FNQ Food Magazine 2023 - Special Annual Edition

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Fun | FooD | Entertainment | Shopping | Culture 70+ market shops Air-conditioned Open 7 days | 5pm - late www.nightmarkets.com.au

Editor/Publisher | David Leith

Executive Editor | Jodie Ferrero

Sub-editor | Mark Tuite

Designer | Liagi Mateo

Sales Manager | Catherine Swan

Writers

David Leith

Jodie Ferrero

Janie Barton

Kirsty Nancarrow

Suzy Grinter

Narelle Muller

Stacey Carrick

Elaine Deane

Mark Knowles

Photographers

Mick Fuhrimann

David Leith

With thanks to Cairns Museum / Cairns Historical Society

Tourism Tropical North Queensland

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Published by FNQ Media Pty Ltd 211 Hartley Street, Cairns 4870

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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.

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EDITOR A note from the

Welcome to the second special annual edition of FNQ FOOD Magazine. Once again we bring you a huge celebration of all the food and beverages this unique region has to offer, and all the characters, places and things that make them possible. Whether you are reading this as a local, a visitor, or in a far off place looking at what we have here, you will find something amazing.

As we look forward to more prosperous times ahead we also want to highlight the definite connection between culinary tourism and sustainable development. The rise of consumer interest in food provenance has started a move in regional agriculture toward niche outputs for consumers and tourists to either bolster or replace more traditional bulk production.

This is the sector in which we (FNQ Media and FNQ FOOD Magazine) live and breathe; the area of ‘added value’ in the local food chain. As a community we are proud, often fiercely, of our tropical region, forgiving its inclement wet season, geographical isolation and comparatively high cost of living in favour of celebrating its natural history, its cultural and industrial diversity, and the determination and innovation of its people.

I doubt there is anyone who isn’t familiar with the Great Barrier Reef, or even the Daintree, plus the vast red dirt that lies inland. But dig a little deeper and perhaps there are gaps in our collective knowledge of what we do here in food and drink. As residents of FNQ, both consumers and producers, it is our job, indeed duty to ourselves and the sustainability of the region, to become familiar with what we grow, make, eat and drink across the North. That is knowledge we can all share with each other and those that we invite here.

To put this into context, the estimated annual spend on food and drink by tourists in Australia is $25 billion. Everyone eats during their leisure time, whether that be a shopping trip or travel adventure. Increasingly, the demands are for good food, sustainably sourced and preferably local, even if those qualities come at a premium.

Tourism is not confined to those arriving here by plane: it’s someone living in Woree

going to the pub in Innisfail; it’s having breakfast on the Esplanade; it’s what happens when we leave the house for purposes other than domestic or business. Food and drink are paramount in that experience. Increasingly more research from across the world indicates that not only does food drive first-time tourism and exploration, but a positive food experience underwrites return visits. In the same way we might become a regular at a local restaurant, having a positive culinary experience is a huge drawcard for coming back to the same region as a visitor.

So please join us as we celebrate another year in far northern hospitality, and continue the journey to the food (and drink) nirvana that is all around us and, as importantly, share what you find, take to the airwaves (or socials!), and use our hashtag #FNQfood. Go the extra mile to visit the award winning producers, manufacturers and venues. Recognise and select local produce. And, most of all, remember if you’re here - for days, weeks or your entire life - it’s all yours too!

Refreshingly

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

Scoo Brew loves ya guts!

scoobrew.com.au

Welcome to our 2023 edition of FNQ Food Magazine!

On each page of this publication is a story… a unique story about the people, places and provenance of food and drink in Far North Queensland.

In bringing these stories to life, it has been my privilege to interview some of the incredible characters who put food and drink in FNQ on the map. With plenty of entertaining anecdotes and inspiring accounts from some of the region’s most recognised and revered industry professionals, each article is a journey of discovery into their world - an insight into their passion, dedication and, of course, the culinary pleasures they masterfully create. From emerging local producers and awarded distillers to iconic cafes and hatted restaurants, we have a richness to our gourmet scene here that is rare and we celebrate this in everything we do at FNQ Food Magazine.

My gratitude goes to our talented team of sales staff, writers, subeditors, photographers and designers for working alongside me to bring you the stories of the fabulous businesses that feature in this edition.

So, here it is, the culmination of our work; a collection of the best food and beverage brands in the region. An appetising feast for you, our reader, to devour.

On behalf of the entire team, I hope you enjoy our 2023 edition of FNQ Food Magazine! It has once again been my absolute delight to produce this publication.

THE TEAM

FNQ Food LIAGI MATEO Professional Design & Layout JANIE BARTON Freelance Writer MARK TUITE Sub Editor SUZY GRINTER Freelance Writer CATHERINE SWAN Sales Manager NARELLE MULLER Freelance Writer MICK FUHRIMANN Photographer KIRSTY NANCARROW Freelance Writer ELAINE DEANE Freelance Writer MARK KNOWLES Freelance Writer STACEY CARRICK Freelance Writer

THE FOOD & DRINK OF FNQ!

The theme of this year’s edition is the journey… the journey through food and drink in the Far North and the people, places and things that you will discover while you are on it. Whether you are a first-time visitor or long-time resident, we would like to share with you the journey of food from paddock to plate, to award-winning distillers, brewers and winemakers.

The journey of diversity from the most complex to the simplest of landscapes. Through celebratory dishes featuring the best and freshest ingredients closer than anywhere else to their origin. There is no doubt 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 range of places to stay that stretches from the most luxurious to budget beds for those with all their gear on their back. 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 the most exciting and exotic produce available anywhere in the world. This is not just a place busy in the production of fantastic food and drink, it also accommodates some of the

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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 are fixated upon 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. The locals are creative too; a proliferation of craft breweries, small batch 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 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 will take you through to our website; feel free to visit and sign up for our regular email newsletter 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
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Food Events

Feast of the Senses

The Feast of the Senses is 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. This event is held annually in March.

www.feastofthesenses.com.au

Cairns Craft Beer Festival

The Cairns Craft Beer Festival is an exciting event that showcases some of the best craft breweries and distilleries in the region. With a variety of freshly made brews from Macalister Brewing Company, Coral Sea Brewing Company, Barrier Reef Brewing Company, Billycart Brewing Company, Maggie Island Brewing and Hemingway’s Brewery and distilleries such as Devils Thumb, Mount Uncle, and Wolf Lane, there’s sure to be something for everyone’s taste buds. This event is held annually in May.

www.hemingwaysbrewery.com

Port Douglas Carnivale

Port Douglas Carnivale is an annual festival held in the idyllic coastal town of Port Douglas. Featuring an exciting lineup of events, including the famous street parade, live music performances, food and wine events, and a range of sporting activities. Visitors can also look forward to a stunning fireworks display that will light up the sky over Four Mile Beach. Food and wine lovers will delight, as the festival offers a range of culinary experiences, from wine tastings and cooking demonstrations to food stalls and pop-up restaurants, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. This event is held annually in May.

www.carnivale.com.au

TASTE Port Douglas

Taste Port Douglas is an annual food and wine festival that takes place in the beautiful tropical paradise of Port Douglas. With an exciting lineup of culinary talent and an impressive array of food and wine, the festival brings together some of Australia’s most celebrated chefs, restaurateurs, and winemakers, showcasing the best of what the region has to offer. From fresh seafood to locally sourced meats, Taste Port Douglas offers a range of delicious dishes that celebrate the unique flavors of Tropical North Queensland. This event is held in August each year.

www.tasteportdouglas.com.au

Salt House Food and Wine Festival

The Salt House Food and Wine Festival is a must-visit event for food and wine enthusiasts alike. This festival is held annually and showcases the best of local and international cuisine, as well as some of the finest wines from around the world. The festival takes place at the Salt House in Cairns, a stunning waterfront venue that offers a perfect backdrop for this gastronomical celebration. With a wide selection of winemakers, distillers, brewers, and producers on display, attendees are sure to find something that piques their interest and provides a fabulous opportunity to enjoy the best of FNQ’s local produce. This event is held in August each year.

www.salthouse.com.au/food-and-wine-festival-2023

Cairns Festival

The Cairns Festival is a much-anticipated annual event, a celebration of the city’s diverse culture and rich history, with events and activities that showcase the best of the region. The Cairns Festival takes place over ten days with concerts, performances, art exhibitions, food markets, and much more, all designed to entertain and delight visitors. Whether you’re a foodie, a music lover, or an art enthusiast, there’s something for everyone at this vibrant and exciting event. This event is held at the end of August / beginning of September each year.

www.cairns.qld.gov.au/festival

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Local Markets

MARKETS

Far North Queensland is home to a number of markets that offer an exciting range of shopping, eating, entertainment and people-watching for both locals and tourists.

Port Douglas Markets - Held every Sunday, this market offers a range of goods including fresh produce, arts and crafts, fashion, and jewellery.

Kuranda Original Rainforest Markets - Open daily, this market offers a unique shopping experience with a focus on locally made and sustainable products.

Mossman Markets - Held on Saturdays, this market offers a range of local produce, handmade crafts, and unique gifts.

Yungaburra Markets - Held on the fourth Saturday of each month, this market offers a range of handmade crafts, local produce, and live music.

Rusty’s Market - Open Friday to Sunday, this market is a popular spot for fresh produce, with a range of

tropical fruits, vegetables, and herbs on offer. Palm Cove Markets - Held on the first Sunday of each month, this market offers a range of handmade crafts, jewelry, and local produce.

Holloways Beach Markets - Held on the second Sunday of each month right on the beachfront, this market is a treasure trove; you never quite know what you’re going to find.

Mareeba Markets - Held on the second Saturday of each month, this market offers a range of locally grown produce, arts and crafts, and handmade gifts.

Cardwell Markets - Held on the third Sunday of each month, this market offers a range of handmade crafts, local produce, and live entertainment.

Mission Beach Markets - Held on the first and third Sunday of each month, this market offers a range of handmade crafts, jewellery, and locally grown produce.

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The Smart Cookies

Everyone loves to pair their cuppa with a sweet treat, or a biscuit or two, but sometimes you want something a little more decadent; a step or two up from a couple of monte carlos. For over 35 years, FNQ locals and visitors alike have always chosen the iconic Kuranda Cookie as that sweet delight.

Humble and home baked, the Kuranda Cookie first came out of the kitchen in 1992, and over time has grown into the beloved icon of the region that it is today. When the founding owners decided to hang up their aprons in 2021, they put the company on the market hoping to find someone who would continue the legacy of their beloved biscuits.

It was perfect timing for Jonathon and Tip Cowie, who had just sold a successful enterprise and were looking for a new small business venture in FNQ. Jono grew up in Tolga, imploring his Mum for a Kuranda Cookie from her cafe after school each day, and so the idea of becoming the owner of such a personally meaningful brand in FNQ filled him with pride (and an appetite for eating as many cookies as he liked!) so, of course, they jumped at the opportunity.

Jono had left the quiet idylls of the Tablelands some years ago and, while working overseas in the mining industry, met Tip, through mutual friends in Lao. Tip was a successful restaurateur who, over the years, had worked with some of Lao’s most predominant chefs, pastry chefs and bakers. Deciding that they wanted to raise their family in the Far North, Jono and Tip made the region their permanent home eight years ago.

The ethos of Kuranda Cookies is that of hand baked, artisanal products loaded with local quality ingredients, infused with love. All that played well into Tip’s expert hands and the concept remains the same with her as head baker. Tip’s skill and expertise as a food entrepreneur enables her to add her special touch to the beloved classic recipes, with subtle enhancements and refinements of the flavours and textures, all moving toward that perfect bite. Talking of their

Snappy Lemon and Lime biscuits, she recalls “adding some orange rind and ginger to the mix, we have lifted the cookie to a new level, bringing a new element of zest and spiciness to the cookie, combined with a subtle and pleasing change in the texture.”

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Whilst on their quest to source the best ingredients for their most popular cookie, Crush with Roasted Macadamia, their story of local acquisition continued. The recipe for these cookies has always had the best quality local macadamias from the Atherton Tablelands - the prestigious Wondaree Macadamias. Jono and Tip had developed a new passion for keeping FNQ’s iconic products alive, and when they discovered the Wondaree farm was closing the retail brand last October, they saw an opportunity well worth their investment and purchased the brand and retail division of Wondaree Macadamias in 2022. They now package, retail and wholesale these famous nuts across Australia, as well as ensuring the supply of first-grade macadamias for their cookies.

Jono is very proud of their Wondaree Macadamia nut operation and insists that all of their nuts are

of the best possible grade, providing the largest and tastiest macadamias available. He and Tip have worked on developing the flavour range, particularly worthy of note is their smoked flavour which carries beautifully across through the larger nut.

“We are extremely proud to be the stewards of these iconic FNQ brands,” Jono says.

“I grew up with both of these products and now I am watching my children grow up with them. I am just so honoured and excited that our new venture is keeping both products alive and available for generations to come.”

Both Kuranda Cookies and Wondaree Macadamias retail online and at a variety of supermarkets, cafes, hotels and tourist venues throughout the region, and with a strong vision for a new era, these iconic Far North Queensland products may well be popping up worldwide very soon.

Wondaree Macadamias sales@kurandacookies.com.au 0455 560 678
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Brett’s Outback Tasting Adventures The Third Jewel

The Atherton Tablelands boast some of the richest soil on the planet, so it’s no wonder the region is fast becoming known as the ‘Food bowl of the North’ - the third jewel in the region’s tourism crown after the reef and rainforest.

Nestled among green rolling hills and sprawling savannah country is a cornucopia of bountiful produce and wildlife not found co-existing anywhere else in Australia.

Where else can you indulge in a gourmet lunch of local red claw, smoked crocodile and Davidson Plum wine while spotting the secretive platypus, or taste a native fruit cocktail whilst overlooking the delightful Johnston River.

Co-owner of Brett’s Outback Tasting Adventures, Andrea Cameron says it is these kinds of experiences that are drawing many visitors and locals away from the coast onto a journey from the paddock to the plate.

Andrea arrived in Port Douglas as a backpacker from the UK in 1989 following the devastating pilots’ strike. She planned to stay for a year but never went back. Instead, she became deeply involved in the tourism industry, working in a variety of roles before launching a car rental business for Port Douglas entrepreneur Garry Masters.

“I knew during the pilot strike he’d hidden away 15 convertibles in Townsville,” Andrea says. “I was 21 and I booked an appointment with him, and I remember walking up the curly stairs, I sat down and said, ‘I can start you a car rental company’, which I ran for him for several years.

“I’ve always had entrepreneurial skill, I guess. I did the brochures, the advertising, the marketing, and the car washing,” she says.

Growing up in the Yorkshire Dales, Andrea felt an affinity with the verdant dairy country of the southern Tablelands and now spends many of her days off exploring the region.

Andrea and business partner Brett Cameron began running a Kuranda tour 10 years ago and were inspired to start Brett’s Outback Tasting Adventures following a private charter.

“We took a family of 12 from Victoria around the Tablelands and they absolutely loved it and said ‘you guys should do something like this because we’ve had the best day’,” she says.

Through months of research, Brett and Andrea curated some of the best food and beverage experiences the region has to offer to be presented with passion by entertaining and knowledgeable guides. The first boutique

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Images courtesy of TTNQ

tour from Port Douglas was launched in 2014 and a second tour was later added from Cairns.

Brett’s Outback Tasting Adventures immerses guests in the story behind the produce, as well as sharing local history and insights into Aboriginal culture, all from the comfort of a luxury, air-conditioned 20-seater bus. Some days, there’s even a singalong on the way home.

The tastings are generous throughout the 10-hour tour, which visits at least seven unique environmentally sustainable venues. Guests can sample delicious cheeses and chocolates from a working dairy at Gallo Dairyland, coffee from the solar-powered plantation at Jaques, tropical fruits and homemade ice cream from familyowned Emerald Creek Ice Creamery, award-winning spirits from Mount Uncle Distillery, and much more.

There’s no obligation to buy from the farm gate or distillery door, but many guests can’t resist taking home some of the gourmet goodies to enjoy throughout the rest of their Far North Queensland stay.

The journey between destinations is as much of a drawcard.

“We get off the beaten track,” Andrea says. “We spent a lot of time working out how we could get from A to B without being on any highways and doing that we found some amazing views and some amazing experiences for people.”

Brett’s Outback Tasting Adventures lives up to its mantra “More Tastings. More Drinks. More Fun”, earning Tripadvisor Traveller’s Choice status for the second consecutive year and billing among the Top 10 Food Tours of the World on Viator.

While the regular tour running Wednesday to Saturday is just for adults, Brett’s Outback Tasting Adventures does offer family-friendly private charters. There’s limited walking involved, so the tour is suitable for most mobilities, and dietary requirements are also well catered for.

Brett’s Outback Tasting Adventures has helped some small Tablelands producers keep their doors open in the wake of the global pandemic, and the special relationship is clear in the warm welcome the tours receive at each destination.

There’s always something new to try, and it’s the reason many guests are returning to the tour year after year and putting it at the top of their Far North Queensland ‘must-do’ list.

Departing from Cairns & Northern Beaches 4098 5059 19

The Reef Hotel Casino

Eat, Drink, Meet, And Play.

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For over twenty-five 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 under the sea 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.

With 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 awardwinning restaurants to delight your taste buds with flavours to savour from across the globe. Kick off the day with an à la carte breakfast or just enjoy a coffee at Merchant Artisan Food & Coffee, experience Asian culinary culture at Soy Kitchen Street Food, enjoy a casual bite at Flinders Bar and Grill or, for fine dining with the friendly touch, 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.

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MERCHANT ARTISAN FOOD AND COFFEE

Any coffee lover would agree that Merchant’s specialised coffees are divine, and their à la carte breakfast menu is full of FNQ flavour.

Merchant staff are dedicated to their craft as baristas, 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, Blackbird, a specialty coffee courtesy of Blackbird Local Coffee Roasters, a dynamic local company kicking exceptional goals in coffee excellence. Made with a mix of beans from PNG, Sumatra, Nicaragua and Honduras, the taste is simply divine.

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 as furry friends are welcome on our outside deck area. Merchant is also available for private functions in the evening.

FLINDERS BAR AND GRILL

Flinders Bar & Grill is located right in the heart of the gaming action and is an over-eighteen venue offering a fast and friendly bistro style service.

In contrast to the action on the floor, Flinders Bar & 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 available.

Whether you are wanting a snack, lunch or dinner, Flinders Bar & 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
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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.

The team at Soy Kitchen Street Food have created delicious dishes in a fusion of Asian flavours to tantalise your taste buds, accentuated with fresh local produce.

Soy Kitchen Street Food is a favourite with locals for the ‘happy hour’ share plates, true street ‘finger’ food perfect to enjoy over a couple of drinks after work with colleagues or friends.

TAMARIND RESTAURANT

The pinnacle of dining at The Reef Hotel Casino is the world renowned Tamarind Restaurant. With a coveted Chef Hat award and a recipient of the 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 offers a delectable menu of ‘Australian Freestyle’ cuisine. The chefs embrace 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 seasonally to align with the season’s harvest, the menu at Tamarind boasts only the finest in local produce created with innovation and an amalgamation of flavours..

Tamarind’s menu is complemented by an impressive Australian wine list, local and imported beers and spirits, and an innovative and enticing cocktail menu.

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Drink your way to good health

Scoo Brew Kombucha
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Amanda Hargrave, Founder

Did you know that kombucha has been referred to for thousands of years in Chinese medicine as the elixir of lifelong health? Its health benefits are enormous, which is why Amanda Hargrave started making it six years ago.

Amanda had aggressive breast cancer 13 years ago (and is always aware that her health issue could resurface) which led her into looking at natural ways of keeping healthy and boosting her immune system. That’s when she came across kombucha, a fermented sweet black tea originating in China.

After researching the benefits of the ancient brew, she experimented by making her own recipes using such fresh local produce as raspberries, lemon, ginger, dragonfruit and passionfruit, among other fruits and spices.

“I started making it myself in 2017 and was soon making 50 litres a week for my family and friends,” Amanda says. “I realised there was a market for it, so I thought I’d give it a go. I quit my job and started Scoo Brew Kombucha.”

She opened her own production site in 2018, just six months after starting the business. Today, Scoo Brew makes up to 2000 litres a week and has products available at more than 100 stockists throughout North Queensland.

Scoo Brew, a 100 percent locally owned and operated business that uses only real fruit for flavour, has seven core brews and often introduces different flavours at Rusty’s Markets in Cairns, where you can also buy it on tap every weekend.

All her flavours, including raspberry, lemon and ginger, watermelon and lime, carrot and turmeric, orange and mandarin, passionfruit and dragonfruit, are a hit with all ages (children especially like the colourful dragonfruit and raspberry drinks).

One of the main benefits of kombucha is that it contains probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria that live in our gut. These bacteria help to support our immune system and promote digestion. In addition, kombucha is also high in antioxidants, can help increase the production of immune cells in the body, and helps protect against harmful bacteria and viruses.

“It’s low in sugar (containing only a small amount left over from the fermentation process plus natural fruit sugars and not through any sugar substitutes like stevia) and pumped full of probiotics that help keep your gut healthy,” Amanda says. “There is a direct correlation between mental health and gut health and also a correlation between gut health and autoimmune diseases, so it’s all about keeping your gut healthy with probiotics.

“A lot of people have never heard of kombucha and many others have thought all kombucha tastes the same. But, just like not all wine and beer tastes the same, not all kombucha tastes the same. About 95 per cent of people who say they don’t like kombucha and try one of my batches end up loving it.”

A major difference between her kombucha and mass-produced ones is hers have no ‘asleep’ probiotics.

“These probiotics claim to wake up once you consume them, however studies have proven that these are not waking up for 24-48 hours after ingestion, and by this time most have been expelled from your body,” she says. “Scoo Brew contains only naturally occurring probiotics that are created during the fermentation process.

“It’s completely fresh. We liken it to fresh milk as opposed to UHT milk. Our fermentation process is not micro filtered or uses any other process, which all have similar outcomes to pasteurisation, which is killing off the probiotics, the good stuff.”

Amanda uses fresh local fruit to favour her non-pasteurised brews and does not use essences, concentrates, oils, extracts or preservatives, and her brewery uses only BioPak packaging and composts as much as possible.

“We’re lucky that we have an absolute plethora of wonderful produce here in Far North Queensland,” she says. “I source all our ingredients from local suppliers. Not only do we get fresh produce, but we are ensuring the profits benefit our community.”

Scoo Brew Kombucha can be found throughout Cairns, Port Douglas, the Tablelands, Cassowary Coast and at various outlets throughout North Queensland (see its website for a full list). It’s also on tap at Rusty’s Markets and Cairns Local Farmers Market at Earlville Shopping Town, among other places.

Amanda has constant health check-ups to ensure cancer hasn’t returned, and it hasn’t.

“The best thing about kombucha is its probiotics help fight off bad bacteria, which helps to keep us healthy,” she adds.

Scoo Brew Kombucha Bar, Rusty’s Markets, Cairns 0422 225 936
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Restaurants & Fine Dining

The very best of food in the far north of Queensland

Far North Queensland leaves very little to be desired when it comes to culinary experiences. Some of the most diverse produce, some of the shortest food miles, coupled with a heritage steeped in multicultural and indigenous 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 and drinks 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. Eating and drinking your way across this region you will become part of an exclusive group, FNQ food is a revelation and it will remind you what all the fuss is about, even when it comes to the simplest dishes. The good news is that this journey requires only limited preparation and not a map and a compass. We have carefully curated and charted some of the best there is to discover right here, an open mind and an open mouth are the only prerequisites!

Bon FNQ appétit!

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Beach Almond The Downbeat Gourmet

There is an old phrase which says not to judge a book by its cover. If ever there was a more apt illustration of this sage advice, it is a little corner in one of Cairns’ more exclusive northern beaches at which you will find an eclectic, uncurated, ramshackle restaurant - Beach Almond. Each evening, this unremarkable looking venue comes alive with fairy lights and cool dusk tunes, and creates some of the most striking and flavoursome Asian style seafood dishes in Far North Queensland. All under the obsessive and talented stewardship of head chef and owner Brian Holding.

Served on an open deck, each menu item is an adventure, an encapsulation of a time, place or taste taken from Brian’s extensive travel and inquisitive culinary nature. For thirty years he has interspersed his Australian life with living and travelling across Southeast Asia and the islands south of that continental mass. All the while basking in the cultures and cuisines across that diverse and varied area of the globe. From fishing village banquets to palatial garden weddings, Brian has immersed himself in all aspects of Asian cuisine from matching exotic flavours and ingredients to the simplest and most elaborate of cooking techniques. This wealth

of knowledge settled a decade ago in the quiet northern end of Williams Esplanade in the laidback tropical haven of Palm Cove.

Palm Cove offers the tourist and local alike a glimpse into what we conjure up in our heads when we think of a tropical paradise. Its eccentric shoreline boasts a huge array of accommodations and culinary outlets, ranging from millionaires to backpackers.

Like many of the truly driven, very little of what Brian does is unintentional. The choice of Palm Cove not only provided the perfect backdrop for the restaurant’s rustic ambience but also a conduit to domestic and international travellers who see Beach Almond for what it is - a sophisticated facsimile of the very best of Asian cuisine, set in the heart of one of Australia’s favourite beachside resort towns.

“The location and customer base are of course appealing here, the majority of the Palm Cove community are transient, looking for a unique experience and that is indeed what we offer,” says Brian.

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“However, what sets us apart from most everywhere, not just in Far North Queensland but in fact the world, is our ingredients.

“All our fresh ingredients are local. Our mud crabs were caught perhaps a day ago, the wild prawns come from the Gulf and the Coral Sea. On any given night you can look up from your dinner across the beach and the lights of the prawn trawlers glinting on the horizon.

“Our fish are caught sustainably and locally, from the freshest of reef fish to estuary line caught barra, they’re all here.

“Beach Almond is at the front of the queue for the supply chain, even the very best restaurants in the world can’t serve as fresh as we do.

“We do make very, very good food, but that is amplified by the quality and freshness of the ingredients. We have some of the most amazing produce here, from seafood to salad.”

abundance of local produce. He is well accustomed to demanding the best of local seafood and choice cuts from local butchers.

“All of this region is my pantry. Metro chefs can only dream of being this close to the origin of their ingredients,” says Brian.

Even a casual stroll through the many reviews for Beach Almond will see the common thread emerging, extolling excellence of cuisine, with that perfect tropical blend of casual ambience and fine dining.

Brian can often be seen at Cairns’ iconic Rusty’s Markets browsing the Covid and its aftermath have not been kind to the Cove. When restrictions lifted, customers came in abundance, hand in hand with chronic staff shortages. Rising labour costs and shortages in logistics have had a steady effect, increasing the price of everything. But Brian remains stoic when considering the future. Known for his culinary perfectionism, he chooses to focus on being better rather than what could be worse.

“We create the best we can, from the best we can get, and are blessed that so many appreciate what it is that we do.”

Beach Almond 145 Williams Esplanade, Palm Cove 4059 1908
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Chill at PORTOFINO

As you drive along idyllic Palm Cove Esplanade, it is impossible to miss the hip and happening venue that is Chill at Portofino. With its prime corner locale and sublime views from the deck out to the Coral Sea, Chill at Portofino arguably has the best vantage point in the postcode and a vibe to match.

Chill at Portofino is the magic four for foodies - a cafe , bar, pizzeria and restaurant combined. Thanks to the vision of owners Tony and Manuela Moore, what were the individual venues of Chill Cafe and Portofino Italian Restaurant merged to become Chill at Portofino in 2017.

Once a successful share trader in Sydney, only to have the global financial crisis put pay to his career, Tony was drawn to Far North Queensland for a fresh start with his family. With a rather ambitious goal, Tony decided to trade economics for eggs benedict and so began his journey in the hospitality industry.

