BEACH LUNCH IS A BREEZE
ALWAYS WELCOMING, THE REEF HOUSE HAS STOOD THE TEST OF TIME ON PALM COVE’S COMPETITIVE WATERFRONT RESTAURANT STRIP
With the advent of 2017 come fresh starts, decisions and thoughts on how to make this year even better than the last. Ritual lazy Sunday lunches en famille soaking up the beautiful surrounds of FNQ are definitely on the cards.
An overcast day of oppressively oily humidity in town transforms, via a short drive to the beach, into a heady experience of electrifying thunderous skyline, hula-dancing palm trees and a soul-stirring white-crested oceanic expanse.
Rain or shine, wind or stifling stillness, Palm Cove never fails to enthral.
Settled on the undercover deck at The Reef House, amply sheltered, yet still al fresco, cold glass of Australian sparkling wine in hand, enough wind in the hair for style not to matter and toe-tapping Latin music softly lilting in the background, life feels good.
We have made an eclectic selection from the lunch menu – saltwater barramundi in crispy lemon pepper batter with salad, chips and caper mayonnaise; Reef House Singapore noodles; Vietnamese chicken wrap (more chips); and a dish described as “clean greens” with the optional extra of crispy skin barramundi.
The Reef House has been a family favourite of ours for many years.
We’ve seen the kitchen (and indeed the mother ship hotel) change hands, revelled in the highs and commiserated in the lows, always eventually returning.
As lunch arrives there are smug smiles of appreciation from the children (the wrap/ barra and chips), a look of contentment from dad (greens and fish) and ill-concealed disappointment from me (noodles).
Overwhelmed by plate, a single prawn atop, we ponder whether it is a child’s portion.
As good a place as any to start, said prawn is tasted and approved – fresh, meaty.
It’s downhill from there and, uncharacteristically, I’m just not prepared to accept it. Too oily, no Singapore noodle spiciness; it’s not up to scratch and the waiter courteously removes the plate, taking a renewed order for garlic prawns.
Meanwhile, a seemingly un-Vietnamese chicken wrap (toasted conventional wrap bread) is warmly received. The menu states it contains master stock slow-braised chicken, mint salad and honey soy dressing. Sliced in two, it’s packed with crunchy goodness and comes with a mass of skinny fries.
Across the table the fish dishes – chips with two pieces of well-battered barra and small fresh salad; and the clean greens of al dente bok choy, asparagus, broccolini, green beans, olive oil, confit garlic and a slab of crispy pan-fried barra – both please their recipients.
Promptly my replacement dish arrives, comprising five well-sized tiger prawns on steamed rice blanketed with a creamy garlic sauce and fresh salad of rocket and red onion.
Portion size is appropriate and the quality of the seafood is without question. Redemption granted.
To finish off, it’s coffee cheesecake on coconut biscuit base, sprinkled with roasted hazlenuts and topped with a scoop of luxuriant espresso gelato. Unrestrained indulgence, it’s a perfect share treat. Service is smooth, dignified and efficient. Verdict: Colonial elegance meets tropical laissez-faire attitude.
The Reef House, 99 Williams Esp, Palm Cove. Ph: 4080 2600. Prices: Lunch $25-$30 (approx). Wine: A considered list, six whites and five reds by the glass from $9.50. Bottles from $44 to over $100, averaging mid to high $50s. Need to know: Evening bookings recommended.
TRIED AND TESTED: Reef House Restaurant offers such delights as beachfront dining, clean greens with crispy skin barramundi and Ransome coffee cheesecake.