Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Review – The Gladstone Yacht Club (Queensland)

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

I spent the afternoon looking out over the river and towards the islands. Bliss

Located at the river end of the main drag in Gladstone (Goondoon St), this club is perfectly located to enjoy the breeze from the ocean up the river. Catering for any and all, the Yacht Club ticks the boxes to be a “go to” location, no matter your dining or drinking need.

I was there for about 5 hours hours on a Saturday and saw very distinct types of clients. We had the hi-vis group, there shortly after opening, possibily their post shift drinks and eating burgers and “bar food” inside by the bar. Then there was a “date crowd,” couples and small groups of friends (no kids), who sat outside with me on the covered balcony – predominately ordering from the restaurant menu. Finally between 1.30pm and 2.00pm the families arrived – with the parents eating from the restaurant menu and the kids from the bar menu. I can easily see this as a fantastic venue for drinks and dinner as well.

Pluses:
Great location.
Caters to all.
Good choice of food.
Decent price.
Food was good quality.
LOVED the salt and pepper squid on pineapple salsa!

Minuses:
Wine list was lacking.
Garlic Prawns were over cooked.
Garlic Bread was over cooked.
Asked for a good space between entre and main – twice – yet it came out within 20 mins.

I had a lovely day – a day away from real life, work, and first world problems. Nothing like sitting on a balcony on a perfect day, drinking wine, eating good food and relaxing. I would certainly visit again if in town. It wasn’t awesome, but location and lack of choice make up for a lot.

#twoandhalfsomewhatboozeypandas

Gladstone Yacht Club on Urbanspoon

Sorbello’s Italian Restaurant – Mackay (Queensland)

Saturday, August 27th, 2011

Garlic Prawn Fettucini - so good I am actually thinking about writing a letter to ask for the recipe.

Based on the main strip in downtown Mackay is Sorbello’s Italian Restaurant – a place that the locals will tell you is one of the oldest and best places to eat in town. Unfortunately, I didn’t know this when I picked a location for lunch and had a very disappointing meal a few hundred metres up the road. After such a letdown, I went back to my hotel for wifi (little to no roaming on Three in downtown Mackay) and logged into UrbanSpoon. Thankfully, there was Sorbello’s with a massive 100% like rating. Allbeit there weren’t hundreds of votes, ok there wasn’t even ten, but considering all the other local restaurants were under 50%, I figured it was a good bet.

On my way there for dinner, I mentioned to the hotel staff I was going to Sorbello’s – needless to say that is when I was informed that it was THE place to eat in town. I had decided to arrive just as the dinner guests would be finishing up, to get one of the last meals before the kitchen closed around 8pm. I had assumed (incorrectly) that Mackay on a Saturday night would be like a small regional town – Mackay smells like steak on Saturday night by the way.

I turned up at 7.45pm and it was packed.

Let me rephrase that – it was overflowing. There were people waiting at the bar for tables to open up, and every inch of table was being utilised. I spoke to Con (one of the Sorbello brothers who own the place), and he agreed to squeeze me in on a table in the bar around 8.30pm.

After a stroll by the river, I returned to find a table for me in the bar. I picked one of my staple wines – Vasse Felix CDW and perused the menu. OMG it is huge! I panicked when I saw how big it was – because generally, the bigger the menu (content not actual physical size) the worse the food. I slowly worked my way through the 100 or more choices, and finally settled on Natural Oysters followed by the Garlic Prawns Fettucini.

Delicious doesn’t cover the Fettucini. The prawns were cooked to perfection, the pasta not gluggy at all. Just spectacular. The oysters were fresh and huge – really huge, but not chewy. I finished up my bottle of wine, and grabbed one of their home made gelato for the stroll back to my hotel. The food itself would be a reason to return, but the service was outstanding – so much so I tipped 20%. When I left at 10.45pm the place was just under 50% full but there were more tables arriving – for deserts and coffees. Sorbello’s is open until midnight. Be aware though, it is closed on Public Holidays.

Pluses:
Central location.
Very fresh ingredients.
Amazing service.
Excellent wine list.
Impossible NOT to find something you want to order.
Huge serves – the entree sized pasta is plenty big for a main.
Great atmosphere – everyone was having a brilliant time (including the staff).

Minuses:
The chocolate gelato was OK, not chocolatey enough for me.
The fettucini was quite broken, so it wasn’t really long enough to twirl (do people in North Queensland eat it with a knife and fork?).

Sorbello’s Italian Restaurant reminds me of those great Italian restaurants we went to as kids. Real restaurants, not a chain, or trying to be upmarket wanky. A real restaurant that takes pride in fresh ingredients, real flavour and good service. I am back in Mackay in October and cannot wait to return – though this time I am booking!

