April 2018 – Food and dining on the Fraser Coast

I’ve been horrified to discover that an entire year has passed since I last posted here. Interestingly – though not surprisingly – my lack of writing coincided with a full-time employment contract (which has now finished).

I’m actually hoping to co-opt a few friends into sharing some content so things might pick up again.

At the moment, however, it seems like an apt time to catch up on everything I’ve missed over the past year or so…

Starting with food and dining on the Fraser Coast:

Maryborough

As a coeliac, I’ve enjoyed Cheryl Lyn’s Cafe, in Adelaide Street which caters to those (like me) with allergies. Alowishus Delicious continues to offer one of the more satisfying ambiences in the borough, making it a good place to catch up with friends. I’ve only briefly tried Parkside on Adelaide but though service was lovely there weren’t as many gluten-free options available to fussy ol’ me.

On the daytime dining front, my mother regularly meets groups of friends at both Norma Jean’s Organic Tea and Coffee House at Tinana and Homewares from Everywhere in Baddow.

Coffee lovers seem to continue to be drawn to Retro Espresso Coffee in Tiaro, SIP Espresso Bar (in two locations in Maryborough), Mad Mule Espresso Bar (currently in Tinana on the way into town but about to move) and the new drive through Fast Lane Drive Thru Coffee.

When it comes to ‘finer’ dining, 71 Wharf has changed hands and is now again open Friday and Saturday nights and Ebb & Flow at the Brolga Theatre in Maryborough seems to be popular.

I know some are looking forward to the opening of the re-vamped Carriers Arms in the next week or so and it, along with Westside Tavern remains a popular choice amongst Maryborough’s pub dining options, along with the Maryborough RSL (which has recently started weekend breakfasts).  I’m often surprised also by the popularity of The Maryborough Sports Club (Sporties) on the ‘north side of town (as you’re heading to Hervey Bay) which I’m told offers excellent value for money. 

Hervey Bay

There’s been more movement in Hervey Bay. We already had some new cuisines popping up with Japanese at Tanto, Two Ducks Cafe & Asian Grocery at Urangan, Tres Salsas (for a great atmosphere) and Mexican food on the Esplanade at Torquay; and more recently Mee Mee Japanese Sushi and Korean Fried Chicken has opened at the Bay Plaza Shopping Centre.

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From Tres Salsas’ FB page: Octopus paella topped with a chilli, lime rocket salad.

The Front Room, Bayaroma, Salt Cafe, Dan & Steph’s EAT, Vinvero’s and Bean Beat remain popular breakfast options and their esplanade locations help reflect their laid-back ambience. Of course the two eateries (and bars) RIGHT on the beach, Aquavue Cafe & Watersports and Enzo’s on the Beach have the upper-hand when it comes to ocean views. I’m still loving Enzo’s beanbags and vibe though struggle a bit more there on the gluten-free options front.

Along with The Front Room (at Torquay), I’ve heard great things about Su Jus Bar (& Lifestyle Kiosk) at Pialba Place – for those of us with allergies, or the ultra-healthy.

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From Su Jus Bar FB: 6 superfood bowls 

As for coffee-loving peeps (other than cafes already mentioned) I know Cody’s Coffee Shack on the esplanade at Torquay seems popular and a drive thru cafe, Miss Cocoa’s has just opened on Boat Harbour Drive at Pialba (next to the new Shell Service Station).

COAST and The Vinyard Wine Bar and Restaurant are still the go-to fancy dinner spots, though I’m keen to also try the ($35 two-course plus wine) lunch The Vinyard has on offer; as its location is just perfect. Of course The Dock and Cafe Balaena at the Urangan Marina as well as Santini’s and Wild Lotus  in Torquay all continue to be popular choices for special occasions or a night out.

This post is becoming epic already (takeaway food will definitely need its own post) as I’ve not even touched on the pub and club dining scene.

I did recently however have a nice lunch at Beach House Hotel at Scarness. It, along with the Hervey Bay RSL both offer kids’ clubs that are draw-cards for my friends with children. I think Hog’s Breath and others also offer free kids’ meals on certain nights so that would be worth checking out. I know as well that The Bayswater at Urangan has recently changed its menu and now offers lunchtime specials throughout the week.

This list is far from exhaustive. I also kinda went off-script given I’d just planned to share a few new arrivals. It’s hard however NOT to mention some old faithfuls as well.

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From @frasercoast_eats on Instagram. Read it and weep. No… look at their feed and drool!

To keep an eye on dining options on the Fraser Coast I’d recommend following my favourite Instagram account – which has introduced me to MANY new eateries, @frasercoast_eats, as well as @frasercoast_foodies.

Feel free to leave any tips below about places I’ve missed. I really don’t get out that much and my allergies make it a bit more difficult.

