Brian Holding, owner-chef and diligent curator of one of Palm Cove’s most original and striking menus, is a self-confessed stockpiler.
“I devour,” he says when asked about the inspiration behind his modern Asian kitchen. “Wherever I travel, I get inspired and excited by the food and the flavours, and I collect these sensations and try to recreate them for my own menu.”
Talking with him about his menu, this reality and his passion become evident. Brian has a decisive, inclusive tone, as if considering each word, even superlatives, and as he explains, you can witness the evolution of the restaurant and his culinary journey as proud owner and craftsman. Every dish has a story, a memory, a location. From watching local fishermen cook whole fish in a banana leaf beach oven to attending a wedding in Sumatra. The menu is thick with allegory, with Brian being the interpreter, recreating not just flavours and textures but stories, a culinary conduit to another time and place.
The rustic setting is at the end of the million-dollar row that is Palm Cove. Nestled in what looks like a well-kept fishing shack is Brian’s place, Beach Almond. He has been there for seven years, bringing flavoursome delight to the locals and tourists alike. Having travelled extensively through South East Asia, Malaysia, Indonesia and elsewhere, a long way from his origins of Sydney’s Manly and very distant from a decidedly non-culinary degree in Physics, he has ended up at the helm of this little paradisiacal eatery.
Brian comes into his own in the kitchen, his fiefdom, laboratory and museum, space to create and curate.
“We definitely describe ourselves as an Asian seafood restaurant,” he explains, “but that doesn’t stop one of our most popular dishes being Beef Redang curry!
“People are drawn here by our seafood, and we reward them with the best local catch we can get.”
In fact, Brian's curatorial approach extends to all ingredients, travelling to local suppliers and seeking the best and the most interesting.
“We are blessed here in Far North Queensland; the range and quality of local ingredients are surpassed only by their freshness.”
There is no doubt that seafood excellence originates in the Far North from the profundity in the variety available from the Coral Sea reefs and the Gulf of Carpentaria. Other ingredients, too, proliferate, from the exotic to the more mundane; most can be found on farms in market gardens across the region. There are chefs from restaurants across the globe who would not be able to lay their hands on produce as fresh and as diverse as can be found right here.
“Asian cuisine,” says Brian, “revolves around the connection to produce, and it suits the climate and our ingredients perfectly.
“I can’t think of a region better suited for what we create here. We are at the centre of a culinary node, a combination of location, climate, ingredients and customers.”
Don’t let the lack of pretension, absence of table cloths, and modern rustic beachfront surroundings deceive you. The food is meticulous in production and presentation, the flavours planned for, and the outcome sumptuous. Brian explains, with ingredients this fresh, recipes do not need to be complex and that spices and seasoning are often only required as parentheses.
“Simple seasoning and nothing over-complicated is at the heart of what we do.”
The reaction to Beach Almond is always one of amazement; there is little to compare it to, not just in Queensland, but anywhere. A casual dining atmosphere, with food fit for fine dining delivery, all combines with the sensation of sharing dinner with native fishermen on some far-flung cay. Together this creates something that challenges the term unique for sufficient descriptiveness.
145 Williams Esplanade, Palm Cove QLD 4879