FNQ FOOD Magazine Special Annual Edition 2022

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Editor/Publisher | David Leith Executive Editor | Jodie Ferrero Sub-editor | Mark Tuite Designer | Liagi Mateo Writers Sharon Timms Janie Barton Suzy Grinter Narelle Muller BJ Foley Mark Knowles Stacey Carrick Elaine Deane Jack Wilkie-Jans Bridey Walsh Photographers Mick Fuhrimann Catherine Coombs Nicolas Tanguy Stuart Frost Sales & Circulation Catherine Swan Claire Howells John Japp Andrew Bennett Acknowledgements Noel Castley-Wright Erica Hughes With thanks to Cairns Museum / Cairns Historical Society Tourism Tropical North Queensland Tourism Port Douglas Daintree Printed in Queensland by Print Works Qld Pty Ltd 90 Basalt Street, Geebung 4034 Published by FNQ Media Pty Ltd 211 Hartley Street, Cairns 4870 Distribution enquiries - distribution@fnqfood.com.au Subscription enquiries - subscription@fnqfood.com.au Advertising enquiries - advertising@fnqfood.com.au Phone enquiries - 5641 2200 www.FNQFood.com.au www.facebook.com/FNQFoodMagazine www.instagram.com/fnq_food FNQ Food Magazine is published by Far North Queensland Media Pty Ltd ABN 12 629 675 681. As the publisher we take all reasonable precautions and effort to ensure the accuracy of material contained in this magazine, or digital reproduction, at the time of publishing. We are not able to take responsibility or liability for any loss or damage caused by material received in good faith from contributors, advertisers or other sources. This magazine contains sponsored content, and although every effort is made to ensure that all information is current, up to date and correct, errors will sometimes occur. It is a requirement of acceptance that editorial, advertising and sponsored content should not be defamatory, untruthful or misleading. All conditions, rates, specifications and policies are subject to change without notice. Expressed or implied authors’ and advertisers’ opinions are not necessarily those of the publisher. All material produced and/or published by FNQ Food Magazine in electronic, printed or other format is subject to copyright and may not be reproduced in whole or part without the express written permission of the publisher. The advertiser assumes all responsibility for attaining copyright permission for any material or components not produced by FNQ Food Magazine. Full advertising terms and conditions are of acceptance are available at www.FNQMedia.com.au


A note from the


Welcome to this special edition of FNQ Food magazine. It’s been a while since we were able to put ink on paper … thanks for dropping in! If the last 18 months has taught us anything, it is the truth of the old adage that things can indeed get worse. If we think back to the foreboding events of 2019, who then could have sat back and predicted what absolute communal catastrophe was about to be brought to our shores and how even more affected we would be. With results akin to the whole world walking under a ladder at once, we found ourselves in the midst of a deadly and commerce-crippling pandemic. This period illustrated how interconnected we are as a global community. Indeed, a butterfly, or perhaps a bat, flapping its wings in a minor part of a foreign country can have repercussions well beyond those that we could ever conceive. Here in Far North Queensland, beautiful and geographically cosseted from the many diverse and adverse defects of the globe, who could have believed the havoc that was to descend upon our lives. It is good fortune that in our region, the ramifications of this world event have almost exclusively been commercial. We have been spared the tragedy and enforced isolation that have been the hallmarks of the pandemic elsewhere. What has been remarkable for us here, even early in the event, is the solidarity, how connected and supportive we have all been as a local and national community. Collectively, we have united to support a regional industry that is always the first to suffer and the last to recover. Food and beverage has always been and remains the cornerstone of hospitality. It is the amenity that makes tourism work. How, where, and what we decide to eat and drink can dramatically affect our psyche, pockets, and our neighbour’s welfare, too. All this support has fostered innovation, growth and, the most overused word of the last year, pivoting. Everything from making food available in many different ways or places, right through to striking out into new business and new ventures. In the pages that follow, we welcome many new, and many familiar, faces. We visit the traditional and the heritage, and we celebrate the novel and the innovative. The proliferation of new venues, breweries, distilleries and growers is a testament to those who would follow their dreams. Many in short order have garnered awards and accolades that reflect determination and ingenuity in the face of this most challenging time. We can but hope that the year that follows is better than previous and that we see a stable new normal that we can work with and grow into. This region is unique and unparalleled. What we make, grow, eat and serve here is diverse beyond the wildest dreams of many other global tourist destinations. If we are to succeed, we should celebrate our village, support each other, and remember that each of us bears some responsibility, however small, for our region’s success and industry. Without our ongoing determination and commitment, the longer it will take for us to prosper once again.



It has indeed been some time since we have graced this region in print. From my position as editor, publisher and, more recently, marketer, I believe the stories we have compiled within this publication should become the currency by which we value ourselves and our region. It has been a privilege to discover and share the depth, passion and experience that drives those within our industry. Those of you that find yourselves here on a more temporary note, can I ask you all to join us in celebration of what is unique. I recommend you journey into our ‘every-day’ and seek out that which is amazing. To everyone, please read on and share and delight in discovering the people, the places and the produce of food and beverage in Far North Queensland. Thank you to everyone for continuing to make FNQ Food something to write about. Bon appetit …

David Leith Editor

Refreshingly natural. Scoo Brew Kombucha is a 100% all natural, FRESH kombucha handcrafted in Cairns, flavoured with 100% real fruit, no essences, oils, concentrates, extracts, added sugar, preservatives or stevia, just the way nature intended.

Scoo Brew loves ya guts!

scoobrew.com.au 5

The Brief! Create a stunning showcase of all that is food in FNQ, a collection of cafes, restaurants, bars, bistros, pubs, produce, distilleries, breweries, wineries, food trails and food destinations in our gorgeous corner of the globe that represent the gastronomic richness of our region. Present each as a mouth-watering article for the reader to devour, telling the unique stories of passion, perseverance, innovation and inspiration of the amazing people behind these places and the incredible experience and value each and every one of them offers to visitors from near and far. To achieve something truly impressive, it required a team of talent, a chosen team of sales staff, writers, sub-editors, photographers and designers to work with me to uncover the stories, create the narrative and capture the very essence of each feature business. The process, every intricate part of production and detail in design, culminates in the pages you are about to immerse yourself in, and, on behalf of the entire team, I hope you enjoy our FNQ Food Magazine - Special Annual Edition! It has been my pleasure to curate this publication. Indulge in the FNQ extraordinary soon!

Jodie Ferrero Executive Editor

MEET THE TEAM! Introducing our team, who with complete professionalism, literary talent and artistic composition have made this magazine what it is for you to enjoy. We thank them for their contribution.

LIAGI MATEO Business/Title: Professional Design & Layout Favourite local produce: Mangoes! Favourite food destination in FNQ: Since I’m a fan of Italian cuisine and prawns, I think the most visually exciting for me are A Taste of Italy, La Fettuccina, Lemocello’s, The Raw Prawn, Villa Romana, and Sapore Di Italia.



MARK “MURDOCH ESCAPEE” TUITE Business/Title: Sub-Editor - FNQ Food Magazine Favourite local produce: Macalister Brewing Company’s Latitude 17 ale. Fruity! Favourite food destination in FNQ: O’Cha Cha Japanese restaurant. A hidden gem.

SHARON TIMMS Business/Title: Chief Slinger at Inkslinger Communications Favourite local produce: Mangosteens and Gallo Macadamia Cheese. Not at the same time, though. Favourite food destination in FNQ: Oaks Kitchen & Garden (for the full culinary immersion experience), Seabean Tapas & Bar (Spanish snacks, sherry and sangria - what’s not to love?), and NOA (the best neighbourhood restaurant doesn’t exi… wait).

JANIE BARTON Business/Title: Feature writer FNQ Food magazine Favourite local produce: Mangoes, beautiful sweet mangoes. Favourite food destination in FNQ: I just love Alessandro’s Pizzeria

SUZY GRINTER Business/Title: Word Factory Favourite local produce: Lecker Pawpaws are definitely a favourite of mine Favourite food destination in FNQ: Oh, hard to choose but… Splash on the Esplanade for me.

NARELLE MULLER Business/Title: The person repeatedly asked, “Why are you always eating?” Favourite local produce: We’d need a toilet roll to write it all down on. Favourite food destination in FNQ: Having professionally reviewed restaurants for more than 20 years, this is a trick question and one I face constantly. The truth? It depends on the occasion.

BART FOLEY Business/Title: Barefoot Drinker Favourite local produce: Too much to choose from but just about any local beverage. Favourite food destination in FNQ: That’s like asking me which one of my kids is my favourite! But I’d split it between La Fettuccina and Raw Prawn.

MARK KNOWLES Business/Title: Freelance journalist, traveller and foodie. Favourite local produce: The seafood whether it’s barra, coral trout or mud crab, if it’s caught local and cooked fresh, count me in! Favourite food destination in FNQ: Ochre - everyone who visits Cairns should seize their chance to taste the flavours of FNQ at their finest.

STACEY CARRICK Business/Title: I’m definitely known as a social butterfly! Favourite local produce: Rusty’s for mangoes and mangosteens. Favourite food destination in FNQ: Definitely Italian - Bellocale, La Fettuccina and Lemoncello’s.

ELAINE (LAINEE) DEANE Business/Title: Travelling Freelance Journalist – Lainee’s Creative Collective Favourite local produce: Starfruit Favourite food destination in FNQ: Skybury

JACK WILKIE-JANS Business/Title: Favourite local produce: Akul (Mangrove Mud Clam) Favourite food destination in FNQ: Mum’s kitchen.

BRIDEY WALSH Business/Title: Lover of words and food. Favourite local produce: Lychees. Favourite food destination in FNQ: Palm Cove. I love so many good choices there but dessert at NuNu is the best!

MICK FUHRIMANN Business/Title: Visual Artist Favourite local produce: All the local seasonal fruits and vegetables at Rusty’s Markets Favourite food destination: Snoogies Health Bar

CATHERINE COOMBS Business/Title: Captured by Catherine Favourite local produce: Mangoes and lychees - I love seasonal fruit! Favourite food destination in FNQ: It changes often. At the moment it’s Wild Thyme.

NICOLAS TANYGUY Business/Title: Frog Image Photography Favourite local produce: All of it, especially when my lovely wife, who is a chef, cooks for me! Favourite food destination in FNQ: In 2 Thai, Cafe China, Joe’s Pizza, C’est Bon

FROSTY Business/Title: Photographer and Goo Maker Favourite local produce: Whisky and Cubans, they’re made here right? Favourite food destination in FNQ: My fridge, I don’t get out of it much.

CATHERINE SWAN Business/Title: Advertising Sales, Expo & Event Promotions Favourite local produce: Bananas & Avo’s Favourite food destination in FNQ: Coco Mojo & Spicy Bite

CLAIRE HOWELLS Business/Title: FNQ Food Magazine / Claire Victoria Wedding Design Favourite local produce: Barramundi Gardens - Crocodile and Lemon Myrtle Spring Rolls Favourite food destination in FNQ: Current favourite restaurant (it changes often!) is El Greko Greek Taverna in Palm Cove

ANDREW BENNETT Business/Title: FNQ Food Magazine / Top Cut Food Meat Specialist Favourite local produce: Mt Uncle gin Favourite food destination in FNQ: Tha Fish

JOHN JAPP Business/Title: Restauranteur & entrepreneur Favourite local produce: Hard to pick one, the seafood here is unsurpassed Favourite food destination in FNQ: Barring the obvious, I like anywhere where the service is good and the food consistent!





Hospo Group - Bars, booze and biz in FNQ


Made For You In FNQ - Showcase


Events - Food events of 2022


Trail Blazers - With Brett’s Tasting Tours


Restaurants & Fine Dining - Showcase


Restaurants Locator - Maps


Reef Hotel Casino - Eat, Drink, Meet, And Play


Pie-fection - 85 Years of Manning’s Pies


Heritage Hotels - Historic Pubs in FNQ


The Bar & Grill Effect - Showcase


The Speakeasy, Small Bar - Showcase


FNQ Distillers - Showcase


The Real Beer Up Here - Showcase


Coffee, Cafe Culture - Showcase


Self Drive Food Tour - Showcase





If you’re reading this, there’s a strong possibility you are either in or soon to be in Far North Queensland (FNQ) and are wondering about the wonderful array of food and drink that you might find here. This region is unique, stretching from the red dirt to the reef and to the prehistoric rainforest. Astoundingly, all within easy reach of one of Australia’s most cosmopolitan cities, busiest airports and a wide range of places to stay from the most luxurious, right down to places to suit those who have arrived here under their own steam. But apart from this geographical and historical uniqueness, this region boasts some of Australia’s best farming and fishing. FNQ is a paradise for foodies, both literally and metaphorically, with some of the shortest food miles and some of the most exciting and exotic produce available anywhere in the world. And this is not just a place for the production of fantastic food and drink. It is also replete with some of the most beautiful and diverse venues that will prepare this local bounty for your delight, degustation and delectation. This region boasts seafood pulled from the local waters, beef herds that range free, and fruits that quite simply do not grow anywhere else. This production is in profundity, with this region supplying a voracious national and international export demand. Locally we have fixated upon this supply chain, ensuring that we best utilise what we have around us, from crops to meat and seafood. This region is to be envied, with the speed of paddock to plate, sea to serve, and field to fork being unachievable almost anywhere else on the planet. And the

locals are creative too; a proliferation of craft breweries, smallbatch distillers, wineries and artisan food makers has grown to appropriate this supply of the freshest ingredients. From the very smallest of takeaways to multi-hatted fine dining establishments, all keep themselves in tune with what’s local and what’s seasonal. So integral is the produce of our region to its residents, the virtual centre point of the capital Cairns is the renowned and venerable Rusty’s Markets. The region’s wholesalers have eagerly adapted to meet this demand for local produce, and with a huge diversity of cuisine types, it is possible to have an absolutely unique dining experience, whatever your taste may be. So, this just leaves us to welcome you, dear foodie, and to help you discover and curate your own journey through the food and drink of the Far North; we hope you enjoy every bite and every sip! Look out for QR code boxes throughout this magazine, scan them with your phone or tablet and they will direct you to more information on whatever the accompanying article is about. This one here goes to our website, feel free to visit and keep up to date with everything FNQ Food!

FNQ Food Magazine, Your what’s where, how and who for Food and Drink in FNQ


Leaders Of The Pack

We meet the team making their mark as they revolutionise the Cairns Bar Scene. Join us as we chat about Wolves, Foxes, Flamingos, and award winning booze…



Words by Sharon Timms | Cover Image by Mick Fuhrimann


Pop quiz, barflies: what do The Three Wolves, Flamingo’s Tiki Bar, The Fox Small Bar, and Wolf Lane Distillery all have in common? Time’s up – it’s this: all are owned and operated by the one group of entrepreneurial folks determined to bring good drinks and excellent hospitality to Cairns, one venue at a time. The Hospo Group, made up of Darren Barber, Sam Kennis, Grant Buckham, Ben Pape and Andrew Pare, is a fine example in the pursuit of excellence; a team consistently honing their existing venues and values while constantly on the hunt for new opportunities in unused and forgotten spaces around Cairns. An ode to the tropics harnessing the cool dynamic of big city ideas in a regional town. The timeline of their progression is quite impressive. In five short years, they’ve managed to open up a whiskey, Prohibitionthemed bar that started the small bar revolution in the North (Three Wolves); a tiki-themed rum bar (Flamingo’s Tiki); create an internationally acclaimed, award-winning gin distillery (Wolf Lane Distillery); and finally – for now – a neighbourhood, Australianfocused wine bar (The Fox Small Bar). “The decision to open all these venues was of course planned, but only partially,” says Andrew Pare, one of the five directors of The Hospo Group. Following their success in cocktails, whiskey, rum and beer, the guys felt the time was right to tackle producing their own gin, one which could feature in their own venues, as well as other bars in the region and around Australia. Fortune met fate and they secured a disused building right next door to The Three Wolves. “The Wolf Lane distillery is one of the oldest buildings in Cairns, formerly an old horse stable,” says Andrew. “There are still sections of the original internal stables that we use as back of-house space. We then gutted the rest, painted the whole thing white, and decided a distillery would be the best fit. Initially, it was just a tasting area for Wolf Lane, but now it’s a stand-alone bar. But of course, the only gins we serve are the ones we make.



“When it came to Flamingo’s Tiki Bar, we couldn’t fathom that we were in sugar cane country, rum country… without a rum bar,” Andrew continues. “So we fixed that. Now we have 220 rums and a very rum-skewed cocktail list, all with a bit of flair and show. We absolutely love it, but more importantly, people love it. Even people who say they don’t like rum drink rum at Flamingo’s, and that means we’re doing the right thing.” Astute business and creative eyes for venue possibilities aside, what is it about The Hospo Group that’s driving North Queensland locals and visitors to raise the bar in their imbibing habits? “The cohesive ethos we have across all our venues is all about warm hospitality,” says Andrew. “Our staff are the front and face of our business, so the focus is on authentic conversation, genuine connection between staff and patrons. These are the things you can’t teach people. Can you make a drink? Great. Anyone can make a gin and tonic. Can you hold a conversation, though? Personality and work ethic are everything.” It’s this overarching ethos that has landed the group a swag of awards internationally across all facets of their business. The Wolf Lane Tropical Gin has won several awards including gold medal at the Australian Gin Awards, while the Navy Strength Gin picked up World’s Best Navy Strength at the Gin Guide Awards 2020 in London. The Hospo Group has also been voted the World’s Best Bar Group by the Gin Awards 2021 in London. Outside of the passion for good drinks and good business, what is it that keeps the members of The Hospo Group interested and engaged in the empire they’re creating?

“We are continuously reinventing what we already have, as well as scoping out new ideas,” Andrew says. “There’s no ‘set and forget’ option – whether it’s reinventing the menu or the décor, we’re constantly making sure it feels fresh. Hospitality, bars, and drink culture are so important to all of us. People want to drink better. And it’s our job to make that happen.” And with that, a Wolf Lane Davidson Plum Gin negroni simply appears in front of me. Don’t mind if I do.

HQ Wolf Lane 30 Abbott Street, Cairns


Made For You In FNQ Words by Suzy Grinter

A mini showcase of FNQ production Rainforest Heart Nestled in a deep, isolated valley in the verdant, rolling hills of Mungalli lies a fertile and warm pocket of land originally nurtured by the Warbibara clan of the Mamu tribe. European settlers, the Thompson family, with the help of the Mamu peoples, cleared this beautiful space for dairy land, which subsequently metamorphosed into a veritable cornucopia, renowned for producing superb fruit. Peter and Margo opened Rainforest Heart to the public in 2014, after 13 years of growing preparation. Passionate about the environment, the couple are wholly dedicated to maintaining the sustainable practices utilised on the farm since the 1940s, and now producing ancient Australian native rainforest fruit species such as the Davidsons Plum and Lemon aspen, among other native and other fruits. Their enticing product list includes such unusual delights as Davidson’s Plum and Native Bush Cherry fortified wines; seasonings such as Salty Plum Rub, Spicy Australian Citrus Dukka, Rainforest Lemon or Plum Seasoning; Davidson’s Plum tea granules; Lemon Aspen or Davidson Plum Powder to make refreshing drinks; and Dried Mango with Davidson’s Plum. You can purchase online of course, but what better way to shop than pay a visit to this luscious 410 acre property, where you can sample Rainforest Heart’s unique products, take a tour through the rainforest and native fruit orchards and enjoy morning or afternoon tea and a wine tasting!



Little Tuna

Scoo Brew Kombucha

When you’re buying fish, there’s nothing better than knowing exactly where it came from and who caught it. And more importantly, that it is ethically sourced and proudly Australian.

Local entrepreneur and passionate Kombucha brewer, Amanda Hargrave, enlightens me. I learn there is Kombucha and there is REAL Kombucha, and I guess most of us would not know the difference.

Even better, that it’s caught by a local family fishing business. That’s Little Tuna. With a shared deep seated passion for the ocean and its inhabitants, it was a natural progression for long time commercial fisherman Rowan Lamason and his wife Kate to combine that passion with their love of healthy, delicious recipes to develop their highly successful gourmet range of tuna products. Little Tuna’s product is caught in Australia’s pristine waters under stringent management protocols and classed as sustainable, an absolute must for the ocean loving Lamason family, whose business has been operating out of Cairns for over 30 years. Premium albacore tuna (with whiter flesh compared to yellow fin or big eye) housed in recyclable glass jars, provides a delicious companion to salads, sandwiches, wraps, pasta dishes or can be enjoyed straight from the jar. The Lamasons spent many years researching the market and developing recipes, resulting in a delectable range of healthy, appetising products including tuna in olive oil, spring water, lemon myrtle or chilli. Only the finest ingredients are used to complement Little Tuna’s succulent fish. This is Little Tuna with a very big taste.

Locally produced SCOO BREW is the real McCoy, lovingly brewed in small batches in the same way you would make this delicious, healthy beverage at home. Its shorter shelf life bears testimony to its freshness and authenticity, there being no trace of preservatives, artificial sweeteners or Stevia, no extracts, flavour concentrates or artificial essences. In fact, Scoo Brew is ‘the full Monty’ in its original definition - that is, “everything that is necessary, appropriate or possible” to create a truly genuine, natural Kombucha, unlike a significant number of its supermarket shelf competitors. Using fresh, local fruit instead of artificial flavourings, Amanda has created a boutique Kombucha brew, naturally low in sugar and packed full of naturally occurring probiotics, organic acids, live cultures, antioxidants and essential B vitamins, all of which work synergistically to maintain our gut health. At Scoo Brew, there’s no room for pasteurisation or sterilisation, which extend shelf life, but kill off the probiotics naturally produced in the fermentation process, being replaced manually in the aftermath of pasteurisation.

All natural Scoo Brew is available several mouth watering flavours, including Lemon & Ginger, Raspberry, Blueberry, Dragonfruit, Orange & Mandarin, Strawberry, Passionfruit, Watermelon & Lime, Pineapple, Peach, Carrot & Turmeric, Mango amongst others. As the fruit is predominantly locally produced, flavours may vary according to fruit in season in our region.



Plantation Brew Co.

“Woe to the cook whose sauce has no sting”. Geoffrey Chaucer

Imagine a vodka that’s smooth, deliciously aromatic and flavoursome, with the expected wee burn of a quality product, and a side mission to significantly reduce food waste. Got your interest?

Born in Cairns in 2017, Fenglehorn commenced life at Rusty’s Bazaar, with three chilli sauce varieties. The market proved to be the springboard for these flavoursome condiments and Fenglehorn quickly closed the gap on its long established competitors after winning national awards in 2019 with a 1st Place (Habanero) and 3rd Place (Cayenne). Its Habanero sauce took out 4th place at the Global Hot Sauce Awards the same year and Fenglehorn was soon hot on the heels of its international contemporaries. . By the end of 2019, Cairns’ Fenglehorn had become a worldwide commodity, and 2020 brought even more awards, culminating in the enviable honour of “Best Food Condiments Manufacturer” at the Australian Enterprise Awards. Hot diggity dog! It was time to cool down and create more delicious, all natural sauces, and Fancy Pants Tomatah, Ballz Out BBQ and Roasted Garlic joined the winning team of delicious condiments. Aussie Allrounder, Peppery Pig. Lick that Chicken, Memphis Magic, Brisket Boss and SPG All Purpose BBQ Rubs also took their place on the shelf, and have proved a great success Combination packs make a superb gift; old favourites move over to allow room for Apple & Plum Ham Glaze, The Good Dr’s Seafood Sauce and Tay Salad Dressing, all genuine favourites from the family table of Fenglehorn’s creator, Mikey Hayman.



Plantation Brew has developed a truly classy vodka from the humble sweet potato, and it ticks all those boxes. It’s the My Fair Lady of distilled spirits, a rags to riches story of a vegetable that would have been dumped, and the brainchild of Robert and Krista Watkins, already receiving accolades for their ultra healthy banana byproducts.

Licks Dessert Co Like its mother company, Natural Evolution, which uses excess bananas from farmers that would otherwise have to be dumped, Plantation Brew works with farmers to utilise sweet potatoes surplus to market demands or victim of transport costs. It’s a win-win situation, a wholly sustainable use of otherwise wasted food.

Licks Dessert Co. has been serving up scoops of icy deliciousness for 30 years. Lynette Wilson, originally from the well-loved Yo My Goodness on the Esplanade, took the reins of the business, previously Licks Gelato, in 2014 and continues to specialise in fresh, handmade frozen delights, straight from the factory to your tastebuds.

Plantation Brew crafts and ferments the sweet potatoes until ready for three distillations, the naturally high sugar content reducing the amount of additives required in the fermenting process. The result? A unique, ultra smooth vodka with floral undertones, experiencing great popularity that will undoubtedly see its creators come up with more delectable alcoholic beverages that significantly reduce farmer’s food waste.

Softer and smoother, and with less fat than ordinary ice-cream, Licks’ gelato, with only 7-8 percent fat content, is a healthy alternative to commercially produced ice cream and it is gluten free. It also contains less air than commercial ice confections, which means more flavour and better value for money. Licks’ delicious gelato flavours include rum and raisin, chocoholic, vanilla bean, salted caramel, hazelnut and the new cold brew, made with local Black Bird espresso. The sublime range of Licks’ sorbets have zero fat content, is dairy free, and comes in taste bud tantalising, tangy flavours such as lemon, mango and dragon fruit & lime, as well as the new pina colada flavour and ever popular coconut, all made with local produce. As artisan dessert makers, Licks’ gelatos and sorbets are made by hand with love for locals, by locals.

Supplying wholesale and retail, Licks Dessert Co. have an extensive range of flavours of deluxe sorbet and gourmet gelato in a variety of sizes including five litre scooping tubs, suitable for hotels and restaurants. Regular sizes include one litre take home tubs and the very popular 100ml Dixie Cup, perfect for retail outlets and cafes. The team at Licks can also create a customised flavour for your event.



Images courtesy of Tourism Tropical North Queensland

FNQ FOOD FOCUSED EVENT CALENDAR January 2022 Port Douglas Hot & Steamy Festival Australia’s only LGBT festival held in the lead-up to Mardi Gras! A 4-day festival with highlights including the Taste of the Tropics Long Lunch, the Sunset White Party and much, much more. February 2022 Port Douglas Markets The Port Douglas Markets is a celebrated Cotter’s Market where all goods showcased are created and sold by local and Australian artisans. Held every Sunday morning throughout the year on Wharf Street, the iconic markets have been running for 35 years, providing locally produced food, seasonal fresh produce and hand-crafted goods of every description. March 2022 The Feast of the Senses A Tropical Food Experience and the Cassowary Coast’s major festival centred around the town of Innisfail, an hour’s drive south of Cairns. The festival showcases our region’s impressive variety of rare and exotic fruits and local produce including meat, seafoods, herbs, spices and wine. Featuring food trails, river feast, market day extravaganza and gala dining events. April 2022 Palm Cove Markets One of the premier markets in Far North Qld, is held on the first Sunday of the month from April to November. 140 stalls along the palm-fringed beachfront of Palm Cove, showcasing quality handmade products, wellness stalls and food galore. May 2022 Port Douglas Carnivale An annual celebration of the tropics where you can “Watch. Dance. Play” in a mecca for lovers of all things food, fun and sun. Showcasing the best of Tropical North Queensland including local food and wines, program highlights include the Longest Lunch, Picnic in the Park, Exotic Street Parade, Family Beach Day and much more! June 2022 Yungaburra Markets On the fourth Saturday morning of each month, some 250 local growers, producers and artisans gather to display and sell their produce and handiwork in the middle of the historic village of Yungaburra on the Atherton Tablelands.



July 2022 5-Star Chefs for Charity Gala Dinner The 5-Star Chefs for Charity fundraising gala dinner features some of Cairns’ finest chefs coming together to prepare one course each of a stunning 4 course menu. All proceeds from the ‘Christmas in July’ event go to the Mayor’s Christmas Cheer Appeal to help provide Christmas hampers to people in need during festive season. August 2022 Cairns Festival An annual 10-day celebration of art, culture and the beauty of living in tropical north Queensland. The biggest event on the Cairns calendar, Cairns Festival delivers a vibrant festival program with the event finale, Carnival on Collins bringing together a curated showcase of local produce unique to Far North Queensland, providing a taste of the tropics distinctive to the region, set in the lush surrounds of the Flecker Botanic Gardens. September 2022 Atherton Maize festival Founded in 1962, when the Atherton Branch of the Queensland Ambulance Transport Brigade held the first ever Maize Festival as a means for raising much needed funds in the local Atherton Tablelands community and to celebrate the annual Maize harvest, this has become a fantastic festival of community, charity and of course local food. October 2022 TASTE Port Douglas A festival celebrating the food culture and lifestyle of tropical North Queensland. Some of Australia’s most inspiring chefs and industry influencers come together to deliver visitors and locals alike the opportunity to experience the best of the region’s produce and restaurants. Port Douglas becomes a bustling epicentre of foodie heaven in its breath-taking location, from long lunching and a degustation dinner to street food festival flair and a seafood extravaganza.

What’s on In Food, Drink & Everything Else!

November 2022 The Tanks Markets On the last Sunday of each month, from April until November, you will find the Tanks Markets. Known as a ‘unique slice of cultural life in the tropics’, it’s a fun way to fill your Sunday morning from 9am-2pm. Set amongst the rainforest at the Cairns Botanical Gardens, The Tanks Art Centre hosts stallholders touting their wares; a mix of quality local art, craft, produce, vintage clothing, collectables and local natural health products. Plus, enjoy local musicians, food and refreshments. December 2022 Gimuy Fish Festival A celebration of culture, community and culinary delights. Gimuy Walubara Yidinji, Tribal Authority of Cairns, invites all who love and cherish this region to unite around sustainability, indigenous biocultural diversity and natural wealth. There’s something for everyone at the Gimuy Fish Festival from dancing, food stalls, cook offs and children’s activities.


