Bilby Bites - the food blog from Bilby Marketing

Dining Down Under (Part 2)

After having been in Australia for over a week and taken in some of the great food in the Hunter Valley I was looking forward to seeing my mum in Caloundra and visiting some of my favourite haunts on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. We’d already spoken on the phone about where we would be having most of our lunches and dinners during my 3 night stay. My mum has always been a great cook and a keen food fan so within a few hours of my plane landing we had visited our first supermarket and made a list of the places we would be eating out during my visit.

That night mum and I headed to Wung Nam Thai Water Palace at Bulcock Beach, Caloundra. I know this area pretty well as I lived not far from here for a spell when I was 17, before the lure of Sydney became too strong, and I have returned here many times over the past 20 years. The restaurant overlooks Pumicestone passage with a view to Bribie Island on the other side. Under normal circumstances it would have been picturesque, but Cyclone Ului was in control that night. It was a few days before the cyclone hit land further up the coast of Queensland, but the winds were high and the plastic protectors were down to stop us blowing away whilst we ate our meal. The Wung Nam is a fairly typical Australian Thai restaurant, but I mean this in a complimentary way. The service was spot on, with the young staff being attentive, fast and unobtrusive. Mum and I both ordered the Massaman Curry – mum had the chicken and I had the beef – with a side order of Coconut Rice. I have to be honest, I’m a complete bore when it comes to ordering in Thai restaurants and Massaman Curry has always had a strong pull for me. Having not eaten in a Thai restaurant for quite some time and knowing the general standard of Thai food in Australia to be very good, I was more than happy to stick to an old favourite. Mum enjoyed a glass of The Vines Cuvee, whilst I merrily tackled the Beelgara Late Harvest Riesling as I love a sweet wine with a Thai curry. Both wines worked well with the curry. We passed on dessert as Massaman is full of potatoes and peanuts and the coconut rice just about finished us off. The restaurant was not quite on a par with some of the more flash places I ate at during my trip, but I thoroughly enjoyed my meal and the friendliness of the staff added quite a few plus points for me.

The next day mum and I spent, what felt like, all day at Maroochydore’s Sunshine Plaza shopping centre. It wasn’t exactly all day, but it was pretty damn close. Don’t get me wrong, as far as shopping centres go, the Sunshine Plaza is very pleasant – it’s set around man-made canals and there is a surprising amount of greenery for a shopping centre – but it is still the kind of environment where a little piece of your soul is taken very time you enter it. We were due to be at the restaurant for our evening meal at 7pm and by the time 6pm hit and I’d spent nearly 6 hours at the plaza, I couldn’t wait to leave. The last hour was helped along nicely by a caramelised mocha at Zarraffa’s which I’m fairly sure contained my entire day’s worth of calorie allowance, but it was the perfect way to take my mind off my sore feet.

Just before 7pm we arrived at The Boatshed at Cotton Tree on the edge of the Maroochy River. The location is stunning and mum assured me that the food was worth the wait. This was a special dinner for both of us as mum was helping me celebrate my upcoming birthday which was a big one (it has a zero in it). The décor is fairly typical of a waterside restaurant of this calibre in Australia with an abundance of good quality cane and a complete open frontage that takes advantage of the beautiful view. One of my favourite things about the restaurant was the large tree (sorry I’m not good with horticulture) to the front of The Boatshed which features armchairs and coffee tables beneath it and candles on each table, making for a magical spot to have a pre-dinner drink. As mum and I weren’t on a romantic night out we didn’t experience this area first hand. The staff were, once again, extremely helpful, efficient and friendly with our waitress patient enough to take photos of the pair of us on top of her other, more regular duties. We both ordered the Pork Belly with apple & celeriac remoulade, onion marmalade and caramelised red wine vinegar and there was an audible, unified gasp when the 2 of them arrived at the table. In a moment of madness we also ordered the crispy, crushed potatoes and rocket, pear and parmesan salad as sides, which were completely unnecessary. The meal that followed was most definitely the highlight of my culinary travels. From a presentation, quality and quantity perspective this was a meal to be reckoned with. I love pork belly, which is of course why I ordered it in the first place, but this was the biggest portion I had ever been served. Thankfully, the flavours were big enough to match the portion size with the crunch and freshness of the remoulade balancing nicely with the chunky pork belly. We valiantly wrestled with it and I can proudly say that I won. I managed to try a little of the potatoes and salad as well although this was more of a token gesture given that I thought a Mr Creosote moment might be upon me at one point. Luckily doggie bags are pretty acceptable nowadays and we were able to take our potatoes and salad home with us. The Boatshed is a wonderful place to celebrate an event – the main courses range from $27.90 to $32.90 (£17-20 at the current exchange rate) with sides very reasonable at $6-7 (around £4). It’s not for everyday dining, but you definitely get your money’s worth and I loved it.

The last, more down-to-earth stop on my Queensland food adventures was Poet's Cafe at Montville on the Blackall Range of the Sunshine Coast Hinterland. Away from the coastal resorts of Caloundra and Noosa, the Sunshine Coast becomes a lush, green countryside dotted with wonderfully alternative towns such as Maleny and Montville. Maleny is the Totnes of the Sunshine Coast with Montville being it’s more touristy relation. I love them both although Maleny has a much more relaxed and authentically bohemian feel to it. They are 2 of my favourite places to visit when I go to Australia so I was very happy to be back there. After a quick stop at Maleny to visit their very special IGA supermarket and gawp at all the incredible gourmet goodies – this is not your average Spar shop - we moved on to Montville and lunch. Mum and I have been visiting Poet’s Café together for many years although there are usually long periods between each visit as you can imagine. Poet’s is not an overtly glamourous or expensive dining experience, but it is welcoming and the food is good. The view towards the coast takes in a beautiful slice of the Sunshine Coast and is worth every penny. Our lunch consisted of a kumara (sweet potato) soup for mum and a selection of breads, houmus and olives for me as we were keeping it light with very good reason. On our way in we had spotted the individual lemon meringue pies and had gone as far as to reserve one each before they disappeared. I’m not in the habit of ordering dessert before anything else, but this looked too good to miss out on. You'll have to believe me when I tell you that it tasted as good as it looked. I sadly said goodbye to Montville at the end of our lunch, knowing that I wouldn’t be back for some time. It was also my final day before flying back down to Sydney the following lunchtime. My next food purchase would be made at Maroochydore airport – a bit of a come down.

In Part 3 of my Dining Down Under meanderings I will be filling you all in on my special birthday lunch (yet another celebration meal) with old friends at Pilu at Freshwater, a family lunch at Patonga Beach Hotel and my final meal in Australia at Dank St. Depot, Waterloo.