#fourandahalffullpandas
Sorbello's Italian Restaurant on Urbanspoon
Howmanypandas Queensland restaurants

Review – Corner Cafe (International Hotel) – Port Pirie (South Australia)

Sunday, March 27th, 2011

Bright yellow on the main drag - you can't miss it!

Based in the bright yellow International Hotel on Port Pirie’s main drag it wasn’t my first choice to have dinner, but trying to eat after 8pm on a Monday night my choices were the Corner Cafe or McDonalds. However, there seemed to be a lot of people inside and well, as I said, there wasn’t really an alternative.

It turned out that a 50th Wedding Anniversary party was underway and as such the kitchen was still open (not to mention that the guests had brought in their own instruments and sound system and played golden oldies for us!). The menu was basic pub fare, schnitzels, steaks etc and all meals came with unlimited access to their salad and vegetable bar. I ended up going for a Beef Schnitzel – I liked that they didn’t pretend it was Veal. I got a huge (ie they had to fold it to fit it on the plate) with mushroom sauce for a massive price of $12,90. My dinner companion (who is a vegetarian) didn’t have much variety, and settled on Vegetable Noodle StirFry. No bowl of noodles, it was a normal dinner plate covered (and I do mean covered and heaped high) of Udon noodles, some sort of brown but yummy sauce and miles of fresh veges (including peas still in their pods which I guess was their equivalent to Snow Peas.

The bain marie was a whole other thing. You could have eaten a meal just from that. Lots of fresh lettuce (not just iceberg but a solid cafe mix), tomato, tinned beetroot, tinned pineapple, cucumber, carrot, sliced bread (just a white supermarket loaf), potato salad, apple salad, pasta salad, two different kinds of coleslaw and then we had the veges! Potato bake, roast carrot and pumpkin, greens (peas and beans), and good lord I can’t remember the rest. There were 8(!!!) trays on each side each brimming with good old fashioned food.

My schnitchzel was the same as a $20 one I would buy at a pub back home proporting to be veal, however the crumbs weren’t fine, suggesting they probably made their own bread crumbs but oh so yummy – cooked to a perfect golden brown. The mushroom sauce was just gravy with some mushrooms in it but it was great! My companion’s stirfry was way too much to eat and she couldn’t even finish it with picking out the veges, though she did say it was just an average one – nothing like you get in China Town or a real restaurant, but it was like making it at home. From memory I think her meal was about $14. With two drinks (softdrinks) our bill was in the low $30’s.

Pluses:
Huge servings and everything (excepted the tinned items) was incredibly fresh.
Very friendly staff.
Ridiculously cheap.
Incredibly yummy in a home-cooked kind of way.
Super central – being bright yellow it is hard to miss.
Order at the bar but food came out fast.
Clean – very, very clean.

Minuses:
Not a lot of variety.
The decor was a bit bland.

This place isn’t a restaurant, it is a pub that sells food and calls itself a cafe (I did see a cappachino machine but as I don’t drink coffee I can’t comment on its quality). For the price and quality the Corner Cafe is great value for money. We both ate much more than we had intended, trying to fit everything in. If you find yourself in historic Port Pirie there are a few things to remember. Don’t drink the water (seriously as it is a health risk, especially for young children) and stop off at Corner Cafe.
(I stayed at the John Pirie Motor Inn just on the edge of the CBD (chortle) and it was clean, safe and they do a fine cooked breakfast.

#threesatisfiedpandas

Corner Cafe (International Hotel) on Urbanspoon

Review – Vapiano – Brisbane CBD

Monday, February 7th, 2011

Inviting but don't be fooled. Food is as bland as those pine boards. (Thanks to the lovely people at http://www.ourbrisbane.com/ for the pic - check them out)

I went in with an open mind, but I left with the book closed.

Located in Albert Lane, this restaurant sees a lot of traffic for its fast Italian menu. People talk about it for its unique price point management system, but that has been done to death and wasn’t the reason we finally made it to Vapiano’s. I had conflicting reports on this place, from loving it more than Vespa Pizza to thinking it was like eating at an aeroport.

I ordered the Verdure Pizza (roasted vegetables) and found it lacking. I was very hungry – as we hit Vapiano after the evening movie – so it was after 9pm before we arrived – but in this case, hunger wasn’t sauce enough to get this pizza over the line. Yes the food was fast, but it was nothing special. I didn’t want a meal that was cooked so fast that none of the flavour had a chance to infuse into the food. In fact the zucchini was still hard in places. My friends ordered pasta and while they both ate everything, neither thought it was outstanding. In fact one suggested that the Carbonara she gets from the hole in the wall place near her work was far superior.

