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Those Pop-Up Restaurants at the Showgrounds

Recently, I was out driving around Rockhampton and silently judging everyone’s driving. I noticed all the traffic was going to one place, and unusually, it didn’t seem to be Centrelink.

I followed some cars whilst observing most of the road rules and ended up at the showgrounds. I figured there was some kind of pop up food fair going on and the stuff must be awesome for all these people to be here.

It was only a short walk to the entrance, thanks to me only needing to do three laps of all possible parking spaces to find the absolute nearest one. Unfortunately, a lady at the gate robbed me. She was smiling the whole time so she totally knew what was up with it.

Once inside it turned out we were at a different kind of event. This one, based on what I could see, involved standing in lines to take turns getting into cages, and then screaming as much as you can until they eventually let you out.

Ignoring all of that I found the food section and ordered a few dagwood dogs for the princely sum of $8 each ($10 at the establishment next to it). For this price you get a free napkin and a dip into a mystery barrel behind the countertop. The dagwoods were generously-sized although the dip wasn’t. I stopped and thought about that for a bit too long before realising I was holding up the line.

They were pretty good, and worth it! I didn’t complain, and the kids didn’t complain. Some of you may not be aware, but sometimes if kids don’t like things they will let you know.

We walked along with our stick sausage entrees, discussing why we weren’t allowed to have sauce on the whole sausage, enjoying all the background screaming whilst playing chicken with baby prams that seem to be ultra wide this year.

Since we came all this way I suggested we try one of the games. I began to line up and then noticed the, “No Losers” sign above it. Did this mean that everyone wins, or that nerds aren’t welcome?

I noticed that roasted meat rolls were avalable at a very reasonable $15 or $18 each depending on which identical trailer you looked at. I asked my son if he wanted to eat mains here, or buy a car instead, and he opted for a car plus Hungry Jacks (I am not a good negotiator).

We did briefly discuss trying the dessert fairy floss which now conveniently came in 44 gallon drums, however it became apparent that there was no real food here.

Whilst leaving I reflected that hell must be something like this – endless screaming, queues, clowns, carnies, balloons busting, and sauce on one third of the sausage only.

It has taken me a while to write this review because I wanted to go back and try a few more items, but sadly they closed already.

But we all know if they do come back I’m going again anyway.

Note: This article originally appeared on the Rockhampton Food Rater Facebook page, and was written by me on 28 June, 2023.

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McDonald’s Gracemere and Old Man Hanrahan

This morning I was supervising my teenage daughter’s driving as we proceeded around town picking up vegetables, second hand video games from the distant past, and a bulk lot of pot noodles with suspicious warnings in a language I can’t read.

As we neared home one kid told me they were dying of hunger, and the other was totally dying of thirst. Obviouly, I was wanting to maintain my position in the top 98% of parents, and losing a kid on my watch was going to seriously mess with my stats.

After carefully evaluating all of the healthy options available, and discussing how important fresh and nutritious eating was, we went to Maccas anyway.

We ordered up a shared meal and went and sat at a table coincidentally located under the blast chiller. I figured it was just character building, and that kids dying of malnutrition could handle some arctic temperatures for ten minutes or so.

In between all the teeth chattering I struck up some table talk. My 12 year old son filled me in about a new game called Minecraft that just came out for the Game Boy, which he plays every Fortnight with a friend named Roblox. I haven’t met that kid yet so I made a mental note to be in better touch with the people my offspring hang out with. My 18 year old daughter told me about all the places she was going to go to when she gets her license, and how fast she would be able to get there. I decided to increase our car insurance.

Our food arrived fairly quickly. Up until that time I wasn’t aware of the new technique for building hamburgers. Apparently, one kid holds the burger bun at one end of the room, and another kid who is the same age but wearing a managers badge stands at the other end of the room and hurls burger ingredients at high speed towards the buns. After three rounds anything that sticks to the burger is jammed into a box and sent off to the waiters. The customer is never informed of the scoring system, or who the winner is, which is a shame actually.

The chips were good and I believe that if you’re in the lucky minority to get fresh McDonalds chips then you should not only be appreciative, but should also go and buy a lotto ticket.

I found the nuggets to be pretty good, and they came with some sweet and sour sauce which was nice of them. However, I’m relatively certain that my local Gracemere store has served the same sweet and sour sauce repeatedly for the last four or five years. I probably messed up their winning streak by managing to open one of the packages through a combination of using my fingertips, teeth, one of my feet, and a pocket knife. If science ever has need for a packaged sauce that can survive a direct nuclear blast they should contact McDonalds and ask for the design of their sauce packets.

I bet that after we left a conversation like this happened:

Manager: “Oh great. They OPENED the sauce! Does anyone even know where we get more from?”

Assistant Manager: “I don’t know, let’s ask Old Man Hanrahan.”

Manager: “Hey, old Man Hanrahan! You’ve been here the longest, where do we get the new sauces from? Some jerk came in here and opened up the only one we have.”

Hanrahan: “Stop calling me Old Man Hanrahan!! I’m 15 years old, and I’ve only been working here for 3 months.”

Anyways, all kidding aside, and apart from the sauce packet that can’t be opened without mechanical assistance, and the burgers built blindfolded, my kids were happy enough with their lunch.

