and was inhaled.
Juz got the Reuben – a famous sandwich with rye bread filled with wagyu corned beef, sauerkraut, pickles, Swiss cheese and a creamy Russian dressing. Each morish mouthful was bliss, and when the sandwich tragically ran out, Juz knew that her life would never be the same and all future sandwiches had been ruined. To wash it down, Juz ordered a Rose Spritzer with Campari, blood orange and pineapple pieces. It was a perfectly refreshing drink on that hot afternoon, with just the right amount of sweetness and bitterness and tropical flare.
Lunch at the Little Larder was the perfect pit stop. Not only did we get delicious sandwiches filled with quality ingredients, but the service was friendly and the prices were reasonable. We highly recommend to anyone visiting Port Douglas that they stop in for a serious sandwich.
No visit to Cooktown is complete without checking out the Top Pub.
Because we arrived in Cooktown on AFL Grand Final weekend, the pub was packed with rough sheilas and burly men in wife-beaters and short shorts. We later found out that for a more classy experience, you have to go to the Sovereign because the Cooktown Hotel is for bogans.
After ordering our food, we sat outside in the beer garden because all the tables inside were occupied. Dave’s pizza came out first. It looked fantastic and was topped with plenty of olives and anchovies, but it missed getting top marks because of the canned mushrooms. That said though, for the $12 it cost, he was suitably impressed.
The pizza was devoured and gone by the time Juz’s parma arrived. Right off the bat, it was clear that it was a factory chicken breast because it was heart-shaped. It also lacked ham, which was tragic because it could have really done with that extra dimension of flavour, and the tomato sauce seemed to be bottled Bolognese sauce with a few sprinkles of dried Italian herbs. No matter – it was a tasty and perfectly sized lunch with great chips and scrumptious salad.
We heard a rumour that a café at Portland Roads was well worth visiting, with claims that it was possibly the best seafood on the Cape. We weren’t super hungry but figured that a coffee couldn’t hurt. If the café was that good, then the coffee should be excellent. We rocked up at around 10:30am and had just missed out on breakfast, so we checked out the lunch menu instead.
Most of it was seafood – prawn rolls, Greek-style calamari, and fish and chips – and they also had a selection of cakes and hot beverages. Dave went with the plunger coffee while Juz ordered the chai tea. Both were $4 and there was enough in both to get two serves. The coffee came with a little pot of milk while the chai tea was served with a dish of local honey.
It would have been silly to leave without trying some seafood so we ordered the seafood medley for $29, which included four boiled prawns, four tempura prawns and two pieces of crumbed fish with fresh lemon, tartare sauce, a crisp salad and the best damn chips we have in ages. We are happy to say that the rumours are true – best damn seafood on the Cape.
The chef came out from the kitchen to collect our crockery and when we complimented him on his chips, he told us there’s a guy who often travels over a hundred kilometres regularly just to get some of these chips! Considering how good they were, we weren’t surprised at all. We ended up having a long chat with the chef about photography, side projects and life in the tropics. Before we left, he gave us a soursop fruit from the café gardens, which we ate on our way south to the quarantine checkpoint.
We really enjoyed the food, the location and the conversation we had at Out Of The Blue Café. If you happen to find yourself out near Lockhart River or Chilli Beach, you should definitely duck in and check it out – don’t forget to try the chips!
Juz’s birthday lunch happened at Tattersalls Hotel. After spending the morning at the Australian Age of Dinosaurs, we were looking forward to a yummy pub lunch and took a table outside to enjoy the town’s relaxed atmosphere.
Dave ordered the crumbed steak, which is kinda like a beef schnitzel. It was huge and came with a side of chips and salad. The chips could have done with a little more seasoning but the salad was nice and fresh.
Juz’s chicken parma was small and a little overcooked but tasted great. The bacon pieces added a great savoury flavour while the sweetness and acidity of the tomato sauce was well balanced. Instead of chips and a salad, Juz got rosemary and garlic scalloped potatoes, which were delicious, and some buttered vegetables.
Our meals weren’t too expensive, considering we were in an outback town, and the Tattersalls bar wenches are friendly and know their way around the bar.
We had a friend visit us in Alice Springs so we decided to show her around town and finish the night off with a nice dinner. After climbing Mount Gillen, visiting the Reptile Centre and watching the sunset on Anzac Hill, we’d built up quite an appetite so we made our way to the Gillen Club for a feed.
It was surprisingly busy for a Thursday night and we were lucky enough to order our meals before the line grew to 10 metres long! While we waited, we helped ourselves to the all you can eat salad bar, which was complete with garden salad, coleslaw, balsamic mushrooms and a weird combination salad of spinach, jalapeños and bread. We watched a bunch of kids goof around on the jungle gym while their parents mingled at nearby tables.
Our buzzer went off earlier than expected and we went to collect our meals. Juz and Jenny ordered a chicken schnitzel each. Jenny’s Hawaiian schnitzel had pineapple rings under the cheese while Juz’s Mexican schnitzel had Tobasco in the sauce and was topped with a ludicrous amount of jalapeños. The schnitzels were huge but not too thick, and they tasted great. Both meals were super filling and served with a small amount of chips, which was perfectly fine considering we could eat as much salad as we liked. However, by the time we finished our meals, we didn’t have any room left…
Dave went with the $14.90 porterhouse special cooked medium rare and unbelievably, that’s how the steak arrived! The mushroom sauce was just gravy with mushrooms in it. For the price, it was a very reasonable and well sized meal that could have been supplemented with more salad but there was no need – Dave was full.
We weren’t expecting much from the Gillen Club and we were pleasantly surprised with the value and flavour of the food. It’s a great kid-friendly restaurant that serves a decent meal in a social atmosphere. Feeling utterly satisfied, we left the Gillen Club for a nightcap at Epilogue before taking Jenny back to her hostel.
