“ Reviews for both the Noodle Bar and the restaurant are welcome here / Address: 35-41 Wharf Street / PO Box 7320 Cairns / QLD / Australia 4870 / Tel: +61 (0) 7 4030-8888 „
~Tasty Treats for Tired Travellers~
On our first night in Cairns in July 2009 we'd arrived in the evening after a 26 hour flight from London to Sydney and a further 3 to 4 hour flight from Sydney to Cairns. Our body clocks were pretty confused by that point so we decided the worst thing we could do would probably be to go straight to sleep. We owed it to ourselves to get out and wander around, get some dinner and then go to sleep.
Our wanderings brought us eventually to the Cafe China noodle bar. This was located on Abbott Street between the art museum and the casino. I loathe gambling and if I'd realised the business was connected to the casino I probably would have gone elsewhere but I was so tired and disorientated that I didn't realised which is probably a good thing because I loved the food we had.
Two things attracted me - the outdoor terrace and a near overwhelming urge for noodles. If you ask me to characterise the culinary highlights of two weeks in Australia then noodles play a large part in all of the more memorable meals.
~Heritage is Relative in Cairns~
We headed up a few steps, across the verandah and into the noodle bar. It was one of the least fancy looking places in the city and that's probably partly why I didn't spot the casino connection. The building is known as the Customs House and is classified as a heritage building - mind you in Australia, anything as old as your grandad will be. The noodle bar is located in the lobby of the building. There's apparently a fancier Cafe China restaurant inside the casino that's much more expensive and more swanky but we were more than happy to keep things simple.We chose our dishes off a large board fixed to the wall behind the serving lady which listed the available dishes. We ordered two seafood laksa at just under AU$12 per person and added a beer for my husband and a glass of white wine for me which together added another $9 to the bill. A 'help yourself' set up allowed all diners to take as much free iced water as they wanted so we also filled up with a couple of glasses.
Whilst the food was being prepared we took our drinks out and found a table on the verandah. Looking across the street we admired the old cast iron balconies on the buildings opposite and started to soak up a bit of the atmosphere of Cairns.
~Everything's Big in Oz~
We had ordered the 'regular' size dishes and 'small' had been available for a couple of dollars less. When our noodles arrived I think we realised that small would have been plenty and that regular could probably feed two people. Thank goodness we'd only ordered one small portion of prawn toasts as a starter although it arrived at the same time as the noodles so we'd rather failed on the idea of having two courses. The toasts were small and fat with a thick layer of minced prawn and sesame seeds on top but we could easily have done without starters completely due to the speed of the service and the size of the dishes. Digging around in my bowl I found green lipped mussels, three or four giant shell on prawns, lots of juicy fish balls and surimi sheets. The sauce was a mild creamy curry sauce which was good but not as spicy as I'd hoped it would be. The creaminess showed that it contained a lot of coconut milk and I hate to think how much fat there was in the dish. I reassured myself that I'd be off diving for three days and could worry about burning it off some other time. There were two types of noodles in the dish; thin rice noodles and thicker egg noodles.
It was a hot evening (by English standards) and we took a long time to get through the dishes before eventually admitting defeat with quite a lot of noodles and sauce still in the bowls. We took another glass of water each and then paid our bill and headed back to the hotel. The meal of one portion of prawn toasts, two seafood noodles, a wine and a beer came to a total of $38.50 which at the July 2009 exchange rates was just under £10 per person. I liked the food enough that I'd have been happy to go back and try some other dishes but Cairns was just so full of great inexpensive food that we found new places to go each time we ate out.
Cafe China Noodle Bar
You can check out the menu at http://www.reefcasino.com.au/pdf/cafechinanoodlemenu0710.pdf