9/10, would recommend.

But remember: If you eat the pickles then some poor kid is going to have to figure out how to order more of them.

Note: This article originally appeared on the Rockhampton Food Rater Facebook page, and was written by me on 20 July, 2019.

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Lunch at the Kabra Country Hotel

Today I was driving around at a leisurely 50km/hr in a 70 zone. Presumably there was a party going on that all the caravan owners knew about, although none of them seemed to be in a big hurry to get there. Fortunately, I have been playing Mario Kart for something like 30 years, so I feel like I’ve been training my whole life for this.

I tried explaining to my wife why this was an impressive feat, but I will never understand women and why she thinks I was being childish. Thinking about it later I realised it was because I always beat her in Mario Kart, so that must be it.

Having picked up our shopping, my wife mentioned that we had been invited to lunch at the Kabra Country Hotel. That was really good, because I like lunch, and it was also a good reason to put off the yard work my wife had been helpfully reminding me about, for 4 or 5 weeks now.

So we headed out there, along with one of our kids. If you haven’t been, it’s just a few kilometres past Gracemere, right on the Capricorn Highway.

Once inside we found our pre-booked table and checked out the lunch menus. I decided to get the ‘OMG Burger’ which seemed pretty much to be a works burger with jalapenos and a ‘fiery hot sauce’. My wife said, “I knew you’d get that.” She knows me so well. If there was a menu item that said, “This thing will either kill you, or put you in a coma for a week, and you have to update your will and sign this waiver,” I’d definitely order it.

Our friends were arriving now, and we ordered up a jug of softdrink (I never drink and Mario Kart). Pleasantly, it was a jug with ice and a BOTTLE of softdrink, and not postmix. A+ for that!

The lunch menu has a good selection of pub favourites, plus pizzas, burgers, and toasties. I thought it was cool that most meals have the option of either beer battered steak fries, sweet potato wedges, or waffle chips.

We sat around talking about people who weren’t there, whilst my daughter kept herself up to date on world events using a website called toktok, or something like that. She says I won’t like it, but I’ve been meaning to check it out so that I can stay in touch with what my kids are up to. I did an online survey on Myspace that said I was in the top 70% of parents in that regard, if you need any tips.

Before long our meals came out, pretty much all at the same time. I mean, I get that it wasn’t peak hour in Kabra, but there’s plenty of places that can’t manage even this basic thing, so thanks for not putting us into some Lord of the Flies situation where you don’t know if you can start or not. Or if you have to wait. And does eating a chip count as starting?

My ‘OMG Burger’ was brilliant. It’s everything you want in a works burger – a tower that needed structual support to stay upright – plus a bit of spicy oompf. I knew the jalapenos were good when one of them slipped out of the bun and I ate it first. My eyes watered a little and my wife said, “Are you right?” which was when I realised I might have made a sound like a small injured animal. AN INJURED ANIMAL BUT WITH FIERY HOT SAUCE AMIRITE!?. Seriously, it was just good, and not overwhelmingly hot at all and I recommend it.

And this place, people… they know how to make some chips. The chips could be a meal! I’m just saying beer.battered.steak.fries are a thing and they have them! They have waffle chips and sweet potato wedges too which I want to try. But also, it creates an agonising situation where there’s the chips I already had, and want again, but there’s also new kinds of chips that are probably also good, but what to do? Is it normal to get them all? Sorry for letting you in my head for a minute.

Checking in with the family everyone seemed very happy and content with their lunches, and we’re coming back! If you haven’t been I reckon you should get off your butts and head out ASAP. If you have been before then get some friends and head out also.

Oh, I just noticed they have a FLAMIN’ JOE pizza with jalapenos and ‘fiery hot sauce base’. Next time, my saucy friend.

On the way home, in case you were wondering, there were no caravans.

And I didn’t do any yard work.

Note: This article originally appeared on the Rockhampton Food Rater Facebook page, and was written by me on 25 July, 2021.

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The Gracemere Hotel – At Least It’s Close By

It was my wife’s birthday today and I managed to talk her into going out to dinner with myself and the kids. Fresh back from a weekend away we were kind of all restaurant’ed out so we figured the Gracemere Hotel was a good choice due to being close by. We tend to go there a few times a year, irregularly enough that the menu always changes in between visits.

This time around they pulled out all the stops and even changed the carpet and interior furnishings for us.

Our previous visits have been a bit of hit and miss. I’m a fan of pub food but my recollection last time was of a fairly lackluster offering at restaurant prices – an expensive “seafood topper” that consisted of about 2 prawns and a teaspoon of sauce for $12 or so.

Upon arriving I was surprised that we couldn’t find a park directly out the front. Being ignorant of the time that alcoholics usually go home from pubs I couldn’t really see why it’d be so busy on a Tuesday. Turns out that Tuesday is schnitzel night, and the place was pretty packed.

We met up with our fellow diner for the evening, and after entering I was relieved as usual that a photo of our kids wasn’t behind the bar, with the words “banned for life” sharpie’d under it.

We started the evening with a win!

The new decor is fairly upbeat and the remodelling seemed to add a lot more seating. Looking down the middle of the restaurant reminded me of gazing down the aisle of a 747. A lot of people in a very small amount of space.

