Eating and Drinking on the Gold Coast, Queensland, has come a long way from the burgers with pineapple and sweet and sour Chinese food I remember from summer holidays.
Just as many regional centres around Australia now have great cafes and restaurants, the Gold Coast strip is no longer bereft of decent drinking dining options. You can even eat dinner later than 7:30pm these days!
Our Guide to Eating and Drinking on the Gold Coast, Queensland
Paradox Coffee Roasters
Great Aussie regional destinations need good coffee to get those visitors from Melbourne and Sydney to take them seriously. One look at the massive coffee roaster from Northern Italy out the back of Paradox Coffee Roasters at ‘The 4217’ told us that these guys mean business. Sustainably sourced coffee and an enticing food menu tempted us to stay longer and sink deeper into the comfy booths of this fantastic, high-ceilinged space. It also morphs into a bar at night, with a different menu that allows you to pair soft shell crab sliders with local beers or wines by the glass (good selection). None of my post-surf places to refuel when I was a kid looked anything like this!
The 4217, 7/10 Beach Rd, Surfers Paradise, 7 5538 3235
This funky joint with its reclaimed table-tops and polished concrete floors would not be out of place down a laneway in Melbourne. But the owners are Gold Coast born and bred and the cafe, with sunshine streaming in, feels distinctly Gold Coast. The casual atmosphere has that ‘just back from the beach with no plans for the rest of the day’ vibe to it and opening at 6.30am means it gets its fair share of post-surf diners dropping in for the generous breakfasts. The menu is as eclectic as the decor, but anything on sourdough bread here makes a good start to the day. Locals love the salad with poached eggs for breakfast.
16 Chelsea Avenue, Broadbeach, 07 5592 2888, Elk Espresso Facebook Page
Another cool-looking spot, BSKT (short for biscuit), started life as a health food restaurant in 2013. You can stop rolling your eyes because it’s not just seeds and almond milk on the menu. There’s fantastic, filling, post-swim tucker here as well. Again, there’s an equally eclectic menu here at BSKT, with everything from grilled fish tacos to a protein falafel plate and even a healthy eggs ‘benny’. And plenty of vegan and gluten-free options. Open late on Friday and Saturday, you can try their burger with pickled beetroot (a classic Aussie option) and a no-carb beer as you soak up the low-key evening vibe.
4 Lavarack Rd, Gold Coast, 07 5526 6565
The Fish House
For us, The Fish House at Burleigh Heads is the perfect spot for that quintessential beachside lunch — the kind where you linger for hours, enjoying the salty breeze wafting through the windows, the sound of waves crashing against the shore and seagulls squawking as your soundtrack, occasionally looking up from your platter of Coffin Bay oysters to check out the swell. It’s a modern, Mediterranean-influenced seafood restaurant, but don’t let that stop you ordering a classic prawn cocktail before moving on to seafood pasta or risotto or a fresh whole fish of the day. Hope the John Dory or King George Whiting are on the menu. While we’ve pegged it for lunch (and we indulged in the 7-course menu; A$90pp + A$60pp matched wines), many locals go for an early dinner, catching the last light with a glass of bubbly. As we were finishing up they were already starting to set the tables for dinner. Book well ahead.
50 Goodwin Terrace, Burleigh Heads, 07 5535 7725
Brooklyn Depot Burgers & Brew
Apparently inspired by old Brooklyn, we quickly forgot about the hipster-ish name and just tucked into some fantastic guilty pleasures at the Brooklyn Depot Burgers & Brew. While it goes against that healthy, good living vibe you often get along the coast, judging by how busy it was when we ate here with new friends, everyone needs a day off from their diet. There wasn’t a single table not tucking into the decadent burgers (try the ‘fuhgeddaboudit!’), generous hot dogs (I’ll have the ‘g.i. jose’), and finger-licking BBQ pork ribs and chicken wings (go for the crispy southern fried). Great buzz about the place and good beers on tap too. It’s at The 4217, a cool, newish, urban lifestyle mall in the remodelled old bus station.
