Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Samies Girl

I had a real longing for a seafood lunch yesterday, so I headed over to Samies Girl at Hamilton. I'd heard lots of good things about Samies Girl, but had never actually made it into the shop until yesterday.

Anyway it turned out to be a great place to buy seafood. There are prawns, oysters, scallops, mussels, whole fish, fish fillets, crabs, bugs and octopus in the display cabinet, together with a few doors of frozen seafood. I was there at about 1pm on a Tuesday and the place was surprisingly busy. Obviously I wasn't the only one in need of some good seafood on a hot Summer's day.

I ended up with a dozen small oysters from Port Macquarie and two plump Moreton Bay bugs for $26. The bugs had plenty of flesh in them and were particularly good.

If you live on the Northside, pop in to Samies Girl next time you're on the lookout for good seafood. It sure beats driving all the way out to Scarborough for a trip to Morgans.

Samies Girl
15 Hercules Street
Hamilton 4007
P - 07 3131 4120
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Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Gelateria Cremona

I've been to Gelateria Cremona a few more times over the last couple of months. Their gelati is so good that I now make excuses for detours to Rosalie at any time of the day. Over the last few months I've been lucky enough to try:

  • pomegranate (tart & tangy with an amazing colour)
  • earl grey tea (subtle, but a good match with pomegranate)
  • coconut (delicious, even though I'm not the biggest fan of coconut usually)
  • feijoa (a really weird, slightly gritty texture, but good flavour)
  • lemon, lime & bitters (fantastically refreshing - you could walk out with a tub on a hot day)
  • persimmon (lovely smooth texture, with a subtle flavour)
  • Christmas spiced chocolate (perfect for chocolate lovers in the festive season)
  • macadamia nut (smooth & rich - I'm a big fan of any macadamia ice cream)
When I was in there the other night they also had a Christmas pudding flavour, which tasted delicious. By that stage of the night, 3 scoops of gelati was going to be a struggle, so sadly I had to give it a pass.

It's great to see new flavours popping up at Gelateria Cremona all the time. That's what keeps us all coming back for their amazingly good gelati.

Gelateria Cremona
Shop 5, 151 Baroona Road
Rosalie Village, Paddington 4064
P - 07 3367 0212
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Monday, 29 December 2008

Peter's Fish Market

My favourite place to get fish & chips at the Gold Coast is Peter's Fish Market. I can't remember how I stumbled across it the first time, but for the last few years it's the only place at the GC where I buy seafood.

Peter's Fish Market is a pretty innocuous looking building, only just down the road from more salubrious places like Palazzo Versace, Marina Mirage and the Sheraton Mirage Resort. Once you step inside though, your senses will quickly be drawn towards all the terrific fresh seafood on display. You'll find oysters, bugs, crabs, prawns, octopus, whole fish and the list goes on.

The best part about Peter's Fish Market though is that you can pick a fillet of fish (there are usually about 15 or so to choose from) and get that fillet cooked exactly how you like, with a serve of crunchy chips, wedges or whatever takes your fancy. It's much more fun than the fish & chips "special" that we've all eaten at some stage or another. For me, usually it's a toss up between red emperor or coral trout, which are my two favourite fish. This time I went for a good thick fillet of coral trout, which was grilled perfectly. You'll pay for the fillet according to its weight, plus a small cooking charge. Believe me, its worth paying a few more dollars for some quality fish & chips.

Once you've got your prawns, oysters or fish & chips, there are tables outside and across the road. If you're there at a busy time though, seats will be at a premium.

Next time you're feeling peckish for some seafood at this end of the Gold Coast, drop in to Peter's Fish Market. You'll find it hard not to walk out with bags full of fresh seafood.

Peter's Fish Market
120 Seaworld Drive
Main Beach 4217
P - 07 5591 7747
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Sunday, 28 December 2008


I've been wanting to visit Absynthe for a while now. Gourmet Traveller have considered it to be the best restaurant in Queensland for the last two years, which meant my expectations were very high.