As we wandered down to our pre-booked table I noticed that the old floorboards still make you feel like a drunken sailor swaggering on the deck of an ancient sailing ship. Creak, everyone to the left, splash, everyone to the right.

We were seated and the youngest shouted something about a pizza whilst disappearing off into the kids play room.

The daughter, struggling against her impulse to join him and probably hang him upside down in the play equipment by his underwear decided to stay back at the table – apparently she is now old enough that food matters more than tormenting brothers.

Entrees, dinners and drinks were all ordered at the bar for a reasonable sum. I had opted for the schnitzel which allegedly was coming with chips at discount price that was forgettable enough. I added a “topper” of calamari for a value amount that could have been $8. The wife ordered some kind of beef that came with oysters, chips and a Diane sauce.

While we chatted we were delighted to overhear many conversations from the people talking loudly and close by. Up until that point I thought my exploits in the garage trying to fix things had educated my kids on all the swear words there were, but I think I even learnt some new ones tonight.

Anyways, our entrees arrive first, along with a mini pizza for the boy. Our cheesy toast was pretty good, although the mini pizza looked really oily – I’m going to think that the cheese they’ve used was to blame for that. I always think that you can judge a restaurant by how they treat kids’ food. I think a lot of places really disrespect kids and use the worst ingredients under the assumption that parents won’t pay for anything decent. Or maybe they just plain think they can get away with it and nobody will know.

We had quite a lengthy wait until our mains arrived. Actually, the place had just about emptied out. When they did arrive everybody seemed quite happy. My wife’s dish in particular looked interesting and different. Her Diane sauce was not too bad. I don’t know what it is with restaurants and sauces but I think they must all go and play golf on the week that sauces get taught, or they’re so used to getting it from a bottle, can, or packet that they have no idea how to mix 4 basic things together to make simple things.

One of our party ordered a mushroom sauce and I tried it. I was aghast – it should have been called rosemary sauce as the flavour was so incredibly overpowering that it was essentially inedible. I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt on that one. Probably the mushroom sauce was bubbling along nicely, and then the cook suddenly hallucinated and thought the pot looked like a 65kg roast lamb and loaded it full of all the rosemary in Gracemere. And probably from two towns over.

I got no sauce. Yes, three paragraphs about sauce, that’s how important it is to get right!

However, I was sauceless, but my chips were quite delightful. Crispy and battered – I was really happy with them. The serving size I felt was generous too, although the schnitzel was clearly of the budget variety and itself unremarkable and maybe a bit on the smallish side. A basic garden salad was wedged underneath there also and I was hungry enough that nothing escaped.

My “topper” of calamari was a generous serving I thought, lightly herbed (not rosemary, there was none left obviously) and lemony. Really nice.

My wife was happy enough with her meal, although she did comment that the oysters were particularly great. I tried a little bit of the pork belly topper from another meal in an effort to analyse what was wrong with it. I believe it was unseasoned and quite plain. Also, I would suspect it was probably bits of pork chop and not pork belly – and there was also no crispy “crackling” at all.

Overall it was a pleasant evening, the meals were enjoyable and nothing worthy of complaint. Pubs prices were paid and reasonable pub meals were received. The lack of table service still surprises me – I definitely bought less drinks because of the effort involved in ordering and hauling them back.

After the new fit-out the place looks pretty flash. Plus, they haven’t yet banned our kids yet so they have that going for them.

Don’t order the mushroom gravy. Ever.

Note: This article originally appeared on the Rockhampton Food Rater Facebook page, and was written by me on 28 April, 2015.

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Kinka Kippa Fission Chips

Just a quick one…

This past Saturday I was casually wandering around the Causeway Lake (situated between Yeppoon and Emu Park) photographing unsuspecting things. My wife and various friends were zipping around on jet skis, getting extremely soaked and commenting about how cold the water was. It’s winter. Just saying.

The kids, having destroyed as much nature as possible reluctantly dragged themselves back to the car. I mentally added another location to my inner map of places that we can never return to in case we’re remembered from the time before.

It was cold, and people were wet, and it was getting dark. Insects were bothering people.

Fish and chips were suggested, and in double time we were piled into cars and headed off to find a shop that did not have our photo on the wall yet.

A short trip down the road was Kinka Kippa, an unassuming place that looked like it could have hailed from a bygone era. The phone booth, post office box and the Streets ice-cream sign out the front reminded me of my childhood past, and the local corner shop. If you looked hard, you could almost see the Telecom sticker on the side of the phone box.

Some of our group went in the order, while a couple of us men stood around outside and made casual, idle conversation. Topics ranged from building things, to how fast other things go when you turn the engines on, and whether or not NSW is any good at football. I tried a few times to steer conversation towards whether or not Superman was better than The Flash, but I just got some odd looks. Thinking about it now, this could be why I’m not always invited.

After a little while our three separate orders came out and everything seemed to be intact. We’d ordered a variety of crumbed and battered fish, calamari rings and crumbed prawn cutlets – and chips of course. The servings seemed fairly generous. Each of the “pieces” were actually two smaller pieces, so we almost had double the expected amount. If you go and check these guys out on Trip Advisor you’ll notice that some people whinge about the fish size – I suspect they can’t count and didn’t realise they had double the serves.