Today I had a heap of reading to do, and I really wanted good quality tea to go with the experience – I didn’t bring any with me (foolishly). I had initially planned on the Tea Centre in Albert Lane, but it was very stuffy, even if the fans going. As I left I spied T2 canisters at Vapiano. Even though I had thought never to go there again, I really wanted good quality tea.

Even though there are T2 canisters on display, the tea was Madura. I have nothing against Madura tea, in fact I drink it regularly due to its reduced caffeine count, but if you are suggesting you are serving T2 tea (which is very high quality) but actually serve up a supermarket tea, I am going to have issues with you. When I asked why my tea wasn’t T2 yet in T2 canisters, the bar tender (my guess would be international student) grabbed the canister and disappeared out of sight. He came back with a large pot with actual T2 teabags in it, but obviously this was not the original plan. So heads up if you do go here and order tea.

To me, the tea sums up everything that I felt about Vapiano’s from my previous visit. It tries to be this super fresh and yummy medium to high quality (by the prices) restaurant. But it is really just low end food. Mutton dressed up as lamb.

Pluses:
Convenient location in Albert Lane.
Easy to split the bill.
Food comes fast, very fast.
Lollies when you pay your bill.

Minuses:
Food quality way below the price point.
Food taste way below the price point.
Misrepresentation of product.

I would recommend skipping Vapiano’s. There are far better options in the same or lower price point a short walk away. Even with jumping a taxi to China Town the meals will still be cheaper and better – I recommend Super Bowl.

UPDATE: I met a friend in the city yesterday and we headed to Vapiano because it was just easier. We had the prawn and chilli pasta and the ham and mushroom pizza. SO much better than my last two trips there. Still not great, but average. #twoandahalfupdatedpandas

UPDATE 2: Another friend I went after my last average but doable experience. This time it was back to woeful.  #onepanda

#oneandahalfpandasthatarereallybrownbearswithwhiteandblackpaintonthem

Vapiano on Urbanspoon
Howmanypandas Queensland restaurants

Caffeine Espresso – Teneriffe

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

Gorgeously presented, but the tea itself was nothing special.

I see this cafe all the time – my second favourite riding route takes me straight past it. I often see a lot of cyclist there early in the morning, then people relaxing at the side walk tables as the morning progresses. An acquaintance recently told me of their amazing $10 Saturday morning breakfast over beers at the QA, so, with the help of some friends, we tried it out.

Hard to pass up this Saturday morning only special.

Located on the dog leg on Commercial Drive where it meets Florence St (conveniently across the road from a CityCycle station),  Caffeine Espresso offers standard breakfast fare, such as muesli, toasted sandwiches, as well as some decently priced cookies, muffins and savouries for the snack friendly. I was there for the $10 breakfast though… It was two eggs, scrambled with chives (made with cream I think) on a thick buttered slice of sour dough, with 3 pieces of bacon, a thick slice of tomato and an orange slice. Also included in the price was a coffee, I got a pot of tea instead – opting for Earl Grey.

The food itself was very good for the price. The bacon and tomato were pan fried, but not oily at all. The bacon was also of the premium cut variety, so not the thin fatty part. The scrambled eggs (my breakfast of choice) was so rich and creamy and not over cooked. They were a deep yellow colour as well, so not watered down with milk. Three friends ordered the same, and like me, ate everything on the plate. Another ordered mango yogurt and muesli, and finally one had toasted cheese and ham sandwich.

The coffee got mixed reviews. One friend said it was really good, another said it was a little burnt. Another had a chai latte and had no complaints, though my tea was just average. The brand of tea wasn’t the best – though it was gorgeously presented. However for $10 for a breakfast that left me full till after 3pm with a big pot of tea – you can’t really complain.

Pluses:
Very conveniently located off the main drag with lots of side streets for parking – though note some are covered by meters.
CityCycle station 65 is just across the road.
Quick service time, food was out in under 10 minutes, and shortly after the drinks.
Iced water available (including ice) by the door.
Doesn’t get the morning sun on the tables, so not ridiculously hot to sit outside.
Friendly service, cafe style.
Excellent value for money.

Minuses:
Not enough sugar pots or salt and pepper shakers for all tables.
Chairs feel a little unstable but seemed fine.
The brand of tea.
Not so comfy you want to linger and linger.
No wifi provided and one friend had patchy 3G coverage while there.

