Discover Café Balaena, Urangan

Dine with a difference at Café Balaena

CHOOSING Cafe Balaena at Urangan, Hervey Bay, to catch up with long-time friends in March 2020, gave Saucy Pierre* and I an unexpected opportunity to dine with a difference.

Dancing Dean’ was in fine form doing a knees-up routine as he sang Happy Birthday to three different customers throughout the evening. 

I had visited Cafe Balaena 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 was new to us.

Reviewers get on board through Tripadvisor

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.”

Menu with a difference

Regarding the menu, another reviewer said there were some very strange combinations.

I wouldn’t say ‘strange’ as the word implies ‘weird’ but there were 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.

All round, we enjoyed a terrific night out, dining in a brilliant water-side atmosphere with delicious food and great company.

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Whistle Stop at Gympie’s Phoenix Hotel

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!

Graziers Eye Fillet

Graziers Eye Fillet, Phoenix Hotel, Gympie.

Crispy Skin Salmon

Crispy Skin Salmon, Phoenix Hotel, Gympie.

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Trendy pub food at Bay Central Tavern

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.

Thai Fried Noodles

Thai Fried Noodles.

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. 

Grazier Eye Fillet with Pepper Sauce, Chips and Salad.

Graziers Eye Fillet

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.

Bay Central Tavern is at Stockland Hervey Bay Shopping Centre,155 Boat Harbour Drive, Pialba QLD 4655, (07) 4124 4111, www.baycentraltavern.com.au

*Saucy Pierre is not his real name – he’s shy, really!

Brandy Snap Basket

Brandy Snap Basket

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