I think we had $8 worth of chips between four, and it was a substantial amount. We actually had some fish left over, despite all my efforts to turn it into an eating competition.

Everything was cooked rather well and it was some of the best fish and chips I’ve had in a really long time. I would not only go back, but I would TRAVEL to go back.

As we sat outdoors an elderly gentleman started belting out some tunes from the attached restaurant. I am extremely hesitant to make any commentary regarding the singing, as I don’t want to damage any future career plans he might have to appear on Australian Idol or other shows like it. But, I did check for hidden cameras, to see if it was a reality tv show, and we were being filmed or something.

All in all, it was good food, we fed four of us for about $50 and had a bit more food than we needed.

I would recommend it, and I will be back.

This short review was also posted in the Rockhampton Food Rater on Facebook, on 5 June 2017.

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The Ultraviolet Seafood Extravaganza

The other night the family and I headed out to The Lionleigh for dinner, along with about 10 other people. I hadn’t been for a really long time. Actually, I think the last time I went my parents had to pry me away from my Commodore 64, and I may have worn an ALF t-shirt.

Upon entering we passed through the Ultraviolet Light zone near the pokies and I wondered for a moment if we were being decontaminated, depolarised, or perhaps just being put in the mood for nite-clubbing. I noticed this wasn’t the only entrance so I’m not sure if we came in the wrong way or if every visitor needs checking to see if they’re radioactive.

We found our table, perused the menus and managed to order drinks from the bar and return without any dramas. The kids found the ping pong table and unfortunately I had to advise them that I was the 1987 champion of the universe in ping pong, as awarded to me at the Bajool State School in the 6th grade. Unfortunately I lost the title in the following year due to a technicality (thanks a lot BARRY). However, I was happy enough to come out of retirement and bounce a few balls around. Fortunately the ping pong table had a built in handicapping feature where one end is in almost complete darkness. Being in the top 90% of dads – of course I made the kids play on that end.

Returning to the table and tired of chasing ping pong balls around it was quickly decided that my wife and I would share the seafood platter. At fifty bucks it seemed like pretty good value.

There was some upset as the restaurant seemed devoid of chicken wings, and almost out of ribs. Of course, the dish most in demand was chicken wings and ribs which meant that some of our party had to draw straws and pick a different pub meal.

I noticed the menu had a 1kg steak challenge, although it apparently required 24 hour notice. Bit disappointing, but understandable. My wife did not seem upset, and if I’m to be honest I don’t exactly need my picture on any more walls around town for eating enormous amounts of steak.

After some amount of time equivalent to three quarters of a beer, our platter arrived at nearly the same time as the same platter for somebody else. It actually looked quite loaded, and I was fairly impressed at the volume of fried things on it. There was quite a generous service of salmon, battered fish, calamari, prawns and some crumbed scallops. A large serving of chips and coleslaw was on the platter too, and plenty of tartare sauce.

The salmon was covered in (what I think was) a honey soy sauce that I judged to be “not too bad” but I felt it was an odd combination for the salmon. Three other people agreed, and my wife immediately declared that I had to eat it. The sauce had drifted into contact with a lot of the chips and I was told that it was my job to eat those ones. The couple of fresh prawns were apparently tasteless and disappointing. The calamari, battered fish and the chips were all pretty good. The OTHER platter ordered by the folks next to us had really good looking tartare sauce. Ours looked much yellower, runnier, and maybe a week older. Or perhaps it came out of a different bottle. The couple of scallops were GREAT, although they were covered in a seemingly over-generous amount of crumbs – most people were just eating the insides.

Overall, outstanding value for $50, we were both well fed with quite an amount left over. I asked for scores and received: 5 out of 10, 2 out of 5, and 4.5 out of 17 (I know right?) I give it a solid 5 stars for value and 3 stars in overall quality. I’d go back.

The kids both had no complaints, and I noticed that a nearby kids meal was “chicken nuggets” that looked like pretty decent in-house crumbed chicken pieces. Kudos Lionleigh for not dishing out processed chicken.

The pub restaurant atmosphere was fair, the air conditioning worked great, and the beer was cold. A proper amount of Farnsey and Barnsey was played.

Sadly, I cannot report on the house desserts as we brought our own birthday cake.

This was originally posted over at the Rockhampton Food Rater Facebook page on 3 March 2017.

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Recollections of Ribs & Rumps

Right after work today I asked the family if they felt like eating out and what they felt like having. My teenage daughter pipes up instantly with, “Italian!” closely followed by my young son with, “What the heck is Italian?”. An education session (i.e., fighting between kids) followed whereupon he advised that the only flavour of Italian he likes is Ham & Pineapple. Or perhaps anything with bacon.

I briefly considered the new Pacinos, but the sounds of the still-squabbling kids in the background motivated me to keep thinking. Keep in mind that I love Pacinos, but I typically save it for special dinners – like when I’ve done something wrong.

The boy then suggested Chinese and I caught myself daydreaming of Malaysia Hut, with bowls of steaming hot oriental wonders, delectable sauces and some of the best spring rolls for two towns over. However my wife immediately vetoed the idea. Crap.

