Eye openers at Café Balaena

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. 

Gender equality?

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.

For more details on Café Balaena, its menu and bookings visit


*Saucy Pierre is not his real name. He’s shy, really!

Rum & Coke

Rum & Coke at Café Balaena, Urangan.


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Muddy Waters keeps on rollin’

The wheels of change keep on turning for Muddy Waters Cafe

FIVE Spice Chilli Salt Squid with Green Papaya Salad and Tamarind and Palm Sugar Dressing is a far cry from the traditional stews served 150 years ago when sly grog running was rife and opium was a legal import at Queensland’s Port of Maryborough.

Where merchants once paid taxes, food-savy tourists now eagerly part with dollars to dine at Muddy Waters Cafe, close to where Mary Poppins and masses of other costumed characters flock during festival times.

Muddy Waters Cafe is found in the rear section of the historic Maryborough Customs House that overlooks the Mary River, home to the Queensland Lungfish and endangered Mary River Turtle.

Muddy Waters Cafe owners Michael and Mia Cox no longer worry about floods.

Muddy Waters Cafe owners Michael and Mia Cox no longer worry about floods.

More than 150 years ago, the river brought prosperity to the region but it also wreaked havoc when in 1893 it reached the record level of 22.20 metres and destroyed everything in its path.

A lot of water has passed under the Lamington and Granville bridges since then.

Muddy Waters Cafe owner and head chef Michael Cox and his wife Mia recently celebrated their first anniversary in the historic building, high above their old site.

To the east, the cafe’s name can still be seen painted on the wall of a near-abandoned marina where the low-lying riverside location caused them some hassles over the years.

“I worked there with the previous owner and saw a minor flood where they had to chock things up on bricks,” Michael says.

“A proposed dam in the Mary River Valley was set to solve the major floods so we thought any future floods shouldn’t be too bad. But after the dam failed to be built, our café went under water five times in three years.

“In our three years down there we couldn’t trade for a total of eight months and that hurt. If we didn’t have family helping us out, we wouldn’t be here. That’s what Maryborough’s all about – families.”

Although festivals such as the annual Relish Food and Wine Festival, World’s Greatest Pub Fest and Mary Poppins Festival bring the community out in force, this family-oriented city is not just popular with locals.

“Tourists love the river and the parks are fantastic,” he says.

“Wharf Street has the finest 1870s architecture that survives within Queensland today. Gataker’s Artspace is doing fantastic things and the Maryborough Military and Colonial Museum is regarded as one of the best community museums in Australia with over 3000 items of memorabilia.

“A few years ago Wharf Street was voted as being among the Top 10 tourist destinations in Queensland to see.

“Maryborough suits us just fine. We don’t like big cities but we like big city food.”

Five Spice Chilli Salt Squid with Green Papaya Salad and Tamarind and Palm Sugar Dressing is just one of the exceptional meals Michael, Mia and their team serve at Muddy Waters Cafe.

“It’s nice and fresh, made with five spices and chilli, so you get the five senses that appeal to Asian customers at the moment,” Michael says.

“We use mainly local produce and have a passion to provide healthy alternatives. Instead of simply having Salt and Pepper Squid that’s deep fried, our version is much healthier and very popular.”

Muddy Waters Cafe overlooks the Mary River.

Muddy Waters Cafe overlooks the Mary River in Maryborough, Qld.

With more than 30 years experience behind them, the Muddy Waters team serves a wide variety of delicious cuisine from Buttermilk Pancakes for breakfast to Citrus Cured Salmon with Zucchini and Corn Fritters, Avocado and Crème fraîche for lunch, and Braised Pork Belly with Ruby Grapefruit Salad, Black Pepper Caramel and Five Spice Crackling for dinner.

Muddy Waters Cafe is located at the rear of Maryborough Customs House, 133 Wharf Street, Maryborough, Queensland, and opens from Tuesday to Sunday from 9am to 4pm. For bookings or information, phone (07) 4121 5011.

For a guide to Maryborough’s historic port district known as Portside and the wider city visit the Customs House Interpretive Centre, next to Muddy Waters Cafe or visit