If you’re seeking the latest emerging dining precinct of the Gold Coast, look no further than Palm Beach. It’s hot, hot, hot, with each week bringing a new opening, each one very different to the last.
Originally settled by Europeans in the 1870s as grazing land, the beach side of Elanora, as the suburb was then known, was subdivided into the Palm Beach Estate in 1923 by the developer, the Palm Beach Company Ltd. Brisbane, however the suburb was not formally renamed until 1961.
As a suburb, laid-back Palm Beach has often been overlooked as a destination. In many ways it’s a ‘middle’ stretch of land partitioned off by Tallebudgera Creek and Currumbin Creek on either end, the headlands of Burleigh and Currumbin the sentinels beyond. With its spectacular white sandy beach, this coastal stretch also houses one of our favourite picnic spots at its southern end.
The ramshackle beach shacks along Jefferson Lane may now be worth millions, but the suburb retains a die-hard loyalty from locals. While surrounding suburbs have basked in the spotlight, local Palmy residents have revelled in their laid back beachside lifestyle, the suburb undergoing a quiet regeneration in the last few years.
The Palmy coastal lifestyle is also reflected in its restaurants. Several local cafés such as Barefoot Barista, Espresso Moto and Feather & Docks have quietly shone, with restaurants such as Pablo Pablo, Burgster and Lester & Earl joining them in recent years.
From local bars and tapas joints to cutting edge foodie haunts where ‘foraging, fermenting and farming’ delight the senses, there are dining offerings in Palm Beach to suit every palate. Now boasting more than 50 restaurants and cafés, the once sleepy suburb is now the new destination for discriminating diners. Here are some of the latest openings:
Wildernis Café + Bar
1166 Gold Coast Highway Ph: 07 5534 5428
Bright and light, Wildernis Café + Bar captures the Palmy vibe perfectly. Bifold doors open the venue to alfresco dining, as light floods the restaurant from a sun roof overhead.
Coffee's on at 5.30am along with smoothies and juices, with brekkie starting at 6 - early enough to please tradies and beach walkers. Breakfast gets a good showing on this menu, from a Botanical Bowl or Garden Brekkie through the likely suspects to the decadent Buttermilk Pancakes topped with berries, ice cream, maple syrup, Nutella and nuts.
Lunchtime backs up with burgers for a fast getaway, but take time to dwell and enjoy dishes such as Bangalow pork belly and tuna. There's nothing ordinary about these dishes; the pork is beautifully presented with a thyme-roasted apple topped with a sticky glaze and crisp crackling; and the Rare crusted yellowfin tuna plated up on a deconstructed Niçoise salad with cauli cream and basil oil. It's the perfect lunch - fresh, local, innovative, perfectly cooked and tastefully presented.
On weekends, the venue stretches out into lazy decadent days, with a tapas menu kicking in from afternoon until late; just the place to share plates of food and a few drinks. Plenty of choice, with seven beers on tap and a page of smart cocktails.
As Wildernis settles in, it’s time for the team to begin ‘Phase Two’ of their project: the renovation of their tucked away upstairs hideaway venue, complete with pizza oven and kitchen bar. One thing's for sure...this bit of Wildernis certainly won’t go astray!
1069 Gold Coast Highway Ph: 07 5659 2282
It's hard to miss Balboa as you drive through Palm Beach, its red brick two-storey building forming an imposing picture; even more so at night when the interior emanates a warm glow and the tables spill over with food, drinks and good times.
The latest venture of Avvia owners Ehud (Eddie) and Cherie Uzan, Balboa is a classy venue, oozing Italian sophistication. Its vaulted ceiling is studded with exposed beams and a chandelier. Beneath, a stairway takes us to the mezzanine level overlooking the huge bar. This is ‘rustic Italian’, a 120-seat restaurant where an extended family could gather and celebrate. Historic photographs and realia, including a Vespa perched amid the rafters, transport us away to another time and place.
