Narelle Muller settles in for some light refreshments
People should feel at home, even when they’re out. That’s the belief of Shangri-La Hotel chief, Bruno Cristol, who wants his guests at tapas lounge, Bá8, to truly get on to his wavelength. There are limits, of course, but the general concept seems a good one.
“The idea is to relax, have some fun, great food and good wine in an atmosphere where you can still hear yourself think,” he says, referring to nearby haunts where blaring music makes the scene. “There’s nowhere else like Bá8 in Cairns.”
Not only is he right but he’s on to something. Within months of opening Bá8, the premises are about to be extensively overhauled to encompass a much larger area of The Pier boardwalk.
Embracing the “at home” concept, the deck overlooking the marina is scattered with comfy armchairs and cushions where guests can literally put their feet up, catch up with friends and unwind to the discrete yet distinct tones of modern jazz.
Catching an afternoon breeze, they can take in the view, ordering from the tapas menu with an extensive choice of wines by the glass.
Evenings tend to be a little livelier, especially at weekends, but the emphasis is still on a laid-back vibe, rather than hell-raising hooliganism.
Food and beverage director Bruno Couesnon concedes while Friday nights can bring in up to 250 customers, the focus remains on a more intimate mood in a classy but never intimidating atmosphere.
“At the moment we are seeing about 90 per cent local clientele,” says Bruno. Bá8 has filled a much-needed niche. Indulgence at affordable prices is a key component of its success.
A changing menu of dishes billed as tapas but which could more accurately be described as finger food with an Asian slant, is innovative to say the least.
You may find mango and smoked salmon sushi, grilled chorizo with tomato and basil sauce, fat chips with garlic-roasted aioli, chicken pieces with smoked jalapeno dip, chardonnay mussels, artichoke and mushroom fritters, crocodile spring rolls, prawns with spicy avocado dip and lemon pepper squid with fresh herb aioli.
All are exceptional value at $8 and a few plates to share easily makes up an eclectic and satisfying meal.
New executive chef Hamish Neale has arrived hot from Mumbai and is brimming with ideas for more Mediterranean-style tapas and funky Japanese snacks.
While changing monthly, popular favourites will be retained as signature dishes and, around the end of April, part of the Tides restaurant area will be converted to a modern Thai restaurant with a focus on fresh informal dining with a lively buzz.
It seems fun is the new catchphrase at Shangri-La.