With Queensland borders closed, locals have the opportunity to support our regional economy. Natalie used a day in Cairns as a chance to catch up with friends, to support a local restaurant, and to indulge in a signature Australian dining experience at Ochre Restaurant.
Venturing out on Saturday to shoot social photos in Macrossan Street, I wasn’t quite sure who I would find given a high percentage of Douglas Shire residents working in the tourism and hospitality sector are living on Jobkeeper and Jobseeker. To my delight, what I did find was an incredible number of visitors from Cairns, Yorkey’s Knob and Palm Cove. It was touching to know they had driven to Port Douglas specifically to support the town and its businesses, and I thanked each of them for choosing to make their day out, one in our backyard.
So, when I had to travel to Cairns on Tuesday for an appointment, I got in touch with some tourism industry friends to see if they were free for coffee. When they suggested lunch, I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to return the favour and support a fabulous venue in Cairns, Ochre Restaurant.
And what a lunch it was!
Aside from the three of us not working, as our businesses are in hibernation, there were no buzzing mobile phones, no important meetings, no urgent emails, no interruptions and nowhere any of us
had to be.
We were able to sit, concentrate on our conversations, and savour the magnificent dishes placed before us, rather than order the traditional working ‘express lunch’, shovel it down and rush off.
Please do not misunderstand me. As wonderful as lunch and extended time with friends was, all three of us would much have preferred not to be in the situation we find ourselves – particularly with international tourism not forecast for significant return until at least September 2021.
No more tourism talk!
Time for gastronomic fabulousness!
Ochre Restaurant has been feeding Cairns foodies for over twenty years. Initially located in Shields Street, owner Craig Squire made the move waterside in 2016 to the boardwalk at Harbour Lights, affording diners sensational views of the mountains, the inlet and marina.
Craig, Carly, and the team are dedicated to showcasing local produce with an Australian focus. The menu features creations using crocodile, kangaroo, seafood, quandong, Davidson plum, lemon myrtle, Macadamia, Ribery, wattle seed, wild lime, and vanilla bean – much of which is now found on the menus of international restaurants.
Spectacular view in place, a spray of Tasmanian distillery crafted hand sanitiser, a bottle of Carlton Zero in hand (I am always impressed by restaurants who go the extra mile to cater to non-drinkers!), an Aperol Spritz for Pat and a glass of Mr Riggs “Adelaide Hills” Riesling for Beth, we got down to the serious business of chatting about life, the future of our beloved tourism industry and the consumption of the tastiest food I had enjoyed in months.
We started small, sharing the grilled focaccia accompanied by rocket macadamia pesto, sun-dried tomato tapenade and balsamic olive oil. Palate ready to consume more significant amounts of deliciousness, I moved on to ricotta gnocchi featuring wild mushrooms, truffle cream, salsa verde and pecorino. Pat tucked into a Macadamia crumbled Morganbury pork fillet served with poached pear, rocket, Parmesan and Ribery and Beth opted for something slightly healthier in the coconut prawns with mango kimchi and dessert lime mayo and an Ochre salad.
Not wanting to make it obvious I had not dined in a beautiful restaurant since lockdown, I had to remember my manners and not hoover it down. I even went to the extent of using a knife and fork to cut each piece of gnocchi in half so I could savour the moment for double the time.
We all did. And we all made excellent work of each dish – to the untrained eye it would have appeared as if no food had ever been present on the plate.
Before ordering, I had made it known I was 100% up for dessert – even if after the main course I was stuffed to within an inch of my waistline. Fortunately, I had worn a maxi dress to accommodate.
However, not all diners are so well prepared, with Pat regaling a story of an international friend who
unabashedly had a habit of unbuckling his belt and jeans after meals in restaurants.
So, with a sugar hit on my mind, I opted for the cheesecake of the week, which to my delight was
lemon myrtle with mango sorbet. Impressed, Beth went with the cheesecake too, and Pat was
unable to go past the deconstructed banana banoffee pie with dolce de leche, smoked Iridium rum,
macadamia crumb, banana gelato, caramelised banana and riberries. Admittedly, when Pat’s
mouth-watering creation arrived, I experienced a pang of food envy. I had to dismiss the sting, as
ordering two desserts would have been undignified!
Lots of laughs later, the problems of the world far behind us and with bellies bursting Sumo style, we
rolled out the door.
If you have the chance next time you leave the Shire and travel to the big city, consider supporting a local Cairns restaurant if you can, as now, more than ever, as a community we need to look after each other right across our region.
In the case of Ochre, make sure you have booked in a gym session for the next day – you’re going to
Online, or if you need to make a booking to arrive within an hour, please call the restaurant on (07) 4051 0100.
Monday – Closed
Tuesday – Sunday Lunch & Dinner
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