Ask any local and they’ll tell you that Burleigh is where the magic happens. Sure, the glittering, iconic skyline of Surfers Paradise and Broadbeach put us squarely on the international tourist map, but it’s Burleigh, the bohemian pocket bordered by a coastal national park, that oozes the true essence of why we all live here. Perhaps it’s the perennial favourite weekend hangout of Burleigh Hill, delightful James Street and its boutique finds, the always-holidays vibes, or the fact that everyone seems to be walking around with a permanent smile on their face—you can’t help but fall in love with this unpretentious slice of Aussie paradise.
Burleigh has long been a hub for food lovers and social butterflies. New businesses are consistently lured to this buzzing and prosperous hotspot, with a host of recent openings—including Burleigh Pavilion, one of the most notable hospitality developments to hit the Coast—providing ample reasons for visitors and locals to revisit, again and again. Here’s what’s new and noteworthy in Burleigh Heads.
THE TROPIC AT BURLEIGH PAVILLION
Commanding one of the most enviable, absolute beachfront locales in the country—comparable in stature to Bondi’s iconic Bondi Icebergs—Burleigh Pavilion has quickly established itself as THE place to see and be seen. Outdoor showers and a surfboard rack entice beachgoers in directly off the sand, for wood-fired pizzas and frosty schooners of local craft beer served with uninterrupted coastal vistas. Though it’s Burleigh Pavilion’s signature restaurant, fronted by lauded Sydney chef Guillaume Zika, where things get seriously fancy. This 200-seat, full service restaurant has a patio to-die-for and on trend styling awash in blonde timbers, sage and blush pink accents and bathed in natural light. Book yourself a waterfront table at magic hour and watch the sunset over the hinterland as you devour kingfish tartare, grilled tiger prawns, wood-fired pig doughnut and washed down with copious glasses of chilled Savvy B, all while you cheers to life on the beautiful Gold Coast.
It was Sydney’s loss and Gold Coast’s gain when celebrated young chef, Alex Munzo Labart, chose Burleigh Heads for his first solo venture—Restaurant Labart. With an impressive resume that lists Monopole and Cirrus among his most recent accomplishments, not surprisingly Alex’s dive into the flourishing regional dining setting has piqued the attention of key media and industry professionals across the country. Taking up residence in a quieter side street off the top end of James Street, dining at this intimate 60-seat bistro exceeds expectations. Anticipate effortlessly seamless service and contemporary share style snacks and dishes from mussel ceviche to veal tartare and local spanner crab with leek and a roasted crab broth. Here everything is on show. With an open kitchen and two Japanese barbecues taking centre stage, you can watch on as Alex and his team make magic with the freshest of locally sourced ingredients—all being seasonally selected to ensure an ever-rotating menu. One visit you’ll understand why Labart has quickly solidified its place among one of the finest new restaurants in Queensland.
While you can find tributes to Asian, Italian, Greek and American cuisine on literally every corner, two charismatic mates spotted a gapping hole in the local food scene and have opened a bar that celebrates all things Australiana. Designed to evoke fond memories from your childhood, Rosella’s is ocker and cliché but in the best possible way. Here, Aussie icons are honoured everywhere you look; vegemite and cheese jaffles and Bunnings Sambos are served gourmet style (yes, it is possible), oysters with fingerlimes and macadamia shavings arrive in mini styrofoam eskies and frosty frothies in tinnies are the order of the day. Having researched their recipes via old copies of the Woman’s Weekly and grandma’s cookbooks, with Ken Done “Budgie Smugglers” and “Flamin’ Galah” artwork adorning the walls, walking out of here with an exaggerated smile on your dial is pretty much guaranteed.