Settling on the Northern Beaches, things fell nicely into place for Tony when he came across a little cafe for lease in Palm Cove. Serendipitously, on Christmas Eve in 2009, the curtain was raised on Chill Cafe. Quickly becoming the go-to place to get great coffee, fruit juices and smoothies on the esplanade, Chill Cafe, with its laid back atmosphere and rustic setting, won the hearts of tourists and locals alike.

That was fourteen years ago, and Tony still laughs at the trials and tribulations they had along the way to achieving the success they have today.

“It was a case of being thrown in the deep end. We even had Manuela’s parents chipping in and helping wash dishes on that first day,” says Tony.

Tony attributes the excellent reputation of the business to the wonderful team of chefs, baristas, bar and wait staff he has been fortunate enough to employ over the years, many of them having been part of the team since the beginning.

Chill @ Portofino 3/41 Williams Esplanade, Palm Cove 0439 361 122
Words by Elaine Deane
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“Our staff are exceptional in their roles, and we truly feel our success is largely due to having such amazing staff over the last fourteen years.”

With vision and determination, Tony has embraced the challenges along the way to creating his hospitality dream and, resemblant of his personal journey, the venue has evolved with the times.

2014 saw Chill Cafe become licensed and extend their trading to include breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and with the much-awaited completion of the quintessential Queensland wraparound deck, and the introduction of regular live music sessions, visitors from near and far were flocking to the venue to enjoy everything on offer.

When the opportunity arose in 2016 to purchase what was then Portobello Restaurant right next door, Tony and Manuela took the leap of faith and Portofino Restaurant and Bar was born. Although successful in its own right, serving mouthwatering seafood, steaks, pastas and woodfired pizzas, the concept of bringing Portofino Restaurant and Bar and Chill Cafe together to create a Mediterranean inspired bar and all-day dining destination was an opportunity too good not to pursue.

It wasn’t long after that, with a bar renovation, restaurant extension and the installation of their award-winning shade sails, that the finishing touches were put to this much-loved Palm Cove icon, now melded together perfectly as Chill at Portofino.

Chill at Portofino is the best of both worlds with guests able to enjoy the entire offering from their preferred seating in the venue, whether it is to sit casually on the deck sipping cocktails or devouring one of their renowned woodfired pizzas at traditional seating in the restaurant. The menus are combined with a plethora of options for delightful breakfasts, lazy lunches, casual dinners, or anything in between.

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Tony Moore, co-owner
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FOUR CINQ

for ‘pouring’ and refers to the way in which dishes are prepared and served to diners. The emphasis is on fresh, seasonal ingredients and the food is typically prepared in a minimalist style to showcase the natural flavours and textures of the ingredients. One of the unique aspects of Kaiseki dining is the emphasis on sake, Japanese rice wine. Sake is traditionally paired with each dish to enhance the flavours and bring out the subtleties in the food.

Yoshi learned the trade from his father, and it seems that culinary talent is deeply embedded in his family’s genes.

“My father specialises in family-style Japanese cuisine mixed with Chinese-style cooking,” Yoshi says. “My eldest son is a Japanese chef; actually, all of my relatives are chefs! I have never been to cooking school, but I learnt a lot from my father.”

With its small number of staff — just three chefs and three wait staff – Four Cinq has a very welcoming family feel and Yoshi wants his customers to take their time and feel at home when they come to dine.

Four Cinq, situated at the wharf end of Lake St, is a must-visit destination for anyone looking for a truly authentic and delicious Japanese dining experience in Cairns. Owned and operated by Osaka-born chef Yoshikawa Junya, the restaurant is renowned for its wide range of delicious ramen noodle dishes and unique ‘kaiseki’ family-style dining.

Chef Yoshi does a masterful version of the classic ramen styles, including: Tonkotsu – a creamy, pork-based broth that is made by boiling pork bones for several hours to extract the flavour and collagen; Shoyu – a soy sauce-based broth that is dark in colour and has a salty, savoury flavour; and Miso – a broth made from fermented soybean paste, which imparts a rich, umami flavour.

These rich broths are the backbone of the kitchen at Four Cinq and they produce huge potfulls of them every day.

“It is actually stewed over a very strong heat and boils continuously until it gets thicker. I make about seventy litres of broth every day,” says Yoshi.

While his classic ramen dishes are justifiably popular, those seeking new horizons in their ramen journey should try Yoshi’s lime ramen, featuring a zesty and pungent broth with slices of lime, mizuna, shallots and ginger topped with crispy karaage chicken. His vegan ramen option is also a must-try with its unique white pepper and soy milk broth making it the perfect lunchtime pick-me-up. There are also several ramen options which are served cold – a refreshing change that makes them the perfect dishes for our balmy Far North Queensland weather.

For an even more authentic dining experience, head to dinner at Four Cinq to experience Chef Yoshi’s specialty – ‘kaiseki’ style dining. This unique style of Japanese food service combines the traditional elements of Japanese cuisine with contemporary presentation and flair. The name ‘kaiseki’ comes from the Japanese word

“Our dinner menu is more extensive and more complicated. They’re dishes for drinking with sake or beer, so people can take their time and enjoy it,” says Yoshi.

“The Wagyu beef is very popular, my customers love Wagyu. One of the other really popular dishes in the restaurant is the pan-fried ox tongue. I get the ox tongue from Byrnes Meats, who’ve been in business in Cairns for nearly thirty years,” he adds.

The majority of the restaurant’s customers are locals, and Yoshi focuses more on serving this local clientele rather than trying to court tourists.

“Ninety percent of my customers are local, so I still try to build them up more and more, they are my focus more than tourists. I think that is getting better year by year,” he says.

The restaurant has recently faced challenges with the cost of tuna, which has gone up dramatically.

“I find myself using more Atlantic salmon and preparing it in different ways – not only served raw –sometimes cooked or braised or marinated. This way people won’t get bored, there’s always something new, so it makes it more fun,” he says.

Four Cinq by Yoshikawa offers one of most authentic Japanese dining experiences in Cairns and its welcoming family atmosphere will make you feel right at home and have you coming back again and again to sample Chef Yoshi’s extensive menu. Just make sure you bring your sense of culinary adventure with you and try some of Yoshi’s unique creations, you won’t be disappointed.

Four Cinq 6/20 Lake St, Cairns 4031 7774
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Where people matter

L’Unico Trattoria Italiano

While longevity is undoubtedly a sign of restaurant success, there’s much more than being well-established that makes L’Unico Trattoria Italiano at Trinity Beach a hugely popular venue.

The family-run business, overlooking stunning views of the Coral Sea and housed in a quintessential Far North Queensland style building, has dominated the Trinity Beach restaurant scene for 28 years. For owners Matt and Annie Turner, who took over the business five years ago, and business partners Stuart and Samira Shahin, L’Unico is a big part of the community.

“It’s a part of the fabric of our community,” Matt says. “It’s been involved in weddings, birthdays and all kinds of celebrations. People’s children have come here for their mum and dad’s wedding, and now they’re coming here to get married themselves. It’s a lot more than just a business.

“We’re a big family restaurant. We’re not a corporate conglomerate. Everything that we do matters. And I think what you get from this trattoria is a family experience where people matter and where the food is delicious.”

And the food really is delicious - the Restaurant Association of Australia has recognised L’Unico as one of the top eight Italian restaurants in the nation.

Understandably, pasta dishes and wood-fired pizzas feature prominently on the menu with a huge selection of both available. Its house-made lasagne (with meat or vegetables) is hard to go past, as is the home-made gnocchi and four-cheese sauce. But it’s equally hard not to sink your teeth into angel hair pasta with bugs, chilli, white wine and parmesan, as well as its spaghetti marinara or veal ravioli in a creamy mushroom and truffle sauce.

As well as heavenly Italian food, the menu also features such irresistible choices as Gulf of Carpentaria calamari; pork belly with apple, rocket salad and pea puree; ocean-fresh tiger prawns made with a rich garlic cream sauce and arborio rice; and farm-fresh chicken supreme fillet made with fresh seasonal produce.

Matt, who has been in hospitality in Far North Queensland for more than 30 years, says the secret to good Italian food is in its simplicity.

“If you get tomato from a supermarket, they’re processed,” he says. “But if you get roma tomatoes from one of those great spots that are producing food straight off the vine, you don’t need to wait till it gets to room temperature. It already is. And you cut that open and sprinkle a little bit of white pepper and a little bit of salt on there and close your eyes - you could be in Sicily eating a white bread tomato sandwich.”

It is this reason why sourcing produce from local farmers and suppliers is important for Matt and his team.

“We’re always on the lookout for relationships with our suppliers,” Matt says. “We’ve just picked up a local fellow who’s started a business selling mushrooms, and they’re phenomenal.”

Matt knows the industry inside out. He started in hospitality as a bartender, then became a waiter and then a restaurant manager before buying his first cafe more than 20 years ago. He next opened a restaurant and had it for 13 years, which was a ‘massive success’, before taking over the helm at L’Unico. His experience has given him insight into all aspects of the restaurant business and given him a great understanding and empathy for the various staff roles.

It is this connection with the crew and their roles that makes it second nature for him to not only treat them as extended family members, but to ensure his hospitality professionals embody the caring spirit of the family-oriented restaurant.

“The food that we serve and the service we provide matters very much to us,” Matt says. “We look for staff whose focus is on making your experience more special and, we spend an exceptional amount of time making sure that our crew are happy, and what we can do in order to support them outside of work is also a major focus of ours.”

When Matt was in his late teens, he used to think about one day buying L’Unico. Today, he is ‘very, very grateful’ that he had that opportunity.

“I’ll stay here until I retire,” he says. “And that won’t be for a very, very long time.”

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L’Unico Trattoria Italiano 75 Vasey Esplanade, Trinity Beach 4057 8855
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Matt Turner, co-owner

La Fetuccina

Even to this day, in Queensland’s most northern city, when you speak of the ‘old country’, Italy is the first one that comes to mind. The cane farmers, banana growers and tobacco barons of yesteryear have all carried with them names, habits and cuisines that would be equally at home on the rolling hills of Abruzzo or on the sharply marbled streets of Messina.

It is with that same self-evident style that locals and visitors alike are drawn to one of the oldest Italian eateries in town, La Fettuccina.

If there is a testament to longevity, especially in a business as unforgiving as hospitality, La Fett (as it is colloquially known) is it. Founded nearly four decades

ago, it has become an icon of culinary consistency and service excellence. Despite its large reputation, La Fett is a shotgun style of restaurant. Carrying all the hallmarks of an old school trattoria, from whitewashed walls with scalloped render to dark wrought iron and hardwood tables. The menu captivates, ballasted with traditional ‘working-mans’ Italian pastas pepped with the best of locally sourced ingredients. Pastas are made daily on site, and range from the usual suspects of ragu spaghetti to delicate agnolotti stuffed with Moreton Bay bugs and coral trout.

The restaurant has only had two owners in its history; the second and current are chef John Japp and

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Co-owners John Japp and Andrea Pinciarova

host Andrea Pinciarova, partners both at work and at home. The restaurant has been at the centre of their life for over twenty years together, having originally met each other whilst working there for the previous owner. Acceding to positions of responsibility, they ultimately managed the restaurant before buying it in 2006 when the opportunity to purchase came about.

Managing the place, says John, gave them all the insight they needed to see a takeover as an opportunity. The decision was easy, and the takeover was deliberately seamless, with many clients unaware that the change in ownership had occurred.

“We have some customers eating since it first opened in the eighties, consistency balanced with quality has always been at the heart of what we do. It wasn’t a secret, but it was business as usual so it never really came up,” says John.

Clearly they are a good team, John runs the kitchen, with the slight swagger of one comfortable under pressure, and Andrea’s ‘just so’ attitude ensures even the most demanding customer expectations are exceeded.

John also 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.

John is 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.

“We have achieved a standard, which our specials and seasonal offerings are also expected to uphold. So we are easily able to reward our regulars and tempt new diners with our specials board.”

Any visit to the restaurant will illustrate that the continued success of La Fettuccina is not only to do with the food. Andrea is the ever elegant and efficient frontof-house and she ensures that the consistency from the kitchen is repeated in the standard of service. With her European origin, she believes service can cement good customer relationships and underwrite long-term patronage. Her view is detail oriented, in 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.”

It is not common to find a couple that can successfully work together, let alone in the high pressure environment of hospitality. The longevity of the restaurant is a credit to the pair of them, their passion, their business sense, and their support for each other.

The ‘La Fett’ experience is one that is highly regarded - John estimates that over 80 percent of their custom is both repeat and local.

Like all good Italian stories, this is a family business, with deep roots in the community. And like all good restaurants it provides a quality that is both delightful and appreciated. The story is, as always, the people and the food. After four decades they have earned their place as the Italian in Cairns.

La Fettuccina 41 Shields St, Cairns 4031 5959 39

FOODIE HEAVEN

Little Eden

Among the many treasures found in the charming township of Yungaburra on the AthertonTablelands is a ‘secret garden’ where you’ll discover many new and delicious culinary delights.

Welcome to one of Yungaburra’s newest gems - Little Eden Restaurant. Surrounded by lush private gardens, this quaint restaurant has made a huge impact on food lovers since it opened in November 2021.

Owner Roberta Fraser, who has years of experience in the hospitality industry, has always had a passion for food, so when the opportunity came up to start a restaurant, she took it.

“I have always felt that food is such a simple way of bringing people together,” Roberta says. “When you see somebody enjoying a meal, you can just see them relax. It’s wonderful.

“Our focus at the restaurant, more than anything, is allowing unique flavours to flourish. We use a lot of local produce. We’re so lucky to have this plethora of quality food grown here.”

Little Eden focuses on incorporating locally sourced seasonal food enjoyed in a relaxed and friendly environment. It also ensures the majority of its dishes are gluten free with many vegetarian options as well.

While the menu changes with seasonal produce, its current menu includes: four-hour slow-cooked Tableland beef brisket in a rich red wine and mixed herb jus, served on a bed of crunch smashed potatoes; and maple mustard crisp pork belly twice cooked and accompanied by a fresh apple and walnut coleslaw. Seafood lovers currently enjoy the sauteed prawns in a creamy housemade piri piri sauce, and Tasmanian salmon baked in a lime and coconut cream. A unique offering, loved by all, is fried plantain banana topped with peri peri mixed beans dressed in a pickle de gallo.

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Roberta Fraser, Chef and Owner & Rocio Monteagudo, FOH Manager

To ensure guests are enjoying the best foods available, Roberta and team change the menu to include and highlight the flavours of the region’s seasonal produce. Lighter share plates are also on the menu, as are crispy fresh salads complemented with a comprehensive drinks menu.

While its unique and delectable food offerings are instrumental to the success of Little Eden, so too is the atmosphere, and Roberta and her team have created a warm, peaceful ambience with the help of soft lighting and relaxing background music.

“There’s no place like this here on the Tablelands,” says front-of-house manager Rocio Monteagudo, who has been with Roberta since the restaurant opened. “I loved this place as soon as I walked in.

“It feels like a secret garden in a sense. You’re coming into this really busy area, and you can sit down in such a huge place yet still have your privacy.

“We try and treat the customers as if it was a special dinner date. We’ll always check that they are happy while, at the same time, letting them have their privacy.”

Little Eden is also once again holding its popular long lunches on the last Sunday of every month.

“There is nothing quite like a long lunch,” says Roberta.

“In a world where we’re familiar with inhaling a quick bite while at work or on the go, it’s a treat to share a meal across an afternoon. Grab a group of friends or family, enjoy some alluring plates, glasses of bubbles, wine or even a cocktail while we tantalise your tastebuds with a selection of progressive dishes brought to your table, so you have the whole afternoon to relax and enjoy with friends and family.”

The restaurant also loves holding regular events with local producers such as Wild River Mountain Distillery, which are very well received. Roberta credits the restaurant’s success to the teamwork of her talented and dedicated staff.

“We are foodies too, who bond by having regular dinners together with wine and cocktail tasting,” she adds. “We love trying new things and evolving. We don’t settle for anything but delicious food.”

Little Eden 20 Gillies Range Rd, Yungaburra 0428 197 475 41

Little Sister

How could you not want to eat at a place where the slogan is Peace, Love and Good Times?

Little Sister, on the bustling restaurant strip of Cairns Esplanade, is literally the sibling of the former Raw Prawn, a much-loved seafood institution for local diners and a must-do for visitors for more than 20 years.

When owners Carlton and Tiina Horn decided in 2022 to change things up, they closed Raw Prawn and a month later reopened as its cute sister with some fresh vibes.

No strangers to hospitality, Carlton & Tiina have been restaurant owner/operators in Cairns for the past two decades. Their passion for food and business not only included the longevity of The Raw Prawn, but saw the opening of other venues, including Candy on Grafton Street, as well as Boatshed in the Harbour Lights complex. Both of which have been sold.

While Raw Prawn had been serving up lusciously fresh local seafood for decades, the decision to close and reopen with an exciting new venture, was not one made lightly.

“After a lengthy discussion, we felt that it was just time. Asian street food provides flavours that are both vibrant and fun. We just thought it would be well received,” Carlton says.

“We’d spent time in Thailand, Vietnam and Japan and felt the concept of casual dining, sharing and socialising in bigger groups was something more people wanted to do.”

It seems they were right. Asked what he recommends, Carlton admits the entire snack list is a favourite. Oysters with nam jim, sesame prawn toast with Asian mayo, corn riblets with chilli salt and basil butter, the house-made sambal with chickpea dip and lotus chips, are just a few of the original nibbles.

Changing the menu with the seasons allows for creativity and Korean chef Johnny is put to work coming up with new twists on traditional dishes.

From an extensive list of mains, Carlton’s best-of includes braised, glazed beef short rib with lettuce cups, herbs and house pickles; panroasted coral trout, wok tossed cabbage, mushrooms, sprouts, dry tom yum and rice paper crackers; and barbecue prawns with curry butter, shallots and curry leaf.

Feeling indecisive? Let the Feed Me menu weave its magic, with the kitchen presenting you with their own array of dishes, including innovative options for vegetarians and vegans.

“We wanted to bring something new to the market which reflects the times, post-Covid,” says Carlton, adding the secret to longevity in the restaurant industry is to simply, “love what you do”.

With a flourishing business and three children aged 14 to 10, life gets pretty hectic, but Carlton and Tiina are ever mindful of working towards the perfect work-life balance.

“We have great staff here at Little Sister,” Carlton says proudly. Manager Solene Granado and the team ensure things are always running consistently, allowing the family some much needed time together.

And when that’s not possible, it’s all hands on deck, with the Horns’ eldest daughter working the floor and their 13-year-old son out the back washing dishes.

Now that’s what you call family values.

Little Sister 101 Esplanade, Cairns 4031 5400
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Naturally Native Cuisine Ochre

If ever a restaurant was to be coined ‘true Australian’, it would have to be Ochre restaurant.

The highly awarded restaurant was one of the first committed native food restaurants in Australia when chef and owner Craig Squire opened it in Cairns in 1994. It is here where diners are introduced to unique and exciting modern Australian cuisine created using Australian native and local produce.

Ochre works closely with the region’s top producers to serve premium Tablelands beef, fresh seafood, kangaroo and crocodile delicacies among its more than 30 different native foods.

“Craig and I get out and talk to the local producers about what they’re growing and making, what they’ve got up and coming and trying their produce,” managing director Carley Elsum says. “Everything has a story, and that’s the main point. It’s not just meat that we have purchased; it’s something that a local supplier has made, or a family has made.”

It wasn’t long after opening that Ochre was recognised nationally, and internationally, as one of the most innovative modern Australian restaurants in the country. It introduced lemon myrtle and Davidson plums to chefs in Asia, New Zealand, the Middle East and the United States. It was also the first restaurant to introduce green ants to its menu.

“Craig went on a food safari and taught people how to forage ingredients off the land,” Carley says. “Green ants were one of them, and he came back from that trip and put them in the beef carpaccio, and it just worked so well.”

Bush foods such as wattle seed, quandong, lemon myrtle, pepper leaf, lemon aspen, bush tomatoes, rosella flowers and wild limes are just some of the native ingredients that are used by Ochre’s chefs to develop innovative and delicious dishes enhanced by in-house condiments such as sauces, chutneys and pesto.

Some of its most famous dinner dishes, which change seasonally, include char-grilled kangaroo sirloin served with sweet-potato dauphinoise, bok choy, quandong and chilli sauce, tempura Gulf bugs with mango, coconut and chilli salsa and duck leg confit with Davidson plum and ginger glaze, vermicelli and coconut fritter and Japanese eggplant.

Be sure to leave room for dessert as you’ll want to try the wattle seed pavlova with Davidson plum sorbet and macadamia biscotti, or the lemon myrtle and macadamia tart with a lemon aspen sorbet. Without a doubt, you’ll want to return again and again to sample everything.

Its lunch menu is equally eclectic and includes small, medium and large plates as well as a share platter, a two-course special, sides and desserts.

Craig, who received the Restaurant & Catering Association of Australia’s Lifetime Achiever Award in 2022, is equally passionate about showcasing locally produced beverages.

“All our wines are Australian, as are our beers, liquors and spirits,” says Carley, who joined Ochre more than 14 years ago, starting out as a waitress and working her way up to become a supervisor, then a manager and now the managing director. “A lot of our spirits are sourced locally as Cairns has so much to offer and Ochre is the place you can come to try them all.

“We work very closely with Mt Uncle Distillery and Wolf Lane Distillery. When launching a new product, we team up with them for a showcasing event.”

As with any successful enterprise, excellent staff is the key to success, and Ochre prides itself on having professional and genuinely friendly staff. Not only are they exemplary at providing five-star service, their knowledge of the menu and their insights into the different native foods add great value to the dining experience.

“Most of my full-time team have been with me for over three years,” Carley adds. “They’re just wonderful.” Ochre is also in demand for being one of the region’s best caterers. No matter what the location, it is renowned for providing amazing catering and excellent execution. It has a fantastic range of menu selections, concept ideas and rates to suit all requirements. One of its biggest events in 2022 was the Cairns Amateurs, where they catered for over 4900 guests over three days.

Ochre Harbour Lights Boardwalk, 1 Marlin Parade, Cairns 4051 0100 44 FNQ FOOD
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Carley Elsum, Managing Director

Perrotta’s At The Gallery Turns 25 Quarter Century for Cairns Icon

As a milestone, the quarter century is significant. In terms of restaurants in Cairns, it makes you a member of a very small and exclusive group. For many, Perrotta’s At The Gallery is like an old friend or a famous chat show guest; it barely requires introduction. Simply known locally as Perrotta’s, it has been a focal point of Cairns’ restaurant culture since 1997. The restaurant leans stylishly against Cairns Art Gallery, an impressive heritage-listed building constructed as the Public Curator’s office built in 1936. The unashamed jewel in the crown of CBD outdoor dining, a place to see or be seen at.

The restaurant 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. The main action takes place on a raised deck which provides a 180-degree view of Shields Street, a perfect vantage point on which to dine, whilst being not too close but not too far from the bustling crowd. The custom made wrought iron furniture combined

Perrotta’s 38 Abbott St, Cairns 4031 5899 46 FNQ FOOD

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.

Like all institutions in hospitality, its longevity is no accident. Over the last 25 years Perrotta’s has survived many local and global events, and traded resolutely with a level of service and consistency that is a tribute not only to its ownership but also the quality and consistency in both food and service.

Unlike other FNQ outdoor venues, Perrotta’s remains busy throughout the year. A quirk of the Shields Street positioning channels the Coral Sea’s prevailing southeasterly 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 is heavily influenced by 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 entire menu

is both varied and exciting. The restaurant takes full advantage of its central location and provides full service from early morning breakfast, lively lunchtimes, through to a full dinner menu.

Traditional favourites such as eggs benedict, fruit salad bowls, to the rather splendidly named Truck Stop breakfast, provide something to accompany their great coffee to start the day. The menu changes tempo around lunchtime and sees pizzas, pasta and various other mouthwatering goodies join the breakfast/brunch stalwarts. Both light and full lunches are available with fully licensed bar offerings too. Each evening the cafe style neatly subsides, turning into a vibrant full-service restaurant with a great wine list, extensive cocktails and, of course, an excellent menu.

Perrotta’s undoubtedly has something for everyone; its elegant looks, unbeatable location and crowd-pleasing menu make it a perfect place to begin, end or break up any time spent in Cairns.

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PIATO Elevating Mediterranean Cuisine

The most common reaction from diners at Piato when plates arrive at the table? “Wow” … and that’s even before they’ve had a chance to taste their food.

Piato has been a beloved part of the waterfront dining scene in Cairns for several years, but a change in ownership last year has given the restaurant a new lease on life.

The creative presentation of each dish by Frenchtrained head chef Lionel Batin showcases the mouthwatering ingredients and brings the Mediterranean menu alive.

The elegant beetroot-cured swordfish with fried capers and Far North Queensland finger lime ‘caviar’ is almost too pretty to eat, but delectable on the palate.

Piato’s managing director Vivek Ponugoti has had a passion for food since he was a child, growing up around his mother’s amazing cooking in southern India.

“My family has always been involved in hospitality businesses, so I got to know a lot about the ups and downs of the industry and the importance of good service from a very young age,” he says.

Vivek came to Australia as a 21-year-old in 2019 to study a Masters in Information Technology.

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He was working as a retail manager on the Gold Coast when he seized the opportunity to take over Piato in April 2022.

“The views are stunning, and I saw huge potential to take the restaurant in a fresh direction and create more of a fine-dining experience,” Vivek says.

If you haven’t visited Piato for a while, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by its classy new look, with tablecloths, linen napkins, and new staff uniforms to complement the impeccable service.

“We want to get to know our customers and make them feel like they are part of our family,” Vivek says. “There’s a lot of attention to detail, from the first greeting and throughout the dining experience, which to me is as important as the quality of the food.”

The friendly staff take pride in explaining the menu and provenance of the produce as well as making sure any dietary requirements are met.

Locally sourced seafood is at the heart of Piato’s menu and dishes change seasonally to present the best produce available.

The succulent hot and cold seafood platter is Piato’s signature dish, and the latest incarnation features octopus, crab, prawns and barramundi fishcakes with a Mediterranean touch.

Customer favourites such as the tender, eight-hour slow cooked beef cheeks in red wine, and confit duck with risotto and pea puree, are available year-round. Piato has a well-stocked bar including local gins and beers, as well as wines from Australia, New Zealand and France.

Picture-perfect desserts are created in-house and are complemented by locally made Licks ice cream. The lemon tart is at the more savoury end of the spectrum; a sticky date pudding with gooey caramel sauce is a nod to the sweet; and the subtle, airy tiramisu sits classically in the middle.

Piato has recently been remodelled to create a more open dining space, allowing customers to relax and spend more time enjoying great food, service and company against the picturesque backdrop of the Cairns Marina and Trinity Inlet.

There are plans to introduce live music and theme nights focusing on the cuisine of particular regions as Piato continues to build its reputation for superior dishes and impeccable service.

The highly awarded restaurant is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week.

During the day, Piato is a perfect spot to catch up with friends or business colleagues over lunch, with five $20 specials on offer including a glass of wine or soft drink.

In the evening, Piato is a prime location to catch the tropical breeze and watch the boats bobbing on the water while sipping on a refreshing cocktail.

“It’s not a matter of coming, eating and going,” Vivek says. “We want people to stay and have a leisurely and memorable experience, so they fall in love with Piato and come back again and again.”

Piato The Pier, 1 Pierpoint Road, Cairns 4041 4284 49

4EVER ITALIAN

Pist4cchi, Italian restaurant & cocktail bar

Words by Elaine Deane

Midway along Shields Street is where you will find Pist4cchi Restaurant and Cocktail Bar, Cairns’ very own slice of Italy where two Italian chaps are sharing the warmth of their Nonna’s love and inspiration with us all. From the welcoming greeting, the chill vibe with undertones of a Nonna’s hug, exciting cocktail choices, and the delicious authentic Italian cuisine on offer, get ready for a ‘Bellissima Esperienza’.

