Keen to gauge how swiftly the Gold Coast's food and drink scene is shifting? Take a squiz at the log book of any curious Brisbane-based food writer.
Over the past five or so years I've clocked up thousands of kilometres driving south to scope out an ever-growing list of quirky, can't-be-missed arrivals. Queensland's hottest holiday strip has never been hipper - or more appetising.
But now, more than ever - you need to know what - and where to head for.
Tasty newcomers range from cool, under-the-radar whiskey fuelled Izakaya dens like Mermaid Beach's Etsu a second venture from the owners of on-trend cafe Commune Espresso, North Burleigh (where locals chill and play weekend ping pong during their post-beach-brunch) - through to Broadbeach's buzzy, Mamasan Kitchen & Bar.
Mamasan, a pan-Asian pick 'n' mix fired up its woks for the first time in September - but it's already drawing crowds, offering dishes ranging from the likes of rich slow-braised Wagyu red curry and king crab filled dumplings to Sichuan pig's ear salad, chilli glazed lamb ribs and beyond.
Even shopping precincts on the GC are raising the ante, with the arrival of upscale game-changers like Capri On Via Roma. Options here include a waterside pontoon so you can park a jet-ski or yacht while you shop or dine.
And at Surfers Paradise, there's the re-purposed retro-cool transit centre THE 4217, housing a cool mix of providores including a coffee roastery and eatery Paradox Roasters, elegant Cha Tea Providores, a Queensland sibling for Sydney's Salt Meats Cheese deli-cooking school-cafe and more.
Photos (from left to right): Paradox Roasters and Salt, Meats Cheese
Truly, it';s enough to make Melbourne and Sydney commuters cry salt tears into their macchiatos.
And with plenty more in the pipeline, my petrol bills don't look like diminishing anytime soon.
New kids on the block
Gemelli, the family-friendly Italian pizzeria at Broadbeach, has recently introduced its sibling Gemellini, a new salumi /mozzarella/ pizzeria/bar at Nobby Beach.
Brisbane's popular Longtime Restaurant, a fun Thai-fusion eatery in Fortitude Valley opened a second venture at Burleigh Heads. Mixing Indian, Vietnamese and more with Thai flavours, Rick Shores sits on the beachfront beneath OSKARS on Burleigh.
Prefer top quality pastries to pad Thai or curry? The owners of rustic Paddock Bakery in Miami recently opened Bam, Bam Bakehouse in November 2015. It blends patisserie and bistro-style dishes with a winning park-side position at Mermaid Beach. And it's licensed.
Photos (from left to right): Paddock Bakery and Nobby's Beach
Post beach breakfast/brunch/lunch?
There's nothing like a surf swim to spark an appetite. Here's a handful of spots where you can refuel in style, or grab a fab, casual lunch.
Elk Espresso Tucked off the main drag this sunny indoor-outdoor spot does superior coffee and nicely detailed breakfasts - poached pear topped French toast, perhaps, with salted caramel and berries? Or maybe a breakfast burger on a brioche roll with Byron smoked bacon. At Nobby Beach you can visit Elk's sister venture, Sparrow Eating House for long weekend brunches ranging from poached eggs on sourdough with forest mushrooms, to waffles and vanilla parfait. And it's open Wednesday to Saturday for dinner.
Paddock Bakery This wood-fired fuelled specialty bakery-cafe housed in an old Queenslander feels like it's in the middle of the country - even if it's actually in a commercial/light industrial zone. Pick up springy sourdough loaves, savour a Single Origin Roaster Reservoir blend coffee and don't leave without breakfasting on the dippy eggs with bacon bits. The Pepe Saya creme fraiche scrambled eggs are also pretty special.
Commune A pioneer of new-style Gold Coast this bustling, boho cafe keeps on charming the punters. Pull up an armchair on the pavement and soak up the friendly vibes. First rate Campos coffee and cleverly conceived cafe-style fare with an organic bent. Corned beef and roast potato hash with eggs, anyone?
Photos (from left to right): Elk Espresso, Canteen and Commune
Alfred's Diner Brekkie in a sunny AstroTurfed backyard followed by a visit to the neighbouring hipster barber? You've found your dream spot. Moonshine Roasters coffee and everything from acai bowls and cinnamon waffles, to burritos and dude-style dogs.
