Okay, so I spent most of last week in Cairns, in Tropical Far North Queensland – I flew up on Sunday morning and came home yesterday. I’ll tell you more about it over the next few weeks. Today, though, is about the food.
I was travelling solo and on a budget and thankfully there are plenty of street food style options available in Cairns – the Vietnamese and Thai food is particularly good here, and cheap as.
I also did a couple of day tours that included lunch and because I’m a member of the Accor hotel group and was staying at an Accor hotel (the Pullman Cairns International, in case you’re interested) I also got discounted meals.
The worst meal I had was, ironically, also the most expensive. Monday nights during the off-season, for the record, there isn’t much open. The hotel restaurant was shut, Soy Kitchen was shut, and a few along the waterfront were shut. I went to a restaurant that (I think) was connected to the Hilton Hotel, got a seat on the waterfront, and ordered a Malaysian Beef Rendang. While it looked the part there was no spice to speak of. The view was good though.
I told you about this place after my last visit. The post is here. It’s a Cairns institution and, if you’re a foodie, a must-do. Because it’s only open Friday to Sunday – was my first stop this trip.
They sell everything here – herbs, veggies, so many different kinds of tropical fruits, and who knew there were that many kinds of bananas. It amazed me also how many leaves were being sold as herbs – sweet potato leaves, choko leaves. (Side note, if you’re in the US you probably know choko as chayote or vegetable pear or mango squash.)
I stopped at one of the food trucks and grabbed a bowl of pho bo for lunch. Although piping hot (and I add extra chilli) it’s also perfect for this hot and humid climate.
2. Zucchini and Halloumi Fritters
These must be the current fashion because I saw them everywhere. They were served with local barramundi at the hotel and were on pretty much every breakfast menu around town. Because I had a few early starts I went to the supermarket and brought in yoghurts, crispbreads and avocado for breakfast in my room.
I did, however, venture downstairs on my final morning and was very glad I did. At the Pullman they serve the zucchini fritters as a muffin substitute for a very good eggs benedict.
On the food tour I went on during the week one of the tastes we enjoyed was zucchini and halloumi fritters with a chipolata sausage made using some Davidson Plum jam.
3. Soy Kitchen
This place, located outside the casino, is new since the last time I was here and is excellent. The food is priced well and very good. There’s also a fabulous mural inside.
I went back a few times and tried their duck spring rolls, Hainanese chicken (which, weirdly) was served hot (Hainanese chicken is usually served lukewarm), the gochugang spicy pork noodles (not pictured), and the shu mai.
4. Sunday Sessions
There are plenty of places along the waterfront to sit and enjoy a craft beer, locally made gin or an aperol spritz and a bar snack. The Salt House and The Boat Shed are my 2 recommendations – the duck spring rolls with a spicy tamarind sauce (pictured below) at the latter are very yummy indeed.
5. Something a little different
On the foodie tour, our lunch platter was a little different. On the platter were a skewer of kangaroo meat (the tenderest I’ve tasted) on satay sauce, a mini sausage roll made of crocodile with a little chorizo and a davidson plum relish, a grilled yabby that had been caught in the lake that morning, and some house-smoked chicken and trout.
Afterwards, we tasted some wines made of fruit – you can’t grow wine grapes up here. We sampled a herbally rose, and white wines made with mango, lychee and passionfruit. While they smelled amazing, they were a tad too sweet for my palate.
If you’re after pasta in Cairns you can’t go wrong with Piccolo Cucina. I had a fabulous carbonara there one night – made the traditional way without cream. They did it for me especially because we got into a discussion about how cream doesn’t belong in carbonara, but for some reason, most Australian and American tourists (back in the day when Cairns got international tourists) are used to having it with cream so that’s how they sell it. She was thrilled when I recognised the guanciale (cured pork cheek – another traditional ingredient) instead of bacon. ‘I thought you’d like that,’ she said. I did. very much.
Linking up on the Weekend Coffee share with Natalie.