TASTY TRA Brett’s Outback Tasting Adventure It’s no secret that people’s perception of food is changing. While just about everyone loves such mainstay meals as hamburgers and fish and chips, an awareness of where food is grown and how it is produced has become more prominent among foodies. A desire to taste local produce is also on the rise as people start exploring what’s available in their own back yards, especially here in Far North Queensland where the soil and climate are perfect for growing sensational culinary delights unique to the rest of the country. There is one main requirement needed to truly experience the gourmet treats of FNQ, while also exploring unique landscapes of the region. You need a knowledgeable guide who loves local produce, who knows regional farmers and their products and who can drive you around in style while giving you interesting and humorous commentary along the way. That’s where Brett’s Outback Tasting Adventure comes in. These boutique tours provide guests with samples of some of the best food and wine available on the Atherton Tablelands, an area so rich in fertile soil that there is a well-known saying in the area: “If you drop a needle, you’ll get a crowbar”.



A day exploring gourmet gems with Brett’s Outback Tasting Adventures includes: Stop 1 - Sunset Ridge Farm – This farm features varieties of native fruits, especially Davidson plums and lemon aspen, both indigenous to the rainforest. Guests enjoy a variety of homemade breakfast treats, all served in a gazebo on top of a mountain range with magnificent views. Stop 2 – Nerada Tea Plantation – A visit to Australia’s largest tea plantation in Malanda gives tour guests the opportunity to sample a variety of teas, which are paired with a selection of local Gallo cheeses. The plantation is also home to some of the rare Lumholtz tree kangaroos. Stop 3 – The Australian Platypus Park at Tarzali Lakes – A thriving platypus population and tasty treats including crocodile, red claw and kangaroo, are just some of the offerings on hand for tour guests at this park. Stop 4 - Gallo Dairyland – Next, guests enjoy the pleasure of sampling Gallo’s chocolates, hand crafted by their highly skilled chocolatiers. Visitors also get to meet some friendly animals at the fully operational dairy farm and gourmet cheese factory.

Words by Janie Barton

AIL Stop 5 – The Humpy - Famously known for being the place to go for freshly harvested Atherton Tablelands produce straight from the growers, The Humpy is a treasure trove of fruits, nuts, dried fruits, jams, sauces and so much more. Tour guests sample seasonal fruits and different flavours of peanuts and macadamia nuts. Stop 6 – Mount Uncle Distillery – This renowned distillery produces an array of international-award-winning spirits and liqueurs, and tour guests get to sample some of the offerings on hand. Stop 7 – Jacques or Skybury coffee plantations – Here, visitors learn about how Australian Arabica coffee is grown and produced before enjoying a perfect cuppa alongside homemade scones, local jam and cream.

Brett’s Outback Tasting Adventures Cairns / Port Douglas 4098 5059


Restaurants & Fine Dining

The very best of food in the far North of Queensland There’s no doubt that Far North Queensland is a veritable smorgasbord of culinary experiences. Some of the shortest food miles, some of the most diverse produce, coupled with a heritage steeped in multicultural food traditions, have given rise to a plethora of cuisines presented uniquely in a unique environment. In the pages that follow, we explore the people, the places, and the food available across this tropical paradise. We share the stories, showcase venues and invite you to experience the unforgettable. You will read again and again about the passion for utilising local produce, ensuring that dining here is absolutely unparalleled. From calamari to curry, proximity to the source of ingredients brings a dimension to the dining experience that just cannot be replicated elsewhere. FNQ food is a revelation and we will remind you what all the fuss is about, even when it comes to the simplest dishes. This journey is one that requires only limited preparation. An open mind and an open mouth being the foremost prerequisites! Bon appétit!




A Taste of Italy

Words by Elaine Deane | Pictures by Catherine Coombs




ating out at an Italian restaurant is more than just the delicious flavours and aromas wafting from the kitchen, it is also about the experience of Italian living. A true Trattoria Italiana allows you to dip your toes into Italia, escape the daily grind and fully immerse yourself in the European style of life. That is exactly what Mario and Silvia have been giving locals and tourists at their Clifton Beach restaurant, A Taste of Italy, for more than nineteen years. The restaurant was originally Roberto’s, a takeaway restaurant started by a colleague who relocated to Cairns from Melbourne. After eight years learning their craft from Mama Rosa at a Melbourne restaurant as head chef and focaccia manager, Mario and Silvia took some time off to travel Australia.

“We visited Cairns and Roberto on our trip,” Silvia reminisced. “When we returned to Melbourne in the middle of winter, we longed for the warmer climate and beauty of Cairns. A decision was made without much deliberation. We sold our house, gave our mentor Mama Rosa our notice, and headed north to a new life.” Once here, a collection of coincidences gave Mario and Silvia the opportunity to purchase Roberto’s, making their own dream of owning an Italian restaurant a reality. Mama Rosa had taught them everything from running a restaurant to authentic Italian cooking and with their passion for Italia, they knew they could make Roberto’s their own.

So, they changed the name to A Taste of Italy, converted the takeaway pizzeria into a licensed, homely, and welcoming family restaurant so they could share their love of all things Italian. In Italy, every region makes a version of bolognese that has ingredients from the local region, giving the dish a signature taste. A Taste of Italy offers a menu based on authentic recipes perfected during their time with Mama Rosa, tweaked slightly to be unique to their restaurant. Locally sourced ingredients enhance the flavour with the North Queensland sunshine. “Fresh is always best so we only buy local, which ensures the best quality ingredients for our dishes,” says Silvia. “Our secret to delicious, hearty food is to use good ingredients. We are blessed with many local suppliers, providing vegetables, meats and seafood right on our doorstep.” Their award-winning pizzas are a favourite choice among many, and the restaurant’s beginnings as Roberto’s are honoured with his secret dough recipe still being used at A Taste of Italy.

Delving into the full European dining experience at A Taste of Italy is the ultimate way to enjoy their authentic cuisine with your friends and family, with many regulars now a part of the extended ‘Mario and Silvia family’. Another option is to have them deliver your favourite dish from their menu (or try something new) to your home in surrounding suburbs, so you can indulge in your favourite authentic Italian dish without leaving the house! A Taste of Italy Clifton Village Shopping Centre Captain Cook Highway, Clifton Beach 4059 2727


BEACH ALMOND Redefining Unique

Brian Holding, owner-chef and diligent curator of one of Palm Cove’s most original and striking menus, is a selfconfessed stockpiler. “I devour,” he says when asked about the inspiration behind his modern Asian kitchen. “Wherever I travel, I get inspired and excited by the food and the flavours, and I collect these sensations and try to recreate them for my own menu.” Talking with him about his menu, this reality and his passion become evident. Brian has a decisive, inclusive tone, as if considering each word, even superlatives, and as he explains, you can witness the evolution of the restaurant and his culinary journey as proud owner and craftsman. Every dish has a story, a memory, a location. From watching local fishermen cook whole fish in a banana leaf beach oven to attending a wedding in Sumatra. The menu is thick with allegory, with Brian being the interpreter, recreating not just flavours and textures but stories, a culinary conduit to another time and place. The rustic setting is at the end of the million-dollar row that is Palm Cove. Nestled in what looks like a well-kept fishing shack is Brian’s place, Beach Almond. He has been there for seven years, bringing flavoursome delight to the locals and tourists alike. Having travelled extensively through South East Asia, Malaysia, Indonesia and elsewhere, a long way from his origins of Sydney’s Manly and very distant from a decidedly non-culinary degree in Physics, he has ended up at the helm of this little paradisiacal eatery. Brian comes into his own in the kitchen, his fiefdom, laboratory and museum, space to create and curate. “We definitely describe ourselves as an Asian seafood restaurant,” he explains, “but that doesn’t stop one of our most popular dishes being Beef Redang curry! “People are drawn here by our seafood, and we reward them with the best local catch we can get.” In fact, Brian’s curatorial approach extends to all ingredients, travelling to local suppliers and seeking the best and the most interesting. “We are blessed here in Far North Queensland; the range and quality of local ingredients are surpassed only by their freshness.” There is no doubt that seafood excellence originates in the Far North from the profundity in the variety available from the Coral Sea reefs and the Gulf of Carpentaria. Other ingredients, too, proliferate, from the exotic to the more mundane; most can be found on farms in market gardens across the region. There are chefs from restaurants across the globe who would not be able to lay their hands on produce as fresh and as diverse as can be found right here. “Asian cuisine,” says Brian, “revolves around the connection to produce, and it suits the climate and our ingredients perfectly.

“I can’t think of a region better suited for what we create here. We are at the centre of a culinary node, a combination of location, climate, ingredients and customers.” Don’t let the lack of pretension, absence of table cloths, and modern rustic beachfront surroundings deceive you. The food is meticulous in production and presentation, the flavours planned for, and the outcome sumptuous. Brian explains, with ingredients this fresh, recipes do not need to be complex and that spices and seasoning are often only required as parentheses. “Simple seasoning and nothing over-complicated is at the heart of what we do.” The reaction to Beach Almond is always one of amazement; there is little to compare it to, not just in Queensland, but anywhere. A casual dining atmosphere, with food fit for fine dining delivery, all combines with the sensation of sharing dinner with native fishermen on some far-flung cay. Together this creates something that challenges the term unique for sufficient descriptiveness.

Beach Almond 145 Williams Esplanade, Palm Cove 4059 1908

Words and Pictures by David Leith 28


Brian Holding Chef & Owner


Pictures by Candice Thorley Photography



Chef On A Mission BUKO Mission Beach at Castaways Resort & Spa

Dropping out of high school to study at one of England’s most prestigious catering colleges then work in some of the best kitchens in London is not an easy accomplishment. But for Dominic Maleary, head chef at BUKO Mission Beach at Castaways Mission Beach Resort & Spa, the journey has been a dream come true. “I’m severely dyslexic,” he says. “Back when I was in school, the teacher thought I was just trying to disrupt the class. I never really had much help, so I threw myself into something I was good at – cooking.” After leaving high school, Dominic went on to college where he studied five days a week and worked weekends, “just trying to learn as much as possible”. From there, he went on to work in a number of Michelin-star restaurants, working alongside skilled pastry cooks and top chefs such as those working in Gordon Ramsey’s restaurants. “Cooking is my passion,” says Dominic, who has been head chef at Castaways for over four years. “I just love it.” “I follow trends, but I like to keep it as original as possible. I want people to have that experience of going to a fine-dining restaurant and also experience eating good, honest food cooked differently.” When Dominic first came to Australia, he spent two weeks in Sydney before coming to Far North Queensland. “From growing up in the city and moving here, my dream was to run a restaurant on the beach in tropical paradise,” he says. “And I believe I’ve hit my target.”

Dominic, sous chef Nick Pilbrow and their team believe in taking standard recipes and making them differently. “Our chicken parmigiana, for example, is made from our homemade tomato compote and herbs, our own sauce and parmesan custard served with crispy prosciutto and polenta fries,” Dominic says. Tasmanian salmon with a coconut smoked crème fraiche, potato and leek velouté and kipflers along with pork cutlets with celeriac remoulade, apple and lemonade puree are just some of the items on the menu, which also includes steak and ribs from beef sourced locally from Bingil Bay Beef. Dominic’s love of pastry is also evident with desserts such as passionfruit baked Alaska, a tahini crème brulee, vegan sticky ginger pudding and BUKO donuts, to name a few. The BUKO management team, including food and beverage manager Victoria Leeming, and Dominic took the opportunity during last year’s COVID lockdown to refresh the menu and rebrand the restaurant to BUKO Mission Beach; Buko being the Filipino word for coconut. “Being right on the beach with heaps of coconut trees here, we thought the name was quite fitting,” says Dominic, who added that everything except bread is made in house. Live music, food-inspired gatherings and degustation events also add to the popularity of the restaurant. It also caters for weddings, events and conferences in various locations on site at the resort.

BUKO Mission Beach 2 Pacific Parade, Mission Beach 4068 7444 Words by Janie Barton


Copper Bar & Grill

Words by Mark Knowles

Something for everyone.

Many would say it was a bold move to open a new restaurant in Cairns in 2021 with the pandemic casting a shadow of uncertainty over the hospitality industry. But fortune favours the brave and with their impressive credentials, the team behind Copper Bar and Grill had every reason to make a bold move. Heading up that team is owner operator Mazhar Ahmed and executive chef Abdul Dumbuya, who struck up a friendship while working together at the popular Waterbar and Grill Steakhouse in Cairns. Having closely observed the tastes of their local clientele, they decided the time was right to combine their skills and strike out on their own to create Copper Bar and Grill. “We wanted everyone to feel welcome, so focused on serving simple, modern Australian food prepared by people who love to cook and are passionate about letting the quality of the local ingredients and produce shine through,” Mazhar says. Mazhar, who moved from his native India to train in hospitality management in the UK, built the foundation for his successful career during the five years he worked for the worldfamous Gordon Ramsay Group. Abdul, originally hailing from west Africa, also forged his career in the competitive London hospitality industry as a chef at the wildly successful Wagamama chain of Japanese restaurants. After several years at Wagamama in the UK, Abdul was flown out to Australia and tasked with getting the company’s Sydney and Melbourne restaurants up to scratch and launching branches in Canberra and Perth. “My time working for Wagamama gave me an excellent grounding in quality control and consistency and building successful processes in the kitchen to achieve that,” says Abdul.



Looking for his next challenge, and a tropical seachange, Abdul moved to Cairns eight years ago and landed a job as a sous chef at Waterbar, where he perfected his skills on the grill. It was when Mazhar joined him there as general manager that they first got to know each other and the seeds for their next venture were sown. “I spent 13 years in England, so I’ve been influenced by modern British and French cooking, as well as Caribbean cooking, which is quite popular there,” Abdul says. “So I wanted to bring a little bit of that Caribbean influence because that’s something I haven’t really seen in Cairns.” Mazhar, who lived in Longreach before moving to Cairns, said his experience living in the outback gave him an appreciation for the hard work that goes into raising topquality Aussie livestock. “I wanted to see the real Australian outback and I learned a lot from the people there about what goes into their amazing produce. That was also the first time I ever tried whole lamb roasted on a spit over a fire and it was an incredible experience,” says Mazhar. Opened in late 2021, Copper Bar and Grill – with its high ceilings, stylish copper features, open-plan kitchen and grill, and large outdoor dining area – is the go-to destination on The Esplanade if you’re looking for a juicy, perfectly grilled steak or a mouth-watering rack of succulent and tender pork ribs. The modern Australian menu keeps things simple and unpretentious, focusing on high-quality, locally sourced meats with a hint of exotic influences from Asian, Caribbean and Mediterranean cuisines to add some intrigue and excitement. The extensive cocktail selection is also perfect for a balmy summer evening of people-watching on The Esplanade, and while the wine menu is largely focused on quality Australian vintages, you’ll find a selection of imported wines if you’re looking to try something different. In another bold move they are also planning to offer breakfast on weekends from January 2022 onwards, a welcome addition to Cairns’ slowly growing breakfast scene. Again, they hit all the right notes with some classic Aussie breakfast staples, but don’t be afraid to stray off the beaten path and try some of their inspired fusion breakfast options. So next time you find yourself strolling along The Esplanade be sure to seek out Copper Bar and Grill and treat yourself to a simple, elegant dining experience that will have you coming back for more.

Copper Bar & Grill Shop 4, 77-81 The Esplanade, Cairns 4041 0732


DUMPLING STUDIO Words by Stacey Carrick | Pictures by David Leith




ou are in for a treat when dining at Dumpling Studio birthplace of the first homemade dumplings in Cairns.

Cantonese-born owner and chef Ben Ye is passionate about cooking fresh, quality dumplings and a-la-carte fare for his customers, who he treats as family. Ben has been operating Dumpling Studio for four and a half years and, until recently, also ran the highly successful, awardwinning Xanadu at Edge Hill. After operating Xanadu for nine and a half years, Ben made the decision to close the restaurant to focus on Dumpling Studio and also his family, who are big fans of his dumplings and his delicious noodles. Ben’s wife, who is from Beijing, and his three children simply love Ben’s cooking. His children enjoy his dumplings and noodles a few times a week, and even take them to school for lunch.

Ben opened Dumpling Studio as he saw a gap in the market – so he introduced the first homemade dumplings to Cairns. He said dumplings are traditionally very popular on New Year’s Eve, with families gathering together to make them. Cairns residents and visitors alike are lucky enough to enjoy these parcels of goodness all year round. His restaurant now features boiled, steamed and pan-fried dumplings, as well as a range of spring rolls, steamed buns, seafood, meat and vegetable dishes, and noodle soups. Popular dumpling flavours include pork and prawn, seafood and chives, pork and chives;, and mushroom. Ben said the roast duck is extremely popular and is made fresh every day. His range of a- la -carte dishes and dumplings combine to make a winning recipe for this experienced chef. Ben has been a dim sum and a-la-carte chef for more than 30 years. “We were the first restaurant in Cairns to make boiled dumplings,” he said. “We are apparently the only restaurant in Australia offering pan-fried BBQ pork buns. “People love our dumplings - they’re delicious, healthy, and we use fresh, local ingredients. “We make all our pastry and fillings from scratch - we don’t buy anything.” Ben makes his own chilli sauce, vinegar and soy sauce, selling large quantities of his famous chilli sauce each week. He even sells his popular dumplings to five-star hotels in Cairns. Dumpling Studio has a number of loyal, local customers who enjoy Ben’s cooking on a regular basis. “I treat my customers the same as my family,” Ben said. “Our food is healthy, and it’s a great way to hide the kids’ veggies! “I love eating, I love cooking, creating new dishes and surprising my customers. “The best thing is when I see the smile on their faces and get a thumbs up; it makes me happy.”

Dumpling Studio 136 Sheridan Street, Cairns 4031 6956


FOUR CINQ Words by Sharon Timms | Pictures by Catherine Coombs




good bowl of ramen is a marriage of four things: broth, noodles, tare (the ‘I’ll-take-it-to-the-grave’ secret seasoning) and toppings. And while that combo might sound like a rather simplistic thing to achieve (I mean, we all ate instant ramen noodles when first out of home, how hard can it be, right?), the devil is in the detail. At Four Cinq, nestled away in Village Lane off Lake Street, the noodle reigns supreme and comes in several varieties that will suit all tastes, from the traditionalists to the more adventurous. Portion size will also satisfy the most ravenous of ramen lovers. Four Cinq serves genuine, home-style ramen, with the delicate noodles all handmade, in different tasty broths. Owner and Chef Yoshi Junya has perfected his recipes over the years, through the magic combination of talent, taste and tradition. Yoshi is an expert in the traditional multi-course Japanese dinner ‘Kaiseki’ with his vast experience in Japan including working in a highly acclaimed international hotel restaurant. “My father had his own restaurant in Osaka. My elder brother is also a chef – I really had no choice but to become involved in the industry,” says Chef Yoshi. “I planned to study sales and insurance, but the calling of food was too great. “After working alongside my father for some time, I moved to Australia and ended up at one of the best Japanese fusion restaurants in Toorak, Melbourne, which was coincidentally owned by the same people who had the Osaka Hyatt Regency Hotel. Eventually, I found Cairns and I’ve never looked back.” When it comes down to ramen, Chef Yoshi knows it’s best not to mess with a good thing. Ramen broth is considered the body and soul of this classic Japanese dish, and Four Cinq’s Tonkotsu Ramen is made with a rich broth for which the intense flavour can only be achieved after 10 hours of cooking. This long cooking time of the master stock draws out the flavours of the pork bone marrow, releasing collagen that gives a silken mouthfeel to the liquid.

“There is a good producer of organic vegetables at Malanda too and we respect each other and they have been our supplier since the restaurant opened.” As with pasta in Italy, there are potentially hundreds of types of noodles used in Japanese cooking. One constant? They should be served firm and slightly under-done, as they’ll continue cooking in the bowl. In Japan, no-one waits for their friend’s ramen to arrive. It’s most polite to dig in the second your bowl hits the table – with plenty of appreciative slurping – to prevent the noodles from turning to mush. Tare is the secret seasoning created by ramen chefs, and often include shoyu (soy sauce), shio (salt) and the unmissable miso (fermented soybeans), all adding another layer of complexity to the soup. Tare recipes are often a ramen chef’s most precious secret. While the broth in this Tokyo-style Tonkotsu ramen is the star, it’s the toppings that make the dish. Toppings might be pork cha sui, a soft-boiled egg, bean sprouts, black fungi, shiitake mushroom, spring onions, corn or even cabbage. For those who are meat-free, there’s a vegetarian ramen with lime, ginger, cabbage, tofu, raw vegetables, a healthy amount of garlic, pickled shiitake mushrooms and whispers of dried chilli in a soy milk broth all bringing the intense flavour home. An unassuming spot, walls lined with vintage Sapporo posters (and serving Sapporo Draught beer on tap), Four Cinq is the perfect place to duck away from the bustle of the city and nourish the soul with a big bowl of steaming noodles. “What I can make with food makes people happy,” says Chef Yoshi. “People need food, and I love to make people happy through feeding them. My interest in cooking is to always improve myself and to share that knowledge with others.”

“There are secrets to a master stock,” says Chef Yoshi. “I don’t think there’s any more special ingredients in ours… other than the skill! I’ll never give up my recipe, but I can say there’s a triple boil that all starts with a master stock brewed from pork bones. “My soup is not too thick or creamy - we don’t use any dairy in ours. It’s my original recipe, but obviously a little of a twist on tradition, so more of a fusion style.”\ While ramen may steal the show here, other dishes such as traditional tonkatsu (deep fried pork loin), handmade gyoza, and sashimi sourced from a ‘never-will-I-tell’ Japanese seafood source will also be sure to please hungry crowds. “Our gyoza are very popular,” says Chef Yoshi. “Getting good quality minced pork was a challenge, sometimes it was too lean or too fatty. We finally found an Australian product, but through an Asian butchery.” “My favourite to make, though, is ramen. Definitely ramen. Although I also love making sushi – the hand rolling of the sushi rolls is quite relaxing. I love the feel of fresh tuna and salmon, and I have a good relationship with a Japanese fisherman here, making sure I can get the best quality available.

Four Cinq Shop 6 / 20 Lake Street Village Lane, Cairns 4031 7774 37

Words & Pictures by David Leith


The Legendary Greek 38



n a busy street in the middle of Cairns, not far from the famous Rusty’s Markets and only a stone’s throw from the city’s tropical tidal delta, is a little piece of Greece. Sun-bleached white frontage picked out with taverna blue does nothing to disguise its Mediterranean pretensions; the place would look as at home in Mykonos or the old quarter of Thessaloniki. In Cairns’ terms, this place is renowned as much for its Grecian ambience and quality food as it is for the passion of its owner, George Karagiannis. George opened the venue on a whim 25 years ago, and as you might expect, has broken more than a few plates in the following quarter of a century! George’s exploits, like those of ancient Greeks before him, have long since passed into legendary mythos. Before settling in our favoured Far North, he was a serial restaurateur, nightclub owner and sponge for the culinary delights of his home country. His ventures were prolific, founding and running such notables as the iconic Medallion in Melbourne in 1975 and a host of other restaurants and nightclubs in Melbourne and Perth during the bustling ‘80s and ‘90s. But like all questing heroes, there needs to be a return, and that, says George, he found here in Cairns. “Like many, I visited first and thought I liked the feel of the place. After opening the restaurant (Fetta’s), it was like being back in a village in Greece,” he explains. “Everyone was ‘Hi George, how are you going’ or crossing the road to shake my hand.

“Little did we know that George senior was a culinary master. He had even been the private chef for the Onassis dynasty,” George recalls. “I worked alongside him for nearly 15 years, learned everything I could.” This inspired young George to continue honing his skills, refining his recipes, and building his repertoire in European cuisine during his time in Perth, for which he won several awards. By the time he came to Cairns, he was as comfortable in the kitchen as he was mingling with his customers. Fetta’s clientele may not be as star-studded as the cast of previous ventures, but the adventure continues for young George, now a sexagenarian. “I love people, I love to make them happy with food and with laughter,” he says. “I want everyone to leave here with both their belly and their hearts full.” Fetta’s still supplies both those key ingredients to a worthy night out and, on occasion, still punctuates the finest Greek food with the destruction of crockery, traditional Zorba and belly dancing, and stories of a life being well lived.

“It was so different from the big cities, it was like home, I couldn’t leave, I didn’t want to!” Even spending a little time with George, it’s clear he is a raconteur. With a glint in his eye, he regales with tales some taller than others on how he, and Fetta’s, came to be the by-words for Greek food in Cairns. He attributes his success to a love of food and people, and he is especially enthusiastic where the two intersect. Whilst the proprietor of Medallion, sipping coffee in a busy Melbourne cafe, a chance meeting with an apparently down-at-heel aged Greek chef resulted in a life-changing partnership. As if straight from the well-honed verses of some ancient saga, this old traveller once installed in George’s kitchen turned out to be a master of his art, not merely a chef but a demigod of the kitchen. Not to at all confuse the story, this veteran kitchen warrior was also called George. After only a few weeks, the restaurant’s head chef called George (young George) at home. “ ‘I need to talk to you about old George.’ “ ‘Yeah, I know, mate if you don’t like it, you can go, he stays!’ “ ‘No, you don’t understand. He’s not a chef!’ “ ‘Look, I said he stays, he stays.’

Fetta’s Greek Taverna 99 Grafton St, Cairns 4051 6966

“ ‘That’s not what I mean; he’s not a chef. He’s a master.’


HIDDEN @ YORKEYS Naming children, pets, and restaurants is one of life’s great challenges. Must be original but not too weird; on-trend, but not so hip that you’ll ask yourself in five years ‘what was I thinking?’; but mostly, the name must be fitting of the personality. Hidden@ Yorkeys is certainly befitting of its name. As its name indicates, the entrance to Hidden is a tricky one to find initially, down a tropical garden path that opens up into an atrium with a romantic passionfruit vine canopy, ripe and heavily scented fruits hanging teasingly from the rafters, begging to be picked. Hidden@Yorkeys is a whimsical café restaurant with local charm by the stock pot full. Owners Kim and Matt Kelso are full of passion for their hospitality project, which shows in all the deft touches around the room – the freshly picked tropical flowers from Rusty’s Markets, the carefully tended gardens that allow just the right amount of ocean view, and simple yet comfortable furniture styling, perfect for whiling away those weekend hours.

Breakfast is a popular attraction here with favourites including such classics as eggs benedict, smashed avocado and dukkah, and locally sourced yoghurts, honey, granola and fruits. But it’s their lunch and dinner fare that really highlights what a special spot this is for locals and visitors alike. Lunches are delightful mix of contemporary tradition including such top picks as a slow-braised beef cheek burger on a milk bun, a seafood laksa that gives a deliberate nod to our tropical climes, and a roasted pumpkin and burnt butter pappardelle for the meat-free. Dinner embraces true paddock-to-plate dining by utilising Atherton Tablelands beef and locally caught seafood in a magnificent marinara (finished with basil straight from the garden). The best bit? Thursday night is Local’s Night, which includes a complimentary craft beer or glass of wine with any main course.

Dinner embraces true paddock-to-plate dining by utilising Atherton Tablelands beef and locally caught seafood

“It was my midlife crisis,” Kim laughs. “My husband Matt started cycling and I got a restaurant. Now he has a bar as well.” Moving to Yorkeys Knob from Lennox Head, Kim and Matt fell hard and fast in love with the coastal township of Yorkeys Knob, knowing almost immediately that this would be the place to call home. “We live 50 metres from the restaurant,” Kim says. “We walk our dog along the beach before work, we absolutely love what we do. Our team are our family - we’re living the dream!” Together with head chef Shannon Dunne, Kim and Matt have created a leafy, peaceful spot to take in simply prepared local produce. Shannon, with an extensive background in events, brings a comforting homemade style to the menu, where making as much in-house as possible is the focus. “I try to incorporate a family tradition feel to the menu,” says Shannon. “There’s always a cake or two baking. Our menu is simple, the produce is locally sourced as much as possible to truly bring that feel of the tropics to the table. And yes, we do use the passionfruit!”

The restaurant opening is very close to the off-lead section of Yorkeys Knob, so the café has also its fair share of ‘paw-ssionate’ regulars. “We don’t know the names of many of our customers, but we do know their pooches’ names and what their humans like to drink. ‘Do you know Charlie’s mum? They’re coming in for breakfast today’,” laughs Shannon. “People will bring their dogs up off the beach and the dogs know they’ll get a little piece of bacon when they get here, so inevitably people will stay for at least a coffee!” Sunday afternoons have always had a great atmosphere at Hidden, so the future is focusing on building that. “Live music and mimosas, what a perfect Sunday! And after lunch people are up dancing and singing, it’s such a lovely afternoon vibe,” says Kim. “We’ve recently installed a new stage so we can keep the sound contained to the restaurant and garden. There’s so much musical talent in Cairns, and we’re so happy to be able to support that here.” Hidden@Yorkeys serves locally produced Ransom coffee and is open seven days for breakfast and lunch, and Thursday to Sunday for dinner. The cafe is fully licensed and pooch friendly. Come to hide away from the hustle and bustle, stay for the mimosas. You’re welcome.

Words by Sharon Timms | Pictures by Nicolas Tanguy



Hidden @ Yorkeys Cnr Sims Esplanade & Kempton Street Yorkeys Knob

0477 853 034



It isn’t easy to know anything of the Cairns dining scene without associating the word Italian with La Fettuccina. This little Italian restaurant has been serving the community with good old-fashioned working man’s Italian food for over 30 years and, in all that time, only had one change of ownership. Like all good restaurants whose cuisine is derived from the traditional fare of a faraway land, La Fettuccina, or ‘La Fett’ as it is known affectionately by its large local following, has the ability to transport you to their country of culinary origin. All too often, the hyperbole of restaurants offers up a contrived ‘little slice of’ wherever, but in this case, the decor, the food and the service walk you back to semi-urban parts of the north of Italy. The careworn wooden tables, carefully curated historical posters, clamshell plaster walls and familiar European black and white livery make La Fett an homage to the home country. The second and current owners responsible for the longevity and consistency of this FNQ stalwart are chef John Japp and host Andrea Pinciarova, partners both at work and at home. The legend has it that they met whilst working in the restaurant over 20 years ago. Acceding to positions of responsibility, they ultimately managed the restaurant before buying it when the opportunity to purchase arose some five years into their tenure. Managing the place, says John, gave them all the insight they needed to see a takeover as an opportunity.