For owners Paolo and Francesco, Pist4cchi truly is their dream come true. A culmination of their life-long friendship, love of family, food and fun. A meeting of four teenagers starting their careers in the hospitality industry in Italy, led to a great friendship between the four with their collective passion for travel and food saw the foursome adventure together worldwide for over sixteen years. The time came for the foursome to divide, with two friends having to return to Italy for family reasons. Their final evening together wound up with the four lifelong friends reminiscing over a bag of pistachios,

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which led to quick late night dash to a tattooist for a last group tattoo; of a pistachio of course!

Paolo and Francesco continued with the foursome’s dream, to combine their knowledge and love of Italian cuisine and finally take the leap into their own restaurant, Paolo said they both knew exactly where they wanted to settle – Cairns. “We are so honoured to call Cairns home, and to be able to transport our guests to Italy with every bite.’

Their dreams came true when they opened Pist4cchi in 2021. Pronounced ‘Pistakki,’ which is of course Italian for pistachios, the A is replaced with a 4 to honour the lifelong friendship, now family, of the foursome.

Pist4cchi opened their doors quietly, perfecting their menu and cocktails as they have also quietly become a favourite spot for locals. The menu combines recipes from their Southern Italian Mothers and Nonnas, along with favourites from Northern Italy they have gathered on their travels, all recreated with a modern Pist4cchi twist. In keeping with traditional methods they make everything they can by hand, just like Nonna did back in the old country.

Handmade pastas and sauces using fresh and local ingredients as well as adding the magical ingredient to any Italian dish - that extra dash of love. Delicacies such as prosciutto, salami and cheeses are brought in from only the best Italian delis, stored and only sliced when you order so can genuinely enjoy the freshness and fullness of their rich flavours. No Italian meal is complete without wine. Pist4cchi have every palate covered with over 100 Italian wines and some select Australian labels to complement your meal, or simply enjoy with something light from their tapas menu at the cocktail bar. Yes, Pist4cchi is also a cocktail bar! With one of the largest range of cocktails in Cairns and boasting over 70 gins from all over the world, it is a perfect place to relax with friends with a selection of Italian and Australian cocktails to choose from. Paolo loves to mix the flavours and create cocktails that are a mix between the bitter Italian cocktails, and the sweeter Australian cocktails so as with the wines, there is bound to be one (or two) cocktails to suit every taste.

Italians love their music, and the pair are especially fond of live music, which leads to one of the best things about Pist4cchi that is not so well known. There is a hidden gem, a musical and relaxing oasis right at the back of the restaurant and bar! Hence the nickname of ‘The Back Room’ has caught on and it is fast becoming the place to be to listen to talented local musicians and artists perform, entertaining guests in this amazingly secluded and luxurious space before and after their meals, or some simply making a night of enjoying the chill vibes with a few drinks and tapas. Pist4cchi’s Back Room is set to really heat up in their own chill, groovy way this year with the pair hosting more events by artists who are in keeping with Pist4cchi’s vibe throughout the year. We can look forward to brazilian musicians, saxophonists, local and international jazz artists just to name a few.

“We love music, and there is so much talent here in Cairns,” says Paolo.

“You never know; by giving artists a space to perform, we might help make someone’s dream come true, just like ours has.”

The best way to keep up with what is happening in The Back Room and the weekly specials is to follow them on Facebook and Instagram. Pist4cchi is open from lunch til late five nights a week with Italian cuisine, cocktails, music. Paolo and Francesco invite you to celebrate friendship, family, fun, and dreams coming true in their little piece of Italy.

Pist4cchi

Shop 2/64 Shields St, Cairns 4031 2996

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One of a kind

The minute you walk into Salt House at the Cairns Marina you can’t help but immediately notice that it is so refreshingly different from all the other restaurants and bars in Cairns.

What strikes you first is how the indoor and outdoor areas seamlessly merge together on the timber deck through the clever use of water gardens, fire features, daybeds, fountains and large, comfy chairs.

The vibe is trendy yet relaxed, glamorous yet somehow down to earth. Here, you can just chill out with friends for a drink and nibbles in a loungelike setting or sit down and enjoy a delicious meal from the dining room that overlooks the open kitchen. The kitchen is centred around a custombuilt Argentinian wood-fired grill set under an enormous antique gold oval ventilation hood.

A six-metre-high wine cellar, rough sawn timber exterior, candle-lit bar and a pizzeria at the front are all other dynamic facets of this modern and chic venue.

Another of its highlights is the sensational view of the waterfront and Marina Point. Salt House faces east-west, giving guests 180-degree views of Trinity Inlet and the breathtaking mountains beyond.

Fintan Rafferty and Lui Garozzo, both with years of experience in the food and hospitality industries, opened the venue in 2009 after years of research that included visiting similar tropical-style venues in different countries. They worked alongside designer Michael McCann, who won the 2009 IDEA Australian Designer of the Year award for Salt House.

“Planning started in 2007, when we set out to try and create a special waterfront venue designed specifically to accommodate and enjoy our tropical lifestyle,” says Fintan, who has been the owner of La Pizza Trattoria in Cairns for more than 30 years. “And thanks to strong support from the Cairns community, 14 years later we are still going strong.”

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Lui has formidable knowledge of all things food after being in the industry all his life.

“The creation of Salt House was the brainchild of Fintan,” he says. “However, coming together on this project, with both our passion for food and hospitality, made this precious signature location just perfect for our vision. Starting with an absolute blank canvas gave us the unique opportunity to create a timeless and signature landmark in Cairns.”

The one thing that is vital to both men is the quality of the food.

“Sourcing local produce is the ideal way to ensure fresh, perfect produce,” Lui says. “It’s a key aspect to building relationships with local suppliers, guaranteeing the best possible price and a menu that allows tourists to truly experience what Cairns is all about. It’s also a fantastic way to show off our creativity with unknown and unique ingredients.”

Whether it’s tapas, entrees, mains or desserts, Salt House’s modern Australian menu is full of options for everyone - from vegetarians to meat and seafood lovers.

It’s actually quite difficult to decide what you want when you read the menu because there are so many choices. Seafood is in abundance with calamari, prawns, oysters, barramundi, salmon, sole and reef fish among the options

Meat eaters can’t get enough of Salt House’s Kilcoy Black Angus 350g scotch fillet, its roast pork belly, hot chicken wings and its spicy beef burgers. Vegetarians especially love the roast pineapple and coconut curry. And pizza lovers get to choose from a large range of traditional Italian fare baked in Salt House’s brick pizza oven.

“We are continually supporting and seeking out local growers and producers to star on our menu,” Fintan says. “We love highlighting the incredible produce that Cairns and the region have to offer.”

Salt House Marina Point 6/2 Pier Point Road, Cairns 4041 7733 53

Splash Seafood Restaurant

Keeping Diners Hooked for 21 years

Nestled at the northern end of the Cairns Esplanade dining precinct, Splash has been the quiet achiever of the city’s restaurant scene, lasting the test of time.

The locals’ favourite has been presenting delectable dishes of fresh seafood for more than two decades, backed by an intimate knowledge of the fishing industry.

Restaurant owners Megan and Malcolm McKay are long-term locals, raised in Cairns.

“His father was one of the pioneers in the Gulf of Carpentaria prawn fishing industry and Malcolm is still a commercial fisherman so when it comes to the restaurant, we’re local and we’re also primary producers,” Megan says.

Megan enjoys sharing the story behind the seafood with her customers, creating a relaxed and friendly atmosphere in which to learn about some of Australia’s most renowned produce.

The gold band snapper on the menu comes off the McKays’ own boat in the Top End, although Splash sources most of its wild-caught sustainable seafood direct from fishermen in Cairns and across Far North Queensland.

This close relationship with the local commercial fishing industry ensures the waterfront restaurant consistently delivers succulent fresh fish year-round.

Splash prides itself on being a traditional seafood restaurant.

The menu changes with the seasons, showcasing the best fish available, with barramundi and coral trout popular choices among tourists.

The macadamia lemon myrtle crusted threadfin is a mainstay of the menu, and customers can’t get enough of the roasted garlic butter bugs, although Megan sometimes has to explain the crustacean’s unusual name to international visitors.

Each dish is elegantly presented but uncomplicated, allowing the freshness of the local produce to shine.

“There’s a lot of new funky restaurants around and everything is fancy, and they do things all different ways, but I still think there’s a place for us - good seafood is best when treated simply,” Megan says.

If your tastes are more terrestrial, Splash also has you covered, with risotto, duck and juicy eye fillet.

There’s regular food and drink specials and more available than what’s on the menu.

Each dish is freshly prepared so there is flexibility to adapt ingredients to cater to a range of dietary needs, including vegan, vegetarian, dairy and gluten-free.

The drink selection is a perfect match for the menu. Sip on a mango daiquiri while taking in the tropical breeze, or choose from more than 30 Australian wines by the glass.

The McKays opened Splash on Mother’s Day in 2002 and they’ve watched many Esplanade restaurants come and go in their 21 years, surviving even the toughest times with a simple formula.

“We’ve always maintained the same principles of looking after our customers, looking after locals and employing local staff,” says Megan.

Many locals regard Splash as a second home, dining in two or three times a week.

There has been a new influx of regulars since the pandemic, with thousands of people from Melbourne and Sydney making the sea change to tropical Cairns.

“We treat everyone like family, make them feel welcome and look after them, like a cousin turning up on your doorstep after four years. We sit them down, get them a drink, talk to them, find out what they want and make sure they leave happy,” Megan says.

“So many of our staff become friendly with our customers on a personal level - some have even brought in jars of honey from their hives at home to give to staff members.”

Head chef Crystal has been with the restaurant for 13 years and Splash has given many staff their start in the industry, with several chefs and apprentices staying on or returning to the kitchen.

“Whether it’s commercial cookery or front of house, we’ve always been willing to put the time and effort into training our staff and looking after them, maintaining stability and longevity,” Megan says.

Some of Splash’s customers have even sent their children to work in the restaurant.

“We’ve always been focused on our own path, our own little operation and not been worried about what anyone else is doing.”

So next time you’re strolling along the Cairns Esplanade, pop in for great seafood and a warm welcome.

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Splash 103 The Esplanade, Cairns 4031 9300 55

Tamarind Restaurant

Tamarind Restaurant is recognised for its awardwinning freestyle cuisine and elegant atmosphere. Located in The Reef Hotel Casino, the restaurant was created to offer an unparalleled dining experience. The crisp white linen tablecloths and gentle light reflecting off timber walls create a sophisticated, enchanting ambience for any evening celebration. Cairns’ only Chef Hatted restaurant, the venue’s long list of honours include Australian Good Food Guide awards for 2023, 2022, 2021 and 2020, and a World Luxury Restaurant award.

Tamarind’s menu features ‘Australian Freestyle’ dishes made with fresh local produce and influenced by a variety of cooking styles and cultures. The menu has been carefully crafted with local seasonal produce and high-quality authentic ingredients coming together to form a diverse, modern and flavour-focused dining experience. Tamarind also offers an impressive selection of Australian wines, beers, spirits, and cocktails. This perfectly balanced mix of flavour and atmosphere has made it a popular choice for locals for special occasions.

Indulge in the house favourite, Penang Duck Curry, a flavourful dish made with succulent confit duck leg, candied pumpkin, coriander, chilli, peanuts, lychee and aromatic rice, or tempt your taste buds with a Daintree Whole Baby Barramundi, made with a signature Tamarind chilli sauce.

With a private dining room that is perfect for special events, or for larger groups who want to enjoy a private space, the experience at Tamarind can be tailored to make it a truly memorable occasion.

The latest menu explores tastes for all with vegan and vegetarian options, including Lotus Root Curry and Cauliflower Steak, ensuring all dietary requirements are catered for.

When it comes to creating cuisine that embodies the Far North Queensland lifestyle, Tamarind’s Chef De Cuisine, Ben Canham, knows more than most and is revered for his inventive approach to cooking, with a career spanning more than two decades.

Sharing his passion for food with hotel guests, locals and travellers alike, Ben’s vast experience working in the region helps him stay ahead of the seasons with menu planning that optimises the use of fresh, local produce.

“The Far North Queensland tropical conditions keep us busy with seasonal changes and tourists visiting at different times of the year,” Ben says.

“Keeping up with ever-changing dietary requirements and food trends can be a challenge, but I do what it takes to create memorable moments for our guests.”

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Tamarind 35/41 Wharf St, Cairns 4030 8897 57

THA FISH Bonding with Bondy

It is difficult to go through the pages of any magazine or guidebook and not see a mention of one of Cairns’ premier specialist seafood restaurants, Tha Fish. Nestled on the Pier for almost 20 years, it has built a solid reputation for excellence in food and service, from its founding owners Sheldon and Carolyn Wearne through to its current management team.

With a stream of accolades, Tha Fish continues to set the standard for seafood dining in Far North Queensland and beyond.

Alain Giuca, general manager of Tha Fish, exudes a calm confidence in his day-to-day management of the front of house of this renowned and busy restaurant.

Alain, far better known by the affectionate moniker Bondy, has been with Tha Fish for the best part of a decade, starting with humble beginnings in the kitchen, working his way through various roles, perhaps with more than a gentle nudge from the owners, and eventually finding his happy home in front of house.

His ability to greet all customers is legendary and his appearance does not diminish his reputation. He has perfected the tropical dress code and each day heralds a new visage for customers with his stylish, often outlandish shirt attire receiving almost as many reviews as the restaurant menu.

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When talking about Tha Fish, Bondy has a great affection, not only for the team and what they contribute and how he himself is merely a part of that group, but also for the customers and how his motivation to see them pleased by what the restaurant creates is paramount.

“This really is a working culture,” Bondy explains.

“It is a team, we expect a contribution from all; we demand it, and it is what makes us cohesive.”

Describing the team, he says they are mutually supportive, from the kitchen to the waitstaff. “It’s all about creating a customer experience and doing that together.

“There are no hard lines of leadership. There is a cohesion within the team that enables everyone to contribute for the betterment of the service.”

Bondy acknowledges that even though Sheldon is much less active in the day-to-day running of the restaurant, he is still very much there and always on the end of a phone to help and guide the team with his considerable experience.

“Sheldon’s reputation amongst chefs in the region is unsurpassed and I value his support immensely,” Bondy says.

Bondy himself experienced an interesting journey into hospitality which was both varied and nomadic. After sampling Australia and the world, he found himself called back to Cairns, and to Tha Fish.

To him, Tha Fish, although rated as the region’s premier seafood restaurant, is almost cuisine agnostic. The assurance, he says, of what the customer has here, is about indulgence, quality, consistency and location that are unique and

unbeatable. The food and drink are the high points of the experience and the consistency, quality and concept behind it go without saying.

Tha Fish has occupied its marina boardwalk location since opening in 2005 and boasts regular diners who travel from near and far to dine there year after year.

“It has been great over the last 12 months, as we have seen international visitors return, to greet some familiar faces and friends,” says Bondy.

The restaurant has always felt like a family to him and he tries to extend that to the way he supports and looks after staff, and in turn by the way they deal with all of their customers.

“Even though the restaurant is conspicuous, the detail and service should always be inviting, as it would be if visiting my home, and each guest deserves nothing but the best.”

Fish The Pier, 1 Pierpoint Road, Cairns 4041 5350 59
Tha

Villa Romana

All about family.

Words by Narelle Muller Pictures by Mick Fuhrimann
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FNQ FOOD

When George and Helen Papagelou decided to open Villa in 1999, they chose arguably the best location in Cairns to create a space where families could congregate, eat, drink, talk, laugh and connect.

Even if you dine at Villa alone, you’ll get caught up in the feeling of ‘la famiglia’. The Villa staff will welcome you warmly, the food will feel familiar and the vibe will feel like home.

It’s entirely intentional.

“We wanted to create a casual, bustling, fun place where friends drop in,” says Helen. “A trattoria where people can meet and relax, enjoying excellent homestyle Italian cooking. That was George’s vision.

“Villa makes room for everyone. We want all our customers to feel special - kids, grandparents, everyone. And we always try to meet their needs, within reason. We will alter dishes to requests. We have created a gathering place for all.”

Opening 364 days of the year is no small feat (they close Christmas Day). Add to that the fact the couple also run the hugely successful Yaya’s Greek restaurant, directly above Villa, on a busy Cairns Esplanade corner and the juggling seems even more phenomenal. When you then realise Villa opens for breakfast, lunch and dinner, it’s obvious this is an undisputed labour of love.

It is this deep devotion to food that drives George. “Wonderful food is his passion,” says Helen. But it doesn’t have to be fancy to be great. “We eat simply at home, often village food, recipes handed down through the generations. It’s Greek comfort food.”

Born in northern Greece, George met Helen, who is also of Greek parentage, in Melbourne in 1985. Helen recalls it was his cooking that won her over. “We hadn’t long met and he cooked veal scaloppini for me. I think that’s why it’s still a favourite for me, to this day,” Helen remembers.

She too was brought up around the kitchen, with parents who migrated to Melbourne in the 1950’s to run a fish and chip shop, later moving into milk bars.

The couple married in 1988 and have worked in, and loved, the industry ever since.

While George works with his chefs to create menu ‘specials’ revolving around what is optimal and seasonal, the pair are firmly committed to tradition.

“Some places try to modernise traditional dishes,” Helen says. “We believe in consistency. There are some things you just can’t change. We’ve built a loyal following over the years and it’s consistency that keeps locals coming back, year after year.”

Helen’s favourite dishes are simple fare done to perfection: for entrée it’s the calamari; for main, any pasta dish and, of course, for dessert, the tiramisu.

Adamant their staff contribute hugely to the success of the business, she says there’s a core of workers who’ve been with them for decades.

“We have created a family of staff and of customers,” says Helen.

The Villa team have seen Cairns families grow over the years, as they’ve fed them their delicacies, heard their stories and enjoyed their hugs.

It’s important to both Helen and George to be on site and seen often.

“We’re very hands on, George more so at back of house and me buzzing around cleaning glasses, or whatever needs to be done,” Helen says.

“It’s about supporting the team, ensuring we know exactly what they need.”

Making two local restaurants must-visits for holidaymakers, as well as regular haunts for locals, is a testimony to the couple’s vision all those years ago – a dream to bring people together, forging memories to be cherished for years to come. Villa

Esplanade,
61
Romana 99 The
Cairns 4051 9000

Yama Zaru Izakaya

The literal translation of Yama Zaru Izakaya, ‘mountain monkey stay-drink-place’, only adds more to the mystique of this offbeat Japanese restaurant and karaoke rooms. The, perhaps more accurately named, Monkey Bar self identifies as a Japanese-style pub, specialist karaoke bar and restaurant. The three cheeky monkeys adorning the place gives suitable irreverence to a venue that combines some of the best and freshest traditional Japanese cuisine with the modernity of digital karaoke rooms, all with Asahi on tap.

Cherry blossoms and cheeky monkeys are not your usual décor for a Far Northern restaurant, but for Yama Zaru Izakaya, the cherry blossoms against the backdrop of Japanese murals and vibrant teal welcome you into another world, right here in Cairns city.

The venue is the creation of owner Adam CravenSands, a familiar face to many locals, having worked front-of-house in many well known Cairns restaurants over the years. A self confessed Japan-o-holic, his love and fascination with the country started in hospitality here in FNQ. Wanting to be able to interact with his customers, he started learning Japanese. Not only did

he fall in love with their language, but their country too, having visited Japan over 60 times to date.

Opening Yama Zaru has combined Adam’s passions for Japanese cuisine and culture with providing top notch hospitality.

“I wanted to bring a piece of Japan here for everyone to experience with me. I love building the connection and interaction with guests and Japan. To be able to combine the two here in Yama Zaru is fantastic,” says Adam.

Yama Zaru Izakaya’s doors opened in late 2022, the décor curated through Adams personal journey and immersion in Japanese culture. The venue is one of a kind, unique, boasting an authentic thatched ceiling, honeyed timber tables and booths, with walls adorned with Japanese artworks and traditional items and artefacts; in contrast there is also a constant video display featuring contemporary, traditional, and extraordinary sights and wonders of Japan. The look and feel of the restaurant has been designed to create the authentic feel of Japan with a warm and welcoming atmosphere.

Words by Elaine Deane
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Adam Craven-Sands, owner

The centrepiece of the restaurant is a magnificent timber sushi bar, where you can sometimes find one of Cairns’ most long standing sushi chefs, Masami (Sammy) Kawano. Sammy’s contribution to Cairns sushi is honoured in Adam’s typical tongue-in-cheek humour, incorporating the name of the former long-running local restaurant, Yama, into the new business name.

“Yama has been shut for some years now, but has formed part of my journey in Japanese cuisine,” Adam says. “When I decided to open, I called Sammy and asked if I could use the name in my restaurant.”

Behind the sushi bar sits the powerhouse kitchen of the restaurant under the dedicated passion of head chef Masa. Masa creates dishes from the ground up, working with Adam to source the finest ingredients, hand-making everything from the gyoza to chicken karaage.

Catering to all groups, couples and singles, the seating is designed to make you feel at ease. You can pull up a seat at the sushi bar, enjoy a chat with Sammy whilst watching the master create as you savour his sashimi and sushi delights. The entire family can relax and enjoy a delicious meal off the main menu up until 11pm every night, with gluten-free and supper options.

The menu takes a twist on traditional Japanese favourites with an emphasis on sharing; tapas style and small plates. Adam is borderline obsessive on sourcing the freshest and most authentic ingredients, something which shows through across the entire menu. Particularly worthy of mention are the marinated octopus, the smoked fish, and some of the best and freshest sashimi we have in the region. Every detail has been covered. The restaurant has many special items not found anywhere else in Cairns, all acquired from Japan via specialist importers, and even has a precious and rare supply of fresh authentic wasabi, which is certainly not to be missed.

The authentic Japanese dining experience at Yama Zaru Izakaya wouldn’t be complete without sampling at least one of the huge range of traditional sakes (Nihon Shu) and Japanese vodkas (Shochu) to complement your meal, or for a burst of Nihon-Dutch courage for your singing debut upstairs.

No true Japanese bar would be complete without karaoke, and that’s where the monkeys – Eat, Drink and Sing - come out to play. Yama Zaru’s fun trio offer encouragement in the karaoke room on the mezzanine level. You can book the room for as little as an hour before or after dinner, or make an entire evening with your mates and enjoy a full bar and supper service at your private karaoke party.

The venue hosts unique events such as wine tastings, plus weekly specials can be found on their Facebook page so you and your crew can plan a night to ‘Eat, Drink and Sing’ at Yama Zaru Izakaya.

Yamazaru 45 Sheridan St, Cairns 0413 220 398
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Yaya’s Hellenic

Are you looking for love?

If so, get yourself to Yaya’s - a Greek eatery where you can actually FEEL the warmth and affection emanating through the front door.

Let’s set things straight; you probably won’t meet your perfect match here, it’s more a feel-good kinda love thing.

After all, Yaya means grandma and no one loves you like Grannie, right?

Opened in 2014 by Greek-Australian couple George and Helen Papagelou, Yaya’s has succeeded with the authentic Hellenic food philosophy of using spectacular fresh ingredients of the highest possible calibre, prepared in the simplest manner.

This means letting the produce speak its truth and adding just a hearty pinch of love (there’s that word again!).

“It’s true,” laughs Helen. “Greek food is about gentle care, from selecting the ingredients, preparation and presentation.

“I remember my grandmother saying, ‘you have to love the ingredients’, as she tenderly sprinkled beans, potatoes and carrots into her casserole, stirring ever so slowly with her wooden spoon, as the pot simmered for hours on the stove.

“Greek food is really healthy. Growing up we’d have a big, crisp Greek salad with every meal. It really was the star of the table. It might be offset with a plate of glossy plump olives and maybe a small casserole.

“Oh, and of course there’d be bread. You simply have to have freshly baked bread on the table to dunk into everything, to soak up the olive oil, to savour the last wipe of sauce on the plate.”

Proudly perched upstairs overlooking Cairns Esplanade, Yaya’s, with the views, breeze and people watching, may appear to be the perfect location.

That’s because it is, especially as, located downstairs is the Papagelous’ other child, the iconic Italian trattoria Villa Romana.

Splitting their time between ventures is as easy as climbing the stairs and the couple do plenty of that on a daily basis, keeping a guiding hand on both kitchens and dining floors.

With its clean, fresh Greek décor, Yaya’s is as good as a trip to the Greek islands, minus the long tiring flights.

And there’s always a warm welcome as you reach the top step at Yaya’s, with Helen’s beaming smile and the friendly team of staff.

Restaurant manager Kosta has been at the helm for years, ensuring a continuity of service that brings locals back time and again.

His long ties with the Papagelous date back to the days before the couple arrived in Cairns from Melbourne more than 20 years ago, having worked for them at a Greek restaurant there.

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Kitchen & Bar

Prudently choosing local produce when appropriate, infusing his deep passion for food and love of the country of his birth, George keeps the menu varied, traditional and colourful.

Of course, Yaya’s moussaka is a firm favourite among diners of all ages, and the mezedes share plates are a must, but Helen’s favourite dish is saganaki, pan fried Greek cheese. Sometimes she enjoys a seafood saganaki with a generous chunk of crusty bread for mopping the plate.

“We source only the finest seafood,” Helen declares proudly.

Tigani, a hot pan of barramundi fillets with assorted seafood in luscious tomato sauce, slowly infused with garlic, chilli and wine, is a testimony to the selection process.

Whether it’s a light supper of olives, dips and bread, dolmadakia (vine leaves stuffed with rice and herbs), ocean fresh calamari and a glass or two of wine; a full spread; or just spanakopita (Yaya’s sensational homemade spinach and feta pie in filo pastry) with a Greek coffee; be sure to leave room for dessert.

All desserts at Yaya’s are made in-house, following traditional Greek recipes. No one’s claiming the baklava – delicate layers of filo pastry sprinkled with nuts and drenched in honey – is a waistline winner, but, really, you only live once.

Yaya’s
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Level 1, Corner Aplin Street and The Esplanade, Cairns 4031 3033

Port Douglas

Port Douglas is a location like no other. Anything resembling the town we know today was established in the late 1800s, a product of the booming gold rush, to be followed only by its near extinction post mining, dwindling to a virtual standstill with a population of less than 100 in 1960. That would have been it for this stunning corner of the cape, if it wasn’t for the splendidly convenient growth of affordable air travel and the wave of tourism that it brought with it in the seventies and eighties. The combination of the establishment of the Mirage Resort, by Christopher Skase, and this aeromotive miracle contributed to the resurgence of what is now considered Queenalnd’s most northerly resort town. Kicking off the later part of the last century this resurgence made ‘Port’, as it’s known by the locals, into a tropical haven for the well healed, southern and international jet set. It has captivated the traveling audience as a ‘must do’ destination for over half a century, and has had much influence on how the travel market perceives both the tropics and luxury as a whole. The town greets the visitor with lush tropical vegetation, towering palm trees, and is fringed by the sparkling waters of the Coral Sea. The laid-back atmosphere and welcoming locals further cement the status of this town as iconic in its tropical splendor.

One of the first things that you will notice when visiting Port Douglas is its stunning location. Nestled between

the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest, the town is surrounded by natural beauty that is breathtaking in its scope: the stunning Four Mile Beach, with its white sands and crystal-clear waters; the coral cays and dazzling reef; the quiet, country town idyll of Mossman on the way to the prehistoric forest of the Daintree to the north; and inland, westward, to the agricultural plateau of the Tablelands blending seamlessly into the red dirt of the interior. Port is right in the middle of everything.

