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A Food Junkie's 'MKR" tour of Airlie Beach

A Food Junkie's 'MKR" tour of Airlie Beach

What do you do when you have former contestants from Channel 7’s MKR in town?

If you’re the Food Junkie you take them on a tour of the Whitsundays food scene of course!

With so many standout restaurants to choose from it was hard to whittle an itinerary for Carly and Tresne down to just seven spots, so ultimately I picked a cross-section of venues that would showcase our diversity.

Thanks to Tourism Whitsundays and with my trusty sidekick ‘Dr Rum’ by my side (to ensure we also reviewed the cocktail scene), we set off on a food adventure that would exceed all expectations.

I hope you enjoy this virtual foodie tour as much as we enjoyed the live one.

I’d invite everyone who reads this blog to visit our Whitsunday restaurants and sample their delights.

Fat Frog Beach Café – Coral Esplanade, Cannonvale Beach

I chose the Fat Frog Beach Café as the place to start our day because it’s definitely a local hot spot.

It’s a funky café offering beautiful fresh, alternative breakfasts.

I’m not a huge egg and bacon girl so the menu is perfect, just like the location on Cannonvale Beach.

It’s a hidden gem and a little bit of the Melbourne and Sydney scene but without the traffic and the fumes.

On the menu…

Our group sampled:

The Green Frog – pea, broadbean and mint fritter, with poached eggs, grilled haloumi, labne, sourdough and a side of spicy Spanish beans.

Brekkie Panacotta – honey and yoghurt panacotta, seasonal fruit compote, house made granola and toasted almonds.

The Fat Frog’s signature ‘Rainbow Cake’.

The Verdict…

The panacotta was nice and light and passed the ‘wobble test’ for Instagram videos!

Dr Rum scored it an 11 out of 10 – the level of sweetness for a breakfast – or for any time of day really, was perfect.

Carly and Tresne were especially impressed with the atmosphere, the friendly staff, the Campos coffee, and the fact there is even a dog menu for your furry friends.

Sorrento Restaurant & Bar – Abell Point Marina, North Village

When I think of Sorrento I think of the location.

It’s probably one of the restaurants that’s closest to the water in Airlie Beach as well as overlooking Abell Point Marina.

It’s a lovely place to be at the end of a day – the sunsets are just amazing and you can watch the twinkling lights on the water as all the boats come in.

With all the foot traffic on the bicentennial boardwalk it’s also a great place for people watching and it’s quite social.

Sorrento is kid-friendly through to grandma-friendly (which is important in a holiday destination) and the menu is just as diverse.

On the menu…

Our group sampled:

Blue Island Ice Tea cocktails – a twist on your traditional iced tea, with vodka, tequila, cointreau and bacardi, matched with lemon juice and lemonade and topped off with blue curacao.

Mixed dozen freshly shucked pacific oysters – a combination of natural, mignonette, brie and garlic butter, pancetta Kilpatrick, Bloody Mary and Italian herbs and parmesan.

Chilli and garlic prawn pizza – garlic and pesto base, prawns, salami, parmesan cheese, chilli and cherry tomatoes, topped with rocket leaves, herb olive oil and aioli.

Pollo pizza – house made barbeque sauce, chicken tenderloins, bacon, wild mushrooms, onion and spinach.

The Verdict…

Mediterranean cuisine is one of my favourites so I loved the food.

The cocktail was a big hit with Carly and of course Dr Rum!

Carly and Tresne loved the boats in the background, and the pizzas made a lasting impression – in fact Carly said it was the best pizza she’d ever eaten by far.

Sorrento pizza bases are hard to beat, because like the pasta they’re freshly made in-house.

Anchor Bar – Golden Orchid Drive, Airlie Beach

Anchor Bar has always been a favourite haunt of mine.

There are so many restaurants with amazing views in Airlie Beach, but being high on the hill this one’s got that ‘top-of-the-world’ feel.

Because it also has a pool it’s a great place for the sun bunnies.

You can come for lunch and a swim – and on Sundays there’s live music too.

Josh and Leah who run the Anchor Bar are very much part of the community so the place has that friendly, fun vibe.

The style of food is quite contemporary, with lots of grazing plates and share platters, and as Dr Rum tells me quite often, “they’ve got a pretty decent rum collection”.