Dark and bustling with Chinese lanterns strung overhead, Mr Hizola’s is a slice of Hong Kong in Burleigh’s busiest foodie strip. A modern take on Cantonese cuisine, come for the Mongolian clay pot beef or the signature Wagyu steak that sizzles and pops at your table on a hot stone. With a Yum Cha approach to lunchtime dining (small courses like dim sum generally served with hot tea) and dinners fuelled by creative cocktails, start your night here before heading out back to Mr Hizola’s sibling dive bar, Nightjar. Have a reputation for suffering from food envy? We recommend handing the reigns over to the chef when ordering the Emperor’s Feast banquet, where $50 per person will see a steady stream of six or seven options delivered to your table, personally curated to your tastes. Chopsticks at the ready!
JUSTIN LANE ROOFTOP
Justin Lane, who can be thanked for bringing the trendy set to Burleigh since 2011, have also jumped on the new and noteworthy bandwagon with a stylish extension to their much-loved rooftop. If you’ve ever visited on a balmy weekend evening, you will have experienced the shoulder-to-shoulder jam of guests collectively grooving to smooth DJ beats. Perfect for accidently bumping into that girl/guy you’ve been making eyes at across the room, but not so perfect for keeping your G&T glass-bound. Not one to rest on their laurels, Justin Lane has repurposed valuable real estate by converting their function room into more rooftop dining with an expanded bar and ample space to “eat, drink and be messy” with authentic sourdough pizzas and flavoursome handmade pastas. Our tip? Don’t go home without ordering a round of Justin’s famous chili and passion fruit margaritas.
OSTERIA DEL MARE
If we weren’t already spoilt for choice along Burleigh’s eat street, along came Osteria del Mare, a bright and white Italian eatery worth sinking a fork into. Headed by yet another Sydney chef making a lifestyle sea change (who could blame him?), Osteria del Mare is open for lunch and dinner six days (closed Tuesdays), with dishes ranging from Squid Ink Spaghetti alla Marinara, Tagliata Di Tonno (yellow fin tuna in a sesame crust), stone-cooked pizza or the signature lasagna del mare, inspired by chef Emilia Romagna’s Northern Italian roots. All perfectly paired with an Aperol Spritz and those beachy Burleigh breezes.
You can trust a crew of die-hard surfers from Brazil to bring addictively finger-lickin’ barbecue and ribs to the Gold Coast. Perfecting their recipes and garnering a cult following at their original Coolangatta eatery, followed by a second venue in Bali, the Bondi Grill’e team has just expanded again with a third restaurant in Burleigh. Taking a more refined approach to their casual hangout in Cooly, this 60-seat steakhouse is barbecue done oh so right. Grab an alfresco sidewalk table or dine inside under high vaulted ceilings and exposed globes, while you work through a mouthwatering meat lover’s menu of pork, beef and lamb ribs slathered in their secret homemade sauce. Or perhaps you’ve got your eyes on the grilled-to-perfection rib eye steak or carnivorous one-kilogram Cape Grim Tomahawk? This is the kinda place where you can wear your napkin as a bib without judgment.
[UPDATE FEB 2021: Bondi Grill’e have closed their Burleigh doors, however, you can still catch them at their Coolangatta restaurant]
HEALTHY BITES & NAUGHTY TREATS
NU NUTRITION STATION
Burleigh is home to the Coast’s fit and healthy set, making it the ideal destination for NU Healthy Cafes to secure another location for its chain of health-conscious eateries, Nutrition Station. Located on the northern side of the highway, here you can fuel your beach body with super food smoothies, protein shakes and a wide selection of nutritiously loaded breakfasts and lunches. If your body is a temple, or you’re consciously trying to be kinder to your insides, this health hub eliminates the guilt from dining out or taking away.
When the Doughnut Time empire took a very public fall from grace last year, there was a doughnut-sized hole in our hearts and that of many loyal followers. Though that hole was short lived when an entrepreneurial Gold Coast local bought and resurrected the brand, including the introduction of “healthier” vegan and protein-infused options, with its first flagship store on Burleigh’s James Street. Look for the trademark mint green and the neon doughnut sign, then drool while you contemplate your options from the Nutella-injected Love At First Bite to the salted caramel filled Veruca Salt and plenty more that is diet crushing and yet oh-so Insta worthy.