A culinary journey to the Gold Coast, where long lunches and sunset drinks have never looked better.
Story: Rhonda Bannister
In the last few years, the Gold Coast has seen a fresh influx of luxury hotels and apartment blocks springing up along the glitter strip from Kirra to Surfers Paradise. In keeping with this ongoing skyline transformation, and the new generation of holidaymakers and residents, the local dining scene has also come of age.
Some of the world’s top chefs now call the Gold Coast home, bringing next-level dining to our salty shores. Five-star beach clubs and restaurants, easy-going bistros, bakeries and cafes, craft breweries and distilleries — whatever gets your mojo going, you’ll find it on the Gold Coast.
Planning a gourmet getaway to the GC can be a delicious dilemma, but if you use our tried-and-tested guide as a starting point, you can’t go wrong. The good life starts here …
HOT SPOT La Luna Beach Club, Main Beach
Join the beautiful people at Australia’s most luxurious beach club. On a view-drenched floating pontoon at iconic shopping and dining destination, Marina Mirage, La Luna is now open. Stylish relaxation is the order of the day here. Sip Champagne in a private cabana after a dip in one of two pools. Enjoy your cocktails at the bar or on a decadent king day bed. And lunch in the Mediterranean-style restaurant, MĀRE, offering delectable bites inspired by the cuisines of Indonesia and Italy. The fun doesn’t end here; it carries through to sister establishment La Luna Dining, a superb restaurant with a sophisticated atmosphere.
LAIDBACK LUXE La Luna Dining
Overlooking the glistening marina and beach club, La Luna’s textured white walls and sheer curtains segue into elegantly understated oatmeal-and-white décor. Lush foliage draped along the upper deck and over the bar brings a pop of green while crisp white tablecloths and comfortable rattan chairs create a soothing atmosphere to kick back and enjoy a long lunch or romantic dinner. It’s boho meets Med with a splash of GC glam.
The menu is a contemporary spin on everyone’s favourite Mediterranean dishes. Think wood-fired bread and olives; seafood chowder made with scallops, calamari, prawns, mussels and Ouzo; Saganaki cheese soaked in rainforest honey, lemon and oregano; Souvlaki crispy chicken; Sicilian sausage ragu with pappardelle; and lamb rack with tzatziki and rosemary-infused oil. You’ll relax into a Mediterranean frame of mind before you can say Opa! with these spectacular dishes!
HIDDEN GEM Ladybird Restaurant & Bar
Waterfront Palazzo Versace, Main Beach
Tucked away at the back of Palazzo Versace, with sweeping views of the Broadwater from the deck, this hidden gem has become a favourite with locals in the know. That is to say, locals who came for lunch or dinner with friends, discovered the laid-back ambience, excellent cuisine, and realistic prices, and decided to keep it a secret!
Return guests are a big part of the business — but you can’t keep a good restaurant under wraps, and we certainly can’t let the locals keep it to themselves! The menu offers one tasty dish after another. If you’re a spice fiend, try the Kung Po mouth-numbing chicken cooked with Szechuan peppercorn and dried chilli; more timid tastes will enjoy the pulled pork and beef bolognese with Fujian fat noodles.
ART & ABOUT Palette Restaurant
HOTA (Home of the Arts), Surfers Paradise
Seen the stunning HOTA gallery yet? Don’t miss the restaurant on the ground floor, where Chef Dayan Hartill-Law dishes up what can only be described as culinary art on a plate. Awarded two AGFG Chef Hats in 2022, Palette is a fine dining establishment without the pomp and stuffiness too many have.
Even the decor is a work of art, inspired by expressionist painter William Robinson’s epic canvas, The Rainforest, which hangs in the gallery. The warm patina of timber floors and feature ceiling panels juxtaposed with shades of rainforest greens in the contemporary furnishings create a soothing and sophisticated atmosphere.
Current exhibitions inspire the menu, with subtle textures and flavours in every dish taking diners on a sensory journey — a testament to the chef’s wealth of creative technique. Having worked with some of the best in the world, Dayan draws on his training to create mind-blowing dishes such as Hervey Bay cuttlefish served on shiitake custard with yuzu caviar; Borrowdale Pork Belly with quandong; scallop, cauliflower and Pedro Ximenez; or, my personal favourite, Lady Musgrave Island Swordfish with native ginger, vegan fish sauce and seawater fermented vegetables.
I can’t wait to see the menu in February 2023 when the gallery hosts a world-exclusive exhibition, Pop Masters: Art from the Mugrabi Collection, New York. It will include more than 40 works never seen before in Australia, including pieces by legends of the 70s and 80s — we’re talking Warhol, Basquiat and Keith Haring. You can bet the food will be as stunning as the art.
HONG KONG REVISITED Uncle Su
The Star, Broadbeach
For those of us who frequented Imperial at The Star and were sad to see it close when the redevelopment took place, take heart. Your favourite Asian food is back and better than ever! Now branded as Uncle Su, it’s under the helm of Chef Song Yao Su who has worked in the world’s finest restaurants.
