Thursday, December 30, 2010


Ahh, Cornucopia. An old favourite for Sunday brunch and always a great place to take visitors.
For those of you who haven't been (what the hell are you doing living in Darwin and not visiting here?), Cornucopia is a cafe/restaurant located at the Museum and Art Gallery on Conacher St. It's open for breakfast and into the afternoon.
You sit on a raised deck overlooking the water, which even on a hot day remains cool and breezy. So when booking, asking to have a table outside is the way to go.
Booking is recommended, especially on Sundays and most days in the tourist season. On Sundays, you can expect a request to rebook your table or you may indeed be the second (or third!) group of people to use that table that day.
So, to the menu. The decision is usually a bit tough as they offer fancy eggs, for example, eggs royale (with smoked salmon), delicious salads and really good fish and chips.
On this occasion one of my friends and I had the raw energy salad, not as boring as you'd think. A good variety of tastes and textures for example, marinated beans, cheese, sultanas, roasted peanuts, grated carrot, bean sprouts and other salad vegetables.
My other friend went for the light snack of the fish cakes. They came with a good sized side salad and dipping sauce. There were three on the plate and they looked as if they were made from fresh white fish with herbs through them, wrapped in very thin bean curd sheets and deep fried.
Always check out the specials menu for the salad of the day, it's always good. The regular salad item is also very good, it's a smoked salmon and snow pea salad with avocado, topped with an orange and poppy seed dressing.
One thing to note, and it is on the menu for your information, they don't split bills here.
The service is efficient and friendly and the portions are a good size.
Apologies, I didn't check out the wine list.

ambience: 8/10
food: 8/10
service: 8/10
value for money: 8/10
wine list: another time!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

the cool spot

Okay, so there are some things that are really kick arse about this place and some things that are at best mediocre.

Kick arse list:
the view
the banana splits and other ice cream fabulousness
the hot chips cooked to perfection in fresh oil
the barra with salad and chips
the hot breakfasts
Alawa cake shop cakes
the lemon meringue pie - as it is now, not how it was in the past!
its opening hours

Mediocre list:
expensive toasted sandwiches
cheesecakes with way too much gelatine in them
atmosphere inside

Bad list:
the guacamole on the nachos
rotting salad mix in the salad main courses

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Despite sounding like a 70s character, this cafe has really good food. In a previous life it was Spiros, you know, the cafe where you had to walk through clouds of second-hand cigarette smoke to get into the joint?
Actually, you still do. Well, soon enough you won't have to do that, it's a good thing too, as I want to eat here more regularly!

The salads at this place are really good and really good value. I had the pesto lamb salad for $16.90. The lamb was tender and juicy and there was a substantial amount of it. The salad was large and included rocket. It was topped with a smooth dressing that was nicely tangy. There were also triangles of pita bread with tzadziki on them decorating the plate.

I have heard the crispy chicken salad with potatoes is fine as well.

The cafe is neat and tidy with some couches along the windows and a row of comfy bench seats along one wall. It's brightly lit and you smell the coffee when you walk in.

Food: 9/10
Service: 7/10
Ambience: 6/10
Value for money: 9/10

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tasty House

I went to lunch at tasty house (in the mall) with some mates before they headed OS a few weeks ago. We had the lunch special which is two dishes and rice as well as 5 yum cha items for $16.

We chose some beef with ginger and spring onion, fried rice and stir fried vegetables. For yum cha we chose some coriander dumplings, 2 serves of prawn dumplings, and 2 serves of steamed pork buns.

The food was delicious, the combination of the dipping sauce flavours and the prawn dumpling flavours was an exercise in synergy (ie. the sum of the flavours was greater than just the two components' flavours!). The beef dish also merits special mention, it had a lovely balance of flavours.

The service was friendly and attentive and the atmosphere was really nice - high ceilings and darker colours in the decor worked well together.

Food: 7/10
Service: 8/10
Ambience: 8/10
Value for money: 8/10

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Yum Cha

I went to lunch at Yum Cha (on Cavenagh St) on Sunday just gone. For older Darwinites, the restaurant used to be the Lee Dynasty restaurant - the first Chinese restaurant in Darwin to not serve pink coloured sauce on their sweet and sour dishes.