The 4217, 10 Beach Rd, Surfers Paradise, 7 5526 7666
Tamborine Cooking School
If you want to do something completely different and cook your own lunch, head up the mountains behind the Gold Coast to learn how to make the best use of fresh local produce at the popular Tamborine Cooking School. It’s a four-hour class (and it can be as hand-on as you like), including lunch with fantastic views. The classes highlight different cuisines, but time your trip so you can do the one focussed on produce grown on and around Mount Tamborine and the Gold Coast hinterland. It’s a beautiful drive up too, with sweeping vistas when you get there.
609 Main Western Rd, Tamborine Mountain, 07 5545 4564
Salt Meats Cheese
Also located at ‘The 4217’, the Italian providore Salt Meats Cheese is not only a fab spot for a casual meal — they have a wood-fired pizza oven (try the Diavola) — but it’s also the best place to pick up picnic supplies. If it’s not imported from Italy, everything under the glass is house-made that day. Go for one or two grazing boards of premium imported cheeses (the Italian board has truffle pecorino, gorgonzola and Grana Padano) and cured meats, some plump juicy olives, wood fired focaccia, and perhaps a selection of arancini, and you’re set. It’s also the spot to buy some quality olive oil, dried pasta, jarred capers and sauces and the like for the pantry if you’re renting a holiday apartment and settling in for a while. Next trip back we’ll be signing up for their pasta-making masterclass.
The 4217, 10 Beach Rd, Surfers Paradise, 07 5661 1517
The Burleigh Markets
If you’re hungry for more self-catering, the The Burleigh Markets, held every Saturday from 7am to noon, has myriad stalls with farm-fresh locally-grown fruit and veg, baked goods, home-made products such as dips and chutneys, and other deli items. There are crafts, antiques and collectibles, as well as live music, and it’s a real local Saturday scene. A must-do.
Burleigh Heads State School, Lower Gold Coast Highway, Burleigh Heads
Black Coffee Lyrics
Tucked away upstairs in an old-school Surfers shopping centre that we wouldn’t bet is too many years off seeing a swinging wrecking ball, this quirky watering hole is open all day, but cocktails, shots and dude food is where it’s at later at night. Endearingly retro, with its Viennese cafe chairs, graffiti on the walls and stacks of paperbacks piled to the ceiling, it reminded me of the grungy cafes I used to waitress at in Balmain in the 1980s. Fortunately Ella Fitzgerald, the friendly service, and craft beer and cocktail list brought me back to reality. While the food was a tad disappointing, we’d definitely return for the drinks, music and moody vibe.
40/41 Centre Arcade, 3131 Surfers Paradise Bvd, Surfers Paradise, 0402 189 437
We’re no fans of casinos in Australia, but it’s a fact of life here that some of the best chefs in Oz have restaurants in casino complexes and some of them are our favourites. One such restaurant is American chef Chase Kojima’s Sokyo at The Star in Sydney. We were thrilled to hear that Chase was opening Kiyomi on the Gold Coast (despite the casino location) and couldn’t resist this chefs’ Omakase (basically, leave it up to the chef) menu. His flavours and light touch have travelled well to the Gold Coast and it’s almost impossible to pick a standout dish in a procession of fresh seafood flavours. Don’t even think of ordering off the menu yourself. While it was jam-packed when we dined, with a lot of groups of friends, family and business types, service was friendly and faultless, with waiters crouching down beside tables (it was also noisy) to take the time to explain each dish.
Jupiters Hotel and Casino, Casino Drive, Broadbeach Island, Broadbeach, 07 5592 8100
*Nineteen Orchid Avenue
It’s probably a good idea to make your bar a speakeasy if you’re planning to open it in the heart of the Surfers Paradise nightlife district. The premium cocktails and ambience at Nineteen Orchid Avenue are not for teenagers with fake IDs. Disguised as a bespoke tailor shop, this is a grown up bar with serious drinks (go the Negroni or Old Fashioned), and while gaining entry requires a couple of steps, there’s a refreshing lack of attitude once inside. Dress like an adult.
19 Orchid Avenue, Surfers Paradise.
*This bar is now permanently closed
Where do you like to do your eating and drinking on the Gold Coast? Recommendations welcome in the comments below.