I suggested Ribs & Rumps (R&R from now on) and as far as I recall everyone was in agreement. Possibly they weren’t, but my memory is funny that way.

As a long time believer that salad is just what food eats, I was pleased to hear that R&R was opening up locally. I have driven past the one in Gladstone during early evening and seen the place packed out – so you might say I was really keen to give it a go. My cunning plan was coming together!

The early reviews from foodie pages on Facebook have not been comforting I admit, although I’ve also seen quite a few positives also. The only way to be sure was to check it out myself.

We pulled up out the front at about 6:00PM. Tonnes of parking along the river bank at that time of evening. Externally, the building is just beautiful – it’s so great to see these kinds of developments coming to the river bank. Inside has a fair bit of wow factor too. Thankfully they’ve forgone the typical Aussie rustic steakhouse theme of number plates and tin junk nailed to the walls – and instead decorated in a nice modern timber and wrought iron style. The dining areas are offered both indoors and outdoors, with indoors divided between traditional seating and more intimate style tables with 3 or 4 tall stools around them. We speculated that some people might just gather around those for drinks (close to the bar) or for light dinners. A lot of tables outside too although the chairs are made of some kind of brightly coloured plastic stuff which seemed out of place, and a couple of couches. If it rained, you wouldn’t want to be outside as there didn’t seem to be a lot of protection against the elements. Fortunately the weather was absolutely perfect for us.

We were seated quickly and efficiently, a bottle of water and glasses was brought out and served to all automatically. Nice touch. It occurred to me how many staff were in the place, I think 16 were visible to me and quite probably more.

Menus appeared (they’re quite fancy, but I guess they need to do something with the leftover skins from all the cows). Perusing the menu there’s a decent selection or ribs, steaks, burgers and “other things”. One item stood out to me, and as I write this I’m screaming to myself, DON’T DO IT! But alas I did. I ordered the “Meat your Match Challenge” which consists of a 1kg rump steak, a full rack of ribs and a double serve of fries. INSANE. I knew it was ridiculous. Over the top. Maybe even impossible. But goddam there was a free knife on the line and apparently 10% cash back forever and some kind of elite club to recognise your awesomeness (or gluttony).

I went for it – ordering my steak medium and selecting a mushroom sauce. We also ordered one kids fish and chips, along with a Parmigiania and a Wagyu Steak Sandwich.

Right after the order was placed and my certain doom was ensured the waitress mentioned that only 5 people had attempted it in Rockhampton, and that only 3 of them had completed it successfully. I didn’t want to openly weep in front of the kids.

I passed the next 20 minutes or so nervous. To fill in time I asked the kids how their day went and they both just looked at me with pity in their eyes. I asked the boy if he thought I could beat the steak challenge and he said, “Yeah dad, you sure can eat a lot of dinner!”. I didn’t know whether that was a compliment or not.

My poor wife. I should point out that most ordinary wives would not put up with their husbands betting steak houses that they can eat anything they send out. Only my wife would put up with a grown man putting themselves through torture for a FREE STEAK KNIFE (hey, remember those Demtel ads?).

Pondering the feat before me we discussed my general tactics. From previous research (watching American reality tv shows) I knew that the best strategy is to eat as fast as you can and to save the starches for last. The general plan then was to knock over the kilo rump, attack the rack (I am aware that sounds a little rude) and to then make a run for the finishing line with the chips. The crowd will cheer etc.

However, my plans were apparently buggered when a plate of ribs and chips came out. We immediately thought, “Dang, it’s coming as two separate meals which kind of ruins the plans.” However, an eagle-eyed waitress (a manager I think) spotted the mistake and pointed out that it was actually a different meal altogether and it was quickly transported away. Obviously no beatings were administered as our food delivery person soon after arrived with our correct meals (the food delivery waitress was different to our actual waitress, which were distinct from the other waitresses that seemed to serve as overlords making sure the others delivered all the things correctly). I’m sure a PhD could be done on the waitressing structure here.

The food arrived at the table and all that was missing were guys with trumpets and a ticker tape parade. It was set down and my plate consisted of approximately 18 bags of chips, obscured mostly with a full rack of pork ribs (I was asked which sort of ribs I wanted by the way). The lot was then topped with a kilo steak. Aesthetically it resembled a buffalo turned inside out by a UFO with just it’s horns cut off. SWEET JESUS. Other diners gawked, I felt embarrassed. My wife could have killed me. The kids were impressed.

I set upon the kilo rump and I have to say it’s just about the best damned rump I’d ever had. Absolutely perfectly medium, seasoned well and moist inside. No need for any sauce on this baby. If this is the general quality of a steak out of R&R then I fully endorse its consumption. I managed to make it through in double time and even fancied that I might have broken some kind of record (in reality, it is not timed at all). I was pleased with myself – I was now just left with massive chips and ribs so passers-by stopped double-taking at least.

Unfortunately R&R were out of bibs but they did issue me with a bowl and a moist towelette in a packet. Turns out that the lack of bib was not a problem.