* The post includes Facebook or website links to all of the cafes I’ve listed.

 

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Things I’m loving on the Fraser Coast – February 2018

I’ve been ridiculously slack on the blogging front here – despite having planned to write about some great experiences I’ve had over the past few months.

What is it they say in the ad on TV? Life’s v.busy? (Or is it v.messy?) Whatever…

Instead I thought I’d try to regularly share a few snippets of the stuff I’ve been getting up to / enjoying, OR… (more importantly cos I’m hermit-like, lazy and sometimes hate being around people), stuff I hear about.

Massage therapy

I walked out of Complete Wellness Holistic Therapy  yesterday and was only capable of sending a group of friends the très eloquent message, O. M. F. G.

I’d had my second massage with Gabby – the first being a gift from a friend for my recent birthday – and I was floating on air. She’s amazing. She achieves that balance between a massage being therapeutic and pampering (ie. I’m not in excruciating pain, but she hits the sore spots and equally makes me feel blissed-out). She also helps me relax with breathing exercises and finishes with a singing bowl thingy that is just magic and leaves me a little tingly… and no, not in THAT way, but in a ‘life is good’ kinda way.

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I never want the bliss massage to finish so plan my next one as I lie there getting my back and shoulders unknotted!

Cruising

I spent almost 5yrs back on the Fraser Coast before heading out on the water. In a boat. (And longer by foot, but that’s another story). A friend held her 40th birthday party on Whalesong Cruises last winter and the champagne and sunset cruise was a magical experience. We received a drink on arrival (and can buy more obviously) and A LOT of delicious food is included in the price. Like LOTS. I’m coeliac and they had an entire array of stuff especially for me.

Fast forward a few months and I went whale watching with my local bestie and godson. Obviously there are a plethora of options here in Hervey Bay, so we based our choice on price and the fact we really only wanted a half-day cruise in case the just-turned-6yr old got bored. We went with Hervey Bay Whale Watch (which offers a ‘locals’ discount) and had a great day. The crew were fabulous with 6yr old birthday boy Pickle and let him hang about in the captain’s cabin. A basic morning tea was served and other snacks and drinks were able to be purchased.

And then…. I hosted friends aboard a champagne and sunset cruise for my 50th birthday just after Christmas. Because I wanted to book the entire boat, have limited friends and budget, and had heard great things about their catamaran I went with Blue Dolphin Tours. Jodie and Peter were fabulous (& flexible) as I was nervous about the weather and so forth. The cruise is basically the same price as Whalesong, though there’s less distance travelled – you cruise for a while and then are moored somewhere between Hervey Bay and Fraser Island. The nibbles are fairly basic but guests are offered ‘unlimited’ alcohol. Which was perfect for the 90minute cruise. It’s certainly one of the best days of my life and one of my favourite experiences. EVER.

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Cafes and restaurants galore

The Dock Bar & Restaurant opened a while ago now and I had THREE events there over the Christmas period. I love the atmosphere and it’s a great plate-sharing / tapas type venue.

Everyone I know who enjoys healthy food has fallen in love with The Front Room. Offering vegan and organic food it’s perfectly located on the Esplanade in Torquay and is an acai-bowl / raw pizza-lovers delight.

Close friends of mine visited the new (Friday and Saturday night) Taco & Tequila Bar at EAT at Dan & Steph’s this past weekend and couldn’t have loved it more. They’re foodies and from all accounts the food and drinks on offer were fabulous.

I’ve not been there yet but am desperate to go to Alowishus Delicious in Maryborough just because it looks so BLOODY amazing. Screen Shot 2018-02-18 at 11.20.35

Mary Ryan’s bookstore – more than a bookshop

I interviewed Cate Akaveka – owner of Mary Ryan’s Hervey Bay – a while ago, and she’s a friend of mine. Since that interview, Mary Ryan’s has moved to the esplanade and certainly has taken on a whole different vibe. I suspect they’ve kept a lot of their old customer base but gained more.

As I said in that interview, I love that Mary Ryan’s host a range of events. A friend and I recently attended one of their monthly Philosophy & Coffee sessions (discussing whether ‘romance had ruined love’) and were gobsmacked that there were so many of us (like 30 or so) that we had to break into two groups. It was a fabulously mixed / eclectic bunch and everyone in my group talked about how much they enjoyed ‘deeper’ and more philosophical conversations.

And, as Valentine’s Day was approaching the team at Mary Ryan’s set up a tower of love. Basically it allowed you to go in and buy a book for someone (which they wrapped) and on V.Day, the store messaged the recipient to tell them there was a book there awaiting them. I bought a couple for my godson to leave there and my bestie bought one for me – though it was officially from a ‘secret admirer’. (Of course I have so many I hardly knew WHO it could possibly be!)

