My favourite restaurants of 2018
As the year comes to an end I find myself slightly panicky realising all the things I set out to do a few months ago, thinking there was plenty of time and now facing half-started jobs with little chance of completion until sometime in January or even later.
That goes from the repainting of our guest bathroom to the cleaning of my photo files, or the sorting of the thousands of notes taken during our travels waiting to be turned into stories and posts. Many of them are still in dot format due to me being busy with other ( more pressing ? ) projects. I have been procrastinating for a while, writing posts in my head and believing it would only be a matter of remembering and putting pen to paper at a more convenient time.
Except that by the time I manage to sit down long enough to write, weeks or months have elapsed, papers are piling up and I can’t decide which story to tell.
Take restaurant reviews for examples. Not that I see myself as a reviewer as such, but if I find a memorable eating place, I like to share the experience. And this year has been full of them, we have been fortunate enough to drive and fly around the East Coast of Australia, finding some gems along the way. Though I haven’t gotten around to post about them this year, there are at least a dozen deserving of a mention, ranging from Special occasions treats, to Casual finds and Local haunts. So in a last ditch effort to write my final post for 2018, I decided to give you my 3 stand outs in the Special Occasions/Bucket List category. Some are pricey others not so much, some are in a stunning location others not quite, but all offer fantastic food, showcasing the best of Australian produce ( and that is coming from a French girl !! )
Me Wah Restaurant, Hobart, TAS
Mr T was a bit perplexed as to why I would drag him and Anne to a small suburban shopping complex for a Chinese dinner on the last night of our Tasmanian road trip in January. Until we stepped thru the Chinese lions guarded doors and entered the most sumptuous setting: we’re talking starched white linen, plush carpets, gorgeous Chinese screens, wall panels and ceremonial wishing bowls. Service is polished and faultless, tables are spaced wide enough to allow for relative privacy and room to move ( particulary appreciated by the likes of Mr T who was reminded of some of the high-end restaurants in Singapore ). Then, there’s the food. The menu reads like an encyclopedia of Cantonese cuisine with a twist using Tasmanian produce. As for the wine list, it is 50 pages thick covering local Tasmanian drops, Chinese liqueurs, rare whiskeys and even rarer Pinot Noir from French Domaine La Romanee-Conti. Unable to decide what to have, we splurged choosing the Signature banquet menu and matching wines.
From sea scallops steamed 3 ways, crabmeat and caviar XLB and the most theatrical peanut parfait, this has to be the best Chinese dinner hands down. It is also the most expensive, and spoiled us in redefining the notion of Monday night Chinese!
Saint Peter, Paddington, NSW
I would not describe this fish eatery as a hole in the wall, though the storefront of the restaurant is so narrow and modest looking, you could easily walk by and miss it. Saint Peter is all about fish: chef Josh Niland focuses on the fruits of the sea showcasing classics such as fish and chips but also some lesser seen species like grouper or herring. As an ex-cruiser who used to catch our own fish, the menu is a pescatarian dream and I love how the concept of nose to tail so popular with meat is applied here: fish is aged in a dedicated ageing room much like steaks, skin is turned into chips, heads and tails are left on and served crispy fried…This is Australian seafood unlike I’ve had before. When foodie partner Danielle and I visited for lunch one autumn day, fresh Port Phillip Bay scallops were served on ice still in their shells, the raw diced samson ( same family as kingfish ) was mixed with avocado and native thyme oil, served tartare style with a raw egg yolk on top and crispy skin wafers.
The mains, while simple looking, tasted divine: D’s thick fillet of grouper sat atop sliced artichokes and a pool of ethereal broth, while my choice of crumbed butterflied tommy ruff ( a variety of Australian herring ) combined perfectly with a yoghurt tartare and herb salad.
We eschewed any side dishes because we wanted to leave room for dessert. D had her eyes on the cheese platter, but I could not go past the Chocolate Chestnut swiss roll with burnt vanilla cream.
Feeling deliciously full, we still had to take a peak at the Fish Butchery a few doors down the street, which not only supplies all the fish for the restaurant and the general public but also offers dinner packs to take away. Somedays I wish we lived closer to the city!
Nunu, Palm Cove, QLD
Part of the Alamanda resort on palm fringed Palm Cove beach, the restaurant formerly know as Far Horizons used to be our favourite weekend hangout when we lived in Cairns. Many brunches were held there, our kids enjoyed their first easter egg hunts and Christmas parties, and I can’t recall how many overseas and interstate visitors we took to experience a bit of beachfront tropical dining…the setting alone is magical, fronting the Coral Sea under swaying palm trees.
15 years ago, about the time when we left for our European cruising adventure, the place was taken over by chef Nick Holloway and renamed Nunu. Its reputation for its innovative menu using local produce has since grown even more to become the place to go to taste Far North Queensland on a plate.
Take the Innisfail heart of palm and young coconut salad with pickled shallot, melon and mint. I could eat this all day long on a warm summer’s day!
Or the coconut roast pork, green papaya, mint, lemongrass and jasmine rice topped with crunchy crackling.
Mr T wasn’t particularly hungry, he said, so “only” wanted the chili salt pork ribs and would not share them. Jeeeezz…
So Anne and I made a point of ordering dessert to see what the chef would come up with. Rainforest honeycomb, yoghurt, marshmallow, lemon semolina cake and milk jam ice cream for her.
Coffee cream, chocolate crumbs, Daintree vanilla ash, orange and more coffee bits for me.
Let’s just say that I feel grateful to have spend these early years in FNQ, realising where my cooking inspiration and style come from and want to come back to try the rest of the menu. Hopefully the rain will stay away and it will be just like old times!
And on that note, I would like to take the opportunity to thank you all, my readers for following my ramblings, food related or not, this year and the past ones. In the busy world of blogging and social media, I realise there are literally thousands of instagram/facebook posts popping up on one’s feed, so to have someone actually reading and liking any of mine is a privilege and a good enough reason for me to keep doing what I am doing.
Next year is shaping up to be a busy one, with more travelling, entertaining and hopefully some delicious adventures to talk about. Until then, it is downtime for a day or two, while we see 2018 off from the comfort of home. Wishing you all a very Happy New Year, may 2019 bring you joy and happiness !!