The Gold Coast, 70kms of pristine beaches, half way between Byron Bay and Brisbane (geographically and otherwise) it is a city of extreme contradictions;
High rises & vast construction projects stand against the natural beauty upon which the city is built.
The glittering sky scrapers on the postcards betray the depth of dining options on offer. Surfers Paradise is the epicentre of this sprawling city, it is a brash tourist trap; with overcrowded beaches and tacky attractions & cafes. To see something real, head south down the coast. Small quieter suburbs such as Mermaid Beach and Burleigh Heads are full of locally owned restaurants with heaps of character, all encircled by lush green rainforest and the rolling breaks of the Pacific Ocean. Break through the surface and this metropolitan city, so often misunderstood, has a wealth of diverse and beautiful options for dining and eating. Here are my recommendations for getting a taste of this crazy and beautiful city.
Orchid Plaza, Surfers Paradise Lunch & Dinner $
Samurai’s is a diamond in the rough, nestled in a forgotten corner of a Surfers Paradise arcade. This is a quirky yakitori bar with heaps of character and a place that could only exist in Surfers Paradise. On the surface Samurai’s seems like the average traditional Japenese eatery, but pass through the red curtain and there is a distinct hint of Aussie humour and culture. Strange paintings on the wall – samurais, kangaroos and cork hats, even some Aussie critters ended up on yakatori skewers.
The fun begins with takoyaki wasabi roulette which involves 6 fried octopus balls, 1 of which is filled with extra hot wasabi. I recommend, if like me, you end up biting the green bullet to wash it down with a generous serve of chilled sake. This strange little eatery is well worth the trek through the neon jungle of Surfers Paradise. My pick the Samu Para Don bowl.
Hillcrest Parade, Miami Dinner & Streetfood $
For a big city atmosphere, head to the Marketta. On Friday and Saturday nights, a Miami industrial estate is transformed into a bustling plaza, with a carnival atmosphere. The main bar serves up classic cocktails and beers, overlooking a stage graced by local musicians and legends such as Xavier Rudd. Take a walk through the food court where communal tables are fringed by a host of local food trucks offering up homegrown and international cuisines. My pick – Turkish Gozlemes or Cajun style southern fried chicken. Finish up in the desert room (yes, there’s a desert room).
Gold Coast Highway, Mermaid Beach Breakfast & Lunch $$
My favourite spot for breakfast on the coast is the slick, newly opened, sister restaurant of established Miami bakery/coffee hotspot Paddock. Bam Bam serves up an international breakfast menu; all the favourites plus nasi goreng, smoked local fish or delicate European pastries. the bakery and patisserie is the highlight for me – enjoy freshly baked croissants with lashings of cultured butter over great coffee.
Gold Coast Highway, Mermaid Beach Dinner $$ $$$
Bonita Bonita offers up modern Mexican food in style. The killer atmosphere & sharing banquet style dishes making this the perfect place for socialising over chilli and cucumber margaritas or imported Mexican beers. Big flavours are on offer, try sautéed baby octopus with habanero chilli jam and smoked potato puree or agave glazed pork belly, chargrilled pineapple and pink house pickled onion. Post dinner drinks are just metres away in the adjoining Bon Bon bar; a range of wild cocktails, top shelf Mezcals, and of course more Tequilas than probably anywhere outside Mexico.
Gold Coast Highway, Mermaid Beach Lunch & Dinner $ $$
Muso serves the ramen loving population of the Gold Coast with delicious house made noodles and impossibly rich stocks, plus all the trimmings. Takeout or enjoy the 80’s rock bar decor. A favourite haunt for the local Gold Coast chefs on split shifts, myself included. Tonkotsu bowls with extra pork, is certainly the order of the day.
Gold Coast Highway, Burleigh Heads Breakfast & Streetfood $
Ok, so this is not a dedicated food market, but it has good selection of some of the best food trucks around. If you’re looking for a quick feed after surfing Burleigh Point, skip the trendy cafes and head to Burleigh Primary School. The markets run on the first and third Sunday of the month, 8:30 till 1pm. Look out for Barraca, they serve authentic Portuguese chicken that’ll knock your socks off and you will never step foot in a Nandos again. Plenty of juices, vegan and vegetarian treats to use from also.
McLean St, Coolangatta Dinner $ $$
Sunhouse is a laid back Kirra coffee shop with a wild alter ego, on weekends the space is transformed into a proper Texas style smokehouse. 14 hour smoked beef brisket with horse radish potato salad and sliced gherkins, cold cans of imported US beer and finished off with JR’s moms sweet potato pie. Live music, casual al-fresco dining and an awesome vibe. Get there early and enjoy before the food runs out (and it does run out).
Price Ratings (AUD)
$ – Meals for $15 and under per person.
$$ – Meals for between $15 – $30.
$$$ – Meals over $30 per person.
let me know your favourites and recommendations in the comments