Review: Arkarra Tea Gardens, Dundowran

It’s hard to believe that it’s taken me over a year to make it to Dundowran. Worse still when you realise I lived back here for 3-4 years in the 1990s and spent my first 17 years on the Fraser Coast, without ever setting foot in some of the region’s smaller beachside locales.

However, I’ve been keen to get to Dundowran since last year when I saw (on Facebook) that the Arkarra Tea Gardens had reopened. I hadn’t heard of them before but liked the idea of something a bit different to the usual cafes – plus I’ve only heard good things from those who’ve visited.

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And finally a month or so ago I got to see what the fuss was about when a friend and I headed to the Tea Gardens for Sunday brunch.

I have to admit to being shocked that it was actually so close to Hervey Bay as for some reason I thought Dundowran was much further away – however ‘Where is’ and my own car both informed me it’s about 15km from my place in Urangan (and given that Eli Waters is about 10km, it’s really not that far out of town at all!).

Thankfully my friend used her phone to guide us there once we turned off the main road or we would have had no idea; but once we approached it was kinda obvious cos there were cars everywhere.

I was surprised to see it so busy and we got the last free table.

The dining area is actually spread over a range of levels and locations so it’s kinda got something for everyone. I noticed, for example, some larger groups gathering around tables in the balinese style huts or in the pergola.

We arrived smack bang in the middle of morning tea and my friend eyed off the plump scones that kept wandering past our table, but we were both keen for brekkie.

1926770_10152068857129164_1536556037_nWe ended up going for the Eggs Benedict – which came complete with the usual – poached eggs on Turkish bread and hollandaise sauce but also with spinach and avocado and ham, bacon or salmon. I was happily surprised that  they had GF bread AND rolls. The roll wasn’t huge but more exciting than the usual teensy pieces of store-bought bread.

It’s not hugely cheap (I think the Eggs Benedict were about $18) but they arrived quickly and they were delicious. The hollandaise sauce is always all-important in my mind and they nailed it.

I should admit I was also impressed that the person at the counter knew exactly what was and wasn’t gluten-free.

Before leaving we eyed off the lunch menu (so I’m keen to go back and continue my Fraser Coast steak sandwich survey) and the goodies’ cabinet. A GF chocolate brownie caught my eye, but thankfully I was full.

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There’s a small gift shop in the café and we also took the opportunity to wander about the gardens and down to the lagoon to walk off our breakfast before heading back to the bay.

My friend and I both agreed we’d be back and without a doubt, Arkarra Tea Gardens may possibly become one of my new local favourites.

The Tea Gardens are located at 28 Panorama Drive, Dundowran Beach and open 7 days a week: 8.00am to 5.00pm. Check out their website, or you can contact them via their Facebook page, email or by calling (07) 4128 8069.

Dessert… just add Salt

36055-img_2835editedHervey Bay is a very relaxed, beach-side tourist location. I love the lifestyle, but it’s not particularly conducive to showing off my fabulous shoe collection. So when I was invited to the opening night of Salt Cafe‘s dinner service, I jumped at the opportunity. I’ve enjoyed coffee and lunches at Salt before, so was looking forward to trying their new dinner menu coupled with a fantastic view – it wasn’t just about the shoes.

62913-img_2824editedArriving at the restaurant, I was greeted by my friends wrapped in cozy blankets that were kindly provided by the restaurant. It is winter here in Hervey Bay, and the 17 degrees at night feels cold (though I know my northern hemisphere readers will baulk at this idea). Ideally the restaurant also needs heaters, as while the blankets definitely helped, it was still a little on the cold side. I believe they were looking into this, and hope it has been implemented – no doubt they will be able to be utilised on the colder days as well, as the majority of seating is outside to catch the sea views (and the breezes are also welcome on warmer days).

639bb-img_2823editedI decided to forgo an entree to save room for dessert, but my friends choices looked absolutely delicious. With one friend a coeliac, Salt has a number of gluten-free options. I got to taste the gluten-free version of the oven-baked Ciabatta loaf with garlic confit in balsamic olive oil and chilli and it was delicious at $7 and enough to share.

Another friend enjoyed the roasted pumpkin, spinach and goats cheese mille-feuille served with a baby tomato, basil and garlic confit. I got a taste and it was absolutely delicious and a reasonable $14.00. It was somewhat enormous for a starter, albeit light, the goats cheese was absolutely divine – I was excited to find something this delicious and enquired where it came from, so was disappointed to discover it had been imported from Belgium, as I’m yet to discover anything quite so flavourful locally (though I’ll keep trying just in case). The star of the day had to be the famous Hervey Bay Scallops on cauliflower puree with crisp prosciutto and caper vinaigrette, stunning at $16.00.

f0c96-img_2825editedMains were slightly less successful though. Choices were split down the table, between the duck and the steak. The duck servings were small, especially considering the $27.00 price tag. It was cooked through, and both of us who chose the duck would have preferred it pink – we did suggest they ask diners how they would like it served, as they would with steak. While the menu stated it was a seared orange, honey and chilli duck breast, there was no discernible warmth from the chilli, and the more subtle orange and honey flavours were over-powered by the mild Thai citrus dressing over the mint, coriander and bean shoot salad (and in the current weather, hot vegetables would have been preferred).

