Wednesday, August 17, 2011

FNQ - Eating out

This feels like a rather pathetic post as over the course of the week that we were on holidays, we only dined out a few times and not once did I take a photo! The camera didn't make it with us to one of these dinners, once the light wasn't great so I didn't bother and another time I was too darn hungry to remember to take a shot before shovelling the food into my mouth. Nonetheless, I thought I would write a bit about the places we ate at as finding vegan food around Cairns and particularly Mission Beach was a bit challenging! To jazz the post up a little I have added in a few shots from our week away...

Someone getting ready for a swim, definitely not me!

After our return from Russell Heads, the man and I stayed a night in Cairns and strolled around town for a long time trying to settle on a place to eat. He felt like a Malaysian style vegetable curry but we were put off by limited veg options in a few Asian restaurants and staff standing by the door trying to intice you in just like they do on Lygon Street in Melbourne. We recalled having a decent vegetarian curry on our last trip to Cairns two years ago and wandered in the direction of a place called Mondo's at the Hilton. The Hilton has a couple of restaurants, Mondo's being the more casual of the two which also has the bonus of outdoor tables by the water.

The menu stated the items that contained dairy and we were disappointed to find that out of the 4 or 5 vegetarian items, all had the little "d" symbol next to them. We were getting tired and hungry by this stage and after questioning whether the Sri Lankan vegetable curry could be made without dairy we were given the thumbs up! This was just what we needed, a mild-moderately spiced bowl of curried vegetables served with rice, a tasty tomato chutney and a crispy pappadum.

Bananas growing in the garden of our rental house in the Daintree

Before we headed to the Daintree, I dragged the man down to Lillipad Cafe as I had seen it listed on the Happy Cow website as being vegetarian friendly. It was a very casual laid-back place and it took us a little while to realise that we needed to grab menus from the counter inside where you also ordered meals. There was only was breakfast item that didn't contain eggs so we both went with that after verifying with the staff that it would be vegan. The man was disappointed that they didn't provide any Nuttelex even though I pointed out that there was more than enough avocado to spread on the lovely light pieces of toast. The brekky also came with some cute mini hash browns, yummy pan grilled tofu, grilled tomatoes and mushrooms cooked with spring onions. We also enjoyed well-made coffees and freshly squeezed orange juice and waddled out of there full to the brim.

Cairns is a destination we have been to several times so we like to travel around the region and spend time in different locations as there is so much diversity. Rainforests, islands, mountains, beaches, beautiful croc-free freshwater swimming places and even goldfields and the outback are accessible. We still haven't seen it all!

Although the sky looks clear at Mission Beach is was quite windy and not very warm

Cyclone Yasi tore through Mission Beach and the surrounding area in February causing a huge amount of damage to local residences, businesses and surrounding national parks. As we hadn't been to this area before I felt it would be a good time to visit. Many businesses only started to re-open in July and really need all the tourism dollars they can get. The cyclone must have been too much for some people as there were plenty of businesses closed down and shops up for lease.

There are three main towns in the Mission Beach area and although we stayed closest to the largest one we didn't eat there as there wasn't much that looked vegan friendly. After driving through the Wongaling Beach shops and then a bit further down to the beach we spotted a Thai restaurant opposite the beach. The man and I don't usually frequent Thai restaurants as we find that Thai food in Australia contains way too much coconut milk, not enough spices and tastes nothing like what you eat over in Thailand. As we were rather limited for options this time, we decided to give it a try.

Tully's Golden Gumboot - it's height of 79m represents the highest rainfall in one year!

Many dishes had the option of being made with tofu or vegetables including soups, noodles, stir-frys and curries so there was plenty to choose from. The man surprised me by selecting pad grapow (stir-fry with chilli, garlic and thai basil) which is what I would usually choose. I had my eye on a jungle curry which is something you don't see very often. This appealed to me as the description indicated it was water based rather than coconut based which sounded like it would be nice and spicy. We ordered both of these meals with tofu as they already contained vegetables and ensured that there would not be any fish or oyster sauce added.

When our meals were delivered we were in heaven as they were absolutely delicious. I don't think we have eaten Thai food this authentic since going to Thailand. The jungle curry tasted so fresh and spicy and I was relieved that the man didn't want to split our meals down the middle. He was more than happy with his meal so we were both satisfied with simply tasting a few bites of each others. I was curious about the jungle curry ingredients so I questioned the owner as I wanted to know if he had used fresh peppercorns in the paste. Oh yes indeed, they were grown in Silkwood (20 kms down the road). This meal was the absolute highlight of our trip and now I am on the hunt to find some fresh peppercorns so I can attempt to recreate this sensational curry at home!      

Josephine falls near Innisvale. None of our photos do this beautiful place justice.

34 Esplanade, Cairns
(07) 4052 6780
Lunch and dinner only

Lillipad Cafe
72 Grafton St, Cairns
(07) 4051 9565
Breakfast and lunch only

Nana Thai
165 Reid St, Wongaling Beach
(07) 4068 9101
Only open for dinner, dine-in or take-away


  1. I've climbed up inside that boot!

  2. Interesting post - love your pic of the hungry croc at the top! The lillipad brunch sounds great. I have found when visiting darwin that there seems to be a different feel to the asian food than in Melbourne which I have thought was because it is nearer to asia - wonder if that is the case in FNQ.

  3. Hi Steph, the boot is pretty cool and so Australian, the photos of the floods were really interesting on the way up the staircase. Tully is such a pretty town, it's such a shame to see to the disgusting pollution pouring into the air from the sugar refinery.

    Hi Johanna, it was actually a bit scary how close we ended up getting to the croc given we were only in a tinny. Your comment has reminded me about eating some good Asian food in Darwin too. Maybe it's because they can grow ingredients up north that they also grow in Asia.