I try and chill out a bit with the blogging on holiday, but I can never resist documenting all the food I eat, even if it’s just in happy-snap form. So here it is: a selection of things I ate on my 3-day trip to Cairns, which was surprisingly varied and had some hits in unexpected places.
Pier Point Road
Marlin Marina, E31 Berth
Cairns, QLD 4870
Yes, it’s called Prawn Star, and yes, I still ate there. But despite the deliberately provocative name, it’s actually an immensely cute seafood restaurant set aboard a collection of fishing trawlers. And when I say seafood restaurant, I mean it – the menu is literally nothing but fresh seafood, without even a breadstick to break things up. You’ll either love it or hate it, but for me, this is absolute heaven.
Fun fact: unrelated entirely to the restaurant, but I eavesdropped on a protracted discussion the table next to me had with the staff about changing how much of each item they got on a platter, because apparently the woman’s partner was allergic to prawns, bugs, and lobster, but they were here because she really really wanted prawns. Now if that’s not love, I don’t know what is.
Disappointingly however, I had to go easier on the seafood than I would’ve liked, as Chris’ shellfish limit is rather poor. Still, the plate of Tiger Prawns ($45) was immensely satisfying, eaten with a dab of cocktail sauce and a squeeze of lime. Maybe not quite as good as the ones I had at The Lobster Shack, but definitely up there, especially in terms of size and freshness.
Harbour Lights Boardwalk,
1 Marlin Parade
Cairns, QLD 4870
Ochre Restaurant is apparently the place to get your fancy on in Cairns (other than the only hatted restaurant in the area, Tamarind), but this actually ended up being the least memorable meal of the trip. The food and ambience were nice enough, but it literally was neither good enough nor bad enough to make any sort of impression whatsoever. Despite the ample use of native ingredients, it really wasn’t anything special at all.
Must-order: food somewhere else.
The Salt and Native Pepper Leaf Crocodile and Prawns ($25) sounded great on paper, but it ended up just being bits of fried prawn and crocodile in an admittedly tasty sambal sauce.
Likewise, the Roo Satays ($19) were dull and on the tough side, and the macadamia satay sauce lacked the richness of a traditional peanut satay.
Continuing the trend, the Spiced Duck Salad ($24) was mediocre at best, the noodles under-cooked and the duck overcooked, though to their credit there was plenty of the latter. Weirdly enough, there’s an entire ring of pineapple buried at the bottom of the salad, but it was actually one of the more enjoyable aspects of the dish.
Surprisingly, it was the boring ol’ Lamb Rump ($44) that ended up being the hit of the night. The perfectly-pink slices of meat were accompanied by a rather non-traditional take on panzanella that’s basically half-Greek salad, but the combination of Mediterranean flavours, along with the creamy yoghurt sauce, actually worked in its favour. However someone does need to let Ochre known that 1996 called, and they want their sundried tomatoes and decorative balsamic drizzle back.
The Cassowary ($14) mocktail was similarly underwhelming. Despite the promise of Davidson plum, ginger syrup, and finger lime, this just taste like a generic fruity frozen drink.
Bury Me Standing
Shop G, 49-51 Spence St
Cairns, QLD 4870
I fell in love with Bury Me Standing in Hobart, but I had no idea they had a second branch 3500km due north. The menu here is a lot more streamlined, though there is the addition of enormous cinnamon rolls. Get in early though, because things start selling out by mid-morning.
Hot tip: get in by 10.
I didn’t drag myself out of bed until about 11am, so the Cheeseburger Bagel Dog ($13.5) was one of the few things left. But as sacrilegious as it sounds, it is a surprisingly delightful concoction of vegan sausage, melted cheese, special sauce, and heaps of pickles. Wash it down with an enormous Oat Milk Iced Latte ($5) – only plant-based milks here!
Ground Floor, 85 The Esplanade
Cairns, QLD 4870
We ended up at Boardwalk Social – one of the in-house restaurants of Crystalbook Flynn, where we stayed – on two of our four nights in Cairns. It’s pretty hard to beat the convenience, the variety of food, and the impeccable vibes on account of it being located right on the Esplanade, right in the thick of the action.
Hot tip: if you’re staying at the hotel (or one of its two sister hotels), you get 10% off your bill! And no, I’m not getting kickbacks, though if anyone wants to give me some, I am highly unscrupulous.
The Firecracker ($22) pizza won’t be winning any awards any time soon, but it’s a perfectly enjoyable slice, especially with its double-whammy of feta and mozzarella accompanying the spicy, chewy bits of chorizo. And the base isn’t too bad either; surprisingly light and crisp, despite its dense appearance.
The Chicken Nachos ($25) is… a lot. In every sense of the word. It’s no more and no less than an entire packet of corn chips dumped onto a plate, and doused with about a litre of melted cheese, along with sour cream, guacamole, and chunks of roast chicken. It’s easily enough to share between four as a snack, or two as a meal.
The two salads on the menu aren’t all that exciting, but they do come a whole bunch of leaves, which is what I was ultimately after. My pick would be the Saffron Fregola with Buffalo Mozzarella ($24, main), which is glammed up with the addition of surprisingly good prosciutto. Alternatively, the vegetarians/vegans can also go for the Granny Smith Apple and Fennel Salad ($21, main), which could do with more fennel in my books.
57/89 Grafton St
Cairns, QLD 4870
Unlike the Night Markets, which is basically a collection of tacky souvenir stores and food court outlets, Rusty’s Markets is surprisingly high-quality. It actually reminds me a lot of the markets I visited in Fiji, boasting a plethora of local produce, interspersed with unexpectedly varied and plentiful eats.
Catering to lazy tourists like me, several fruit stands had the clever idea of pre-chopping their fruits, and selling them in ready-to-eat boxes. It may be pricier than buying the fruit whole, but the joy of wandering the market, eating early-season mangos, just can’t be beat.
Go search out the papaya salad shop, and get yourself some fresh Papaya Salad ($10). You can choose your own level of spiciness, and whilst 3 (literal) chillies carried quite a significant whack of heat, the person before me asked for a whopping 7. It’s obviously not as good as the stuff you get in Thailand, but I do have to give them props for sorting out a decent papaya salad here of all places.
Similarly, the Sashimi Tempura Bowl ($15) at Yo-KoSo was unexpectedly generous, fresh, and tasty.
For dessert, wind your way to the back of the market (or the front; basically the end that doesn’t have all the produce), and you’ll come across The Grateful Coconut, which is an excellent pun and half, given that they specialise in freshly grated coconuts topped with a variety of summery treats. I went for mango, papaya, banana, coconut yoghurt, and a drizzle of honey on my Small Coconut ($6ea), but you can get literally a bit of everything if you’d like.
Kuranda – Village in the Rainforest
Nestled within the rainforest, just a 45-minute scenic cable car ride form Cairns, is Kuranda. Despite being a tourism town that has spent the second half of the last century as a hippie commune, there’s actually a surprisingly varied dining scene.
La Fonda Latina is tucked away in the Kuranda Markets, but it’s well worth searching out. The Traditional Patacones ($19) is home-styled South American food at its best, the fried and smashed plantains a moreish accompaniment to the variety of slow-cooked (and vegetarian!) stews and sauces.
However, do not be pandered to by German Tucker like I was. The sausages sit on the grill until they are bone dry, and my Bratwurst Lunchfest ($14) was only barely saved by the potato salad and sauerkraut.