I found the pork ribs to be extremely dry and I’m still uncertain what kind of sauce was on them. I was expecting (assuming?) some kind of BBQ flavour but it was maybe something weakly resembling honey and soy. It was borderline unpleasant and I thought at the time that perhaps it was made wrong, or the chef that devised the master recipe should seek a CAT scan to look for tumours. Other explanations seem far-fetched. I gave up trying to eat the meat from the ribs and ended up “shaving” it off with my knife. My wife observed that it wasn’t even close to falling away from the bone by itself. I don’t know if R&R claim to cook their ribs daily or not but I’m quite certain these were from the past, and reheated.

After the ribs were done I opened up the towelette and covered my hands in smelly chemicals. I had a flashback to baby wipes – that’s what you need ruing a meal.

Our excellent waitress dropped by to see how things were going (she was excited that some chump at one of her tables was trying the challenge I think). I mentioned that it was probably time to give it up. There were a LOT of chips left… I would estimate several serves worth and at this point they were mostly very mushy and squishy and covered in meat and rib juice. Fortunately (or so I thought) I had been saving the mushroom sauce and I dumped it over the chips.

Unfortunately I hated the mushroom gravy and now all my chips were covered in it. DAMN. I really struggled through. I was far past any point of comfort and obviously way beyond what anyone eats (you know, I don’t go eating kilo steaks and whole sides of ribs with any regularity). The taste of the gravy was getting to me and I found that it was actually making me nauseous and sick. This was now beyond cute or interesting, I wanted to just give up.

But then the chips were only half remaining. Can you give up when you’re 90% there? Suddenly this was about more. It was greater than just a guy, and just a plate full of chips. It was about my ability to finish the thing I said I would do, and to not be one of those people that fail at chips. Did my wife and kids, and my waitress deserve for me to give up? HELL NO.

I ate one chip at a time and was actually to the point where I couldn’t swallow anymore. I was food drunk, irritated at the sounds in the background (like an old man, you kids get off my lawn now you hear!). At one point I started resenting the last dozen chips for not falling off the plate on the trip over from the kitchen. I wondered why my cook couldn’t have had smaller hands (I know they probably use a scoop but give me a break, I was not rational), or accidentally cut my steak 1mm thinner. Such a small amount left to go and I was floundering.

As the waitress passed I asked if I could have a little bit of pepper sauce. $3 later (seriously?) it arrived, and tasted pretty damned average too. Honestly, I am not a professional chef but I rate my home cooking skills above R&R as far as mushroom and pepper sauces go.

Nonetheless I added about half the sauce to the stagnant, cold, mushy pond of ex-chips pining for better days on my plate and if anything made it even worse. I thought about asking to swap my chips out for fresh ones but assumed it would be against the rules and/or would require taking out a personal loan.

I made it through, and I was bloody dying inside. The waitress quickly issued me with my free steak knife, photographed me for posterity and then brought us the bill.

I realised later that the menu promised some kind of VIP Challenger card for future discounts (which is different to the normal rewards card) but I didn’t seem to get that. May follow up at a future date.

In other business, the boy enjoyed his fish and chips, my daughter said her parmigiana was really good, but my wife was not so happy with the steak sandwich. It was meant to be on a toasted turkish bun but was actually a different type of bread altogether it seemed, and the overall quality was apparently less than expected.

So, overall I was quite happy and positive. Staff and atmosphere are top notch, a beautiful location that’s very accessible and handy. Absolutely first rate steak in my experience.

A few things to improve. The sauces should be free. Charge me as much as you want for a steak and even charge me for sides if you must but $3 for a tiny pot of (what is probably) bottled catering sauce is a bit poor. The ribs can use improvement. I think the menu said something along the lines of them being famous for their ribs. umm yeah. Even the ones from Sizzler are 3 times better. Perhaps I got the dodgy ribs reserved for the challenge, I would bet that 9/10 times the ribs are left until last and not finished. Pure speculation, but I’m grasping at straws to find a reason for them being as they were.

I also think they should be able to do better than a “wet wipe” for cleaning up after the ribs and I’m still boggling at the idea that you don’t get any sides at all with a steak – they’re all $7 each. Not even a little salad. Or a couple of chips. As a consumer it doesn’t sit well with me. I just bought the most expensive thing on the menu but the thing that sticks in my mind is being charged $3 for a thimble of sauce. Please change this.

We will go again and I will order a normal meal and enjoy it properly.

Do not under any circumstances undertake the challenge unless you’re as stupid as me!

Note: This article originally appeared on the Rockhampton Food Rater Facebook page, and was written by me on 7 January, 2015.

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Finding Gold in Mount Morgan

Based on positive reviews seen here I managed to peel the kids off the computers this morning and load them along with my significant other into the car and head on up to the Grand Hotel in Mount Morgan.

We had a little trouble working out which entrance to use as we were looking for a blackboard or something with specials on or maybe a sign along the lines of, “Hey stupid, there’s food inside this door”.

No biggie though, as we soon located the entrance to the restaurant and went inside and found a table. The table had an upright menu offering pizzas and a few other items but after looking around we spotted a menu on an adjacent table that seemed to be the full faire so we nicked it.

