The other half recently zipped up to Singapore for a two-day work trip so rather than mope about the house, wishing I was somewhere else, a quick trip up to Queensland to see the family was booked in a flash. I don’t do it often enough.
Once past those annoying I’ve-got-all-the-time-in-the-world people that always dawdle and block the aerobridge, Big Sis, Nephew #2 and I were cruising down the freeway with me assuming we were headed to their house. Nope, there’s no time for that. We sped past their exit and continued down towards the Gold Coast, turning off and pulling into the Utopian-like Sanctuary Cove, playground of golfers, ladies who lunch and folk that have just too much dosh.
I remember seeing an Instagram from my sister, an image of some delicious baked eggs, posted many months ago from this place. Or was it a mms? Like it matters. Raw Kitchen and Espresso is just one eating house in a cluster of mixed businesses hugging the marina and Coomera River estuaries. This particular blow-in from Sydney felt a little out of place, however. It seems the proper attire in this neck of the manicured woods is all about pastel-coloured polo shirts with upturned collars, knee-length white shorts, socks up to the mid-calves and white sneakers. A suped-up golf buggy or million-dollar boat is the fashion accessory in this gated community, where the locals even drive around in golf buggies, off the greens. Toto, we’re not in Erskineville anymore.
Raw is all about wood panelling, exposed brick, water breezes, down-to-earth staff and seasonal local ingredients. The food style is as relaxed and professional as the service with good breakfast options and more appropriate for us, decent lunch choices. Three “boards” feature on the menu, each of them themed as earth, surf and raw; each sounding just like what we all wanted for lunch. The menu does specify that each board serves two but somehow the three of us almost polished off a board each. Sadly the flaccid hand cut chips ($9.9) didn’t get too much of our attention.
Earth Board ($21.9) – selection of roasted marinated vegetables, pan-fried haloumi, a crap-load of olives, bocconcini & toasted olive bread.
Surf Board ($24.9) – crumbed barramundi, salt & pepper squid, poached ocean trout (loved this), cured ocean trout, tartare & toasted rye.
Raw Board ($21.9) – charcuterie, local cheeses, olives & toasted olive bread.
When it comes to the food that this town dishes out, one of my favourite areas has to be Sunnybank with its plethora of Asian eateries. On the weekend the area is a traffic shit-fight due to inadequate parking and constant jams of cars coming in or trying to leave. I’d read good things about Pho Hiên Vuong with it’s apparent title of having Brisbane’s best pho, so I booked a table for brunch with Big Sis’ family. I’m always up for a Vietnamese feed, especially since getting back from there recently.
Thank god I booked as there was already a queue waiting to get in. The drawcard here is clearly the pho so I was glad to see a few of our party get it for themselves. The richness in the broth, be it chicken or beef, was sensational and to be honest it’s better than some of the ones I had in Vietnam. The cha gio ($10) , fried spring rolls were ok, as were the fresh ricepaper ones. Outstanding was the com ga nuong ($10) – bbq chicken with steamed rice, beautifully charred and slightly sticky with a rich lemongrass marinade. Even the fried chicken – banh canh ga nuong ($11), deliciously crispy bits of fried chicken with a side of tapioca noodle soup.
One of my Vietnamese staples is com tam dac biet ($10). There’s broken rice topped with fried egg, shredded pork skin, pork cake and a very lemongrassy pork chop. Not the best example I’ve had but it’s still very tasty. All finished off with a four-colour drink of mung beans, water chestnuts, jelly and coconut milk.
I really wanted to check out one of the local markets in Brisbane so rather than push the friendship and ask if we could drive into town I thought the Beenleigh Craft & Farmers Market may do. It’s held every Sunday in the showgrounds and by the look of it the overnight rain held back most of the stall holders as there was really nothing going on. Aside from a handful of locals selling a few vegetables from the backs of utes and trestle tables, plus a man with pickles and conserves, it was all about garage sale junk and army surplus. I even came up empty-handed after scouring for potential food photo props through the “antiques” shed. Edibles can be found at the “tuck shop”; covering burgers, sandwiches, hot chips and coffee. I wasn’t game on trying the coffee. Nephew #2 appears with an enormous soft serve ice cream, takes a few licks and declares it “not so great” and dumps it in the bin. That was our cue to ditch the market and try somewhere in Beenleigh for brunch.
The centre of Beenleigh has a country town kind of vibe and other than the obvious services it really lacks soul or any redeeming features that may attract non-locals. A few eating places were open so we head for somewhere the others had been to previously. Something Easy feels a little like a diner or sorts and is helmed by folks that make you feel right at home. We order a round of coffees and while the cappuccino looked decent enough, my flat white was beginning to grow some milk skin on the surface. The last time I had milk skin on a drink was when my mother used to boil milk and make hot cocoa. It doesn’t work so well with coffee so I was struggling a bit. Perhaps I should have ordered the macchiato I was initially craving but not seeing it on the menu may have caused some awkward confusion.
Big Sis goes with a toasted BLT ($8.5), Miss C has a good old toad in a hole ($10.9) and it was hamburgers ($9.9) all ’round for us three boys. Man, what a burger. Ignoring the overly crispy bun, it was what was between them that was magic. Hand made meat patty layered with beetroot, fried egg, lettuce, bacon, tomato and cheese. Some great chips on the side and all was forgotten about the bad flat white. Now, that was my cue to get back to Sydney.