Main Beach QLD 4217
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To cap off what was a wonderful birthday weekend for Marty, his parents decided to take us out for a boat cruise along the Northern Gold Coast waters. I’m definitely not a water person and boats normally make me ill. But yum cha? Yes, please!
Rivers is the company that runs these yum cha cruises which departs from Marina Mirage at 11:30am. Operating every Sunday, the cruise costs $49 per person (drinks at bar prices) and is inclusive of a variety of yum cha dishes and live entertainment while the boat plods along the water.
Not wanting to risk being late for our 11:00am check-in time (for an 11:30am departure), Marty’s parents suggested leaving the house just after 10am. Unfortunately, he must have forgotten that the Gold Coast isn’t a very big place and that you can get from Broadbeach to Main Beach in less than 15 minutes on a quiet Sunday morning. Subsequently, we there at the pier at 10:20am – and just in time too, for it started to rain heavily.
Check-in time might have been 11:00am but we assumed that we we’d be allowed to check in before then. So we walked up the plank and waited by the entrance for someone to attend to us. A tall young-ish man appeared in a state of half-dressed-ness and told us that we weren’t able to board because we were too early. We told him that we understood we were early but could we please come inside as it’s raining like cats and dogs outside?
He was unsympathetic to our plight and simply said that they weren’t done with setting everything up and that we weren’t allowed in. While I understand that he might have wanted to keep this element of ‘surprise’, we as paying customers couldn’t care less if we saw the place in disarray or whatever. It’s not like we were going to judge them – we just wanted to get out of the bloody rain! And even if we really COULDN’T see them set tables in the main cabin, there was no reason why we weren’t allowed to wait on the top deck (which was at least covered so we could stay away from the rain).
Unfortunately, it was a no-can-do situation. The dude told us to ‘seek shelter somewhere else’ before shutting the entrance abruptly. The cruise hadn’t even departed and we were already annoyed. And where was the nearest shelter? All the way back to the Marina Mirage shopping centre. By the time we got there, we were cold, miserable and soaking wet. Birthday boy certainly wasn’t happy and wanted to go home. I don’t blame him – if I had been excited to go on a cruise before, I certainly wouldn’t have been after that experience. Despite that though, Marty’s parents insisted we wait it out. And so we did.
At 11:00am, we decided to walk back to the boat. The sky was still miserable and grey but at least it stopped raining. There was a queue waiting to get onto the boat and because we were one of the last ones in line, we had to wait a while to get checked off and eventually seated.
We were lucky to score a linen-covered table right by the window so we can check out the view.
Each table had some really soft prawn crackers, which we devoured in less than 5 minutes (hey, we were hungry).
After some safety demonstrations, we were ready to go. The cruise meanders around the Main Beach area for a bit, dipping towards Surfers Paradise before turning north to head to Sovereign Islands, home to some beautiful waterfront properties and where Gold Coast’s property tycoons retire to. Throughout our lunch, the boat sailed past the Southport Yacht Club, Australia Fair shopping centre and Sea World.
Our first dishes took a while to come so when they did finally arrive, we were kind of excited. The excitement, however, was short-lived when we saw that our vegetarian Hokkien noodles were cooked in a seemingly half-arsed manner. Sif just cook the noodles, chuck some reheated frozen vegies on top and then drizzle it with as little oyster sauce as possible! Marty and I looked at each other as if to say, ‘Ugh, why bother?’ Meanwhile, our special fried rice was also bland but at least it looked like a somewhat legit Australian-Asian fried rice.
Taste did come in the form of MSG when our fried chicken pieces arrived. Although the chicken was an improvement on the first two dishes, they were still very salty.
The pork siu mai weren’t the best I’ve had but they were definitely much better than the first few dishes we had.
Our pork spring rolls were just okay.
I’ve never seen black pepper beef presented so strangely like this. Speaking of which, what’s with Rivers’ kitchen not mixing the sauce in with the ingredients? Perhaps it’s a time issue (i.e. doing things properly takes more time) but seriously, when you had the whole morning to prepare and with no nosy patrons on board to disturb you, there really isn’t any excuse. Not only didn’t it taste fantastic, it was also lukewarm. Bleurgh.
Our BBQ pork buns were not bad, maybe a bit too sweet – but that’s just me.
Our vegie spring rolls tasted very much like the frozen supermarket variety (hey, maybe they were?). But that said, they were better than the pork ones we had before.
The har gow (prawn dumplings) was the dish I was most looking forward to. Even if everything else was horrible, I knew I’d leave the boat happy if my har gow were better than average. But just like our spring rolls, they tasted like the frozen supermarket variety (Yum Cha at Home, anyone?) and they were small and soggy. That said, they were probably the best thing I had so far.
The same could be said about the ginger prawn dumplings; they were edible.
You don’t normally find chicken satays at your local yum cha so we were surprised to see this on the menu. The satays weren’t bad but I thought they suffered thanks to being left out for too long (they were lukewarm) and the peanut sauce was too sweet.
The garlic prawns, although not cooked in the ‘Asian’ way, were the freshest things we had this afternoon. They weren’t bad at all.
Another example of what may have been supermarket dumplings were the pork dumplings. I preferred the prawn ones though because at least they didn’t taste like cardboard like these ones did.
The salt and pepper squid suffered the same fate as the chicken – it was way too salty. What’s worse, the batter was ridiculously thick making it difficult to find where the squid actually was. Also, what’s with the strange garnishes we’ve been having? Cherry tomatoes? With squid?
Then it was time for dessert. Marty and I were actually excited about getting banana fritters and ice cream, only to be told that they ran out. We were bummed but not before realising that they were served with chocolate ice cream. Both of us think that chocolate ice cream is the worst invention ever so stopped being emo immediately. Instead, we enjoyed this mango pudding with coconut cream. Initially, the size of the pudding put me off but not before realising that it tasted pretty good – we were impressed!
Our plate of fresh fruit arrived, along with some bao (steamed buns) covered in a berry sauce. Although I prefer my dessert bao filled with sweet egg custard or taro, I have to admit that the berry pairing wasn’t too bad. I loved how that tartness of the berries diffused the sweetness of the bao.
The consensus around the table was that the yum cha spread, except for a few dishes, was terrible. And while I know that our $49 covered not just the food but the running of the cruise and what not, I thought it wasn’t worth it. Additionally, the service wasn’t fantastic either. The guy at the start telling us to shoo was one thing, but being given one bamboo steamer of food per table despite there being four of us was another. Once we realised that we were getting the same amount of food as a nearby table of two, we asked the waitress if we could have a second steamer to which she said, ‘sure, no worries.’ That was fine but I really wished she had exercised some common sense in the first instance.
Having said all that, we did have a wonderful time. As clichéd as it sounds, it’s the company and not the food that makes a meal good. Our Rivers yum cha experience was a fine example of that; Marty’s parents enjoyed themselves and us kiddos did too. In addition, the live entertainment (which was essentially one guy doing the singing, guitar-ing, keyboard-ing and DJing) was lovely. Throughout the meal, he engaged with us diners and mixed a bit of Psy and Lionel Richie to distract us from the food get us in the mood.
Gold Coast isn’t known for its great yum cha restaurants and Rivers proved that. While I do like the concept of a yum cha boat cruise, I think the yum cha needs to be somewhat decent for it to work. That said, Rivers seem to do a roaring trade on Sundays and I guess there are enough easy-to-please people on the Gold Coast for the company to remain competitive for some time yet.