This weekend lunch option is so popular with locals that you must book.

We had a selection comprising turnip cake, taro puffs, rice flake pork rolls, stuffed eggplant and the prawn rice rolls. We drank chinese tea throughout the meal.

The service was quick for the food.
Top ups for the tea had to be asked for a few times and the water requested didn't come.

I would have liked some fresh green vegetable options with all of the starches and meats - I remember that on a previous visit they had a lovely green vegetable special.

Anyway, the food is great and I would go there again and again just for the prawn rice rolls and chinese tea!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Il Piatto

I went to Il Piatto on Friday night.

The ambience of the place is fantastic, table cloths, beautiful glassware & plates and gorgeous lighting. The view is also one of the best from a restaurant in Darwin. The chairs are very comfortable and the decor is neutral and elegant.

Our entrees were the oysters, the seafood salad and the carpaccio of beef.
The oysters were very good and were simply presented with slender wedges of lemon.
The seafood salad was mediocre and not flavoursome due, in part, to being underdressed.
My $25 beef carpaccio was on the menu as having rocket leaves but came with lettuce mix and was almost tasteless except for the cracked pepper crusting on the outside of the beef and the shaved parmesan. There was not even a simple dressing on the dish aside from being circled by three thin lines of balsamic glaze (possibly from a bottle).

Mains were taglioni with slipper lobster (a.k.a. balmain bug), chicken stuffed with cheese & sun-dried tomatoes with a sage sauce and a pizza siciliana (salami and black olive).
It all sounded SO good.
The pasta was bland and you could only really taste the tomato sauce base with a meagre amount of the "slipper lobster" having been cooked to rubbery tastelessness.
The chicken tasted like it had a coles chicken seasoning on the outside of it and my friend said there wasn't even a hint of sage flavour in the sauce. As it was decorated with rosemary - I did wonder if they had any sage out the back at all....
The pizza on the other hand was suberb! The tomato base was rich and full of flavour and the crust was light and crisp. The other toppings were salami, small whole black olives and really nice cheese.

Two other items of note were that we had overservice regarding the taking of our order, pretty sure we were asked at least 4 times within about 15 minutes if we were ready to order. While this overservice did translate well regarding water top ups and drinks service, it was getting annoying at the begnning of the evening.

The other is that the wine list comprised either boring but quaffable wines that you can get at the local bottle shop or Italian wines. Being unfamiliar with the latter - as I suspect a few Darwinites may be, it would have been lovely to have someone knowledgeable among the staff suggest one.

I think this restaurant is well suited for having a superb pizza with a glass of quaffable wine and soaking up the sunset.

But to call it fine dining is well off the mark.
The food is pub food quality - which is fine when you're in a pub, not fine when you are paying wads of cash for it in a restaurant that is dressed up as a fine dining restaurant.

A note to the unsuspecting - no take away is available. I had a fairly assertive discussion with one of the waiters and managed to take half of my pizza home, but it was hard work.

I feel quite strongly on this issue. I have paid for it, therefore it is mine to do with as I will. Give me a waiver to sign. Let me know before I order - perhaps a note on the menu, and I will order less (ie. no $25 carpaccio) so that I won't have left overs to hassle you about!

So, the numbers:
WINE: 4/10
FOOD: 3/10 (with the exception of pizza and oysters)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Happy Garden

On Saturday the 2nd of October, a large group of us went to the Happy Garden in Parap for a banquet dinner to celebrate the Dan Certificate presentation of a friend. The meal was $32 per person.

We started with chicken and sweetcorn soup followed by steamed dim sims and fried wontons.

For main course we had special fried rice, lemon chicken, chef's special sizzling beef and steamed barramundi with ginger and spring onions. Despite not being a fish lover, the barra was the stand out dish.

Dessert was a choice of either lychee and ice cream or fried ice cream (choice, hahaha, no contest there for me!). A large, golden-crusted ball of ice cream - DELICIOUS!

The numbers:
WINE: 6/10
FOOD: 7/10

birthday tea at Hanuman

I went to the hanuman again, late in September for my birthday. It was fabulous, as usual. I think I got photos of one course, and we just devoured the other course before I remembered.