Canteen Kitchen Pocket-sized and perfectly lovely. Think vases of fresh flowers, copper-topped tables and tasty Middle Eastern leaning dishes. It’s the pick of this buzzy laneway in Burleigh. Just java? Try next door offshoot, Canteen Coffee.
Fun after dark?
The GC is renowned for glorious beaches but of course there's plenty to do after sunset.
Etsu Don't be put off by the neighbours - haul back the white barn door and marvel at the colourful funky interior hidden behind. It's loud and lively - with the kitchen pumping out a Top 10 of greatest Izakaya hits. Hai!
Social Eating House There's little to indicate this upscale precinct dweller is out of the ordinary - until you start working your way through the menu. A winning venue post-beach, especially with a group in tow so you can do real justice to dishes like the slow cooked lamb shoulder. Can't wait? It's also open for lunch daily.
Hellenika Step away from the menu and dive straight into the $55 banquet - but only if you're wearing stretchy pants. There's fab Greek wine, and on Sundays a popular lunchtime session.
Photos (from left to right): Social Eating House, Cavalier Bar and Supper and Justin Lane
Justin Lane It's a laneway pizzeria in a cute old arcade with a quirky selection of dining rooms. A must-visit - and not just for the sourdough based pizze. Or pop next door to equally tasty old-school-new-flavours sibling Cavalier Bar.
It's the glitter strip, so you've got to glam up from time to time. Here's where's best to flash your cash for maximum flavour.
The Fish House Queensland's briny best fish-and seafood oriented fine diner. It comes with cracking ocean vistas and a wine list that's well worth dallying over.
Kiyomi Ignore the flashy casino surrounds and take a punt on this sharp edged Modern Japanese’s omkase 7-course tasting menu. It's a sure thing.
Mamasan Kitchen & Bar Smart Asian fusion in dramatic surrounds? Let Mama choose - and plump for the "feed me" option. Choose the 7 plates for $85 for a sweet ending or a 5 plate fiesta minus dessert for $65.
Miami Marketta The word is out and tourists are flocking to this industrial estate in pursuit of global street-eats on Friday and Saturday from 4pm. Join locals instead for $6 plates at Wednesday's Tapas Club. Same trucks but smaller plates mean you can sample more.
The Lamb Shop Juicy charcoal lamb and chicken, plump pitta bread and house cut chips? Eat in this simple Greek-style hole-in-the-wall or head a few hundred metres to the beach for sea views.
Photo: Miami Marketta
The Strand Coolangatta
Here are my top three picks:
1. Chill out at the only Queensland branch of Sydney's coolest ice creamery - by scooping up some of Gelato Messina's 40 flavours.
2. Grab a house-cut chip stuffed sambo sprinkled with malt vinegar from Griffiths St Larder (or care for that bikini body instead with a bowl of tabouli with beetroot hummus, haloumi and cabbage slaw).
3. Ditch the sandy beach feet and make tracks upstairs to first floor bar-eatery Bin 72. Here you’ll find pine-framed beach and parkland views to go with your stuffed zucchini flowers and jalapeno dipping sauce, chilli pork tacos and more.
Raise a glass
Nineteen Orchid Ave A speakeasy in Surfers? First, you'll have to find it. It's disguised as an old fashioned tailor. Cheers!
The Cambus Wallace This bustling but low key watering hole (named for a shipwrecked 1894 rum runner) regularly shape-shifts. A packed line-up includes everything from a vegan night to live music.
Chico Bar Why settle for a Chiko Roll when you can have a tasty Chico Bar instead? This hip little tapas joint is a worthy offshoot of acclaimed Chill on Tedder, with affordable lunch specials and a happy hour drinks deals.
Tamborine Mountain Distillery It's not a bar and you'll need to drive to the hinterland for this one, but it’s worth a trip to sample a huge range of award-winning drops from the cellar door of Australia's smallest operating pot still distillery. These run from lemon myrtle vodka and lillypilly gin to choc n chilli liqueur and beyond.