Before you read too much further, I'm warning that this is a very long post. I wouldn't be doing justice to the 7 course degustation menu if I didn't write about each of the amazing meals we tasted. I also apologise for the lack of photos. It was a bit of a celebration dinner, and I was more focused on enjoying the food than madly trying to take photos of wasabi ice cream before it melted in front of me.

We managed to sneak into the bottom of the Q1 tower just before a storm broke on us. It was a cool feeling sitting inside this really modern room, at the bottom of an enormous tower, listening to thunder cracking around outside, with occasional flashes of lightning. I guess it just added to the whole experience.

The room was surprisingly half-full for a Saturday night. Perhaps the presence of schoolies still at the coast put off more discerning diners - who knows?

On Friday and Saturday nights, it's a degustation menu only at Absynthe. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that they were only too happy to put together a vegetarian degustation menu for my wife. The menus were on the table as we sat down, and were headed "A Journey into Taste".

The first stop on the journey was "soft green olive, vanilla crouton". The theatrics of this amuse-bouche added to our enjoyment of it. We had two Asian-style large soup spoons, each with a tiny vanilla crouton sitting on them. Our waitress arrived at the table with a jar of green olives, and ladled out an olive onto each of the spoons. We then devoured the whole lot in one go. Although you couldn't really taste a lot of the crouton, apart from its crunchiness, the olive was divinely soft. It didn't have the usual harshness of green olives, rather tasted like you were eating the best extra virgin olive oil you can imagine. It was a great start to the night, leaving us anticipating what was to follow.

Next up was the imaginatively named "Bite Me Un, Deux, Trois!!!". The un, deux, trois were a golden egg, a beetroot soda and a cauliflower velouté & pesto. The presentation of this course was amazing. The golden egg was an egg shell, filled with an extremely rich, eggy mousse. Perched on top of the egg mousse was a small square of soy & maple jelly, which was in turn topped with a piece of gold leaf. Just to complete the presentation, the egg was sitting in the coolest metal snail shaped egg cup I have ever seen (it even had little snail feelers sticking out of it). I enjoyed this, but after I'd eaten the soy & maple jelly with the first mouthful of mousse, I found the rest of the mousse extremely rich. The beetroot soda was served in a tall shot glass, with a handle on the side and a straw sticking out the top. It tasted like an extremely concentrated glass of borscht, and was fantastic. The concentrated beetroot flavour completely wiped out the richness of the egg mousse. The final part of the trio was the delicate cauliflower velouté, served in a small tea cup. The velouté had a spherified blob of pesto floating in the middle of it. The taste when the pesto sphere burst in my mouth was one of the highlights of the night. I'm not normally one to hunt cauliflower down in restaurant menus, but this was fantastic. This course was served with a glass of 2007 JE Ngeringa rose (made from pinot noir), which was a fairly good match for the disparate flavours on the plate.

Our journey then took us to "North Queensland" for cured trout, chocolate cannelloni & wasabi ice cream. The cured trout was beautiful, and just melted in my mouth. A small blob of wasabi ice cream was sitting on the trout, giving the dish a Japanese feel. The cold zinginess of the ice cream worked well against the rich flavours of the trout. The chocolate cannelloni seemed to be some kind of fish roe wrapped in a cannelloni of white chocolate. I didn't enjoy the cannelloni as much as the trout, but at least it added another contrast of flavours. This course was served with a glass of 2008 Ravens Croft Verdelho from the Granite Belt. Although it's great to see Queensland wines being served at a calibre of restaurant like this, I found it a bit underwhelming with the rich seafood flavours on the plate.

At this stage of the night we had our only real blip on the service front. Our French waitress brought out one of the North Queensland plates for my wife, who quickly reminded the waitress that she was vegetarian (we'd made that clear when we booked). The waitress quickly took the dish away. She also wanted to take mine away too, which I thought was an excellent way to handle the situation. I insisted that mine was fine, and could stay on the table. Eventually I had to start eating it though, as the wasabi ice cream was melting quickly. I should have listened to the waitress.

Our waitress re-emerged with a beetroot salad for my wife. This was presented on a cool, round glass plate. The small chunks of beetroot were accompanied by goat's curd, cherry tomatoes, shallots or leeks and a scoop of wasabi ice cream. Although I didn't get to try any of the goat's curd, I was told it was amazingly good. I did eat plenty of the rest of the salad though, and it was lovely.

