They might have come to Airlie Beach for the Joshua’s Whitsunday wedding, but Newcastle couple Carly Saunders and Tresne Middleton have also been putting the destination on the food map.
Former contestants on Channel 7’s MKR, Carly and Tresne spent a day of their Whitsunday holiday on a food tour of seven of the region’s restaurant hotspots.
Their hosts for the day were Tourism Whitsundays, Fish D’Vine co-owner Rebecca Clark and her right-hand-man Mark Wyatt, from the Rum Bar, Airlie Beach.
Perhaps better known as the ‘Food Junkie’ and ‘Dr Rum’, Airlie’s most celebrated food and cocktail couple devised an itinerary to highlight the Whitsundays’ foodie diversity to its visiting celebrity chefs.
For both, this was less about promoting their individual businesses and more a chance to collaborate with other restaurateurs to showcase the wider Whitsunday food scene.
Used to sampling dish after dish on MKR (“although you were always hungry,” Carly revealed), the duo set off with their hosts, ready to share their experiences with their 26,000 Facebook friends and 53,600 followers on Instagram.
At the Fat Frog Beach Café there were boomerang photos of perfect panacotta wobbles posted to Instagram.
At Sorrento Restaurant & Bar co-owner Petrit Istogu was asked for the secret to his pizza base recipe, which Carly described as the best she’d eaten by far.
Anchor Bar enjoyed the tick of approval for its convivial atmosphere and views high on the hilltop above Airlie Beach, complete with share platters celebrating the sociability of food.
Northerlies Beach Bar & Grill proved “next level”, with its spectacular beachfront location and outlook on Airlie Beach, complimented by a chilled seafood platter destined to impress.
The food at Hemingway’s in Abell Point Marina had the group scrambling for their cameras with every dish.
“They say you eat with your eyes and at Hemingway’s the food presentation and balance of flavours were fantastic,” Tresne said.
Walter’s Lounge at the Port of Airlie was a particular highlight of the tour.
From the bottle of French Mirabeau Rose sabred on arrival to the story behind the ‘Beverley’ dessert, the Walter’s experience left Carly to surmise: “this is going to be one of those restaurants in Australia people travel to go to”.
The tour concluded at the Rum Bar and Fish D’Vine where the group welcomed Whitsunday wedding giveaway winners Joshua Breakwell and Joshua Starr for a slap-up seafood dinner including mud crab served three ways.
From blueberry mojitos to flaming ‘Squeaky Tiki’s’ Dr Rum’s prowess behind the bar and his extensive knowledge of rum had everyone enthralled long after the last plate was cleared.
“The Rum Bar is not for the feint hearted,” Carly concluded.
“But Dr Rum has so many tips about rum and its history we learned a lot – and I wasn’t expecting that.
“As for the fish – I was going to say ‘divine’ – and you know what, I ‘m going to run with that.”
“Overall I have to say you have so many amazing restaurants for what is a relatively small spot.”
As co-owner of Airlie’s longest established independent restaurant alongside her business partner Kevin Collins, Rebecca said the tour had exceeded not just Carly and Tresne’s but also her expectations.
“When we arrived in the Whitsundays there was one Bi-Lo supermarket and now look at us,” she said.
“We have everything I used to chase through travel – it’s all in our backyard.”
Tourism Whitsundays General Manager Tash Wheeler said over the next 12 months the organisation wanted to highlight the region’s food scene.
“We have so much diversity in our offering and the food and dining scene around the region is really something to be proud of,” she said.
“This food tour was a fantastic opportunity to put the Whitsundays on a national platform and promote the food experiences we offer.
“We are so lucky, and proud to have so many fantastic members we’re able to work with on showcasing the destination as a world-class place to visit.”
As for Dr Rum, the motto of the story was: “I should probably have a few less nights in front of the television and a few more exploring our local food scene, which in comparison to a lot of holiday destinations worldwide is kicking some major goals”.
For the full story and photos of the tour head to the Food Junkie’s blog at http://thefoodjunkie.com.au/blog/mkr-tour
Media contact: Sharon Smallwood/iTalk Communications 0402 126 461