BEACH LUNCH IS A BREEZE

AL­WAYS WEL­COM­ING, THE REEF HOUSE HAS STOOD THE TEST OF TIME ON PALM COVE’S COM­PET­I­TIVE WATER­FRONT RESTAU­RANT STRIP

The Weekend Post - Cairns Eye - - At The Table - WITH NARELLE MULLER EYE@ NEWS. COM. AU

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.

Pic­tures: STE­WART McLEAN

TRIED AND TESTED: Reef House Restau­rant of­fers such delights as beach­front din­ing, clean greens with crispy skin bar­ra­mundi and Ran­some cof­fee cheese­cake.

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