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Phew. This has actually been much longer than I intended it to be…. I think I’ll try to make this a monthly thing. Like a newsletter, except in blog post form.

PS. Apologies for the crap pictures. They’re all from Instagram / Facebook and attributed appropriately (as far as possible). I’ve also included website / Facebook links to the places I’ve talked about.

I’d welcome any comments…. massage therapists you’d recommend, places to eat and so forth. 

Review: Oriental Palace

Interestingly the thing I miss most since my seachange to Hervey Bay isn’t the Brisbane nightlife or social scene. It’s not the shopping or the array of cultural activities. It’s takeaway food options!

I must first confess though that although I’ve whinged about this for two years I’m still only just getting around to trying some new places.

After writing about this very issue in my ‘other’ blog last August I had a range of recommendations about Fraser Coast options… but most pointed me in the direction of  Oriental Palace in Scarness.

We had a few false starts as my friends and I rocked up one Sunday lunch only to discover the restaurant only opens at night. (A bummer as I actually eat out more at lunchtime than dinner!)

However, two weeks ago we finally made it. And enjoyed the experience.

Oriental Palace offers Chinese and Malaysian cuisine. I’m coeliac so offered to go it alone and order my own gluten-free dish; allowing my friends to choose whatever they wanted. However, they kindly agreed to both order from the GF menu so I would be able to try a few different dishes.

Happily, being coeliac is NOT an issue at the Oriental Palace. Rather than a blank look the waitress knew exactly what I needed and disappeared, bringing back a menu with GF options clearly marked. (She had spares, so let me bring one home for takeaway-ordering purposes.)

None of the entrees are GF, which isn’t unusual and my friends decided to forgo them anyway and nibbled on the vege chips provided while we sipped our drinks and gossiped discussed important social issues.

We went for the: Chicken with cashew nuts & vegetables; Chilli beef & vegetables; and Cha-Kueh-Tiao (Malaysian Flat Rice Noodles (which comes with a range of meats).

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Chilli beef & vegetables

Service was very speedy and we agreed all three dishes tasted really fresh and healthy, although the Chilli beef won out on taste.

The other two dishes were a teensy bit bland… but I suspect the chef had to eliminate  sauces because of the whole gluten thing. It’s something I’m accustomed to but my friends asked for some soy sauce and I think that helped.

Cha-Kueh-Tiao

Cha-Kueh-Tiao

Some choices I would have liked to have tried weren’t available gluten-free which is a tad disappointing. Many sauces (oyster, soy, black bean etc) aren’t necessarily gluten-free but you can buy GF brands. Understandably though, most places have their own preferences and probably can’t just use Masterfoods / Chang’s when they’re accustomed to Kikkoman’s. Or similar. 🙂

So, while my old fave Brisbane haunt still holds a place in my heart, I’m pleased to have discovered Oriental Palace. We caught wafts of sizzling beef, Laksas  and Mongolian lamb and the like and I suspect my dining companions opt for those next time they visit. I certainly would, if I could!

Oriental Palace 352 Esplanade, Scarness is open Tuesday – Sunday evening from 5pm. Most meat-based dishes are around the $20 mark and it’s BYO and licensed. Check them out on Facebook or call on 07 4128 3496.

Wild Lotus Restaurant – a review

When a friend and I attended the Hervey Bay Food and Wine Festival back in October my friend (KangaRue – who occasionally blogs here) had a lengthy chat with peeps at the Wild Lotus Restaurant and Bar tent.

I’d commented that I was impressed at how many of their dishes are gluten-free and LOVE that they clearly mark things on their menu as gluten-free and dairy free etc. KangaRue’s son is dairy allergic so that was a bonus for her as well and she returned with her steak sandwich making me promise we’d head there as soon as possible.

Sadly it took us a couple of months but we finally had dinner there recently with another friend. We’d booked – which I think is generally recommended on a Friday or Saturday evening – and the place was quite busy (which is great given at how fickle the restaurant / cafe market seems at times).

I’m actually on a weight loss program (Weight Watchers) and counting points so I’d sussed out the menu online earlier in the day in order to decide what I would eat and calculate my points.

Naturally, in this online world, both of my fellow diners had done the same thing (well, looked at the menu online… not counted points of course! 😉 )

creme bruleePlus the restaurant (showing increasing social-media savvyness of late, had shared a pic of their creme brulee (left) on Facebook during the day… cementing my decision that dessert was most definitely on the agenda.

Entrees are usually one of my biggest problems when dining out (as I don’t eat seafood and gluten-free options are often minimal), but there were easily two or things I’d love on the menu at Wild Lotus. The Scotch Fillet Carpaccio sounded TO DIE FOR and the Asian chicken skewers would have made me very happy.

