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Regional restaurant of the year 2008: Nu Nu, Palm Cove, Qld

Among the many things we love to love about Nu Nu is the way in which it’s good all day long. With Jason Rowbottom from Punch Lane on the floor and Pearl’s Nick Holloway running the kitchen, it’s like a little piece of Melbourne’s scene gone troppo: diverse influences unified by a kitchen that offsets its inclination for a lark with second-nature professionalism and a smart floor team. We joked that last year’s Regional Restaurant of the Year, Surfers Paradise’s Absynthe, put paid to the bucolic clichéd idea of regional restaurants being all about burning log fires and braised local wombat. This year’s winner goes one better again, giving you what you want and redefining what you want from holiday dining.

The breezy setting is idyllic, regardless of the hour, and so is the menu. Buffets be damned, breakfast here is virgin (or not) piña coladas, poached apple and raspberry ‘toasties’, lacy pancakes stuffed with ricotta, lemon and dates, or the very tropical coconut hotcakes with sweet banana, coconut sugar caramel and coconut sorbet. Or just bacon and eggs done how they oughta be.

Lunch is a nice cold Cooper’s pale ale (or Asahi or indeed Peroni) and oysters, salt-and-pepper squid with lime, spiced beef chilli burgers with red onion salad and a fried egg, or crab sandwiches and then maybe a nap.

The dinner menu doesn’t hold back either. Asia makes its proximity known in the chilled salad of freshwater crayfish, shiso cress, avocado, toasted sesame and soy, or north Queensland mudcrab cooked in the wok with yellowbean and eggplant relish, sweet pork and chilli salad and ‘a cleansing spring onion broth’. But it’s far from all chopsticks and chilli, as roast rack, crisped brain and marrow of Victorian lamb with green sauce and buttered sprout leaves or yellowfin tuna poached in olive oil with octopus, mint and walnut salad attests.

123 Williams Esp, Palm Cove, Qld, (07) 4059 1880, www.nunu.com.au.

WORDS PAT NOURSE PHOTOGRAPHY CHRIS CHEN

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