Movida - 1 Hosier Lane Melbourne

It's somewhat depressing to spend a few hours savouring the exquisite food at this iconic tapas bar hidden way among the graffiti in this little laneway near Flinders Station. Why? Because every visit there points up the lack of adventure of every restaurant I've ever visited on the Gold Coast. This place helps to restore your faith in fine food - and I don't mean expensive food (as usual, with a fine bottle of Spanish Rose our booze bill was much higher than the food bill). It is a sharp reminder that there still exists chefs who will push the boundaries, and who obviously go to the most intricate lengths to put something on your plate, no matter how small, which guarantees you a palate-fuck (there, I've said it and I'm glad). The wait staff are so professional. None of this insincere 'Good day, and how are you today. My name is Fred and I'll be your waiter today.' After he settles us down and takes my jacket to hang up out the back, It's straight to business - here's what we've got that's good. We throw him a handful of tapas orders and we are told they will come out in no particular order. Great. Adds to the surprise of it all. But the food. Every mouthful a flavour experience. We had sardines, scallops, oysters, octopus (not those mass produced little plastic things from Asia which nobody can cook, but 2cm thick tender logs sliced from the tentacles of a reasonably large octopus). Then a cheese platter and a watermelon gaspacho. It was so good. My second time there with Bron, and I still can't believe it. You have to book at least a month out to get in, or take pot luck at the handful of stools at the bar. We arrived around 2pm on Sunday, and happened on an empty table in this small restaurant that was alive and loud, with walls smothered in bottles, books and artwork. Makes Paradise Point restaurants look like funeral parlours. I don't include Sayang Malaysian - the next entry - in that comment.


Les and Asha -Sayang Malaysian - Grice Avenue Paradise Point

At long last, an Asian/Indian style restaurant at Paradise Point which has great food, great ambiance, is clean and of course, great food. We've been there many times now, by ourselves and with friends, and we really can't fault it. Chef Les D'Silva and his wife Asha are well suited for this restaurant. They are both outgoing, friendly folk, and they provide good advice about their varied meals. We are trying to work our way through the menu, but sometimes, even with a group, we just say to Les, "just bring food". You need to phone for a booking - doesn't that say it all. Just do it - 07 5529 5881.


Bill Granger - Bills, Darlinghurst Sydney

We had read about Bills restaurants (there are three) in Sydney for some time and on a recent visit decided to spend a leisurely lunch at this friendly and casual day-time eatery. We had only recently bought Bills book 'Sydney Food', and every recipe we have tried so far has scored a 10/10. The experience at Bills was a welcome relief from the simpering, insincere service we have come to expect at far too many restaurants. It must be the choice of staff. We would never normally join a queue to get into a restaurant, but we happily did so at Bills. The head waiter was friendly and efficient, and ensured that everyone was seated as soon as a table became available. It really was like dining with a stack of friends. Their signature large dining table in the centre of the restaurant, covered with newspapers and magazines, sat about 16 people, shoulder to shoulder, but nobody seemed to mind. We had a cosy table for two on a side wall, from where we absorbed this wonderful atmosphere and of course the simple, but fine food. We know Bill himself is not the chef at each restaurant, but he has set the standard, prepared the menus and oversees what is indeed a splendid team of chefs and waiters. We shall return.

Mark English - Blue Olive cafe + restaurant, Paradise Point

A welcome surprise at Paradise Point, where restaurants are plentiful, but good restaurants are few and far between and we've tried them all from time to time. We can recommend Blue Olive while Mark is there. (last visit 22 April 2010) Innovative food, and for the first time in my life, on a spectacular duck salad was rasberry croutons - real rasberries which were crunchy through either air or freeze drying. Whatever the process, it was good food and we enjoyed it all, especially the desert. This place is worth supporting and if the young table waiter Daniel is on duty, you can also expect great service and an interesting chat if you are so inclined. Daniel has worked in restaurants around the world and even he is impressed by the Blue Olive. Makes for a good team. Good work everyone. 07 5529 5850 at 1/38 The Esplanade, Paradise Point.

Brendan Payne - Cafe Monsoon Paradise Point

Regular chef at Cafe Monsoon, an excellent morning and lunch venue behind the Post Office at Paradise Point. The previous owners, Lynn and Peter have sold for a bit of a rest and we wish them well. The new owners don't have the personalities of Lynn and Peter, but they will hopefully learn to be more friendly. Phone for their details (07) 5577 1899.

Tim Hoy - Fishbone

A chef who abandoned his restaurant career because of disappointment with restaurant ethics, and instead opened a great little fish and chip shop with a difference at Southport Queensland. He serves only Australian seafood and makes the best seafood chowder in the winter months. Go there for fish and chips like you've never had before. It's called Fishbone Takeaways, phone 07 5539 6933. Find them at the little shopping complex across the road to the north of the big Bunnings at 496 Olsen Avenue, Southport. Say hi to Nicole, Tim's hard working wife while you are there.