Words by David Leith | Pictures by Catherine Coombs

“The offer was made to us, and Andrea just looked at me and said, ‘we have to do this’,” says John. The decision was easy, and the takeover was deliberately seamless, with many clients unaware the change in ownership had occurred. “We knew that the recipe for La Fett’s continued success and popularity was intertwined with offering the familiar and being consistent. “We were conscious of what was working and wanted to make sure we didn’t mess with it,” John says. “As a result, some dishes have remained on the menu since the restaurant opened in 1986. In fact, it has been our goal to stay the same for three decades!”

A quick scroll through the digital commentary of satisfied and happy customers reveals an enthusiasm for specials featuring locally acquired seafood or other produce reared or grown in the region. John is also an opportunist chef and is as happy browsing at Rusty’s Market as he is stopping at a roadside stand on the Tablelands, selecting perhaps a garden grower’s figs that may find their way onto his menu later that day.

Serving the community with good old fashioned Italian food for over 30 years

Also, John says he feels it is his responsibility to focus on what is available locally and seasonally and incorporate it into the heritage of their a-la-carte offering. He is conscious of making local produce the centrepiece of their ingredients, wherever possible.

“We are, of course, flexible in what we put out,” says John. “We have achieved a standard, which our specials and seasonal offerings are also expected to uphold. So we are easily able to tempt diners into new experiences.”

But it’s not to say that all of the ongoing success and patronage of La Fettuccina is to do with the food. Andrea is the ever efficient and elegant front-of-house manager and ensures that the consistency from the kitchen is repeated in the consistency of service. With her European origin, she sees the importance of service in that the unseen is as important as the seen. That the less you notice about your service experience, the better it has been. “We work well together, John and I,” Andrea says. “The decisions for the restaurant overall are always made together. John is popular with our diners and often cameos in front-of-house. Although we do divide responsibilities, we are most definitely a good team.” A smile flickers across her face as she adds, “otherwise, we may not have lasted this long!” It is uncommon to find a couple that can successfully work together, let alone in a volatile environment as dynamic as hospitality. Their longevity is a credit to the pair of them, their passion, their business sense, and their support for each other. And to that most ubiquitous of questions, will there be another 30 years of La Fett. After a deep chuckle, John answers, not too quickly, “oh I think that La Fett will stand the test of time”. He does not allude as to whether the pair of them could be at the helm in that many years!

La Fettuccina 41 Shields St, Cairns City 4031 5959


LEMONCELLO’S Words by Stacey Carrick | Pictures by David Leith

A visit to Lemoncello’s on the Esplanade is guaranteed to leave you with a smile on your face, after enjoying delicious, homestyle cooking featuring traditional Italian cuisine. You will feel like you have been transported to Italy itself as you enjoy mouthwatering pizza, pasta, seafood, steak, salad and dessert made with love and the best quality local ingredients to create an authentic experience for the whole family. Lemoncello’s is owned by experienced restaurateur Paul Papagelou and managed by Bella Irwin. This wellknown local duo has a strong following. Paul has been providing delicious food to Far Northern diners for more than 30 years. His culinary journey has seen him own and operate numerous venues, successfully gaining a reputation for consistently high-quality cuisine. In the theme of his former venue, Chianti’s at Trinity Beach, Lemoncello’s has been delighting diners since March, 2021.

The restaurant brings together Paul’s love of Italian cuisine and his talent in the kitchen to create a menu that features a combination of traditional Italian favourites and fresh modern flavours that have won him numerous followers over the years.

Paul loves being hands-on in the kitchen and loves the traditional flavours that salt, pepper, parsley and garlic add to dishes. Bella described herself and Paul as ‘foodies’.

A focus on traditional, homestyle cooking combined with a relaxed atmosphere and friendly, welcoming customer service contribute to a winning recipe at this popular venue. Paul, who has a Greek background and moved from Melbourne 30 years ago, loves sourcing fresh, local ingredients of the best quality. He says some of their most popular dishes include chicken parmigiana, prawn and scallop risotto, the garlic prawn hot pot, chicken and mushroom gnocchi, spaghetti e’ meatballs (based on his mum’s recipe), linguini marie monte’ and, of course, their delicious tiramisu.



“Our life is food - we’re lovers of food,” she says. “Our focus is on hospitality, making people feel like they are at home. “We want people to leave with a smile on their face.” Bella says a large number of locals visit Lemoncello’s weekly, some even request the chef to ‘cook something’ and trust their recommendation. The restaurant is also lucky enough to benefit from the talents of chef Lorenzo Lallemand, formerly of Donnini’s at the Pier.

Lorenzo is a lover of traditional Italian cuisine, having spent many hours in the kitchen with his nonna. His focus is on ‘cucina casalinga’, or ‘homestyle cooking’. Lorenzo loves the value for money the restaurant offers, quality local produce, as well as the vibe and atmosphere of the venue. The fully renovated venue seats 60 diners inside and outside, with a modern style that features black and white prints of Italian culture and a warm, friendly atmosphere. With Paul and his team taking great pride in serving homestyle, traditional cuisine, do your taste buds a favour and give it a try. E molto delizioso!

Lemoncello’s Shop 8, 53-57 The Esplanade, Cairns 4051 5125


Ochre Restaurant Contemporary meets native with a traditional flair. A journey through Ochre with Craig Squire.


ar North Queensland is teeming with restaurants inspired by diverse global cuisines, but if you are looking for a uniquely Australian dining experience, then Ochre is hard to surpass. Famous both nationally and internationally for its use of Australian native game, fruits, herbs and spices, Ochre’s innovative menu will surprise and delight you with dishes you can’t find anywhere else in the world. Featuring crocodile and kangaroo meats, native fruits such as finger limes and Davidson plums and much more besides, Ochre offers a chance to taste the delicious and nutritious food that has sustained Australia’s Aboriginal inhabitants for thousands of years. Craig Squire, the driving force behind Ochre, is one of the handful of pioneering chefs who helped bring bush foods to the mainstream in Australia and he remains a relentless promoter of our country’s flavourful native ingredients. Craig was trained in the rigid, hierarchical structure of a traditional European kitchen – where exacting head chefs berated their lowly apprentices – after he landed a sought-after apprenticeship at the Adelaide Festival Theatre. “It was very serious training, very old-school. My first executive chef used to stand behind me when I was chopping parsley, and if I wasn’t chopping fast enough, I’d be getting swipes around the back of my head,” he recalls. Harsh as it may have been, he credits this strict training, along with the night classes he took in patisserie and Chinese cooking, with giving him the solid foundation on which he built his stellar culinary career. In the years following his apprenticeship, Craig bounced around Australia and Europe, honing his cooking skills in kitchens at ski resorts, hotels and high-end restaurants. But it wasn’t until he returned home in the early 90s that he began to focus on his burgeoning passion for native ingredients. He soon teamed up with friend and fellow native-food pioneer Andrew Fielke to found Red Ochre Grill in Adelaide. Craig remembers those first years at Red Ochre as a heady, exciting time out of which much of modern Australian cuisine was forged. They opened in 1992, the year of the Mabo native title decision and then prime minister Paul Keating’s famous

‘Redfern Speech’, and national pride was riding high. “The timing was really right and the sentiment as well. We had a good five-minute segment on the ABC’s 7:30 Report in the first week of opening and it was a smash success,” says Craig. After an exciting two years in Adelaide, Craig decided to head north where, together with Andrew’s brother James, he founded Red Ochre in Cairns hoping to build on the momentum created down south. “In our minds, we were a group of friends who were going to take on the world with this native-food concept restaurant,” he says. It wasn’t all smooth sailing, however, and those early days in Cairns provided some hard lessons on the vagaries of Australian dining culture. Despite these initial challenges, Craig and his team stuck to their guns and over the next two decades established Red Ochre as a quintessential dining destination in Far North Queensland. “We have built a strong local following over the years, both at the restaurant and also with our off site catering and these regulars are essential to our success,” he says. After 22 years at Red Ochre’s location on Shield St in Cairns’ CBD, Craig had cemented a reputation as one of the leading proponents of modern Australian native cuisine. This dedication has garnered him scores of awards and countless stints as a guest chef at international hotels and tourism exhibitions. Not content to rest on his laurels, in 2016 he transplanted the restaurant to its current location at Harbour Lights on the Cairns waterfront. He designed the fit-out from scratch and shortened the name to simply ‘Ochre’, complementing the sleek style of the new venue. The move also gave him a chance to get out of the kitchen and focus more on the management side of the business. But he is still closely involved in designing the menu and sourcing new ingredients and wines to feature on Ochre’s exclusively Aussie wine list. “Of course, nothing would be possible without a great team behind me,” Craig says. “Some staff have been at Ochre for over a decade, and many staff from the 80s and 90s are still good friends. Relationships have begun, and babies have been born to our family of staff, and the support I get from our new business partner and general manager Carley Elsum is essential to Ochre’s continued success.”

“for a uniquely Australian dining experience, then Ochre is hard to surpass”



Ochre 1 Marlin Parade, Cairns 4051 0100

Words by Mark Knowles | Image by Mick Fuhrimann


THE RAW PRAWN 20 YEARS OF LOCAL FOOD Words by Jack Wilkie-Jans

Are you desperate for a taste of paradise? Are you a local who’s forgotten how to treat yourself to a dinner out in a crazy Covid world? A perfect place to break with any lingering lockdown habits of ‘eating in’ is Cairns’ Raw Prawn. Situated on the calm northern end of the bustling Esplanade, overlooking cool lawns, blue ocean and - when the tide’s changing - frolicking bird life, it’s the perfect place to experience what the region’s most famed for: seafood. Seafood, as fresh as can be sourced, prepared with the utmost respect for the product and its quintessential ‘tropical-ness’ are combined with comfortably innovative flavours and grafted together by head chef (of some ten years) Johnny Cho, under the direction of owners Carlton and Tiina Horn. Opened in 1999, Raw Prawn was the culmination of Carlton and Tiina’s rearing in the hospitality industry. Both from the tropical north of Queensland, the two followed their passion for food and opened their own business, becoming their own boss(es). Of course, in the ‘90s, Cairns was abundant with tourists and traveler-workers and since then changes to the tourism industry have ebbed and flowed. Furthermore, the food wants of consumers have seen standards set higher than ever before; as Tiina aptly espouses, it’s most likely a result of cooking reality shows on television, combined with easier access to public critique via such internet sites as TripAdvisor. Of course, these are all challenges that the two have bested in their 22 years of operating. They’ve added a few other feathers to their hospitality hat along the way: they own the beloved Boatshed restaurant and established Candy café, prior to its sale.



Undeniably earning their stripes, the two remain in awe of the dynamic nature of the food industry in the region and the growing emphasis on celebrating local produce. Whoever they source from, the stuff works. It works because chef Johnny and team perform magic in bringing the menu vision of Carlton and Tiina to reality and to the tables of countless patrons. Specialising in seafood, the flavours are an inspired balance of South East Asian and Australian palates. For those allergic to shellfish (like myself) never fear - this is a restaurant for you, too! While Cartlon and Tiina are innately aware of the versatility of shellfish and how adored such dishes of theirs are, they’re aware that allergies are a reality and take the utmost care to avoid cross-contamination. The menu choices for those not able to partake in the delights of bugs, crabs, prawns, and exquisite crayfish and lobster (namely, their Kataifi Wrapped Prawns and the Pacific Fusion dish - both of which I am utterly envious of not being able to devour!) are extensive. Their menu features a range of alternatives for the eager carnivore like me. At the moment, Carlton recommends the coral trout for a main. But their recommendations do change as Carlton, Tiina and Johnny forever seek new dishes and ingredients to keep their seafood array vibrant and current. They’re far from foodie philistines; Carlton and Tiina proudly eat out at other restaurants and, when possible, travel to their favourite overseas and domestic destinations as avid consumers themselves. And so, they never allow themselves to lull and owning multiple venues keeps them on their toes; supporting other businesses in the food game helps support themselves too. Their commitment to Cairns, the region, to good produce, to the industry they are part of, and to their customers, is clear. You just know that they’re in it for the long haul, aren’t going anywhere any time soon and have many culinary feats yet to be revealed. While it’s not advised to ‘come the raw prawn’ with an Aussie, coming to the Raw Prawn is heartily recommended. And, if it’s events you’re planning, consider their upstairs, private dining and function room to celebrate and show off just how on the pulse of happening food culture you are.

The Raw Prawn 101 The Esplanade, Cairns 4031 5400



With sangria in one hand and Spanish snacks in the other, life doesn’t get much better. Forget the 20-hour flight to Spain - in Port Douglas, they’re giving Barcelona a run for it’s small-snack-sized money. Tapas is a funny thing. It’s a bastardised foodie term that seemingly covers everything from bowls of olives through to practically anything that can be shared (and no, just because you want to share a few dim sims and a Chiko roll, it doesn’t make it tapas). In fact, those feisty Spaniards even tried to protect the term ‘tapas’ not so long ago, claiming it to be the ‘prized culinary ritual of Spanish gastronomy’. Cultural sensitivities (gently) aside, these bite-sized Spanish morsels are essentially a darn good way of eating, and a cure-all for many situations. The need for an afternoon snack and a glass of wine hit you? Tapas. Restaurant booking a little later than usual? Tapas. Avoiding a full-blown carb overload? Tapas.



Match it with a carafe of sangria, a glass of Alberino, or a splash of manzanilla sherry, and you’re in for a long and languid eve. Praise be to all the Spanish gods, if you fancy a little something Español while in Port Douglas, there’s no need to make do with a medley of mixed nuts. Hola, Seabean. Seabean Tapas & Bar, brainchild of Henry and Lesley Johnston, offers a grazing delight in the most perfect open-air corner spot in Port Douglas. Catching the tropical afternoon vibe as the sun casts her final rays over the Coral Sea, Seabean is akin to what you’d actually get in downtown Barcelona. You’ll find a daily selection of pintxos (individual bites from Northern Spain), rolling specials and menu favourites of tapas dishes perfect for sharing (or not) and a selection of traditional paella. For the fisherfolk, bring in your own catch of the day caught on one of the many local charters and the Seabean crew will prepare and serve it to you and your friends. A good variety of Spanish and

LUCIÓN: Words by Sharon Timms | Pictures by David Leith and Catseye


Australian wines, expertly recommended by folk passionate about snacking, round out the menu offerings. Tip: make sure you leave room for the coconut catalana. You’ll thank us later. You’d best make a booking because the place packs out. And fast. If you’re anything like us though, you’ll be in super early and already perched at the bar by 5.30pm. With a sensibility towards how the real Spaniards while away their afternoons, Seabean’s got it down pat. In the most perfect words of restaurant owner Henry (found treading the tiles most days), “Port Douglas is a resort town. And it’s damn hot. The Spanish style of dining really suits the way we live up here – rolling off the beach, light snacks in the afternoon that could lead into something a bit more substantial. Bit like a good date, I suppose.” What’s not to love about that? De nada.

Co-owner Henry Johnston

Seabean 3/28 Wharf Street, Port Douglas 4099 5558




7 Spices Restaurant & Bar A Modern Fusion Of Indian, Chinese & Napalese Cuisines.

There are many places to find an Indian meal in Cairns, but there are none quite like 7 Spices Restaurant and Bar. You will find this locally owned and operated hidden gem on Sheridan Street. The locals discovered this amazing restaurant years ago and, for them, 7 Spices is the only place for authentic, traditional Indian/Nepalese/Indo-Chinese cuisine. As you enter, the aroma of exotic spices excites the senses, a prelude to the delicious dining experience awaiting you. The intense, deep dark red wall behind the bar and subtle accents throughout the dining area make for a perfect backdrop for a romantic evening with the enticing aromas from the kitchen. There is plenty of room for families, work colleagues or friends, too, in the huge space that still feels warm and welcoming.

They also offer traditional Indian drinks and a selection of beers and wines. 7 Spices Restaurant and Bar’s belief is to provide high quality food that is great value. “Some regulars call them ‘cheap and cheerful’,” laughs Sanjeev. “It is great that they are happy with our service and our meals.” Sanjeev and the team can also help you celebrate your next birthday or group get-together too. With group bookings they can offer a set menu so all you need to do is sit back, relax, and enjoy yourself with an excellent meal, cocktails and company. If you prefer to host your event in the comfort of your own home, or have a business event at your office, 7 Spices are also more than happy to provide catering options.

7 Spices started the trend of Indo-Chinese cuisine in Cairns, with others quickly following suit. They are always a step ahead looking for new dishes that will delight and satisfy their customers. “We love to experiment with the traditional dishes and create our own combination of spices and flavours,” says manager Sanjeev Rajbanshi. “Our chefs are from various regions and cultures, so we work together to create a modern version of the traditional recipes.” Their years of experience have seen their creations such as the Momos (dumplings), Goat Curry and Tandoori Lamb Chop becoming favourites of many regulars, with even fussy eating kids scraping their bowls clean of their Butter Chicken. Sanjeev and head chef Amandeep Singh, along with their team of chefs, are preparing to extend their menu to include more of their new Indian curries, Nepalese, and Indo-Chinese dishes. Having Rusty’s Market right next door, you can guarantee their ingredients are fresh and local. “Everything we use has to be of the best quality, and lucky for us, the best produce in Queensland is at our doorstep,” says Sanjeev. Another offering that makes 7 Spices unique is their cocktail range. “Once we have mastered a new dish, we then create a new cocktail that will enhance the flavours.,” says Sanjeev. “Our staff can suggest menu options and the best cocktail or traditional Indian drink for your meal. They go hand in hand to complete your dining experience with us.”

7 Spices 78 Sheridan Street, Cairns 4035 1416

Words by Elaine Deane 53

SPICY BITE. The New Era Of Indian Cuisine

Daulat Singh Panwar Founder of Spicy Bite



Since opening its first location at Cairns’ Esplanade dining precinct in 2017, Spicy Bite has gone from strength to strength as demand for their flavour-packed, authentic Indian cuisine continues to grow. Daulat Singh Panwar, founder of Spicy Bite, says his recipe for success has been simple – fresh, vibrant spices, tried and tested recipes, and great service. “We’ve grown organically; we were getting such a good response from our customers that some of them were driving 20km to downtown Cairns just to enjoy our food,” Daulat says. “So, we decided to expand into the surrounding suburbs so people could have easier access.” Together with my business partner, Jatinder Singh Jeetu & executive chef Syed Rahaman, who spent many years perfecting his cooking skills in high-end hotels across northern India, they have expanded their operation by establishing two more locations, in the suburbs of Edge Hill & Earlville to keep up with locals’ insatiable appetite for their spicy & flavoured creations. Spicy Bite’s extensive menu is centred around the rich tradition of Mughlai and North Indian cuisines – known for their complex and aromatic curries, succulent meats roasted in a traditional clay tandoor oven and buttery flat breads filled with a variety of delicious stuffings. Besides the perennially popular curries such as Butter Chicken, Lamb Rogan Josh and the scorchingly hot Beef Vindaloo, their menu features some Indian dishes with a distinctly Far North Queensland twist. Adventurous diners can dabble in something a little more exotic when they order the Kangaroo Tikka Masala or Crocodile Masala – featuring marinated, tandoori-roasted chunks of game meat simmered in a rich and spicy cashew and coconut based curry.

Of course, you can’t truly experience North Indian cuisine without sampling something cooked in the famous tandoor oven. A selection of juicy succulent meats, such as the Lamb Cutlets, Seekh Kebab or Malai Chicken Tikka, are a perfect entree to get you ready for the feast that awaits. If you can’t decide on one or two, try a Spicy Bite Mix Platter to sample some of the most popular selections. As lovers of Indian food already know, there is also a wealth of vegetarian and vegan dishes that pack a flavourful punch and satisfy those spicy cravings. Pumpkin Masala & the Aloo Gobi – potatoes and cauliflower florets cooked in an onion and tomato masala spice mix – is always a popular choice. The Mushroom Chilli also is perfect for those who like a bit of kick in their vegetarian food, with button mushrooms smothered in fiery curry sauce made from onions, garlic, capsicum, herbs and fresh chilli. With their three locations proving to be a hit with local residents, Daulat says plans are afoot to open even more restaurants as he eyes locations in the towns of Innisfail and Cardwell, to the south of Cairns. He is also interested in offering a drive-through service at his new locations, banking on customers appreciating the convenience of being able to pick up a tasty meal for the whole family on the way home without having to get out of the car. So, if you’re looking for an Indian feast that will tantalise your taste buds, and satisfy your spicy cravings, Spicy Bite has got you covered.

Spicy Bite Edgehill, Cairns Esplanade, Earlville & Cardwell 4041 3700

“To be honest, most Indian chefs don’t dare to use croc or roo because they really don’t know how to complement it with the right Indian spices,” Daulat says. “But we took a chance and spent a lot of time testing to find the perfect spice combinations and people really love it.” They also tip their hats to FNQ’s abundant fresh seafood by including dishes such as the Seafood Combination Curry, with prawns, scallops and fish cooked in aromatic Madras spices. In a departure from the mainly North Indian menu, they also feature a Goan Prawn Curry, which brings a coastal influence with its lighter coconut milk and fresh curry leaf based gravy. But for a truly indulgent experience, the decadent Lobster Madras Curry is hard to beat – featuring chunks of juicy lobster meat in a rich coconut seafood sauce, served with garlic naan and basmati rice.

Words by Mark Knowles | Pictures by David Leith


SPLASH Seafood Restaurant

Words by Mark Knowles | Pictures by David Leith

The dining scene in FNQ has long been known for its bounty of fresh seafood, but few restaurateurs can lay claim to a more intimate knowledge of the region’s fisheries than Megan and Malcolm McKay. Their restaurant Splash has been serving up delicious locally sourced seafood for almost two decades from its prime location on Cairns’ glamorous Esplanade dining strip. However, their roots in the FNQ fishing industry run even deeper. Malcolm is a third-generation fisherman who helped pioneer the prawn fishery in the Gulf of Carpentaria and has skippered fishing boats across northern Australia for much of his life. His experience, along with his long-standing relationships with local fishermen, has been essential when it comes to sourcing the finest-quality seafood straight from fishing boats operating out of Cairns and across the region. Megan honed her hospitality skills as the owner and operator of several cafes in Cairns, her hometown, before combining that knowledge with Malcolm’s to open Splash. Since then, the pair have been steadfast in their commitment to serving sustainably sourced Australian seafood in a friendly, relaxed atmosphere.



While noting that much has changed in Cairns over the last 20 years, Megan says what her customers want has remained consistent. “At the end of the day, they have always been after the same thing – which is fresh, local product,” she says. “We buy direct from the fisherman, so we know exactly where the fish come from, and everything we serve here is wildcaught,” she adds. It’s this local knowledge that helps Megan and Malcolm to tweak Splash’s menu to suit the seasonal variations and fluctuations inherent in the FNQ fishing industry. “We support the commercial fishing industry and we always source as local as we can get; a lot of our fish come from the Gulf of Carpentaria. Some of them, like the mahi-mahi and tuna, are caught on long lines off the coast near Cairns,” says Megan. Succulent fillets from these fish, either grilled or with a crispy tempura batter, form the centrepiece of Splash’s Classic Fish

Splash Restaurant 103 The Esplanade, Cairns 4031 9300

and Chips – a perennial customer favourite. Another menu mainstay is the Macadamia and Lemon Myrtle Crusted Fish.

“I want to help young people realise that hospitality is a career and long-term proposition for work, not just a fill-in role,” she says.

Splash’s wine list features a wide selection of predominantly Australian drops to complement the food and staff are happy to help suggest pairings to highlight a dish’s flavour and tantalise the palate. This emphasis on showcasing Australian wines goes hand-in-hand with their love of local seafood and Megan says her customers are just as enthusiastic about this approach.

Since Splash has been operating, Megan estimates that around 15 chefs have completed their apprenticeships at the business and gone on to have careers both in the local hospitality sector and further afield.

“In the last few years, people have really been voting with their feet, and their wallets, to support local businesses that offer Australian products and Australian wines,” she says.

This dedication to training and retaining their staff seems to have paid dividends for Megan and Malcolm. Splash’s head chef, Crystal, has been with the business for 12 years, and their two other chefs, Jacob and Callum, stayed on after completing their apprenticeships there.

With almost 30 wines available by the glass, you can easily mix and match to suit your choice of dishes without having to commit to a full bottle. This relaxed and flexible approach to dining is key to Splash’s continued success and one of the many reasons why people keep coming back for more. Fostering a friendly, welcoming atmosphere at Splash is a point of pride for Megan, and she puts much of it down to her staff, several of whom have been working there for many years.

“We’re so lucky here, more than half our trade comes from regular customers and they’re like family, so that’s wonderful,” Megan says. “I say to people when I hire them we’ve got great food and great customers!” Next time you’re taking a stroll along The Esplanade in Cairns, be sure to drop in to Splash and enjoy the fresh seafood, relaxed atmosphere and friendly service for which they’re famous.


Suan Suan

A History Of Being Social

It is a testament to the hospitality industry that it takes the mundane, even dull process of consuming calories and turns it into something eventful. The activity of gathering and sharing the experience of food has bonded humans down through the ages. It might be the absolute epitome of what separates us from beasts. Arguably, sharing food represents the beginning of society as we know it today. Grouping around the cooking area, whether the campfire or the kitchen, has become unremarkably commonplace yet is at the heart of our collective psyche. It makes sense then that behind the lucky red frontage of Suan Suan is something that celebrates both the joy and the history of eating. It has a modern take on one of the most traditional Asian meal styles, where ingredients, cooking, participation and proximity collide with the historical. Steamboat or hot pot restaurants have their origins from a little over 2000 years ago, from where the Chinese or the Mongolians or both started to formalise the idea of cooking and consumption as communal exercise. Although this popular Cairns restaurant may have opened its doors only four short years ago, it is in fact two millennia in the making. Hot pot cuisine is centred around a communal or individual pot of simmering stock into which diners plunge various pre-prepared ingredients and then recover them once ready to eat. This inspirational style of dining is one of the most popular across Asia and has spread across the world, much to the delight of those who experience it. Suan Suan brings the traditional hot pot banquet into the contemporary dining environment. Before one even gets an indication of the food, the restaurant itself is fascinating, merely as a feat of electrical engineering, providing as it does an induction hotplate for every diner. This neat, modern twist, for those familiar with the hot pot/steamboat concept, not only reduces the chances of random immolation courtesy of the more traditional spirit burners or gas rings, but allows each diner to keep their broth to their preferred temperature. Diners first have to select their desired base stock flavour; choices extend from traditional soup broths through to some skilfully blended and delicious spicy soups.



Words and Pictures by David Leith

Raw ingredients are prepared and sliced into thin portions that will cook easily in the broth, held at a gentle simmer with the tabletop hotplates. Most raw foods can be cooked in a hot pot, but they may have different cooking times and must be immersed in the soup and then removed accordingly. Suan Suan staff are always on hand to guide diners as to cooking times and help those not familiar with any of the processes. At the conclusion of the ‘cooking’ part of the meal, the broth will have acquired many flavours from the added ingredients and may be enjoyed as a delicious soup. Suan Suan prepares many different fresh ingredients, including thinly sliced meat, leaf vegetables, mushrooms, noodles, sliced potatoes, tofu, egg dumplings and seafood, which are laid out, personal buffet-style, for diners to select. The Suan Suan philosophy is hearty, healthy, fresh food prepared almost entirely from local produce with a few internationally sourced, specialty ingredients for authentic flavour, ready to cook to your taste. All brought to your table by the most attentive and pleasant staff, as you are a guest in their house.

Suan Suan 43 Shield Street, Cairns City 4031 8056




ropical North Queensland is a seafood lover’s Wonka-esque utopia. Fish and chips by waterfront views are ubiquitous, locally caught prawns can be bought – and eaten – off the back of fishing trawlers, and everyone’s going nuts for poke bowls. In Cairns, a town where seafood is more than bountiful, Tha Fish Restaurant is a king amongst kings that will have your crustacean-loving hearts skipping a beat. At Tha Fish, everything sparkles: the sunlight hitting the water of Trinity Inlet, the beautifully presented food and the champagne that fills nearly every glass in the room. For almost two decades, Tha Fish has presented a menu that ebbs and flows with the seasonality of local catches from an owner chef who’s practically restaurant royalty. Tha Fish showcases the fresh flavours of the tropical seas and is a quintessential North Queensland dining experience. Celebrity chefs and culinary fads may come and go, but nothing can replace consistency in excellence. Sheldon Wearne has been around restaurants his whole life. Formerly from Sydney, he hit his stride when joining the kitchen brigade at one of his parents’ restaurants, the award-winning Oskar’s on the Gold Coast. “I didn’t really know what to do, so cheffing seemed like the best option at the time,” Sheldon says. “I didn’t fall in love with restaurants until I fell in love with food a few years later, after really being taught properly about taste, texture and produce.” Having had enough of the ‘Goldie life’, he moved north in the 90s to the family’s other restaurant, the infamously famous Nautilus Restaurant in Port Douglas, taking on the sous chef position, then head chef for many years. After making a name for himself in the Port Douglas dining scene and seeing a gap in the market for a complete seafood-oriented diner, Sheldon and his colleague-come-business partner Jeff Gale opened up the Port Douglas institution Two Fish. “We wanted to give the diners a creative licence to mix and match – fish, cooking style, sides and sauces, but in an upmarket restaurant setting,” Sheldon says. “It was an instant success.”