We started with lamb cutlets coated in tandoori spices, money bags, the duck salad and the chicken satays. The duck salad is a stand out dish - do yourself a favour and have it next time you go. The satay sauce is another highlight and I love the mint yoghurt chutney combined with the spices on the tender lamb cutlets.

For the main courses we had butter chicken, the pork belly, beef musaman and hanuman prawns. for greens we had the baby bok choi. While the pork belly is stand out dish, the musaman is such an exquisite blend of spices and coconut milk with really tender beef pieces that it deserves a mention. Also, the butter chicken is the best I have ever tasted (even having worked in three Indian restaurants over my hospitality career!). You can taste the slight char of the chicken pieces due to their having been cooked on long metal skewers in a tandoor oven before being simmered in the creamy red sauce.

I also had a third course - my favourite Hanuman dessert, the black rice brulee. A crisp coating of toffee tops a silky custard which in turn sits atop a layer of black rice pudding.

I was reminded by a friend that when looking for really good food, not to miss it when it arrives. So I revise my previous ratings to reflect this viewpoint.

Food qualiity:10/10
Service: 9/10
Wine List : 8/10
Value for money: 9/10

Monday, September 6, 2010

Eating at Martin's

I went to Eating at Martin's, at the Tropicus Centre in Coconut Grove, to have a quick bite for lunch on Saturday. It's a vegetarian cafe open for breakfast and lunch.
The blueberry lassi is what prompted me to write about it. Blueberries, almonds and yoghurt all blended together. At the first sip of this smooth, purple drink there is a marvelous surprise, it has rosewater in it too! Delicious!
I had the raisin toast which was, well, raisin toast - what can you say? Although it did taste as though it had some dates in it too.
My friend had what is surely one of the cafe's best breakfast dishes, the quinoa (pron. kin-wa), as a porridge-style dish with cinnamon, poached pears, walnuts and coconut milk topped with yoghurt. Quinoa is a South American grain that is naturally high in protein and offers a fabulous change from all of the wheat that most folk eat every day.
The service was fast and friendly but a little confused at times.
You can sit at tables that are large and shared between patrons or at your own smaller table, there is also outdoor dining (should you wish to sit and sweat!). Dining inside can be a little chilly.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


I went to the best restaurant in Darwin, Hanuman, last night. Their food is Thai Nonya (Nonya is a mixture of Malay and Chinese styles of food).
I went with my parents and a family friend visiting from McLaren Vale, South Australia. We ate early as that was the preference of the company I had.
The service was very good, just the right amount of friendly. Very professional. The waiter repeated our order back to us to ensure all was correct and was knowledgeable about both the food and wine lists.
There were some attempts at upselling naan bread and sparkling mineral water. Nicely done, but declined in favour of filling up on the other dishes and drinking wine and the delicious Hanuman iced tea mocktail (they make the syrup, mainly lemon grass and ginger, in-house and top it with soda).
I started with the oysters, I really wanted our friend to experience them. For those who haven't tried them yet, they come served on an oven-hot clay dish with depressions in it that hold 1 oyster each. The oysters are lightly poached in the sauce that fills the depression with them. The sauce is a wonderful blend of chilli, lemon grass, ginger and thai basil - aromatic, not too spicy and above all, doesn't mask the flavour of the small, tasty oysters in it. No wonder it is their signature dish!

For the mains we had the pork belly Chinese style, thick and tender slices in a star anise sauce with asian greens.
We also had an old favourite, the butter chicken. You know they have a proper tandoor oven out there in the kitchen as the chicken has been marinated in tandoori spices, cooked on a skewer in the tandoor oven and then put in the smooth tomato, cream and cashew sauce.
The third main we shared was the red curry duck. The sauce was fabulous, but the duck was a little chewy.


FOOD: 8/10
very very good

very very good

the lighting's nice but the acoustics aren't so good - when it's busy it's LOUD. It can also be a little on the chilly side when dining inside.
I love that you don't get matching plates, they are all beautiful and all different. I also like the distinctive cutlery.
a good range, including some older vintages and more expensive wines; and a bit of each variety by the glass.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

again to central cafe!