The town itself is small and easy to navigate, with charming shops, galleries, and boutiques lining the streets. The tropical climate and warm temperatures make it a perfect destination for year-round travel, with a wide range of accommodations to suit every budget and preference. The weekly markets are a popular attraction, offering visitors a chance to sample fresh produce, locally made crafts, and artisanal goods.

The town is also known for its vibrant culinary scene. Offering a variety of restaurants, cafes, and bars, serving everything from local seafood to beautifully styled international cuisine. Over these next pages we explore the best of the best of Port Douglas cuisine, meeting the culinary drivers and exploring some of the most exceptional food, drink and service available not just in FNQ, but in the world.

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Essence of Italy

LaCucina + Bar, Port Douglas

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Vincenzo di Cugno - Owner

When you’re a teenager, you generally have no idea where life’s adventures will take you. For

Port Douglas’ LaCucina + Bar owner Vincenzo di Cugno, 15 is the age where all he wanted was a mobile phone. Little could he have imagined where that desire would take him.

“I started working in the hospitality industry in Italy in 2000 when I was 15 because I wanted a mobile phone,” he says. “I asked my mum if she could buy me a Nokia because it had the game Snake on it.

“She said, ‘if you want a phone, find a job and go and earn it’. So, the next day I found a job working in a bar. My first month I made 600,000 lira (approximately $500 Australian dollars today) and I gave it to my mum and asked her to bank it for me.

‘She said, ‘oh, don’t you want a phone?’, and I said no. I didn’t want to spend the money because I’d have some money in the bank!”

Even though Vincenzo was studying biology at the time, his enthusiasm for the hospitality industry was stronger. After three years of study, he left uni and took up a full-time position at an American cocktail bar in Italy, which he loved.

He came to Australia for a road trip with friends and settled in Port Douglas where he secured a job at the ever-popular Sassi La Cucina in 2013. He worked there for eight years, including being restaurant manager, before he took over ownership in 2021.

While the sophisticated restaurant’s name has changed, very little has changed - except for some new and exciting menu choices. Its authentic Italian food and the restaurant’s warm and friendly ambience is enhanced by the charismatic, professional staff, the majority of whom are Italian. And they all bring a little quintessential piece of Italy with them.

“We have created an environment that is fun and characteristically Italian,” Vincenzo says. “We laugh a lot, make a lot of jokes and interact with our customers. They love it, and we love it.”

Aside from the relaxed and warm hospitality, it’s the food that makes La Cucina + Bar a standout and is the reason why so many customers are regulars, undoubtedly returning to sample everything on its extensive food and bar menu.

Among the delicious and in-demand entrees are the cobia crudo served with parsley oil, citrus soy, chives, finger lines pearl, Japanese mayo and wild scampi caviar, and the tartare di tonno: raw sashimi-grade tuna with sesame seeds, soy, lime, avocado and celery served on a bed of lemon cured cucumber.

Included in its pasta dishes is the divine pappardelle al ragu di cervo funghi porcini, which is hand-made egg pappardelle, slow-cooked Queensland venison and Italian porcini mushroom ragu. Its al dente spaghetti tossed with clams and white wine, herbs and toasted breadcrumbs is another well-loved dish.

Main courses also offer a tantalising array of options. It’s hard to go past the filetto di manzo: 200 gram Rangers Valley mb3 chargrilled eye fillet alongside mash potato, green peppercorn and cognac sauce. Or there’s the coscia d’anatra: twicecooked duck leg with orange glaze, pink peppercorn, carrot puree, grilled asparagus and red cabbage.

Its sensational pizzas are available seven days a week at the bar area, where cocktails also feature prominently, thanks to Vincenzo’s influence.

“We make so many cocktails,” he says. “At the moment we are making amaretto sour and whiskey sour cocktails made with a chickpea sauce, which vegans love.”

Vincenzo, who was offered a visa sponsorship by Sassi La Cucina to stay on, also happily sponsors others.

“Sponsorship is very good because there is a long-term commitment from them,” he says. “Even if they are not the best, they still learn how to be the best. And they love that.”

Like any passionate restaurateur, Vincenzo believes in loving what you do.

“If you have to work eight, nine or 10 hours a day, you should enjoy it,” he says. “Otherwise, what’s the point?”

LaCucnia + Bar 4 Macrossan St. Port Douglas 4099 6744 69

Consistency and community - a recipe for success

Salsa Bar & Grill

Port Douglas is renowned as the jewel in the tropical north, with stunning Four Mile Beach, the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree rainforest. But it’s the world-class restaurants that keep visitors coming back time and again.

Salsa Bar and Grill is one such venue. Having welcomed new and old friends through the doors since 1994, Salsa’s ethos has always been about consistency. It’s the first key to the restaurant’s success - delivering high-level service and amazing food every time. With a customer base that is now generational, guests keep returning to Salsa as they know service will be on point and the food exceptional.

The second key to Salsa’s longevity is the phenomenal employees and their connection to the establishment. Fortunately, the calibre of staff that Salsa attracts has been amazingly high. They’re passionate professionals who treat the venue as if it were their own. They work incredibly hard to deliver the Salsa ethos and have remained long enough to now be considered family. Two members of this Salsa family are head chef Goran Zonai and restaurant manager Paul Kelly.

German-born and French-trained Goran has guided the Salsa kitchen over his 20 years in the venue, constantly innovating his dishes to highlight local produce. He strives to introduce new techniques and flavours, many of which are ahead of the times, demonstrating new and traditional skill sets to younger chefs that they may not have encountered. Many of the chefs coming out of Salsa have gone on to open their own establishments – a lot of that stems back to Goran, his training and extensive knowledge base.

Salsa’s menu is constantly evolving, incorporating local produce wherever possible, while still retaining the traditional favourites that have made Salsa a much-loved institution. It’s so popular that you’ll often see day visitors drive up from Cairns just to lunch or dine there. Some of those favourites that keep people returning and attracting new visitors include linguini pepperincino with Tableland red claw, the Thai chicken spring rolls, and, an all-time favourite, the Daintree Estates chocolate Cointreau souffle. Also well-loved are the yellowfin tuna tataki, Salsa’s jambalaya, and margaritas.

At the helm of Salsa’s legendary front-of-house team is Irishman Paul Kelly. Paul started at Salsa as a backpacker and like many FNQ locals fell in love with the region and has never left. Over his 14 years at Salsa, Paul worked his way to restaurant manager and now proudly leads a team of industry professionals who love their trade and have also been with the restaurant for a number of years. Their food and wine knowledge, combined with their friendly and professional demeanour, make everyone feel welcome.

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“We treat everyone with kindness and respect, and sometimes a little cheek,” says Paul. “We try to create an environment that is warm and familiar.”

The staff are also a close-knit group. Like most hospitality professionals, they work closely with the same like-minded group of people with the same work hours, so they become more like family. And the Salsa family is big after 28 years.

Stemming back to the original Salsa ethos, co-owners Bill Conway and Rhys Bawden have worked hard to create an environment that makes both staff and guests feel welcome. If there was a word to describe Salsa Bar and Grill other than family, it would be community - supporting the community that supports Salsa, both inhouse and within the region.

“Bill has always made sure that people who walk in the door are recognised and are well taken care of,” Rhys says. “And when they come back, he knows who they are, and they are made to feel very welcome, as are all guests whether they’re newcomers or regulars.”

It’s true what they say – a trip to Port Douglas is not complete without a visit to Salsa, a genuine tropical North Queensland experience. As it is often booked out weeks or even months in advance, it’s best to book a reservation ahead of time to avoid disappointment. And you will be disappointed if you are in Port and miss out on visiting this sensational restaurant.

Salsa Bar & Grill 26 Wharf Street, Port Douglas 4099 4922
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Paul Kelly, restaurant manager and Goran Zonai, head chef

The Sunroom Lounge

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Port Douglas has always boasted the best of all worlds, a mixture of traditional and modern with small town charm and metropolitan sophistication, all bathed in the glow of laid back tropicality.

So when Ross Stevens, owner of FNQ’s awardwinning wine bar The Conservatory Bar, decided to open a new venture in Macrossan Street (the main drag of Port Douglas), the surprise for most was that it hadn’t happened already. Enter stage left, The Sunroom Lounge.

Ross’s talent, if you are not already familiar with him at The Conservatory Bar, is hospitality and crafting an ambience. His superpower, however, is wine. His knowledge is unsurpassed and this is once again reflected in the extensive wine list he has created for the lucky denizens of FNQ’s northernmost resort town. That’s not to say beers and cocktails have been excluded, by no means, local craft beers and classic cocktails can be procured with absolute ease. But in The Sunroom Lounge, the headline feature is the wine and food pairings. The menu is designed to be consumed in tandem with selected cellar delights. Carefully crafted, exquisite tapas and share plates dominate, all thoughtfully designed to complement the recommended offerings from the vine.

All of this is enjoyed in a setting that exudes luxury - acres of chesterfields, darkwood furniture, and brass wall fittings.

“We’ve modelled the lounge on a classic vintage feel, with comfy sofas, antique dining suites - it’s beachside elegance at its best,” says Ross.

Think Orient Express meets the French Riviera.

However opulent the decor though, the food overshadows all, with gloriously presented cheese and meat grazing boards, served with bread crackers, nuts and fruits, along with traditional optional side dishes such as roasted eggplant or balsamic pickled onions, as well as delectable dips, including pumpkin and jalapeno. But it’s the tapas menu that fires the imagination, not to mention taste buds.

Ross certainly enjoyed the creative pleasures experimenting, sourcing, tasting and evolving the menu to match his extensive international wine list and enthuses as to the paired culinary delights.

“Consider smoked salmon mousse on brioche, topped with Oscietra caviar, paired with a tipple of Penna Lane 2010 Semillon. Or, mixed mushroom and parmesan risotto, with freshly grated truffles, while sipping a glass of Starrs Reach Duriff 2019 to bring all the flavours together.”

Of course, you can forge your own path with the food and wine matching, but what fun it is to let someone else navigate the adventure while you sit back and enjoy.

“We have organic wines, cellar-aged wines and wines from small boutique producers that are far from mainstream,” Ross says.

There is also a ‘beyond your wildest dreams’ tasting menu, which begins with Champagne and fetta-

stuffed olives, and meanders through dishes including chicken liver pate, toasted sourdough, onion relish, thoughtfully paired with a King Valley Darling Estate Gamay 2004.

The six-course menu ends with basil panna cotta with strawberry granita and a glass of sticky, De Bertoli Noble One Botrytis 1994, from Riverina, NSW. It’s not to be missed.

It’s all about creating a hedonistic escape, an approach close to Ross’s heart. He grew up in the UK literally indoctrinated into wine by his family, starting young under the tutelage of his home-wine making grandfather. Coming to Australia as a backpacker, he honed his connoisseur status and hospitality distinction as he worked his way around the industry, including a stint with a winemaker in the Hunter Valley.

Manager Nicolas Palacio hails from South America and his passion for wine, its history, cultivation and creation, is underpinned by Ross’s own knowledge. There is a touch of self-absorption in wine appreciation, and it’s difficult to spend time in Ross’s company without feeling the gravitational pull of that intensity.

Nicolas says every wine is like a time capsule, with a story of its time and place, the climate, soil and artistry of the winemaker laying in its depths.

Together, they are taking the wines of the world to Port Douglas with absolute first-class knowledge, service and quality, along with some warm smiles and guaranteed good times.

The Sunroom Lounge 56 Macrossan St, Port Douglas 0436 344 637 73
Tin Shed 7 Ashford Avenue, Port Douglas 4099 5553 74 FNQ FOOD

The Tin Shed

Location, location, location! If there ever is a time to use the phrase, it is to describe this pictureperfect place ideally positioned on Dickson’s Inlet in Port Douglas - The Tin Shed. With its seductive waterfront views out to Low Isles and the Coral Sea, and beyond to the magnificent Daintree rainforest, it is the heart and soul of the community. Steeped in history, this is a mustdo on your next trip to Port Douglas.

The Tin Shed story began in 1877 when it was built by the Divisional Sugar Board to store and load sugar, a major source of income for the town, for transport to Cairns. Consent was obtained in 1979 for the mooring facilities to be used by Port Douglas and District Boat Club members, who in return repaired and maintained the building. After securing a 30-year lease for the site in 2009, the site was extensively renovated and the name officially changed to Douglas Community and Sports Club Inc. Unofficially though, it has been affectionately called ‘The Tin Shed’ since the eighties.

Inside the community club you can still see the original sugar board building interior, proudly restored and displayed alongside the modern bistro setting. The talking point of the shed is the spacious, light and airy deck, complete with willowing shade sails. The quintessential Queensland veranda is nothing if not alluring, and arriving here evokes an instant sense of relaxation as you settle in to enjoy the sea breezes and stunningly beautiful surrounding landscape over a beverage and a bite to eat.

With proximity to the waterfront, fishermen bring their daily catch directly to the door for the chefs to prepare such fresh FNQ favourites as barramundi, coral trout, gold band snapper, nannygai, red emperor, and

an array of delicious seafood options. Arguably the most impressive is their seafood tower for two, a bona fide feast of Far North Queensland’s finest.

The menu has something for everyone, for lunch and dinner, a great range of bistro classics, a children’s menu and even an afternoon snack board available seven days a week. All these at affordable prices for the entire family to enjoy.

A favourite pastime for the locals is to catch up with mates at The Tin Shed, grab a bucket of fresh jumbo prawns straight off the boat along with an icy cold beer or cocktail, and watch the reef boats return at the end of the day - a perfect way to while away an afternoon in FNQ. If you happen to visit on a Sunday, live music adds to the ambience and the experience is even better.

Above the bistro on the second level is The Bacardi Bar, an air-conditioned lounge with even more spectacular views. With a range of beers and ciders on tap, and cocktails perfect for those balmy tropical days, the venue is fast becoming a preferred venue for intimate weddings and private functions, with the bistro popular for Christmas parties and corporate events.

The Tin Shed is a not-for-profit enterprise with the community at the core of everything they do. Profits from the club are returned to the Douglas Shire through grants to local sporting and community groups. In 2022, The Shed donated over $150,000 to clubs and groups through the sponsorship of community events.

The venue may have changed with the times, but the heart and soul of The Tin Shed will always remain the same, providing the Port Douglas community with an iconic local hangout that can in turn benefit the community.

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Words by Elaine Deane

WRASSE & ROE

If anyone knows the secret to restaurant success in Port Douglas, it’s Andy Gray, owner and head chef of Wrasse & Roe.

The restaurateur has called the tropical tourist mecca home for the past 20 years, lured by its fabulous weather, relaxed lifestyle and proximity to the World Heritage listed reef and rainforest.

Chef Andy’s ridden the boom of international tourism and survived the bust of the global financial crisis and pandemic. He led the kitchen at the award winning Two Fish before opening the highly regarded bel cibo, operating that successfully for 12 years until it was closed by flooding from the apartment above in January 2020.

“The opportunity came up to lease the premises that we’re in now at Coconut Grove,” Andy says. “It was the perfect space to renovate and launch Wrasse & Roe in 2021 to showcase the region’s amazing local produce.”

Wrasse & Roe is at the cosmopolitan beach end of Macrossan Street, close enough to Four Mile Beach to catch the sea breeze in the afternoon, making it the perfect spot to enjoy a local gin or a cold beer and contemplate doing nothing for the rest of the day. Its turquoise furnishings and splashes of colour are a nod to the Great Barrier Reef and add to the relaxed dining experience.

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Sous chef, Jordan May with owner and head chef, Andy Gray

“We’ve got large tables with plenty of space and we’re focused on a great dining experience,” Chef Andy said.

If you’ve spent the morning at the beach and missed lunch, or arrived in Port Douglas around check-in time and can’t wait for dinner, Wrasse & Roe has you covered.

The restaurant is open between 2pm and 10pm, seven days a week, offering an ‘afternoon selections’ menu.

“It can be difficult to get something to eat between 2pm and 4pm in Port Douglas, with most restaurants closing between lunch and dinner service, so you can come and enjoy a few lighter selections at Wrasse & Roe in the afternoon that won’t ruin your appetite for dinner,” Andy says.

With a cold glass of Australian or New Zealand wine in hand, settle in with some seared scallops, cauliflower and truffle oil puree, crisp pancetta and burnt butter sauce, a confit duck salad with peppered currant and macadamia crumble, soft shell crab bao buns, a chilled bucket of prawns, or classic fish and chips.

Dinner selections are a perfect marriage of flavours, allowing the exceptional freshness and quality of the produce to shine.

Popular choices include baked Gulf of Carpentaria bugs with a fragrant coconut laksa, tamarind and sticky soy glazed beef cheeks and the bountiful seafood marinara linguine.

Interstate guests can’t get enough of the premium quality fresh reef fish landed not far offshore, and delectable Far North Queensland mud crabs, tossed through chilli or presented Singaporestyle with a black pepper.

“At the heart of every dish served at Wrasse & Roe is a passion to make our sustainably harvested seafood the hero on your plate,” Andy says.

He carefully considers the finest seasonal ingredients to complement the day’s catch and guests regularly say it’s the best seafood they’ve had in years.

If you have a sweet tooth and want to keep the party going, try one of Wrasse & Roe’s delicious dessert cocktails.

Among them you will find the Apple Pie – a delicious concoction featuring hartshorn vanilla whey liqueur and vodka shaken with apple juice, and the Wrasse & Roe Ice, a refreshing blend of limoncello and vodka over vanilla ice cream.

The combination of premium seafood cooked by a true expert, a relaxed dining experience and exceptional, knowledgeable staff has earned Wrasse & Roe a coveted Chef’s Hat in the 2023 Australian Good Food Guide, following a Reader’s Choice Award in 2022.

Look out for the new menu and put Wrasse & Roe on your bucket list for your next visit to paradise.

Wrasse & Roe Coconut Grove, Macrossan St, Port Douglas 4099 5219 77

Ah, bananas!

One of the most beloved and ubiquitous fruits in the world. And in Far North Queensland, or FNQ as the locals call it, banana production is a big deal.

So let’s take a journey into the fascinating world of banana farming in the region. Far North Queensland is one of the largest banana-growing regions in Australia, accounting for about 90 percent of the country’s banana production. It is a major contributor to the economy of Far North Queensland, providing jobs and income for many people in the region.

Standing amidst the lush greenery of FNQ, with the warm tropical sun beating down, you can’t help but marvel at the sight. Acres upon acres of banana plantations stretched out as far as the eye can see, their broad, green leaves rustling in the gentle breeze. It is like standing in the midst of a giant, edible forest.

Bananas have been grown in the region for over a century now. The fertile soil and perfect climate provide ideal growing conditions, and the farmers here have honed their craft to a fine art.

But banana farming is no easy feat. It takes years of hard work and patience to get a single crop of bananas to harvest. The farmers have to carefully select the best banana cultivars, plant them in the right soil, and then nurture them through the long growing season. And even then, there are a myriad of challenges they must overcome.

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One of the biggest challenges that banana farmers in FNQ face is the threat of disease. The dreaded Panama disease, which wiped out entire plantations in the past, is still a constant threat. To combat this, the farmers have to constantly monitor their crops for any signs of infection and take swift action to prevent the spread of the disease.

Now, you might be wondering why they don’t just switch to a different variety of banana that’s resistant to the disease. Well, that’s easier said than done. Most of the bananas we eat are of the Cavendish variety, and they’re highly vulnerable to Panama disease. And because bananas are cloned rather than grown from seed, there’s very little genetic diversity, which means that diseases can spread like wildfire with little or no natural resistance.

But despite these challenges, the farmers of FNQ are a resilient lot. They are fiercely proud of their bananagrowing heritage, and they work tirelessly to produce the best possible fruit. And when harvest time comes around, there is a palpable sense of excitement in the air.

The banana harvest here is a sight to behold. The farmers, labourers, often including their families, work together to cut down the massive bunches of fruit, which can weigh up to 50 kilograms each. It’s a backbreaking job, but there is a sense of satisfaction that comes from seeing the fruit of their labour literally hanging from the trees.

And what of the bananas themselves? Well, they are simply delicious. Sweet, succulent and packed full of nutrients, they are a true taste of the tropics. Whether eaten on their own or used in a variety of dishes, bananas from FNQ are a true delight and remain one of Australia’s favourite fruits. Added to that, bananas from Far North Queensland are exported to many countries around the world, including Japan, New Zealand, and the United Arab Emirates.

So there you have it, folks. A glimpse into the fascinating world of banana production in FNQ. It’s a world of hard work, challenges, and incredible rewards. And it’s a world that continues to thrive, thanks to the dedication and passion of the farmers who call this region home.

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Getting the Cane

Sugar cane has been a significant crop in Far North Queensland for over a century, and it remains a crucial part of the region’s agricultural industry. With its fertile soil and tropical climate, the Far North Queensland region is one of the world’s most productive areas for sugar cane farming.

The history of sugar cane cultivation in Far North Queensland dates back to the 1860s when the first commercial sugar plantation was established in the region. Over the years, the industry has grown and flourished, making Far North Queensland one of Australia’s most prominent sugar-producing regions.

The region’s sugar cane industry is characterised by large-scale commercial operations that use modern equipment and techniques to maximise yields and efficiency. Despite the scale of production, many sugar cane farmers in Far North Queensland are still familyowned and operated businesses, passed down from generation to generation.

Sugar cane is a tall, perennial grass that thrives in the tropical climate of Far North Queensland. The crop requires ample water and sunshine, making the region’s humid conditions ideal for its growth. The fertile soil in the area also contributes to high yields, with many farms producing up to 80 tonnes of cane per hectare.

The sugar cane harvest in Far North Queensland typically begins in June and runs through to November. During this period, the fields are alive with activity, as farmers and workers use specialised equipment to harvest, transport, and process the cane. The sugar cane is harvested using large machines that cut the stalks and strip the leaves. It is then transported to the sugar mill, where it is crushed and processed to extract the juice.

The processing of sugar cane is a complex and specialised operation that requires modern equipment and skilled workers. The extracted juice is boiled, clarified, and evaporated to produce raw sugar crystals. The sugar is then refined and packaged for use in a wide range of food and beverage products.

The sugar cane industry in Far North Queensland has significant economic importance to the region. It employs thousands of people and contributes billions of dollars to the local economy each year. The industry also has a rich cultural history, with many families tracing their roots back to the early days of sugar cane farming in the area.

However, the sugar cane industry also faces significant challenges, including competition from other sugar-producing regions around

the world, fluctuations in global sugar prices, and environmental concerns around the use of pesticides and fertilizers. In recent years, many farmers in the region have adopted sustainable farming practices, including reducing pesticide and fertiliser use, using alternative energy sources, and improving waste management.

In conclusion, sugar cane farming is an essential part of the agricultural landscape of Far North Queensland. With its favourable climate and fertile soil, the region produces some of the world’s highest quality sugar cane, contributing significantly to the local economy and cultural heritage. While the industry faces challenges, it remains a vital part of the region’s history and future.

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The Pies Have It

87 Years of Manning’s Words by Suzy

Ancient Egyptians, or even Romans, may have made the first pies, but in the eyes of Cairns, the Manning family did.

We’re talking about the real thing … that melt in the mouth shortcrust pastry filled with delicious, slowcooked tender meat in a rich gravy topped with golden puff pastry.

Way back in 1934, Hector (Hec) Manning was making pies in Manly, but severe asthma attacks prompted the family to move to the tropics, a fortunate decision for Cairns pie enthusiasts.

Hec started making his pies out of a house in Kamerunga. At first, he transported his pies to the city in a pram lined with bricks and linen, which kept the home baked goodies hot for his customers at the Tropical Theatre. Later, a frame holding the bricks was attached to a bicycle, which became an iconic sight around the streets of Cairns.

In the late 1930s, growing demand for Hec’s delicious pies saw he and wife Dulcie open a bakery in Pease Street. After Hec passed away in 1957, his sons George and Hec Jnr ran the business together for a while, then George moved his family to Collins Avenue, where he made pies in the garage at the back of the house.

In 1980, the burgeoning business moved to Newell Street. Over the years, all of George’s six sons have been involved in the business in one way or another. Son Perry bought the butcher shop in Yungaburra, on the Tablelands, and his cattle supply some of the meat for

As a boy of 14, Dennis Manning used to put in a couple of hours at the bakery before school, falling asleep in the classroom to the dismay of his teacher. When the principal asked Dennis what he wanted to be, the young lad replied “a piemaker”.

“The principal told me that if I came in and signed the school roll, once I was signed in, I could leave for work,” says Dennis.

Now there’s an educator with foresight. A piemaker was born, and we have all benefited.

Dennis and his youngest brother Laurie run the business now, with Dennis’s daughter Karli telling me, with a mischievous giggle, “I just tell them what to do”. Karli’s cousin Danielle handles the administrative and bookkeeping side of the business. Being in their midst is like being in the middle of a family gathering. This is one happy team.

Karli has fond memories of helping in the bakery during school holidays.

“I was only four or five when I first started helping. I had to stand on a crate to put the tops on the pies,” she recalls.

“When we were kids, our friends all used to come and help in the bakery because they got paid with pies and loved that,” Dennis adds with a grin.

What many people don’t know is that Mannings doesn’t only make pies, but white, wholemeal and multigrain bread, sweet tarts, cakes and buns, including of course, hot cross buns.

“Our products go as far as Georgetown, Croydon, Bamaga, Mornington Island, throughout the Atherton Tablelands and Cooktown; to cafes, grocery stores and other retail outlets such as IGA, service stations and roadhouses,” Karli says.

“We make about 8 tonnes of dough a month.”

Like their pies, the family have soft centres and are renowned for their philanthropic pursuits.

Laurie has been deeply involved with Variety Queensland, helping sick, disabled and disadvantaged children for over 25 years, while Dennis has been involved for 12.

The Manning’s team also involve themselves in various local charity events such as Relay for Life and the World’s Greatest Shave.

“You can probably guess who was voted to participate in the shave. The shave would have been over in a flash if Dad or Uncle Laurie volunteered for that one,” Karli says.

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Manning’s Pies 194-196 Newell St, Bungalow 4054 3077 83

PORTRAIT OF A SMOKER

Daithi Spalding - Slap and Pickle Low and Slow BBQ Smokehouse

Words by Suzy Grinter | Pictures by Mick Fuhrimann

If you could bottle the delicious aroma of Texas-style barbecue in the same way as entrepreneurs sold bottled Australian air to the Chinese, you’d be a millionaire.

Daithi Spalding is a lucky man - as the owner of Slap and Pickle on Shields St, he literally inhales the flavour from Tuesday to Saturday as his customised Texan barbecue smokes a mouth-watering range of meats ready for the evening trade.

“My dear friend Mitchell, who sadly passed this year, was the first to show me how to smoke meat the Texan way, low and slow using charcoal for fuel, and cherry, pecan and Post oak timber for smoking. The Post oak is imported from Texas,” Daithi says.

“I still learn something new every day, and I cherish our American visitors, listening out for a Texan accent so I can tap their knowledge.

“We had a big guy from Texas stop in for a meal a while back. He told me over a beer that he could tell exactly what I was doing with the meat just by eating it. He wasn’t a professional cook, but he explained ‘that’s just what we do’,” says Daithi.

Born in Donegal, in the Republic of Ireland, Daithi grew up in his parent’s bed-and-breakfast, where his dad tended his poultry and grew veggies for the table, while his stepmother looked after the housekeeping.

“I left school at 14 or 15, travelling around Europe working here and there. I’ve learnt a lot of things and worked with some really great people.”

Daithi’s partner Chloe works with him in the business.

“Chloe originally came to work for me as a nanny to my daughter, whose mother sadly passed at a very young age here in Cairns,” he says. “Now Chloe is my partner in life, and we have a young son. These days she works out front, and I have to say she’s one of the best front of house staff I’ve ever known.