The next course was simply called "The Ocean", which was a fillet of pan-fried barramundi with a horseradish crust and pumpkin & citrus puree. Although the barramundi was perfectly cooked, and I really enjoyed the pumpkin & citrus puree, this was probably my least favourite dish of the night. Not that there was anything wrong with it, I just enjoyed the other courses more. I found the Iron Pot Bay sauvignon blanc/semillon (from Tasmania) to be a good partner for this course. It was a more delicate style of the blend, which worked well with the barramundi.

The vegetarian course was a Burgundy black truffle risotto. This was listed as an optional extra course on the menu for $15, unless you're vegetarian. Although it looked small, it was beautifully rich, the rice still had a good bite and there were plenty of truffle shavings.

From the ocean I then went to "The Farm". At Absynthe, the farm consists of confit rabbit loin, potato gratin, chanterelles and pencil leek. It was served with a glass of 2006 Jaboulet Crozes Hermitage "Les Jalets", which was the perfect match for this food. I absolutely loved both this dish and the wine. The rich, gamy, mushroomy flavours on the plate were complemented by the beautifully perfumed shiraz. I was scraping every last drop of this off my plate at the end.

The next vegetarian course was a modified version of my rabbit, with a type of mushroom cannelloni, served with the potato gratin and chanterelles. My wife found the cannelloni casing a bit too meaty tasting, but enjoyed the richness of the rest of the dish.

It was now time to leave the farm and move on to "Heavenly Sweets", as you do at this time of the night. Not one, but two courses of heavenly sweets here at Absynthe.

The first dessert course was candied apricot, basil syrup and lychee sorbet. There were 3 pieces of apricot, which had a lovely flavour. The flavour of the lychee sorbet was amazing, and the basil syrup lifted the whole dish. This was an excellent, lighter, fresh style of fruit dessert.

The candied apricot was followed by a "Banana Split". To be perfectly honest, I was really dreading this, as I'm not the biggest fan of banana at any time. I certainly would have never ordered this dessert off a menu. It turned out to be fantastic, and probably one of the best dishes of the night. The banana had been caramelised, and sat on a strip of thick strawberry jelly. However, the real star of this dish was the frozen chocolate cream, which was served out of a canister. The chocolate cream had been frozen in liquid nitrogen, which gave it the most unique texture. Although it looked almost crunchy, it just melted away the moment it hit my mouth. When it was topped with the creme anglaise that came in a little beaker, it was a brilliant dessert.

The banana split was served with a glass of 2007 Vietti Moscato d'Asti Cascinetta. I was a bit let down by this wine, which I think was probably the weakest match of the night. It was a really light style of moscato, and I found it was completely overwhelmed by the food on the plate.

We were then offered coffees, which we elected to skip. The couple next to us were enjoying coffee and petit fours, but I thought the banana split was a fantastic way to finish the night. Not to mention by this time we were both pretty full.

The 7 course degustation dinner at Absynthe is $98. In my opinion, that's amazing value. I know some people will disagree with me, but having 7 courses of food at this standard is something you don't come across very often. I hadn't asked the cost of the degustation menu when we booked, but I was expecting it to be much more.

You can elect to have the matched wines with your degustation dinner for an extra $77. For 5 glasses of wine that works out to just over $15 a glass. Otherwise you can select your wine from the huge wine list. You'll need a decent table of people though if you are ordering bottles of wine, as it will be difficult to find one or two bottles that will match the diversity of food arriving at your table. The wine list runs to 37 pages, covering everything from Badel Sljivovica (Croatian plum brandy) to an amazing 1966 Moet & Chandon Cuvee Dom Perignon Oenotheque (at $2,600 a bit out of my price range). Or, if you are really looking to wipe yourself out, there are 9 varieties of absinthe to try.

The room itself is a pretty modern, sleek design. It really gives you a sense of entering somewhere special, and adds to the anticipation of an amazing meal ahead. Also, tables have a good amount of space between them, which is a great thing if you are here for a special meal.