20a3b-img_2826editedThe other diners chose the eye fillet wrapped in prosciutto with a wild mushroom and brandy cream sauce on seeded mustard smashed potato with blanched broccolini. The serving size was enormous by comparison with the duck, though it was $34.00. And though both diners ordered their steaks medium-rare, they both came out blue. Personally I would have had to send it back, but they were both happy to dine on.

My highlight was definitely dessert. I chose the tasting plate, and while I shared some spoonfuls with my companions, it was certainly an indulgence at $29.00 (though it was utterly delicious and I wouldn’t hesitate to get it again). The Chai Panna Cotta with a petite citrus salad and pistachio shard was eye opening. I don’t normally like panna cotta – it’s a texture thing – but this was delicious, and the citrus salad, flavoured with ginger powder and mint was a delightful balance to the creaminess. I normally find white chocolate a little sickly sweet, but in the mousse served at salt, it was divine, and I loved the mini toffee apples that came with it. My favourite was definitely the triple chocolate semifreddo with crushed praline which had a great balance of cocoa and an added dose of nostalgia with the coconut wafer served with it. I’m sure you’ll agree it was beautifully presented.

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There was quite a delay before we were served all our courses – 45 minutes from ordering before our entrees arrived and about 20 minutes between entree and main, though it was a relaxed gap before dessert was served.

I expect most of our issues were due to the first night of a new menu being served, and I would certainly be willing to try the dinner menu at Salt again. With a couple of glasses of wine, a coffee and tip, my bill came to $80.00, so my main concern would be the prices, as I think at this level, there are other venues in the area that offer stiff competition on the flavour and style stakes.

Cheers, KangaRue 🙂

All views are my own.

Dinner to die for

The first thing I thought when I saw the bar / restaurant Coast was that it brings a bit of big city chic to the Fraser Coast. Its environs and atmosphere most-certainly rival that of the trendiest cafes in Melbourne, Sydney or Noosa.

IMG_5237I’ve been there a few times for drinks and the service is always stellar.

And as for the Sunday afternoon sessions: listening to some fabulous acoustic music on a warm summer’s day with champagne in hand… well, it doesn’t get much better.

Everyone – locals and visitors alike – RAVE about the menu and food, something I hadn’t experienced until recently.

Last Friday I found myself there enjoying a pleasant glass of champagne or three when my fellow drinkers decided they’d love to stay on and dine.

It was my first evening there and I was pleasantly surprised that the place was just pumpin’ (in a good way). Lots of nicely dressed diners were arriving and I realised it is most certainly one of THE places (if not THE place) to go in Hervey Bay.

As a coeliac I often struggle to find suitable options. The team at Coast however advised they could adapt recipes to suit my needs as required.

Which meant that my main dilemma when it came to the food at Coast (and many other restaurants) is that… I don’t eat shellfish. In fact I have a bizarre aversion to any food which looks like it did when alive. Even eating meat off a bone is problematic if you’re slightly screwy in the head – which it seems I am.

Given my fussiness and gluten-consumption issues, we decided on one of Coast’s famous shared plates; going for the slow-roasted shoulder of lamb with sides of crushed chat potatoes and a kale, corn, spring onion and chilli mayonnaise dish.

And… Oh. My. God. I forgave the lamb its bone. The more culinary-gifted of my friends went to carve the meat and it just fell off the bone.

It was melt-in-your-mouth delicious. The potatoes were great, I’m not sold on kale, even though it was part of a very tasty combination of flavours, but I did try some (there’s a first time for everything!).

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We stuffed ourselves beyond full, though after a short respite my friends decided to share a dessert.

I was horrified when they went for the ‘banana split’ imagining some American diner version of the popular dish. No sirree… this banana split was infused with all sorts of stuff and well, was apparently just amazing. I was offered a taste but turned it down, thinking of my waistline. Well, that and the fact that I don’t actually eat fruit. (Yes, yes… I know…)

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People rave about Coast’s Sunday afternoon $10 buckets of prawns ; or the Friday Happy Hour $3 pork buns; but I am well and truly a convert to the shared meat dishes and will certainly be going back for more! In fact, I should probably peruse the menu now to decide what I’ll have next time…