How could you not want to eat at a place where the slogan is Peace, Love and Good Times?
Even when it’s interspersed with the words ‘nasi goreng’, (Peace, Love and Nasi Goreng, just for fun), you still just want to be a part of it.
Little Sister, on the bustling restaurant strip of Cairns Esplanade, is literally the sibling of the former Raw Prawn, a much-loved seafood institution for local diners and a must-do for visitors for more than 20 years.
When owners Carlton and Tiina Horn decided in 2022 to change things up, they closed Raw Prawn and a month later reopened as its cute sister with some fresh vibes.
Getting into the business was a natural progression for Carlton, who back in 2000 was working in hospitality.
Tiina, a former teacher, got on board and 10 years on, they opened the ever-popular cafe Candy, on Grafton Street, selling up two years later.
Not a couple to rest on their laurels, they opened Boat Shed in the Harbour Lights complex in 2015, which became instantly successful for myriad reasons, not least the stunning views over Trinity Inlet and the social concept of its motto – Eat. Drink. Both.
While Raw Prawn had been serving up lusciously fresh local seafood for decades, Carlton and Tiina decided it was time to move with the times.
“We just thought it would be well received. Asian street food is very on-trend,” Carlton says. “We’d spent time in Thailand, Vietnam and Japan and really thought the concept of casual dining, sharing and socialising in bigger groups was something more people wanted to do.”
It seems they were right.
Asked what he recommends, Carlton admits the entire snack list is a favourite. Oysters with nam jim, sesame prawn toast with Asian mayo, corn riblets with chilli salt and basil butter, the house-made sambal with chickpea dip and lotus chips, are just a few of the original nibbles.
Changing the menu with the seasons allows for creativity and Korean chef Johnny is put to work coming up with new twists on traditional dishes.
From an extensive list of mains, Carlton’s best-of includes braised, glazed beef short rib with lettuce cups, herbs and house pickles; pan-roasted coral trout, wok tossed cabbage, mushrooms, sprouts, dry tom yum and rice paper crackers; and barbecue prawns with curry butter, shallots and curry leaf.
Feeling indecisive? Let the Feed Me menu weave its magic, with the kitchen presenting you with their own array of dishes, including innovative options for vegetarians and vegans.
“We wanted to bring something new to the market which reflects the times, post-Covid,” says Carlton, adding the secret to longevity in the restaurant industry is to simply, “love what you do”.
With a flourishing business and three children aged 14 to 10, life gets pretty hectic, but Carlton and Tiina are ever mindful of working towards the perfect work-life balance.
“We have a great team here at Little Sister,” Carlton says proudly.
Manager Solene Granado ensures things are ship-shape at all times, allowing the family some much needed time together.
And when that’s not possible, it’s all hands on deck, with the Horns’ eldest daughter working the floor and their 13-year-old son out the back washing dishes.
Now that’s what you call family values.