Words by Sharon Timms | Pictures by Catherine Coombs



A lesson in local

Sheldon then decided to move the concept to Cairns, rebranding as Tha Fish, and 17 years on is still as inspired by our northern regional food story as ever. The menu’s early adoption of predominantly seafood fare has never wavered, however the overall menu has taken on a more specific locally-sourced-produce drive in recent years. While many restaurants talk about an ethos of locally sourced, there’s special credit given to those who make it a part of their fundamental nature; like the wine in a good beurre blanc. “We’ve always done our best to give back to local producers as much as possible,” says Carolyn Wearne, Sheldon’s partner in life and business. “However, in more recent times, we decided to make a concentrated effort to intentionally support the circular economy. Of course, we love using products like Wolf Lane and Mt Uncle gins, Barrier Reef Brewing and Hemingway’s Brewery beers, Sipping Duck Coffee. But we also love people able to tell our guests about where they are, and that they should pay them a visit while here. “Supporting local across the board doesn’t necessarily just mean the produce needs to be local; sometimes that’s just not possible,” Carolyn says. “But supporting the local business that brings the produce here is just as important. For example, we use PE Foods to get a large majority of our dry goods, which aren’t necessarily all from the region, but PE Foods is a local

business, and we want to make sure that they are part of our provenance story.” What’s the secret to the success of Tha Fish? It’s simple. “What we’ve learnt, and we’re continually learning, is the importance of connection between us and our clientele,” says Sheldon. “Consistency has always been the most important thing to us. Consistency in product, consistency in our service – our guests are like our family. We want them to feel that dining here is like coming home.” Whether you’re looking to long-lunch the day away, have a grown-up-call-a-babysitter night out, or simply an oceanic afternoon fix, it can be guaranteed that Tha Fish is one of those places that is perfect for bringing friends, lovers, family and out-of-towners and showing them who’s really living their best life, hopefully for another 20 years.

Tha Fish Pier Point Road, Cairns 4041 5350


Villa Romana An Icon On The Esplanade

Villa Romana is as much a landmark as it is a restaurant. Opening its doors in 1999 as the collective vision of serial restaurateurs George and Helen Papagelou, Villa has in the 22 years since never strayed from its original concept: creating an enjoyable place for people to gather. “We wanted to create a casual, bustling, fun place with friends dropping in; a place where everyone can meet,” says Helen. “That was George’s vision.” Not their first venture in Cairns, they had arrived in 1991 after George got wind of an opportunity. Helen recalls she was in Melbourne with their 9-month-old son when George, who was up in Cairns, called to say “pack your bags, we are moving up to Cairns”. “We opened Basil’s Gourmet Foods upstairs in Orchid Plaza, and a little coffee shop downstairs. A couple of years later, we



Words by Jodie Ferrero | Pictures by David Leith

opened George’s Greek Taverna on Aplin Street,” says Helen. “There was no other Greek Tavern in Cairns then and there was a lot of plate smashing going on!” And the rest, as they say, is history, as in 1999 this much-loved couple was very much at home in Cairns and has only gone from strength to strength. A love of food is what drives George and, as Helen remembers, he had wooed her with food way back when. “We hadn’t long met, the first thing he cooked for me was a veal scaloppini. I think that’s why I still like it to this day,” says Helen. “Wow, I thought, this guy can cook! And that was the hook!”

Villa Romana 99 The Esplanade, Cairns City 4051 9000

The menu at Villa is eclectic, offering guests everything from breakfast and lunch, to an extensive Italian-style evening menu. The menu reflects the idea of family, of dropping in for a drink and light snack, or staying longer for an evening out or a celebration. “At Villa, we have created very much a ‘best of’ and we have so many regulars,” says Helen. “We like to keep the menu simple, to be consistent and to keep people coming back.” With a commitment to this ethos, George and Helen have built a loyal local following and have become a part of the itinerary for those who visit. Attributing, in no small way, the success of the restaurant to her staff, Helen is not shy in stating that she and George really do look after their team, some of whom have been with them for near on the life of the business.

“We have created a family, of staff and of customers, this really is a place for friends,” Helen says. With its iconic Esplanade location, Villa has always been an easy choice for a meal and a catchup and is one of the venues in Cairns where locals rub shoulders with tourists. Villa has its own ‘wall of fame’ which captures the many happy moments when famous visitors have chosen to drop in over the years. “We have the Queensland Premier drop in here from time to time and then there was John Howard, John Elliot from Carlton Football Club, Jonathon Thurston, too many to remember although we had Marlon Brando eat with us at George’s Greek Taverna, that’s a hard one to beat!”


Sitting at Vitalia’s redand-white-chequeredcloth tables, watching myriad luxury yachts gently bobbing at anchor, you could be forgiven for thinking that you’d been transported to Naples for an evening of culinary delights... and that’s just the impression the theatrically inclined restaurateurs Vitalia Zanda and Antonio Lo Conte hope to convey. The couple first met when Antonio saw Vitalia performing on stage in her hometown near Naples. Instantly smitten, he asked mutual friends to introduce them and they hit it off, but sadly, fate had other plans and Antonio had to return to London where he was working at the time. It wasn’t until three years later, when he returned to Italy to start a theatre company, that they reconnected and had their first romantic date in Rome, where they bonded over their mutual love of theatre, food and music. The rest, as they say, is history. “After three months I asked her to marry me, three months after that we got married, and now we are celebrating our ten-year anniversary,” says Antonio. Just a few years later they struck out for a new life in Australia and with Vitalia’s extensive experience as a chef, they founded their own restaurant at Holloways Beach, just north of Cairns. After years building up a loyal customer base, they seized an opportunity to move to their present venue in the heart of The Pier waterfront dining precinct.



Words by Mark Knowles | Pictures by Catherine Coombs

VITALIA’S & Vitalia’s Street Food This new venue gave them an even bigger stage to shower their guests with traditional Italian hospitality and Vitalia’s innovative take on Italian cuisine. Vitalia, who studied cooking in Italy before building her career at various restaurants across the country and in London, says she enjoys experimenting in the kitchen and giving a new twist to some familiar, and not so familiar, Italian dishes.

Take for example her Fregola Sarda Vitalia’s, which uses as its base a type of pasta originating in Sardinia that resembles couscous and is made with semolina flour. The nutty taste of the Fregola pasta combines delightfully with the clams, prawns and chilli, which are sautéed in Sardinian vermentino white wine then finished in cherry tomato sauce and dusted with saffron. Another dish you won’t see on a typical Italian menu in Australia is the Cavatelli Bianchi & Neri – black and white “little cave” pasta coloured with squid ink and topped with clams and reef fish sautéed in prosecco, Sardinian bottarga (cured mullet roe) and served on a bed of saffron Parmesan fondue with chillilemon zest. “A lot of our signature dishes are my take on traditional dishes, my interpretations. They are not strictly traditional as my cuisine is always evolving,” says Vitalia.

“Naples-style pizza is softer, has a puffy edge and is cooked in a special oven with a higher temperature. It’s cooked directly on the stone... that gives a big punch to the dough and a quick rise,” says Antonio. You can also find their signature pizzas, along with a selection of other popular Neapolitan street foods at the duo’s newest venture, Vitalia’s Street Food, on Lake Street in the Cairns CBD. This takeaway-only dining concept was born from their nostalgic longing for the street food they grew up with. The menu features delicious deep-fried snacks that provide a much-needed alternative to the late night kebab for revellers in Cairns’ nightlife hotspot. The Calzone Fritto, deep-fried folded pizzas, are a beloved staple of Neapolitan street food and come stuffed with a selection of premium fillings that will tickle your tipsy taste buds after a night on the town.

This flair for the flamboyant extends to their hospitality and on special occasions, such as a birthday or anniversary, Vitalia will take a break from the kitchen to join Antonio in serenading their guests. With Antonio playing guitar and Vitalia accompanying on tambourine, the pair will sing duets of traditional songs from the famous Neapolitan repertoire. “For us its very fun to play for the customers, we want to give the complete Italian experience, not just the food but with traditional songs,” says Antonio. The vibrant, welcoming atmosphere at Vitalia’s continues during their live music and tapas cocktail evenings every Sunday from 3 to 5pm. Vitalia’s award-winning Neapolitan-style gourmet pizzas are also a must-try and use San Marzano tomatoes, which have a stronger, sweeter and less acidic taste than Roma tomatoes.

Vitalia’s Shop/G9, The Pier, Cairns 4000 0865 Vitalia’s Street Food 9/87 Lake Street, Cairns 4000 4800


Whet your appetite! Whet, the cafe, bar and restaurant in the rain forest.

For most of us, the distance between a dream and the reality is so vast we are content to enjoy the fantasy and leave the actualisation to someone else! Not so for Matt and Michelle Wenden, who together in 2007, set about making their dream of creating a restaurant in the rainforest come true. Built entirely by the Wendens over almost two years, Whet Restaurant at Cape Tribulation took shape with imagination, determination and a whole lot of love. A love of food, sweet juicy tropical food and a love of place, somewhere so stunning and remote that once-upon-a-pre-pandemictime visitors travelled from all over the globe for a chance to experience the exceptional natural beauty of this superlative destination, the meeting place of two UNESCO World Heritage listed locations. A fully self-sustained, off-grid operation, Whet Restaurant is the epitome of unique dining with an emphasis on local produce and fresh flavours. Their seafood is hauled just offshore and on the property you’ll find mangoes, jaboticabas, sapodillas, lychees and mangosteens growing in their tropical fruit orchard. These seasonal fruits feature throughout the menu, particularly in their desserts, and they make for the most tantalising cocktails to enjoy on the outdoor deck. “Most of our seafood is from right here. The yellowfin tuna comes from here and the barramundi is from the bay just along,” Matt says.



Words by Jodie Ferrero | Pictures by David Leith

“And then our vegetables, we generally source them from the Atherton Tablelands.” The journey into the restaurant has seen Matt leave behind his career as a landscape gardener to follow his passion and along the way he has worked alongside, and learned from, some of the best in the business as he discovered his own flair with food. Matt’s food style leans toward modoz, and the showcasing of the abundance of local ingredients. Plates are a delight to behold, presented with a panache that would be at home on the high street and do nothing that would indicate anything of the logistical challenges of comparative jungle remoteness. “Michelle brings back supplies from Cairns, along with our usual deliveries, and on the whole, there isn’t anything we can’t get, it just requires planning ahead!” says Matt. Serving lunch and dinner, the menu at Whet has an eclectic Asian influence while also boasting specialty dishes such as pork belly and scallop duet, the pork belly with a delicious orange glaze and the scallops with a cumin coconut dressing to complement. Choose also from scrumptious salads, or spice things up with an exotic curry or buddha bowl. As a destination restaurant, Whet is a perfect choice for celebration events, catering for up to 100 guests and providing a unique and unforgettable experience of the Daintree.

Whet Restaurant 3867 Cape Tribulation Road, Cape Tribulation 4098 0007


WILD THYME Helping People, Changing Lives, One Delicious Meal At A Time

Something exciting is happening in Cairns that’s well known in metropolitan cities everywhere: a restaurant-come-social enterprise! And it’s no wonder, given the extensive travels and experience in restaurants abroad - and locally - that Cath Pacey has. Springing from the ashes of the COVID-19 lockdown of early 2020, on the back of countless hardships for our community, Cath opened Wild Thyme. A new kid on the block, it’s a jewel in the resurgence of Shield Street’s dining district… adding some soul. Wild Thyme food is definitely soulful; an eclectic combination of flavours and dishes from across the globe, inspired by the diversity of its workforce. But I’ll touch on that later. Phoenix-ing post-lockdown and numerous re-openings, it’s swiftly becoming a favourite breakfast and lunch spot for city workers, and a sought-after venue for dinner diners. Boasting a fun menu of fresh flavours and dishes (as in, fresh to the Aussie and traditional tropical cuisine), there’s something for everybody no matter your status as carnivore, vegan etcetera. From hearty, 17-hour slow-cooked brisket and the most imaginative eggs benedict (featuring assorted hollandaise sauces) varieties, Wild Thyme has much for those lunching on the lighter side. On their breakfast/lunch menu, they have a loaded avocado that would turn any hardened conscript to Bacon ’n’ Eggs, as well as a range of inventive salads. The one commonality? Unique, sometimes surprising, but perfectly executed, pairings of herbs and spices and introductions of new ingredients which work.

Now for their ‘bad’ stuff: desserts and cocktails. Fancy cardamon with your staple sticky date pudding? Once tried, you will never have it any other way. Their cocktails are equally adventurous and enticing. They have a raft of craft beers and ciders, made bespoke and unique to the particular flavour requirements of the team by local brewers. But, if you are cutting back or opt not to imbibe, their juices are many. In fact, the team have as much fun selecting the ingredients for their bright, cold and fruity concoctions as for the rest of the menu. Drinks are not taken for granted here, so you will [thankfully] avoid the ho-hum of a subpar wine list or a sparse choice of soft drinks or water as the sobriety specials. The ingredients they love are locally sourced (unless required to be flown in from key suppliers for their more exotic dishes). Wild Thyme’s team are locals, but from all the lands on Earth they come. They celebrate the diversity of their multicultural team (who each have unique skills, though come from many different backgrounds of experience and training).

Words by Jack Wilkie-Jans | Pictures by David Leith



A not-for-profit business, Wild Thyme is owned by National Joblink and offers Certificate II in Hospitality placements, where students are encouraged to bring with them their favourite dishes to hone. Not only does Wild Thyme seek to better showcase and reflect the society of Cairns today, they also give back to the community they love. Each week their team prepares anywhere up to 60 meals a week for Rosies to help feed those who may be struggling. So, how might you be able to help? Go there, keep going back and support them to do this work. Oh, and by the way, they’ve made pizza a breakfast food… just in case you weren’t already convinced to go.

Wild Thyme 41 Shield Street, Cairns 4041 2112


Yaya’s Hellenic Kitchen & Bar

With a commitment to fresh produce and a menu that goes back to the heart of the Mediterranean, Yaya’s Hellenic Kitchen is the perfect place to gather, share and enjoy.

bringing together the relaxed Mediterranean dining style with the freshest of local ingredients representing what you would expect in any small Greek seaside town.

It’s ideal frontage, upstairs on the Esplanade, gives diners a unique perspective not only in location, but also in cuisine. Combining love and inspiration, dining here is like an elevated version of the family table, with lots of share dishes, good smells and fabulous flavours, all presented by generous and proud hosts.

The restaurant itself is a study in terracotta and white, where diners could as easily be in Mykonos as they could the tropics. Led by restaurant manager Kosta, the team at Yaya’s are disarmingly and refreshingly laid back, providing top class service and ensuring that memorable moments are all part of the dining experience.

Yaya’s, as it’s affectionately known by locals, was established in 2014 by Greek serial restaurateurs George and Helen Papagelou. Originating from Melbourne, George and Helen first moved to Cairns in the early ‘90s and opened such iconic venues as George’s Greek Taverna and Basil’s Gourmet Food in Orchid Plaza. They are also the proud owners of Italian restaurant sensation Villa Romana, located directly underneath Yaya’s on the Esplanade.

From traditional home-style recipes handed down through the generations, to well-known favourites and modern representations of Greek food, all their fare is expertly executed by the talented team of chefs.

Taken by the cosmopolitan and exciting bustle of this dynamo of a regional city, you can see the hallmarks of the pair in Yaya’s,



Main dishes such as their moussaka and George’s tigani - a hot pan of barramundi fillets, prawns, mussels, calamari and scallops cooked in fresh tomato salsa with piperies florinis, garlic, chilli, wine, topped with feta - will warm your belly, heart and soul.

Words by Jodie Ferrero | Pictures by David Leith

Mezedes (small sharing plates) feature the finest of these coastal favourites, such as halloumi, Elies (marinated olives), Melitzanosalata (eggplant dip), Dolmadakia (vine leaves stuffed with rice and herbs), calamari and Spanakopita, Yaya’s homemade spinach and feta pie in filo pastry. No trip to Cairns would be complete without a visit to Yaya’s to feast on a cornucopia of special tastes from the Mediterranean and listen to the genres of traditional and modern Greek music, all while conversing over a glass of their specially imported Retsina. Ya mas!

Yaya’s Hellenic Kitchen Level 1, Cnr Aplin Street & The Esplanade, Cairns 4031 3033


Restaurants & Fine Dining Where in FNQ Are They

Some basics maps to help you plan your culinary adventures.




Map #

A Taste of Italy Beach Almond BUKO@Castaways Copper Bar & Grill Dumpling Studio Four Cinq Fetta’s Greek Taverna Hidden @ Yorkeys La Fettuccina Lemoncello’s Ochre Raw Prawn Sea Bean 7 Spices Spicy Bite SPLASH Suan Suan Tamarind Tha Fish Villa Romana Vitalia’s Vitalia’s Street Food WHET Wild Thyme Yaya’s Helenic Kitchen

Clifton Beach Palm Cove Mission Beach Cairns Cairns Cairns Cairns Yorkeys Knob Cairns Cairns Cairns Cairns Port Douglas Cairns Cairns Cairns Cairns Cairns Cairns Cairns Cairns Cairns Daintree Cairns Cairns

26 28 30 32 34 36 38 40 42 44 46 48 50 52 54 56 75 58 60 62 62 64 66 68 70

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15,16,17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27







The Reef Hotel Casino Eat, Drink, Meet, And Play.



Words by Jodie Ferrero

For 25 years, The Reef Hotel Casino has been providing locals and visitors alike with first-class hospitality and culinary pleasures, setting the standard for excellence and showcasing Cairns to the world with their accommodation, live entertainment, gaming and dining options. Stepping into the foyer is like entering an enchanted undersea realm, as you become entranced by the impressive digital tower and floor aquarium, and perhaps enjoy the thrill of ‘finding Nemo’ as he swims by. Throughout the venue there are reminders of the reef with beautiful timber embellishments on the walls representing waves, and ceilings of paua shells creating a cool and breathtaking escape from the heat outside. There is such an array of entertainment under one roof, you will find the perfect place to enjoy yourself, whatever that looks like for you. Be it a live music session with celebrated local and international artists, sports on the big screen with some mates, The Reef Hotel Casino has all this and more! Most impressively, The Reef Hotel Casino has a variety of award-winning eateries to delight your taste buds with flavours to savour from across the globe. Kick off the day with an a-la-carte breakfast or just enjoy a coffee at Merchant Artisan Food and Coffee, experience Asian culinary culture at Soy Kitchen Street Food, enjoy a casual bite at Flinders Bar and Grill or, for the pinnacle in fine dining, book a table at the acclaimed Tamarind Restaurant. Lots of dining options for you. Pullman Reef Hotel Casino also offers the perfect setting for any event, whether it’s a gala dinner, wedding, conference or a corporate function, catering options are available from any of their stunning restaurants. Let’s explore the amazing dining venues at The Reef Hotel Casino.


MERCHANT ARTISAN FOOD AND COFFEE Any coffee lover would agree with Merchant receiving Trip Advisor’s Travellers Award of 2020 for the ‘Best of the Best’. Their handmade sweets and specialised coffees are divine, and their al-a-carte breakfast menu is full of FNQ flavour. There is no better start to the day than the perfect cup of coffee and your delicious espresso kickstart is guaranteed with Merchant’s house blend, Big Dog, a specialty coffee courtesy of Wolff Coffee Roasters with a mix of beans from Brazil, Guatemala, and Mexico. The taste, described as ‘a delicious blend with a malt, dark chocolate and honeyed sweetness, with a vanilla butteriness’ is just like a chocolate biscuit. Merchant staff are dedicated to their craft as baristas and pastry chefs and are proud to include a variety of local produce on their menu. The menu changes seasonally to match the region’s harvests, ensuring the utmost freshness and ultimate flavour in every dish. Their pride in the region is on show in the menu descriptions of the heroes of each dish, such as locally sourced Tully Banana Bread, Tablelands Berries, and Mungalli Creek yoghurts. With seating options ranging from standard tables in the dining area, comfy high back armchairs, workstation areas and a beautiful deck to take in the glorious morning sunshine, Merchant is a popular choice for early business meetings and colleagues catching up before their workday begins. The deck at Merchant is also a favourite amongst local pet lovers for that mid-morning coffee and the hardest decision to make will be that of what delectable handmade sweet treat to choose! Merchant is also available for private functions in the evening. FLINDERS BAR AND GRILL Flinders Bar and Grill is located right in the heart of the gaming action and is an over-18-year-old venue offering fast and friendly bistro style service. In contrast to the action on the floor, Flinders Bar and Grill has a relaxed ‘come as you are’ tavern atmosphere, with a bright, light and spacious dining area. The pub vibes continue with the larger than average booths along the back wall so the whole gang can fit in easily with comfort and privacy. The menu has all the classic Aussie pub fare on offer but setting it apart, aside from its location within the Reef Hotel Casino complex, is the added flair and array of fresh local produce on the menu. Whether you are wanting a snack, lunch or dinner, Flinders Bar and Grill has something to satisfy your hunger in the most delicious of ways, such as their signature wagyu burger, in junior and doubles sizes, a favourite amongst the locals. And no tavern menu would be complete without a chicken parmigiana, in this case accompanied by a local Tablelands salad. The light meal options are great for a quick bite or, for something different, you can try the sandwich bar and build your own fresh sandwich or toastie to have with a pot of beer or glass of wine whilst you relax and recharge. The late-night menu includes light meals and the sandwich bar, so no matter what time of the day or night, you can refuel and get back to the action.

The Reef Hotel Casino 35-41 Wharf St, Cairns City 4030 8888



SOY KITCHEN STREET FOOD At Soy Kitchen Street Food, you’ll find the perfect blend of Asian cuisine on their menu and this cultural theme is carried through the restaurant in every way. Located within The Reef Hotel Casino complex, in the old Customs House, Soy Kitchen Street Food has direct street access and a wonderful atmosphere with the stylish interior featuring a combination of old and new décor with restored timberwork next to vibrant murals of modern street art. Scattered throughout are artifacts from the countries that inspire the menu, including cherry blossom trees, and dining can be as open or private as you like with the larger dining area continuing through to smaller rooms in the historic building. With acclaimed chefs from Malaysia, Japan, Korea, and Indonesia to name just a few, the team at Soy Kitchen Street Food have created delicious fusions of Asian flavours to tantalise your taste buds, all accentuated with fresh Far North Queensland produce. Soy Kitchen Street Food is a favourite with locals for the ‘happy hour’ share platters, true street ‘finger’ food perfect to enjoy over a couple of drinks after work with colleagues or friends and a tease as to what is on offer from the kitchen for dinner.

TAMARIND RESTAURANT The pinnacle of dining at The Reef Hotel Casino is the world-renowned Tamarind Restaurant. With a coveted Chef Hat award and recently named as World Luxury Restaurant Awards’ continent winner for Fusion Cuisine in Australia and Oceania, Tamarind is celebrated as Cairns’ most awarded restaurant. Treasured by locals for special occasions, Tamarind is elegant and exceptional with its exquisite dishes handcrafted from the freshest local produce. The setting, a low-lit dining room with crisp white linen tablecloths, the gentle glow of light reflecting on the timber walls, creates a sophisticated, enchanting ambience for any evening celebration. Tamarind’s international mix of chefs offer a delectable menu of ‘Australian Freestyle’ cuisine. Embracing cooking styles and techniques from an array of cultures, this brigade de cuisine, with their passion for food, creates a culinary experience to savour. Changing their menu to stay in harmony with the season’s harvest, Tamarind boasts only the finest in local, freshly sourced produce, including honey grown in the ‘sky garden’ on the rooftop, and with innovation in their marriage of flavours, new dishes are regularly introduced for the delight of diners. The best way to experience Tamarind’s exceptional menu is to try Taste of Tamarind, a selection of specialty dishes, impeccably served to give you the ultimate dining experience. Tamarind’s menu is complemented by an impressive Australian wine list, local and imported beers and spirits, and an innovative and enticing cocktail menu.



The Far North Queensland region has a diverse range of crops, with bananas being a major agricultural sector. The Cassowary Coast region, including Tully and Innisfail, is the prime banana-growing region, not only for North Queensland, but for all of Australia. These areas produce more than 90 percent of Australia’s bananas. The majority of the country’s banana production is located in Tully and Innisfail, as well as Kennedy, the Atherton Tablelands, Mossman, Lakeland and Hopevale. Bananas are a very popular fruit in Far North Queensland and provide a huge boost to the economy. They are plentiful and available at supermarkets, farmers’ markets and even roadside stalls.



Martin Buchanan, a local grower with 243 hectares of Cavendish bananas in the Miriwinni/Babinda region, says the much loved crop is the largest agricultural sector in Far North Queensland in terms of monetary benefits. “The banana industry is one of the largest employers in the region, with every five acres of bananas in North Queensland employing one person directly and indirectly,” he says. Martin has operated his farm for 11 years. Farming is definitely in the blood for him, with his grandfather running a banana farm in Gympie in the 1940s. Martin produces approximately 9.6 million kilograms of bananas per year, which are distributed Australia-wide, from Brisbane to Perth.

NANAS Words by Stacey Carrick

He is a third-generation farmer and he is now teaching his children and grandchildren the tricks of the trade.

“It definitely provides a big boost to the local economy and a lot of jobs due to the manual labour and handling involved.”

Gavin Poppi, who has 101 hectares of bananas in Woopen Creek, says the industry is a real shot in the arm for the local economy.

Gavin’s grandfather had a sugar cane farm, which then transitioned to a banana farm more than 30 years ago. He now produces around 110,000 cartons per year.

Gavin says a large number of Pacific Islanders have taken on jobs at banana farms that were held by backpackers before the pandemic. “Bananas are one of the biggest economies farming-wise, especially in the Innisfail and Tully area, with most of the money going back into the town,” he says.

Gavin said his farm produces a range of eco-organic and organic bananas, which are healthier and reduce the need for synthetic fertiliser. So next time you eat a delicious banana, just remember you are assisting local farmers and contributing towards the local economy while enjoying a healthy snack.






Put that Four’n Twenty right back where you got it from. Pie eating is a serious thing, and they don’t get any more serious about Australia’s national dish than iconic Cairns bakers and pie makers, Manning’s Pies. From humble beginnings selling home-made pies outside the local cinema to a business that now supplies pies and other baked goods from Cairns to the Cape, this family owned and run business is a testament to hard work and generations that have made it’s almost 85 years a wildly tasty success. “My grandfather, Hector, started making pies in Brisbane in 1936,” says Dennis Manning, who owns and runs the business with his brother Laurie. “He was a bad asthmatic, so he and my grandmother, Dulcie, decided a tropical move was for them. When they got here, work was hard to find, so they started making pies at home in Kamerunga, then wheeling them down to the local cinema in a pram lined with heated bricks to keep them hot.” Soon enough, they were able to open a shop in Pease Street and word of mouth meant they could hardly keep up with demand. They moved to a bigger store on Sheridan Street, getting the whole family involved, and then eventually in 1980 with grandsons Dennis and Laurie at the helm, they relocated to the current store in Bungalow where it has only continued to thrive. “There was no fast food to contend with back then, and there were only two take away joints in town. However, if our pies weren’t any good, we would have been done 40 years ago!” says Dennis. “We take so much pride in what we do; it’s a true family business – everything from the cooking, cleaning, commercial selling, and of course the tasting is all done by our family.”


Hec Jr Manning (another son of founder Hector) with a pie-cycle 1960s

These days, the Manning family are not only known for their staggeringly tasty pies (we’ll get more into that a bit later), but also for their equally staggering community support within the Far Northern region. Winston Churchill once quipped, ‘We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give’ – this really rings true for Manning Pies, who have been annual supporters of the Variety Bash Queensland for over 25 years. “It started with Laurie in the beginning – he bought and rebuilt an old EH Holden to go on the bash, and has been every year since, raising around $70,000 for each one. We’ve all been involved over the years – even my daughter Karli (and our bookkeeper!) shaved her head a few years back! It feels pretty good to help other people in the local community who need it. Variety is helping young, disadvantaged kids play sport, gain mobility, participate in community and receive grants for equipment. “We’re very lucky we’re in the position to help where we can, and we’ll continue to do that for as long as we can. Owning a business means caring about other people. There are some fair dinkum Aussie legends in the Variety family, and we are proud to be amongst them.” So, for the most important question. What makes Manning’s Pies so darn good? “We have a few secret recipes, but none of them are written down. We even blindfold the apprentices for the first few months so they can’t see what goes in,” Dennis laughs. (Please note, they don’t!). “If someone really wanted to steal a recipe, they’d have some serious work to do!”

Words by Sharon Timms | Pictures by David Leith Steven Manning with pie van heated with hot bricks in early 1950s (his father started the business).



“But what makes our pies so good is overall experience. The first part that hits your mouth is the pastry - if that’s no good, it’s all over. Our pastry is buttery and crispy where it counts, strong enough to hold the chunky meat,” says Karli. Basically, it’s pastry you’d be happy to feed your mother-in-law. “We have our own cattle up near Forsyth,” says Dennis. “We have a fattening property out at Ravenshoe, then they come to us in quarters. Everything goes into the pies - we don’t separate the different cuts, everything goes into the pies, filling out those rich flavours. Of course, we do keep a couple of good bits for the family!”

Manning’s Pies are classic and timeless, a throwback to a no-nonsense time when men were men and pies were pies. Lucky for North Queensland, their seriously tasty notoriety comes with a genuinely heartfelt story and a well-deserved icon label.

Manning’s Pies 194 Newell Street, Cairns 4054 3077

Four generations still working together. Karli Manning, Laurie Manning, Jean Manning, Dennis Manning,


Taste the Tropics

A feast from the land & sea

Words by Jodie Ferrero | Images courtesy of Tourism Tropical North Queensland



Far North Queensland is a unique food-producing region with some of the finest eating seafood in the world caught just off our shores and our rich, fertile earth providing perfect growing conditions for the region’s truly diverse food bowl, the likes of which cannot be found elsewhere. Abundant with fresh produce, menus across the region are crafted in partnership with the farmers, fishermen, breeders and providores, inspired by what’s in season and prepared by talented chefs who have made the deliberate decision to live and work in such a dynamic and distinctive place. Locals and visitors alike embrace the provenance of food, whether from the farm gate or the trawler, or the multitude of fresh food markets where you can see, smell, and taste the tropics. The bounty of the far north is revealed at every turn, some familiar, some surprising, all of it a feast for the senses! You’ll find coffee and tea plantations, cattle farms, biodynamic dairies, aquaculture farms, craft breweries and distilleries. In local markets and on restaurant menus, you will discover the living history illustrated with rainforest nuts, fruits and native spices, like those gathered from this land for millennia by indigenous people. With the global awareness increasing and the changing ethos toward food production, people seek to buy local, the freshest, most flavoursome food. This, in turn, supports local farmers, avoids imports, creates employment, cuts down on food miles, and increases the familiarity as to where food is coming from. The paddock to plate phenomenon is here to stay. The Hughes family of Mount Molloy are cattle farmers, but since Erica Hughes created a virtual farmers market, ‘Farmer Meets Foodie’ in recognition of this growing trend, life has changed, and the cattle have taken a back seat. The family’s energies are now diverted into connecting farmers with consumers. A visit to the FMF website - www.farmermeetsfoodie.com.au will have your mouth watering, and you’ll no doubt be creating recipes in your head as you browse the ever-expanding array of farm-fresh products at your fingertips. Scroll through the myriad of products from free-range eggs, goat and cow milk and cheese, grain-free and keto bread, nuts, nut butter and raw honey from local bees. Honey with ginger, honey with soy and chilli and another with mustard and turmeric - who knew!

