A Toast to the Coast
The Gold Coast’s dining and drinking scene took an unexpected hit in 2018. Hosting the Commonwealth Games had a knock-on effect of lowering visitor levels, and subsequently many venues closed. However, the Gold Coast has bounced back, partly due to an artistic and entrepreneurial flowering, which is breathing new life into these coastal pleasure grounds.
One shining example, Dust Temple in Currumbin Waters, is both a hub for hands-on grassroots arts, as well as a great place to graze and browse. It’s taken eight years for New Zealand couple Isla and John Wilson (their motto is ‘Fearless creativity’) to transform a ramshackle series of sheds into a stylish multipurpose complex. Taking industrial-chic aesthetic to the max, Dust Temple has a laid-back café, art gallery, a bar, spaces for teaching and creating art, a recording studio, a shop selling homewares and plants; plans are also in hand for a distillery. The vibe here is both welcoming and inspiring, and the café has a healthy, brunch-friendly menu (think quesadillas, avocado plates), with more substantial offerings for night functions.
Another dynamic couple, inventive restaurateurs Mitch and Nerissa McCluskey, came across the site of their first venue, Commune Café in Burleigh, while on their way to sell Nerissa’s fashion designs at the Village Markets in Burleigh Heads. Stepping up to interior design, Nerissa transformed the former butcher shop into a quirky cafe. Commune’s imaginative menu has beachy brunch staples, seriously good coffee (Campos blend), and a tantalising range of non-alcoholic drinks, including kombucha on tap.
Pictured above (from left to right): Be transported to Japan at Iku Yakitori Bar; Settle in for a long lunch at Hellenika.
Hidden behind a broad wooden door in a Burleigh Heads back lane, the McCluskeys’ Iku Yakitori Bar showcases a more sophisticated side to their hospitality skills. They wanted to create an experience which “reminded us of our travels through Japan,” says Mitch, “wandering down alleyways with the smell of meats grilled over charcoal in the air, proudly cooked by yakitori masters concerned with nothing more than perfecting their skill and putting their heart on a plate.” Indeed, with Iku’s floating tatami mat booths and chefs grilling at the bar, it’s easy to imagine you could be in downtown Kyoto or Kanazawa.
The kitchen is led by Japanese chef Tomo Akiyama, while wizard sommelier Adam Bastow guides you through a drinks list, which includes sake, shochu, and Japanese whiskies. Menu standards are also standouts: the chicken yakitori (naturally), and ‘must-have’ slices of Japanese wagyu. Keep an eye out for specials, such as grilled scallops, or umami-rich mushrooms.
Pictured above (from left to right): Classic Gold Coast views from Rick Shores; Choose from a world of flavours at The Collective.
Several craft brewers have sprung up in the Gold Coast’s semi-industrial zones. In a former T-shirt factory in Currumbin Waters is Balter Brewery, owned by scions of the pro surfing world and their savvy mates. Their brews are endearingly good, and recognised as such in ‘hottest 100’ competitions voted on by beer-drinkers. The brewery presents a lively scene at weekends, when bands play and food trucks pull up.
Perhaps the newest brewery on the block is the cutest: the retro-fashionable Lost Palms Brewing Co has staked its claim in Miami’s backblocks hipster zone, very close to Miami Marketta (see below). It’s a fine site for a rendezvous, sipping lagers or ales before you head around the corner to the Marketta, where you face a multiple-choice dining dilemma.
The very lively Miami Marketta is open every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, for ‘street food’ from up to 25 varied vendors – think Mexican, Thai, Greek, Argentinean, Italian, and more – and this large undercover space has seating for 450. Prowl the stalls to make your food choices, select drinks from bars, including a glorious gin bar, and be entertained by live music. Marketta has another life as a music venue per se – another example of the intertwining of the arts and hospitality.
Pictured above (from left to right): You can almost touch the waves at Burleigh Pavilion; Sunset serenity from Burleigh Pavilion.
At The Collective, Palm Beach, the multiple-providers-in-a-single-venue model goes up quite a few notches in sophistication. The brainchild of youthful industry veteran Jeremy Davidson, The Collective engages five kitchens in friendly competition, so diners can select Italian, pan-Asian, Mexican, mod Oz or southern US dishes, with diners ordering via a tablet. It’s a very clever system, but novelty is not the attraction: high standards of food and service are. The menu changes every three months; new dishes get voted in at a staff ‘taste-off’, almost guaranteeing exceptionally good creations (such as a special of house-cured salmon on a wasabi rocket puree). Here’s hoping they keep some of the more playful items, such as the pork belly nuggets and cheeseburger spring rolls. Lastly, a warning: leave room for miraculous desserts…
At serene dining stalwart Hellenika at Nobby Beach (at nearly 10 years of age, a classic Gold Coast restaurant), portraits of famous modern Greeks enliven its whitewashed walls, and there’s a sun-drenched terrace with a mesmerising view of the hinterlands. The focus here is on quality ingredients prepared impeccably. An indulgent long lunch here could canvass such dishes as zucchini ‘chips’, grilled lobster or roast Junee lamb, plus treats from the excellent wine list.
For beachside dining, it’s hard to go past the choices at the Burleigh Pavilion. This graceful, airy building, reminiscent of bathers’ pavilions of earlier eras, has an atmosphere both casual and glamorous. Gazing at the waves – you can almost touch the surfers – while having a drink at the Pavilion Bar is pretty sublime, as is the same view at the adjacent The Tropic fine-dining restaurant. Here you can also observe the chefs at work in an open kitchen. Downstairs, Rick Shores adds the choice to sit outside, almost on the sand, eating the ubiquitous Moreton Bay bug in a roll, or delightful pan-Asian dishes, as the sun finally sets and the stars come out to join you. An idyllic finale to a Gold Coast feast of epic proportions!