Other than the slight blip I mentioned earlier, service throughout the night was professional and efficient. As each course arrived, its contents were explained to us, and our waitresses were happy to answer any questions we had. There was a good space between each of the courses and at no stage of the night did we feel rushed. I did wish my glass of Crozes-Hermitage would never end though, so that was a bit disappointing when it did.

If you're looking for a restaurant to enjoy a special dinner, Absynthe is it. I'd have to say that overall, this is probably the best meal I've had anywhere during 2008. And considering the quality of the food, I think it's well priced too.

What does all this mean? A high class journey into a variety of flavours and quality ingredients, with excellent service and a huge wine list. Food doesn't come too much better than this.

food bling ratings
Food - Top shelf
Service - Great
Ambience - Classy, understated dining room with spacey, modern fittings
Value for Money - Good
Wine - Top shelf
Vegetarian - Great

Shop 4, Q1 Resort & Spa
Surfers Paradise Boulevard
Surfers Paradise 4217
P - 07 5504 6466
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Absynthe on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Elderberry Flower Drink

Last time I went to Ikea I had a good hunt around their Swedish food section. One of the things I picked up was a bottle of Elderberry Flower Drink. I've always been a big fan of the Duchy Originals elderflower cordial, so when I saw this one at Ikea I just had to buy it.

Anyway it turned out to be the perfect summer drink. It's basically an elderberry flower cordial, and mixed with ice cold water it makes an extremely refreshing drink. Unfortunately we've demolished the bottle now, so I'll have to make the long trip back to Ikea to pick up a few more for these hot summer days.

Ikea Logan
3539-3565 Pacific Highway
Slacks Creek 4127
P - 07 3380 6800

Friday, 26 December 2008

Lab Bar + Restaurant

I've eaten at the Lab Bar + Restaurant a few times over the years and generally speaking the food has been dependably good. I also had memories of a good wine list, so I headed back there for dinner recently.

The room was pretty noisy when we walked in. If you haven't been before, there is a big, impressive looking bar which takes up one wall, with the tables located between the bar and the windows on George Street. Unfortunately our table was right against a big pillar and a large wine storage cabinet. I had the wine storage cabinet right next to me. Pretty bizarre place to put a table if you ask me, but it kept me entertained checking out the wine for a couple of minutes. Not exactly great ambience though.

We ordered a couple of glasses of wine to start. I had ordered a glass of the Pewsey Vale gewurztraminer, but the waiter started to pour me a glass of a different gewurztraminer. He didn't show the label of the bottle to me before pouring, just poured it straight into the glass. After I spotted it was the wrong wine, the waiter apologised and told me they wouldn't charge us for that glass. He came back a few minutes later with a glass of the wine I had ordered as well. Not the greatest start to the night, but at least it was handled well.

For entree I ordered the pan seared calamari with avocado salsa, baby cos & tomato gazpacho ($19). I really enjoyed this dish - the calamari was cooked perfectly, it looked great and was a good combination of clean flavours. The gewurtraminer was a great match.

We also ordered an entree of asparagus served with egg and truffle salad. This dish was ok, but the asparagus had been crumbed, and I thought the batter & crumbs overpowered the delicate flavour of the asparagus.

I had Bangalow pork cheeks with sweet potato and apple for main course. It was a cool night, and this dish turned out to be delicious. The pork cheeks were meltingly tender, and served with some excellent, crunchy crackling. Good pork crackling is something you don't come across on restaurant menus very often these days, which is a shame. For some reason, pork crackling just isn't "fashionable". I don't care if its fashionable, I just love crackling. Although it sounded a fairly simple dish, the salty/sweet contrasts between the crackling, the pork cheeks and the apple really made this an excellent main course.

My vegetarian companion ordered a cauliflower tart with rocket & figs for her main. Unfortunately the filling of the tart was runny in places and obviously hadn't been cooked quite enough. It tasted lovely, but the texture let it down. Also, the tart was served with a ratatouille that wasn't mentioned on the menu. Sadly, the robust ratatouille didn't sit with the delicate flavours of the tart and figs. Mystery ingredients which aren't listed on the menu are one of my pet annoyances, especially when they just don't complement the rest of the dish.