And as a sampler of the vegetables and fruits – carrots, beetroot, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, tomatoes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, asparagus, microgreens. There are avocados and bananas, mangoes and strawberries, and various products made from tropical fruits. The list is endless, and organic suppliers abound. And then there are local gourmet pasta makers, pre-prepared meals, fresh taster boxes, edible flowers, hydroponic vegetables, and even a local paella maker! You can choose spices, condiments, Russian garlic, filler-free dried herbs and herb salts, saffron, curry powders and spices and all manner of sauces and marinades. You will also find links to similar initiatives, such as Tablelands To Tabletop and Taste Before Waste. There’s local free-range pork and grass-fed, chemical-free beef straight from the paddock and the freshest of seafood and fish, including catch coming directly from our Reef and the Gulf. More than 85 percent of seafood consumed in Australia is sustainably sourced, and the tropical waters of the Coral Sea off Cairns are teeming with delicious seafood. One of the most fantastic attractions for holidaymakers in the region is a chance to visit the Great Barrier Reef and then indulge in freshly caught local seafood such as Coral Trout, Goldband Snapper, Mackerel, Mahi Mahi, Red Emperor, Red Snapper, Saddletail Snapper and Spangled Emperor to name a few. There is no shortage of eateries along the Cairns waterfront offering local seafood options from the simplest peel-yourself juicy wild-caught prawns – to exquisitely prepared cuisine fit for royalty. The far north dining scene is vibrant and multicultural, with restaurants across the region boasting menus from a melting pot of cultures, all showcasing the array of local produce on offer with several that feature Australian native game like kangaroo, emu and crocodile. The region also boasts many private chefs that can cater to dinner parties, special occasions and corporate events and one such locally founded start-up, Gathar, now facilitates delicious gatherings of all shapes and sizes all around Australia. Whatever your taste, far north Queensland food will delight you!


RUSTY’S The Market At The Heart Of Cairns

Rusty’s Market is an iconic Cairns landmark that has lured locals and tourists alike into the CBD every Friday, Saturday and Sunday for over forty years. Created by two hippies in 1974 with a market vision, they went to local business man Emrys Rees, affectionately known as “Rusty”, to all who knew him. He too supported this vision and provided an ideal space. Since its inception, the markets have been a representation of what FNQ is all about, a unique mix of exotic tropical produce and people, the “unofficial cultural heart” of not only Cairns, but the entire region. Originally known as a “hippy market” filled with colourful characters from all walks of life, it did not take long before it cemented itself as the place to be on the weekend. As a child of hippies, who grew up in Cairns, I have fond memories of my weekends spent at the markets. “Rusty” himself would often be seen wandering the markets in his recognisable Akubra hat collecting rent from stall holders or mingling with shoppers. Now owned and operated by Gilligans Backpackers Hotel and Resort, the space has changed considerably since the early days. The essence, however, remains. Market stalls come and go, while others have been passed down within farming families. The perfect mix of continuity and transience that has ensured its survival through even the toughest of economic climates. With over 180 stalls, there is something for everyone. Delectable food stalls with a range of cultural cuisines, such as Chicken Shed Korean Food, or La Creperie. Freshly squeezed juices, chopped coconuts, or freshly brewed coffee. There are stalls displaying jewellery, books, bric a brac, plants, baked goods and gourmet delights. But what the markets are best known for is the range of locally grown seasonal produce; from rare and unique tropical fruits, to Asian greens, and all your usual vegetables. Worth noting is the Realfood Network, an agricultural initiative aimed at changing the behaviour of food consumption by supporting local and organic growers. Rusty’s Markets has also partnered with Oz Harvest in support of food rescue and hunger prevention in this region.

Rusty’s Markets 57-89 Grafton Street, Cairns 4040 2705



Words by Bridey Walsh | Pictures by David Leith


Heritage Hotels

The quest for beer continues

Words by Elaine Deane

Cairns, as a settlement, was founded in 1875, Port Douglas in 1877, Atherton in 1885 and Cooktown, the fractionally older sibling, in 1873, giving rise to a question 150 years in the making - where to get a coldie? This region, much of which remains un-ravaged by the destruction of progress, boasts some of Australia’s finest and oldest country pubs. With over 50 falling into our definition of heritage, having opened their doors before the middle of the last century. Join us as we explore the Far North and drop in on a few of our favourite ‘places of interest’ as we go in search of where to get the real beer up here! ‘The Garra’ has had her share of disasters. Burning down and rebuilt in 1935, with Cyclone Larry taking off the roof in 2006. Luckily, the 1935 rebuild included a cement reinforced ceiling and a beer garden, so the beer kept flowing whilst repairs were carried out. A wonderful place for travellers with unpowered campgrounds and rooms available in the pub itself. Open seven days a week for a cold beer, serving good old fashioned pub dinners from Thursday to Sunday, and lunch on weekends. Sundays are the best day to visit as they have live music in the beer garden all day.

1. THE GARRADUNGA HOTEL – Innisfail Ten minutes north of Innisfail you will find The Garradunga Hotel. Surrounded by cane farms, she was originally known as the Cane Cutters Hotel built in 1888. Nowadays, the pub is better known for the resident ghost of Athol, who many locals have met, and curious tourists hope to catch a glimpse of.



2. RED BERET – Redlynch The Red Beret has worn a few hats. Built in 1926, her original name was The Redlynch Hotel, the second hotel for the town and erected opposite the site of the old Terminus Hotel, which burnt down in the early 1920s. Most locals believe the railway town of Redlynch got its name to honour the Irish construction foreman, ‘Red’ Lynch, everyone’s mate. It is unclear how she became known as the Red Beret or ‘The Hat’.

Stepping into the public bar today and you are welcomed by a sea of friendly faces. Caricatures of locals past and present, and sporting legends, adorn the walls amidst the historical township photographs. Mateship is strong and true at ‘The Hat,’ just like back in Red’s day. You may see the real person sitting underneath their caricature!

Cairns Historical Society P02035 Photographer Alfred Atkinson

After recent renovations, the hotel still retains her Queenslander beauty with open verandas and decks to relax with a cold beer with a mate in the pub or family friendly dining.

3. CAPE YORK HOTEL – Cairns Locals are glad this majestic old pub, overseeing the Spence/Bunda streets intersection since 1898, is still around. Known as Cape York Hotel since 1987, this girl has been rebuilt twice! Built and named Tramway Hotel in 1898, when the intersection was bustling with trams. She changed hands in 1920 and less than six months later a cyclone ripped through her and had to be rebuilt.

Twelve years later, the same owner renamed her the National Hotel in 1932, and her loyal locals nicknamed her ‘The Nash’. Cape York Shipping Company purchased her in 1987 a few short months before Australia’s worst LPG explosion, right in her back yard, left her extensively damaged. The company rebuilt using the original plans, changing the name to The Cape York Hotel upon reopening. Her original beauty remains in the restored foyer/reception area including a fantastic pictorial history, along with a modernised public bar for that icy cold beer at the end of a hot day.


4. THE GRAND HOTEL – Cairns Whilst this bar isn’t as old as the others featured, ‘The Croc Bar’ is as iconic as Crocodile Dundee for FNQ pubs. Since opening the doors in 1926 on the corner of McLeod and Shield streets, their crocodile themed décor and artefacts have been a drawcard for tourists and the locals have always loved a cold one right in the heart of the city. The outstanding feature of ‘the Croc’ is the bar itself, a hand carved wooden crocodile complete with open jaw and teeth so you can have your photo taken with your head in the jaws of a crocodile.

The walls and ceilings are covered with crocodile skulls, skins and, of course, teeth, along with images of crocodiles being caught, along with Croc Dundee himself. Slotted between these are a plethora of historical photos and artefacts from Cairns in the early 1920s, with floods, cyclones and more all recorded on the walls. Offering pub classic meals in the renovated bistro, you can take their famous 2kg Parmy Challenge, if you’re keen!

chandeliers. Queensland’s youngest female publican at 16, Maud Koeh loved that room, and locals have seen her ghost on the stairs or witnessed flickering lights coming down them. Maud is known to roam both the hotel and the township itself. The hotel has remained within the Williams family, proudly preserving their family’s, and the township’s, history within the walls of the grand old girl. You can stop in any time for hearty pub meals, live music events, even play bingo in the ballroom! Hotel rooms are available, too, if you hope to catch a glimpse of Maud! 5. YUNGABURRA HOTEL – Atherton Tablelands Yungaburra Hotel is an exquisite federation building showcasing the architecture of the early 1900s, renowned in FNQ for her beauty and preservation of times gone by. When the Williams family heard the railway was coming to town in 1910, they bought the land opposite the station house site, pulled down their ‘shanty pub’ and built Lake Eacham Hotel. The name changed when the township name changed to Yungaburra. Stepping into the ballroom you can envision people dancing the night away, with the staircase, stained glass windows and



6. LION’S DEN - Rossville A trip to Cape York isn’t complete without stopping into the Lion’s Den Hotel in Rossville. The quirky, iconic pub is one of Queensland’s oldest, continuously operating hotels still in the original building, remaining almost unchanged from her beginnings in 1888 when she serviced the tin and gold mining trade. These days she is the pitstop for travellers heading north, with campgrounds and many tour groups also taking advantage of their ‘glamping’ accommodation options, and joining with the locals for live music events held throughout the year.

Over the years the owners have continued to add to the Lion’s Den theme with their quirky décor to enjoy along with a great pub meal and a beer. 7. POST OFFICE HOTEL - Chillagoe A popular tourist destination on the ‘Wheelbarrow Way’ is Chillagoe, for visiting remains of the smelter, the Mungana Caves and having a cold beer at the pub with a marble bar where visitors have written all over the walls. The Post Office Hotel was built by business tycoon Edward Torpy in 1900. He was involved in mining, race horses and hotels, in fact his horse Piastre won the Melbourne Cup in 1912. He moved his Mt Garnet Hotel to Chillagoe in 1910, replacing the original building. In May 1923, a fire next door burnt her (and three other buildings) to the ground, but Torpy had a new hotel built and reopened by November, with the now famous bar made from Chillagoe marble. Today, the Post Office Hotel has signatures on the walls from locals and travellers from all over the world, as well as the old station signs hanging from the ceilings. A covered playground and beer garden make her the perfect spot for a cold beer and hearty pub feed. 8. COOKTOWN HOTEL – Cooktown Cooktown is another must stop destination on your way to the Cape, famous for the port that Captain Cook pulled into to make repairs on the Endeavour in 1770, and being the ‘wild west’ back in the 1880s with over thirty hotels in the town. One hotel still standing is the Cooktown Hotel, affectionately known as The Top Pub or ‘The Toppie’. A favourite for locals and travellers, a true Queensland pub in every sense with mateship and icy cold beers always on tap. Built back in 1874, she has survived many a cyclone and in the 1920s was thought of as the ‘racing man’s pub’ as the local turf club held their monthly meetings there. Officially, there has been only one name change, originally called the Commercial Hotel, then changed to Cooktown Hotel in 1982. A great venue for meals, beers and live music, one of their events that brings people from all over is the Hog Hunt. Held every October, it has become a huge success at curbing feral pig numbers in the area … and a much anticipated ‘Toppie’ event. 91

Cairns Historical Society P02035 Photographer Alfred Atkinson

The name came about from a tin mine called the Lion’s Den close by, when a stowaway named Daniel was seen standing at the mine’s entrance, the owner commented ‘It’s Daniel in the Lion’s Den’ as a joke and it stuck as the name for both the mine and the hotel.

The Bar & Grill Effect Pubs in Australia have long been difficult to culturally separate; the pub or hotel, as their names usually contain that word, have become the iconic remnants of our pioneer society. They are held in many towns, or even city suburbs, with as much esteem as a chapel, a store, or even a hospital. They are seen as the egalitarian meeting place for those looking for some convivial R and R. These are the humble prerequisites that have grown into that modern incarnation of the best pub-hotel has to offer, the bar and grill. This evolution is not surprising, drawing as it does, from the global cultural shift to elevate food in pubs from the “bistrouille” to the gastronomic.

The Far North counts many of these hybrid outlets, ranging from the sleek and contemporary to the relaxed and beachside. All have the common thread of excellent food, often coupled with extensive cocktail, wine, or beer menus. The impartial heritage of a bar and grill style spreads easily into the cuisine, providing a platform for eclectic and multicultural dishes as well as elevating traditional pub favourites to a higher level. Join us as we visit some of the best in FNQ.




Map #

Bavarian Beerhouse Bluewater Bar & Grill Ellis Beach Bar & Grill Hemingways Brewery

Cairns Trinity Park Ellis Beach Cairns & Port Douglas

94 96 98 100

1 2 3 4,5




Bavarian Beerhouse Fun. Food. Beer.

Words by Mark Knowles | Pictures by David Leith

At first glance, it would seem the inhabitants of tropical Far North Queensland and those from the chilly climes of Bavaria might have little in common. But there is one thing that unites these distant peoples and that’s a love of the proverbial amber nectar – beer.

At any one time, he has up to 14 different beers on tap, plus around 45 varieties in bottles and cans, and his experienced bar staff, led by German-born manager Bastian Krohnfuss, are a fountain of knowledge and happy to recommend the perfect beer to complement your food.

Bavarian Beerhouse, located on the Cairns Esplanade, is testament to this cross-cultural love of a cold one and it’s been serving up ice-cold beers and lashings of hearty food to punters for over a decade.

It’s not just about the beer though, it’s also the only place to go if you want to try authentic German food in Cairns. Their most popular dish – and if it’s your first time there you’ve got to order it – is the crispy pork knuckle with creamy potato mash, German sauerkraut and jus. Known as Schweinshaxe, this iconic Bavarian dish is a succulent delight best washed down with full-bodied Bavarian lager.

It’s owner, Bavarian beer-meister Frank Hennlein, had an inkling that tourists and locals alike would appreciate what German beer and food culture had to offer, but he was unprepared for just how popular it would prove. “I planned to run a small place but it turned out it was so popular we had to turn it into something bigger,” says Frank. Now, 10 years later, his Bavarian Beerhouse is a fixture on The Esplanade and justly popular for its huge selection of imported and local craft beers, traditional German food, and its boisterous and friendly atmosphere. Australian beer culture has evolved and expanded far beyond the old days when the likes of XXXX and VB dominated the domestic market. Frank has been part of this cultural shift and has always been happy to help educate his patrons on the characteristics of fine Bavarian beer. Whether it’s wheat beer, cellar beer, lager, Zoigl, bock beer or pils, each variety has its own unique taste due to the different types of malt and fermentation methods used in their manufacture. “It’s changed a lot. When I came here to Cairns everyone said ‘you are the first guy to bring craft beers to Cairns’,” Frank says.

Bavarian Beerhouse 77 The Esplanade, Cairns 4041 1551



Pork schnitzels are another favourite and come in a variety of styles, and of course, no German menu would be complete without sausages – you can choose from currywurst, bratwurst, knackwurst and kransky – all served with spicy mustard and your choice of chips or mashed potatoes and jus.


THE BLUEWATER Words by Mark Knowles


relatively recent entrant to the waterfront food scene in Cairns, The Bluewater has quickly built an impeccable reputation, both for its relaxed casual dining and as a sought-after function venue. Meeting the team behind The Bluewater, you soon see that this reputation is the result of one family’s long-standing experience in the Northern Australian hospitality industry. The Bluewater is the brainchild of Peter and Debbie Sayers, who along with their son Alex, cut their teeth in Western Australia running bars and restaurants, and then a 100room resort in the wilds of the Kimberley. In the early 2010s, they decided to pull up stumps from the extreme remoteness, and sometimes harsh weather, of the Kimberley and move to the somewhat milder climes of Far North Queensland. The move gave them the opportunity to channel their experience and knowledge into their next endeavour and they built The Bluewater from the ground up to their exacting specifications. The stunning venue they created is testament to that hard-won experience. Its high ceilings, long main bar, and spacious outdoor deck overlooking the Bluewater Marina, combine to create the perfect breezy, open-air atmosphere for casual dining. The Bluewater’s menu is a showcase for delicious yet unpretentious bistro fare, featuring a range of juicy steaks and sides, gourmet pizzas and pastas, and succulent fresh seafood prepared in inventive ways. The ever-evolving tapas menu, perfect for a casual snack with drinks, offers bite-sized delights from a range of exotic cuisines. It features tantalising dishes such as Ensenada Fish Tacos, Smokey Paprika Crumbed Cauliflower Florets, Porcini Mushroom Arancini, and Za’atar and Haloumi Spring Rolls. With room for 350 patrons across three large seating sections – indoor air-conditioned, outdoor deck with marina views, and a casual lounge – The Bluewater is set up to handle parties and plays constant host to local guests celebrating birthdays, anniversaries and work functions.



Bar & Grill

Photo by Blueclick Photography

General Manager Alex Sayers, who is largely responsible for The Bluewater’s day-to-day operations now that his parents Peter and Debbie are semi-retired, says their customised kitchen layout makes catering to groups a breeze. “Our strength is that we can cater for parties and our motto is ‘simple food, done well’,” he says. He also credits his kitchen team and waitstaff, many of whom have been with the business for years, for their efficiency when serving big birthday or party groups. This dedication to top-notch service and quality food has not gone unnoticed by his industry peers – with the Queensland Hotels Association crowning The Bluewater as the Best Regional Bistro in its 2021 Awards for Excellence. “It was the first time we entered, and we won,” says Alex. “I think the team was pretty stoked to win that one, because it’s quite a big award, and we are in the running to win the Australia-wide award.” Awards are nothing new to The Bluewater. Its dedicated upstairs function room – The Lighthouse – has won Best Waterfront Wedding Venue in Tropical North Queensland four years running at the Brides Choice Awards. The Lighthouse, which can cater to 100-plus seated guests and up to 160 standing, has a dedicated kitchen, bar and open-air balcony, making it ideal for any private function. But you’ll have to book early to avoid disappointment. “This year, we’ve probably had a wedding every weekend from May all the way through to Melbourne Cup ... about 25 weddings so far this year,” Alex says.

Photo by Blueclick Photography

The Bluewater 7 Harbour Drive, Trinity Park 4057 6788

Alex takes immense pride in winning these awards and says they are a testament to his staff and the friendly family atmosphere he strives to create at Bluewater. Since building The Bluewater in the mid-2010s, Alex has seen the surrounding suburbs of Trinity Park grow rapidly and is keen to see The Bluewater, an independently owned local family business, go from strength to strength serving its growing customer base. “We’ve definitely got good local support and days like our Grill and Chill Thursday are always very popular,” Alex says.


Ellis Beach Bar & Grill

Words by Janie Burton | Pictures by David Leith

Ellis Beach is renowned for being one of the region’s most unspoiled stretches of coast, where crowds are few and the golden, sandy beach stretches for kilometres. It’s also well known for being home to Ellis Beach Bar & Grill, an iconic tavern that may look unassuming at first glance, but don’t let that fool you. The food is first class, cocktails are to die for, live music events are always a huge hit, the beach views are sensational, and the hosts treat every customer like a long-lost friend. Owner Andrew Saville, a qualified chef by trade, bought the venue, which has been a part of the Ellis Beach scenery since the late 1960s, in 2013 after managing it for two years previously. Since then, he has improved the menu, refreshed the design both inside and out, and added live music. He also enhanced



More than meets the eye

the daily menu promotions and cocktail choices, and branched out into a now-popular wedding and event venue. But it’s the food that has become one of the main events, thanks to Andrew’s menu ideas as well as head chef Sanjesh Shankar’s recipes and contributions. “Sanjesh is a very talented chef, very organised, and has built up a fantastic team in the kitchen,” Andrew says. “I’m extremely lucky for the talent there. Sanjesh also has the creative freedom to play around with the menu, which is a tremendous hit with our customers. He’s teamed up with the amazing and friendly service team led by our food and beverage manager, Martin Graham.” For a quiet beachside tavern, you’ll be surprised to see the menu options and especially pleased by the low prices.

The lunch and dinner menu has Angus porterhouse steaks, mini lamb roasts, Thai curries, Wagyu beef dishes, barramundi meals, nachos and salads, to name just a few. Promotions are held every day (for example, $10 pizzas Fridays, free pancakes for the kids Saturday), and one of the most popular promotions of all is the Sunday Session, where oysters are $1 each and live music adds to the fun and friendly beachside vibe. “Our Sunday Sessions are always really pumping,” says Andrew. “We probably go through 120 dozen oysters along with around 150 cocktails, which are always popular thanks to the creativity and talent of our legend cocktail guru, Jacob Bonham.” Another bonus with customers is the dog-friendly beer garden, with water bowls ready for their furry friends. While the food is above and beyond normal tavern food, the staff are always attentive and friendly, and service is of the high quality you would see at a top-notch restaurant. Andrew modestly downplays any comparison, though, and describes Ellis Beach Bar & Grill as a casual bistro environment. “We just believe in great food, great service and great times,” he says. For breakfast, there are such choices as eggs benedict, hot Nutella pancakes, a

brioche breakfast bun, a Mediterranean breakfast, as well as comfort items such as eggs and toast.

Ellis Beach Bar & Grill Captain Cook Hwy, Ellis Beach 4055 3534


Crafty By Nature

Words by Janie Burton

Hemingway’s Brewery, Cairns & Port Douglas

You never know where or when an award-winning idea might strike, and this was the case for Hemingway’s Brewery owners Tony Fyfe and Craig Parsell. Hemingway’s marketing manager Kim Logan explains the Hemingway’s story: How did the idea for Hemingway’s come to Tony Fyfe and Craig Parsell? Both Tony and Craig have travelled the world extensively for work and were exposed to the craft beer scene, where they discovered the wonderful variety of styles and flavour profiles and how beer actually has better pairing flexibility with food than wine. One day, at the end of a day of fishing in Port Douglas, they commented that the only thing missing from the day was a place where they could enjoy a well-crafted beer. The rest is history. How long did it take from conception to completion of the Port Douglas venue in 2016? About 18 months to two years. There was a lot of research to do in the brewpub space plus they had to purchase equipment, find a brewer, set up and build the brewery and restaurant and get great staff. Did they have any experience in this industry beforehand? Absolutely none. Their experience was always from the other side – enjoying craft beer! Is it true they visited more than 140 breweries in Australia, New Zealand and North America to learn all the aspects of the industry? Yes. It was all part of their dedication to the craft and wanting to produce a world-class product. Why start Hemingway’s in Port Douglas? Both Craig and Tony spent a lot of time in Port Douglas; it was their second home. Port Douglas gets a lot of visitors from Victoria where the craft beer scene was starting to flourish at the time, so we knew those customers would appreciate being able to find a local craft beer. Was opening another brewery in Cairns the plan all along? From very early on we knew that the brewpub model was the way to go, and we knew that having more than one venue would be needed to meet our brewing capacity. So yes, Cairns was always in our sights and was being planned even before we opened in Port Douglas.



How many craft beers do they offer? We have eight beers in our core range although, due to our brewing capacity and schedule, they may not all be available at the same time. We brew these on rotation along with four or five more limited release beers each year plus our Nano range (small batch) in which we might release three or four a month depending on the brewer’s schedule. Is there a most popular beer? Our Pitchfork Betty’s Pale Ale is generally our best seller, but it varies, and 7th Heaven Tropical Ale is pretty popular too, with 50 percent of the profits going to GBR Legacy in support of their reef programs. We also have a bit of a cult following with our Mr Wong Hefeweizen. How is Hemingway’s positioned within the nation’s craft beer industry? Being located in FNQ, Hemingway’s have no plans for national distribution as the costs involved transporting the product around the country just aren’t worth the effort. We do sell our beers online but that is relatively small compared to what we sell through our venues and to local bars, restaurants and bottle stores. We are very much focused on FNQ for our distribution. However, we are proud to say we have eight award-winning beers, including five gold medals with the internationally recognised Australian International Beer Awards, which is also the largest annual beer-judging competition in the world. What can visitors expect when they visit your venues? Great beer in great locations with great food and great service! Port Douglas has a very relaxed vibe where you can enjoy a brew or two overlooking the marina. Cairns Wharf is situated in the heritage listed Shed 2 at the Cruise Liner Terminal. It’s also on the water but here you get more a sense of the history of Cairns and the stories behind our beers as each of our core beers are inspired by either historical events and places or local characters from the region.

Hemingway’s Brewery Cairns Wharf 4 Wharf Street, Cairns

Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina 44 Wharf Street, Port Douglas 4099 6663


Speakeasies & Small Bars The global phenomenon is here! Think disguised entrances, dimly lit spaces, laidback vibes and enviable wine and cocktail lists! The small bar scene has well and truly arrived in Cairns. Recent years have seen a boom in small bars in the far north with cosy, hip and happening little venues popping up all over the place. From gin bars and rum bars to sophisticated wine bars, what they might lack in size they make up for in style and ambience. The ‘speakeasy’ bar – a cocktail bar reminiscent of the illicit, secret establishments of the 1920s Prohibition Era, is characterised by its decor of earthy reds and browns, lots of wood and lots of leather, and equally by its impressive drinks list. Some of Far North Queensland’s top little bars include The Conservatory Bar on Lake Street, with its Chesterfield couches, chandeliers and wine menu of over 600 wines; the House of Commons on the Cairns esplanade, with its access through a curtain at the back of a German pub; Three Wolves, hidden down a red brick laneway in the heart of the Cairns CBD and boasting an extensive list of Australian and International whiskies and gin; or Flamingos Tiki Bar, a tropical oasis beneath street level on the Cairns esplanade, with its hallmark drinks of rum and exotic syrups. Heading north out of the city, you will discover The Fox Small Bar, a local neighbourhood small bar in the heart of Stratford. On to Palm Cove to enjoy Third On The Left, upstairs in Villa Paradiso, bringing you a sustainable, biodynamic and organic wine selection. And finally, to Port Douglas where you will find Jimmy Rum’s Mixing Lounge, with its luxurious seating and even more luxurious cocktails! These cool and classy places are as perfect for a cold drink at the end of an adventure-filled day as they are to impress on a night out on the town. So, move over Melbourne, with your labyrinth of speakeasy venues, Cairns is on trend with this very groovy way to socialise and drink.




Words by Sharon Timms | Pictures by Mick Fuhrimann

Ross Stevens: The 104


Never mind that he’s the owner - or that there are possibly bottles of wine in The Conservatory Bar’s cellar older than he is. Don’t be fooled. Ross Stevens is never happier than when he is talking drinks and he has the smarts to back up the passion. His eclectically styled bar, jointly owned and run with wife and business partner Sam, is the perfect spot for Francophiles to froth over old Burgundy, or for newbies to get a crash course on the subtleties of fiano or assyrtiko, skin contact, natural wine, or which wine goes best with generous chunks of red Leicester. Ross brings all this wisdom with a dash of English charm to this delightful pocket of vinous goodness. When and how did you get into the wine business? I grew up in the UK, where my grandfather was a wine collector. He’d had a stint at being a winemaker as well, picking up a few awards, so it’s fair to say appreciating wine is a family tradition. He and my Dad often used to drink together, generally something like a Chateauneuf du Pape or a Burgundy, and naturally let me have tastes now and then. By the time I was able to go to pubs, I was probably the only person under 50 going to the pub and ordering fancy wine deep in the heart of cider country. Falling in love with wine, however, happened while I was working at McGuigan Winery in the Hunter Valley as a cellar hand – seeing the enormous scale of the entire process from the growing, picking and production was my ‘a-ha’ moment, where I knew this was where I belonged. What’s exciting about the Cairns restaurant and bar scene right now? The rate of progression in the last few years and the level of competition in Cairns has grown enormously. We have thriving specialty bars, breweries, distilleries, and restaurants owned and operated by people with a true dedication to making the best possible guest experiences. As a result, we have more and more locals that are non-industry people becoming so passionate and supportive of the food and drink scene in Cairns and beyond. I am excited to be a part of this growth and can’t wait to see where we will be in another five years.

The Conservatory Bar 12 - 14 Lake Street, Cairns 0406 478 470

What regions or styles of wine do you like to showcase? Here at The Conservatory Bar, we have about 550 different wines on our list, with about 400 of them being Australian. As a comparatively new wine-producing country, Australia benefits from factors that provide winemakers with extraordinary freedom to create and produce some truly incredible stuff. Less top-down industry restrictions, huge climatic variation and an amazingly diverse landscape have led to a broader range of varietals in a wide array of styles than oldworld producing nations. Go to wineries in Tuscany, and you’ll spend the rest of your life drinking Sangiovese, whereas, in Australia, you could have a winery in the Barossa and be tired of making Shiraz, so they think, ‘let’s give Zinfandel a go!’.

What do you drink at home after a long day at work? If I am drinking a white wine, I would like it to be an aged Riesling from Clare or Eden Valley (I can be a bit of a traditionalist). If I’m on red wine, I’d like it to be a Chateauneuf-du-Pape, for sentimental reasons. Having said that, there are some super cool blends and varietals hitting the market now. One of my favourites is a collaboration between SA producer Jim Barry and iconic German producer Ernst Loosen. The story goes that Loosen sent some barrels over to Jim Barry to play around with; Barry left grapes on the vine for a little longer than usual, wild fermented and 12 months in those barrels on lees with another 11 months in steel. It is like nothing any Australian Riesling producer has ever done, and it’s magnificent. What are your passions other than wine? I love antiques, as you could probably tell by the decor around the bar. Samantha and I have spent plenty of time shopping for beautiful pieces of furniture and have even had my Dad send over our unique 260-year-old tavern clock from England.

Conservatory Bar 105

House of Commons An Uncommon Hideaway.

