Douglas has been a professional food writer since 1986. He is also an award-winning actor and director in Community Theatre and has been for many years. His blog may be found at: www.urbaneguerilla.wordpress.com
Published January 8th 2013
Make a piggy of yourself
There are many things we've never done, but we ain't never had too much fun, so the Hog's Breath slogan goes. It's an expression of a philosophy that has made Hog's Breath a success story.
It all started when the founder, Don Algie (Boss Hog) sailing along the Queensland coast and settling into the idyllic surrounds of the Whitsunday Islands.
The doors of the first restaurant were opened in 1989 in North Queensland. From the first Hog's Breath set out to be unlike any other restaurant in appearance, atmosphere, style and type of service it offered patrons.
Hog's Breath can be credited with developing and specialising Prime Rib Steaks in Australia. To complement this signature dish and its diverse menu, Hog's Breath has created a distinctive style for people who enjoy casual dining experiences.
Finger Food Combo
All Hog's Breath Cafes are, in essence, themed licensed restaurants catering to all ages. They incorporate three interacting components - a seated food service area, a licensed saloon bar and a merchandise shop exclusively carrying the Hogster clothing label.
I have previously dined at the outlets in Mandurah, Hobart and Northbridge, although not for some years so I was intrigued to learn that a branch had opened in Midland, nice and handy. So, having an unexpected evening free we dropped, en famile, into an unsuspecting café.
We did not have a booking, but they staff were welcoming and I have to say that the service was outstanding overall, friendly, informal but helpful and they actually seemed to care that we liked the food and were satisfied.
The waiter, for example, sat down at the table to discuss the specials of the day and to take our order. I have never seen such a thing in my whole life, but I found the informality charming and the quality of the service was so good that it far out-weighed any surprise. I even left a tip, something I very seldom do, unless the service has been remarkably good.
Probably the best service I have enjoyed in quite some time from this kind of restaurant.
The menu is very large, very varied and very informal - chatty even. But this is very much within the character of the franchise.
The clientele is largely younger, the piped music from the 1980s and '90s, the decor remarkable for its variety and interesting.
Rather than attempt to run down the menu, let me just talk about the dishes we ate.
Angela had an Aussie 'Backyard' Salad ($13.75) of pumpkin, lots of leaves, a light but sipid dressing and a very great deal of it. This was true of all the portions, all extremely generous.
If you go away hungry from Hog's Breath you have no one to blame but yourself.
We shared a 'Finger Food Combo' ($19.95) with supremely well-cooked calamari in a paper cornucopia with two little side-saddles of sauce - a glorious honey-mustard and an outstanding sweet chilli as well as chicken tenders, three spring rolls, very fresh, and three versions of the 'loaded' potato skins, which were wonderful.
Loaded potato skins come in three styles - The Sicilian (Marinated tomato and basil salsa); The Classic (Crispy grilled bacon, sweet chilli sauce, and sour cream) and South of the Border (Scrumptious chilli con carne, topped with buffalo BBQ sauce, melted cheddar cheese and sour cream.)
James' companion ordered a simple 'Hoggies fish and chips with vegetables ($24.50), (fries in the shape of a curly pig's tail), a sharp and savoury tartare sauce, broccoli, carrot and corn on the cob - excellent value for money and excellent flavour and taste.
Hoggies Fish and Fries
James himself tucked into a 'serious steak burger' ($19.95) salad, two meat layers, onion, sauce and all stabbed together with a steak knife - which he couldn't finish, despite desperately wanting to. I make no further comment about quantity of portions.
Serious Steak Burger
For myself I felt obligated to order one of their famous rib steaks. These are billed as having been slow-cooked for eighteen hours and come with a small (sic) salad and a mound of the curly fries.
The steaks come in three sizes - the lite, the standard and the huge. I chose the standard (400g) medium rare with a cream mushroom sauce ($32.95).
Firstly it was, as advertised, exceedingly tender. But not medium rare - no pink at all - just as you would expect from eighteen hours cooking.
The taste and tenderness was beyond reproach but I feel that it is more cooked in the marinade, rather in the manner of a ceviche, than seared as is usual. But semantics aside, the steak was delicious.
There was a whole lot of dishes that looked enticing, including the renowned 'Boss Hog Ribs' of two racks of baby beef ribs in hickory smoked BBQ sauce. However, a diner may have to go into training before ordering a dish ($44.95).
Angela was the only one able to even contemplate a sweet, and that a light special - chocolate mousse with cream ($8.90). The poor thing hadn't quite set in the searing heat of the day, but tasted delicious. I couldn't face a whole one but the waiter kindly brought a second spoon.
The Hog's Breath Cafés are licensed, with a pretty competent small range of white and red wines, a surprisingly wide range of beer, including the delicious Dutch Amstel lager.
A meal will set you back about $30-$40 dollars.
Very highly recommended.