If you haven’t been to the Gold Coast in a while you might be surprised that nowadays it’s less about high-rises and theme parks. Let’s just say the GC has got in touch with its natural side. It’s like there’s been an unconscious shift towards Byron Bay and Bangalow. Now there are microbreweries, pop-ups, shipping container night markets as well as internationally acclaimed wellness retreats and unbeatable farmers markets.
Local surfers turned entrepreneurs have opened great hole-in-the-wall coffee spots with laid back cafes serving excellent coffee, delicious avocado smash a dozen different ways and all with a good dose of friendly, unhurried but efficient service. Try Social Brew in the Burleigh Arcade, James Street Burleigh for great coffee and more www.facebook.com/socialbrewburleigh
Friday and Saturday nights have been transformed with the rise of hot spots like Marketta in Miami and Helensvale’s NightQuarter. Food trucks along the Gold Coast offer unbelievable value and great eats. Fine-dining choices in the 5-star hotels have never been better with Jupiter’s Kiyomi and room81 at Sofitel earning a chef’s toque in the Brisbane Times Good Food Guide.
The food options are endless but the two of the very best places to dine and just take in their unique locations are at opposite ends of the coast. The Fish House at Burleigh and the Sparkling High Tea at Palazzo Versace offer very different dining experiences that are not to be missed.
The Fish House
The Fish House may be the choice of visiting superstars for their take on quality, fresh seafood cooked without fuss or pretension. Or it might be the drop-dead gorgeous position overlooking the southern end of Burleigh Heads.
Warning: Those mesmerising views across the breakers and on to the unmistakable Surfers Paradise skyline will stop you concentrating on the menu and wine list. Day or night the view is a knockout.
Local restaurateur and impresario Simon Gloftis opened the Fish House three years ago. Countless national awards later, the restaurant serves fine fresh fish and shellfish simply, elegantly and expertly. The Fish House doesn’t do gels, spheres or soils.
The décor is welcoming – sandblasted brick, and dark green feature walls accented with white plaster. The artwork? Fish in all its forms, of course. It is the perfect backdrop for a refined single sheet menu with today’s date and a discerning wine list. The decidedly Italian approach at times seems more Amalfi Coast than Gold Coast.
Many (too many) restaurants boast of their fresh produce, their chef’s imperative to source local and seasonal. The trend in Australia began in the big spending 1980’s by Chef Serge Danserau at Kables at the Regent but few chefs maintain real vigilance in acquiring the very best from the sea or the land. Here at the Fish House it is only the finest seafood that makes it to the table.
Our Maître D describes each dish on our set menu – where the fish was caught and how, as well as the finer details on the cooking method. If local doesn’t cut it they source from elsewhere in Australia. Live dry opened Oysters might be from Coffin Bay in South Australia, the Yellow Fin from Mooloolaba and prawns from nearby Yamba.
We are treated to a luxurious starter of the finest sliver of Yellow Fin Tuna, topped with a silvery Royal Miyagi Oyster and adorned with precious Oscietra Caviar.
Moving on we are presented a glass of the most delicious Lemony Fish soup – salty, lemony and with just the appropriate briny fishiness required to make one of the most surprising and delicious entrees ever. I’m sure this ‘simple’ dish is actually a clever bit of kitchen alchemy. Everyone at the table would have licked their glass if we weren’t in such polite company.
The crunchy umami goodness of sweet, fried Whitebait was up next. The only accompaniment required was a lemon half. Exactly as it should be. The food might seem more Amalfi Coast than Gold Coast but it is spot on.
The whitebait was followed up by the most caramelized melt-in-the-mouth Patagonian Tooth fish. It is fork tender, edging near gelatinous in mouth feel – but that’s a good thing. I hear that locals won’t let the Tooth fish or the Fish soup off the menu. Book ahead – locals make sure this is one restaurant that is full seven days and nights a week. http://thefishhouse.com.au/
Palazzo Versace Couture Sparkling High Tea
When we think Versace today we may think more Donatella than Gianni. Born in Calabria Gianni loved the history, decadence and themes of ancient Greece and Rome. He adored Byzantine mosaics and he styled the Greek Medusa as his signature logo.
From the moment you enter the sweeping driveway of Palazzo Versace you know this is not so much to be ‘seen’ as not. Quite often the home away from home of visiting royals from the King of Dubai to rock royalty U2 and the Rolling Stones – Palazzo Versace is also a refuge for the famous. Further towards the entrance there is Rolls Royce by the pair. A monumental 750kg chandelier purchased by Gianni for one of his villas is so weighty it required an extra support beam built to secure it. This is the glamour and glitz the Gold Coast is known for albeit in a much more sophisticated and stylish mode.
Soft furnishings in jewel colours of ruby, amethyst and turquoise but with a defining gold Florentine print add pizzazz to this towering, sunlit foyer.
Le Jardin Lobby Bar serves Couture High Tea daily – some with or without sparkling or for a few more dollars, Runiart ‘R’ or Dom Pérignon. Tableware is naturally fine Versace china.
The food is not only delicious it is substantial. Tiered silver cake stands are layered with lighter than air fruit scones with cream and jam to raspberry macarons embellished with the Versace touch – gold leaf. Three levels of delight.
The delectable sandwiches range from smoked salmon with lemon and dill crème fraiche on rye bread to cheddar & red onion marmalade topped whole grain. Orange and thyme polenta cake doused with orange blossom syrup sits next to the signature Valrhona chocolate delice with jasmine flower.
Service is flawless with tea and luckily for us (the chosen few) top ups of the bubbles. There is also an exquisite Hibiscus Cosmo with lime syrup to wash down the ritzy and mouth-watering delicacies.
This is a high tea experience not for the bucket list. If Gianni Versace taught us anything it is about living life to the full. Food is not indulgent or decadent; it is the staff of life. This Couture High Tea might not be an experience to enjoy weekly, but it is to be savoured and take enormous pleasure in. www.palazzoversace.com.au/