I can’t comment on what Caffeine Espresso is like during the week, but on Saturday morning, forget spending $16.50 on a meal then $4.50 on coffee, and throw down $10 at Caffeine Espresso. You won’t be disappointed.

#threeandahalfegglovingpandas (it would have got 4 pandas if the tea was better quality or if I ordered the yummy chai I imagine)

Caffeine Espresso on Urbanspoon
Howmanypandas Queensland restaurants

Review – Dakbla – West End

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

Thanks to BNEHotorNot for the image, I forgot to take any pics. Click the pic to go to their awesome Brisbane Restaurant Blog.

Dakbla, located on Hardgrave Rd in West End is an unusual place – the things that spring to mind after dinner there this evening are: huge servings, decent food, atrocious service, 70’s decor and German chocolate.

As anyone who knows in me in RL can attest, I am hopeless in West End – it is the wrong side of the river for me – I get lost (even sticking to main roads) so heading to Hardgrave St to welcome back three friends from overseas, in heavy rain, was going to be a challenge.  However, with some navigational help from my friend and a park out the front, we made it (even got through the flooding in the Valley).

For a rainy Wednesday night, I was suprised that this place was packed. Our host for the evening had underbooked (thinking not everyone would show), so myself and my friend (the last two to arrive) were facing siting away from our group. The couple sitting next to our large party offered to move, and gave up their table to us – they were half way through their dinner too! Who knew there were still people who practised random acts of kindness to strangers?!?! If you two ever read this, thankyou!

The decor itself is very mishmash. Odd light fixtures, walls that jump out, paintings that are very 70’s in style and the always stylish clear plastic table cloths (or should I say covers?). There was no music that I noticed, but I was having a great time chatting to friends so I might have missed it. It was also very bright with no ambient lighting.

The food on the  other hand was very high quality for the price. The servings were surprisingly large, the vegetables incredibly fresh and the taste was delicious. I ordered the Beef Chowmein – crunchy. For $13.90 it was huge. I did taste the Deep Fried Tofu Salad and that was pretty good too, but I couldn’t eat a whole meal of it. There was basically no food, other than the odd scrap of onion, left on our table, – which was highly indicitive of a great meal.

Pluses:
Large servings.
Ingredients well above cost expectations.
Good use of colour in meals.
Everything very fresh.
Lots of icy cold water.
Chocolates!
Very large selection of food choices.

Minuses:
Terrible service – we were almost 20 mins late and no one had taken even a drink order from our table.
I ordered some Chinese Tea – it never arrived.
Food came out in spurts, with two people at the table receiving their meals at least 15 mins after the first – we were a table of 10 but still.
No gelati or ice-cream shop very close by.
Really, really thirsty after eating for the next 2 hours.

For $14 I got great food, and lots of it. I live 3 blocks from China Town, so my usual hangouts for Asian food are well tried and tested, but I was pleased with the results here. For the price, it was good value, and next time I won’t have the same expectations for service. I still prefer Super Bowl (or as we call it when we want to be fancy – Superb Owl) for dining in that price range, but I would certainly go again if invited – but wouldn’t host an event there.

#twoandahalfgarlicypandas

Dakbla on Urbanspoon
Howmanypandas Queensland restaurants

A Grill’d Burger Update – Grill’d Fortitude Valley

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

Noms but lacking character at The Valley

Last night a few of us were at the Mana Bar for the release of 5th World’s much anticipated iPhone game Bouncer BootOut. After playing their flash game The Romeros for way too much time (long enough to hold the high score record for a bit), and some PS3 games a group of us headed to Grill’d Fortitude Valley.
You may remember from my last Grill’d experience (at Chermside) that I was underwhelmed with the food, yet overwhelmed by the fantastic service. Last night was the reverse.

This time I ordered the Queenslander – OMG YUM!
 
Pluses:
Fast service – order taken almost immediately and food arrived so fast we were still settling in.
Super delicious burger.

Minuses:
Lack of atmosphere – all the tiles and the glass seemed impersonal. It felt very “in and out” whereas at Chermy you want to linger and enjoy yourself staying for an extra brew.
Staff weren’t nearly as happy and friendly as Chermside (and they weren’t nearly as busy either).
Friend’s order got messed up – somehow having three burgers delivered – he did get a refund.
Grill’d at The Valley has much more of a “fast food” feel to it.

Now if I can get the atmosphere and staff of Chermside to The Valley I don’t think I would stay away very much at all. Maybe if it wasn’t raining and we sat outside it would have been better. As it is, my next Grill’d will be back at Chermside but ordering the Queenslander again.

