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Restaurant review: Q Seafood Provedore – first impressions count!

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Walking in to the Q Seafood Provedore at historic Queenscliff, my eyes light up with culinary possibilities. A glance at all the fresh produce keeping cool in cabinets is already enough for me to think these people must be serious about food.

I glance a little further along and smile to myself when I see the seafood cabinet and my instinct tells me that whatever is in there is probably going to be good. I’m automatically drawn to have a closer look when I hear a man greet me. I look up and see him dressed in full chef whites, standing in his kitchen while peering out at me with a big smile from behind the surverey. I explain that I have just a few minutes before I have to board the ferry to Sorrento, but I couldn’t resist having a look.

I make my way down to the cabinet filled with fresh seafood. There’s beautiful pink salmon, whiting and other fresh, white-fleshed fish as well as oysters. They look delicious, even though, sadly, they aren’t my shell-fish of choice.

I spot a stack of mussels and wish I had come here when I last wanted to make my mussels with white wine and tomato recipe. Matt and I had to go on a day-long crusade to find mussels to cook this dish a few weeks ago. This row of shops at Queenscliff is part of the new harbour development – and so has only been there a few months. Until now, I didn’t know this seafood gem existed!

Some of the shops along the new strip remain empty. However, their prime position overlooking the beautiful Queenscliff marina will ensure they fill up soon. By the time summer comes – it’ll no doubt be bustling!

On my way out I decided to ask if they ever get fresh, live lobster in. I have been wanting to make lobster with garlic and herb butter for so long now – but finding live lobster around Geelong has been a challenge. I fear if I buy a cooked one the dish will be overcooked and rubbery and put effort and a lot of money to waste.

Now, this guy knows his stuff about seafood. He informed me that lobsters are out of season until November and that they only use King Island crayfish – as they are the best around. As I had expected, most people like to buy their lobsters cooked and ready to eat. However, he said if I call them when I’m ready to make my dish, they’ll ensure they put one aside for me before they cook them all up. He also offered a great alternative – and that’s green (or raw) lobster tail. Expensive – yes. Yummy – absolutely! I’m definitely considering getting two, even at $40 a pop!

All in all I spent a grand total of five minutes at the Queenscliff Seafood Provedore. But in that time I had been inspired by their approach, presentation and all that was left was to taste their food!

So off Matt and I went on Saturday, despite my cold/flu – to Queenscliff. If anything was going to lift my mood, it would be a nice meal!

It did take a while for the staff to acknowledge we were standing there. I admit, I’m a harsh critic not only when it comes to food, but also to customer service and because of my fantastic experience earlier in the week – I was disappointed when we were left standing there for about five minutes while two staff members chattered about something. But soon, we were acknowledged with a smile and taken to one of the few remaining tables. In the main part of the restaurant there is probably only six or seven tables. In summer, I’d definitely be making a booking to avoid disappointment!

With the weather looking a little unstable outside we were shown to an inside table facing a side window. If we looked to the left, we could just see the marina. But, looking straight ahead, we could see the back of another shop’s fridge. We felt a bit out of place and awkward. Looking outside again, the sun was out and the wind appeared to have died down – so we asked to move to the more scenic tables outside. The view of the marina was really lovely and we were very happy with our new spot.

No, my boat is not the sad little canoe - it's the really big yacht in the background - of course! (I wish!)

The menu is full of seafood delights (and one or two things if you don’t want seafood, for some reason). There’s everything from grilled prawns and fish to mussels in white wine and one of the specials was a burger with a patty made from cod. There was a squid salad on the menu as well – but eventually Matt settled for seafood chowder and I had the gumbo.

Other than another waiter coming and offering us menus – in which case I informed him we had already ordered – our wait was relatively short but sweet for our food. The sun was out and warm and it was relaxing watching people come and go from their fancy yachts and watch the kids playing along the grassed area and decking. The overall area is so much nicer than what used to be there – which wasn’t much of anything except fairly unattractive coastline. I remember wondering years ago why they hadn’t done more with such a prime piece of realestate. I’m glad they didn’t build houses – at least everyone can enjoy it when it’s shops, restaurants and cafes.

Matt’s seafood chowder was delicious – the creamy soup was filled with large and small prawns, mussels, white-fleshed fish and other bits and pieces. Matt is a massive fan of good bread with any meal – so when it came out served in a loaf of bread – he was pretty happy with that! The flavours melded very well – except, I have to say, I found it under-seasoned.

My seafood gumbo also had a variety of seafood including prawns, scallops, crab and chunks of salmon or trout – but in a tomato-based soup with loads of freshly chopped jalapeno chillies and fresh coriander. With a cold on board, it definitely cleaned out my sinuses. My dish was also under-seasoned, but nothing a grind of fresh pepper and sea salt didn’t fix. It was served with toasted Zeally Bay sourdough bread lightly drizzled with olive oil. In my books, it was a truly perfect lunch! I would have enjoyed ordering a glass of wine from their extensive list, if I had been feeling better.

The service on the day we went to eat was a bit all over the place. I have been known to never go back to places that give bad service – but I wouldn’t even say the service was bad here. I think they are new and still finding their feet. The people who served us were friendly, professional and eager to please – there just seemed to be a few organisational things going a miss – like the till not working properly and the error on knowing whether we had placed our order or not.

But these guys really seem to have their foundations set. They know their stuff about food – and that first day I went in and met one of their chefs who was so helpful made me want to come back and eat there. In fact, I was excited about it all week!

Overall, this place was brilliant. Although a little under-seasoned our dishes were top-notch and amazingly good value for money (gumbo $18 – chowder $19)- especially for a place like Queenscliff which isn’t known for being cheap, whether it’s real estate, food, or otherwise.

My overall rating: ****
Customer service: ***
Food: ****
Ambience: ****
Value for money: ****

Kid friendly: Pop down and get them some fish and chips from the Q fish and chippery and bring it back to the restaurant. They are owned by the same poeple and they don’t mind a bit! But do keep in mind there is no railing to the marina. You’d want to keep your eye out to make sure they don’t fall in!
Disability Access: Yes

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