If you’re looking for a great place for breakfast and an even better place to relax with a cocktail in the evenings, then check out Epilogue. Located on Todd Mall in Alice Springs, it combines hipster coffee culture with a shabby chic cocktail bar, complete with chandeliers and a great tapas menu.
Our first encounter was for Saturday morning breakfast. We perused the menu of Mexican-style breakfasts and both settled on the breakfast burrito. After we ordered our food and coffee, we sat outside in the toasty sun.
The coffees were surprisingly fast to arrive, and Juz’s soy latte was topped with the most delectable layer of microfoam. Dave’s macchiato was fantastic too. Expectations were high for the food.
Shortly afterwards, our burritos arrived. Two halves stacked on top of each other, stuffed with scrambled eggs, bacon, guacamole, salsa and beans with a side of chilli sauce. While there was definitely enough food and it was well prepared and presented, Juz was hoping for a little more POW from the chilli sauce and the guacamole, but putting her fussy tastes aside, it was a good breakfast.
The second time we went to Epilogue, it was to meet up with Amanda and Gary from Travel Outback Australia. We had a wonderful night of conversation, food and wine. The first thing we sampled was the espresso martini. This was absolutely delicious and set us up for the rest of the night. We also ordered two pizzas – the mexitarian and duck pizza. These were absolutely fantastic in flavour and valued at $16 each. We also got some nachos which were fresh and great to share, as well as some pork meatballs.
We visited a third time when our friend Jenny from Lorella Springs was in Alice Springs for a day. We took her to all the important places like Mount Gillen, Anzac Hill and the Reptile Centre, and before dropping her off at her hostel for the night, we took her to Epilogue for a drink while the open mic session provided entertainment.
We were cold, we were hungry, and we had just rocked up in Alice Springs. We set our priorities straight and went to the first pizza shop we could find, Rocky’s Pizza. Operation Pepperoni was immediately in full force.
We approached the counter and ordered a large half’n’half pizza with capricciosa and mexicana for $20. The friendly Italian behind the counter told us to take a seat and he’d bring it out when it was ready.
We sat outside, despite the freshness in the air. Juz was first to break.
“I need to go to the toilet… be back soon”
She found a public toilet at the Town Centre, sorted out her business and returned to the table to wait with Dave.
“I need to go too – where was the toilet?”
“Over there… if the pizza comes out before you get back, I’m not waiting.”
All of this happened within the space of about 10-15 minutes, and Dave still had time to come back before the pizza appeared.
It was glorious – we hadn’t seen a pizza this beautiful in over a year. It didn’t stand a chance.
Once slice, two slice, three slice NOM! The fourth slice, well… it was history. We sat back, fully satisfied. Who would have thought we would hit the jackpot on the first eatery we entered in Alice Springs? We had high hopes for what else this town had to offer… but until then, we were happy with pizza as a staple.
During our final week in Darwin, we organised to go to Darwin’s most highly rated #1 restaurant (according to Urbanspoon) with some good friends that we made while we were here. Surprisingly enough, the best restaurant in Darwin isn’t Modern Australian but a combination of Thai, Indian and Nonya cuisine.
Hanuman opened in 1992 and has since won many awards for best wine list, best Asian restaurant, best ethnic restaurant… the list is seriously impressive but you have to wonder who their competition are. Because of this prestigious reputation, Hanuman has a classier atmosphere than your regular Darwin eatery so it would be most respectful that you didn’t wear thongs if you do decide to dine there.
When we arrived, we saw the sign that kindly asked for no thongs but we weren’t about to go home to change our shoes so when Joe and Kate arrived, we followed them in and hoped no one would notice that we were under-shod.
We were seated in the outdoor deck, which actually seemed like it was indoors. Beautiful Asian artwork and sculptures was strategically placed around the dining areas and inside by the cocktail bar, the lighting spread a lovely glow of purple and gold lighting along the walls and ceiling.
As we perused the menu, we ordered drinks. Juz got a Zen Monk cocktail, which was ginger and lemongrass with Frangelico and coconut. The initial flavour was interesting to say the least, but once the Frangelico appeared in the aftertaste, it was quite nice. Our waiter was great and super passionate about the food. He made some great suggestions and after a few minutes, our orders were sent to the kitchen.
Our entrée was the trumpet mushrooms, which were served in an interesting clay dish. Each mushroom was topped with minced pork, prawn and spices, and garnished with some coconut cream, coriander and a slice of chilli. They looked gorgeous and had a great savoury flavour that was laced with tastes from the sea. The chilli added a nice punch but wasn’t too spicy at all.
Each of us ordered a main to share and we ended up with three curries and a whole fish. The Thai crispy whole fish was served with a three flavour sauce (hot, sweet and sour), and looked pretty impressive on the pretty platter. The fish was well cooked, possibly even on the dry side, but the sauce fixed that up. Dave and Kate even dared to pick the eye out and eat it – GROSS – they said it tasted like fish and was really chewy.
Each of the curries had their own character – the lamb in the rogan josh was really tender, the beefvindaloo traded in ass-burning chilli for a mellow sweetness of spices, while the chicken chettinad in a fennel and mustard seed masala was spicy and fully of robust flavours. To accompany our mains, we ordered the garlic naan and onion and cheese naan. The garlic naan was fantastic but the onion naan could have done with a bit more cheese.
Once everything was eaten, including the fish eyes, we declined suggestions for dessert and went home. While Juz was basking in the warmth of the curry spices inside her belly, Dave was having a bad time. Despite enjoying the flavours of some Indian dishes, the spices don’t agree with him and he had reflux for the rest of the evening.