Words by Mark Knowles | Pictures by David Leith

In a city known for its sprawling outdoor eateries and booming nightclubs, there is one venue that is bucking the trend and seeking to bring a new, intimate vibe to nightlife in Cairns. House of Commons exudes a sophisticated charm and is the place to go if you are looking for a cosy dark corner to enjoy a few cocktails and listen to some live jazz. The idea for House of Commons was hatched when local restaurateur Frank Hennlein and Mark Watkins, co-owner of the award-winning Mt Uncle Distillery, got chatting over a beer. They were discussing the rise of locally produced spirits and craft beers in Far North Queensland and hit upon the idea of creating a bar that could showcase them. As it happened, Frank had the perfect space for just such a bar above his restaurant, Bavarian Beerhouse. Accessed via an inconspicuous, curtain-covered stairway, the space had languished as a temporary storeroom for the restaurant. It was during that conversation the idea clicked and the pair had their eureka moment – let’s create a speakeasy! Born out of Prohibition-era America, a speakeasy was an illicit drinking den where people could go to sip booze and swing to jazz away from the prying eyes of the police. Times have changed of course, and the modern speakeasy revival kicked off in New York at the turn of the millennium. Since then, speakeasies have become known for their focus on sophisticated cocktails, simple yet elegant finger food, and a dimly-lit, intimate atmosphere. That’s where House of Commons’ bar manager Domenico Argentino comes in – he was tapped on the shoulder by Frank and Mark to head up their new venture and ensure that the creation of cocktails would surprise and delight patrons.

House of Commons access via Bavarian Beerhouse 1/77 The Esplanade, Cairns



Domenico, originally from Italy, cut his teeth internationally, first in Rome and then in Paris where he worked at a very popular bar called Pink Mamma. In Australia, Domenico has worked in the vibrant bar scene in Perth and now in Cairns, he is most excited by the chance to flex his cocktail-making muscles behind the bar at House of Commons and incorporate locally made spirits into some of his hand-crafted libations. House of Commons is a place to get excited about cocktails and if you’re new to the scene, you needn’t worry, Domenico will be your guide. Its charm lies in the cosy atmosphere where you can take your time to select and sample new cocktails featuring small-batch local gins such as Mount Uncle’s Botanic Australis Gin, which packs a peppery punch and a complex bouquet featuring 14 native botanicals, including the bunya nut. To complement the cocktails, you can choose a plate or two from the delectable tapas menu, or perhaps an antipasto plate or cheese board featuring a hand-picked selection of fine imported cheeses and other tasty morsels. There is also regular live music to round out the speakeasy vibe and a cellar door selection of spirits from local distilleries so you can take a bottle home and try your own hand at recreating your favourite cocktail.


Your tongue deserves a holiday. Words by Suzy Grinter

With eight muscles working to talk every day, and between 2,000 to 10,000 taste buds whose little taste receptor cells are renewed just about every ten days, your tongue needs a treat! So, what better indulgence than to take them with you on their bucket list tour, sampling the vast array of mouth-watering culinary delights of our very own cornucopia, the Atherton Tablelands. We are spoilt for choice, and what a great excuse to explore the beautiful and diverse scenery in discovering the wide assortment of epicurean delights to be found across the Tablelands. Wherever you start, there’s plenty to see on the way, maybe a walk in the rainforest or to the Barron Falls at Kuranda. Don’t leave Kuranda without sampling the delights of the 60+ year old Honey House, where you can taste and purchase Australia’s finest small harvest raw honeys. Thinking of a walk at Davies Creek or Granite Gorge? Take time out for a freshly roasted coffee at Skybury near Mareeba, the oldest commercial coffee plantation in Australia. Famous for its sensational Bourbon variety of Arabica coffee, grown on the farm’s fertile, well-drained soil, Skybury also grows and sells succulent, rich red papayas along with its very popular liqueur range. Gift ideas abound. Coffee freshly roasted on site can also be found at Jaques Café & Roastery, situated off the Kennedy Highway near Mareeba and at Coffee Works in Mareeba, where you can also sample delectable chocolate, fashioned into highly original edible art gifts by its very talented chocolatier. If wines and liqueurs are your thing, the Golden Drop Mango Winery should be on your itinerary, with a large range of delicious mango wines and liqueur made on site, along with newer products based on citrus fruits. For those with a taste for spirits, Walkamin, enroute to Atherton, is home to Mt Uncle Distillery, multi award winning distillers of aromatic gins produced from locally grown fruits and other ingredients such as Nerada Tea and Daintree Vanilla (two more ‘must visits’), and rum from local cane syrup.



On towards Malanda, and perhaps you’re considering visiting the beautiful volcanic crater lakes, Barrine (with its charming teahouse) and Eacham, perfect spots for a dip and a cool down before making your way to Rainforest Bounty at Malanda, where you will find “an entirely new category of food products inspired by native foods”. Inspired by the owner’s commitment to regenerative agriculture, you’ll undoubtedly come away with a plethora of Asian inspired sauces and condiments made from the farm’s rarer tropical fruit varieties. A little investigation will reveal other not-to-be missed delights – Mungalli Biodynamic Dairy and Organic Café in the rolling green hills of beautiful Millaa, and The Humpy, a veritable treasure trove of local produce at Tolga. On the Kennedy Highway, returning to Cairns, your car will veer, unsummoned, into the Emerald Creek Ice Creamery, homemade ice confection at its absolute best. Here your taste buds will go wild. No other words are necessary except, enjoy!


FNQ Distillers

Join us as we celebrate the Spirit of the North

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, you will have noticed the explosion in the number of distilleries in the Far North. They seem to be popping everywhere, handcrafting everything from fruit liqueurs through to vodka, rum, and even tequila. But it’s in the realm of gin that most of the heavy lifting has been done over the last few years, with our local distilleries already boasting an impressive trophy cabinet. Long hours spent beside bubbling fermenters and hot stills has led to some serious medal hauls at national and international competitions, ranking them alongside worldwide competitors. All gin is made from grain or grape, and to be legally labelled as gin, it must contain juniper berries. The spirit can be broken into two very basic categories: Distilled Gin, made by re-distilling a neutral spirit with juniper berries and other botanicals; and Compound Gin, made by simply flavouring a neutral spirit with essences and botanicals without re-distillation. To be honest, it’s nowhere near as good as the distilled stuff. And while a lot of other clear spirits are meant to be as flavourless as possible, gin hunts in the other direction, allowing for more creativity and interesting flavour profiles. It’s the addition of those botanicals that allow the distiller to unleash their creativity and try their hand at new directions, garnering flavours previously unthought of. Traditionally, additives such as bitter orange peel, as well as a combination of other spices such as anise, cinnamon, nutmeg, coriander and angelica root (wild celery) have been used for this upgraded flavour profile. But because our region has access to tropical, bush and rainforest fruits, along with tea, coffee and vanilla plantations, Far Northern distilleries have been able to create an incredibly varied, yet individual, range that is making the world sit up and take notice, showing that along with the science behind their creations, there is also an art. You couldn’t navigate the area these distilleries cover in a single day (particularly when the Bingil Bay distillery comes on line in Mission Beach) however, every site listed here has products available at bottle shops or online.

Words by BJ Foley




WOLF LANE DISTILLERY: The Cairns CBD-based distillery has a multi-award-winning range of spirits and added seltzers to their list this year. They are the first distillery to use fresh mango as one of their botanicals, which created a niche Tropical Gin category for themselves, recently taking out a Best in Show at the USA Spirits Ratings. Alongside their Tropical Gin, they craft a Davidson Plum Gin; a Coffee Liqueur, sourcing the extract from Jacques Coffee on the Tablelands; and a Navy Strength Gin, another impressive award winner itself. The diversity of their gins is quite remarkable. They embrace the tropics and set an impressive benchmark to any spirits tour.

FNQ SPIRITS: Heading north along the highway, just past the airport turn off, you find FNQ Spirits. As soon as you exit your car you can smell the papaya for their Papaya Schnapps and Papaya Vodka. Troy Read has a very local-centric and waste reducing approach: the papaya and coffee used in his schnapps, vodka and liqueurs are supplied by Skybury, in Mareeba, from leftovers that would normally go to garden waste. Within six months of launching the Skybury-based products, they took silver medals at the London Spirits Awards to go along with the awards for their core spirits. Their Croc Piss Rum, apart from embracing a tropicality in the name alone, garnered the Australian Rum of the Year award recently at the Melbourne International Spirits Competition. It will be one to keep an eye on as they develop their range.

NARROW TRACKS DISTILLING: Tucked away in Stratford is one of the new guys on the block, only having opened their tasting room in the last few months. Named after the narrow tracks of the cane trams that are found throughout the area, Doug Thorpe and Bec Zammit have created a couple of drops that are well suited to the tropics. Their take on a London Dry Gin sees a mix of macadamia nuts and red finger limes thrown in with the juniper berries to create a great base for the classic G&T, while their stunning Pink Gin takes its inspiration from the Dry Gin, but with the addition of a truck load of strawberries - not enough to overwhelm the juniper, citrus and pepper of the spirit, but enough to ensure you know they are there.

DEVILS THUMB DISTILLERY: Based just 5km from Port Douglas and named after the peak towering nearby the distillery, this tropical location provides the perfect setting for crafting their own expression of Far North Queensland. The climate means that what would take eighteen years for ageing in southern climes can be achieved in five years. Their rum is still to be released as it needs to age for the appropriate time, however, they have hit the ground running with their range of clear spirits, three gins and cane spirit. The Rainforest Gin is a citrus-forward drop that is both fragrant and refreshing, the Signature Dry is more in that London Dry style with liquorice and lemon, whilst the Navy Strength embraces the lime with a subtle floral nose and the addition of a touch of seawater gives it a unique finish.



DISTIL ON THE HILL: Heading up the hill towards the Tablelands you find Distil on the Hill at Jumrun Springs in Kuranda. While they don’t have a cellar door to visit, you can readily find their products at the Kuranda markets and more widely in bottle shops. Their gin is crafted from a premium grape-based spirit from the Barossa, then distilled with organic Macedonian juniper, fresh local citrus and botanicals, and fire-roasted peppers. There are interesting layers of flavour when tried straight and it also works well as a base for many mixers. I’ve only recently tried this but have become quite a fan of Neddy and Christian’s product.

MT UNCLE DISTILLERY Mt Uncle has been on our radar for a long time now, originally producing exotic fruit liqueurs, vodka and an interesting marshmallow vodka liqueur: the marshmallows are actually melted by the vodka, giving a unique, velvety smooth liqueur with marshmallow sweetness. It has to be tried to be fully understood, as nothing I write here can fully explain it. They have since branched out to gin, rum and whiskey, with great success. There isn’t enough space to list all the awards the team have taken, suffice to say that this year alone they have taken five gold, seven silver and two bronze awards at major international challenges - against very serious competition. Their Navy Strength Gin is a textbook example of how alcohol content changes the flavours of a spirit, moving from the lime backbone of their Botanic Australis to more of a lemon curd area, the ginger and cinnamon coming through stronger, compared to the aniseed in the Australis. However, one of their most popular spirits came about by accident after a bushfire came through the property and smoke tainted the botanicals. After they distilled the gin it had a smoky taste, and sold out within two weeks. Their Bushfire Smoked Gin has gone on to be incredibly popular and be one of their world-award-winning drops. These are superb drops that are dangerously easy drinking.

WILD RIVER MOUNTAIN DISTILLERY: Probably the distillery with the most unique weather patterns and environment on this list. Wes Marks and his wife Amy founded the distillery on the Wild River in Wondecla, near Herberton, and it can see temperatures as low as -12 and frosts common in winter, cool nights all year round and daily temperature variations. Established in 2017, they are producing a range of small batch spirits: an Australian whisky, rum, gin and also corn whiskey. All of these have not only garnered a few awards but have also built a following nationally, selling out incredibly fast. Batch #3 of their Elevation Whisky sold out in three days. There were plans for a cellar-door opening by appointment only for private tasting but COVID-19 restrictions put those plans on the backburner for now. So, while we’re all waiting for their next batches of delicious whiskies and rums to come of age, we can delve into their collection of award-winning gins.




FNQ SPIRITS P*ssing It Up in The North

If you enjoy your rum, vodka, liqueurs and schnapps, FNQ Spirits is a must visit! Troy Read is indeed the ‘Lord of the Rums’ with his realm, well distillery, now located on Sheridan Street in Cairns North. Not only is Troy Lord of the Rums for FNQ but internationally as he continues to win award after award for his distilled drinks. To date, FNQ Spirits have won numerous awards. This year alone, their Croc Piss Original, Papaya Vodka, Espresso Liqueur, Papaya Schnapps and Papaya/Passionfruit Schnapps and LimeZello have received a combined seventeen awards, nationally and internationally, with Croc Piss winning gold at the in the Melbourne International Spirits Competition. Troy’s hobby of ‘poking around with distilling in the shed’ for 20 years became a full-blown passion. He took a leap of faith in himself, his years of research and his passion, and quit working in mental health to take his distilling to the next level. Opening the first ‘realm’ two and half years ago in Bungalow, this was quickly followed by FNQ Spirits’ first product, Croc Piss, a signature spirit designed to bottle the heart and soul of Far North Queensland. Quickly outgrowing the space, they moved to the Sheridan St location fourteen months ago. Troy’s demeanour has just as much character and charisma as his drinks. He is passionate about his craft and believes the secret to any distilled product is the yeast. After many years of trials and tribulations with the FNQ weather, he has found the perfect temperature. “Happy little yeasts are the trick for fermenting,” says Troy. Croc Piss is, in fact, (almost) a rum: for it to officially be called a rum, it needs to be matured in an oak barrel for

two years. FNQ Spirits have perfected a four to six-month maturation, while the name … well, it fits perfectly with their quintessential ‘Aussie Ocker’ vibe. Using all local products also enhances the flavour and Troy’s reputation has resulted in producers now approaching FNQ Spirits with their excess fruit, wanting Troy to create new flavours, such as the Papaya Passionfruit Liqueur and LimeZello. “I love the challenge of working with raw products and creating new flavours,” Troy states. “We have the best sugarcane in Australia right here, giving us better, richer flavours.” FNQ Spirits go full circle with their locally sourced produce with recycling where possible. Their molasses comes from Tully with the waste product then sent to cattle farms on the Atherton Tablelands. Whilst nothing beats popping into the distillery so you can meet the ‘Lord of the Rums’ and enjoy a taste test, they are also available in selected liquor stores Australia wide. The website allows you to order and have your selections shipped Australia wide. You will also find a list of FNQ Spirits recipes that you can make yourself, and can join the FNQ Spirits community to keep up with their journey of success.

FNQ Spirits 436-438 Sheridan Street, Cairns North 0447 232 309

Words by Elaine Deane | Pictures by Nicolas Tanguy 115

MT. UNCLE DISTILLERY From humble beginnings to world domination

Little did Mark Watkins know when he was tinkering in his cubby house as a 16-year-old attempting to make ginger beer with his first still that he would go on to conquer the global stage with his top-quality spirits. Mark’s Mt Uncle Distillery won its third straight gold in the Best Pot Still category for his Iridium Rum at the 2021 World Rum Awards, where it also won gold in the Style category. His gins are also winning international awards in a fiercely competitive market. His Botanic Australis Navy Strength Gin won the Gin of the Year and the Best in Show at the 2021 London Spirits Competition. “It’s super competitive,” says Mark, who opened Mt Uncle Distillery in Walkamin in 2001. “We were up against all the big distilleries, some that have been in business for years, so it was a bit humbling to win. “I always had this mantra to produce the number one rum in the world. To get that before I turned 40 was very, very nice.” He originally planned a career as an environmental scientist and earned two science degrees (including a wine science degree) while living in Wagga Wagga. But his dream to open his own distillery motivated him to return to his family’s 800-acre banana plantation and farm instead to put his plan into action. “It was always a dream of mine to make the quintessential Australian rum and gin using Australian botanicals,” he says. “I started making rum first and then gin. It took 10 years to perfect it because there were no books or recipes back then, and no one had actually ever worked with Australian botanicals. “Australian botanicals are very boisterous; they’re not subtle. So, you have got to be really careful with your levels, and it takes time to get those levels right.” He sources ingredients and fruits from his farm and other local farmlands on the Atherton Tablelands and uses cane syrup instead of molasses, traditionally used in rum making, from a nearby sugar mill to give his rums their unique and award-winning flavours.



“We also use the best yeasts,” says Mark, who has also judged the World Whiskey Awards and the World Rum Awards. “We use wine technology for fermentation, which is superior to what they normally do with rum fermentation. We’ve got one of the best stills in the world; it’s like the Rolls-Royce of stills.” Mark is always on the lookout for new flavours, such as his smoked gin. He was looking for botanicals on the Tablelands following a recent bushfire and found some of them were smoke affected. He decided to try them anyway and Australia’s first-ever smoked gin came from there. His Bushfire Smoked Gin went on to win silver in the 2018 International Wine and Spirit Competition. This year he expects to produce between 45,000 to 60,000 litres of rum, the majority of that being exported to Europe, and about 100,000 bottles of gin. His spirits are available in restaurants, bars and bottle shops including Dan Murphy’s, First Choice, BWS and Liquorland. The distillery now makes seven spirits and two liqueurs and nearly all have won international awards. He’s currently brewing a new rum, which he says will “surpass” his current award-winning rum. He is also creating an agave spirit, called Dirt Road Agave, from seeds he acquired from Mexico. Mark said it will be the first commercial scale Australian-made blue agave spirit (similar to tequila) on the market. Mark, who admits to rarely taking a day off from work, has also joined forces with Coral Sea Brewing Co and other local beverage stakeholders in opening the House of Commons bar on the Esplanade, which will include his range of gin, rum, whisky, vodka and the new agave spirit when it is ready. While he used to drink rum, Mark says he’s now a wine drinker. “As a Colombian drug lord once said, ‘don’t get high on your own supply’!”

Words by Janie Barton

Mt Uncle Distillery 1819 Chewko Road, Walkamin 4086 8008


Picture by David Leith

Cassowary Coast Words by Sharon Timms & Jodie Ferrero



The Cassowary Coast region features world-heritage rainforests, secluded beaches, tropical islands, plenty of – you guessed it – cassowaries, but above all, it’s Australia’s banana-growing hub. Moving beyond banana bread, there’s a veritable tropical taste sensation with local growers in this area, and plenty of local cafes and restaurants fully embracing the paddock-to-plate ethos. Here, the smell and taste of vanilla, cocoa and exotic fruits permeate the air along this trail heading into nearby South Johnstone and Mena Creek before heading up the Palmerston Highway to the Atherton Tablelands Food Trail. Oliveri’s Continental Deli, Innisfail – Understandably legendary. This deli has been a family run operation for almost 40 years, and stories of its fabled Aladdin’s Cave of deliciousness traverse far and wide. A deli in a strong Italian community that specialises in smallgoods, cheeses, pickles, olives and marinated vegetables as well as pantry items to make pastas like Nona taught you. Tully Sugar Mill - Take a tour of an operating sugar mill in Australia. A fully interactive experience during the crushing season (June – November), you’ll see the cane come in on the trains, right through the processing and separating out the molasses. Murdering Point Winery – Who said Queensland couldn’t grow wine? Set amongst the lush cane fields, Murdering Point Winery is a fruit winery that is innovative in its use of exotic tropical fruits including passionfruit, lychee and Davidson plum. If you’d like to try something with a little more ‘a-peel’, try their Banana Cream liqueur. Bad jokes not included. Leny’s Fruit & Veg – An iconic spot in the Mission Beach region to stock up on the full bounty of things tropical and delicious. A true artisan shop, Leny’s stocks an unparalleled range of local produce specific to the region, including locally made Charley’s Chocolate, yoghurt, honey and nuts. Nucifora Tea Plantation – The Nucifora family have been growing tea in the region for almost 20 years, and their

Images courtesy of Tourism Tropical North Queensland

tea house is well worth the stop for scones and a sip. If you don’t have time to stop in the tea house, make sure you pull into the roadside stall for take-home tea, as well as a classic pic of walking through the tea fields for your Instagram feed. Jessie’s Cardwell Pies - An institution in the region, and a perfectly wellearned reputation. This pie van on the side of the highway has been there for 25 years, and people come from all around Australia, and even overseas, just to taste these homemade pies. The Seaview Deli Cafe - It’s not just the distances that are big in Australia; every popular destination is incomplete without a giant indication of what you may find there. Cardwell is no exception, with its own massive homage to some of the freshest seafood in the country. The Big Crab sits proudly above The Seafood Deli Cafe, plainly signalling there is no place better on the east coast to indulge in the muchcelebrated mud crab sandwich. If you’re

passing through this sleepy little seaside town, this is something you shouldn’t miss, literally and figuratively! Shanti Cafe – This quirky little boho cafe in the middle of Mission Beach packs a punch. Excellent coffee, predominantly organic and wholefood based menu with a focus on everything sourced as close to Mission Beach as possible. Don’t walk past their takehome cured saucisson. Feel Good Bananas - Brain child of Mission Beach Skydiver and Pilot Mike McGrath as an antidote to his ice cream addiction. Each Feel Good Banana is made from a whole locally grown organic banana, flash-frozen to create a delicious natural ice-cream texture. It is then smothered in raw organic chocolate resulting in a single-serve frozen-on-a-stick dessert that is, quite simply, amazing! Feel Good bananas are available throughout the Far North but have their home in Mission Beach.


FNQ FRESH FISH Words by Janie Barton | Pictures by David Leith



Home Grown Chef


elevision cooking shows such as My Kitchen Rules have shown us that there are many outstanding cooks among us, just ordinary people living their lives who love being in the kitchen. They aren’t trained chefs, and the only cooking experience they have is their love and enthusiasm for food and making delicious dishes.

of dinner, lunch and breakfast fare (including such dishes as eggs benedict, bacon-and-egg muffins and smashed avocado with feta cheese) are all made with ingredients sourced from local producers.

And they are everywhere, not just in the big cities.

“Our meat and mince patties come from Babinda Meat Mart,” he says. “The owner has his own farm, and the meat is all fresh, straight off the farm. Our buns come from the Babinda Bakery, and all the fruit and vegetables are from local farms.”

Some enjoy hosting dinner parties at home, while others, like Tony Lanzi in Babinda, have taken their enthusiasm and love of cooking to the next level.

That fresh philosophy continues on to the menu, where every item ordered is made fresh. Thanks to the open-kitchen plan of the venue, guests can see their food being personally prepared.

Tony, a qualified builder, ex-military officer, skipper of fishing boats such as the Northern Conquest Charters, former scuba dive instructor, volunteer pilot with Angel Flight and a foodie all his life, combined his love of good food with his work experience to take the leap recently and start his own business – FNQ Fresh Fish Babinda.

Being Italian, the opportunity to buy a pizza oven was one he couldn’t refuse.[MW2]

“I’ve been passionate about cooking all my life, especially being Italian and having my father to teach me,” he says. “My dad loves fishing, and I’ve always been around fishing and love it.” So much so that Tony changed his vocation as a private commercial fisherman, which he had worked at for years, to become a restaurant owner and cook whose aim was to supply fresh local fish to the general public every day, cooked in a variety of ways.

“I’m Italian and love pizzas,” he says. “My dad taught me how to cook pasta from scratch, so we make all our dough ourselves. “You can’t rush making the dough. You need to make it the day before to rest.” While the pizza menu features a range of meat and vegetable options, it also has one menu item that is quite unusual on most pizza menus – a dessert pizza. “Dessert pizzas are pretty unique here, but I used to eat a lot of them when I worked in New Zealand,” Tony says. “We just have the one dessert pizza now on the menu.”

The fish he cooks and sells in his shop is always freshly caught by him or some of his team a few times a week. Among the seafood delicacies he has available are red emperor, coral trout, sweet lip, small-mouth nannygai and cod, just to name a few.

Made with the same base as the savoury pizzas, the dessert offering also has honey, kiwi fruit and seasonal berries along with some chocolate that melts through it, then served with cream and ice cream on top.

“Every fish you can name that comes from our region, we get them in,” says Tony, who adds he also has prawns, mussels and oysters on his seafood menu.

“It’s really nice and very decadent,” Tony says. “Dessert pizzas are unique to our region, but this one is quite popular.”

While fish can be battered, crumbed or grilled to the customer’s request, he also sells the fish retail so customers can cook at home. While he uses his mixed reef fish recipe for his fish burgers and fish and chips, he’ll also happily cook whatever piece of fish his customers request. And there’s more to seafood at this family-owned-and-operated business. His menu items, which also feature a selection

Fresh Fish Babinda 80 Munro St, Babinda 4001 6015





NING IT Words by Stacey Carrick

Sugar cane is vital to the Far North Queensland region and provides a huge boost to the economy. The industry has proven to be a stable one during COVID times, employing a large number of workers throughout the region. Stephen Calcagno, a fourth-generation Bellenden Ker sugar cane farmer with 450 hectares producing 30,000 tonnes per year, says this stability has been good for the industry. “And also the region, because we spend our money back in the region. In Queensland, we grow around 32 million tonnes of sugar cane per year. “From that amount, we produce over 4 million tonnes of sugar,” Stephen says. His family has operated the farm since his great-grandfather migrated from Italy in the late 1920s and it has expanded since then. Stephen says sugar cane is a $2.5 billion export industry, which directly and indirectly supports about 60,000 people. “So, it’s the backbone of the regional towns up and down the coast,” he says. Steve Bonso, a third-generation farmer who has 1133 hectares of land in the Miriwinni/Babinda region, agrees the industry is vital for the region. “Without the sugar industry I think you’d have ghost towns here,” he says. “It supports a lot of people in the area, including mill workers.” His grandfather started farming in Mena Creek in 1956 after migrating from Italy. Steve’s family has been in the Miriwinni/Babinda area since 1967. Steve’s farm produces around 85,000 tonnes of sugar cane per year, making his farm the biggest single entity supplier in the Miriwinni/Babinda area. He supplies sugar cane to both the South Johnstone Mill and the Mulgrave Mill. The industry has been a mainstay in the region since the early 1880s, says Jeff Smith, who worked at the Meringa Sugar Experiment Station for 46 years and was the farm manager there for 30 years. This station is the cane breeding station for the Queensland sugar industry and is owned by Sugar Research Australia. “In the late 1870s and early 1880s the east coast of Queensland was steadily being developed as sugar plantations and mills were being built to process the cane,” Jeff says. “Sugar prices were booming, and cheap labour was available from Chinese and South Pacific Islander labourers.” Migrants from Italy and other European countries also arrived in Australia, seeking a better quality life for themselves and their families. Today, many sugar cane farmers are descendants of early cane cutters and the industry continues to thrive.


The Real

Words by BJ Foley

Beer Up Here

A Tour Of FNQ Craft Breweries The juggernaut that is Australian craft beer shows no signs of slowing down. Whilst the consumption of beer is dropping steadily in Australia, the craft beer segment shows incredible growth year upon year. No one is actually sure how this craft beer revelation began. My take is that it’s evolved from beer lovers who tinkered with their home-brew kits in their backyards, dabbling with different flavours and methods and innovating through spice additives, switching hops and strains of yeasts, dry hopping, late hopping, all in an effort to create a personal take on beer, and getting away from the mass produced, somewhat dull beers of the day. Now you can find craft beers everywhere; the segment is worth around $160 million and is being driven by consumers and brewers who are passionate about creating a unique, premium product. With more and more homebrewers and entrepreneurs adding to the segment, it’s predicted the industry will grow by 5 per cent over the next five years. Fortunately for us, we don’t need to wait for the industry to grow to find great craft beer. We already have a handful of multi-award-winning breweries in our backyard. From Hemmingway’s at the old wharf, or their Port Douglas site, through to Macalister Brewing Company at Smithfield, we are fortunate to have both the entrepreneurs and the brewers who have stepped up from homebrewing to the big time. Starting in the heart of the city, you will find Hemmingway’s, Sauce and Coral Sea Brewing, all just a short walk from each other. Hemmingway’s opened their Cairns site in June 2018, adding it to their already impressive Port Douglas venue. The heritage-listed building at the Cairns Cruise Liner Terminal is one of the largest craft breweries north of Brisbane and one of Australia’s largest brewpubs, with a massive 50 taps serving 20 different beers in a truly vast building. All of Hemmingway’s core range are award-winning beers, their latest haul coming from the 2021 Australian International Beer Awards (AIBA), the largest annual beer awards in the world. They came away with five gold, a silver and two bronze. The Hemmingway’s team can take a lot of credit for reinvigorating the local Cairns brewpub scene. Just down the road from Hemmingway’s you will find Sauce Brewing Company. Having launched the Sauce brand in 2016 as a gypsy brewer, Mike Clarke opened his own brewery in Marrickville in 2017. Sauce expanded to Cairns in



September 2020, taking the old Blue Sky Brewery pub site for their brewpub and adding, what I think, is North Queensland’s best bottle shop out the front. The core range is based around hop-forward ales and pilsners, with clean, easy drinking lager making an appearance over the last year. The core range has taken a pretty impressive swag of awards, giving you no real excuses not to get on the Sauce. Right next door to Sauce you will find Coral Sea Brewing Company. Basing themselves around the old Blue Sky Brewing equipment, they are knocking out a range of beers that just simply work in our tropical environment. With a new-ish tap room tucked away in Bank Lane off Spence Street, Coral Sea have created themselves a niche following with their core range built around a full-strength lager, two aromatic and fruity, hop driven ales, along with a wheat ale with a surprising malt backbone. Throw in a few seasonal releases, like a specialty Oktoberfest drop, and of course a few awards from AIBA and you find yourself a place that is definitely worth searching out. Jumping in for a quick lift out to Aeroglen you will find Barrier Reef Brewing Co. Cam and Caroline have created a strong local following after establishing their brewery in 2015. Cameron caught the brewing bug while working in the UK, call it a by-product of having access to all those freshly brewed Scottish beers, which were so different to the Australian beers of the time. The pair ended up back in Cairns and decided to set up Barrier Reef Brewing Co., knocking out some seriously well-made beers. Using pure water, great quality malts, late hopping, and dry hopping, they use science as a kind of alchemy to produce interesting drops. The team knocks out four core beers that have been created to be appreciated with good food and good company. Finally, we end up at Macalister Brewing Company at Smithfield, the brainchild of Rob Callin, a former high school science teacher who has won more homebrew awards, both local and nationally, than I’ve had hot dinners. He realised that he wanted to know about the science of brewing, completing a Graduate Diploma of Brewing Science and, bored with winning everything under the sun, decided to strike out on his own with Macalister Brewing Company. The team there have knocked out a massive range of beers, everything from lighter lagers to very good mid-strength IPAs, exceptional red ales and smoked porters, with the odd special release thrown in for good measure. Keep an eye out around Christmas for their barrelaged release.


