You can’t go past a cold beer and a bucket of prawns in summer, but have you tried a Cassowary Cocktail or a Tiger Prawn Schnitzel with pineapple and persimmon?
Summer is unfolding in Cairns & Great Barrier Reef when warm rain refreshes the landscape overnight and brings seasonal experiences unique to summer in the tropics. This means that luscious mangoes, unique native ingredients and signature seafood dishes are taking centre stage on menus across the region.
For a truly local drink, you can’t go past the Cassowary Cocktail from Ochre Restaurant, located on the waterfront in Cairns. As colourful as its namesake, the Cassowary Cocktail’s rich red comes from the cassowary’s favourite food – local Davidson plum, which is blended with Hunter Distillery ginger liqueur, local finger lime and Smirnoff vodka.
Savour the taste of the native plum a little longer by choosing Ochre Restaurant’s Twice Cooked Pork Belly served with Davidson plum jam, Queensland scallops and cauliflower puree.
At Palm Cove, Nu Nu chef Nick Holloway is pairing tiger prawns fresh from the Gulf of Carpentaria with Mareeba pineapple and persimmons from Tolga. The Tiger Prawn Schnitzel is finished with a spicy Korean ssamjang that brings together the tropical fruit flavours for a bite of summer freshness.
After ordering, enjoy the absolute Palm Cove beachfront view with a Pineapple Express – Sailor Jerry spiced rum, Falernum, fresh pineapple and lime, shaken and served with coconut sorbet.
In the city at CC’s Alfresco in Bailey, a Crystalbrook Collection Hotel, the signature beef steak has been paired with a light salad, ensuring the beef from Crystalbrook Station (west of Cairns) remains the hero of the dish while matching the casual, relaxed setting befitting a balmy Cairns evening.
Chef de Cuisine Matthew Larter sources ingredients from within a three-hour drive of the city hotel, adding fresh, seasonal produce for a unique tropical taste. The delicious local food can be paired with a Rusty’s Spritz, a bright and bubbly combination of Prosecco, spritz and soda garnished with seasonal fruits straight from Rusty’s Market in Cairns.
Connecting chefs to growers is all in a day’s work for Simon George & Sons General Manager Francis Wakeham, who says summer brings unique flavours to the region’s restaurants.
“We source lychees from the Atherton Tablelands which appear on breakfast dishes at Riley, a Crystalbrook Collection Hotel, the Novotel Cairns Oasis Resort and the Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort Port Douglas,” he says.
“Exotic mangosteen comes from the Scomazzon farm near Port Douglas which also grows tropical vegetables like taro for our best restaurants.”
Cassava is another tropical vegetable sourced locally by Simon George & Sons and Francis is delighted to see it included in the menu of the newly opened Oak & Vine, the Oaks Cairns Hotel‘s rooftop bar and restaurant overlooking the Cairns Lagoon.
The cassava fries with chilli Kewpie mayo are especially tasty when paired with Cane Fire Rum Punch, a mix of watermelon, coconut and mango bitters combined with Bacardi Blanca and Ora and topped with a slice of dehydrated mango.
Mangoes are an emoji for summer in Cairns & Great Barrier Reef, where you can pick the juicy fruit straight from the tree. For the taste of summer in a highball glass, Three Wolves create a Mango Collins using mango puree and their award-winning Wolf Lane Distillery Tropical Gin. The citrus summer gin is distilled across the laneway from the inner city bar, using 13 botanicals including locally sourced ruby grapefruit, mango, finger lime, lavender and mint.
Of course, a hard-earned beer really is the fitting end to a day of adventure exploring the world’s oldest rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef. Chill at Hemingway’s Brewery with the newly introduced Canecutter Lager. Its clean, citrus flavours are given a tropical tweak with light passionfruit and watermelon aromas, which pair well with the robust juicy flavour of the brewery’s Signature Hero Burger.
Sit back and reflect on the lager’s namesakes, the post-World War 2 immigrants who wielded their cane knifes under the sun developing the sugar industry for the tropical north. They too enjoyed summer in the tropics when the harvest had ended, and they could spend their time in the refreshing waterfalls of Cairns & Great Barrier Reef.