“No, I’m not biassed, we’re a good team,” Daithi says. “During Covid, things were really tough, but when mandates and bans on alcohol service caused a downturn in our business, we closed for a while to reassess and we’ve come back stronger than ever.”

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Daithi Spalding and Chloe Taylor

Daithi has been there, done that. He’s one of those ‘whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ guys who would give anything a go, and in fact has.

“When I came to Australia as a backpacker, I worked at The European in Melbourne. I made the call, and that was me on a roll. But the weather was like home. So I headed north and took a job as chef with the Townsville Brewing Company, which owned several venues and a catering section. True to their word, after three and a half years, they nominated me for permanent residency.

“I used to come to Cairns every now and then as there was a bit of a party atmosphere, and after several years as a company man, I craved R&R,” Daithi says. “So I worked briefly in a casual role at Ochre then The Water Bar and Grill for just under a year. I leased a kitchen at the Grand Hotel, a proper locals’ spot, where I made a lot of inroads and forged enduring friendships and contacts. During this period I worked for Sodexho at Nhulunbuy and later in the Bowen Basin.

“I worked at the airport, too, cooking airline food in bulk for the major airlines and some charters. I learned a great deal there. After that, I leased kitchens – a coffee shop in a retirement home, and at a football club at Holloways Beach and at the Raintrees Tavern, where I successfully converted the kitchen into a bakery.

Slap and Pickle’s venue at 62 Shields St was a blues bar before Daithi took it on.

“It was empty for eighteen months or so. I was walking past one day and there was a little shoe box propped up against the window with a number for enquiries. So I called and the owners were pretty happy with my concept, selling upmarket sandwiches – Reuben sandwiches, Cuban sandwiches, triple-decker club sandwiches with fried chicken and so on. But I underestimated the competition in the city centre for breakfast and lunch, and I underestimated the willingness of people to walk further than a few steps from their office to buy food.

“Those were tough times,” Daithi reflects. “I had lots of good people lend me their expertise, kindness I can never repay. I got a liquor licence, tried to do the nighttime thing, but my daughter’s mum had passed away when she was just starting school, and it was a struggle to care for her and survive physically and financially.

“Covid gave Chloe and I a chance to rethink, take stock of everything and press the restart button. That is when Slap and Pickle was born. Now we focus on what we do well: our inhouse stuff; catering within practical reach; and our Sunday roast every month,” Daithi says. “Our customers are happy. That’s why we’re here.”

Slap and Pickle opens five nights, Tuesday to Saturday.

Slap & Pickle

62 Shields St, Cairns 0482 632 446

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Land & Sea

Far North Queensland is a region of Australia that is well-known for its tropical climate, diverse landscapes, and stunning natural beauty. But beyond its tourist attractions and lush rainforests, the region is also home to a thriving farming and seafood industry that has been a vital part of the local economy for generations. The fertile soil and abundant water supply of FNQ have made it an ideal location for growing a variety of crops.

From tropical fruits and vegetables to seafood and beef, the region has a lot to offer in terms of quality and quantity of food.

One of the main contributors to the food production industry in FNQ is agriculture. FNQ has a rich agricultural history, and its tropical climate is ideal for growing a wealth of crops.

The region is home to over 50,000 hectares of sugarcane farms. The region has a long history of sugar production, with many local farmers dedicating their land to the crop. The sugarcane industry has been a vital part of the region’s economy for over a century, providing employment for thousands of locals and contributing to the country’s sugar exports.

Bananas, papayas, pineapples, mangoes, and avocados are other popular crops grown in FNQ, and the region is also known for its high-quality coffee production. Vegetables such as sweet potatoes, pumpkins, and zucchinis are grown in the region, and many local farmers use organic and sustainable farming practices to ensure the health and longevity of their land. In addition to crops, FNQ is home to several beef cattle farms, which provide a steady supply of locally sourced beef.

The seafood industry in Far North Queensland is equally impressive, with the region boasting some of the best seafood in Australia. The local waters are home to an abundance of marine life, including prawns, barramundi, mud crabs, and coral trout, among others. The seafood caught in Far North Queensland is highly sought after for its superior quality, flavour, and freshness.

Seafood plays a significant role in the region’s economy and is a major contributor to Australia’s food exports.

One of the most valuable fisheries in the region is the prawn industry. The waters around Far North Queensland are home to some of the best prawns in the world, and the industry generates millions of dollars in revenue each year. Local fishermen use a variety of techniques to catch prawns, including trawling and netting, and the catch is carefully handled and

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processed onboard trawlers and either frozen or cooked to ensure its freshness and quality.

Another important catch in the region is the barramundi. Barramundi is a popular game fish and a sought-after commercial species, and the waters around Far North Queensland are home to some of the largest and tastiest barramundi in the country.

The mud crab is also a significant part of the seafood industry in Far North Queensland. Mud crabs are a popular delicacy and a valuable export, and the region is home to some of the largest crabs in Australia. Local fishermen use traps and pots to catch mud crabs, and the catch is carefully handled and transported to maintain its quality and freshness.

Other species of fish caught in the waters around Far North Queensland include coral trout, red emperor, spanish mackerel, and many others. Local fishermen use a variety of techniques to make their catch, ranging from traditional methods such as hand lines and traps to modern technology such as sonar and GPS. Many fishermen have also adopted sustainable fishing practices to help protect the marine environment and ensure the long-term viability of the local fishing industry.

One of the unique aspects of the farming and seafood industry in Far North Queensland is the close relationship between the two. Many local farmers use organic and sustainable farming practices that help to protect the natural environment and the marine life in the waters off the coast. For example, some farmers use cover crops to reduce soil erosion and runoff, which can have a negative impact on the health of the coral reefs that are so vital to the local marine ecosystem. Others use composting and crop rotation to maintain soil health and reduce the use of harmful chemicals and pesticides that can damage the local environment.

This collaboration between the farming and seafood industry in Far North Queensland has created a strong sense of community and a commitment to sustainability that is truly inspiring. The locals are proud of their land and the sea, and they work tirelessly to ensure that both are protected and preserved for future generations.

The farming produce and seafood industry in Far North Queensland is an integral part of the region’s economy and identity. With its rich diversity of crops and seafood, the area has become a food lover’s paradise, attracting tourists and food enthusiasts from all over the world. And with its commitment to sustainable practices, the region is helping to set an example for a more sustainable future for the planet.

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Rusty’s Markets

A food legacy for FNQ.

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Far North Queensland is not lacking in food credentials, and one of the most obvious of these is the iconic Rusty’s Market, situated right in the heart of Cairns’ bustling CBD.

Rusty’s Market has been visited by locals and tourists alike in the CBD every Friday, Saturday and Sunday for over five decades. Founded by two visionary hippies in the mid 70’s, they went to local business man Emrys Rees, affectionately known as ‘Rusty’. Their idea was simple: a regular, covered market to aid the buying and selling of local produce to local people. He enthusiastically supported this idea and provided an ideal space. Over the last 50 years, the markets have become 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 locally known, somewhat unsurprisingly with typical FNQ practicality and wit, as the ‘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. The eponymous 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 Gilligan’s 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, 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. Rusty’s Markets is exemplary, and through simple commerce manages to champion many of the ideals held high in food production and distribution, in a wholesome, vibrant and practical way. It is a worthy inclusion on any FNQ food tourist bucket list, and an absolute must for locals on their weekly shop, a spectacle of the traditional blended seamlessly with modernity and always worth a visit.

Rusty’s Market 57/89 Grafton St, Cairns 4040 2705 91

The Real Beer Up Here

A Tour Of FNQ Craft Breweries

Craft beer has become a phenomenon in Australia, experiencing significant growth each year, despite a decline in beer consumption overall. The craft beer industry is currently worth approximately $160 million, and experts predict that it will grow by 5 percent in the next five years. It is unknown exactly how the craft beer movement began, but many believe it has evolved from beer enthusiasts tinkering with homebrew kits in their backyards, experimenting with flavours and brewing techniques to create unique

and personalised beer. This desire for something different has led to an explosion in the number of microbreweries across the country.

Fortunately, Far North Queensland is home to several multi-award-winning breweries. Hemmingway’s, for example, which has two brew sites, one at the Cairns Cruise Liner Terminal and the other in Port Douglas, is one of the largest craft breweries in Australia. It has a massive 50 taps serving 20 different beers, and all of Hemmingway’s core range are award-

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winning beers. The brewery has reinvigorated the local Cairns brewpub scene and has won numerous awards, including five gold, one silver, and two bronze at the 2021 Australian International Beer Awards.

Coral Sea Brewing Company, located next door to Sauce, is also worth visiting. The company uses the old Blue Sky Brewing equipment to produce a range of beers that work well in FNQ’s tropical environment. With a tap room tucked away in Bank Lane off Spence Street, Coral Sea has built a niche following with a core range of a full-strength lager, two aromatic and fruity hop-driven ales, and a wheat ale with a surprising malt backbone. They also have a few seasonal releases, including a specialty Oktoberfest beer, and have won several awards at the Australian International Beer Awards.

Barrier Reef Brewing Co., located in Aeroglen, is another popular brewery in FNQ. Established in 2015, Cam and Caroline have created a strong local following, producing high-quality beers using pure water, great quality malts, late hopping, and dry hopping. They offer four core beers, each designed to be appreciated with good food and company. They also operate a tap room, and supply a number of local venues.

Billycart Brewing Co. is the region’s newest craft brewery based near Atherton, the creation of Matt Bradford and Margaret Barker. Matt, the chief brewer at Billycart Brewing, was initially introduced to craft brewing in 2002 while working as a plant ecologist with CSIRO. He and four colleagues formed the ‘Tableland Brewers’ and started brewing beers that

consistently impressed everyone. As Matt’s passion for beer grew, he began entering beer competitions and has since won numerous awards. He is now a certified international beer judge and often travels to judge in beer competitions.

Together, Matt and Margaret bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to every beer they produce at Billycart Brewing. Their aim is to create beers that cater to the unique climate and tastes of North Queensland while embracing new technologies and products while staying true to the traditions of great beer makers of the past.

Finally, Macalister Brewing Company at Smithfield is the brainchild of Rob Callin, a former high school science teacher who has won numerous homebrew awards. The brewery produces a wide range of beers, from lighter lagers to exceptional red ales and smoked porters, and has won several awards, including Best New Brewery at the 2018 Australian International Beer Awards. Their concept warehouse bar and brewery combined has captured the public imagination (along with very good beer) and has seen them grow exponentially since opening in 2017.

FNQ is home to several award-winning craft breweries that offer a unique and personalised take on beer. These breweries are driven by entrepreneurs and brewers passionate about creating a premium product, and their success has contributed to the growth of the craft beer industry in Australia. Visitors to FNQ should make a point to visit these breweries and experience the passion and creativity of these craft beer enthusiasts.

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Macalister Brewing Co.

Tapping into the Community

What do you get when you combine a chemistry career and a love of beer? A bloody good brewery. Sipping on a crisp, freshly pulled coldie overlooking a sugar cane field in Cairns’ northern suburbs, Macalister Brewing Co founder Rob Callin is living a very different life from his origins in Yorkshire, England.

The former chemical plant manager turned teacher began dabbling in home brewing after moving to Australia and discovered he had quite the talent. A string of awards fuelled his obsession and Rob took a leap of faith, completing a Graduate Diploma in Brewing Science to turn his passion and pastime into a business.

What started as a small operation six years ago with a 50-seat bar and brewery in Smithfield’s industrial area has grown into a thrumming, full-time operation occupying the entire lot.

A recent major investment has seen the original bar, built by Rob himself, replaced with a much larger fit-out to expand the offering from eight hand-made tap beers to 12.

The brewhouse has been relocated outside the bar area and extra fermentation capacity added so it can produce beer seven days a week.

These days, the bar seats up to 200 thirsty customers.

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“The venue’s fabulous. It’s not a dark, dingy pub in a carpark with poker machines and air conditioning,” Rob says. “It’s airy, it’s light, it looks out on a bit of Far North Queensland and the breezes blow through beautifully.”

Macalister is a place to catch up with friends for a long, lazy afternoon, or pop in for a solitary quick one while contemplating the sunset after work.

As the hot tropical sun descends over its namesake Macalister Range, the brewery comes alive with regular events such as trivia, music bingo, comedy and live music.

Rob plans to serve up more bands this year, taking advantage of high-quality touring acts while also offering a stage to talented locals.

“We’ve created a community place for people to come and meet. The staff are friendly, and we get to know people. It’s become a real social hub,” he says.

The real star of the show, of course, is the beer, which is increasingly high demand and now found in more than 40 licensed venues from Cardwell to Cape Tribulation.

But you won’t find Macalister beer outside of Far North Queensland. It’s an unashamedly local, unpasteurised and preservative-free premium product and Rob plans to keep it that way.

“Beer is best drunk fresh, it’s best drunk local and that’s what we aim to do, service the Cairns region and do it well,” Rob says. “I like the fact that we deliver all of our own beer, we know it’s not been sat in a hot warehouse. We know it’s cold, we know it’s good.”

A tripling of its onsite brewing capacity and a new refrigerated truck mean Macalister is wellplaced to meet the evergrowing demand for its beer in the local market.

Macalister’s tropical blonde ale, the 4.5 percent Latitude 17, is a sessionable beer perfect for the tropics and continues to be the brewer’s most popular.

“It was a beer I used to brew at home for myself. It’s light and citrusy, and fortunately everybody else seems to like it as well,” Rob says.

While he’s more involved in the back-end of the business than the daily brewing these days, Rob still enjoys the creativity of beer-making and is always developing new products with his team.

One of them, a light beer crafted as a small batch for a friend’s wedding, is making its way to the taps in 2023.

The bar is open from Wednesday to Sunday. Macalister supports 10 local familyrun food trucks which rotate through the venue on Wednesday and Friday evenings, and all day on the weekends, offering a tasty and ever-changing complement to its beverages.

“We’re small and we’re flexible; we’re not owned by anybody so if we decide we want to put on Spanish day with paella and Spanish-style lager, we can just do it,” Rob says.

For a refreshing taste of Far North Queensland, order a Macalister.

Macalister Brewing Co. 6 Danbulan St, Smithfield 0408 086 814 95

Beers, bars, cocktails and long tales

The quest for good beer and cheerful company is a dance as old as fermentation itself, and as such the common thread of hospitality in FNQ is not always the good food and the warm welcome, it is in fact the simple presence of a bar.

For those in search of a tipple or two, there is no doubt that FNQ has it all. From the smallest speakeasies to the largest of brew-pubs and everything in between. It is not just a diversity of scale but also of age and location. With heritage hotels that date back to the gold rush and remote pubs that serve communities only of dozens, they’re all here.

The sophisticated metro cocktail can be obtained and consumed in full sight of an old fashioned historical boozer that would not be out of place in a world at war, in some cases the first one.

A short drive from Cairns or Port Douglas can take you to a different world. The slow, egalitarian nature of time and economy in FNQ country life has left a host of undeveloped anachronistic hotels and pubs untouched by more commonplace metropolitan modernity. Often replete with ringers in sunbleached Akubras and well-worn boots, or fishos with no boots and stories about the crocs in the creeks. Where time flows like treacle and you can see history through black and white photos framed on the walls. Where ‘out the back’ mighty compressors wrestle with desert-like temperatures or jungle humidity to render your beer a consumable temperature. This living history, a glimpse into the soul of Australia, is as much an FNQ experience as fine dining or a dive on the reef.

On the other hand, this region boasts the most modern, the sleekest of gin joints and the flashest of bars. Where the trappings of the country mullet give way to the waxed moustaches and denim aprons, where whiskies number more than two

varieties (bourbon or scotch) and drinks are created to the collective delight of onlookers.

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. Some of Far North Queensland’s top little bars include The Conservatory Bar on Lake Street, with its Chesterfield couches, chandeliers and award-winning wine menu of over 800 wines; its siblings, The Sunroom Lounge in Port Douglas and Sunset Bar Cairns, each offer their own idiosyncratic take on the small bar theme. The granddaddy of the Cairns small bar scene, Three Wolves, hidden down a red brick laneway in the heart of the

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Cairns CBD and boasting an extensive list of Australian and international whiskies and gin; and its worthy Hospo Group siblings, Wolf Lane distillery, Flamingos Tiki Bar, and the The Fox Small Bar in Stratford.

Our brew houses also come with a dash of difference, from Hemmingway’s on the water’s edge in Cairns and also in Port Douglas, to Macalisters Brewery, which is perhaps one of the most ‘Queensland’ experiences, situated as it is in a shed overlooking a cane paddockadmittedly, a big shed.

Then to the opposite end of the scale we have the gyrating heart of the region, with its clubs and late night bars. Where tomorrow’s history is being made now, where backpackers, tourists and locals all blend in

harmonious contortion. All with the trajectory of bleary eyed morning recollection and reportable fun. Places like The Woolshed that have been partying for three decades, and form part of the mental scrapbook of Australia that thousands have taken to their homelands to cherish only to recommend to their own sons and daughters to come to as inherited adventure.

The richness of this diversity and its apparent proximity provide for the ultimate adventure and in the section that follows we will introduce some of the makers, the connoisseurs and the venues that will do everything from keep you up at night, to just give you a coldie and a meat pie for lunch.

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Cultured Clash

The Conservatory Bar & Sunset Bar

The Conservatory Bar is a little piece of England with an extensive wine cellar. Owner and curator of these fine premises, and equally fine wines, Ross Stevens makes no bones about his heritage, or the eclectic style of his wine bar. The Conservatory Bar, Ross’s first venture into ownership, is a cross between an Edwardian drawing room and Mayfair club snug.

It oozes character and style, from the Chesterfield and dark oak function table to the black and white pictures, and wine maps, that adorn the dark painted walls. This, says Ross, is his front room, although it’s fair to say that whatever room it is, is merely a display case for the heart of the bar, which is the 800-strong, award winning wine list.

Ross does not disguise his wine knowledge, which borders on the encyclopaedic. He speaks with a passionate fluidity about the language of the fermented grape, the regions of the world from which they hail, and the varietals that drive this fascinating and alluring trade. But even with all the wealth of understanding, he does not patronise or bore. He is inclusive and entertaining, and the dynamic centre of the bar’s many tasting evenings.

Evenings which pitch mock battles between wine cultures and countries or showcase vineyards, some well known, some obscure. A useful talent, as the award winning wine list at The Conservatory Bar boasts some 800 wines. These are not gender-neutral participation type awards, this is the ‘2-glass rating’ from the Australian Wine List of The Year in 2022, the wine bar equivalent of Michelin blessing your restaurant with stars. It is no small feat to bring such accolades to a little corner of the tropics, whose agriculture is, somewhat ironically, completely bereft of the grape.

Like a lot of fanatics, Ross inherited his enthusiasm, stemming from his grandfather’s wine interest whilst growing up in the darkest west country in the quaint English market town of Honiton. As is the way with many young men from quiet country towns, the desire to leave overcame the comparative safety of a more certain future with the family business, instead, opening up a global trail of food, wine and wonder. Washing up on the shores of the Far North a decade ago, he was quick to exploit local hospitality by employing an inclusive, attentive, hardworking attitude and, of course, his extensive wine knowledge, becoming the food and beverage manager at five star resort at the comparatively tender age of 24.

A decade later sees Ross at the helm of three bars, two in Cairns and one in Port Douglas (The Sunroom Lounge, see page 72). The first of these formerly mentioned is The Conservatory Bar, which for the last few years has provided a refuge for grown ups to gather, converse and indulge in the Far North’s own tribute to Edwardian-style opulence and, of course, outstanding wine.

More recently, the calm beneficence of The Conservatory Bar has gained a newer younger sibling, Sunset Bar, located at the iconic Harbour Lights on the Trinity Inlet in Cairns. As is often the case with younger siblings, the venue is more rumbustious and turns its attention to the shaking and the making with an extensive and sophisticated cocktail list. The vibe is definitely more party, but again a place for the well-heeled to congregate and sip, no party jugs or balloon chasers here. Sunset Bar was the final piece of the puzzle for Ross, wine and food

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covered with equal detail and intensity at his other venues; he felt there was space to turn his attention to the top shelf.

“I wanted to take the same values we had in our other bars and create a high-end cocktail experience. Like our wine list, the cocktails and spirits are curated to contain the best and most interesting we can find,” Ross says.

Ross is also a firm advocate of the local beverage industry and although local beers and spirits feature in his other wine venues, they are inherently not the focus.

“Sunset Bar has given me a chance to showcase the fantastic distillers and brewers here in FNQ. All of our house spirits for cocktails, and all of our beers, are local.”

He is quick to assure that these inclusions are not just lip service or regionalism.

“Using local isn’t just keeping dollars here where they belong; we genuinely produce products that are world beating and can easily hold their own against the more familiar multinational brands.”

There is no doubt that Ross is proud of his achievements, all shared and supported by his long-time partner and confidante Sam.

“I’m lucky to have been able to share my vision with someone equally enthusiastic, and I’m equally lucky that I have been able to turn my passion into something rewarding,” concludes Ross.

Indeed, these venues are a testament to passion, wine, and single mindedness. An amazing leap from a lad ordering a glass of wine at his local country pub, in a far off place more famous for fermenting apples than grapes.

Whichever Cairns venue you visit, you will be rewarded by a unique and upmarket experience.

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Sunset Bar Cairns Harbour Lights Boardwalk, 1 Marlin Parade, Cairns The Conservatory Bar 12-14 Lake Street, Cairns

Good things come in small packages The Hospo Group

There’s something intimate, comfortable and somewhat reassuring about walking into a small bar, a licensed venue where 100 guests are the limit.

It’s a combination of things. You feel warmly welcomed by staff, whose attention is shared easily with a small group of patrons and not taken away and distracted by large crowds. The fact that there are no large line-ups for drinks is definitely a major attraction. But the real appeal is more about being able to enjoy a drink and nibbles with friends in an intimate atmosphere that isn’t overpowered by noisy crowds or loud music.

The small bar scene in Cairns came to life in 2016 when three friends – Darren Barber, Sam Kennis and Grant Buckham – opened Three Wolves, the first of their four small bars opened with partners Andrew Pare and Ben Pape, who joined the team later.

“Small bars just hadn’t come to Cairns before Three Wolves opened,” says Andrew. “There was nothing like it in Cairns, and it really worked.”

The opening of Three Wolves proved to be an immediate success. People loved the good whiskies from all over the world, the impressive cocktails, the gin, rum, wine and craft beer. And all this complemented by a tapas-style menu.

Next for Hospo Group’s small bars was the opening of Flamingos Tiki Bar in 2018, then Wolf Lane Distillery in 2019, and The Fox in 2020. Each is unique in its appearance, character, theme and offerings, giving locals and visitors a range of exciting options.

Three Wolves is tucked away down a brick laneway in the heart of the Cairns CBD. Its discreet location accentuates the bar’s Prohibition-themed style, and it gives the distinct feel of the ‘speakeasy’ venues

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that proliferated during that dark period of American history.

But the popular watering hole is no secret, which is why you’ll always find it full of patrons, as you will at Wolf Lane. - As the largest of Hospo Group’s small bars, Three Wolves holds 100 guests.

Flamingos Tiki Bar, an interpretation of a Polynesian bar located on the Cairns Esplanade, was designed to evoke the South Pacific. Its interior is adorned with bamboo, tropical prints and palm trees. Hula girl pictures grace the walls. In true tiki style, Flamingos has an elaborate range of rum-based cocktails, so locals can create their own holiday spirit while visitors can accentuate their tropical holiday vibe.

Wolf Lane Distillery came next for the Hospo Group. Opening in 2019 next door to Three Wolves down the same laneway, its gin distillery, bar and cellar door (where gin tastings and take-away sales are held) brought world-wide recognition and plenty of accolades for its boutique craft gins. Among its awards are a gold medal at the 2019 Australian Gin Awards, the title of

World’s Best Navy Strength at the Gin Awards in 2020 in London and being named the World’s Best Bar Group by the Gin Awards in 2021.

Hospo Group’s recent addition is The Fox, a small neighbourhood-style bar in the suburb of Stratford that serves Wolf Lane Distillery’s award-winning gins and nibbles, among its other offerings.

The next addition to the Hospo Group’s small bars will be the opening this year of the Cabana Bar in Palm Cove, which will be a beach-style bar that embraces the laid-back and tropical lifestyle of the area.

In a step away from small bars, the Hospo Group also took ownership in 2021 of the historic Mountain View Hotel, a century-old historic pub on the banks of the Little Mulgrave River where they will continue to run it as a country pub.

“Having brought the small bar concept to Cairns was an amazing achievement,” Andrew says. “While there were no such small bars when Darren, Sam and Grant opened the first one in Cairns (Three Wolves), there are quite a few more now, which is great. The more the merrier.”

The Hospo Group HQ Wolf Lane, 30 Abbott Street, Cairns 1234 5678 101

Consistently leading the way

Hemingway’s Brewery Cairns and Port Douglas

The craft beer scene in Far North Queensland has exploded in the last five years, thanks largely to Hemingway’s Brewery and its multi-award-winning brews. And while Hemingway’s has led the way in the specialised beer industry in the Far North, its two brewpubs have also made an impact in another positive way.

Tony Fyfe and Craig Parsell helped bring the growing craft beer market to the region when they opened their Port Douglas brewpub in 2016 and then their Cairns venue in 2018. Their concept was to provide excellent craft beer alongside gourmet-style pub food in a fun and social atmosphere.

Port Douglas brewpub is idyllically positioned overlooking the Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina in Port Douglas with beautiful 180-degree views of the marina and the Daintree rainforest. Its much larger 1400 sq m venue at the heritage-listed venue at the Cairns Cruise Liner overlooks spectacular views of Trinity Inlet and the peaceful waterfront of Cairns. While both venues feature Hemingway’s excellent brews, they also offer a wider range of beverages including local spirits, cocktails, cider and wines.

Both also have a strong emphasis on providing locally sourced ingredients in its food offerings, which include gourmet pizzas, seafood, burgers, salads, tapas and a range of meat and seafood dishes in snack and meal sizes.

Led by head of hospitality for the venues Roman Haslinger, Hemingway’s welcoming atmosphere is forging an exciting new social scene where locals and tourists from all walks of life easily mingle together and get to know each other socially.

“For me, my first impression was that the restaurant and bar are like a beer garden in Europe or in Munich, where I am from, which is basically a social hub for all kinds of

demographics, from young to old, from blue collar to white collar, anything,” he says. “It’s where they can all come together.”

Hemingway’s Cairns, one of Queensland’s largest craft breweries north of Brisbane, is one of the country’s biggest brewpubs. It has seating for 750 including a large interior and an expansive outdoor area that also has undercover shade. Its 20m bar features 46 taps including Hemingway’s world-class beer, among them its five gold medals, one silver and two bronze from the 2021 Australian International Beer Awards.

Hemingway’s Port Douglas also offers expansive seating accommodating up to 300 guests and exudes a relaxed vibe for tourists and locals alike. Both venues have live music featuring local talent, fun nights like Trivia Night, fabulous food, a welcoming ambience and friendly, highly skilled staff help create a fun social environment that consistently attracts satisfied visitors. Roman says the team of quality and amicable staff help are a key aspect to Hemingway’s success.

“The main thing is their interest and care,” he says. “They show they care about each and every person who comes in here and are professional about what they do. It creates a good team energy and good service because good service does not essentially always mean fine dining service.”

Hemingway’s in Cairns is also a well-known venue for events such as the Festival of Spirits, the brainchild of co-founder Tony and the team. They wanted to shine a spotlight on the region’s craft gin, rum and spirit producers. There’s also the Cairns Craft Beer Festival, which showcases local craft breweries and distilleries. Likewise Port Douglas is also renowned for its events, including the Seafood Extravaganza and the FNQ GinFest.

