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DINKUM DINING


Taste of the tropics

Light, fruity, fresh flavours characterise the tropical cuisine served in a guesthouse-style resort in the beachfront village of Palm Cove.

Story and photos Trish Harty

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Everyone loves tropical north Queensland for its pristine beaches, exciting marine life and relaxed lifestyle. Another highlight is the wide array of tempting tropical foods - particularly exotic fruits such as pineapples, mangoes, coconuts and lychees, as well as fresh shellfish and other seafood.

British-born chef Philip Mitchell settled in Palm Cove, a peaceful hamlet between Cairns and Port Douglas, after years of working in five-star kitchens around the world. Now he relishes the easy pace of north Queensland life, and the large range of tropical ingredients he is able to weave into each dish. "I aim to serve simple meals that are not too tricked-up," he says. "It's important to be true to the flavours."

ImagePhilip is executive chef at Palm Cove's Sebel Reef House Resort, an elegant boutique resort that is more reminiscent of a seaside guesthouse than a hotel. The whitewash and wicker d├ęcor and luscious gardens are immediately relaxing, and interaction with other guests is encouraged. Just outside is Palm Cove Beach, awarded Australia's cleanest beach earlier this year.

Built in 1958 by a Cairns bookmaker, the original Reef House was a family home until purchased in 1972 by Brigadier David Thomson, (later Federal Minister for Science & Technology). He regularly entertained high society guests at Reef House and over the years it evolved into a 70-room resort for tourists. Now managed by Mirvac, the property has three swimming pools, a restaurant and a brand new spa facility. But the seaside guesthouse traditions hold fast, with the relaxed 'Brigadier's Bar' continuing to operate on an honour system, and complimentary punch served at sundown.

The Reef House Restaurant boasts stunning views of the beach and glistening Coral Sea, a fitting backdrop for Philip's cuisine. "The reality of the tropical climate is that people want lighter meals rather than heavy dishes with rich sauces," says Philip. "And now chefs are more focused on giving people what they really want." Story end

Full story: Issue 31, Oct-Nov 03

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