The wine list at the Lab is good. There is a strong selection of wines by the glass. And if you're looking to really spend some money on wine, have a look through the cellar list, which includes the likes of Yquem and Chateau Mouton-Rothschild. With our main courses, we had a glass of Curly Flat pinot noir (an excellent wine) and a glass of Jimbour Station Ludwig reserve merlot. It's great to see more Brisbane restaurants supporting the Queensland wine industry.

For dessert we ordered one of the ginger creme brulees, which was served with lime sorbet and a pineapple & coconut macaroon. The creme brulee was excellent. The "macaroon" turned out to be a slice of deep fried pineapple.

None of the desserts jumped off the page at me after my excellent main course, so I decided to order the Lab kitchen churned sorbet & ice cream with tropical fruit. The ice creams included lychee & honeydew melon (I couldn't pick the other flavours), which were served with pineapple, grapes and kiwifruit. It was ok, but not in the same class as the creme brulee.

Overall the food was a bit hit and miss. My main course and entree were both very good, as was the ginger creme brulee. But overall, the food lacked the consistency across the board which would really have turned it into a memorable evening.

Service during the night was very friendly, but a bit slap-dash at times. Again, more consistency with service would have added to our night out.

Finally, vegetarians will find the Lab good value. There is a separate (although small) vegetarian section on the menu, and the vegetarian meals are significantly cheaper than the other main courses.

What does all this mean? A good selection of modern-Australian food and a great wine list, but lacking a bit of consistency in both the food and service.

food bling ratings
Food - Good
Service - Ok
Ambience - A classy dining room, dominated by the impressive bar
Value for Money - Good
Wine - Great
Vegetarian - Ok

The Lab Bar + Restaurant
Hotel Conrad
Corner George Street & Stephens Lane
Brisbane 4000
P - 07 3306 8647
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Lab Bar on Urbanspoon

Main Beach Delicatessen

Until just recently, the Main Beach Delicatessen had been my favourite breakfast spot at the Gold Coast. But I went there for breakfast a couple of weeks ago, and the breakfast menu has really changed since my last trip. It was sad to see some of the delicious breakfast options have been taken off the menu and gluten free bread, although listed on the blackboard, was apparently no longer available.

Grudgingly we decided to give it a skip, despite memories of all the great breakfasts I've had there in the past. So if you head along to the Main Beach Delicatessen after reading my previous post, you might be a little disappointed.

There was a happy ending to the story though - I found a great place just around the corner called D'Lish Cafe, where we had an excellent breakfast (there's a post about D'Lish to come).

Main Beach Delicatessen
Shop 10, 14-16 Tedder Avenue
Main Beach 4217
P - 07 5564 0288

Friday, 19 December 2008

Pho Vietnam

On a hot summer's day, there's nothing more I love for lunch than some really good Vietnamese food. That's why on most trips to the Gold Coast I usually end up at Pho Vietnam for lunch.

I don't normally have time to post about food court eateries, but Pho Vietnam is so good, it's more than worthy of a mention. Although it serves plenty of very reasonably priced noodle dishes, their rice paper rolls are king if you ask me. For $6 you get 3 big rice paper rolls and there are plenty to choose from - prawn, prawn & pork, chicken, chicken & avocado, tofu, vegetable or avocado. Team up your favourite flavours with one of the dipping sauces and its happy days.

These are some of the best (not to mention cheapest) Vietnamese rice paper rolls I've ever come across at a food court. So next time you are wondering what to have for lunch at the coast, head along to Pho Vietnam for fresh, tasty rice paper rolls. And there's a great Asian grocery store (Ming Mei Asian Supermarket) just next to the food court, which is definitely worth a visit.

Pho Vietnam
Fig Tree Foodcourt
Australia Fair Shopping Centre
42 Marine Parade
Southport 4215
P - 07 5591 5746

Butterfingers Shortbread

I try my best not to harp on too much about gluten free food. But every now and again I come across a new gluten free product that I've really been missing. The first one was of course beer. This time it's shortbread. I used to love shortbread. But unfortunately its been off limits for the last couple of years.

