Although long term travellers are always inclined to watch the pennies, everyone deserves a treat from time to time. Being a self professed foodie, my idea of a treat inevitably involves a meal.
Putting my research skills to good use, I browsed good old TripAdvisor for the 'Best Restaurants in Cairns' and at #2 noticed Vivaldis. With an average price bracket of $10 - $30, this seemed considerably cheaper than the French restaurant C'est Bon at #1, attracted by the smaller price tag and the romantic feel of the candle lit balcony seating, I decided to book a table.
On arrival, it was difficult to spot the entrance. After a few seconds of looking puzzled, we realised that you have to enter the Mantra Esplanade building to get to the stairs that lead up to the restaurant on the first floor.
We were warmly greeted by a male waiter who showed us to our table and gave us the menus. The indoor seating is pleasant, but the real winner in my opinion is the balcony area. The decorative fairy lights and candles on the tables create a very romantic ambiance, perfect for a relaxed dinner or a date. You also have a nice view of the esplanade, which on a warm evening is perfection. (There are heaters on the balcony so the outdoor area should still be pleasant enough on colder nights.)
Because I am serious about my food choices and I suffer from a serious case of food envy, I had already looked at the menu online and had my heart set on one particular dish (The Fillet of Veal). Confident in my choice, I was left heartbroken when the waiter apologetically announced that they had ran out of the Veal dish for that evening. I am not going to lie, I did sulk for a little while but we had arrived at the end of service (9pm) and the waiter nicely recommended the Angus Fillet of Beef as an alternative.
The menu had enough variety to include fish dishes, meat dishes and vegetarian dishes but small enough not to overwhelm. I tend to find that the more choice is available, the harder it is to choose so i prefer well though tout yet modest menus.
After a few minutes of deliberation our orders were as follows (for 2 people):
Gratineed Green Lipped Mussels, Macadamia, Leek, Pernod and Onion Butter ($16)
Tandoori Battered Local Prawns, served with a Spicy Tomato Salsad ($17)
x2 Prime Black Angus Filet of Beef on wilted Rocket with Parsnip Puree and a Rich Red Wine Jus ($68)
No deserts because we were stuffed!
Brokenwood 8 Rows Cabernet Merlot ($39)
The total bill for two people came to $140 (+ optional gratuity). The food was well presented and absolutely delicious. My disappointment with not being able to have the veal disappeared as soon as I had the first mouthful of the Fillet of Beef, it was everything it should be - succulent and so tender it melted in your mouth. The portions were very reasonable and we felt satisfied by the end of the main course (next time I think I will skip the starter to try one of the deserts because they have a delicious selection).
I left the Restaurant feeling happy with my choice of venue, however, there a few things that I feel could have made our experience even more memorable:
The waiter that initially greeted us was very nice, friendly and professional. It would have been nice to have been served by him throughout the night. Instead, although the restaurant wasn't busy we had multiple waiters tending to our table. All of the staff members were perfectly capable and polite, but I just find it is nicer to establish a relationship with the same waiter throughout your meal, it makes you feel extra special!
Having worked as a waitress myself for many years, I feel that as well as offering an alternative to the main which I wanted but was no longer available, it would have been a sign of great customer service to have been offered a free desert, glass of wine or any other gesture of goodwill for the inconvenience. It is what I would have personally done as a waiter (and have done in similar situations many times before). Again, not a turnoff, but it always pays off when people go the extra mile and it would have made my experience even more memorable.
Overall, I had a very enjoyable evening. I have personally recommended the restaurant to friends and I would definitely like to go back before my time in Cairns comes to an end...especially in the hope that I will get to try the Veal dish that I keep longing for!