Mano - Mano's Kitchen (the original)

I'm talking the original Mano - the real Mano, who I first met when he opened his little restaurant named after his brother Raphael at the top of the Paradise Point shopping centre some 25 or more years ago. His headquarters restaurant is Mano's Kitchen at Atrium Resort, 510 Marine Parade Biggera Waters. I've been going to Mano's restaurants for a long time and I have never been disappointed. The menu doesn't change that much but it is consistently good, generous and superbly prepared, and if you want a good steak meal, his is about the best in town. Mano has his badge on a few restaurants on the northern Gold Coast. Usually, those that he oversees personally are worth going to, and they include Mano's Bistro 3 in Musgrave Avenue and Mano's at the Ross Evans Nursery on Oxley Drive. Regrettably, I can't give any stars to those restaurants which have bought Mano's name through acquisition, like the one at Paradise Point. But go to Mano's Kitchen, where Mano himself is the chef, phone (07) 5528 8266.

Antonio Rufino and Wayne - Rufino's Runaway Bay

JULY 2010. I have to report an end to another era for our favourite restaurant, but in reality, it's just the Rufino family moving the chairs around. Partner Wayne has packed his apron and heading overseas for three months and after that, perhaps his own restaurant. Antonio Rufino, in my opinion the best maitre d' in Australia has yearned for some time to be a screen writer and is pursuing a university course on the subject. Luckily, not too much will change at Rufino's. The same chef stays in the kitchen (must get his name) As a surprise, we get the original godfather of Rufino's back. Gino (Antonio's dad), who runs another restaurant down at Arundel, will take over the pizza oven again, which means we will be there for the Sicillian pizza fix regularly.

Antonio can still be found at Rufino's on Sundays and Mondays we are told. He makes a mean cocktail - ask him for Ken's Micky Finn. The Cicilian inspired food is always brilliant and I go there just for the pizza and the cuttlefish floating in the best sauce in the world. The restaurant has been there forever, first under the guidance of Antonio's parents, Gino and Madeline. Phone 07 5577 1070.

The Polish Place - Mount Tamborine

July 2010

Hadn't been there for many many years, so took grandson on a journey of discovery up the mountain. Sitting next to the fireplace at The Polish Place, we ordered the house speciality, Pork Hock and Polish Dumplings. Grandson opted for a Vienna sausage and a salad terrine.

The service was a little unwelcoming and disjointed, the wait girls were stuffed into Polish traditional dress with shoes busting at the seams and at first glance, the prices were, well, up there.

The food was fantastic - as was the view over the valley to the west. I had only tried Pork Hock once in Sydney many years ago and had fond memories. This was the best. All three meals were voted first rate and we left there feeling well satisfied and despite the hefty bill, we had received excellent value for the money. As I keep saying, the size of the bill can only be truly measured after you've eaten. Phone: 07 5545 1603


Don't worry, we will either name the chef or the restaurant in this category, but let's start with:

Alora - Paradise Point

Any restaurant which has the gall to put Basa on the lunchtime menu and call it 'dory', and then charge $19.90 for the plate has got to be on the bottom of any foodies list. Such a place is at Paradise Point, which, with minor exceptions mentioned below, seems to be the dumping ground for incompetent chefs. It's called Alora, and we tried it recently for lunch. The wait staff of course knew nothing about basa, and simply looked vague when we challenged their choice of Asian catfish as a special's board dish. So we ordered something they couldn't stuff up, a steakburger and a beef stirfry. Yep, they stuffed it up. In both cases, the meat was inedible. A good piece of cardboard with the word beef written on it would have been more flavoursome. This is obviously a restaurant which specialises in buying the cheapest cuts and expects third-rate chefs to turn it into food. Interestingly, the waitress was very aware that we had rejected the meat in both dishes and in fact asked if it was poor quality. She showed a glimmer of concern and she took the plates to the kitchen and seemed to discuss the situation with the chef. But nothing was done. No apology, no refund, no discount, no nothing. A definite no-visit restaurant.

Gordoni's - Paradise Point

(The place that was once good and then penny pinched on cheap chefs)
Paradise Point

This is the joint where we sent back two our of four tapas, and really should have sent three of them back. The staff here apologise for the food, how bizarre is that.

Mano's Italian Restaurant - Paradise Point

No relation to the real Mano thank God. We and others have sent food back and ended up in useless arguments with the chefs who treat everyone like idiots. The owner apologises and shrugs his shoulders - what can you do with cheap chefs. He deserves them.

Darcys Restaurant Bar - Ephraim Island

A tad pretentious, but admit we haven't been for a while. This was the place where the waiter, when asked where they fish came from, said proudly Lake Victoria, not knowing that this is one of those cesspools in Africa which smothers the world in cheap fish of dubious quality. Once again, the staff know nothing about the food. I wonder why they are there?