That is until I came across Butterfingers gluten free shortbread. You can pick up a packet at most supermarkets around Brisbane. Unlike some gluten free products, it tastes pretty much like any normal shortbread. And best of all, the company is Australian owned & operated. So it ticks all the boxes. I'll be buying a box or two to help me through the Christmas break.

Sunday, 14 December 2008


I got an email the other day from the director of a new show called MasterChef, which is going to be on Channel Ten. Here is the blurb:

The search is on to find Australia’s first true MasterChef. Network Ten wants every kitchen wannabe from amateur chefs to budding foodies to toss their chef's hat in the ring…each hoping to become…Australia’s next super Chef. A real life drama will play out as the contestant’s kitchen courage is put to the ultimate test. From the lows of failure to the highs of success, our cast of characters will be catapulted from starters to mains then desserts and back again. IN 2009 WE ARE ABOUT TO SEE WHO CAN TAKE THE HEAT…AND WHO HAD BETTER GET OUT OF THE KITCHEN! To apply, go to

Hopefully it will be a good show. People with tertiary or catering qualifications aren't allowed to enter, so that should even up the playing field a bit.

I've seen the ads on Channel Ten, so we'll just have to keep our eyes peeled for the new show next year.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Christmas Drinks

One of my favourite activities in the lead up to Christmas is finding some great wine to enjoy over the break. If you need some inspiration in tracking down a few special bottles, here are my favourite wine shops in Brisbane:

The Wine Emporium
I'm the first to admit that The Wine Emporium isn't the cheapest place to buy wine in Brisbane, but they have an amazing range of wines from all over Australia and the rest of the world. The staff are friendly and helpful, whether you're looking for a $25 bottle of riesling or a $500 bottle of Champagne.

Shop 47, Emporium
1000 Ann Street
Fortitude Valley 4005
P - 07 3252 1117
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Although WINE@Era doesn't have a range as big as The Wine Emporium, you'll find some great wines here that you just won't come across anywhere else. I think it's a fantastic selection, with some excellent imported wines. And once you've stocked up on your Christmas beverages, you can pop into Era for a delicious lunch or snack.

102 Melbourne Street (Corner Merivale Street)
South Brisbane 4101
P - 07 3255 2033
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Stewarts Wine Co
Stewarts Wine Co have three stores across Brisbane. Every time I walk into one I'm impressed with the range and inevitably end up walking out of the store with a few bottles I've never tried before. They also have a good range of well-priced Champagne, if you're looking for that special bottle for Christmas lunch or dinner. I think that the Stewarts store in the city is the best place to buy wine in the CBD if you're ever in need of a last minute bottle on the way home.

Stewarts Wine Co stores are located at Ascot, Portside Wharf and the City
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Champagne Gallery
Champagne Gallery is a Brisbane based website that specialises in Champagne (as you probably guessed by the name). It really has an unsurpassed range of Champagne, including houses like Benard-Pitois, Jose Michel, Veuve Fourny and plenty of others you've probably never come across before. They are still selling a few 1996 vintage Champagnes at reasonable prices, so check out the website if you're after a bottle of bubbles to accompany your prawns or scallops on Christmas day.

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Cru Bar + Cellar
If you can find a park at James Street, it's worth popping in to Cru Bar + Cellar. I'm always impressed with wines I come across at Cru that you just can't buy anywhere else. With Christmas just around the corner, Cru is also very handily placed right next to the James Street Markets.

James Street
Fortitude Valley 4006
P - 3252 1744
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Dan Murphys
I know Dan Murphys is an enormous Australia-wide chain, but when it comes to great prices, it's hard to go past them. Particularly now summer is in full swing, Dan Murphys is the perfect spot to stock up on all your favourite rieslings, sauvignon blancs and pinot grigios. There are Dan Murphys stores all over Brisbane.

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Christmas Lunch

I was going to post up a list of places that are serving Christmas lunch in Brisbane, but then I found there was already a pretty good list at So if you're looking for a restaurant for Christmas lunch, here is the list. Hopefully between all of them, there will still be a few tables left.