Bring on the sunshine! In 2016, Coolangatta is basking in the glow of diners' attention. Situated between two iconic surf breaks (Kirra and Snapper Rocks), Coolangatta Beach has always been a favourite holiday destination. Now, with The Strand's redevelopment, it is the home to extreme action in the kitchen and a new dining precinct.
Like the shifting sands of urban renewal, the Gold Coast's dining hubs are constantly changing. While many smaller businesses open in low cost venues along major transport routes, we see major rejuvenation especially in new developments (such as the Oracle in Broadbeach and its surrounding area) or in redevelopments such as The Strand Coolangatta.
Formerly known as Showcase on the Beach, the completely revamped centre takes up almost a block of beachfront land, with a number of venues enjoying views of the waves. Containing an eclectic mix of interstate talent, international chefs and high-profile young guns already based on the coast, it's also seen investment from major chains and restaurants who have jumped at the chance to own a prime beachfront location overlooking the beach.
Like the petals of a flower, dining options have emerged within The Strand over a period of months:
Fresh, healthy and delicious, O-Sushi was already a firm Byron Bay favourite before it established its second store opposite Coolangatta Beach some years ago. With the 'O' denoting appreciation, respect and honour in Japanese culture, O-Sushi embodies traditional Japanese cuisine as well as a little fusion. It's also about embracing life - a quick, healthy bite to eat or a long, leisurely dinner, it's a really tasty way to choose health. Passionate about sourcing the best and freshest ingredients as locally as possible, O-Sushi's brown sushi rice is biodynamic organic (the level above organic), and there's no MSG, artificial colouring or flavourings used in the whole restaurant. Way to go!
Top Noodle, a Japanese-style noodle bar which is part of the Sushi Train group, pre-dated The Strand's redevelopment. Its huge menu of over ninety dishes includes small izikaya-type share dishes such as Takoyaki, Gyoza and Tempura; some of the best ramen, udon, and soba on the Coast; main meals in bowls or on plates, many including rice and salad. There's a take away menu, with Vegetarian and Spicy dishes clearly marked. Always packed with value hungry diners, Top Noodle takes our prize as Best Cheap Eats on the southern end of the Gold Coast.
The Black Sheep Espresso Baa was one of the first new cafés to open. Serving deliciously creamy Toby's Estate coffee, these guys won hearts even before the food arrived. There's a fresh seasonal menu of chef's choices for breakfast and lunch, with regularly changing specials and weekend BYO dinner service. The food is simple, focussing on the flavour of great ingredients, mixed in with a dose of creativity, individuality and a sense of fun. It's the details that count: fresh berries on the salad, relishes and sauces made in house, organic eggs, good quality streaky bacon, some dishes showing more than a touch of the Kiwi brush! Best of all the friendly personable service and humour keeps locals coming back.
One of the most highly anticipated openings was that of Gelato Messina. With cult-like followings in Sydney and Melbourne, the Coolangatta store was founder Nick Palumbo's first store in Queensland. Forty signature flavours of 'the gooiest, chewiest, silkiest artisan gelato' as well as a number of weekly flavours, insanely gorgeous cake creations, not to mention catering and event novelties, complete Gelato Messina's deliciousness. With flavours such as salted caramel and white chocolate, milk chocolate with peanut fudge, as well as more traditional tiramisu and pistachio, Gelato Messina is a 'must do' beach experience!
Burgers have been rejuvenated with the opening of Grill'd Coolangatta on ground level opposite the beach. Walk up from the surf and your 'go-to' place for a delicious, healthier burger is just across the street. With a wide range of gourmet fillings available, plus tempting sides such as sweet potato chips and zucchini fries, Grill'd is a healthy take on the burger, Australia's favourite meal in a bun!
With both a casual restaurant and takeaway bar, Beach Burrito rides the popularity of the Mexican wave in a fresh new style. Feeling like some soft shell tacos and a jug of margarita to share on a laid back beach afternoon? We're with you, and the Grande Baja Barra Taco is one of our favourite dishes. With choices of burrito, nachos, taquitos, fajitas and quesadillas plus churros for dessert, Beach Burrito's fresh breezy take on Mexican fare is perfect for the Cooly lifestyle.
