Com­fort zone

Narelle Muller set­tles in for some light re­fresh­ments

The Weekend Post - Cairns Eye - - Taste -

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.

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