Waterbar & Grill Steakhouse (Cairns, QLD)

This is a guest post by martypantz.

Pier Point Road
Cairns QLD 870
+61 7 4031 1199

Not another Cairns post, surely? Well, because Libby is busy working twelve-hour days and studying (and God know what else….), she has decided that after filtering through all the restaurants and eateries visited in the past month and half or so this Cairns business needs to be wrapped up nicely. Quickly.

And because she loves all of you loyal caterpillar-larvae readers so very much, she thought it would be fitting to get me to cover the last restaurant on her Cairns list, Waterbar & Grill Steakhouse, rather than wait until she was not-so-busy herself. So after a gorgeous day out on the Great Barrier Reef, compliments of my amazing girlfriend (how’s that for an awesome birthday present?) and after a spate of visiting many fancier, quirky, look-at-me-I’m-so-different-and-clever restaurants, we both decided something simpler was on the cards. And not ‘simpler’ in the retro-chic sense of the word, either (I love them, but if I see another restaurant try and reinvent a taco I think I am going to punch someone!).

Whilst that wasn’t necessarily the case here at the pier-side steakhouse, its simpler menu (by foodie standards, anyway) and intimate yet relaxed dining atmosphere provided us a nice little spot to rest our tired little sunburnt backs (see below). Plus, the idea of munching on some nice surf ‘n’ turf type-fare whilst knocking back a few celebratory cocktails sounded like a perfect way to cap off what had been a fantastic birthday (27 years-old, really now? Really?).

Libby is going to kill me when she sees that I’ve posted this photo up but hah, that’s what she gets for agreeing to let me write this post!

We arrived on time for our 8:30pm booking and were greeted by a friendly Irish waiter. The place was humming, and we were told that our table was not yet ready so we were seated for drinks near the bar whilst we waited for an outdoor table to become available. Libby ordered the appropriately named Cairns Cooler ($14), which was a mixture of Absolut Vodka and Malibu shaken with pineapple, cranberry and a hint of passionfruit. She found the drink to be ‘pretty good’ as it was fun and flirty – great value for $14. My Gingerpears (also $14), however, didn’t fare so well. On paper, it sounded great – Absolut Pears, apple liqueur, lime and Cascade ginger beer, yum! However, sweet and refreshing as the drink was, it just lacked the crisp-ness I was, for some reason, expecting from it.

It turns out that the cocktail wasn’t the only choice I was regretting because it seemed that, after more than twenty minutes of waiting, the waiter had forgotten about us! Ice from our long-ago finished drinks had completely melted and the shit almost hit the fan when I saw another waiting couple, who arrived long after us, get seated right in front of us by Mr Irishman. Combine that with fatigue, sunburn, alcohol and intense hunger pangs and you have a very cranky Marty. The friendly Irish waiter was no longer a cool guy in my books but a little bastard leprechaun who seemingly forgot to seat us at our tables!

So after a stern speaking-to from Libby, the guy profusely apologised. While ‘Sorry, we forgot about you guys!’ wasn’t what we had wanted to hear (yeah, yeah, go away before I hit you with a bottle of Guinness), at least we were making progress. Thankfully, a much nicer waitress looked after us for the rest of our evening, ensuring efficient service. With a pier-side table overlooking the marina and menus ready to go, my rage slowly subsided when our buffalo wings ($16) arrived.

Char-grilled and basted in Waterbar’s signature ‘Lekker’ sauce, the wings did not disappoint. They struck the right balance between sweet, hot and sticky and the accompanying blue cheese dip was not needed as wings were already flavoursome thanks to the thick coating of Lekker sauce (We later found out that ‘lekker’ is a South African expression for ‘tasty’ or ‘cool’, probably an attempt to make the menu sound more ‘ohh-ahh exotic, bru!’ … pfft, lame).

Our mains arrived soon after, mine being a full rack of pork ribs combo ($46) for the birthday boy. The ribs were also basted in Lekker sauce and grilled to tender perfection served with a handful of chips (we also had the option to choose a baked potato in place of chips).

Libby had the half-ribs combo ($46). Along with the half-ribs and chips, she was also given a choice of chicken, boerewors or steak and she choose the steak, a 200g piece of medium-rare sirloin. It was accompanied by a decent mushroom sauce, an extra $4.50 or thereabouts.

We both agreed that ribs were sweet and sticky, and definitely pretty good, but did not meet the lofty standards that Squires Loft set all these years ago. The same was said for the steak. It was decent, thanks to the good quality beef used and a decent fat count for optimal flavor. While it was better than most pub steaks it was, again, not Squire’s Loft quality.

And, finally, to share, I just had  to try an Espatada skewer ($34), which I had eyed some other diner eating before. The dish was essentially 250g of rump steak pieces marinated in a red wine and chilli sauce, presented on a dangly hook. We also got some garlic mash to go with it too.

Libby said the meat wasn’t as flavoursome as the steak she had just devoured, especially since the meat was marinated in a red wine and chilli sauce and thus, should have been so. This was fine, though, because we managed to eat about one or two pieces each before declaring defeat (we DID eat a lot of meat!). The waitress was lovely enough to put the remains of our espatada into a plastic container for later on. Surprisingly, the meat tasted much better the next morning once the marinade had more time to soak, and formed a delicious protein-packed mini-breakfast before our Mossman Gorge hike the next morning.

Overall, the food at Waterbar left us full and happy and the atmosphere and eventual service fantastic, despite a rough start to the night. And perhaps I was being a little unfair to compare these steaks and ribs to the ridiculously high standards of Squire’s Loft. Maybe a comparison to Mike’s Kitchen (another South African-owned steak and ribs joint on the Gold Coast) would have been more just. Overall, it was a pleasant place for a nice, quiet dinner even if the food wasn’t on-par with the quality I was used to being the partner of a food snob! Therefore, I still felt our dinner was a perfect wrap to a perfect day even if the food was just all right.

Because sometimes, just sometimes all right is enough.

Waterbar & Grill Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

I eat too much.


  1. hotlyspiced
    April 26, 2012

    It looks like a wonderful setting and a great place to eat. Shame you had trouble with the service. If you like a lot of meat, it seems like a great place to go. But…I just so love being in Far North Queensland I’m happy to go anywhere xx

  2. I-Hua Lim (@msihua)
    April 26, 2012

    LOVE IT MARTYPANTS! Hahahaha and Libby, HOT BODEH!! W00t W00t!!

  3. I have never heard of lekker sauce before but it sounds amazingly tasty -well with a name like that it would have to be! 🙂

  4. Miss T
    April 27, 2012

    Firstly, nice one Marty, nice one. Secondly, Im with you on the tacos – what the…thirdly, was everything dripping in lekker sauce? did you see the vat? fourthly, libby should be 4 times that size so in my mind, you have photoshopped her – thats ok, all the hip magazines are doing it these days (nice work on the sunburn – very realistic)
    T x

  5. Maureen (@OrgasmicChef)
    April 27, 2012

    I hate bad service. It’s the easiest thing to get right if you train your staff correctly. The food looks great so I’d give it a try if I were up there.

  6. Daisy@Nevertoosweet
    May 1, 2012

    Nice to meet you Martypants 🙂 I’ve been planning a guest post from my boyfriend too..but i’m gonna have to reconsider if he’s gonna have full control over my blog post hehe 😀
    The food here looks great, especially the Espatada skewer but a shame that the service wasn’t great…i hate hate hate bad service… i’d never go back if service was really horrible ~ either way seems like you had a wonderful birthday!


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