From the freshest live seafood to 19 pages of mouth-watering dishes, this is five-star Asian dining at its best. We chose Shanghai mini soup dumplings presented in paper-thin wrappers filled with flavoursome pork mince and tangy soup. Delicious! Plus, whole Peking duck crafted into pancakes with san choy bao. Sensational!
The creatives at Plus Architecture have created a unique space, taking design cues from Chinese traditions, the Australian landscape, and the quintessential energy of the Gold Coast. Oversized lanterns and a golden money tree are scene-stealers, as is the animated entry portal that makes you feel like you are crossing an ocean. Are we going back to work our way through the menu? You bet we are!
A CLASSIC Sofia’s Restaurant & Bar
Oasis Centre, Broadbeach
This coastal European restaurant is furnished in traditional French bistro style with an extensive menu that combines classic Italian and French flavours — complemented by an impressive international wine selection. All juices and syrups used in the delicious cocktails are made in-house (even the Limoncello for the Pisco Sour), which is why they’re so popular. Come for the cocktails and stay for the food.
Owner Henry Hunt relocated from Sydney to open his restaurant on the coast after working with well-known hotelier Justin Hemmes at a range of Merivale establishments (they have over 80!). Sofia’s Restaurant & Bar has created a niche in the coast’s dining scene, and we say Sydney’s loss is our gain.
This restaurant ticks all the boxes: delicious food, warm service and beautiful decor. Relax into a comfortable banquette, order a pre-dinner cocktail such as the Spicy Margarita (one won’t be enough!) and then work your way through a range of salumi and cheese with olives and their signature wood-fired bread. The entrees and main courses include freshly shucked oysters, pasta, fish, meats, and vegetarian options, but I can never go past the prawn linguine dripping with fresh chilli, garlic and oil.
TOP SPOT Rick Shores Burleigh Heads
Embracing a prime location on the sands of Burleigh Heads, with an exquisite view of sea and sand stretching to the Surfers skyline, Rick Shores might be the most popular restaurant on the coast. You’ll need to book weeks, if not months, in advance to secure a perch at this Pan-Asian icon. The pared-back grey interior is the perfect foil to nature’s grandeur outside. And, if you’re lucky enough to snare a window table, you can settle in and watch as board riders tackle the famous Burleigh barrel.
Take our advice and order the set menu, a curated five-course culinary journey with each small dish a wonder of taste and aroma. Think delicate slices of Hiramasa Yellowtail Kingfish soaked in fermented habanero and buttermilk to start and a decadent dessert to finish. With four consecutive chef hats and a spot on AFR’s Top 100 Australian Restaurants list, it’s no wonder people come from near and far.
Other favourite places:
There are so many fantastic restaurants, bistros, cafes, and bakeries that it’s impossible to mention all the greats, but here are our top picks if you get the chance to try them.
Hyde Paradiso: Whether it’s breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner, the food here rivals the expansive views. A must for evening cocktails around the bar when the vibe is as electric as the fabulous lighting installations.
Maggie Choo: You can’t miss this fun and feisty neon-lit restaurant with a menu of street food-inspired Asian deliciousness and kick-ass cocktails.
Bam Bam Bakehouse: Track down this local treasure (tucked away on the ground floor of a nondescript building) for the best all-day brunch and delectable pastries — and the coffee is superb!
Take a quick trip to the white walls and blue doors of the Greek islands when you step inside Maman Bar & Kitchen. Their menu of delectable Mediterranean-inspired dishes is too good to miss!
Out & about:
We joined a Kiff & Culture Eat & Drink the Gold Coast half-day tour, which got us a front-row window seat at Rick Shores, and a brilliant introduction to the boys at Granddad Jack’s Distillery for a gin-tasting session. It was a hoot, with Jack’s son and grandson regaling everyone with tall tales about the brand’s namesake.
Alex and Drew are the personalities behind Kiff & Culture, and they’ve sorted options for all tastes and interests with their range of tours from Brisbane to Byron. They only work with handpicked partners that follow a strict eco-friendly ethos, which gets a big tick from us! Check them out and jump on one of their tours for a fantastic day of eating and drinking.
Where to stay on the Gold Coast:
When dining at the northern end of the coast, you can’t go past the five-star glamour of the Palazzo Versace to add a bit of opulence to your culinary experience. Rooms and suites are beautifully appointed with bespoke Versace Home furnishings and have huge spa baths and small balconies. The pool area is one of the best I’ve seen anywhere, and the restaurants and bars are top-notch.
Broadbeach is the heart of the Gold Coast — and the heart of Broadbeach has to be the Star Gold Coast’s entertainment and leisure precinct. The newest hotel to open here is the fabulous Dorsett, and we rate our recent stay a solid 10/10!
Stylish rooms, first-class amenities and super-comfortable king beds, plus easy access to all the restaurants and bars of the Star Casino will make your stay memorable. Why not spoil yourselves with an Executive Room, which includes access to the fabulous Executive Lounge and its complimentary lovelies such as chef-prepared breakfast, all-day water, tea and coffee and evening canapés and drinks?
Click here to find out more about the culinary offerings on the Gold Coast
Check out the coast’s coolest new address, Dorsett Gold Coast