On the menu…

Our group sampled:

Not Your Grandma’s Rose, Woman Go Mango and Passionfruit Caprioska cocktails.

Anchor Bar tasting platter consisting of: smoky BBQ ribs; chicken wings served in house-made Anchor Bar hot sauce; salt and pepper calamari; steamed New Zealand green-lipped mussels in creamy garlic and white wine sauce; three cheese and mushroom arancini; sweet potato chips and a side salad.

The Verdict…

As a chef and ‘food junkie’ I love the cultural aspect of food, where there’s plates spread out on the table for everyone to dig in.

Carly and Tresne really got that experience at Anchor Bar.

They loved the shared nature of the food and the “Sunday Session” atmosphere.

The variety of food was a big plus too – not to mention the view.

Northerlies Beach Bar & Grill – Freedom Shores Resort

Although it’s a little distance from town what I’m drawn to about Northerlies is the view back to Airlie Beach.

It’s also the attention to detail that’s appealing.

The nautical-themed building is fantastic, the grounds are immaculate and the place literally spills onto the beach.

There’s nothing quite like sitting with a drink in your hand and your feet in the sand and there’s nowhere else in Airlie Beach where you can do that.

With the sports on the lawn Northerlies is very family friendly; the adults can sit back and relax while the kids wear themselves out – but it’s also a notch up in terms of décor and design.

Northerlies is a true destination restaurant and another tick in the box for diversity on the Whitsunday food scene.

The food is a Whitsunday twist on a seafood and steak house and it’s always good quality produce.

On the menu…

Our group sampled:

Strawberry daiquiri’s

Northerlies chilled seafood platter including Whitsunday wild prawns, fresh oysters, bugs, salmon sashimi, condiments and Alaskan king crab legs.

The Verdict…

Our celebrity guests were pretty impressed with the food, the presentation and the location.

Carly said if she lived in the Whitsundays she’d hang out at Northerlies every day.

The seafood platter definitely had the ‘wow factor’ and it was enhanced by the tropical beach-side setting.

Hemingway’s – Abell Point Marina, South Village

Being one of our Whitsunday mainland’s two ‘Chef Hat’ restaurants, Hemingway’s  shines in terms of quality and presentation.

To me this is a place where the chef is more than the star of the show and the artistry in the food is amazing.

It’s also the sort of place that makes me feel like I’m on holiday even though I live here.

When you sit there looking over the marina (and at the odd superyacht) you could be anywhere in the world, but best of all it’s in our backyard.

On the menu…

Our group sampled:

Elderflower cocktail – London dry gin, strawberry, elderflower liquor, rosemary, tonic

Jalapeno Margarita – Don Julio Reposada Tequila, Cointreau, Agave, grapefruit, jalapeno, lime, tajin

Lychee Martini – Absolut Vanilla, Paraiso, lychee, apple, lemon

Smoky Rum – Dark Rum, Angostura Bitters, burnt orange, Agave

Ocean trout, cured in Sake with raspberries, mandarin, Yuzu, and a honeydew consommé.

Chargrilled lamb backstrap pressed in a house-made coffee dukkah, with four textures of beetroot, goats cheese espuma, caramelised grapes and dehydrated ants from Perth.

Aphrodisiac desert – a deconstructed ginger parfait cheesecake with rhubarb gel swirl, rhubarb and ginger compote, amaretti biscuit crumble and house made lychee sorbet.

The Verdict…

Wow!

I think I’ve got to quote Tresne when she said the food presentation and balance of flavours were fantastic.

If we eat with our eyes this was a feast for the senses.

Even the drinks were perfect – Dr Rum couldn’t have been happier with his genuinely smoking rum cocktail – another 11 out of 10.

Walter’s Lounge, Port of Airlie

I was really looking forward to taking Carly and Tresne to Walter’s Lounge.

I think the whole Port of Airlie complex is fantastic.

It’s a relatively new addition to the town and the food at Walter’s is exquisite.

This is a place that is definitely putting Airlie Beach on the food map as the second of our two Australian Good Food Guide Chef Hat restaurants.

It’s a place to come and spoil yourself for that lovely meal out – which not enough people do.

On the menu…

Our group sampled:

‘Calamari’: bonito, curry, Yuzu, cucumber, nori rice, radish, fish skin.