#twoandahalfpandas
Grill'd Fortitude Valley on Urbanspoon
Howmanypandas Queensland restaurants

Review – New Farm Deli and Cafe

Sunday, November 7th, 2010

Merenda + Scrambled Eggs = Disappointed

I arrived bright and early. I had planned to visit a different cafe for breakfast w friends, but circumstances meant that we were  now at this popular New Farm hangout. Given the large numbers of locals I always see congregating there, I thought, incorrectly it turned out, that this would be a good alternative to our original choice.

Let’s start with the  service. There was none. No “hi” as you walk in, no “how are you?” When my food arrived, the girl just dropped it and walked off. I had to call after her for some cracked pepper. Didn’t swing round and ask how it was going. Nothing. It wasn’t like we were in a full restaurant. Three tables. Yes three.

The food was a whole other level of average. I ordered the Merenda + Scrambled Eggs and a Chai latte (I am nothing if not predictable with those scrambled eggs). Merenda is pan fried mushrooms with grilled tomato + some bacon and toast. I really wanted some scrambled eggs so ordered them on the side.  The mushrooms were so salty they were almost inedible. The tomato wasn’t grilled, it was pan fried. The bacon was pan fried and swimming in grease – so much that it went under the rest of the food. The eggs were just woeful. They “looked” good, but the taste was disappointing. They were greasy (even at the top so not just from the bacon) and tasted fake. One friend order the muesli but said Campos was much better. Another friend had the pancake stack and said it was nice but nothing special. Their thoughts on the coffee was “nothing special.”

Pluses:
Conveniently located at Merthyr Village
Has a deli section.

Minuses:
Terrible service.
Average coffee and chai.
Badly prepared food.

I will continue to wonder why all these ppl go to this cafe and I have no idea what they see in the place.

#oneandahalfpandas
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New Farm Deli and Cafe on Urbanspoon
Howmanypandas Queensland restaurants

Update from Das Panda

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

Hi Panda fans.

Sorry I have been horrendously busy. I have a number of reviews in the “can” but not time to post. I will make an effort before I get swamped in BIFF stuff.

Tonight I am off to the Opening Night of BIFF, so hopefully by this time tomorrow there will be a good number of fresh reviews on Smallville, Nikita, Stargate Universe, Caprica and Hawai Five-0, Sushi Train and Freestyle Tout – not to mention Canetoads: A Conquest.

Oh and super congrats to Lun Lun on her new baby.
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Review – Cafe Conti – Wilston

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

I cannot begin to tell you just how good this was.

Nestled in Wilston this cafe has been a staple of the Brisbane Cafe Scene for some time – yet surprisingly I had only ever done tea and coffee there – never a meal. From memory I did watch a friend eat there… Anyway – they are supposed to be the bees knees for breakfast – so after a couple of average breakfasts at my friend’s and my usual breakfast hangout, we ventured to Conti.

I am pretty boring when it comes to breakfast. Scrambled eggs makes me a happy panda. You would be surprised just how many places do a terrible scrambled eggs – you would think it impossible to screw up, but oh yes, some manage to destroy scrambled eggs with great skill. Thankfully, Conti is not one of those places.

I chose the Dill and Parsley Scrambled Eggs served withTuscan spiced potatoes and tomato chutney served on olive sour dough. The food was awesome! The eggs were fresh, fluffy and perfectly cooked. The bread was toasted enough to avoid possible sogginess, yet not so hard as to be icky to eat. The potatoes were just enough to round out the meal without picking an extra side and the chutney was super yummy!

My breakfast buddy ordered their legendary French Toast with crispy bacon, maple syrup, and vanilla mascarpone cheese and it was, well, Legendary. I didn’t try the French Toast – but from how it looked to it being completely devoured I can only assume it was just as good tasting as it looked.

As I am still caffeine free (well not drinking Coffee, Coke/Pepsi and consuming herbal or decaf tea as a preference) I went for their Chai Latte (yes I know it is a black tea base and therefore contains some caffeine). What was really great to see was that at Conti it wasn’t made from a Chai powder – but from real Chai tea in warmed milk. The accompanying honey just put the icing on the cake, so to speak.

Pluses:
Real food – nothing processed.
Great service – staff super engaging and happy.
Good menu selection.
Fast service – we were there at 7.30am as a doors opened though so can’t comment on peak times.

Minuses:
Doesn’t open till 7.30am.
Can be hard to jag a park if not there at 7.30am.
No CityCycle station close by (outside the coverage area).

Yes it is a little more expensive than many other breakfast options, but if the quality is outstanding, I am happy to pay $5 more. The difference was worth a lot more than $5 worth in my opinion.

#fourpandas
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Cafe Conti on Urbanspoon