While both venues’ restaurant and bar are usually quite busy, bookings aren’t essential, although there are some days when the venues are fully booked due to functions and events. “I want people to walk into the bar anytime because I’m that kind of person,” Roman says. “I never book restaurants. Not everything always needs to be planned. Some things in life happen best when you do not plan ahead.”

Hemingway’s Cairns Wharf 4 Wharf St 0482 173 756 Hemingway’s Port Douglas Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina 44 Wharf St 0482 173 337 102 FNQ FOOD
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The Cotton Club

Cosmopolitan restaurant by day and intimate cocktail bar by night, The Cotton Club is renowned for its outstanding casual dining for discerning locals and tourists alike. The venue has created a unique ambience providing a perfect balance between dynamic cocktail bar and family friendly grill house.

Conveniently located on Shield Street in the city centre, The Cotton Club has never looked grander. The elevated al fresco dining area is the only one of its kind in Cairns, and is air conditioned for year round enjoyment. The raised deck, surrounded by full-length glass screens, keeps the cool air in, whilst guests enjoy the views of the city from a choice of comfortable booth seating or dining tables set in delightful tropical decor. With live, acoustic

music most nights, The venue is a popular choice for corporate and private functions.

The cool, chic alfresco area leads into the timelessly elegant cocktail bar, reminiscent of a speakeasy style bar of yesteryear. Designed with ambient lighting, rustic brickwork walls, timber floors and luxurious soft furniture, it exudes character, comfort and class. Perfect for gatherings of all sizes.

Upstairs, you will find the iconic Woolshed (see page 106), the go to destination for party goers for the past thirty years.

With a passion for genuine hospitality, owners Dominic and Debra Davies pride themselves on the high level of service they provide and the memorable

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experiences they create for their customers, year in year out, since opening the business in 1993.

“Quality and consistency are core values in our business, across every aspect, from the food and the service, to the venue and the team,” says owner Dominic.

The Cotton Club has deservedly earned a reputation for quality, good value meals. Originally finding its feet as a grill house under the guise of its overachieving sibling The Woolshed, the venue has come into its own, arguably serving the best steaks in Cairns, even hosting a popular weekly steak night. Adding to its meaty roots the menu has developed to include everything from light snacks, share plates and tapas to hearty main meals, burgers and pizzas. Vegan and gluten-free options are available, and be certain, there are mouth-watering desserts on there too.

With an impressive selection of exotic cocktails, a sophisticated wine list, and ice cold beers on tap, the cocktail bar is the perfect plate to meet for snack, dine out or to while away the afternoon with friends and family.

With so much on offer, The Cotton Club is the perfect place for any occasion from small celebrations, to larger-scale events. The venue has customisable audio visual with multiple screens and full speaker system. The kitchen provides an extensive function menu, catering for all types of events and of course, friendly staff to attend to your every need.

The Cotton Club is open from 4:30pm Wednesday to Sunday and open for lunch on Friday only. Be sure to follow the QR code for up to date menu and opening times.

Cotton Club 24 Shields St, Cairns 4041 1400
The
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The heartbeat of the city THE

There are many factors in the making of a legend, and it’s not an easy status to acquire, especially in hospitality. Enter, The Woolshed, a name synonymous with good times in Cairns, and a venue that has earned this status many times over.

For almost thirty years, this iconic venue, overlooking the magnificent fig trees on Shields Street, has been the go-to destination for locals and tourists alike. Renowned globally for its wild parties, The Woolshed is on the bucket list of every backpacker visiting Cairns.

Founder and owner Dominic Davies was raised in Canberra and the Riverina, in the heart of sheep country. He recalls his younger years when the old woolshed was the place to go for events outside of shearing season. He was not to know then that the fond memories he carried with him of the good-ole get-togethers, and bachelor and spinster balls, would become the inspiration for the successful business he runs today.

“Shearing never ran more than a month, so the woolsheds would sit idle most of the year, thus making them great places for parties,” Dom says.

“We spent a whole lot of time celebrating birthdays and any other excuse for a celebration and having fun in those woolsheds.” Dom adds jokingly that he later got his ‘masters in partying’ whilst studying economics at the University of New England in Armidale.

“When we opened The Woolshed in 1994, I wanted to provide the same laidback, carefree feel, as well as presenting something quintessentially and authentically Australian. This is my interpretation,” says Dom.

Not every idea finds a home and not every dream is realised, but this is a story of resounding success. The Woolshed became an instant hit, winning hearts and minds, and cementing Dom’s concept as a coup for Cairns.

From humble beginnings as a chargrill saloon, The Woolshed found fame with their sensational steaks, serving no less than 150 melt-in-your-mouth steaks per night, 365 nights per year for over twenty years. Come late night, and The Woolshed was alive with music,

drinks, and good vibes. You would be hard pressed to find a bona fide local who had not danced atop The Woolshed’s tables, back in the day.

“It still blows me away how many lifelong couples have met here,” Dom says. “Locals tell us all the time they met at The Woolshed and even tourists drop in to reminisce, sometimes with their kids! It’s nice that the children of a lot of our regular clients from the early days, are now regulars themselves. At birthday functions it’s even more wonderful to see both generations partying together and listening to a few old war stories.”

Dom is strong on quality, and this is evident in the fit out, from the furniture to the bars and bathrooms, with regular reinvestment ensuring high standards are maintained.

“We really value our local clientele and appreciate their strong support. We don’t take them for granted and are always looking to improve our offering.”

“Our general manager, Stephen Strudwick, known universally as ‘Baggy’, has been with us since day one. He operates the venue on a day-to-day basis, backed by a hand-picked team of fabulous managers. He handles the entertainment, staffing, service and keeps us ahead of the times. Baggy embodies our core values of quality, consistency, safety, and service,” says Dom.

So, what can you expect when you walk the wellworn stairway into the fabled Woolshed? If you’re a local, you will see plenty of friends and familiar faces, mixed in with the tourists, all having a good time and partying like rock stars.

The venue features plenty of timber, from the floors, the furniture to exposed roofing trusses and featured post and rail. It really is like a flash woolshed, hosting a hoedown.

The Woolshed 22-24 Shields St, Cairns 4031 6304
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WOOLSHED
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Heritage Hotels

The pubs of yesterBEER

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 blow the froth of a coldie at a few of our favourite pubs and go in search of some real Australian heritage.

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.

1. COOKTOWN HOTEL – Cooktown
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2. JUNCTION HOTEL - Dimbulah

Dimbulah township was established in 1906 as a junction point for Chillagoe and Mt Mulligan.

Junction Hotel was first built in 1908 as a single story building and in years to follow, with a growing Dimbulah population, the single story pub was developed into a double story hotel complete with a ladies lounge downstairs and accommodation on the second floor.

In the August of 1953 the pub, along with six other buildings, were burnt down. The rebuild of the hotel in 1956 was very reminiscent of a tobacco shed and the pub received no further upkeep until 2018 when the laundromat adjacent was renovated into the now functioning bottle shop.

3. 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.

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.

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.

4. 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.

Cairns Historical Society
P02035 Photographer Alfred Atkinson
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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!

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.

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.

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.

‘The Garra’ has had her share of disasters. Burning down and rebuilt in 1935, with

6. THE GARRADUNGA HOTEL – Innisfail 5. RED BERET – Redlynch
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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!

windows and 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!

8. 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

7. Cairns Historical Society P02035
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Photographer Alfred Atkinson

& How The North Raises The Bar Distillers

Since our last edition, the Far North has seen yet more growth in the number of boutique distilleries presenting themselves in this specialised arena. They seem to be popping up everywhere, handcrafting everything from fruit liqueurs through to vodka, rum, and even agave (what we legally call tequila not from Mexico). But even with this rapid growth, our local market is still not overpopulated. Evidence of this can be found in the huge number and variety of awards that find themselves being thrust upon our very own small-batch producers. Several worldbeating whiskies, numerous gin medalists and a gaggle of triumphant rums all form part of the rich, and sometimes obsessive, patina of distilling in this region.

Factors to create this award-winning diversity include the geography, from coastal to mountain plain, the temperature differential and altitudes therein, right through to the amazing focus and appetite for improvement that our local distillers all seem to have. We have little history of distilling here, which seems to have aided and abetted the swift movement from a juvenile idea into a world beating industry. Simply, local distillers have taken the best ideas, notes and flavours from the world’s producers and, err, distilled them. It is remarkable to taste smoky peat whiskies, more usually associated with Islay malts, made here in the Tablelands, or to taste gin infused with smoked botanicals or the local davidson plum. These examples and more pay tribute to traditional production but create contemporary flavours using distinctive local ingredients. They are remarkable and often unique, and as we do with food here, provenance becomes a byword for excellence.

To use a pugilistic idiom, FNQ punches well above its weight when it comes to quality and success in boutique liquor production. Over the next few pages we highlight some of the best and most unique distillers in our region. We talk to their owners, creators and celebrate what moves them and, of course, what they make. Their cellar doors are open, their awards glisten, and their art, well, it speaks for itself.

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Distil on the Hill

Distil on the Hill is one of Australia’s newest and most successful micro gin distilleries. They have created a buzz on the world stage with the phenomenal success of their Far North Queensland takes on the classic London dry gin, all produced from their humble mountain home at Jumrum Springs in the magnificent Kuranda rainforest.

Neddy and Christian Bedwell met many moons ago when they both worked in the hospitality industry here, Christian as a chef and Neddy (Nerida) as a bartender. Little did they know as they spent their evenings looking up at the Kuranda range discussing new flavours and cocktail creations that they would one day call Saddle Mountain home, raising a family and proudly having their own award-winning distillery.

Christian’s family never doubted the couple would become distillers with their own label; the Lark family from which he sprang has been renowned for their distilling in Australia for generations. Realising they both favoured gin over any other spirit, London dry gin in particular, Neddy and Christian knew they had found their niche within the distilling realm and spent years gaining the family knowledge and traditions of distilling, which also included an ongoing mentorship with Kangaroo Island Distillery.

Their chance to start distilling arose when Christian’s parents gifted them a 20-litre copper still, affectionately known as Tiny Tim, and Distil on the Hill

was born. “Using a copper still and the century-aged artform ensures even heat distribution, resulting in a quality spirit,” Christian says. “Handcrafting allows us to extract the best flavours and botanicals from every batch.”

July 2021 saw the launch of the Distil on the Hill label, which artfully incorporates the contour lines of the Kuranda range, and running through the word ‘GIN’, the Saddle Mountain ridgeline they had gazed upon many moons ago from Yorkey’s Knob. The first product launch was their Mandarin Gin, a punchy London dry perfectly balanced with infusions of mandarin, juniper and pepper. It was bold enough to serve with a tonic without losing any elements and it won them double gold in San Francisco two months later.

Encouraged by their success, they created their second in, Jindilli. It is a contemporary floral gin that honours the produce of the Atherton Tablelands by the inclusion of local orange blossom, native berries, and macadamias in their botanicals. Distil on the Hill also proudly honour First Nations’ Tongue in the name, as ‘Jindilli’ means macadamia. Another silver award caught the eye of Australia’s most prestigious gin club, Garden Street Gin Club, who then placed a huge order. With no way to fulfil the order in ‘Tiny Tim’, Christian and Neddy were luckily able to use the facilities at Blend Etiquette distillery in Adelaide to produce enough Jindilli for all.

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A chance encounter and find of sloe berries at a market gave Neddy and Christian the inspiration to create one of the rarest styles of gin as their third release, Sloe Gin. With sloe berries only found in Tasmania on Australian shores, the couple managed to secure their very own personal forager to collect the elusive berries, which are then steeped in their signature mandarin gin to create a delicious dance on the palate.

Not content with just these successes, Neddy and Christian felt they needed a savoury gin in the range and have been inspired by dry martinis and the Far North’s beaches to create PIPI. Stepping into the new age with a botanical range including foraged pipi shells, apples, dried tomatoes and kaffir limes, PIPI has a fresh, salty and exotic flavour to tease your palate.

Distil on the Hill doesn’t have a traditional cellar door for tastings, that’s down the track for the successful distillery. For the time being, you can enjoy a tasting (and purchase, of course) of their awardwinning range at their Kuranda markets stall, or on the website.

Christian and Neddy are proud to be the next generation of distillers in the Lark family, and looking forward to their next foray into distilling, gaining inspiration from their home of Jumrum Springs.

Kuranda Heritage Markets 0415 644 086 115
Distil on the Hill

FNQ SPIRITS

FNQ Spirits, a boutique distillery with big plans, is set to expand this year as demand for their spirits and liqueurs continues to grow across the FNQ region and beyond. When we spoke to Troy Read, who runs this family business together with his son Ike, the construction of their custom-built distillery was already underway.

“Our new distillery is currently being built in Deeral, about 15 minutes south of Gordonvale,” Troy says. “It’s right on the highway, so I think if people are doing a day trip to Josephine Falls or Babinda, they’ve got to drive past the door, so we might pick up that trade.”

FNQ Spirits is known for their Aussie larrikin approach to marketing their products, as well as their distinctive branding featuring that FNQ icon: the saltwater crocodile. Their line-up includes several vodkas, a coffee liqueur, a limoncello, a lime-based liqueur dubbed Limezello and, of course, their iconic rum-like

spirit ‘Croc Piss’ – a play on their crocodile logo and the irreverent Aussie euphemism for alcohol.

“When we started, it was pre-Covid, and there were four million tourists coming through the domestic terminal and nothing to take home with you that really said, ‘Far North Queensland’,” says Troy.

“So, we thought let’s make it ocker and we’ll see how it goes and it’s kind of taken off. We are back in the international airport now, in the duty-free, so that’s pretty nice too.”

Since beginning, they have won a slew of awards, showing that they could compete on the national level as they steadily added to their product range. They are also growing their reach across Queensland, and you can now purchase their products as far south as the Sunshine Coast.

Troy hopes that the new facility will enable them to go nationwide in the foreseeable future. This could

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happen sooner rather than later given Troy’s successful track record in marketing their products to the big alcohol retailers.

“Marketing; it was super hard to start with,” Troy says. “A friend in Melbourne told me to buy the biggest still I can afford, because you’ll spend one day distilling it, and five days marketing it!”

Then, when one of the big retailers held a local favourites competition where people could vote for their favourite, FNQ Spirits blitzed it.

“Lots of people voted for us, because we’ve got a great Facebook following. Those people were fantastic and threw a lot of votes our way,” Troy says. “Following the comp, we got contacted by the retailer saying ‘we’ve been looking for you… we would like to put some of your products in our stores’. It made me super excited, and then suddenly, you’ve got a regular base where products can go in.”

Troy and Ike are dedicated to showcasing the unique flavours of their region and pride themselves on building strong relationships with local suppliers. One of their most successful collaborations has been with Skybury, Australia’s oldest coffee plantation, which has been growing coffee in the rich soil of the Atherton Tablelands since 1987.

“I don’t have a single product, in a single bottle, that doesn’t come from Far North Queensland, everything is from up here,” says Troy.

“Our lemons come from Skybury, the limes come from farms in the tablelands. The chocolate for our chocolate liqueur comes from Charley’s Chocolate in Mission Beach. The coffee comes from Skybury and the molasses for our core product comes from Tully.”

Their coffee liqueur has proven to be a hit with customers, and its success is testament to Troy’s dedication to perfecting his recipes.

“To make the coffee liqueur, I tried about 40 different combinations, everything from filter coffee to cold drip coffee, and eventually we got our flavour. It is made with espresso, because we just couldn’t get the oils and flavours out of the coffee without using espresso.

“It’s just won best coffee liqueur at the Royal Australian Spirit Awards. Our vodka has won a whole stack of awards, it’s done amazing - it has won best vodka at Tasting Australia for two years running,” says Troy.

As they say, it’s the story that sells, and the story behind FNQ Spirits is one of passion, dedication and a love for the unique flavours of Far North Queensland.

FNQ Spirits 0447 232 309

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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 800acre 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’!”

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Mt Uncle Distillery 1819 Chewko Road, Walkamin 4086 8008
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Words by Janie Barton

Narrow Tracks

They say necessity is the mother of invention, and for Cairns couple Doug Thorpe and Bec Zammit, it was the devastating impact of the pandemic on the travel industry that proved the catalyst for their venture into the world of craft distilling. Doug and Bec have always had a passion for travel and exploring different cultures, and their jobs – as an aircraft engineer and travel agent respectively – gave them ample opportunity to indulge that passion.

“Our jobs enabled us to do a lot of travelling around the world, see a lot of stuff, eat a lot of food, drink a lot of drink,” Doug says. “We were inspired by all of the different places we visited, and we always had a little bit of a dream to do something ourselves one day.”

So, when the pandemic hit and work dried up, they found themselves with ample time on their hands and decided to put their dream of owning their own distillery into action. After doing their research, writing a business plan, and securing a lease on a shed in October 2020, Narrow Tracks Distillery opened to the public in July 2021.

Their initial focus was on gin, and they currently have a range of three small-batch gins which offer something for everyone. Their Dry Gin is a classic juniper-forward gin for the traditionalists. Their Pink Gin is a lovely subtle London dry-style gin which uses local Shaylee strawberries to impart a subtle fruity flavour. Last, but not least, is their Dog Days Gin – a reference to the hottest, most humid days of the year, familiar to all Far North Queenslanders.

“The Dog Days is a real summery bright gin, it’s a citrus-forward gin with orange, lime, finger lime and Lemon aspen. That won us a double gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition,” says Doug.

Their Dry Gin also netted a silver award at the competition, putting them in the same league as some long-established craft distilleries from around the world. Not bad for a company just two years young.

“It’s one of the largest spirit competitions in the world so it’s a bit of a benchmark for us,” Doug says. “It just made us realise we were on the right track, if you’ll pardon the pun, with Narrow Tracks.”

The name Narrow Tracks was inspired by the narrow-gauge train tracks that criss-cross the lush green sugarcane fields all over Far North Queensland. During harvest time, visitors to the region will see the unique sight of the cane trains weaving across fields as the farmers move their cane to the mills for processing.

by Blueclick Photography

It is this very cane that serves as the basis for Narrow Tracks’ products. Their early batches of rum have been created with raw ingredients direct from the Mossman Mill patiently resting in Oak barrels.

In addition to their range of gins and rums, Narrow Tracks is also breaking new ground with their craft moonshine. The idea of distilling moonshine came when the couple visited a bar in Nashville called Bootleggers Inn, which featured 40 different flavours of moonshine. This rustic and old-school approach to alcohol production left a lasting impression on them.

Thinking of prohibition-era moonshine might evoke images of high-proof clear spirits that could double as a paint stripper, but it turns out that the idea had undergone an evolution in the United States and now denotes a lower-alcohol liqueur that comes in a huge variety of flavours. The idea is fairly new in Australia and Narrow Tracks currently has two flavours available –Apple Pie and Old-fashioned Lemonade, both bursting with flavour.

“I let it talk for itself. When I give them a taste of our Apple Pie moonshine people just smile, so that’s the best thing,” says Doug.

“Everybody likes to drink it differently, so we just kind of let people taste it and think about it and use it how they want. It’s great over ice, or as a shot, but it’s still got enough punch there to mix it,” he adds.

So, whether you just love a classic gin and tonic, or want to try something new and exciting like flavoured moonshine, Narrow Tracks Distillery is a unique addition to the local distillery scene in Far North Queensland.

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Narrow Tracks

13 Industrial Ave, Stratford 0466 682 988

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Still Waters Run Wild

Wild River Mountain Distillery

When meandering the many delights of the Atherton Tablelands, the only thing more refreshing than a drink from a fresh mountain stream, is when that wild river water has been handcrafted and distilled into an exceptional range of award-winning gins, rums, and whisky, and that is just what you will find at Wild River Mountain Distillery. Tucked in a valley on the edges of the Great Dividing Range, sitting at 2850 above sea level, Wild River Mountain Distillery is one of Australia’s highest-elevated distilleries. The elevation, pristine water supply, and unique weather patterns of the Wondecla based distillery are the perfect combination for distiller Wes Marks to create his award-winning spirits on the Atherton Tablelands.

Finding a passion for distilling as a young man, Wes has continued experimenting, fermenting, and honing his craft alongside his main career as a successful agronomist. The agronomy work and fate brought Wes to a pineapple factory in Mareeba twenty years ago, where he met Tinaroo born and bred Amy. Love blossomed between them and before long Wes moved permanently to FNQ to start their lives together.

Wes and Amy wanted to find a home to cater for their growing family so when they laid eyes on the Wondecla property, complete with the crystal-clear river running alongside it, they knew they struck gold. “We bought it that very day,” said a beaming Wes. To have their own distillery became a goal for the couple and experiencing the unique weather pattern of their Tableland home they both knew their location was ideal for the craft of distillation. “Everything here is perfect for distillation! The cooler air gives better barrel ageing and the water’s mineral quality is perfect for producing world-class spirits.’

Wild River Mountain Distillery was born in 2017, a proud moment as they launched their Signature Gin range which has since won a multitude of awards. Amy and Wes have since then, introduced the Bush to Beach range in 2022 highlighting botanical flavours of FNQ such as dragonfruit and saltbush, the range also includes a very popular tropical spiced cane spirit (white rum) which captures subtle tones of pineapple, coconut, and traditional spice. The range is proving to be very popular Australia wide.

Honouring the origins, history and traditional techniques of Australian rum production is important to Wild River Mountain Distillery as with every spirit they create. Wild River was rewarded for their dedication to perfection with a gold award on the first batch of their signature Australian Rum! A sweet and smooth rum with a signature yeast profile, a different taste compared to their sipping rum, Distillers Select. The Distillers Select series is an expressive craft rum series where Wes experiments with different re-coopered barrels for a unique flavour to each batch, all with underlying tones of sweet oak and vanilla.

Wes and Amy are a small batch distillery which allows them full control of their craft aiming for perfection in each bottle, such as with their aged whiskeys, Elevation Single Malt, and Small Batch Australian Whiskey. One of the recent releases of Elevation Single Malt Whisky sold out in three hours! One way to ensure you get to try their whisky is to book a tasting as Amy aims to have some on hand for you to try, along with the rest of their delicious range.

Wes and Amy have watched their three sons grow alongside Wild River Mountain Distillery at their mountain paradise, with 2023 beginning an exciting new chapter for the family and distillery. Wes has taken the plunge from distilling being his side-line passion and is now a full-time distiller in one of two sheds on their modest farm. In the adjoining shed is their Cellar Door where Amy has an amazing cellar door experience for all their guests to sit and savour their unique tastes of their gin, rum, whisky & liqueur range, whilst embracing the serenity of their valley hideaway.

Bookings are essential for a tasting and can be made through their Facebook page, where you can also see Wild River Mountain Distillery’s new releases and find all the details to support their local events.

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Harding Rd, Wondecla 0448 868 529 123
Wild River Mountain Distillery 1/29

FROM GIN Wolf Lane Distillery

Words by Janie Barton | Pictures by Mick Fuhrimann

TO WIN

From the time Wolf Lane Distillery opened in Cairns in 2019, its gin seemed destined for greatness.

It hit international stardom almost immediately when it won a gold medal in the contemporary gin category at the 2019 Australian Gin Awards.

The awards continued coming for the first gin distillery in Cairns. It received the global honour of being named the World’s Best Navy Strength at the Gin Awards in 2020 in London and was named the World’s Best Bar Group by the Gin Awards in 2021, not to mention a swag of other awards (such as at the SIP Awards, an international spirit competition).

“The team were really proud to be recognised at these global competitions,” says Andrew Pare, one of five directors of the Hospo Group, which owns the distillery along with three other small bars (Three Wolves, Flamingos Tiki Bar and The Fox Small Bar) and an existing larger pub (the historic Mountain View Hotel).

“Winning the prestigious World’s Best Navy Strength was a big one. It was quite an achievement for a small distillery.”

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The Hospo Group HQ Wolf Lane, 30 Abbott Street, Cairns 1234 5678

Friends Darren Barber, Sam Kennis and Grant Buckham opened Hospo Group’s first of four small bars, Three Wolves, in 2016. Andrew and fellow director Ben Pape joined the team later.

While the boutique gin distillery was originally part of its Wolf Lane Distillery and bar venue, it has since moved production to an off-site warehouse, and the bar and cellar door remain down the laneway.

The move to a larger warehouse was a natural progression given the distillery’s success. Its recently purchased custom-built still has given Hospo Group the room to increase production, enabling them to now make 600 litres a day.

Its core range of gins is made weekly, and it also makes different seasonal gins created in collaboration with award-winning restaurants of the region.

The distillery also makes a mango seltzer, which won a gold medal at the 2022 Seltzer Masters in London, and a wild berry seltzer, which took home a silver at the same competition. Both are also now available in Hong Kong.

Wolf Lane Distillery’s focus has always been on creating spirits that pay homage to tropical North Queensland’s fabulous selection of botanicals and also supporting local farmers. For example, its awardwinning Tropical Gin uses locally sourced ingredients containing 13 botanicals. The dry botanicals are steeped overnight and include juniper, coriander seed, angelica root, cinnamon, lemon myrtle, Tasmanian pepperberry, cardamom and macadamia. Locally sourced ruby grapefruit, mango, finger lime, lavender and mint are vapour infused in the gin basket.

Hospo Group also works in partnership with producers such as Jacques Coffee Plantation, which they worked with to make their popular Barista Coffee liqueur.

All of Wolf Lane Distillery’s products are available throughout Australia at popular bottle shops such as Dan Murphy’s, Liquorland and BWS, as well as online.

Creating the flavours of their gins is no easy task, although testing the flavours is an enjoyable one.

“Our chief distiller Rory Bayliss has a lot of knowledge of what flavours work best together,” says Andrew, explaining that the distillery annually creates seasonal gins along with its core range. “He comes up with new recipes, as do Darren and Sam. And we get to sample them ourselves, which is the fun part!

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Golden Drop Winery

Mother Nature plucked a wee particle from the Sun as it slid over the horizon at day’s finish, moulding the little golden orb with care into an appealing oblong shape. She named him Mango, and he dropped gently to earth as the King of Fruits.

And the mango settled and pushed its growing roots into rich red earth, sending arms back into the sky as if reaching to its mother in thanks. He was rewarded with dozens of new little golden orbs, and the world rejoiced because liquid gold was born, and right here in our region.

It’s late afternoon in the tranquil countryside of Biboohra in the Atherton Tablelands, and the sun is competing with the mangoes for the daily gold medal. The mangoes are winning, because as beautiful as the sinking sun is, the mango won in deliciousness.

It’s easy to feel like royalty as you head through the gate of the 100 hectare Golden Drop Winery Farm. Seventeen thousand mango trees, resplendent in their green uniforms, stand stock still for as far as the eye can see on either side of the neat driveway, saluting your entry to this truly remarkable farm frequented by locals and tourists in search of gold.

Today, the silent soldiers on either side of the driveway have all been beheaded and the uniformity is awe inspiring. Imagine pruning 17,000 trees, and like a clutch of ten-pins, they are all identical as if all chopped by a huge helicopter rotor blade. A work of art by a saltof-the-earth Aussie family who saw gold in their gold.

In 1975, Charlie Nastasi, with sons Sam and Dino, planted 3600 mango trees. From little things, big things grow, including trees. Up to 17,000 trees now in fact, with citrus and dragon fruit also added to the paddocks.

“Like most crops, there are good years and there are bad years, and sometimes there’s just so much produce you can’t move it on. And we hate waste,” says Grace Parker, Charlie’s daughter.

Demand and prices dropped off in southern markets to where 30 per cent of the farm’s second rate produce was originally shipped, and Charlie stopped his tractor briefly to don his businessman’s hat. Inspiration blossomed alongside the mango flowers and Charlie soon identified an opportunity to add value to the farm while creating employment for future generations.

