Choosing Café Balaena at the Great Sandy Straits Marina to catch up with long-time friends Peter and Yvonne last weekend proved to be more entertaining than Saucy Pierre* and I expected.
‘Dancing Dean’ was in fine form doing a knees-up routine and urging other guests to join him in singing Happy Birthday to three customers at different times throughout the evening.
I’d eaten at Café Balaena before, mostly about six or seven years ago when my youngest son Terry was a chef there. Pierre had also eaten there on many occasions.
So we were both familiar with the restaurant’s quality cuisine and stunning views over the marina but seeing owner Dean Major dancing around the tables was new to me.
It turns out Dean is well known for his enthusiastic routines, attracting positive comments on Tripadvisor.
Dirk W from Mermaid Beach wrote: “The man obviously loves his job and is good at it.”
LeanneP168 wrote: “The owner is fantastic. He is very hands on…. love his enthusiasm.”
Regarding the menu, another reviewer said there were some very strange combinations.
I wouldn’t say ‘strange’ as the word implies ‘weird’ or ‘distasteful’ but there were indeed some selections that you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere else.
One such choice was Wagyu Beef and Caramelised Onion Pie.
It was made of rich and juicy wagyu beef chunks marinated in red wine, then enfolded in a homemade herb gravy with caramelised onion and garlic with Balaena green salad, chips and a mango and pawpaw chutney.
However, three on our table of four weren’t overly adventurous that night and we all ordered the Caribbean Chicken Breast (pictured above).
This was made of grilled chicken breast with Australian grown avocado, silky smooth hollandaise and camembert cheese on a bed of mixed potato mash.
All meals were brought to the table in good time and were well presented.
Of particular interest was that Pierre and I ordered our Rum & Cokes together at the same time but they were delivered in different glasses (pictured below), presumably to suit our male and female genders!
Mind you, I’m not complaining. We both enjoyed the Rum & Coke, as always. We just found the glass differences interesting in these days of gender equality.
*Saucy Pierre is not his real name. He’s shy, really!
What does an old gold mine have in common with a mythological bird and salmon?
They all co-exist at 29 Red Hill Road in Gympie, Queensland, in the form a hotel where Saucy Pierre* and I ate out on Saturday after making a day visit to Brisbane.
Well, the bit about the bird is not quite true. The ancient bird doesn’t really exist there as a living being but instead the historic Phoenix Hotel bears its name.
In Ancient Greek folklore, a phoenix is a bird that dies and gains new life by rising from the ashes of its predecessor. Likewise, in 2014 the Phoenix Hotel was ‘reborn’ after extensive renovations.
The hotel wasn’t named after the mythological bird, however.
Built in 1887, it was named after the North Phoenix No. 2 Mine, near where gold was discovered 20 years earlier. Three tunnels are said to still exist under the hotel.
Popular Phoenix Hotel
Judging by the number of people packed onto the hotel deck when we arrived on Saturday, we could have been forgiven for thinking the chef was dishing up gold.
We were pleased to have booked a table. The car park was full, as were the side streets, and people of all ages from young children to retirees were tucking into their meals with gusto.
Our dinner choices
Pierre ordered his favourite meal – Graziers Eye Fillet 200gr with pepper sauce, salad and chips – while I again took the fish option with Crispy Skin Salmon on garlic mash with char-grilled capsicum, broccolini and a balsamic glaze.
Both meals were served in good time and well presented. We chose to forego dessert this time but had we ordered, there were plenty of delicious options on offer.
To accompany our meals we chose Arrogant Frog Rosé from the South of France, a pleasantly dry wine with ripe cherry and strawberry flavours.
Back in the 1970s and 80s
Pierre and I were surprised to discover the Phoenix Hotel on our whistle stop visit to Gympie last weekend.
I lived in Gympie in the mid 1980s and Pierre in the late 1970s. Back then I didn’t know the Phoenix Hotel existed. Today, it’s hard to miss and is highly rated on Tripadvisor.
We both recommend that if locals and visitors get the chance, they visit the Phoenix Hotel in Gympie, located 160 kilometres north of Brisbane with a population about 22,000 people.
For Phoenix Hotel details and bookings visit phoenixhotelgympie.com.au
*Saucy Pierre is not his real name. He’s shy – really!
Jocelyn’s magazine-style blog site is designed inspire people to enjoy the pleasures of life. With such a vast array of possibilities on offer including food, wine and travel, they have an extensive ‘menu’ from which to choose.
The former journalist, communications officer and business owner believes that to live fulfilling lives, people need to balance their work with pleasure and nurture support networks whenever possible.