Eat. Drink. Chill. It's the slogan of The Beach House, a juice, smoothie, gourmet frozen yoghurt and coffee bar. Harking back to the iconic holiday homes of the seventies, The Beach House is right at home on the slower-paced retro end of the coast. So, grab a coffee on the first wave, pick the tide and surf right in to The Beach House. Choose a Sunrise Brekkie bowl of açai goodness, berries or granola and fruit with a freshly squeezed juice to wash away the driftwood, a superfood-laced smoothie to power through the rips and tides, a raw cake or a tub of frozen yoghurt to refresh you after a sun-drenched day. It's Choc velvet, Malibu Mango, and Pina Colada perfect!
Quiksilver's flagship destination store in The Strand is the first of its kind in Australia; a concept store perfectly suited to the Cooly lifestyle. Get the surf generation in through the front doors, and they'll find so many reasons to stay and play. Café 28 Cooly is the dining and entertainment part of the Boardriders retail store. Serving a modest range of unpretentious fare for their all-day breakfast and lunch (Bacon and egg sangas, Avo mash, and Ham-cheese-tomato melts), juices and protein-based smoothies augment the basic menu of staples. But their not-so-shabby coffee is a different matter. It';s a sustainable blend direct-trade sourced bean from Syndicate Espresso, roasted to order by Melbourne-based Clark Street Roasters. Happy Hour in this licensed premises with burgers when the band plays completes the picture.
One of two Larder restaurants, Griffith Street Larder, owned by Blackboard's Nicholas Pearce and Marc Kinvig, fronts out to Griffith Street, a bonus to local workers. An urban café with a beachside casual vibe, Griffith Street Larder straddles a middle road of quirky health-conscious food and sinful indulgence. Serving a range of breakfast dishes, modern bowl food, handcut chips and burgers, and dishes such as Crumbed zucchini sliders, Slow-cooked beef cheeks and Cornmeal-crusted crab, Larder also carries a small range of local beer and cider. Most famous of all are their 'syringe' donuts spiked with a shot of salted caramel! It's great quality food with just a touch of naughty!
Upstairs, the second of the 'Bin' concept restaurants, Bin 72 opened as award-winning local chef/restaurateur Daniel Ridgeway's third restaurant/bar. With a bird's eye posse overlooking the beach, Bin 72 is date night territory. Share plates of contemporary food exit the kitchen with seemingly effortless ease in this sophisticated venue with classy service. Cocktails and wine are available from the bar, its beautifully lit recycled timber accented by shades of copper. This is a smart professionally-run eatery with food and drinks priced to meet the market.
Thanh Binh Bamboo offers Asian fusion as both a takeaway and dine in experience. Offering a blend of Vietnamese, Japanese, Thai and Chinese cuisine, Thanh Binh Bamboo is well known for its dumplings as well as curries, sizzling plates and seasonal specials such as local mud crab with XO sauce.
Mention a 'hug mug' from 'The Bald Man' and everyone knows who you're talking about. Eyes roll in ecstasy! A treat from Max Brenner Chocolate Bar is one of the coast's favourite indulgences, so the extension of the Max Brenner empire to Coolangatta is well appreciated! Tucked away on the northern end of The Strand's top level overlooking the beach, Max Brenner's is a great place for a casual date, a post-dinner treat, a sugar hit after the surf, or a place to visit as a gift emporium!
Those with a sweet tooth will also appreciate the Passiontree Velvet store. A popup counter tucked into a walkway nook, it's the realm of the dainty and feminine. These masterpieces of Chef Jay Shin, rows of macarons and delicate pieces of cake, decadent chocolate and the lightest sponge are laid out in rows behind glass, poised waiting for you to indulge. They form the central ‘pièces de résistance' of a High Tea experience at Passiontree Velvet. Resistance is impossible!
Bringing modern Italian dining to Coolangatta, Delizioso opened at The Strand in early 2016. Fans of the Bulimba restaurant will recognise their signature offering of pizza, pasta and modern dishes from lamb shanks and pork belly to classic Italian fare such as chicken scaloppini. Owner and multi-award winning head chef Brad Nascone says, "It will be a place where you can sit and talk, have a nice bottle of wine, and enjoy good food with a good view overlooking the beach.”
Including The Coolangatta Hotel opposite the beach, a supermarket, and smaller food outlets such as Top Juice fresh fruit and juice bar, Sunbaked Bakery Café, as well as Lorna Jane Nourish café as part of the lifestyle retailer, The Strand is a 'one stop dining stop' for foodies. It provides a central venue which showcases different cuisines, price ranges and dining styles, encouraging a rejuvenation of food culture and trade in Coolangatta. In this newly created attraction, holidaymakers and locals alike will share a common problem: making a dining choice!
Read more of Marj's reviews on Good Food Gold Coast