MACALISTER BREWING Co. Words by Sharon Timms | Pictures by Nicolas Tanguy



One Good Beer Deserves Another

Cairns-based brewer Rob Callin has had more than his fair share of comparisons to the fictional TV character Heisenberg, a chemistry teacher turned substance tycoon. But this story of a brewery in a cane field is a little more ‘Breaking Good’ than ‘Bad’. Microbrews used to be the dusty bottles up the back of the bar fridge, the bane of any stocktake. But it’s now pretty standard to order them from an array of fancy and elaborate tap handles. Lovers of craft beer have never been more spoilt for choice. And what better place in the tropical north for a craft brewery, a region known for its scorching temperatures and thirsty work, than smack bang in the middle of a sugar cane field at the foothills of the Macalister Range. Brewer Rob Callin’s story is a well-known one, but like all good stories, it simply builds and gets better over time and retelling, often with a beer in hand. A former high school chemistry teacher, Rob’s chemistry expertise has been indispensable in his career change as a commercial brewer. “There’s absolutely a huge amount of chemistry knowledge required in brewing, it’s quite technical but with just the perfect amount of creativity,” says Rob, who founded Macalister Brewing Company in 2017. “I was never thinking about going commercial in the beginning,” says Rob. “I was just enjoying myself. There aren’t very many sciences where you can do that. Generally, science is very exact, hitting percentages. With brewing, not only can you get creative and play around with flavour and a few sciencey things, but you get to drink it at the end! “I started home brewing for fun, and I entered and won a few competitions. Then the obsession started. Next minute, I was studying a four-year Graduate Diploma in Brewing Science through Ballarat University,” Rob says. “Lucky I have quite an understanding wife – she let me sell the house to set up a brewery.” Macalister Brewing is a labour of love for Rob, who not only makes the beers, but built the bar, tables, keg washer, mill and pilot rig himself. “Over the last four years, we’ve grown so much. Walls have been knocked down, bigger tanks have been added, we’ve taken over the whole building for bottling and storage!” he laughs. “The bar’s got bigger, the production’s got bigger, there’s about 20 venues around town who now have our beers on tap. It started with just me and the missus. Now we have a full team. “We did notice, however, that although beer is for everyone, some people would prefer something of the grape variety. So, we’ve just received a new wine licence, and in the theme of keeping it local we’re stocking Queensland wine producer Sirromet from the Granite Belt in Southeast Queensland. We’re a brewery first, but also a place for people to gather and relax. That’s the heart of Macalister.” There is an old-school genuineness behind the Macalister beer range because they handcraft beers with no additives, no preservatives and no pasteurisation, thus creating a uniquely fresh taste that suits the surrounds. “We make beer for local consumption,” Rob says. “Beer isn’t designed to travel – it’s a natural product that should be

consumed fresh. Of course, Australia is a big country so the larger companies will create products that allows them to ship it around the country. Beer has natural yeasts in it and natural yeasts have a lovely flavour, but they need to be kept cold. Pasteurising the beer (heating it) takes away that need to keep it cold, making long distance transport much more economical and easier. “We don’t have to worry about that – our beer is designed to be drunk here in Cairns. It’s ultra-fresh, how it should be; balanced, unpasteurised, no additives and completely sessionable. That’s the taste test of any of our beers – can we have a couple of schooners in one sitting and still enjoy it? If yes, then it’s a winner.” ‘Latitude 17’ was the original brew and is the brewery’s bestseller. “It’s blended along with five other hops, specifically one called citra, which has a distinct citrus flavour,” shares Rob. “It’s been on since the day we opened, and still the best-selling beer we’ve ever made. Personally, I like the Freefall XPA – a slightly hoppier, fuller flavoured beer. It suits my Pommy palate!” While looking out over the canefields with a beer in hand is indeed a very Far North Queensland thing to do, one might ask if it was a strategic move to set up a brewery smack bang in between Bunnings and a university. Rob laughs: “Just like the Stella Artois tagline, ‘Reassuringly expensive since 1868’, I want a sign to hang over the bar that says ‘Causing unnecessary trips to Bunnings since 2017’.” Beautiful views, brilliant beers, and worth every needless trip to Bunnings.

Macalister Brewing Company 3/6 Danbulan Street, Smithfield 0408 086 814


Shannonvale Tropical Fruit Winery THE ESSENCE OF WINE

There are many ways to inspire debate around the dinner table, and over the years, such topics as politics, religion and financial planning have traditionally been outlawed because of the potential to create discord. However, it appears another subject should be relegated to passive obscurity with these others, and that is the production and consumption of fruit wines. Never has a topic so apparently innocuous created so much commentary and excitement. Opinion seems divided, although not equally, that wine is from the vine, and that anything else should not be classed as such. Perhaps this is a hangover from our European cultural predecessors, or simply protectionism for the highly regarded and globally renowned brand ‘Australian wine’. Maybe the various interlocutory veracity and ferocity levels were just a societal knee jerk, a forelock tug to all that brutish European viniculture. Whatever the rationale, as we pulled into the green-hued parking of Shannonvale Tropical Fruit Winery near Mossman, it was clear that the evidence was about to outweigh the supposition. Even if there were not a winery here, this would be a place to visit. For city folks, or those of Northern Hemisphere extraction, its location redefines nowhere. A sharp left off the Cook Highway between Port Douglas and Mossman takes you toward the low-set distant mountains on a straight macadam road through cane-lined paddocks. The road to the winery terminates with a final shimmy in an eye wateringly green valley. This is jungle borders, where flora and fauna pre-date humans, and the vast and alive scenery is tinted exclusively green. We were greeted - this is not a huge site and the arrival of visitors unlikely to be anonymous - by Laza, the youngest of the Woodall family team that produce what we were hoping shortly to consume. His manner was relaxed and reassuring, as he explained that the facility had been here for 20 years, covering nearly 20 acres of the valley. He also respectfully suggested we cease jabbing at our phones, as there was no signal at the property. This, in fact, added to the experience; the prehistoric splendour, lush kempt grounds and signs of rudimentary agriculture that greeted us deserved our full attention. Free from the bustle of bell-and-whistle intrusion that smartphones can so easily bring with them. Laza led us around to the cellar door, a quaint covered outdoor area with bench seats and tables. The area was adorned with the vintage paraphernalia of smallholding agriculture, a reminder of the more recent man-made history of the site. The rest of the team were assembled to offer us the comprehensive explanatory experience and, somewhat typical of a pandemic time, we had the place to ourselves. Introductions were made to the rest of the squad: first Tony the patriarch and retired physiotherapist, and then Trudy, the vintner of the tribe.



After greetings, we were invited to sit and discussion turned, what now seemed to be inevitably, to what was troubling all those dinner table conflabs. Tony suggested that the best way for us to understand what was being produced and achieved at Shannonvale, and resulted in a plethora of accolades and awards, was to have a tasting. All agreed this well-worn path to introduction was exactly what was required to educate us, our hearts, minds and palates. Moreover, being a little after eleven, with a view of mountains rising from the tropical canopy, the idea of a snifter and a conversation was more than perfect. Their enthusiasm pre-dated becoming winemakers, but Tony was quick to shed any pretension at the suggestion that he and Trudy had previously been ‘Wine Connoisseurs’. “That is not a term we like to use,” Tony explains, “rather wine lovers.” Like a lot of small producers, they decided to move into commercial production after much amateur production experience. “We still make wine that we would like to drink,” Trudy says. Wine bottles hive into view, glasses presented in preparation for the show, the theatre of it all can’t be ignored, they have our attention!

Over many years, the order of tasting and pithy explanation have been perfected. Trudy and Tony work the room well and although their styles are different, their love for wine is abundant and clear. Tony begins, “Firstly, it’s too wet to grow grapes here in the tropics, so we have no choice but to make wine from tropical fruit. “Here we have our main list of six table wines, four dry and two a bit sweeter, and four fortified wines made in port styles. “The first wine we pour is a Mango but this is a dry one.” Trudy explains that the comparisons are different to grape wine. “Naturally, people already have their preferences for dry or sweet wines, this Mango is not a sweet wine as you might expect. “People find it easier when we talk about food pairings, rather than attempting to compare our wine to grape varietals.”

We move on to a ginger wine, remarkably light and easy to imagine washing down with Asian-spiced foods. It is so far removed from the ghost of Christmas ginger wines past as to not even bear comparison. It is light, easy and complementary, not at all like pudding. Tony recognises our approval. “You’re going through what people go through when they come here; they try these weird, wonderful fruit wines and they are slightly amazed.” Trudy confirms, “People often come here loaded with their own preconceptions, of what they like and what they don’t. When they try our wines, they defy their normal categories.” The next revelation is Jaboticaba Dry Tropical Red. The fruit is grown locally and not in widespread usage as it only grows in the tropical environment. When asked to define the taste of this wine, Tony indicates he has a stock answer for this frequent question. “I get asked this a lot and I have to say a little bit like cherry, a little bit like grape, but mostly like a jaboticaba!”


We move on to passionfruit. This inspires a debate in itself; the taste is ‘winey’ and, if I were allowed to make a comparison, it leans toward a dry riesling. There is no doubt that if the label was hidden, it wouldn’t immediately jump up as passionfruit. We indulge in the time of our hosts, their explanations and insight are remarkable. Moving through Lychee, as the last of the wines, like much of their list, the taste is counterintuitive and reminiscent of gewürztraminer.

The fortified wines came next and, as was now expected, were unique and delightful. The Kaffir Lime fortified wine is like a citrus axe. A perfect addition for ice, or to add to any lime-based cocktail, to give jazz to a G&T. The fortified Lychee is diametrically opposed to the earlier wine and has a smooth and appealing taste. All this has apparently been leading to Shannonvale’s most awarded wine, the fortified Black Sapote. When asked how it should be consumed Tony says, “I would drink sitting in the corner facing the wall with just a glass with nobody around,” illustrating that it requires nothing more than itself to be enjoyed. He lists 15 flavours that can be tasted in this truly remarkable dessert wine. Remarkably, we got all of them. The tasting usually ends with Black Sapote or Chocolate, it didn’t take much persuasion to try the Chocolate. The Chocolate fortified wine is basically just cocoa bean, the beans are grown in the valley too. It is remarkable and the flavour keeps on coming, but in this race, the Black Sapote wins by a narrow margin. “This is how we convert people to our way of thinking,” says Laza and a complete conversion it is. In conclusion, from the grape, the tree, the shrub or the fruit, whether from a mad uncle’s shed batch of elderberry or from one of the most awarded tropical fruit winemakers in Queensland, it can be safely said that we need to throw our snobbishness into the long grass and present our taste buds with whatever suits the mood, the meal or the climate. The voyage of discovery, just like this off-the-beaten-track adventure, is well worth it. It is to our folly that we shut a door on so many things that are more than equal to bear the standard and be called wine. And we are blessed to have such achievement and innovation on our doorstep.

Shannonvale Tropical Fruit Winery 417 Shannonvale Road, Mossman 4098 4000 Words & Pictures by David Leith




Oaks Kitchen & Garden An outdoor cooking school experience

Words by Sharon Timms

It’s all about the scent. The sweetness of the tropical heat laced with aromatic herbs and jasmine never smelt so good. It’s mid-afternoon and the gentle sea breeze takes the edge off the sultry high-Spring temperatures, stirring the banana trees and heliconia leaves that fringe the outdoor kitchen as I turn up in Oak Beach, a short 15 minute drive south of Port Douglas. Part farm, part residence, part innovative enterprise, Oaks Kitchen & Garden Cooking School is located smack bang in amongst a thriving tropical produce plantation bordered by an abundance of coconut palms. It’s this spot here where Melbourne escapees Ben Wallace and Rachael Boon have set up a Southeast Asian cooking school, naturally supplied with home grown tropical fruit, vegetables and aromatic herbs and spices grown on their four-acre property. A large French provincial table (a throwback to Ben’s traditional cooking skills) is set in the middle of an open-aired shed lined with cooking utensils, spices and fairy lights along the ceiling. A rustic smoker sits along the side, begging to be fired up and fed with local trout, duck and beef, while the yet-to-be-cooked menu reads like the best combination of a Thai hawker market and city diner. While the scene here sets itself up to be a rustic oasis away from the busy-ness of Cairns and Port Douglas, don’t be fooled – it’s a spot with plenty of clout. In fact, this backyard dining experience has taken out one of the country’s most prestigious awards, the annual Gourmet Traveller Best Destination Dining Award. “We aim to use produce we’ve grown, and that’s completely local,” says Ben. “In the tropics, we’re surrounded by excellent local produce grown and produced by passionate people from the Cassowary Coast, the Tablelands, and of course the Daintree.” Their Oak Beach property produces mangoes, kaffir limes, an abundance of galangal, purple basil and betel leaves. Organic beef is sourced from Malanda on the Atherton Tablelands, seafood from local trawlers and fisherman, and pork from Bushy Creek in nearby Julatten. “We love the creative freedom we have with our chef’s table dining and cooking classes, we’re able to do whatever we want with the menu, and change it based on what’s in the garden - having that freedom is simply unparalleled.” Whether you’re a Masterchef or more of a burn-your-toast kind of cook, Oaks Kitchen & Garden provides an exceptional experience in South East Asian cuisine designed for all confidence levels. The classes are intimate – a maximum of 8 people – where guests are invited to ask Ben and Rachael any questions about South East Asian cuisine and culture, cooking techniques and sustainability as they chop and muddle their way to culinary decadence. The garden is constantly growing and evolving, producing an abundant selection and continually changing range of ingredients used in Ben’s bespoke menus. “I really want to showcase what this region has to offer,” says Ben.



Benjamin Wallace and Rachael Boon

Oaks Kitchen & Garden Lot 3/11-13 Nancy Close, Oak Beach 4098 5383


COFFEE, CAFE CULTURE Finding the magic bean in FNQ


he Australian coffee culture is the envy of the world, and Far North Queensland is no exception to that hard-earned reputation. This region is steeped in caffeinated history and home to some of the country’s oldest boutique growers. It boasts a plethora of phenomenal small-batch coffee roasters and is home to a huge array of shops, cafes and award-winning baristas, all in quantities rumoured to rival even Melbourne when held against a per capita frequency. Although coffee as a crop came to Australia with the early settlers, it took nearly another one hundred years before coffee-growing took hold. It is no surprise that coffee is both literally and figuratively part of the landscape of the Far North; coffee culture as we know it came to Australia with the wave of post-war Italian immigrants. Ancestors of that immigration are evident today through the surnames and business names evident across the northern region. There are still rural farms where the family dinner conversation is conducted solely in Italian. These families looking to make their mark on the lucky country coincidentally brought with them what is considered the most essential part of modern coffee, the steam pressure coffee machine. After that Australians didn’t just drink coffee; they drank espressos!



Today the cafe coffee culture of Far North Queensland keeps pace with even the most hip of hipster coffee joints across the world. With every conceivable variation of coffee service available, wherever you may be, from drive-throughs, or a hole-in-the-wall to sipping on a plantation verandah to a long black on a long beach, it’s all here! Not only has the devotion to cafe culture made it virtually impossible to find bad coffee, it has also given rise to some of the most fantastic and innovative menus in any dining category. With the morning comes coffee and, with that, a vast assemblage of breakfast and brunch alternatives. From the almond croissant, to the not so humble eggs benny, morning meals are now an inspired ‘sans frontieres’ experience. Join us as we showcase and celebrate some of the best places to experience the magic bean in the Tropical North.



Words by Janie Barton | Pictures by David Leith

A perk-up in more ways than one

When you first enter Caffiend you could easily be forgiven for thinking you have walked onto the set of a TV series of a vibrant cafe where the mood is elated, the food and coffee outstanding, and the staff greets the regulars by name.

Its location close to the city’s popular Rusty’s Markets, which supplies fresh produce direct from local farmers, has inspired and enhanced the fresh, healthy aspect of the meals served up by the enthusiastic chefs at Caffiend.

This popular cafe, on trendy Grafton Street in the heart of the Cairns CBD, has made an enormous impact on the cafe culture in Cairns since it first opened more than eight years ago. But it’s more than outstanding coffee that has made this cafe so successful, although its coffee is definitely a major draw card.

“The market influence is in every aspect of the cafe, from the menu to the welcoming and friendly attitude of our team,” says owner Fern Campbell. “We’re super passionate about sourcing sustainable, seasonal and local produce and the proximity to the markets suits that ethos.”

The coffee, sourced from the Tablelands (where the majority of Australia’s coffee beans are grown) by the local Tattooed Sailor Coffee Roasters, is always brewed to perfection by Caffiend’s skilled baristas.

Fans from all over the world (check out Trip Advisor) have raved about the food. The miso scrambled eggs dish was a finalist in the five best egg dishes in the country for the Australian Eggsellence Awards. The Reuben sandwich matches any popular New York deli with its eight-hour braised brisket pastrami along with its house-made sauerkraut and Dijon dressing - another favourite choice of guests.

The coffee speaks volumes for itself, but when you combine the java options with exceptional food made from fresh, local produce you will find a true winning combination.



“We have so many popular dishes that we don’t dare take off the menu because our customers love them so much,” says Fern, who adds that every single jam, relish, sauce and condiment is made in house. “But our overachiever chefs in the kitchen also create a number of weekly specials which keeps things exciting and ensures that there is always something new to try for those that like to be surprised.” There is another impressive aspect to the cafe that visitors appreciate: the walls are adorned with art from throughout Far North Queensland. “The art scene in Cairns is super exciting, and we love being a part of that,” says Fern, who adds that artists exhibit their work at no cost. “I reckon it’s a pretty good nod to the old-world community cafe scene where there was always a strong interest in the arts.”

Caffiend 72 Grafton Street, Cairns 4051 5522





Words by Elaine Deane | Pictures by Nicolas Tanguy

Local hero

As you head into Holloways Beach you will find District Café, a fresh, bright, and funky espresso bar where you can sample some of the region’s best local produce. Not only can you recharge your batteries with a coffee and a jaffle, but it is also a workspace where you can recharge your devices and work in air-conditioned comfort to boot. Owner Alex Murray has created a venue where small businesses can highlight their products for locals and visitors to Holloways Beach. “Our ethos is to collaborate with small FNQ producers so we can serve delicious food, coffees and other refreshments with exceptional service and, of course, a welcoming smile,” says Alex. With more than sixteen years in the hospitality industry, thirteen of those running a successful restaurant, Alex wanted to find a way to improve her own work-life balance whilst raising her two young children and assist small businesses in the region she had been working with over the years to get their product out for all to enjoy. Two years ago, her vision came to fruition with the opening of District Café. “The name District was perfect, as we only use produce and ingredients from the Cairns region,” Alex says. “Using local cheese, pepper, milk, meats, coconut oil and, of course, coffee beans, just adds such wonderful flavours to our dishes. I am proud to support our local producers and the quality is second to none.” Where items are not locally available, such as the almond and oat milks used in their coffees, Alex has found producers not

too far from home and will only stock and use Australian products. They have also teamed up with Plastic Free Cairns for a sustainable cafe culture. District Café’s menu boasts a range of jaffles that are next level, with mouth-watering combinations of smoked chorizo, cheeses and relishes bursting with FNQ flavour. Locals have fallen in love with the new cafe, stopping in daily for their coffee and jaffle fix. Busy workers have taken to the time-saving text-ahead system, starting their day with a caffeine kick as they collect their coffee on their way to work. You can even have your coffee delivered to your car if you prefer. For those who work on the road, District Café is a perfect office space to stay a step ahead of their workload. Workstations are set up with USB and power points available, complemented with free wi-fi. Locals who work from home also love to come into District Cafe for a few hours, enjoying a chance to get out of the house, find inspiration in the beautiful mountain views and work distraction free. District Café is a unique coffee and dining experience for the whole family to enjoy. Any item on the menu can be changed to suit any dietary requirements and with a plenty of kidfriendly options, they can enjoy their own favourites whilst you relax and enjoy yours.

District 149-153 Holloway Beach Access Road Holloways Beach 0490 118 464 139

THE HEALTHY HUB Words by Mark Knowles | Pictures by Catherine Coombs

Tucked away in an unassuming corner of Cairns North, The Healthy Hub is a hidden gem for people who care about what’s in their food, where it comes from and how it is produced. As Cairns’ premier independent organic providore, The Healthy Hub stocks an impressively diverse range of speciality products you won’t find anywhere else, and its popular in-store cafe offers a chance to sample some of these delicious and unique tidbits. Owner and manager Alison Donnelly, a qualified nutritionist and pharmacist, says many of her loyal customers first found The Healthy Hub while searching for a fresh, healthy and creative alternative to standard cafe fare. The Healthy Hub Cafe’s menu, influenced by Alison’s wish to introduce the delights of plant-based cuisine to people who might not normally try it, offers a tantalising array of dishes that would tempt even the staunchest of carnivores. Her plant-based sausage rolls, with macadamia feta , walnuts, rolled oats, parsley and herbs encased in crispy puff pastry are a perennial customer favourite and you’ll have to be quick to grab one before they sell out. Other dishes highlight a selection of the dozens of dairy-free cheeses, organic fruits, ancient grains and super-foods – such as wild blueberries and Amazonian acai berries – that can be purchased from the shelves surrounding the cafe’s seating area. For something truly unique, try the Pulled Jackfruit Nachos – made with organic, non-GMO corn chips layered with house-made black bean and jackfruit chilli, nacho cheese sauce, tomato salsa, sour cream, guacamole and topped with fresh coriander and spring onions. Those taking their first forays into the world of plant-based cuisine might be tempted by the Beyond Hub Classic Burger. It features a ‘Beyond Meat’ patty (a plant-based patty with meaty taste and texture), cheddar cheese, fresh tomato, baby lettuce, pickles, mustard and tomato sauce, served with organic chips fried in cottonseed oil. The cafe’s range of house-made sweet treats are a much-needed lifeline for those with food allergies or other dietary requirements. “We make our cakes and cupcakes from scratch and they are dairy-free, egg-free and gluten-free, so if you have any dietary problems, you can still enjoy a really good cake,” says Alison.



Once you’ve sated your appetite at the cafe, it is well worth taking a look around the store at the incredible range of organic, bio-dynamic and ethically sourced products on offer. First stop is the fresh produce section, which offers up a bounty of Australian-sourced organic fruit and veggies. Then it’s on to the refrigerated section where you can choose from scores of dairy-free cheeses, mouth-watering artisanal dips and other hard-to-find speciality products such as turmeric butter, chickpea miso and macadamia feta – to name just a few. The extensive selection of specialty breads on offer includes gluten-free, low-carbohydrate, keto and vegan varieties and are sourced, and freshly shipped, from as far away as Melbourne. Alison says that remaining a proudly independent operation has enabled her to source niche products from all over the world that can’t be found in the big chain stores. “So many times I was tempted to jump on board with one of the chains to get that support, but I was like, ‘no. I want the independence’. “I get to choose what products I stock, so there are hundreds of suppliers. It’s so much more work but it’s much more rewarding,” she says.

Alison, who in her previous life owned and operated a pharmacy, says she loves having the opportunity to help her customers improve their health through diet and lifestyle. “I love to address the whole problem rather than giving them a tablet, and then another tablet and so on,” she says. Alison’s deep knowledge of nutrition and pharmacology is reflected in the exhaustive range of herbal supplements, teas, plant extracts and other natural remedies available in the store. And she is only too happy to advise customers on what remedies, skincare products and supplements may be suitable for their health and dietary needs. The Healthy Hub really is a one-stop shop in Cairns for health-conscious people seeking a friendly, caring and supportive environment and expert advice.

The Healthy Hub 45 Moffat Street, Cairns North 4051 5688


Perrotta’s Leading from the centre.

Perrotta’s At The Gallery is like an old friend or a famous chat show guest; it barely requires introduction. For over 20 years, at its gallery adjacent location, Perotta’s, its local truncation, has been the focal point of Cairns’ Cafe culture. The unashamed jewel in the crown of CBD outdoor dining, it has become the place to see or be seen at. The cafe is quite literally bolted onto the Cairns Regional Gallery, which in turn is housed in an impressive listed building originally the Public Curator’s office built in 1936. The cafe utilises the external features of the gallery building, with a fully stocked bar and barista station tucked between baroque colonnades and a kitchen pass formed by the sill of a large arched window. There is a raised deck which provides a 180-degree view of Shield Street, a perfect vantage point on which to caffeinate, whilst being not too close but not too far from the madding crowd. The custom made wrought iron furniture combined with fixed stool breakfast bar type seating gives the place a solid and contemporary feel which interestingly juxtaposes the classic architecture that forms its boundary. Unlike other FNQ outdoor venues, Perrotta’s remains abuzz throughout the year. A quirk of the Shields Street positioning sees the Coral Sea’s prevailing southeasterly funnel in off the inlet to cool the location. On the rare occasions that the weather refuses to cooperate, there is an ample barrage of ceiling fans to keep the temperature just right for lingering consumption. The eclectic cuisine leans toward Italian, the heritage of Ivo Perrotta, the eponymous founder. Long time Perrotta’s head chef Darren Law, ubiquitous at the kitchen window pass, ensures that the menu is both varied and exciting. Traditional morning favourites like eggs benedict, fruit salad bowls, to the rather splendidly named Truck Stop breakfast provide something to suit all tastes. Although widely known by locals as a breakfast and lunch haunt, post-lunch, the cafe segues neatly into a vibrant fullservice restaurant. The menu changes tempo around lunchtime and sees pizzas, pasta and various other mouthwatering goodies join the breakfast/brunch stalwarts. Particular mention needs to go to the truly divine fish tacos, a lunchtime favourite and Nonna’s Sunday Night Sugo with meatballs, appearing on the post 5pm dinner menu; nonna would be proud! Perrota’s undoubtedly ticks all the boxes; from its elegant looks, unbeatable location and crowd-pleasing menu it is a perfect place to begin, end or break up any time spent in Cairns.



Words by David Leith

Perrotta’s at the Gallery Cnr Abbott & Shields Street, Cairns 4031 5899


RISE & BAKE bon appetit


rance is famous for its architecture, cathedrals, art, cuisine and its plethora of quaint cafés. While we can’t visit France until international travel restrictions lift, we can still enjoy the tastes, smells and ambience of the famous French cafés here in Far North Queensland. Nothing goes better with a perfectly brewed cup of coffee than gourmet-made pastries and desserts baked fresh daily, or, as most of France’s population can attest to, a sweet or savoury crepe. Mika Schliesser and Sabrina Miers, who have been in the hospitality industry for more than 20 years, decided to bring an authentic French café experience to FNQ with their Rise and Bake cafes. With their extensive restaurant knowledge and experience, and after working as restaurant managers for major hotels throughout Europe and in Cairns, they felt confident branching into their own venture, opening their first Rise and Bake at Smithfield Shopping Centre in 2017, a second one at the other end of the Smithfield Shopping Centre in 2018, and a third, larger outlet at Cairns Central in 2020.

“We are both from Germany and wanted to do something European inspired,” says Mika, who was restaurant manager at Nu Nu in Palm Cover before starting Rise and Bake. “We wanted to bring a change to shopping centre cafés by mixing a modern Australian café menu with classic French sweet and savoury crepes, house-made French pastries, cakes and croissants. “But, of course, everything starts with the coffee. We use two different types of beans (a medium roast and a darker roast) from Tattooed Sailor Coffee Roasters, who also provide training to our staff to keep them up to speed. “Ninety-nine per cent of the people who come into our shops will have a coffee with us, so that’s the first impression we give them. It has to be spot on and has to be the same quality every day, from the first cup to the last cup of the day.”

Words by Janie Burton | Pictures by David Leith



French chef Aurelien Breguet, who owns The Petite Café in Kuranda and who is a friend of the couple, was instrumental in setting up Rise and Bake’s first outlet. “Aurelien was with us the first few weeks, not only giving recipes for our chefs to use but also training them on how to cook the French crepe,” Mika says. “Every chef, no matter how experienced they are, needs training to make French crepes.” Chris Wilson, who was head chef at Nu Nu when Mika and Sabrina were there and who also learned the art of crepe making from Aurelien, oversees Rise and Bake’s kitchens. “Nobody else in town does crepes made with buckwheat flour (Brittany style) like we do,” said Mika, who revealed the most popular crepe is the sweet lemon butter sugar crepe. “Another one of our biggest sellers is the deep-fried coconut jam crepe. This is a house-made coconut jam rolled in a freshly cooked crepe, then deep fried, then rolled in crispy coconut again and served with a mango sorbet, barbecued pineapple and cream.” But there’s more to Rise and Bake than delicious coffee and mouth-watering crepes. Freshly made on site each day is also a range of cakes, tarts, brownies, croissants, cheesecakes, sausage rolls, pies and gluten-free items that include sweet and savory crepes. Artisan sourdough breads are provided by Baked on Red Hill and are the only items on the menu that are not made in house.

Also available is a breakfast menu (featuring the highly popular rosti eggs benedict), a large lunch menu, and sensational high teas. Everything is also available for take away and they can also cover catering needs. In addition, all sauces and jams are made in house and can be purchased. “We bake first thing every morning,” Mika says. “When the doors open at 8am, we have already been there from 6am baking. Everything in the bakery is best when it comes fresh out of the oven. “One of my oldest memories is of my grandfather getting up at 4am to make a huge cheesecake – the size of the oven – so when everyone got up at 8am it was ready, and it never lasted until lunch time! “That memory of baking and eating fresh has never left me and has inspired me since.”

Rise & Bake Smithfield & Cairns Central 0477 064 137


Alf Barbera



THE PASTA MASTER Words by Narelle Muller | Pictures by David Leith


nyone who has travelled to Italy, or enjoyed authentic Italian hospitality, knows well it’s all about sharing the experience.

