Once upon a time, you could count the best places to eat out on the Gold Coast on one hand.
These days you need to clear a good week (at least) in your schedule to properly sample and enjoy the depth of dining that's happening along this rejuvenated golden stretch of Queensland.
Here are some spots to try.
The Burleigh Pavilion opened its doors in late December 2018. It's a pastel-hued re-imagining of the famous, whitewashed coastal pavilion so close to Burleigh Beach that even with a full house of 630 people, you can still hear the waves crashing. In the casual Pavilion and beach bar expect subtle twists on crowd-pleasers such as nachos where crisp corn chips are served with chickpeas, guacamole, pickled corn and red onion, and burgers with lettuce subbed in for buns. In the full-service restaurant, The Tropic, nothing comes close to the 800-gram rib-eye that's been dry-aged for 120-days. "Apart from Icebergs in Bondi, there's really nothing from the north of Sydney to Port Douglas that rivals this," says general manager John Forest.
43 Goodwin Terrace, Burleigh, burleighpavilion.com
Taking inspiration from the bustling street-food hubs throughout Asia, this renewed arcade has 13 eateries (and counting). From vendors serving freshly made dumplings and noodles to a hot cakes house specialising in wagashi – a traditional Japanese cake with custard, green tea or red bean filling, this precinct has everything you need for an Asian feast. At the centre of the arcade is Bangla Road, a circular bar serving traditional Asian beers, soju, sake and cocktails.
3113 Surfers Paradise Boulevard, Surfers Paradise, chop.cavilllane.com.au
Born in Naples and with a family history of restaurants stretching back 120 years, it's little wonder that Carlo Percuoco's restaurant Fellini is an institution. The sweeping waterfront views, transparent Philippe Starck chairs and commitment to authentic Italian food are still front and centre in the new pizzeria next door, where hand-stretched pizzas are cooked rapidly in the wood-fire oven. Everything has been imported from Naples – the pizza oven, the flour, tomato sugo, olive oil and even the timber used to heat the oven. "I wanted to give the people of Australia a little part of where I come from," says Percuoco. "I wanted them to feel as if they could be sitting in Naples."
74 Seaworld Drive, Marina Mirage, Main Beach, fellini.com.au
A secret family recipe is at the heart of the first gin and whiskey distillery on the Gold Coast. Father-son duo David and Luke Ridden are behind the venture, which was inspired by David's grandfather (aka Granddad Jack), who had a whiskey everyday until he passed away aged 93. The best way to sample the spirits is by doing a tour, which starts in the very best way – with a gin and tonic.
45 Lemana Lane, Miami, granddadjacks.com
When Greek gods look down on you, you know you're in luck. A constellation of portraits of famous and infamous Greeks (think John Stamos, George Michael and Aristotle Onassis) adorns the white walls at Simon Gloftis' newly renovated and sun-drenched restaurant. Despite its facelift, Gloftis is adamant that 95 per cent of the menu will never change. And it's a good thing, too, as the zucchini chips, hand-cleaned baby calamari and char-grilled octopus are worth the visit alone.
2235 Gold Coast Highway, Nobby Beach, hellenika.com.au
King Crab Co
Next to the glittering water and shiny white yachts, people are donning plastic bibs and digging through small red buckets looking for their implement of choice. Mallet? Check. Knife? Check. Cracker? Check. Seafood pick? Check. Based on the idea of an American crab shack, chef Josh Fulton's vision is of fresh, simple food done beautifully. The menu is big, so pick a sunny day, bring some friends and settle down under the blue-and-white striped umbrellas for some of the best seafood in Queensland.
74 Seaworld Drive, Marina Mirage, Main Beach, kingcrabco.com.au
It sounds like an oxymoron, but Labart is the epitome of laid-back fine dining. The fine dining part is due to the deft hand of chef and owner Alex Munoz Labart, who loves the challenge of a menu that changes daily, depending on what his suppliers are growing, catching or harvesting. The European-bistro feel of the restaurant, with its sage-coloured walls, quirky wall art, custom-made tableware and soft copper-toned banquette contributes to the relaxed feel, but mostly it's due to Munoz and his chefs, who are clearly having a great time behind the pass and at the charcoal grill. It's not uncommon to hear Munoz and co singing along to the eclectic playlist, which ranges from Marvin Gaye and Talking Heads to instrumental rap.
8 West Street, Burleigh Heads, restaurantlabart.com
There's a sense of theatre at the Mamasan, where the multicultural chefs working in the open kitchen are like dancers – methodical, calm, precise and graceful. Led by head chef Ray Choi, the menu is pan-Asian, but rather than fusion, the offerings are modern interpretations of individual Japanese, Korean, Thai and Chinese dishes. Vegans and vegetarians often have slim pickings at Asian restaurants due to the ubiquitous use of fish sauce, shrimp paste and bonito, but last year Choi introduced an extensive vegan menu. "I want everyone to feel welcome," he says.
3 Oracle Boulevard, Broadbeach, mamasanbroadbeach.com
While the neon sign, colourful lanterns and leafy green ceiling are playful, the food at this Cantonese eating-house is serious business. You can order dishes from the garden, the sea, the land, the coop or the field, but the stars of the menu are the dim sum. The dumplings are made in-house and it shows. The only thing better than its pork potstickers or steamed wagyu dumplings is pairing them with a Hong Kong spice cocktail, which hits the same hot and sour notes as tom yum soup.
1730 Gold Coast Highway, Burleigh Heads, mrhizolas.com.au
As a six-year-old, Johnny Omeros would sit on a plastic crate in his father's restaurant and open the coolroom door for the chefs. "Dad used to give me $5 at the end of the night," Omeros laughs. Omeros has moved up in the world and now heads a team of chefs at the family-owned restaurant, which offers panoramic views of the marina. It's not the new kid on the block (quite the reverse, having been at its present site for 26 years), but it's a standout favourite among the locals. "We're an institution, not a fashion statement," says Omeros.
74 Seaworld Drive, Marina Mirage, Main Beach, omerosbros.com
Social Eating House + Bar
Despite the new outdoor seating, the best spot at this modern Australian eatery is at the counter, where you can sit, eat and watch the chefs as they instinctively reach across to salt each others' dishes, turn thick medallions of beef on the smoky grill and patiently shape arancini into perfect golden spheres. The food here is meant for progressive sharing, from the fat discs of seared scallops doused in seaweed butter to the signature lamb shoulder roasted in sheep's milk yoghurt. The specials are always worth a look and the chefs are happy to go off-piste for those with dietary requirements.
3 Oracle Boulevard, Broadbeach, socialeatinghouse.com.au
Lindy Alexander travelled to the Gold Coast as a guest of the Oracle Broadbeach and Marina Mirage.