There’s something enticingly raw about the great outdoors of Queensland. The sun seems to embrace rather than scorch, the ocean to soothe rather than rage. The sky seems bluer, the plants lusher, the flowers brighter. Life is good and I can just go for a run on a stretch of pristine beach or explore the deep rainforest, or indulge in a well cooked meal employing the freshest of local produce.
Ah yes, there is nothing better than to kick back and relax with a big glass of red wine, after a fantastic day out filled with wet and wild adventures, knowing that a hot, steamy and delicious meal is just around the corner.
Here are 5 restaurants that you do not want to miss, in Queensland.
1. Salt House
One of the first restaurants we visited in Cairns was Salt House. Our dinner there turned out to be a great meal. The menu runs to between 3 and 6 items per course and though it is small, the quality of the food is excellent, a refreshing change from some of the mega-menus we often see. The seafood here is top notch – super fresh, and the service is attentive. The steaks are close to perfect. So what makes a perfect steak you might ask? Some may say, look out for meat with the most marbling, i.e., visible grains of fat running through the steak. As the steak is cooking, the fat melts, naturally tenderizing the meat and building in flavour. Others may say, it’s the precision with which you cook the steak.
Me, I like mine done medium to medium rare, with tons of marbling. Perfection to me is defined by the contrast between the charred exterior and the warm, juicy pink center, and here at Salt House, they get it right. My steak was delivered to my plate a bloody, juicy medium rare. Served with a peppercorn sauce, it was divine!
Apart from the great food, the ambiance is terrific as well – situated at Marina Point and overlooking the water, Salt House offers a panorama of the ocean, marina and city on the waterfront in Cairns. Salt House has been designed by renowned Sydney designer Michael McCann of Dreamtime Australia Design and the fluid space allows uninterrupted views of the changing colours of the ocean and mountains that encircle the city. A custom wood-fired grill and open kitchen, an outdoor cocktail bar surrounded by flowing ponds add a nice touch to this swanky joint. The attached bar is a cool place to people watch, and much later, the dance floor will be peppered with dancing couples, as the beat and volume goes up, and the night wears on.. Salt house is definitely worth a visit.
Your focus may be more on your plate than on the view outside at this stylish, but still laid-back eatery. One of only two restaurants in Tropical North Queensland to rate a star in the 2009 Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Guide and Nunu has also picked up one hat. The atmosphere, like the service, is cool and easy-going, with an assuredness borne of consummate success. Here, you’ll find subtle local elements fused with asian ingredients to give the nicest fusion dishes imaginable. Our 5 course degustation menu was a sight to behold. Each plated course looked too pretty to eat really.
Nunu’s version of the Thai Miaeng Kam, known simply as Miang
Nu Nu’s starters are interesting creations of the chef – take for example the hot smoked red emperor Miang with chili, pink pomelo, green papaya relish and salmon pearls. This was actually a spin on the Thai Miaeng Kam. All the elements of spicy, salty, sweet and sour are suppose to co-exits in perfect harmony in this exciting little starter, meant to stimulate all the components of taste in your mouth. Nunu’s version of Miang was slightly too sour for me, and I missed the sweet element coming through in the dish, but otherwise it was tasty enough as a starter. Nu Nu’s mud crab is the premier dish, but its honey-and-cardamom roast duck is wondrous as well, I am told. Other options include lamb, local reef fish, or perhaps a duck curry. A red curry of fried baby barramundi with pickled prawn, young coconut, Thai basil and shallots is yet another good example of an Asian fusion dish worth trying on the menu. There are also lunch and breakfasts menus available at Nunu’s. If you choose one of the banquette-style seats at breakfast or lunch you could easily settle in for hours.. and not feel the time slip by.
shaved local heart of palm, melon, lime, baby herbs and chili – coconut is a big theme at this restaurant and you will notice slivers of young coconut flesh being employed freely and generously in many of Nunu’s dishes
Well, you can see for yourself now, why ex Melbourne chef Nick Holloway’s unique creations are the talk of the town. Described by Delicious Magazine as ‘culinary nirvana’ Nunu is set against the gorgeous backdrop of Outrigger Beach Club & Spa with sweeping beachfront views. Without a doubt one of the best restaurants in Far North Queensland, and certainly one of the fine culinary examples in Australia.Add: Nunu A: 123 Williams Esplanade, Palm Cove QLD Australia T: +61 (0)7 4059 1880 W: www.nunu.com.au
Thala Beach Lodge is the only 5 star luxury hotel located on a private headland between Cairns and Port Douglas. The resort offers eco friendly accommodation options that are sensitively positioned amongst the resort’s 145-acre property. Within this resort is the restaurant Ospreys. With a seasonal menu and an emphasis on fresh local produce Ospreys is a popular Port Douglas restaurant option for locals and guests of Thala Beach Lodge.