Now, being the caring parent that I am the first thing I noticed was that there was no kids’ meal section on the menu. Not a huge issue I thought, the meals were fairly priced and guess who gets leftovers anyway? 🙂

Once we interrogated the kids and forced a decision out of them we went up to the ordering area and discovered that there was a full menu displayed there, with kids meals. My wife quickly scaled down one of the kids’ meals in size and I felt a brief moment of sadness.

Our lunches arrived in only 10 minutes or so. Possibly 5 minutes either side to be honest as one of my kids was informing me about his latest Minecraft activities which involved blowing up some chickens or thereabouts. Either way my beer hadn’t run out so it was fast enough.

I had the chicken parmie which was served with a good amount of chips and a nice salad. I would say it was a generous serving without being the ridiculous proportions that these things sometimes arrive in.

The other half had the Reef and Beef which looked spectacular and she was extremely happy with. The prawns and calamari were plentiful. The steak was probably a little over the requested medium although the overall was an emphatic thumbs up. For the $20 it must represent the most astounding value of any meal in CQ that I’ve seen.

My daughter had the twice-cooked pork belly and it was served on a nice bed of vegetables – and what I think were cranberries. It was just spectacular in my view. One comment from her was that the crackling was a little burnt although to put this in total perspective this kid thinks that browned toast is burnt. Indeed there were some blackish areas but I can’t imagine any carnivore passing it up nonetheless.

The younger boy orders a plain and vanilla fish and chips and I didn’t try any but it looked pretty good and zero complaints could be heard (and he’s a fussy eater, so hearing nothing is like hearing THS IS THE BEST EVER). A lot of establishments basically treat kids’ meals like crap, although this appeared to be something I would have been very happy with myself so kudos there guys.

Overall we were all happy with the experience and will go back. My wife (who is not a foodie, but does know what she doesn’t like) is not easily impressed is already planning what to have next time. Possibly this was aided by one of the chefs coming out and mentioning his deep fried chocolate which is new to the menu.

I think all meals and a round of drinks were around $60 which is less than a trip to Sizzler or a couple of pizzas.

TL;DR Pretty darn impressed – I suggest you go for a drive up and try it out.

Note: I originally posted this review on the Rockhampton Food Rater Facebook page on August 16, 2014.

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Miss India versus Indian Brothers in Rockhampton

A review, and natural comparison.

After a little bit of late night shopping it was brought to my attention that my wife and kids were hungry, and we were still 20 minutes from home. My thoughts first went to what was in the freezer to cook, but that was quickly put on hold once I found out that my eldest child was starving and that if we waited for 20 more minutes she would probably die.

After some quick re-consideration it was announced that we shall be having indian tonight, and being fans of Miss India we decided to go to Indian Brothers. I wanted to debunk this place and prove that it couldn’t possibly be as good as my beloved competing eating establishment. Stay with me, I’m not completely insane.

So we head off to the South Rockhampton store. On the way I regaled the kids with tales of Naan breads the size of trampolines but they were not impressed. I told them stories from my youth of Vindaloos so deadly that one needed welding gloves to ladle it out. The trip was otherwise uneventful, except the youngest boy somehow “accidentally” opened his door mid-turn down Fitzroy Street. If anyone saw a silver Dualis with a child’s head peeking out and a parent shrieking like a deranged banshee then I apologise. My parent of the year award is clearly safe once again.

Arriving at the destination with both kids still with their heads on we entered the store. The smell was amazing. My brain went into some kind of primal haze and my higher order functions disappeared. All I could do was marvel at the smells of awesomeness. As women are aware there is only one other thing that causes men to go stupid like this but as far as I’m aware there are no shops in Rockhampton that sell it for $9.95.

We were immediately greeted and offered sample food which was appreciated. If they had also offered me a beer I probably would have moved in. I wonder if they would adopt?

Some tables and chairs were neatly set with dinnerware slightly fancier than I was expecting for a retail shop with a tiled floor. Not exactly the classiest place to go on a first date or an anniversary, but perfectly serviceable to visit with a bunch of mates or a horde of kids.

We selected a family meal deal that included two curries, two naan, some papadums, raita and a couple of other bits and pieces and headed off home. Songs have been sung about love, death and loss. More than just a few country singers have sung about floods, drought and sick horses, but I think there should be more songs about how damned long the drive home is when you have nice smelling food in the car.

Sampling the first curry – a Mango chicken – I had to admit that it was pretty damned good. A very distinct mango flavour of course and a velvety creaminess. Plenty of chicken which I had to battle the kids for. The second curry was a Lamb Rogan Josh which I have to admit I would pass on given the choice again. It had a LOT of Garam Masala spice in it, and maybe that’s traditional, or maybe the guy put 20 times too much in. It was also a little watery and that seemed to separate out on my plate from the rest of the sauce – just a little bit visually unappealing. The lamb was tasty though.

The naan was just Fricken’ Amazing. Miss India does a good naan but I’m awarding the prize to Indian brothers. Each one is a meal in itself and I found the Garlic and Cheese one to be just a small notch above the chef’s special (I forget, but it featured spinach).

Rice is just rice to me, although my wonderful bride said that she probably preferred the shorter grain rice at Miss India. I enquired with her regarding the actual difference. She may have interpreted my question as sarcasm and unfortunately I cannot report back what she said due to the language used.