And so Biboohra’s liquid gold was born, and there couldn’t be a better name for this boutique winery than Golden Drop, because that is exactly what it is. Tropical North Queensland sunshine bottled.

Since Patriarch Charlie sadly passed on, this

cohesive, hard-working family has embraced the niche market Charlie identified, which took them boldly into wholesale, retail and tourism.

Sam and Dino, their wives Jackie and Maria, and Charlie’s wife Lucy all live and work on the farm, and joined by Grace Parker, Charlie’s daughter, all family members were out in force on the day I arrived.

There’s no turning back once you have sampled a drop of Mother Nature’s Golden Drop, or in fact to the contrary, there will be much turning back, and you will see the farm magnificent in all its seasons.

The family started with three wines in 1999 - dry, medium and sweet - but the range has extended to 10 products: Sparkling Mango Wine, Mango Port and liqueur style Cellos – Golden Mango Cello, Citrus (Lemon, Mandarin and Lime), and Dragon fruit.

“We selected four different varieties of mango, specifically for their sweetness: Kensington Pride (which most people know as Bowen), Australian Kensington Red, Kiett and Pearl,” Grace says. “The Kensington varieties are used for the wines.

“Our mangoes are sold in supermarkets all over Australia, but some of our premium product is much sought after by overseas markets also.”

Three new customers arrive and I must admit I felt sorry for the driver, who watched his mates’ faces wrinkle in ecstasy at the first sip.

“We love to see locals, and we’re committed to helping local business too,” Grace adds, pointing at the numerous local food products on display.

“With the growing trend toward supporting local business, we’re seeing many more restaurants buying and promoting local produce, as we do.

“Our product is so representative of the region, and we hope to encourage restaurateurs in Cairns, the northern beaches and even south of the city to share our product.

“We are also keen to support the Tablelands to Tabletop initiative, and love what this family is doing to support local farmers. Definitely something we will be looking at as we move into 2023 and embrace the growing support for each other as local farmers” Grace says.

Golden Drop Winery also sells its beautiful Kensington mangoes to local individuals and restaurants. Golden Drop stockist details are available on the Winery’s website.

Thar’s gold in dem dere hills!

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Golden Drop Winery 227 Bilwon Rd, Biboohra 4093 2750 129

Inspired by papaya

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While people generally think farming is about preparing the soil, planting crops and then harvesting them to supply to the market, Skybury’s general manager Candy McLaughlin knows there’s a great deal more involved in farming today.

“I think farming and business in some ways are like polar opposites in people’s mindsets,” she says. “There is still this natural tendency for people to think of tractors, earth, soil and tilling as farming, but I think farming is more like innovation, pursuit, work.

“It is still a business, but farmers have to be innovative even if it’s down to things like the fertilisers they apply or how they apply their water and when. They also need to diversify.”

Skybury, well known as being the first commercial coffee plantation in Australia when it was established in 1987, grew into a popular tourism destination after the opening of its cafe and roastery in 1996. At the same time, the plantation started growing red papaya and becoming the country’s first commercial red papaya plantation, not only selling papayas but creating products made with the juicy fruit.

What many people don’t know about Skybury is the amount of research and development done on the farm through its on-site laboratory, facilities and highly skilled staff.

“We are one of the first farms in Australia to grow tissue culture for papaya,” Candy says, explaining that it ensures a secure and ongoing supply of papaya. “Seeds take years to breed and develop, whereas if you can take tissue culture to start the plant, it speeds up the process.

“It also allows for much faster research and development. We actually took papaya down to a singular cellular level and then let mother nature build the plant again. It’s not genetic modification. It actually gives you a true plant every single time.”

Nursery manager Bongani Ndawana won a 2022 Rod Tallis Youth Award at the International Plant Propogator’s Society’s annual conference for his contribution to Skybury’s tissue-cultured papaya. The research and development by Skybury scientist Dr Jose

(short for Dr Puthiyaparambil Josekutty) is expanding this science beyond papaya to other plant materials.

“There is a shortage of plant material in some lines like jackfruit,” Candy says. “So, if Dr Jose can bring them back into the tissue-culture laboratory and help get them growing faster, we can then supply other plants.

“We are also looking at how else we can help the industry with disease management and resistance.”

Skybury has helped develop a test to determine whether a papaya plant has sticky sap disease, which has wiped out crops before.

“There was no mechanism available in Australia to test your plant material for the virus,” Candy says. “We worked with RMIT university to develop a test that would be able to identify whether that virus was in your plant material or not.”

Candy explains that it took almost a year to discover the virus was present in Australia (previously undetected) and now spreading fast through the industry. They discovered it would spread easily when a tractor would break a leaf and the sap got onto the tractor and spread to the next tree and infected it.

Skybury’s next plan is to work on disease resistance.

“If we can generate plants that are disease resistant, then there are fewer chemicals used and more longevity in the field,” Candy says. “And what we hope is that the principles we use can apply to many different crops.”

Skybury 136 Ivicevic Road, Mareeba 4093 2194
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COFFEE & CAFE CULTURE

A region full of beans

Far North Queensland is a coffee lover’s paradise, known for its rich history in coffee cultivation and its thriving coffee culture. This region is home to some of Australia’s oldest boutique coffee growers, as well as a multitude of small-batch coffee roasters, cafes, and award-winning baristas. The per capita frequency of coffee shops and cafes here rivals that of even Melbourne, making it a true coffee destination.

Coffee arrived in Australia with early settlers, but it wasn’t until post-war Italian immigrants brought their coffee culture that it really took hold. Today, the influence of Italian immigration is evident in the surnames and business names throughout the region, and the steam pressure coffee machine they brought with them remains an essential part of modern coffee.

The cafe culture in Far North Queensland offers a diverse range of coffee services, from drive-throughs to verandahs on plantations and long beaches. With an endless variety of coffee drinks available, including every conceivable variation, it’s no surprise that it’s virtually impossible to find bad coffee here.

In addition to coffee, the devotion to cafe culture has given rise to some of the most innovative breakfast and brunch menus in the world. From the local almond croissants to the many evolutions of the eggs, the morning meals here are truly inspired.

Come and experience the magic of coffee in the Tropical North as we showcase and celebrate some of the best places to enjoy the perfect cup.

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From BackStreet to Gourmet

An interview with Oliver James
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Oliver James, known in the industry as Olly, is an impressive fellow: tidy, neat, cultivated and softly spoken, but not unassuming. He speaks with quiet, measured selfassurance that captivates the listener. This is not the default for the average hospitality owner, if anything it is the antithesis. Renowned across the region as one of the primary instigators of local cafe culture, he first arrived in the public consciousness with his whimsically named Caffiend, then established in the graffiti-mural-covered backstreet laneway just off Cairns’ busy Grafton Street.

As Olly explains his personal journey, it is easy to see how this has mapped over to his professional life. From a young age he has been immersed in food, art and the movement of travel, all of which seemed to have combined to create his business ethos and ongoing fascination with food and drink.

“My dad opened a restaurant when I was nine. He was an amazing cook. It was based on a French country weekend style restaurant,” says Olly.

These ‘table d’hote’ traditional style restaurants are often in people’s houses and offer ingredients grown on site or from the local community.

“I grew up eating whole foods - fresh vegetables pulled from the garden, and pork and rabbit terrines that we made. As a nine-year-old, these were formative years and I found a love for food, reinforced by later travels as a teen across Europe.

“This spoiled me a lot with food, and we had a coffee machine. I used to love getting on the machine, it was an old italian style lever machine, I made coffees for customers,” Olly says.

“I kinda got that the idea of giving good food was exciting, people were really excited to come to the restaurant.

“Looking back at that time growing up, even with all the businesses I have had and the travelling I have done, I realise it was a very unique restaurant, even for today, in Australia.

“The connection between the menu and the locally grown and seasonal food is still something to strive for and even now, the top restaurants are fine dining versions of that, being really produce driven with gardens on site, and that idea of that European French kitchen garden,” he says.

His father, not only a great cook, was also a prolific artist and in Olly’s own words a ‘Prolific Dude’. Olly spent every third weekend at the restaurant with his father after his parents had separated. His mother moved up here and his bond with the Far North was sealed as he finished schooling at Atherton State High. The influence of those formative years spent in hospitality and the artistic and dynamic nature of Olly’s father is something that can easily be identified with how he approaches the industry today.

Like many provincial youngsters, Olly made the choice to flee the small town vibe in search of the bright lights and big city adventure.

“Even then I knew enough about the world to realise that Atherton was a tiny town, and moved to Sydney, and lived there for the next few years. In fact, I have spent the last two decades between Cairns and Sydney, pretty much back and forth,” Olly says.

“One of my favourite things about living in Cairns is the airport, we have such easy access to elsewhere, if and when we might want it. We don’t need that massive

population to support lots of crazy fancy restaurants, the affordability and accessibility of incredible restaurants is only a short plane ride away.”

Olly’s first venture in Cairns was Caffiend, in 2009, sitting as it did in the laneway and then moving to its now familiar location on Grafton St. This was highly successful and led to its sale in 2017. Olly took a couple of years out to travel and ‘consult’ with friends out of state and in Europe, helping to open and launch other dining outlets.

“I didn’t want to open another cafe in Cairns after I had sold Caffiend, I thought that doing that would stifle my own growth and I needed to look at other projects. But it kept coming up, so I accepted that if a certain set of criteria were met I would consider it.

“I have this idea that if you put an idea out in the world which has some pre-conditions or constraints, you won’t settle for less than that, and if it does occur, it’s meant to be. It also stops you jumping at any opportunity that presents itself. If the opportunity doesn’t meet the criteria and you take it, you spend your time fighting whatever the inadequacy. I see so many businesses struggling because they took up an opportunity without meeting their own basic criteria.”

It was this process that led to opening Guyala on the Esplanade. Although very much a cafe, the location and menu set it apart from the usual. The menu is both creative and reflective, and the always bustling cafe is a testament to the way Olly measures and curates the whole dining experience.

“What excites me about Guyala as a location is that you’re looking at water, which means seafood can be served,” he says. “Cafes generally can’t serve seafood as it doesn’t fit the genre; if it doesn’t fit it won’t resonate with the customers.

“Creating a menu is like creating characters in a movie or a play - its storyline needs populating with other supporting cast members.

“With Guyala there was a good story - by the water, the international influence, all with an Indigenous twist,” Olly says.

“To start, I work on the iconic or signature dishes as the main characters. These dishes are always deliberate in a good venue. Like the Morning Glory, Miso Scrambled or the Chilli Eggs at Caffiend. And what makes them iconic is the support that other items on the menu bring to them.

“That’s how I create a menu. I think about what icon I would like to create, and then I build a supporting cast. If you look at the modern casting process it is sympathetic to cultural and geographical diversity and I feel the same about a menu.

“I can tell you where it comes from, my dad was primarily a painter. In school I learnt how to process the world through maths and science. Then I started to hang out with my dad a bit more, eating great food, drinking great wine, travelling the world, seeing cultures, paintings and art. The thing I came away with was that I really loved sculpture as an artform. And even from Caffiend, as my first one, I build cafes as a sculptural artform, which is incredibly intricate. You have multiple poetic layers of not just the space and how people use it, but also the intended purpose, efficiencies, menu, staffing choices; it all has to have cohesion. And of course an overarching story or idea,” he says.

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“Caffiend in its original form was very much street, alleyway, skate, raw, organic, super rustic and central, almost bombastic and very full on. Whereas Guyala is open, clean, bright and maybe a little bit nautical.”

Over the last couple of years, Guyala has achieved some notable recognition. It has won awards from the Restaurant and Catering Association, including best in class and consumer awards. It has also been notably honoured with a national award and $10,000 from the Australian Mushroom Growers Association for its mushroom toast as a standalone dish.

“I used to avoid awards in Caffiend, because they bring unnecessary critique and take away an element of surprise,” Olly says.

“It’s no secret that for me at the heart of hospitality is setting expectations and then exceeding them. If you don’t meet the expectations of the customer then you end up disappointing them. Correspondingly, if you meet expectations customers are generally happy. But if you exceed expectations, you create a memorable experience. And to create memorable experiences we need to control and guide expectations, almost downplay them to help deliver a memorable experience through the opportunity to create that customer surprise.

“Winning awards takes away that element of surprise, customers have preconceptions that in fact dull their overall experience,” he says.

“(But) my view has changed on this, only in that it is great recognition for the team. I don’t need the recognition, I’m confident that everything is delicious, not meaning to be arrogant, but it’s not an accident, I don’t doubt it. But for the team, they come to work for many different reasons and this is a way to recognise them and give them pride.”

Building the right team is vital to Olly. Staffing three very different venues is no small feat requiring some 25 to 30 people. He has a strong belief that the team comes first. His job is to look after the team and the team’s job is to look after each other. Clearly, customer service is paramount, and he believes this supersedes the adage of the customer always being right. The customer can’t always be right, as it is important for the team to provide consistency. The largest variable is, after all, the customer.

This consistency in output is obvious as a key driver in another of the successful ventures Olly has established, the Tattooed Sailor roastery.

“I had reached my limit as a barista buying other people’s roasted coffee. The limit was some economics of buying green beans, the flavour in the cup and consistency,” he says.

“If managing expectations of customers is one core principle of hospitality, then consistency and repeatability is the other. Quality is actually secondary to that, at least in terms of success, and McDonalds is perfect evidence of that. If you can absolutely combine consistency, repeatability and quality, then you in fact have a fantastic business model. It’s not that hard!

“I had reached the limit with the roaster I was buying from, there were about a dozen in total all down the east coast. I had developed relationships with many of them, understanding the processes, where they sourced their green beans from and what their factories looked like. So when I made the decision to get a roaster

myself I had a clear idea of what I wanted to achieve and what sort of beans I wanted to buy.

“It was, however, a trip to Ethiopia in 2015 that really pushed me over the line for getting a coffee roaster. This was an incredible and inspiring trip. I went to some very remote areas and was lucky to be guided by an incredible importer/exporter.

“I was inspired not just to roast coffee, but also by the humanitarian value for dollars spent,” Olly says. “To illustrate that point, I can buy a kilo of coffee from a local farm on the Tablelands, this will support this local business and local employees. However, if I buy the same kilo from an Ethiopian grower, that same dollar can support a village. As roasters we have become very conscious of where the money goes and I wanted to have more control of the flow of money back to the source, as we often do for food. I have very strong environmental, ethical and social values, they drive a lot of my business decisions.”

Olly’s relationship with coffee is well developed, he has been judging in coffee competitions for over a decade. He was a judge at the world barista competition in Melbourne last year. There are regional and national heats every year at which he also judges. Being around some of the best baristas in the world as they compete not only keeps him informed, but also enthused about the national and global coffee industry.

Australia has long been considered advanced compared to the rest of the world. As a country it has some unique factors, not least that there is an appetite here for both innovation and deconstruction. That does not hold for the comparatively low standard developed for mass consumption in the United States, or the very staid tradition of continental Europe.

Tattooed Sailor Coffee can be found at a number of venues across the Far North as notable as Nu Nu in Palm Cove and as diverse as Shaylee Strawberry farm. Barista training is part of the repertoire of the Newell Street Cafe, part of the Oliver James group, which shares its residence with the Tattooed Sailor Roastery. His passing thought on coffee is simple: “it is very easy to make a bad cup of coffee and very hard to make a good one”. As such, those venues that carry Tattooed Sailor are expected to uphold the same standards as the group’s own outlets, all designed to reassure the customer that the all important consistency is a given.

It is easy to see how Olly’s philosophy, deep rooted in the excitement and love for food and drink, has permeated all of his businesses. The clarity of concept, the quality of output and the all important consistency are testament to his style of thoughtful and responsible ownership and management. But the proof of any pudding, or mushroom toast, is as they say, in the eating, and so to complete the narrative you should try for yourself. And at the risk of spoiling the surprise, we are confident you will be far from disappointed.

Guyala Cafe

Tattooed Sailor Caffiend

Newell Street Cafe

Cairns Coffee School

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Nurtured by nature

Mungalli Creek Biodynamic Dairy

In today’s world, where more people are concerned about health and where their food comes from, biodynamic farming is gaining traction as a leading regenerative farming method.

The key focus of this agricultural approach is to enliven and regenerate quality soil. It emphasises the holistic and interconnected relationship between soil, plants, animals and humans. It is a self-sustaining ecosystem that promotes soil fertility, biodiversity and healthy food production without the use of any nasties.

In North Queensland, dairy farmers Rob and Dan Watson pioneered this method of farming over 36 years ago for

their dairy farm, Mungalli Creek, long before this type of farming was trendy, and are the undisputed regional leaders in this field. They consider their farm a living organism and use natural preparations and practices to enhance the vitality and health of the soil, plants and animals.

“It’s the way of the future – good for you and the Earth,” says Mungalli’s public relations manager, Michelle BellTurner. “We all know the importance of good gut health, and on a farm the health of the soil is where it all starts. It needs to be alive with good microbiology, be well aerated and have good structure for the plants to grow well and access all the minerals and nutrients they need.

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Mungalli Creek Dairy

254 Brooks Road, Mungalli 4097 2232

“Our happy cows graze on our lush biodynamic organic mountain pastures, and this enables us to produce high-vitality, delicious dairy products for the community to enjoy. As the custodians of this precious land, we have a responsibility to leave it better than before, so that this pristine part of Tropical North Queensland is here in all its beauty for future generations.”

Their popular ranges of milk, soft and hard cheeses, yoghurt, cream and ice cream, which also includes many lactose-free products, have also gained the attention of food lovers through their numerous Queensland and Australian awards.

Mungalli Creek has converted over 1000 acres of farmland to biodynamics and showcases its award-winning products at its onsite Farmhouse Cafe, near Millaa Millaa, and its recently opened ice creamery and milk bar in Cairns.

Its well-loved Farmhouse Cafe was the family’s original home. Guests can relax on the veranda that looks out to Queensland’s highest mountain, Mt Bartle Frere, and world-heritage rainforest. A must for food lovers, it offers an extensive menu made from the farm’s biodynamic dairy products along with locally sourced produce. Devonshire tea with Jersey cream, its signature cheese platters, ploughman’s lunches, farmhouse pies, cheesecakes and dessert boards are just some of the menu items available.

On some days, guests will get a glimpse into Mungalli’s ice cream production area, which adjoins the cafe. The Farmhouse Cafe also showcases a range of local artisan products, cheeseboards, books, artwork and chocolates.

The family farm is a mix of Jersey, Swiss Brown and Aussie Red cows. It is important to Rob and Dan that they also support other local family farms. Their onfarm processing facility supports six other local family dairy farms, and they also support many local organic fruit farms in the region.

Mungalli’s newest venture, The Dairy Ice-creamery and Milk Bar, in Shields St, Cairns, showcases Australia’s first organic lactose-free ice cream as well as offering a selection of smoothies, coffee, desserts and other delectable offerings for eat in or takeaway.

As a lactose-free dairy farmer, Rob saw a gap in the market, and Mungalli’s fabulous range of delicious ice cream is getting a lot of attention. Proving most popular is Daintree Forest, a rich dark chocolate with a native Davidson’s plum swirl. Raspberry and fennel, tropical ginger, blueberry basil, mint choc chip, espresso coffee, mango sherbet and spiced cherry are just some of their 18 must-try flavours. The good news is you can also pick up their ice cream in retail packs to take home.

If you love divine-tasting dairy products that are naturally produced without any nasties, then the Mungalli Creek Farmhouse Cafe at Millaa Millaa and its ice-creamery in Cairns are a must visit while in the region.

Mungalli’s products are also available locally in supermarkets and in selected organic and gourmet stores further afield.

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A winning combination

Skybury Cafe and Roastery

Whoever would have thought that a marriage between coffee and papaya, two seemingly different products, could be such a successful combination?

Atherton Tableland’s Skybury did.

While Ian and Marion MacLaughlin established Skybury as Australia’s first commercial coffee plantation in 1987 growing a bourbon variety of Arabica coffee, it was the opening of its licensed cafe and working roastery in 1996 that put Skybury on the map as a popular tourism destination.

And in a bid to add long-term security for the next generation, the plantation also started producing papaya 10 years after starting. This crop provided year-round employment, diversification and growth opportunities. Skybury was one of the first commercial plantations of red papaya in the country after recognising that the sandy soils and subtropical climate on its farm created the perfect growing conditions for both coffee and papaya.

It is now Australia’s largest red papaya producer, growing 6 million kilograms a year and supplying approximately 50 per cent of all the fruit consumed in Australia through selected Coles, Woolworths, Aldi and

independent retailer and grocery stores in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.

The 190-hectare plantation then went a step further by producing a range of value-add products based on coffee and papaya, including condiments, preserves, dried fruits, spirits, liqueurs and, most recently, skincare products.

“Skybury is now a destination for both coffee and papaya,” Skybury general manager Candy MacLaughlin says. “There is nothing on the menu that doesn’t have coffee or papaya in it.

“We also offer a free tasting and interactive experience in our tasting room. Guests can come and sample the coffee and taste fresh papaya, pickled papaya, jams and chocolate-covered coffee beans (among other delights).

“Our skincare range is made with a local lady, Melisa Bond, who’s very much into natural ingredients with a sustainable approach,” Candy says. “We wanted to use the products that we have here and find a way to create balms and face oils, and that’s what she’s done. Melisa will also be adding to the 2023 tourism season with a pop-up shop within the cafe; a chance for her to engage with guests, and for locals and visitors to try her products.”

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Award-winning liqueurs and spirits are another successful value-add product range for the plantation and include espresso liqueur, papaya schnapps, papaya vodka, and papaya and passionfruit liqueur, to name a few. Three silver medals from the 2021 London Spirits competition are among the accolades.

“We’ve become really successful with Coles, which now offer our products through their Liquorland stores,” says Candy. The exotic beverages are made in collaboration with FNQ Spirits and are also available online via Skyury’s website and at its cafe.

While visitors to the open-air cafe love relaxing with a cuppa, enjoying sensational views and a delicious menu featuring farm-fresh produce from local growers, they can also learn more about how Skybury takes coffee from crop to cup in a series of information boards and virtual tours of its working roastery.

The plantation is also home to a dedicated research lab, a large packing shed that can process more than 60 pallets of papaya a day, a coffee cinema, and a tissue culture facility.

Three generations of MacLaughlins now work on the farm, including Ian and Marion, two of their three children (Candy and agronomist Mark), and six of their grandchildren. While the family involvement is important to them, so too are their 115 staff members. The majority are employed on the papaya side of the business in roles such as picking, packing and irrigation.

Sustainable farming has always been at the forefront of Ian and Marion’s plan, which is why they strive to be leaders and innovators in practising sustainable agricultural management principles. These

sustainable practices include water conservation, renewable power, erosion control, integrated pest management and dual cropping.

The Skybury team is also passionate about elevating the profile of the whole region and its bountiful range of farm produce.

“While we continue to raise awareness of the papaya and its benefits (it has more vitamin C than an orange), we also want to raise the profile of Far North Queensland as a food destination,” Candy adds. “For example, if you get 20 farmers in the region to do a roadside store, that would be a destination in itself, creating a farm-gate approach.”

Skybury 136 Ivicevic Road, Mareeba 4093 2194 143

The Social Espresso Bar: A Coffee Oasis

Tucked away in the Woree Business Park, The Social Espresso Bar is a hidden gem offering everything from a grab-and-go cup of joe to a curated coffee experience.

Even before opening the doors, Social Coffee owner Dion Miller knew he had chosen the best spot to launch his new venture.

“There’s a thousand people working in the area and no other coffee or food vendors,” Dion says.

“While we were setting up the business, we had so many people banging on the door and asking when we were going to open that we made a take-away coffee hatch.” The cafe’s proximity to the southern access road makes it an easy stop off for commuters and tradies, who can order ahead through an app or over the phone. Both of Social Coffee’s blends have won Golden Bean Awards.

Mojo, meaning ‘lucky charm’, is a full-bodied blend of Peruvian and Colombian beans with notes of stewed fruit, caramel and chocolate.

For a smooth, flavoursome brew with a sticky fruit, chocolate and nutty nose, try the Revival – combining Brazil and Colombian beans.

“Our family has a farm in Mareeba, so our longterm goal is to be able to include some local produce as well,” Dion says.

“We’ve just put in our first coffee plants so we’re waiting to see how they start growing and, in the meantime, we are talking to plantations up there to add some local coffee to one of our blends.” Dion has been a coffee wholesaler for the past five years, supplying beans to around 30 cafes in Far North Queensland. “We’ve recently started supplying the cafes at the Cairns Hospital and the feedback on our coffee from nurses,

doctors and patients has been sensational,” he says. “We’re looking forward to doing a few fundraisers for the Far North Queensland Hospital Foundation, including sponsoring the Cardiac Challenge.” Dion recently sold the popular city cafe and deli Providore Amore to focus on his true passion, creating a ‘cellar door’ and barista school for coffee lovers on Ponzo Street in Woree’s industrial precinct.

Connoisseurs can relax over their hot or cold beverage in the Espresso Bar enveloped by the smell of coffee roasting in the brand new, top of the line Giesen imported from the Netherlands.

“The idea is to create a whole different experience of coffee, where people can try a batch brew, cold brew, pour-over, aero press and espresso,” Dion says.

You can take home your favourite bag of beans and Social Coffee even has campers covered, creating a two-litre bag of cold-brew to ensure you have access to quality coffee on tap on your next road trip.

For a real coffee fix, why not visit The Social Espresso Bar for a Barista Breakfast, a cellar door-type experience combining an espresso, flat white and batch brew?

“We also offer pastries, bagels and daily specials, with hearty gourmet toasties such as the Reuben, slowcooked beef brisket, meat extreme, or chicken and pesto, all served on thick, locally-made bread,” Dion says.

He is also passionate about coffee education and said Social Coffee will continue travelling to where baristas own cafes to train them, even in places as far away as Mapoon on Cape York.

“A big part of our business is custom designing training packages for our clients as they all have different equipment, set ups and layouts.

“We want to use our new facility in Woree as a training centre for our wholesale customers to teach their up-and-coming baristas how to go from delivering a good coffee to a great coffee,” Dion says.

He is excited about the in-house training offering, with plans to expand to a general hospitality school in future, and room for a second roaster as the business grows. “We are service-oriented and focused on exceptional coffee,” Dion says. “We want people to return for their second and third cup.”

The Social Espresso Bar is open from 6am until early afternoon, Monday to Friday.

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Social Coffee 35 Ponzo St, Woree 4000 6773 145

STREET SMARTS

STRADA CAFE & BAR

CBD BREAKFAST, BRUNCH & LUNCH BAR.

Strada Cafe and Bar, located on Lake St in Cairns, is a charming and cosy spot that specialises in crepes and classic breakfast dishes perfect for a lazy weekend brunch before you explore the city or head to the reef or rainforest. Ankush Sharma, the owner of the cafe, purchased it as an existing business in 2021, when he fell in love with Cairns after moving up from chilly Melbourne.

“The first thing I really loved about this city is that, no matter where you stand, you have mountains on three sides and ocean on the other,” Ankush says. “I found Cairns city so relaxing but it’s not like a small town, it’s got everything you need.”

This is Ankush’s first time running his own business, but he has a wealth of experience in the hospitality industry. When he came across Cafe Strada, he knew it was the perfect opportunity to put his skills to use and make the cafe his own.

“What I brought to the place was to make it more aesthetically appealing, to make it a little bit prettier. But I didn’t want to overdo anything so that, suddenly, the place loses its charm,” says Ankush.

When asked about the menu, Ankush says they have a wide range of crepes on the menu, both sweet and savoury. “Our most popular crepe is the breakfast crepe, it’s a classic and always a hit with our customers.”