reef fish with soft shell crab
I had a rather memorable dinner here and some laughed at us for ordering the reef fish (as we had been having so many of those) but I am glad I had it because it was marinaded so well. The bonus was of course the deep fried soft shell crab that sat on top of the fish – succulent, soft and tender inside, yet crispy and flaky outside. This was indeed a top notch meal. Ospreys comes highly recommended and do not miss the opportunity to stay at the Thala Beach Lodge for at least a couple of nights, and sample the fine food at this amazing restaurant.Add: Ospreys at Thala Beach Lodge Contact: Michelle Behsman, Sales and Marketing Manager M: 0412 479 188 A: Private Road, Oak Beach, Port Douglas QLD Australia 4877 T: +61 (0)7 4098 5700 W: www.thalabeach.com.au
4. Flames of the Forest
Flames of the Forest is a truly memorable dining experience where you will be immersed in beauty, originality, Aboriginal culture, lush rainforests and creative Australian cuisine. Flames of the Forest were voted Number 34 in the Australian Traveller Magazine’s 100 great things to do in Australia.
The location is stunning, totally beautiful, peaceful, remote and gorgeous. The rainforest setting is the natural, authentic backdrop for this spiritual and mystical culture, a performance unique to Flames of the Forest, where you will learn about their timeless Aboriginal traditions over drinks and dinner. This is a great place to learn about the connection between the rain forest and the Aborigines, that is explored through story telling and music. I was really impressed with the food too which was well prepared and featured local delicacies such as kangaroo meat and reef fish.
kangaroo meat.. first time I’ve tried this – taste gamy but delicious!
Over here, you can enjoy one of two dining experiences – either the “Flames of the Forest Experience” or the “Rainforest Dining Experience”. The “Flames of the Forest Experience” is the one we opted for – it consisted of long banquet tables where we were served six courses of innovative, tropical and locally produced food on large platters to be shared along the table. By around the second course, a rather captivating performance started, where two local indigenous brothers performed to the backdrop of the rainforest, their riveting storytelling and didgeridoo playing. It was exquisite.. haunting even, and a beautiful night out under the stars.Add: Flames of the Forest Contact: Natalie Shearer, 0418 611 861 T: +61 (0)7 4099 5983 W: www.flamesoftheforest.com.au
5. On The Inlet Seafood Restaurant Port Douglas
bucket of prawns
For true foodies and lovers of fresh seafood, visit On the Inlet Seafood restaurant for some live, tasty crustaceans! The ultimate dining experience is a live mud crab or crayfish / lobster dinner from their live seafood tank.. but too bad we missed that. Getting there early however, for cocktails, we did sample their bucket of prawns kept cold and fresh on the rocks. These were sweet, and bursting with oceanic flavour. The Scallops and the Fish and Chips are a must have here as well.
Mud crabs are also a specialty of On The Inlet Seafood Restaurant Port Douglas, but we were told, only subject to availability, unfortunately.The famous Queensland Mud Crab or “Muddie” contains plenty of sweet, juicy meat. The claws and body of the Mud Crab are a prized delicacy. The moist meat of the North Queensland Mud Crab has a marvelous, distinct and sweet flavor, characterized by large firm grains and a rich earthy flavor. I need to go back for these, ASAP!
the lovely Chantelle of FatMumSlim, playing hide-and-seek with the prawns!
And with that, I conclude my Top 5 restaurants to Visit in Queensland.
Have you been to Queensland recently, and do you have any amazing culinary experiences that you find hard to forget? If you think that there’s any other restaurant worthy to be on this list, please share.. would love to hear from you guys!Add: On the Inlet A: 3 Inlet Street, Port Douglas, QLD Australia 4877 T: +61 (0)7 4099 5255 W: www.ontheinlet.com.au
For more information on Queensland, check out Tourism Queensland ‘s website for culinary adventures, activities & thrills and spills!