The Raw Prawn and Barnacle Bill’s Restaurants in Cairns, Queensland, AustraliaDecember 1st, 2011 by Michael Kwan
Located on the esplanade (not far from where we saw the giant bat colony), The Raw Prawn offers both indoor and outdoor seating. Also, while it’s name clearly indicates that they are geared more toward the seafood end of things, they also have a good variety of game meats (“bush tucker”).
If you are seated before a certain time (around 6pm), you are offered a 15% discount on your supper. We just missed the cutoff, but we decided to give the place a try anyhow.
Having a hard time deciding, I opted for a combination plate that consisted of kangaroo, crocodile, and beef. This “taste of Australia” was, well, quite tasty. The kangaroo wasn’t nearly as “gamey” as I expected it to be, having more of a tender beef consistency and flavor.
The crocodile was similar in scope to chicken or pork in taste, but with a drier texture and some stringiness. The beef was just beef; I much preferred the kangaroo filet over the beef steak.
Susanne opted for barramundi with an avocado-based salsa, accompanied by asparagus and fingerling potatoes. The barramundi wasn’t all that different from many other poached white fish varieties, flaky like a catfish or trout. The butter sauce was a bit much and while the barramundi was fine, it didn’t seem particularly special. It may have been better if it was grilled or charbroiled.
The bill came to $70, including a modest tip. To our knowledge, tipping is not really expected in Australia, but the bill did have a tip line. We erred on the side of caution, but it’s not like we felt ripped off for leaving a gratuity.
There are a few reasons why I decided to combine my brief review of The Raw Prawn with my writeup on Barnacle Bill’s. First, they are both located on the esplanade in Cairns, only a couple of shops over. Second, they have similar menus. And third, they both offer an early bird discount. In the case of Barnacle Bill’s, the discount appeared to be recently upgraded from 20% to 30%. That’s substantial!
Since we did have that discount, we decided to splurge on an appetizer (and I had a beer). Shown above is the Oysters Kilpatrick. The half dozen raw oysters are topped with chopped bacon and worchestire sauce. They are served on a bed of coarse salt, but you don’t really need it. These were positively delightful.
For my main, I ordered chilled bay bugs. They’re not insects; the “bay bugs” are actually a local form of rock lobster. Served with a mango salsa, lemon, salad, and thousand island dressing, the bay bugs have a similar consistency of scampi. The meat looked layered and didn’t at all have the “rubbery” texture of overcooked lobster. There were two whole bay bugs, each sliced in half, and it was a refreshing dinner on a hot summer’s night.
For Susanne’s main, she had the bouillabaisse. Served with some mustard and a hard roll, this large bowl of soup had quite a lot of seafood in it. There were mussels, prawns, fish, squid, scallops and other goodies from the sea. There was just a little bit of kick in the tomato-based soup to accompany its wonderful fragrant flavor.
Again, the total bill came to right around $70. This is despite adding an appetizer (~$18 regular price) and a bottle of beer to the mix. The 30% discount was certainly appreciated.
Between the two, I think I preferred Barnacle Bill’s over The Raw Prawn. The menu was bigger and the food was more flavorful. It also helps that the “early bird” discount is larger too.
There are many other restaurants in and around the Cairns Esplanade, including Ganbaranba Ramen. From Thai to Turkish, East Indian to Italian, you’ll be surprised at what you’ll find in this part of Australia. Cheers, mate.