 Eggplant: mozzarella whip, smoked eggplant pureé, fresh basil, spiced cashews, hummus foam.

 Pork Jowl: master stock, pomegranate glaze, coconut, toasted caraway macadamias, fresh pineapple.

 Cookies & Cream: ice-cream, house made oreo, salted caramel, cookie dough, raspberries, vanilla bavarois.

‘Apple crumble’: stewed apricots, cinnamon foam, almond meal crumble, almond meal panacotta, almond chutney.

‘Beverley’: (named after chef Matt’s grandmother) - deconstructed pavlova.

The Verdict…

There’s a lot of passion in this kitchen and it shows.

Carly and Tresne absolutely loved Walter’s and were impressed by the fact there are stories behind each dish.

We all agreed this was another real destination restaurant, destined to attract foodie fans from all over the world.

Fish D’Vine & The Rum Bar, Airlie Beach

For what started off as two chefs and one boozo, Fish D’Vine and The Rum Bar have become an institution in Airlie Beach.

People say, “why seafood and rum?” and I say, “look what’s in the area”.

We’ve got these amazing waterways filled with seafood and our valleys are carpeted with sugarcane.

We’re all about local produce – the majority of our seafood is sourced within a 200km radius.

And as Dr Rum says, to have a world-recognised bar in Airlie Beach really helps make this a beverage destination too.

A visit to Fish D’Vine and The Rum Bar is one of the things you might like to tick off the list while you’re here – and you can add rum tasting and cooking classes to that.

On the menu…

Our group sampled:

Mai Tai’s (Trader Vic’s original best!) – fresh lime juice, Jamaican rum, orgeat, orange curacao.

Blueberry Mojitos – the classic we hijacked and called our own – Angostura Reserva rum, fresh limes, mint, sugar, soda and blueberries.

Squeaky Tikis – Rum Bar’s own Tiki punch on Caribbean rum, served in a Tiki, with fireworks!

Thai chilli mud crab, wok tossed in our famous Thai curry sauce.

Tempura battered local tiger prawns with Asian slaw and drizzled with soy and orange ponzu sauce.

Crispy skinned coral trout drizzled with sweet soy, ginger and chilli sauce, accompanied with Asian greens.

Surf and turf of chargrilled 320g thick cut Angus sirloin, served with chargrilled tiger prawns, a brandy and garlic cream sauce, garlic and thyme roasted potatoes and grilled zucchini.

Singapore black pepper crab, wok tossed in a spicy black pepper and butter sauce.

Seafood platter of: smoked salmon, local bugs, prawns, Coffin Bay oysters, calamari, local battered fish, mud crab, spanner crab and grilled scallops.

The Verdict…

Since it’s my restaurant I’ll hand over to Carly and Tresne for this one:

“The seafood here is absolutely delicious and Bec’s wealth of knowledge really makes a difference to the end result. I love the fact they use and source local seafood and they know exactly how to cook it to get the most out of the flavours.” – Tresne Middleton

“The Rum Bar is not for the feint hearted! But Dr Rum has so many tips about rum and its history we learned a lot and I wasn’t expecting that. I didn’t think I was a rum drinker but the cocktails were delicious. I think anyone who comes to Airlie Beach has to come to the Rum Bar. “ – Carly Saunders

That’s a wrap!

It was a pleasure to show Carly and Tresne the food highlights of the place Dr Rum and I are lucky enough to call home, and I’d like to thank Tourism Whitsundays for the opportunity to do that.

As another restaurateur I also feel quite honoured that all of these restaurant owners have allowed me to go to their venues and talk about their food.

This was never about one restaurant being better than another.

You need diversity and you need everyone working together to put us on the map.

My dream is to see the Whitsundays featured regularly in publications like Gourmet Traveller and Delicious, and just generally up in lights in food media.

We’ve all got such great individual characters and passions, and for me to see us unite for that goal would be an amazing next step.

For the people who come here to sample our food, we’re a slice of paradise and we’ve got a lot of restaurants that showcase that in different forms.

Here in the Whitsundays everybody’s desires are catered for in one way or another.

So what are you waiting for?

Book that table now, and tell them the Food Junkie sent you!

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Monday, 22 October 2018

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