However, we three had our minds set on the creme brulee so decided to forgo entrees for dessert.

There’s a good variety of wines available but as I was designated driver for a change I stuck to the soft stuff.

bugsMy buddies were a tad undecided about their mains – too many things that sounded delicious, but one ended up going for the seafood risotto and the other for the Moreton Bay bugs.

I’d already decided on the rib fillet (medium rare of course) and LOVED that all of the sauces were gluten-free (a rarity when dining out). While normally I would have chosen something creamy, I ended up with the Mountain Pepper sauce though diet-wise could probably have gone for the Red Wine Gravy as well.

My steak came on a root vegetable mash with some parsnip chips (or similar) on top. There was some cauliflower but that was easy to push aside :-).

I could have had my steak with chips and probably normally would have but… well…. It was only week 1 of Weight Watchers, so I decided to forgo my personal faves for a change.

My fellow diners all agreed the creme brulee was perfect but weren’t sure it needed the berry compote and chocolate melted sauce on the side with the ice cream. I’d skipped the berry compote (cos, well… fruit!) so actually quite liked the drizzle of sweet chocolate.

Meals were priced reasonably for a restaurant of that calibre, ranging from approx. $20-35 and entrees from $7; the service was great and our waiter very knowledgable. We’ll most certainly be going back.

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All pics from Wild Lotus Facebook page

Wild Lotus Restaurant and Bar is open from Monday – Saturday for lunch and dinner. Check out their website or Facebook page because they also offer a range of specials. Bookings can be made by contacting 07 4125 3278.

Cafe Muddy Waters – a review

Last weekend I was fortunate enough to head to Maryborough’s Café Muddy Waters for dinner. It was only my second visit this year – the first ‘just’ after it reopened following the January floods.

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It’s a gorgeous spot – in the old Customs House building – still with lovely views of the river and fortunately (in its new location) at far less risk of flooding!

In my previous review I cut the café a lot of slack given that they’d just reopened, but had been disappointed that gluten-free options were very limited.

However, I’m pleased to say that is no longer the case.

Of course – given my usual apathy and lack of organisation – I only emailed the night before I was due to go to ask about GF options. I got a response straight away and was advised there were heaps of choices on the menu.

Indeed, on arrival the waiter was able to run through the gluten-free options and choices available to me in detail and spoke to the chef who was happy to adjust anything. (Handy cos I’m not only coeliac but a bit *ahem* fussy when it comes to veges!)

My fellow diners shared an array of breads and bruschetta as an entrée but scallops (etc) were also on offer.

I was tempted by heaps on the menu (eyeing off the pork belly and rib eye in particular) but finally chose the beef cheeks which came topped with bacon on a creamy potato puree and with green beans. (I’d asked them to hold the mushrooms cos they creep me out. Don’t ask – long story!) 

The beef was melt-in-my-mouth succulent and offset perfectly by the creamy potatoes and crisp beans.

A citrusy* chicken dish proved popular with others at my table and another friend had the fish and chips.

The special of the day (braised shoulder of lamb on what I think was a bed of couscous and topped with turnip crisps) also sounded and looked kinda yummy. I often suffer from food envy so feel obliged to check out everyone else’s meals within viewing range (ideally without scaring them).

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Pics from MW’s Facebook page.

Half of us had desserts and they all went down really well. With a few amendments I could have several dishes on offer and, although I love a crème brulee, I went for the (somewhat clichéd) flourless chocolate cake. (Sans berry compote cos.. well, ugh, fruit!)

And the cake was magnificent. Like friggin’ unbelievable. Moist and rich without being too sweet. I checked with someone else at my table who’d had it just in case I’d hoovered mine too quickly but she confirmed its yumminess. Another of my group had the Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta and another a pav-like meringue dish*.

We were sitting out on the verandah and had a lovely breeze throughout the night. All in all it was a lovely dining experience. The atmosphere is just gorgeous and there was a musician playing a keyboard in the background. It did get a teensy bit loud, but I expect that’s cos we diners all got very kinda loud as the night wore on.

A table complete with fairy lights and lanterns had been set up on the very green lush grass in front of the restaurant for a group of young girls. It looked so lovely it almost made me wish I had a yard rather than an apartment verandah! (Plus I remembered back to my childhood in Maryborough when a ‘special night-out’ involved our parents dropping us off at The Pizza Hut!)

Café Muddy Waters is located at 103 Wharf Street, Maryborough, and is open Tuesday – Sunday (9am – 4pm) and Friday and Saturday nights from 6pm. Ph. 4121 5011. Or like them on Facebook.

*The menu on the website is slightly out of date so I wasn’t able to confirm exactly what we ate. Plus… I really only focussed on the stuff I wanted to eat! 😉