Wood-fired pizza is made to order in the Napoli-sourced oven and pasta is handmade daily. Choose antipasti to start, such as Fiori di zucca ripieni (Zucchini flowers with ricotta, anchovies and eggplant), Roast octopus, or Affettati Misti (Italian and Australian salami hanging on a stand, accompanied by burrata, olives, pickled vegetables and caponata).
Then move on to pizza (also available in gluten-free), primi (pasta), gnocchi, risotto or secondi (mains) with sides. The dishes are simple Italian classics, well done and packed with flavour. From Pizza Bianchi with caramelized onions, slivered potato, fior di latte, pancetta and truffle oil, luscious Linguini de gamberi (pasta with prawns), to the rich Chestnut gnocchi served with black truffle, sage and Grana Padano, plates can be shared. Balance with a tangy chilli and lemon-laced Sugarleaf salad for a summer lunch.
8th Avenue Terrace
Levels 1 & 2, 8th Avenue Plaza, 1176 Gold Coast Highway Ph: 07 5534 6912
Following the runaway success of the oh-so-delicious Espresso Moto, owners Jordan Stubbs, Krista Hall, Shannon Baier-Dry and Nikki Grimshaw-Jones have transformed the upper two levels of the 8th Avenue Plaza office block into a dual function restaurant: a casual vergola-roofed alfresco terrace on the first level, with a more formal dining room above.
With its understated but upmarket Palmy style, bright and breezy in colour, brass counter tops and rope features are set against timber floors and furniture, unobtrusively adding to the nautical theme.
This is casual alfresco dining at its best from Espresso Moto’s Head Chef Glen Burnett and team, tempting us to stay a while, grazing at will without the defining limits of meals, courses or cuisine.
With a glass of Watermelon spritz in hand, we share plates of Korean tuna tartar tossed through with kimchi, Hand-pressed duck fat potatoes with 5 spice, Slow-rendered duck breast on a bed of currant-laced lentils. There are many choices ranging from exquisite to rustic, small to large. Whole slow-cooked lamb rack and cap served with sweet potato and pancetta mousse, mint and coriander pesto, and red currant jus would be a more substantial meal, while Sesame beer-battered Spanish mackerel served with fried kipflers, slaw and house tartare brings reminders of the sea air on a day at the beach.
With some of the smartest casual service we’ve seen on the coast, come sundown, the upstairs dining room becomes home to wine dinners and date night, and the sophisticated wine list comes into its own.
1128 Gold Coast Hwy
Every so often something radically different comes along in the dining scene; an idea which gives new life to our culinary scene.
The Collective at Palm Beach is just that. A restaurant version of a food market, The Collective is the brainchild of Jeremy Davidson and Chloe and Wayne Hubbard.
“As a family, we love food and eating out, and have always craved somewhere that offers a variety of choices of different cuisines in a restaurant service style environment,” Jeremy tells us.
Featuring a menu cooked in five kitchens, all under one roof, each person dining can choose a different world cuisine from some of our favourite chefs:
Luckies Diner from Erin and Lucas Schranz brings us casual American cuisine, including their burgers, wings and sides made famous at Easy Street Diner;
The Italian Job from Jorge Mauleon of Bread and Butter fame serves up woodfired pizza and tapas;
Umami’s Vincent Seng (ex-Mamasan) puts fresh Asian flavours on the plate;
Calavera Cantina offers a new fresh taste of Mexico - ceviche, raw and vegan dishes, slow dry-roasted meats and seafood to share;
The Kitchen @ The Collective is an all-day Modern Australian dining kitchen offering share plate dining at lunch and dinner.
The courtyard mural says it all: ‘Better Together’, a principle shown in this collective of great chefs, transforming the old Palm Beach Post Office into an airy 300-seat, seven-day-a-week venue. A rooftop bar and barista cart complete the drink options.
Complementing the southern Gold Coast’s already vibrant social scene, The Collective features live music on weekends.
“Palm Beach was a natural choice for us as we live here, but we are also excited to see Palmy flourish with a selection of openings that are going to firmly cement the area as a great new dining precinct for the Gold Coast,” Jeremy adds.