Juggling family life with work commitments can be tough at times but it’s important to keep them balanced. If they fall out of kilter, pressures can mount and severely impact a person’s state of mind.
In 2013, Jocelyn and her late husband Don had been working almost around the clock when issues relating to his corporate job mounted so much that he took his own life.
That tragic result is far too common. Statistics show more people die from suicide than from car accidents, and for every person that achieves death, at least another 20 have tried.
To Jocelyn, that raises the question: “Where has our society gone so wrong that so many people would rather die than continue living?”
She cites the article titled The nuclear Family Was a Mistake that basically says the days when extended families lived nearby and offered support in times of need are long gone.
Today we have fragmented families and usually only the rich can afford to ‘buy’ support services that help foster good life/work balance and personal relationships.
Now semi-retired, Jocelyn runs this site as time permits covering various lifestyle topics with stories and photographs.
With so many other sites dedicated to work-related topics, Jocelyn isn’t covering them here. If anyone asks for information, she will refer to them to other reputable sites when possible.
Jocelyn is a mother of three, mother-in-law of two and grandmother of five. Before semi-retirement, she worked for more than 30 years in media, corporate communications and business.
Her bio can be found at jocelynwatts.com/jocelyn-bio/
To contact Jocelyn visit jocelynwatts.com/contact/
If you’re looking for an trendy pub meal in Hervey Bay, the Bay Central Tavern on Boat Harbour Drive is worth a visit.
Saucy Pierre* has been keen to check out the Fraser Coast’s eating places while visiting the region over the past year and a half. We’ve dinned out mainly in Maryborough because that was where I lived until November 2019.
Since then I’ve moved to Eli Waters at Hervey Bay, the other major city that makes up the Fraser Coast, so now we have many more eating places from which to choose.
Joining my two new friends, Jane and Margaret, at the Bay Central Tavern for lunch on Thursday, I loved the Thai Fried Noodles I ordered and the ladies gave me glowing reports of their choices so I knew Pierre would be keen to try out the tavern.
Saturday night would be somewhat busier than Thursday though.
The staffer who took my booking said that with country rock band Eight Second Ride performing as part of their Goes Country Tour, management was expecting a full house but she could squeeze us in anyway.
After catching the tavern’s courtesy bus there, we found our booking had mistakenly been made for Sunday night. To the staff’s credit, they soon found a table for us in the bistro rather than on the deck where we were meant to be seated.
The error was a blessing in disguise. It was much quieter in the bistro than sitting near Rocky the mechanical bull as wannabe rodeo riders tested their inner cowboys!
Pierre is a food and drink connoisseur from way back.
I’ve always been into lean, clean healthy foods but since meeting Pierre, I’ve become a more adventurous with food and now occasionally let him sweet talk me into eating some of the things I consider to be, well, let’s just say not the best choice, nutritionally speaking.
While he ordered a 200 gram Graziers Eye Fillet with pepper sauce, chips and salad, I ordered Macadamia Barramundi (fresh barramundi with macadamia crust) served with smashed chats, hollandaise sauce and a coriander, tomato, avocado and rocket salad. See featured picture.
Pierre devoured his eye fillet saying it was deliciously tender and full of flavour but his pepper sauce could have been hotter and the salad was best not to discuss.
My Macadamia Barramundi, smashed chats and salad were all delicious and well presented.
We each enjoyed a glass of Wirra Wirra Mrs Wigley Rosé and finished our dinner by sharing a Brandy Snap Basket served with fruit salad and whipped cream. Pierre is yet to convince me to eat a whole dessert all on my own!
Will we make the tavern our Local?
Are we likely to eat again at Bay Central Tavern? Definitely!
The service was spot on – everyone from the courtesy bus driver to the waitress was pleasant, helpful and welcoming. The only improvement we can suggest is to boost the salad that goes with the Graziers Eye Fillet.
Perhaps we would choose a quieter night to visit but that’s our preference.
It was plain to see a lot of people loved the busy atmosphere, lapping up the live music and entertainment that kept the popular venue pumping throughout the evening.
We’ve also been told the massive outdoor screen is immensely popular on State of Origin nights and when other big sports and entertainment events are playing.
*Saucy Pierre is not his real name – he’s shy, really!
Brandy Snap Basket
PICKING tomatoes all day under a hot Queensland sun is more bearable for backpackers when they know there’ll be cold beer on tap close to their bedroom door by night.
Arguably the youngest couple ever to run a pub in Australia, they initially wanted to run only the adjacent backpacker hostel but to do that, they also needed to be licensed publicans.