Good company, warm greetings and laughter go hand-in-hand with the pure enjoyment of savouring simple flavours prepared with care and the freshest of ingredients. That is the essence of family business Sapore Di Italia, in downtown Innisfail. For six years, Alf and Julie Barbera have run the café with varying degrees of assistance from their five offspring, aged from 11 years to adult. And now, as we speak, Alf is on the way to greet his second grandchild, who will no doubt be indoctrinated into the family’s passion for good food and hearty hospitality at an early age. Both born and bred locals, Alf and Julie worked in other professions before turning their hands to filling the bellies of Innisfail residents and visitors. A master of many trades, Alf has done everything from engineering to auto electrics and IT, but knew he would one day end up running a food business. “I always said I’d get a café when I retired, I just decided to start a bit early,” he laughs.

And naturally, it was here Alf learned the basics of cooking, cleaning and generally being a good host.

At 47 years young, he has some way to go, but opening seven days a week for breakfast and lunch, along with three nights for dinner, means it could be quite a stretch before he gets to hang up his apron.

Today, at Sapore Di Italia, Alf mans the kitchen, while Julie is front of house and in charge of the smooth running of the operation.

Long-term Innisfail residents may remember the family business Alf grew up in, a café owned by his parents officially called the Paramount Milk and Snack Bar.

“It’s a ploy really,” Alf teases. “She thinks if she doesn’t learn how to specialise in coffee or cooking, she won’t get roped into doing one thing all day.”

“They ran it for 25 years from the 50s through to the 80s and not one person knew it was actually called that,” recalls Alf fondly.

With staff on hand to help out, the kitchen produces a popular open grill bruschetta and more than 20 pasta dishes.

“It was known by everyone as, ‘Wally the Wog’s Café’. Dad was called Wally the Wog by everyone in town. I was known as Young Wally and mum and dad were called Mr and Mrs Wally. Somehow, my older brother escaped the nickname.” Wally’s specialties were his homemade gelato and lemon granita. His burgers, too, were a hit with everyone in town. “It was THE place to hang out, we had the old-style jukebox,” remembers Alf.

“We keep it simple and focus on giving customers a personal experience,” he says. A philosophy surely Mama would approve of.

Sapore Di Italia 54 Rankin Street, Innisfail 4061 2326


Skybury is the limit

Words by Narelle Muller

Most people excel at just one profession in their entire life, if they’re lucky. For the MacLaughlin family of the Atherton Tablelands, it’s not a question of multi-tasking, so much as ‘multi-talenting’. The owners and founders of Skybury Coffee, a product well known and much loved throughout North Queensland, could rightly make ‘diversity’ their middle name. Something of a local legend, the tale of the young couple Ian and Marion MacLaughlin setting off on world adventures from Zimbabwe in the early ‘80s and ending up buying a farm near Mareeba, is one full of romance, risk and realisation. It may seem a far cry for two young people with no farming experience, but as their daughter Candy MacLaughlin, now general manager, explains, it all panned out fairly logically. The land itself reminded them of home, (coffee is widely grown in the eastern highlands of Zimbabwe) and her dad, Ian, simply applied the practicality he possessed anyway, using skills and business acumen he’d acquired in the military. “They had always been great travellers and farming is definitely something you can learn,” Candy says, unassumingly. Ian and Marion raised their three children amid the lush beauty of the Tablelands. Two of the three still work in the family business, raising their own children and hopefully one day passing on the baton through the generations. Candy says her parents have always encouraged their offspring to follow their dreams. “I’ve left home and returned multiple times. Our family philosophy has always been that you bring more back to the business as you grow and learn.” Candy and her English husband, Paul Fagg, met in the UK and live on the farm with their three teenage children. Paul works for Skybury’s marketing company. Keeping it in the family, brother Mark, an agronomist and farm manager, also works and lives onsite with his wife Paige and their two children. While Skybury Coffee is relatively unknown outside of North Queensland (it does enjoy a large slice of the local market) a major part of the business involves exporting coffee to Europe and Japan.



But coffee is only the tip of the teaspoon, so to speak. The Skybury farm is Australia’s largest papaya (pawpaw) producer, growing half of the fruit eaten nationwide. That amounts to around three million papayas a year. Nothing goes to waste here. Not only do all dishes on the Skybury Café menu contain coffee or papaya, but any unusable produce is recycled in their latest venture. Not content with sitting at the top of their game in coffee and papaya, the Skybury team added a new branch to their bountiful enterprise last year, as the COVID-19 pandemic began, pairing with FNQ Spirits to produce coffee liqueur, papaya schnapps, papaya vodka, and a papaya and passionfruit liqueur. With the current trend for espresso martini, the coffee liqueur was a sure-fire hit, but somewhat surprisingly, the papaya drinks have also gained a following. And while travel restrictions meant they couldn’t attend, the MacLaughlins became the extremely proud owners of silver medals for all of their beverages at the international London Spirits Competition this year. The papaya vodka also took silver at a recent Melbourne contest. So, what does papaya vodka actually taste like, you ask? “It has a sweet aftertaste,” says Candy. “It can be enjoyed straight or mixed, it just depends how you like your vodka.” Devoted to sustainable farming practice, the family sees the alcohol arm of the business as a perfect way to utilise waste produce. Tonnes of papaya that would otherwise go to waste, simply because they don’t fit market specifications, can now be turned into tasty tipples, as does a portion of coffee that would have to be dashed. “It just comes down to value adding,” admits Candy, in that ever-pragmatic tone.

Skybury Coffee 136 Ivicevic Road, Paddys Green 4093 2194



hen it comes to waterfront dining, Wharf One Cafe, in its prime position overlooking the sparkling waters of Cairns Harbour, is hard to beat. On any day of the week the open-air cafe is bustling with cyclists, joggers, fitness fanatics and families enjoying the fresh food and vibrant atmosphere. The architecture of Wharf One’s spacious seating area, constructed from steel and upcycled timber from the old wharf buildings, lends a nautical air. The high ceilings and expansive bay windows that channel the cooling ocean breeze make it ideal for a spot of breakfast or lunch while visiting the Cairns Harbour precinct. “In summer, when the breeze comes through, this is one of the coolest places in Cairns. We have the best natural airconditioning,” says owner Peter Crotty, who bought the cafe in 2020. Peter brings a wealth of hospitality experience to his new venture (including 13 years as GM of the acclaimed Waterbar & Grill) but says the fantastic location was what drew him to the venue most strongly. “I bought this venue because it’s right on the water, it’s licensed and it’s an awesome place to do events,” says Peter. While the cafe is open for breakfast and lunch seven days a week, evenings are reserved for private functions – where up to 150 guests can enjoy a stand-up cocktail event with a sophisticated ambience while they nibble on an array of delicate finger foods. But for many Cairns locals, Wharf One is probably best known as a fabulous, kid-and-dog-friendly breakfast spot, that’s also perfect for a business lunch or client meeting. This is understandable, given its close proximity to Cairns’ downtown office precinct, the various walking and cycling paths that surround it and the unique tree-top playground next door that kids love to explore.



Given its wide variety of clientele, Wharf One’s menu has something for everyone: from fresh fruit smoothies, granola bowls and healthy wraps to hearty breakfast plates and juicy beef burgers. Other signature dishes, with an FNQ-style twist, include “The One”: a crispy potato rosti served with sugarcane-cured salmon, organic Mungalli Creek quark (German-style cream cheese), avocado, crispy capers and one perfectly poached ‘Happy Egg’ sourced from Yamagishi Eggs in Innisfail. This crowd-pleasing dish highlights Wharf One’s commitment to showcasing locally-sourced produce, much of which is organic. Coffee aficionados will also appreciate the 100% organic house blend of Colombian and Ethiopian beans – roasted locally by the Ransom team to create an aromatic brew with a smooth taste that shines through without the need for sugar. Being fully-licensed, you can also indulge in a boozy (but behaved) Sunday brunch, perhaps with a few mimosas or a signature “Smokey J’s Bloody Mary” with vodka, smokey spice mix and tomato juice garnished with smoked ham, lime, pickles and paprika salt – the breakfast of champions. For a truly waterfront alfresco dining experience in Cairns, follow the throngs of locals heading to Wharf One Cafe... and you’ll be sure to return.

Wharf One Cafe Trinity Wharf, Cairns 4031 4820

ONE CAFE Words by Mark Knowles | Pictures by Catherine Coombs


FRUITFUL The north’s tropical bounty Words by Stacey Carrick



The Far North Queensland region is lucky enough to be home to a plethora of delicious tropical fruits. Local foodie Nicky Jurd says the biggest tropical fruit industries are mangoes, bananas, avocados, papayas and pineapples. Popular varieties of exotic fruits include dragon fruits, rambutans and mangosteens. Jackfruits, durians, pomelos and soursops are sought-after in Asian markets. Nicky says there is a variety of fruits found on trees around the Cairns region, including Burmese grapes, star apples and Brazilian cherries. With the climate being ideal, cocoa is emerging as a new industry in the Far North. “We never think of chocolate as a tropical fruit, but it comes from a tree, so it’s practically a salad!” Nicky says. For the adventurous, there are a variety of food tours and farm experiences across the region. In particular, those on the Atherton Tablelands and at Mission Beach enable visitors to enjoy exotic tropical fruits direct from the source. If it’s in season, you will find it in abundance at local shops and markets, including Rusty’s Markets and Jonsson’s Farm Market. Rusty’s Markets is a Cairns institution, where locals flock every weekend to stock up on their weekly fruit and vegetable supply. Jonsson’s Farm Market fruit and vegetable manager Bobby Chang says there is a huge range of delicious fruit available, including sweet, juicy mangoes, black sapotes (otherwise known as chocolate pudding fruit), peaches, nectarines, Cavendish and Lady Finger bananas, papayas and passion fruits. These delicious tropical fruits are sourced from farms and plantations locally, including the Atherton Tablelands, Innisfail and Cape Tribulation. Far North Queensland’s tropical fruits are also very popular in Sydney and Melbourne. And for something even more exotic, local companies such as the Daintree Ice Cream Company and Mungalli Creek Dairy turn these fruits into delicious ice cream treats that are sure to delight your taste buds.



Port Douglas has been named the Food Bowl of the North for a very good reason. Good food is in abundance in every direction from Port Douglas, proving this spot is the best thing in your culinary world since dragonfruit mojitos (that’s pretty bloody good).

MARKETS & SHOPS Whether it grows on trees, under the soil, comes from a paddock or is plucked from the ocean, you can get it at the farmers markets in Port Douglas and surrounds. None of those out-of-season strawberries here, no siree! Wrap your lips around black sapotes, mangosteens and rambutans instead. The Sunday Port Douglas Markets is the hero here - make sure you indulge in a freshly opened and shaved coconut, topped with your choice of banana and maple or salad and tamari. The Mossman Farmers Markets are held every Saturday morning under the raintrees and have an excellent selection of local produce and homemade treats. Scommazon’s is a bingo-card marketplace you mustn’t miss. All produce here is grown on their own farm, and then boosted with such delicious artisan products as Duke’s Doughnuts, Kefir Queen, Grant Street Bakery and Gallo Cheese. If you’ve missed the markets, Yum Yums stocks all the above, as well as an enormous range of natural shelf products. Don’t miss their soft-serve yoghurt cups – 40 years of putting smiles on dials and going strong! Love seafood? Port Seafood is a dream of straight-from-the-trawler goodness and artisan products. RESTAURANT EATS Whatever you do when you visit Port Douglas, arrive hungry. With more deliciousness in Port Douglas than you can shake a sugar cane stick at, food lovers will rejoice with all the choices, the hardest being where to sate your appetite. For a fishing town, Port Douglas does seafood extremely well – Wrasse & Roe, Melaleuca, Sassi La Cucina being notable stops. Caught your own? Head to Seabean Tapas and Bar and the chefs will cook your catch for you. Salsa Bar & Grill, Harrisons at the Sheraton, and Nautilus are ones for the taste memory bank, and if you’re still hungry, don’t miss Kai, The Mexican, The Surfy, Koko Poolside Bar & Kitchen and Pasta e Vino.



CAFES & BAKERIES Coffee and a roll? Done. Port Douglas is apparently the most northern suburb of Melbourne, so it seems fitting that good coffee is basically a religion. Toast, Origin Espresso, Sparrow, and Captain & Co Espresso will sort your caffeine hit right out, while Café Fresq will double down with a brekky menu so good you’ll be there until dinner. Bloody Mary, you say? Café Fresq is your spiritual home. Bakeries Grant Street Bakery and Mocka’s Pies will satiate that sweet tooth with brownies the size of your head and vanilla slices of your dreams. PUB GRUB Don’t judge a book by its cover, but do judge a town by its pubs. And it’s pub grub. The Central Hotel is king here, with its family friendly vibe and menu. Hint: Try the steak sanga. Paddy’s Irish Bar does well with its dollar wings and parmy nights, Rattle & Hum’s steak nights have a queue down the street, and the menu at The Courthouse is pipped only ever so slightly by its views overlooking Anzac Park and Dickson’s Inlet. FOOD TRAILS & COOKING SCHOOLS If you love to eat and wander and talk and travel, these trips are made for you! Be guided around by a local chef collecting and sampling local ingredients with Port on a Plate, finishing with a gourmet lunch at a fruit winery. If you prefer to discover deliciousness at your own speed, head to the Daintree Food Trail website and download their map, guiding you through gelato to microgreens, barramundi to breadfruit, chocolate and chorizo. Oaks Kitchen & Garden Cooking School is part farm, part residence, part romantic love letter to tropical dining. A Southeast Asian cooking school, naturally supplied with home grown tropical fruit, vegetables and aromatic herbs and spices grown on their four-acre property. Guests wander and learn, cook, and feast.

Images courtesy of Tourism Tropical North Queensland




When travelling in city areas, there’s plenty of lists with places to tick off: sometimes because they’re amazing and other times it’s just because they’ve got a really pretty Instagram flower wall. But if you’re epicurious about where to take your taste buds and catch a cracking sunset backdrop for the ‘gram while on tour in rural Cooktown and Cape York, this is your stop. While travelling north to The Tip (of Australia, not the weekend dumping ground), the stories that go along with the eating adventures are of equal importance. The Palmer River Roadhouse is a refreshment oasis along the long stretch of road between Cairns and Cooktown. The Palmer River was one of the original gold rush sites, so certainly worth a stop and a refuel (cars and people) - their steak sandwich is the stuff legends are made of. A little further up the road is the Lakeland Roadhouse, with a similar offering – they take their burgers



Words by Sharon Timms

very seriously, as with their coffee and selection of grocery items for the journey. It’s also a good spot to hear a yarn or two about iconic FNQ personalities, such as Toots the lady trucker who singlehandedly carved out the feminist Australian spirit in the northern outback. Next up is the legendary Lions Den Hotel in Rossville. Everyone knows someone who’s got a wild tale to tell from the historic Lions Den Hotel. This epic spot is the last bastion of rest before Cooktown and has been an important stop for weary road-trippers for decades. It’s most famous for a raucously good fun bar and restaurant, live music on the weekends and its infamous wall of autographs. Make sure you add your name alongside all those who’ve travelled before you.

Driftwood Café in Cooktown is a gem in the crown of local cafe dining, with all the breakfast staples (very generously served) as well as a solid offering for casual and substantial lunchtime fare. There’s a lovely selection of take away homemade sweet and savoury options as well. Jacky Jacky Herbs and Spices Thai holds the reputation as one of the best Thai restaurants in the region, especially for the dishes using seafood freshly caught off the local trawlers. Cooks Landing Kiosk has a magical setting, watching that northern sun set over the wharf with fish and chips in hand. Bonus points for fish feeding from the terrace. Out of the Blue Café in the township of Portland Road serves arguably the best seafood on the Cape. Owned and operated by a former fisherman, the team here have all the undersea mafia-esque contacts to source the very best scallops, prawns, mackerel, squid and more. The seafood is purchased whole, prepared on site, and is available for dine in or takeaway. The Corrugation Bar at Punsand Bay Campgrounds have woodfired pizzas definitely worth the travel time, and DJ’s Restaurant & Bar at Loyalty Beach is the postcard-perfect spot to settle back with a bucket of local prawns watching the sun set a stone’s throw from the Torres Strait.

Images courtesy of Tourism Tropical North Queensland

Finally, one for the bucket list. If having an entire island to yourself is on your list of things-to-do-before-you-die, Haggerstone Island is about as close to that reality as you’ll get. Arrival to this luxury spot is only by private charter plane, and is absolutely off-grid living at its most indulgent, with almost all of the food served caught or grown on the island.



Port Douglas & Daintree

‘Should I Really Put That In My Mouth’ Food Experiences Words by Sharon Timms

If you think the internet is a red-flag-waving time sucking vortex of TikTok dances, costumed cat videos, and a gathering point for the strange and freaky, googling ‘weird foods of the tropics’ isn’t much safer. Okay, okay, we jest – food in the north is excellent. It’s named the Food Bowl of the North for a reason, and that reason is that everything edible here is naturally delicious, and if it isn’t top notch in its natural state, local gastro-nerds, producers, and chefs will make it so. Whether you consider yourself

brave, committed to eating, or simply curious, set aside your everyday food preferences and get your acquired tastebuds around this lot.

Original article courtesy of Tourism Port Douglas Daintree

PULLED JACKFRUIT BURGER Hey vegans - stand up and be counted! With plant-based diets on the rise, veganism has deftly pivoted from fringe food style to mainstream hipster, and we’ve got the pulled jackfruit burger to prove it. Jackfruit, native to the tropical climate of North Queensland and South East Asia, is the largest tree fruit in the world, with jackfruit weighing up to 45kg. Best used in savoury dishes when slightly green, the flesh pulls away in strings like a slow cooked meat. Its neutral flavour makes it the perfect carriage for hearty sauces and marinades. Combine that with a crunchy slaw, some beetroot (we are in Australia, remember) and a soft brioche bun, and you’ve got yourself a treat! Mason’s Café in the heart of Cape Tribulation is famed for the most excellent Pulled Jackfruit Burger. Wrap your mouth around theirs like a rampant carnivore, declaring ‘I can’t believe it’s not meat’.



CROCODILE SPRING ROLLS We had to include crocodile of some description on the list, right? This is Far North Queensland after all, and there’s a few to go around! With cries of ‘it’s just like chicken’ echoing, we’re here to tell you that’s absolutely correct… except it’s much better. Edible crocodile meat is mostly obtained from the tail and is quite firm with very slightly gamey notes, perfect for carrying other flavours, particularly those on the South East Asian spectrum. You can taste ol’ snappy – perfectly marinated and spring rolled – at Port Douglas hotspot, Watergate.

GREEN ANT GIN I remember growing up here in the tropics and eating the juicy booties of green ants was totally a thing. Not just for a dare, but because they were legit tasty. You might be right in drawing conclusions about the questionable things kids do here in the tropics for entertainment, but that’s for another blog post. Anyway, Australian Green Ant Gin actually contains ants. They’re floating in the bottle. And it’s a spankingly good gin. And really high in Vitamin C, so it’s practically a health drink. It’s unusual citrus character shines and adds colour to citrus-forward cocktails like slings and spritzes. The visual of your martini with ants floating in it is hard to beat. But the citrusy ant note brightens your Gimlet, even adding a lime Skittles note when paired with a fresh lime twist. It can occasionally be found in select bars and restaurants like Seabean Tapas or Zinc, otherwise hunt some down online to show off to your friends.

MANGOSTEEN The Queen of Fruits! While all the other listings here are actual dishes, the mangosteen gets its own unadulterated entry. And for good reason… this delicacy is in season for a mere 6 weeks of the year and getting your paws onto them is like striking gastronomic gold. They are ripe for but a nanosecond, and such is their rarity that in the 1890s, England’s Queen Victoria was rumoured to grant a knighthood to anyone who brought her one. Pull apart their thick, purple outer skin to find white fleshy segments of the fruit. A little bit lemonady, a little bit peachy, lemon-and-pineapple-y, this beautiful fruit will burn an indelible place in your flavour memory bank.


BLACK SAPOTE GELATO Three words - Chocolate. Pudding. Fruit. And if that wasn’t enough to convince you that Mother Nature was indeed a binge-eating chocolate fiend deep down like all of us secretly, then the good folk from Daintree Ice Cream have doubled down to make an ICE CREAM from A FRUIT that tastes like pure CHOCOLATE. What is this sorcery? Black sapote is related to the persimmon family, and with the word ‘sapote’ literally translating from Spanish to mean ‘soft fruit’, it leaves nothing to the imagination on texture. The flavour, on its own, is a cross between cocoa, date, and caramel (YUM), so when blended into handcrafted gelato and ice cream, you’ll be forgiven for never wanting to leave this actual Garden of Eden in Cape Tribulation.

DRAGONFRUIT MOJITO If Mardi Gras was a fruit, it would be a dragonfruit. Hot pink, sweet but a little bit tarty, and self-garnished with black beauty spots, it’s glorious to look at and even better to enjoy up close. Salsa Bar & Grill are well known and well-loved for much of their menu, however their tropical cocktails will have you double tapping on Instagram feeds in no time. Their dragonfruit mojito is a vision to behold and a sensation to savour.

MACADAMIA NUT CHEESE It’s a nut cheese, but not as you know it! Gallo Dairy on the Atherton Tablelands is well known for its cheese and chocolate production, complete with a full-scale cheese making area that comes with a glassedoff viewing platform to see how the magic is made. Utilising all local ingredients to flavour their cheeses, this particular one has locally grown roasted macadamias infused into the milk, and then also added into the final cheese processing stage giving it an obscenely tasty, obviously nutty flavour and texture. Available from local grocers, including Yum Yums in Mossman, and perfect for those laze-by-thepool afternoon snack plates.



TARO CHIPS & GUAC From the crisp to the crunch it seems there is no end to our obsession in turning every vegetable ever into a chip. Because, you know, #healthyeating. We’re looking at you, kale. Chips and dips never looked so darn tasty (or healthy) before discovering the taro chips and guac combo at The Surfy in Port Douglas. Taro root looks like a weird distant cousin of the potato until the skin is removed, revealing creamy flesh patterned with thin purple lines. When sliced and baked, this humble root vegetable turns into stellar chips that rival any greasy potato chip. And matched with perfectly seasoned guacamole makes it eleventy billion times tastier (and healthier). Fact.

SOURSOP CHEESECAKE Don’t you just love the way some words sound? ‘Soursop’ sounds just like this fruit tastes – soft to touch, much like custard apple, and with a ridiculously delicious sweet and sour flavour. A bit like nature’s version of sour Warheads, except much, much better. It’s great on its own, but what food has never been improved by turning it into a cheesecake? We’ll wait. Exactly. A rich biscuit base topped with a creamy, slightly tart and very more-ish topping, you most certainly need the soursop cheesecake from Highfalls Farm on your must-eat list. Take the afternoon to hang about the farm for a while, too, to discover all the other rare tropical fruits they grow onsite.

JABOTICABA WINE Okay, so North Queensland isn’t exactly known for its sweeping vineyards… but fruit is in abundance and we are a crafty lot up this way. Plenty of fruit? Feelin’ thirsty? Challenge accepted! Known as a tree grape, the jaboticaba was introduced into North Queensland from southern Brazil over 20 years ago. The black grape-like fruit sprouts directly from trunk and branch, fruiting several times a year. The fruit is crushed before fermentation, and skins removed from the fermentation tank after sufficient tannins and colour have been extracted. And wa-lah! Move over, merlot - we have jaboticaba wine. Best tasted whilst taking in the sweeping views of the Shannonvale Fruit Winery. What are you waiting for? Go forth and indulge.


FNQ Food Trails - Self Drive Itineraries

Adventures In Food

The days of unsealed roads and red dirt in your nostrils are long gone and it’s possible to take the macadam trail to some of the most unforgettable food adventures in Far North Queensland. With Cairns, Palm Cove, or Port Douglas as your base there isn’t anywhere that is too far to enjoy as a day trip, often with the possibility to combine itineraries. Here are a few places we recommend you visit if you have your own wheels. Mossman | TRIP 1 Scomazzon’s Farm Store Located just 6km north of the township of Mossman, Scomazzon’s sells a fabulous variety of rare tropical fruits and fresh local farm and artisan produce such as Beach Harvest coconuts; The Good Shroom, the northern most exotic mushroom farm in Australia; and The Tea Chest, a treasure of skilfully blended authentic teas. Open Monday to Friday 8:30am to 5:30pm. Saturday 7am to 4pm. Sunday 9am to 4pm. Shannonvale Tropical Fruit Winery Indulge your senses with Tropical Fruit Wines, all made from fruit grown organically and harvested seasonally in the orchard on this unique property just outside Mossman. These handcrafted, award-winning fruit wines all have distinct flavours that will surprise you and the boutique cellar door experience will delight you. Open 6 days -Thursday to Tuesday 10am to 4.30pm. Closed on Wednesdays. Daintree/Cape Tribulation | TRIP 2 Daintree Ice Cream Company The Daintree Ice Cream Company produces exotic fruit gelatos and sorbets in small artisan batches. This award-winning ice cream, made with produce grown on the property is 100% natural and the flavours change with the seasons. Self-guided orchard walks are available for those who want the full tree-to-cup experience. Open daily 12pm to 5pm. Daintree Tea Company The Daintree Tea Company is located just south of Cape Tribulation, on the Cubbagudta plantation, in the heart of the Daintree rainforest. Here, the tea is grown, harvested, dried and packed, just as nature intended. This pesticide free, unblended black tea is superb in taste and aroma, and is available from the farm gate. Open daily. Cape Trib Farm Cape Trib Farm is a unique tropical fruit orchard, bordered by rainforest and home to more than 2,500 fruiting trees. There are more than 60 different varieties of exotic fruit growing on the



property, all certain to tantalise your taste buds! From the divine chocolate pudding fruit, to the creamy sapote, you’ll enjoy exotic fruit like never before. Tasting tours are run at 2pm 5 days a week (M-W-F-S-S) during peak season of June-October. Julatten | TRIP 3 Barramundi Gold Situated in the pristine Port Douglas hinterland at Julatten, you will find Barramundi Gardens. Famous for their award winning Queensland Barramundi Gold, a succulent, flavourful culinary delight and also for their gourmet spring rolls, made from 100% fresh meat and vegetables in 9 delicious flavours including Nice and Spicy Chilli Beef, Tropical North Queensland Crocodile, Exotic Peking Duck and of course Pure Australian Barramundi. Open 7 days a week from 7.30am to 5.30pm. Mareeba | TRIP 4 Emerald Creek Ice Creamery For the sweet tooth, Emerald Creek Ice Creamery is a haven along the drive between Kuranda and Mareeba. The visitor centre cafe offers a range of treats such as banana splits, waffles and sundaes plus a range of hot and cold drinks. They also make their own fresh fudge and a range of condiments. Open 7 days. Monday to Friday 12pm to 4:30pm. Saturday to Sunday 10am to 4:30pm. Skybury Cafe & Roastery Located in the heart of Australia’s premier coffee growing region, you will discover Skybury Cafe & Roastery. Relax with a coffee, grown and roasted on the plantation while you take in the breathtaking views or order from the café menu filled with fabulous local produce. Skybury is also Australia’s largest papaya producer. Open Monday to Friday from 9am to 4pm. Closed on weekends. Jaques Coffee Plantation Jaques Coffee Plantation, located just outside Mareeba offers guided tours of the plantation and roastery including a unique coffee documentary in their air conditioned theatre. Enjoy a lunch of local and seasonal produce in their cafe set in the heart of the plantation or just relax with an artisan barista made house roast espresso. Open Friday to Sunday from 10am to 4pm. Mt Uncle Distillery Located at the foothill of Mt Uncle itself, you will find the distillery and tasting room, where you can sample a swag of award winning liqueurs & spirits, all produced on site. Relax and enjoy the story behind each drop or take a stroll around the beautiful grounds filled with fruit trees and a menagerie of farm animals and peacocks roaming freely. Open 7 days from 10am to 4pm.

Atherton/Malanda TRIP 5 Shaylee Strawberries Located between Atherton and the historic township of Yungaburra, Shaylee’s is the place to go for juicy, ripe strawberries. Strawberry punnets are available from the farm during the season (best from July to November), and you can also indulge in a pick-your-own option. There is also an onsite cafe with sweet and savoury options. Open Monday to Sunday from 9:00am to 4:00pm. Gallo Dairyland Located between Atherton, Malanda and Yungaburra, Gallo Dairyland is a fully functional dairy farm producing a range of gourmet dairy products and hand crafted chocolates. With something for everyone, you will enjoy cheese tasting, chocolates, a licensed cafe, milking demonstrations and an animal nursery. Open Wednesday to Sunday from 10am to 4pm. Nerada Tea Explore Australia’s largest tea plantation in the picturesque setting of Malanda. Book a farm tour or tea blending experience or simply take in the stunning view of the estate over a fresh cup of tea in the Tea Rooms. If you’re lucky, you might even spot one of Australia’s rarest animals, the Lumholtz’s tree kangaroo in the trees above. Open Monday to Sunday 10am to 4:30pm. Milla Milla/Mungalli TRIP 6 Mungalli Creek Biodynamic Dairy & Farmhouse Cafe Just 10 minutes from Millaa Millaa Falls, you will find Mungalli Creek Dairy, the only Biodynamic Farmhouse Cheesery and Cafe in the far north. Sample free tastings of the seasonal cheeses and yoghurt and sit and relax in the fresh mountain air and enjoy gorgeous views to Mt Bartle Frere – Queensland’s highest mountain. Open daily from 10am to 4pm. Rainforest Heart Journey into a ‘lost world’ in the heart of wet tropical rainforest and explore Australian tropical bush food at Rainforest Heart, near Millaa Millaa. Book a tour of the native fruit orchard, taste the fruits as nature intended and enjoy the range of products available. Open any day by prior arrangement. Smokehouse Cafe For a food experience paired with a native wildlife encounter, venture to Tarzali Lakes. The Australian Platypus Park is where you’ll find the Smokehouse Café offering a range of fully flavoured handcrafted smoked products. While you’re there, take a stroll around the property and you’ll be sure to sight the elusive little platypus. Open daily from 8am to 4pm.