Overall, we were happy. Good value for forty bucks. Sadly I cannot judge which is best between Miss India and Indian Brothers as I would still happily shop at either. If I had to be nudged in one direction I might go in favour of the latter due to the terrific naan. But I still think maybe somebody fell into the lamb curry pot with the wrong spice bottle.


Note: This was originally written for the Rockhampton Food Rater page on Facebook, and was published there on October 2, 2014.

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Outback Jacks in Rockhampton – a revisit

I know that Outback Jacks has copped a bit of flack in the past, and of the couple of times I’d been there in the past for both lunch and dinner I hadn’t been impressed with the food or the service. Seriously, what’s worse than being parked in a restaurant with a mouth as dry as the Sahara Desert and nobody can be found to serve another round. Assuming that restaurants like to make money it seems to me that flogging alcohol must have an awesome profit margin and therefore waiters should stand next to your elbow in case you need another. I don’t think it would even be offensive to ask, “You look thirsty, would you like two?” But I digress because my blood pressure’s now increasing just thinking about it.

Due to the new management I had been thinking about going back for awhile, but at the same rate I like my friends and family and wasn’t sure if I should experiment at their expense in case it was still bad.

Lo, in my inbox came an email about “All you can eat” ribs and wings. $29.95. A work colleague doesn’t mind some ribs or wings either, and even though I explained in advance that he might want to bring his own esky if he likes to receive drinks we decided we’d give it a go.

I made a quick trip past my wife’s work area (we work at the same place). It’s an informal thing but I feel the need to ask for some kind of permission before embarking on anything that is “unlimited”. I guess it’s kind of like the last reality check before doing something dumb, like jumping off a cliff, drinking a yard glass of beer, or eating ribs until you burst.

Approval was granted and off we drove to Outback Jacks. The drive took longer than the walk would have and there was some momentary wonder at how lazy we were, but I asserted that the walk back would be uncomfortable once we ate the place out of ribs. We’d probably have to send a boy off to the shops to buy some more.

We fronted up and suddenly felt a bit sheepish. The infinite ribs (I decided I like infinite better that unlimited) deal wasn’t on the menu apparently as its a promo thing. I was hoping I could just point at it and grunt rather than saying out loud that we’d quite like to take out a bet that we can eat more than the conventional amount of ribs that could be gotten for $29.95. Nonetheless the waiter was quite good and didn’t show any apparent surprise at our undertaking. He arrived fairly quickly with some drinks which was extremely welcome after the 2 minute drive and 10 metre walk.

The place wasn’t very busy, but it was also a Thursday and for some reason it seems reasonable that steak meals would be more popular on other days, and even moreso at nights. Also, we kind of had our own waiter which I suggest you try sometime.

After about 10 minutes the meals arrived and I believe it was a fairly generous helping of ribs and a couple of chicken wings. We had both opted for “mild” and not the optional “hot”. Having been to the Yeppoon Chilli festival just weeks ago I thought my wife would not be happy with me if I hurt myself in that manner again.

The ribs seemed to be primarily beef and were absolutely spectacular. The meat was delicious, attached the bone but happily willing to spring free and give up it’s BBQ’y goodness.

I think there were three chicken wings that were incased in some kind of “southern” batter, with copious amounts of sauce. Now, one thing struck me – all the bones in the wings were broken which made them annoying to pull to bits. I nearly abandoned them except that you had to eat everything on the plate to get another serve. The wings themselves tasted – well – just bad. If you imagine the worst cook you know who has recently been to one of those home party plan events where they sell herbs and spices. And this guy, he has bought a whole bunch of different spices and decides to make some wings. This is just like what they would turn out like. If I made these at home and served them, I would preface dinner with an apology.

I ate them, but I would skip them in a heartbeat.

So, back to this unlimited thing. I mentioned a rule a minute ago about eating the whole plate. One thing that isn’t terribly obvious is that underneath the ribs and wings is a bed of thick cut chips about equal in weight to the meat. I would estimate 200 grams of chips at least. I don’t eat potato so I was in a tough place! I really wanted more ribs but I suddenly felt a little scammed. Upon closer inspection of the photograph of the meal on the wall with a telescope as powerful as the Hubble I was able to notice that it indeed showed some chips.

The waiter (bless his heart, he was great) understood my predicament and rushed off to bring back more ribs anyway whilst I poked at the chips wondering if they could be exchanged for, well, anything else.

Our second drinks came quickly and even though we had to ask for them I was pleased that they came with a fresh glass of ice.

Arriving back 10 minutes later with more ribs it occurred to me that it would basically be unlikely for anyone to go much beyond that due to the sheer amount of wait time between serves. I took out the remaining ribs which were somehow better than the first – and they were fricking, awesomely piping hot and wonderful. I will think about them for some time. The wings – I kind of sidelined those. I would have jettisoned them if I could have.

Overall, it was enjoyable and I would go back. The unlimited ribs feel like a bit of a dodgy offering overall though – there’s so many chips to get through, the wings aren’t that good, and the wait is long enough to limit the damage you could do.

Edit: We drove back!

Note: This article originally appeared on the Rockhampton Food Rater Facebook page, and was written by me on 11 September, 2014.