So now they are! They quickly learnt how to pour beer and opened for business on September 1, 2019.
“I always wanted a pub but never knew we’d do it so young,” Hayden said.
“If anyone had asked us three years ago where we thought we’d be now, we couldn’t have imagined this, Emma having been in retail and me a farmhand.
“The most nerve-wracking thing was being of a younger age and thinking people wouldn’t take us seriously for the venture we’ve undertaken.
“It was quite overwhelming at first but having the locals and new people coming in encouraging us made things easier.”
Great spot for backpackers
The Bundaberg-born couple said the Globe was an excellent spot for backpackers, many of whom come here for their required 88 days of regional work.
“We have just 16 beds; we know everyone by name and can have a yarn and a laugh with them. They can even meet our beautiful pub dog Bessie.”
Emma said backpackers could find jobs all year round, picking small crops and packing fruit sheds.
“Early each morning, Hayden drives the backpackers to the farms and greets them again at the end of the day,” she said.
“At the Globe, backpackers have access to facilities such as kitchen, bath, showers and washing machine as well as a common room and big outdoor area.”
Old world charm in city centre
Hayden said the Globe was one of only a few country pubs left in the centre of Bundaberg.
“There aren’t many places still around that have kept their heritage atmosphere.
“We want to spruce it up with some fresh paint but keep its old colouring and features such as the old timber-lined cold room; that’s what people like to see.”
Emma and Hayden are yet to decide what new services they’ll introduce at the Globe.
“We already have a wedding and wake booked in but otherwise it’s about testing the water and seeing what people want,” Hayden said.
“There are no poker machines; no gambling. Please come in for a cold beer and a yarn!”
Making headlines in the Bundaberg Newsmail
By Jennifer Champan, Fraser Coast Chronicle, 2010
SHE IS an accomplished artist and photographer yet her modesty is so great, not many of us would ever have known.
That is, if she didn’t allow her arm to be twisted so her talents could be revealed to the Fraser Coast.
Photojournalist Jocelyn Watts was given her first camera – a Box Brownie – when she was eight years old. Just three years later, she won her first prize at a regional photography show.
“For me, photography is about capturing moments in time,” explains the Maryborough resident of 18 years.
“Including,” she adds, “the ever-changing light in landscapes, fleeting moments in sport or at family gatherings and social events – things that happen too quickly to be captured with an artist’s brush.
“A camera lens can also block out peripheral objects to home-in on patterns, shapes and colours, as in micro photography, that could otherwise be missed by the naked eye.”
Jocelyn enjoys snapping travel experiences, sport, people, nature, landscape and architecture.
She has always used Canon equipment and recently upgraded to a Canon EOS 5D Mark II and a 17-40mm wide-angle lens (EF Series).
Jocelyn is a member of Hervey Bay Photography Club and the Australian Photographic Society.
“My goal is basically to keep on improving and create the best images I can. If a travel company offered to pay all my expenses, take photos and write, I wouldn’t argue,” she laughs.
“But being more realistic, it would be nice to show my images in an exhibition or coffee table books, or calendars some day. Bagging a few awards, if I were lucky enough, would be a bonus.”
Jocelyn has already won many awards including the photography club’s Colour Print of the Year for 2009.
In 2003, she swept the pool at the Australian Photographic Society B9 Print folio awards with five first places in Open Print categories.
Between 1998 and 2009 she added to her collection of another four first prizes at the Fraser Coast Show.
And in 1999, Jocelyn took home the Qld Country Press Association Awards title of Sport Photo of the Year.
Jocelyn’s creative (photography) flare was no doubt inherited from her father, an international award-winning photographer, who gave her that beloved Box Brownie.
But it is not only photography this artist is skilled at.
“I’ve always drawn, sketched or dabbled in some sort of art or craft. Art was not a subject at the outback school I went to, but soon after leaving I enrolled in an oil painting workshop being run at the town’s cultural centre that my parents co-founded.
“During the 1980s I designed motifs that I machine-appliquéd on to T-shirts, tops and cloth nappies.
“After moving to Maryborough in the early 1990s, I was working part-time and in my spare hours delved into painting again, this time with pastels and acrylics as well as oils.”
Jocelyn describes her style as realism but wants to move toward impressionism.
“I’d be great at counterfeit, if I had the inclination to make a few bucks on the black market,” she jokes. Seriously though, reproductions could be a speciality.”
Jocelyn has not yet held a solo exhibition, for art or photography, but is hopeful that day won’t be too far away.”