It only took three words, “Let’s do it!” to launch eleven friends into action. Their venture, The Cambus Wallace opened in late 2012, inspired by history – the history of a ship run aground; the history of a nation whose currency was ‘rum’.
“We wanted to fill in the blank spot that we thought was missing in Gold Coast venues,” owner/manager Dave Ferry tells us. “The nautical theme came first, and we’d seen the venue months before, then we learned about the Cambus Wallace. It matched perfectly.”
Well, almost! The Cambus Wallace, a ship which foundered off the Gold Coast in 1894, was carrying a load of whiskey, beer and explosives.
“Almost in sight of the port, after voyaging half-way round the world, the barque Cambus Wallace has become a total wreck, involving the loss of six lives…the vessel went ashore on Stradbroke Island and within twelve hours practically went to pieces,” the newspaper reported.
There’s lots of whiskey on the menu, but it’s the range of rum that takes my eye.
“Whiskey’s all the rage interstate,” Dave acknowledges, “but we also wanted a great cocktail menu to please the ladies. Rum’s a far better base for cocktails than whiskey. Plus, it was the drink of choice for many of us.”
Eleven great-looking blokes, I’m thinking; multi-talented too! Dave runs the bar, the other partners chipping in, each one with different skills. There’s more than cocktails here to keep the ladies amused! And the venue’s so sexy.
The Cambus Wallace is a very classy nautically-themed bar decked out in timeless wood, replete with nets, boating paraphernalia and even Long John Silver’s parrot. Along one wall Dylan Quirk’s moody mural of a frigate at war with a stormy sea reminds us that the sea is a cruel mistress indeed.
Rum takes pride of place in our history too. It may have been whiskey spilled on South Stradbroke Island’s rocks, but it was rum that fuelled the British Navy and featured in Australia’s first and only military coup, the Rum Rebellion. ‘Rum’, or alcohol generally, was the most common currency in early white Australia’s history, controlled by the New South Wales Corps (commonly known as the ‘Rum Corps’). It was a practice that the colony’s governor, Admiral William Bligh, was intent on stopping. On 26 January 1808, four hundred Rum Corps, angered by several of Bligh’s policies, marched on Government House, taking Bligh captive. The rebellion lasted until 1810, when Governor Lachlan Macquarie arrived and the rebels were quelled.
Less than a century later, explosives from the wrecked Cambus Wallace were piled together and detonated. Storm and tides compounded their damage eroding the narrow spit of land. By 1896 the tides had divided Stradbroke Island in two, changing the Gold Coast’s topography forever.
The Cambus Wallace too has changed. The drinks list has matured enough to have its own menu, including a potted history of its namesake ship.
Over the past three years, there’s been some real progression in the menu. Early days saw share platters and breads with a few blackboard specials. One of the first restaurants on the Gold Coast to trial a fortnightly popup ‘restaurant within a restaurant’, injecting added interest into the menu, along with specials nights (Wednesday’s $15 ribs, with live blues on Wednesday and Thursday) it value adds to a one-page menu of accessible gourmet delights.
While ‘Walk the Plank’ and ‘The Captain’s Table’ share platters remain, we couldn’t go past some of the other main courses: Moules Marinières ($18), the quintessential French holiday dish – a rustic pot of mussels cooked with leek, shallots, white wine and crème fraiche, and a Riverland Sirloin à l’Ancienne ($22), a delish NZ Hereford/Angus steak served with rich truffled porcini, jus and Café de Paris butter. Heaven! Truffle and butter wins the show! OK, so we had a Pickled beetroot and haloumi salad too to lighten the load.
It’s fabulous, great value dining from Chef Vitor Ditlef (well known for his vegan popups), trumped only by the drinks list.
The Main Squeeze sports a glass of craft beer, one of several on tap. I’m on the loose, checking out the cocktail talent: a Rhubarb Daiquiri made on Angostura rum, Sailor jerry, Aperol, rhubarb bitters… the list goes on, but who cares! It’s serious territory falling squarely into my ‘I’m a grownup girl so don’t sweeten me up’ territory. Superb!
If you do like sweet, try a liquid dessert like the Banana Triangle. Think Banana cream pie in a glass with hints of raw honey and nutmeg. Kiss Kiss! O how about a Chocolate lava cake?
As we dine, the bar slowly fills, some punters staying to settle in, while others are obviously meeting friends for a drink before moving on.
And there’s a lot to choose from…(drinks as well)!Looking further through the drinks menu, there’s there’s a who’s who of some of the world’s best rum, (over twenty in total), many from the Caribbean and Central Americas, Isle of Jura and Islay, as well as our own locals from Beenleigh and Mount Tamborine Distilleries, as well as single malt whiskies (hats off to the Cambus Wallace). Take the Rum Tasting Flight if you’re adventurous, 3 x 15ml glasses of heavenly spirits, but I have a one track mind tonight…
In the moody half light I stare into my Pussers British Navy rum, served in a cute tin cup and read the inscription:
“The wind that blows the ship that goes, And the loss that loved a sailor!”
It’s too early in the night to be melancholy for lost loves, but it’s not hard to get into the mood of this place, dark and dusky as it is, to imagine the stormy seas not far from here which took the lives of five sailors on the Cambus Wallace.
Leaving before I’m washed up on the shores of regret, I look back and ponder…
Yey, me hearties, behind these doors lies history…