Because it's close, it's so easy to visit. Each time I go the experience is different! Perhaps the thing I really want for dining in Darwin is CONSISTENCY.
I only had a drink but my two friends had food.
One of them ordered the pancakes with ice cream, they came promptly (with yoghurt) but she couldn't cut them (?) with her knife so sent them back saying that she would just have a drink instead. She then waited more than 15 minutes for a coffee, during which time another order of pancakes was sent out to her (?).
The raisin toast my other friend ordered looked great, nice thick slices.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


aka Fannie Bay Super Pizza.
I went last night. I had the tagliatelle napoletana and my friend had the meat canneloni. We also had garlic bread.
The food here is really good!
I now I've unrepentantly whinged many times about the $1.50 "service charge" for dining in and some of the crazy antics/attitude of some staff there, but lord the food is GOOD!
The pasta is really fresh and the sauces light but flavoursome. I'm pretty sure there was a hiatus in conversation for a good 10 minutes while we ate! On this occasion there were no orders being taken in the restaurant for pizza as one of the ovens was down and they were flying just to keep up with take away orders.

FOOD: really good 8/10
SERVICE: 8/10 - fast and friendly
VALUE: 7/10 - a little on the not-so-good-value side @ $17 for a main course of pasta napoletana (+$1.50 service charge)
AMBIENCE: 8/10 - I like the red and white checked table cloths and the glass-fronted frames full of business cards. Not too brightly lit - casual, but welcome to stay a while.

Friday, August 6, 2010

gorgeous photos of delicious food

Thanks for the tip Jeannie!
Check out this site
.... foodgawker | feast your eyes
Click on the photo to get recipes of the yummy dishes pictured and visit other foodie blogs.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

sand bar

The Sand Bar, for those who haven't visited, is a lovely cocktail bar with a view of the ocean in the Skycity Casino. It's popular with those who like to dress up for a night out and has a very impressive cocktail list. It has lots of lounging couches and boasts three organza-curtained booths that you can book if you want a tab for the evening, your own personal waitress and you don't want to dance in a circle around your bags (not just an 80s phenomenon!).
I went there last night, my workmates and I booked a booth - $250 with a $150 tab included.

While this place is not technically an eating place, they do provide pizzas from Il Piatto. We shared two of the "italia" pizzas and they were really good. The crust was crisp an light and all of the toppings were full of flavour. The cheese was good quality too - not too salty or greasy.
Delicious food to go with an evening of cocktails and champagne!
Fond farewell to Kyrie! We'll miss you, see you again sometime!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

ethical food is good food

Just read the lastest Gourmet traveller, there's an article in it about Eduardo Sousa who is farming free range geese and producing ethical fois gras. This is a great sign of times to come.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

cafe central

I met a friend at cafe central on Rossiter Street, Rapid Creek, for a late and leisurely breakfast after staying up to watch the individual time trial stage of the Tour de France last night.

The service is always prompt and friendly and the coffee is always good. My friend had scrambled eggs, tomato and mushrooms while I had the omelette with chorizo, roasted capsicum and spinach.

I've had the vegetarian big breakfast there before and that was fantastic! Eggs, spinach, baked beans, tomato and mushrooms. They do nice wholemeal toast as well.

On this occasion, the roasted capsicum tasted like it came from a jar and the chorizo was soggy.
My friend's eggs were rubbery and the mushrooms were a bit old.

FOOD: okay (and the coffee's good)
SERVICE: good-very good
AMBIENCE: suburban streetside but shaded well

and I love that it's in the suburbs!

Friday, July 23, 2010

the show

A delicious surprise this morning was a beef satay at the Darwin Show.
The beef was tender and not overcooked and the marinade was really tasty, not too salty and a little bit sour.
$3.00 for as much meat as a small steak was good value too!

An extra point for serving it on baking paper so all of the juices didn't soak through.

food and service in Darwin

I think that Darwin's restaurants don't have a lot in the way of service unless you're dining at the high end of town - not good enough! I love dining out and I'm going to check out restaurants and other food places in Darwin and share my findings on both the food and the service!

I'll look at ambience, service quality, wine list, value for money and food quality.

I'd love any suggestions for places to check out and hearing about your experiences too!