Strada’s crowd-pleasing brekky crepe is made from 100 percent organic buckwheat (which is naturally gluten free), topped with cheese, spinach, a runny egg, wild mushrooms, and cherry tomatoes, with your choice of bacon, smoked ham, Italian prosciutto, smoked salmon or avocado to finish it off.

The classic sweet crepes are also delicious and a bargain starting at just $10 for the classic lemon and sugar or cinnamon. For a few dollars more, you can add fresh strawberries and ice cream or indulge in the decadent maple, bacon and banana combo crepe.

Along with crepes, Strada also offers such classic breakfast dishes as eggs benedict, smashed avo on toast, omelettes and eggs how-you-like with a wide range of add-ons. In fact, Ankush encourages his customers to order it their way.

“The best thing I can say about the menu is that it is very customisable,” Ankush says. “You can choose your crepe style, you can choose your meat, you can choose your toppings. We encourage our customers to mix and match to make it how they like.”

This applies to their range of savoury crepes as well, where the meat choices include triple-smoked ham, mouthwatering pulled beef, smoked salmon or prosciutto, all covered with a selection of toppings you can combine to your liking.

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Strada Cafe & Bar 79 Lake St, Cairns 4028 3860

“We’re always looking for ways to improve and evolve,” Ankush says when asked about the future of the cafe. “We’re constantly looking for ways to improve the customer experience. We use feedback from our customers. In the last six months, we’ve had a lot of people asking for a spicy option with more chilli heat, so we can adjust our menu to accommodate them.”

Ankush prides himself on the quality of the ingredients used at Cafe Strada. He sources vegetables from Rusty’s Market and has a great relationship with his vendor there. The cafe also uses Segafredo coffee, which is a strong Italian-style coffee that is known for its bold and rich flavour. “We are very proud of our strong coffee and that’s what a lot of our customers come here for,” says Ankush.

Cafe Strada features three different seating sections to suit everybody. The tables on the pavement out front are great for people watching. While inside, they have room for larger groups and, of course, air-conditioning for those steamy Far North Queensland days. Finally, out the back, they have al fresco garden seating which is pet-friendly. A mural by a local artist gives this section a Melbourne laneway cafe vibe.

Cafe Strada is open from 7.30am to 2pm. On the weekends, they open at 8am. The full menu is available throughout the day, making it perfect for brunch, lunch, or a late breakfast.

Ankush Sharma, Owner
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WHARF ONE CAFÉ

Gazing across Trinity Inlet towards the vivid green mountains, a cool breeze ruffling his tropical shirt, Peter Crotty is a world away from his early days in top London restaurants.

The award-winning restaurateur has been at the helm of Wharf One Cafe since November 2020 and arguably has the best office in Cairns.

Its proximity to the Cairns CBD and prime position along a picturesque waterfront walking path and playground make Wharf One a popular choice for cyclists, families, dog-walkers, couples, tourists, and the corporate crowd alike. The lofty steel and upcycled timber frame create the impression this unique breakfast and lunch venue is part of the wharf itself. Even on the most humid days, it is a naturally air-conditioned oasis from which to take in the breathtaking surroundings and enjoy an uncomplicated seasonal menu.

“I’m very much trying to create a vibe here at Wharf One with the atmosphere, the music and views as well as the food,” Peter says. “I want people to walk in here and feel instantly that they’re in a very friendly place – you’ll always be greeted by staff as you walk in and again as you leave.”

The waterfront favourite showcases local produce including artisan bread, farm- fresh avocados, and its signature Wharf One Coffee blend roasted in Cairns. The menu features crowd-pleasing staples alongside

innovative dishes such as sugar cane-cured salmon –served with deep fried capers as a salad or an indulgent accompaniment to perfectly poached “Happy Eggs” Benedict.

The venue is fully licensed, so you can indulge in a delectable mango or uber- healthy Extreme Green smoothie in the morning, then visit the “Naughty Corner” of the drinks menu after 10, where you’ll find Smokey J’s Bloody Mary garnished with smoked ham, lime, pickles, and paprika salt.

Wharf One has been an exciting new adventure for Peter, who hails from New Zealand, where his parents owned a vineyard. The self-confessed foodie got his start in hospitality while studying chemistry and psychology in Christchurch, but he truly fell in love with the industry during his travels after graduating. Peter managed restaurants, hotels, a beach bar, and nightclubs in Europe, then settled on the Gold Coast before the weather, attractive property prices and tropical cuisine lured him to Far North Queensland in 2003.

“I did work in restaurants in Cairns for a year in 1990 and I guess that’s where the elastic band was put on my back,” he says. Peter brings pedigree to the casual dining venue. He was the inaugural restaurant manager at NuNu in Palm Cove and spent 13 years as the general manager of Waterbar and Grill in Cairns before spotting an opportunity to take on Wharf One.

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“The cafe had been going for seven years and was put up for sale during Covid and I realised it was a business that could still be profitable even during lockdowns with the chef and I making toasties and coffees,” Peter says.

Peter and head chef Phil Vue have been a team for almost 10 years. Together, they have ensured Wharf One continues to be a popular choice with locals and visitors alike, not just for breakfast and lunch, but also for private events in the evening.

The waterfront venue catered for almost 80 evening events last year, from live music to weddings and a corporate awards night for 150 people. “Many people don’t realise what a fun and beautiful venue Wharf One is at night,” Peter says.

And there’s no request too strange. “We’ve had events where people have ordered fireworks; we’ve had weddings with the bride arriving by horse and cart along the wharf. “I am very hands-on with the events and I am looking forward to expanding this area of the business in 2023.”

There’s a buzz around Wharf One at any time of year, whether its children in the neighbouring playground, or a wet season storm rolling through. “It’s really exciting being down here watching a cruise liner come in and turn around 50 metres away from the café,” Peter says.

Head to Wharf One Cafe daily between 7am-2pm for delicious food, friendly staff, prompt service, and unsurpassed views served with a sea breeze on the side.

One
Wharf, Wharf St, Cairns 4031 4820 149
Wharf
Trinity

Coffee that does good

White Whale Coffee Roasters

It’s hard to imagine today, but back in 2010, Cairns was a bit of a wasteland when it came to coffee.

Locals had to jump on a plane to Sydney or Melbourne to satisfy their premium caffeine cravings.

The pursuit of the perfect blend close to home drove environmental scientist Ali Slotemaker and her carpenter husband Steve to sell their house and establish coffee roastery Industry One in the heart of Cairns’ industrial area in 2010.

“It was postglobal financial crisis and everyone thought we were crazy, but we just wanted to have a business that was really connected to the community,” Ali says.

Ali grew up in Nelson, New Zealand, where the vast majority of the cafes serve locallyroasted coffee.

She worked in the coffee industry throughout her university degree and is proud to be one of the pioneers of the Cairns coffee scene.

“Coffee and cafes are really part of our culture and I think a lot of people connect or decompress over coffee, it’s just that time people have for themselves during the day,” Ali says. “I really didn’t find that in Cairns and I longed for those spaces.”

The local community immediately embraced the couple’s new venture, which offered great coffee and thoughtful customer service away from the tourist hotspots.

“I remember at the time my husband’s friends were tradies in their mid to late 20s who hadn’t been coffee drinkers but they were suddenly coming in three times a day for a coffee and the vibe.”

Four years after opening, the business outgrew its Bungalow site and relocated to Tingira Street, Portsmith, where it relaunched in 2019 as White Whale Coffee Roasters.

“We wanted a name that was geographically significant, and for us, it’s about Migaloo the white whale going past our coast and that subtle reminder of the world we live in and the environment,” Ali says.

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Ali Slotemaker & Stephen Lee, Founders

Hand in hand with the name is an opportunity for White Whale customers to make a real contribution to the environment every time they buy a coffee.

“People do want more than a transaction and our customers have helped us donate $70,000 to the Reef Restoration Foundation since 2019,” Ali says.

Investment in a new coffee roaster from Germany enabled the business to increase its capacity and have more control over roast quality.

White Whale now roasts a tonne of high-grade coffee beans a week, sourced from Brazil, Colombia, Ethiopia and, more recently, Papua New Guinea and East Timor.

“We started importing coffee from our neighbours partly because of the benefit it provides to those communities but also because it really reduces our carbon footprint,” Ali says.

White Whale coffee is now sold through around 40 outlets and it’s also available for purchase online or through a dedicated app.

The Beach House blend of 100 percent Arabica beans from Brazil, Colombia and El Salvador is the ‘all-round good guy’ and White Whale’s most popular product.

“My personal favourite is Riptide, our house blend from Brazil, East Timor and Ethiopia, which is a bit more rich in cocoa, with a fruity undertone,” Ali says.

White Whale is now one of more than a dozen roasteries across the Far North Queensland region.

“I’ve started an Instagram page called ‘Roasted Up Here’ and I would love to see more cafes, hotels and businesses supporting these local roasteries,” Ali says.

White Whale has trained many of the city’s baristas and several of its own staff have gone on to open their own roasteries and cafes in Cairns or interstate.

“It’s really rewarding for us to see that continuation of growth of people and instil the confidence to start their own business,” Ali says.

White Whale continues to have a loyal following from surrounding businesses and passing tradies.

“We’re really focused on the quality of the coffee and the speed that we serve it. We know people are busy and we want them to have the maximum time to sit, relax and connect,” Ali says.

The recent addition of ‘Flow’, a new software system that provides real-time feedback and recommends adjustments means White Whale consistently delivers the perfect coffee.

White Whale has also sought to elevate customers’ coffee experience at home, offering barista training, which it hopes to move to a dedicated school in the city centre well connected to public transport.

For good coffee that does good, choose White Whale for your next brew.

White Whale Shed 2, 4/16 Tingira St, Portsmith 0459 647 273
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Tropical Fruit

Far North Queensland, located in the tropical region of Australia, is home to an abundance of exotic and delicious fruits that are not commonly found in other parts of the country. These tropical fruits thrive in the warm and humid climate of the region, providing locals and visitors alike with a unique and flavourful experience.

Mangoes, one of the most popular tropical fruits in the world, are grown in abundance in Far North Queensland. The region is known for producing some of the sweetest and juiciest mangoes in the country. The most common varieties of mangoes grown in the region are the Bowen and Kensington Pride, which are known for their rich, sweet and aromatic flavour.

Another popular tropical fruit in Far North Queensland is the papaya, also known as pawpaw. The papaya is a versatile fruit that can be eaten fresh or used in a variety of dishes. The fruit is high in vitamin C and antioxidants, making it a nutritious addition to any diet.

The jackfruit is another tropical fruit that is commonly found in Far North Queensland. This large and spiky fruit is a member of the fig family and is known for its sweet and fragrant flavour. The jackfruit can be eaten fresh, but it is also used in a variety of dishes, including curries and desserts.

The durian, also known as the ‘king of fruits’, is a unique and divisive tropical fruit that is grown in Far North Queensland. While some people love the creamy and pungent flavour of the durian, others find the smell and taste overpowering. The fruit is often used in desserts and ice creams, but it is also eaten fresh.

The rambutan, a small, spiky fruit with a sweet and juicy flesh, is another popular tropical fruit that is grown in Far North Queensland. The fruit is often eaten fresh, but it can also be used in desserts and jams.

In addition to these popular tropical fruits, Far North Queensland is also home to a variety of lesser-known fruits, such as the mangosteen, the soursop, and the star apple. These fruits are often found at local markets and are a must-try for anyone visiting the region.

Overall, Far North Queensland is a treasure trove of tropical fruit, offering a diverse and delicious range of flavours and textures. Whether you are a fruit lover or just looking to try something new, Far North Queensland’s tropical fruit is definitely worth exploring.

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FNQ FOOD TRAILSCassowary Coast

The Cassowary Coast offers a wide range of wines, tea and coffee, fruit and veg, as well as delicious deli goods, sandwiches and burgers. Enjoy a drive and check out the delicious cuisine.

Murdering Point Winery

Set amongst fertile cane fields and lush tropical rainforests of North Queensland, Murdering Point Winery offers a range of high-quality red and white fruit wines, ports, liqueurs and creams that are uniquely Australian and deliver an exciting and stimulating tropical taste experience. Founded in 2001, Murdering Point Winery has rapidly gained a reputation for the quality of its wines and the innovative use of a wide range of exotic tropical fruits, particularly in making wines using Australian native tropical fruit, Davidson Plum.

Open seven days 9.30am to 5pm

Pacific Coast Eco Banana Farm

The Eco Banana, also known as the ‘Wax Tip Banana’ is the creation and passion of Frank and Dianne Sciacca of Pacific Coast Produce. They created a new way of farming because they knew there was a better way to grow produce safely and sustainably – without reliance on chemicals, fertilisers and insecticide. When you taste their distinctive, wax tipped banana you will see that it is creamier tasting, the perfect size for a lunchbox and will last much longer in your pantry.

Open Monday to Thursday 8.30am to 4pm, Friday 8.30am to 1pm

Nucifora Tea Plantation

Nucifora Tea, 100 percent Australian grown tea, is a fresh pure single-origin black tea. Nucifora Tea Estate located in the tropical rainforest-Palmerston area of Far North Queensland was founded by Sebastian Nucifora in 1985, adjacent to the World Natural Heritage Wooroonooran National Forest Park. With abundant sunshine and rainfall throughout the year, the fertile soil has been silently nourishing the tea trees.

Open weekdays 9am to 4pm, weekends 10am to 3pm

Ripe Harvest Café

Delicious breakfast and lunch options are available at Ripe Harvest, featuring eggs benedict, steak sandwiches and burgers, as well as tea and coffee, fresh juices, smoothies and milkshakes.

Open Monday to Friday 6am to 3pm, Saturday 8am to 1pm

Leny’s Tropical Fruit, Veg & Juice Bar

Leny’s Fruit & Veg offers the freshest fruit and vegetables and a wide range of local and exotic products with personalised service. They sell fresh baked local bread, fruit smoothies, exotic tropical fruit, Mungalli dairy products, Plum’s Butcher meats, exotic flowers, local chocolate and wholefood products plus much more.

Open Friday to Wednesday 8am to 6pm, Thursdays 8am to 5pm

Mission Beach Markets and Monster Markets

Markets feature a variety of stalls, including local fruit and vegetables, delicious freshly prepared food and snacks, as well as smoothies.

Mission Beach Markets: Opposite Hideaway Holiday Village in Porter Promenade in the Mission Beach Village, held on the first and third Sunday of the month from 8am to 1pm.

Monster Markets: Held on the last Sunday of each month from Easter Sunday until the end of November, 8am to 12.30pm

The Pocket Coffee & Fresh Produce

An unexpected ‘pocket’ of freshness and delight situated in the rolling green hills of El Arish - The Pocket is a locally-owned business, supplying fresh fruit and vegetables along with delicious barista-made takeaway coffee, coffee beans, locally made baked goods, pickles, chocolate, dairy products and honey.

Open weekdays 6.30am to 2pm, weekends 7.30am to 2pm

Paronella Park

The Paronella Park ‘Cafe on the Deck’ is open daily for lunch or a morning or afternoon treat. Serving fresh food, you can enjoy sandwiches, wraps, cakes and slices, along with decadent fruit smoothies.

Open seven days a week 9am to 7.30pm

Madella by the River

Madella Coffee is grown in rich alluvial soil on the banks of the beautiful South Johnstone River. This is what

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gives their coffee the sweetness of taste seldom found in other coffees. Madella is of single origin – harvested, hulled, dried and freshly roasted by their Master Roaster on location. Tours are operated on request. Known for great 100 percent Arabica Coffee, supplying many local businesses, Madella By the River is the perfect spot for business meetings, group bookings and staff parties.

Open: Offering tours, morning and afternoon teas, lunch and dinner, all by appointment only.

Oliveri’s Continental Deli

Guests reserve a table for tasty dishes at the deli and enjoy the sights of Innisfail Temple. Taste perfectly cooked deli sandwiches, rolls and salami. There is a delicious selection of deli goods including cold meats, olives and cheese.

Open weekdays 8.30am to 5pm and Saturdays 8.30am to 1pm

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FNQ FOOD TRAILSAtherton Tablelands

The Atherton Tablelands feature an abundance of tea, coffee and wine, as well as delicious cheese, chocolate, ice cream and yoghurt. The Tablelands offer the perfect backdrop for indulging in amazing cuisine – it’s definitely well worth a drive!

Golden Drop Winery

Locals and tourists from all over the world visit the Golden Drop Winery every day for the unique experience of visiting a working mango plantation, and to sample their lovely refreshing tropical Mango Wines, together with Citrus Cellos, Mango Port and Golden Mango liqueur style wine. There are more than 17,500 trees, making it one of the largest mango plantations in Australia. Products are made from Australian Kensington Red Mangoes. Golden Drop Winery’s uniqueness and location is reflected in the colours of their packaging – selected specifically to reflect the colours of the Australian outback and the North Australian savannah.

Open: Biboohra Winery – daily 9am to 4.30pm, Kuranda wine cellar – daily 10am to 3.30pm.

Skybury Café & Roastery

Skybury has been growing Australian coffee and red papaya just outside Mareeba, on the rich soils of the Atherton Tablelands, since 1987, roasting and shipping delicious Bourbon variety of Arabica coffee at Australia’s oldest coffee plantation. Skybury Café & Roastery offers signature dishes, freshly roasted coffee, locally distilled liqueurs, cocktails and tastings, a virtual farm tour and majestic farm views.

Open Monday to Friday 10am to 4pm

Mt Uncle Distillery

Founded by the innovative head distiller, Mark Watkins, in 2001, Mt Uncle Distillery has become a renowned producer of premium spirit and liqueur brands. Utilising crops grown in the fertile volcanic soil of the Atherton Tablelands, as well as ingredients sourced directly from the Mt Uncle farm and trusted local suppliers, the distillery is committed to using only the highest quality, locally sourced Australian ingredients. This dedication to excellence has earned Mt Uncle an impeccable reputation and the recognition of industry experts through numerous awards and accolades. Blending traditional techniques with modern innovation, Mt Uncle Distillery continues to push the boundaries of what is possible in the world of spirits and liqueurs.

Open daily 10am to 4pm

Gallo Dairyland

Well worth a drive and only an hour from Cairns on the lush tropical Atherton Tablelands you will find a dairy farm that has opened their doors to the public. With the farming enterprise positioned between Atherton, Malanda and Yungaburra, you will be pleasantly surprised to find a fully operational dairy farm; a gourmet cheese factory; a sensational café and last but not least, the most beautiful hand-crafted chocolate. The Cheese Factory is open to visitors. See where the cheese is made and watch the DVD presenting the factory in operation as well as footage of the dairy farm. Gallo Dairyland delicately hand craft the most beautiful chocolate made from the finest Swiss couverture to create their own irresistible chocolate. The café is fully air-conditioned offering a wholesome menu from 10am.

Open Wednesday to Sunday 10am to 4pm (kitchen open until 2pm).

Mungalli Creek Dairy Café

The café serves decadent meals made from their biodynamic dairy products and locally sourced organic produce. They also serve fresh scones still warm from the oven, cheesecakes and ice cream for morning and afternoon tea. Biodynamic farming techniques and healthy pastures ensure healthy, contented cows and the best milk available for their products, which include milk, ice cream, yoghurt, cream, cheese, iced coffee and iced chocolate, as well as a wide range of lactose-free products.

Open daily 10am to 4pm

Emerald Creek Ice Creamery

Emerald Creek has more than 40 flavours of ice cream and sorbet, so at any one time they offer 14 ice cream flavours and six sorbet flavours in their scooping display cabinets for you to enjoy. Flavours include Apple Pie, Bubble Gum, Coconut, Milk Chocolate, Macadamia, Mango; and Tiramisu. There are plenty of other products to choose from, including biltong, fudge, jams, chutneys, relish and marmalade. The café offers light lunches, sweet food, as well as tea and coffee, milkshakes and thickshakes.

Open daily 10am to 4.30pm

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Coffee Works

Coffee Works offers a wide range of coffee, tea, chocolates, liqueurs, as well as gift ideas for birthdays, Easter, Christmas and other occasions. Established in 1988 in Rusty’s Market, Coffee Works has expanded to include locations in Cairns, Port Douglas, Atherton, Mareeba and Townsville.

Open weekdays 6am to 3pm and weekends 8am to 3pm (Mareeba store).

Rainforest Bounty

Rainforest Bounty features a range of curry bases, vinegars, sauces, chilli paste, chutney, syrups and conserves. They also host cooking schools and other events.

Dr Geraldine McGuire (PhD) has been collecting and tasting rainforest fruits since she was a child growing up in tropical North Queensland. This game of ‘bush roulette’ gave her a deep appreciation for the natural world. Rainforest Bounty has become a leader in regenerative agricultural systems, sharing the bounty of the rainforest with Australia and the world.

Open Monday to Friday 8.30am to 5pm

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FNQ FOOD TRAILSPort Douglas to Daintree

We are blessed with a plethora of local produce in the Daintree region, including a range of exotic fruits, tea and coffee and delicious ice cream. Cafes and restaurants feature delicious local produce on their menus, be sure to check them out next time you are in the area, they are truly a feast for the senses!

Cape Trib Farm

Cape Trib Farm offers a delicious escape from the world and an adventure for your taste buds. Bursting with more than 70 rare and exotic fruits, and celebrated for its iconic farmgate tasting experiences, it is a must for foodies. Tantalise your taste buds and indulge in a tour around the world of tropical and exotic fruits. From the delectable chocolate pudding fruit, to the creamy mamey sapote, you’ll enjoy a platter of exotic fruit.

Tour departures vary seasonally – please check dates and availability online.

Turtle Rock Café

The Turtle Rock Cafe and Bar offers fresh wholesome food, great coffee and outdoor dining, with a casual atmosphere in the heart of Cape Tribulation. With a menu offering sandwiches, burgers, cakes, muffins and delicious meals made to order, it is also known for its locally grown coffee and healthier food options for guests, including wraps and smoothies made from local exotic fruit. The Turtle Rock Cafe and Bar showcases the wide variety of delicious produce the Tropical North Queensland region has to offer. Using Malanda milk, farm fresh eggs and cheese from the Southern Tablelands, Mareeba grown coffee, fresh produce from the Atherton Tablelands and locally grown exotic fruits, you can experience the best of North Queensland produce in one place.

Open 8am to 3pm

Daintree Tea

The Daintree Tea Company is located on the Cubbagudta Plantation, situated in the heart of the Daintree. The plantation was established in 1978 by the Nicholas family, who still own and operate the business. As more people from all over the world are discovering the pesticide free Daintree Tea, this black unblended pure Australian tea has become more and more popular due to its excellence in taste and aroma. Tea connoisseurs state that the flavour is second to none and the aroma is delightful. Many Australian tea blenders choose to mix Daintree Tea in their own blend to boost their flavour and aroma.

Open daily 9am to 5pm

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Daintree Ice Cream Company

It’s ice cream like you’ve never had before, in the heart of the heart of the oldest rainforest in the world. Ice cream, gelatos and sorbets are handmade on site using classic artisan methods. Exotic fruit organically grown and farmed on the onsite orchard adds a tropical twist to a traditional dessert. Ice cream is served in signature cups featuring four unique, fresh flavours, which change daily depending on which fruit trees are in season. Open your mind and your mouth to the weird and wonderful world of exotic fruit ice cream, gelatos and sorbets – imagine flavours such as lychee, banana, coconut, dragonfruit, pineapple, chocolate, mangosteen, macadamia, mango and vanilla.

Open daily 9am to 5pm

Floravilla Ice Creamery

Lovingly created ice creams capture the essence of local ingredients to produce a unique range of flavours. Floravilla’s processes blend traditional ice cream-making techniques with an exotic mix of tropical fruit and flavours to produce a tantalising ice cream experience. Treat yourself to unique flavours including Chocolate Indulgence, Double Choc Rum & Raisin, Coconut Mint Chocolate, Cherry Ripe, Coconut, Macadamia, Passionfruit, Banana, Dragonfruit, Strawberry, Rhubarb and Black Sapote – there are more than 26 flavours to choose from!

Open daily 9.30am to 5pm

Hook-a-Barra

It’s a barra bonanza! This 2.5 hour farm and fishing combo tour is the best of the best. It starts with a one hour farm tour, where you get to go behind the scenes at the Daintree Saltwater Barramundi Farm, to see how they grow and supply top quality produce to some of Australia’s finest restaurants. It takes you from their front gate, through to the baby barra ponds and growing ponds where you get to feed the barra and help check their weight and health. Witness hand-harvesting of the iconic barramundi by the experienced and professional team and then try to catch your own, at the big Barra Pond. Top it off with a gourmet tasting platter - paddock to plate!

Open daily – please check tour availability online.

Scomazzon’s Farm Store

Scomazzon’s Farm Store is a local legend. A family run business for 25 years, their country store sits at the base of their farm along the Mossman-Daintree Road. They grow and produce tropical fruits and vegetables and stock local artisan produce from across the Far North including Kefir Queen, The Good Shroom, Beach Harvest, The Tea Chest, Dukes Donuts and Grant Street Kitchen. The four generations of Scomazzon’s have a passion for sourcing the best local produce available, and sharing it with visitors and locals alike. With rare and seasonal exotic fruits and a range of handmade foodie gifts, this is a must-do when visiting Port Douglas and the Daintree.

Open weekdays 8.30am to 5.30pm, Saturdays 8am to 4pm, Sundays 9am to 4pm

Mossman Markets

A genuine country market, held beneath the giant rain trees in Mossman. You can expect lots of fresh produce, including exotic fruits, herbs and spices and a wide range of vegetables. There’s also a range of local producers, including the Kefir Queen with a full stock of kombucha, kimchi and water kefir, as well as Shannonvale Chevon with their unique range of goat chorizo, kransky and salami.

Open every Saturday from 7am to 1pm

Yum Yums

Yum Yums is a small family-owned health food store loved by locals for its fresh farm produce, healthy takeaway menu bursting with colour and vitality and its famous soft serve frozen yoghurt. Vegan, organic, gluten free – whatever your dietary needs, they’ll make you happy! Produce comes from their own farm in the Whyanbeel Valley, and from their network of specialised local growers and artisans, including Kefir Queen, Beach Harvest and Daintree Food Co. There’s plenty to tantalise your taste buds, including chocolate, vanilla, honey, raw foods, juices and smoothies. You can even order hampers and platters, or get them to deliver a local produce box to your holiday home.

Open Monday to Friday 9am-5pm, Saturday 9am-1pm

Shannonvale Chevon

Shannonvale Chevon offers a selection of premium goat meat cuts and small goods. Their stock is raised on the family farm near Mossman and sourced from other properties across the Daintree and Tablelands. High quality meat, from paddock to plate with a healthy serve of nutrition and flavour. It’s the small goods that are a favourite with the foodies, including salami, kransky, chorizo and sausages. If you’ve never tried goat meat and products before, now is the time!

Open: Mossman Community Markets every Saturday or visit the farm by appointment only.

Shannonvale Tropical Fruit Winery

Shannonvale Tropical Fruit Winery is a boutique family-run winery producing tropical fruit wines from organic fruits grown and harvested on the property at Shannonvale, just 20 minutes north of Port Douglas. For almost 20 years, the Woodall family have been making award-winning wines from very dry wines to medium flavoured, full bodied and port-style wines, made from mango, lychee, passionfruit, lime, black sapote and other rare fruits, all expertly produced to commercial standards.

Open seven days – 10.30am to 4.30pm

Port Douglas Markets

Port Douglas’s most famous market, now almost 25 years old, has everything from fresh produce to sugar cane juice, freshly opened coconuts, chocolate coated bananas, ice cream and smoothies, plus great coffee. Open Wednesdays at the Marina 11am to 5pm April to October and Christmas school holidays, Sundays in Rex Smeal Park (end of Macrossan St), 8am to 1.30pm.

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www.thecottonclubcairns.com.au 4 unique event spaces to suit all group sizes 163
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