1) Indigenous Aussie ingredients: Ochre
Take your tastebuds on a tour of Australia with a meal at award-winning Ochre in Cairns, which boasts a prime waterfront location and an adventurous menu. The dining space is designed in honour of the outback, starring natural timber and a four-metre artwork by indigenous artist Shane ‘Woodinda’ Wallace. The menu changes in accordance with what’s flourishing on land and in the water. Even the antipasti are exciting: salmon and green ant gravlax, smoked kangaroo with wild spice, Kakadu plum and emu wonton, Davidson plum chilli sauce with smoked crocodile, and riberry mayo with Caprese and damper crumb. Mains continue the native love-in, with options such as tempura bugs (slipper lobster) with lemongrass and green papaya salad, yabby, prawns and clams, crocodile and prawns, and kangaroo sirloin with quandong-chilli glaze.
2) Steak: Bushfire Flame Grill
Carnivores will think they’ve died and ascended into Brazilian-inspired heaven at Bushfire Flame Grill, a temple to all things meat, with top-notch cuts sourced from Australia’s prime cattle stations and suppliers. The restaurant occupies the ground floor of the Pacific Hotel Cairns at Spence Street and Esplanade. The main event here is the ‘thrill of the grill’: skewers of meats slow-roasted on a triple-decker open-flame churrasco grill, while handy carvers circle your table, offering you picks from the seasoned and marinated selections. The à la carte menu is packed with Brazilian hits – try feijão (Brazilian black-bean stew) and moqueca, a toothsome seafood dish.
3) Seafood: Prawn Star
Find out why Queensland’s seafood is world-famous with a trip to the cheekily-monikered Prawn Star at the Marlin Marina on Pier Point Rd. If there’s anything better than sitting on a boat (yup, the Prawn Star is a waterbaby) with a giant platter of just-caught seafood and an ice-cold tinny of beer, we’re yet to find it. The chalkboard menu pays homage to seasonal stars, but you’re likely to be offered prawns, bugs, oysters, crayfish, mudcrabs and more – with the option of adding in a delectable seafood sauce.
4) Pies: Meldrum’s Pies
Australians and Brits share a soft spot for pies: Meldrum’s Pies at Grafton St in Paradise serves some of Cairns’ finest – and most unusual. Forget formulaic steak and kidney or plain old beef (though of course they’re available too); here, your options include macadamia chicken satay, Caribbean chicken, spicy Moroccan lamb, tuna mornay and baby spinach, curry steak and vegetables and more. Vegetarians are considered too – there’s a top-notch green-curry option, for example. To do things properly, add mashed potato and gravy on the side. Sit in the little café or grab your pie to go; the coffee’s not bad, either.
5) Nordic treats: Cafe Fika
Cairns has plenty of surprises up its sleeve – one of which is Cafe Fika, a Swedish shrine to cakes, coffee and smørrebrød, tucked away on Grafton Street. Fika is the Swedish tradition of enjoying coffee and cake with friends – a tradition we most definitely support – but there are plenty of savoury options to relish here, too. Start the day with caviar and eggs on crispbread or skagen toast (prawn with dill and sour cream), try an open sandwich, or bite into something more substantial: meatballs with lingonberry jam, potato bake with anchovy and crispbread, or waffles with cream and jam.
Begin your Australian adventure in style with Singapore Airlines. Fly one stop to Cairns from £665