Cross Eyed Mary, Coolangatta – Kicking the year off with a delicious bang was Cross Eyed Mary. Transforming the hole-in-the-wall space formerly occupied by Tasca on Coolangatta’s Griffith Street into a charming pasta-and-wine bar that is modernising tradition with good, honest fare, crafted cocktails and some seriously impressive sips of vino. Whilst she may be small in stature, Cross Eyed Mary has already left a big impression on the local pasta-loving community and once you get a taste of the handmade pasta, you’ll understand why. Do yourself a favour and jump over here to make a booking.
Mr Kojima, Chevron Island – The definition of a hidden gem, this neighbourhood eatery may not boast the flashiest fit-out but that doesn’t stop the 36-seat dining room filling to capacity almost every single night. The venue is the handiwork of celebrated chef Jon Hizola (who has previously helmed the kitchens at many of the city’s esteemed Asian-fusion restaurants including Kiyomi, Etsu Izakaya, Hideaway Kitchen and Bar and Mr Hizolas) and his partner Eileen and dishes up a modern take on traditional Japanese fare. Our top tip? Opt for the omakase option to free yourself from the burdensome task of trying to decide between the beef toban, gyoza and tuna tartare. Call 0401 573 099 to book a table.
RaRa Ramen, Burleigh Heads – As much as we enjoy plunging a spoon into a steamy bowl of ramen at any time of the year, it’s especially satisfying in winter and lucky for us, Sydney-born RaRa Ramen arrived in Burleigh Heads just in time for peak ramen-slurping season. The moodily lit ramen den is owners Scott Gault and Katie Shortland’s first foray into Queensland, having previously created ramen joints in Redfern and Randwick as well as the popular plant-based eatery Lonely Mouth in Newtown and RaRa Chan in Eveleigh. If you’re fond of highballs, sours and bar snacks (in addition to steaming bowls of piping-hot ramen, of course) this one is a must-try.
NAÂMi, Burleigh Heads – From the outside, NAÂMi is a tiny takeaway nook on James Street slinging steamy spring rolls, banh mi and pho to-go but those who dare to look beyond the bain maries will notice that there’s more to this pint-sized newcomer than meets the eye. Venture through the door (providing you know the password) and you’ll discover a speakeasy that will transport you to the bustling backstreets of Vietnam. Inspired by a road trip Oli Frost (co-owner of the neighbouring Maman and Milky Lane) and his dad Geoffery (hint, remember that name) took back when overseas travel was a thing, the immersive experience is best enjoyed perched at the bar. There are a dozen tastebud-tingling concoctions to wet your whistle including the Naami No. 5, which is unreservedly one of our favourite cocktails ever.
Capricorn Distilling Co, Burleigh Heads – The local distilling scene is hotter than the surface of the sun right now with some top-notch tasting rooms and sip-from-the-source bars popping up all over this fine city and one of our favourite new watering holes is Capricorn Distilling Co. Opening in May, the small-batch urban distillery popped up quietly in Ern Harley Drive having relocated from its original home in Rockhampton, where it operated the moniker Saleyards Distillery and and Billy Goat’s Gin and picked up a stack of awards including the accolade of the world’s best-spiced rum at London’s prestigious World Rum Awards spirit competition. Beyond the bar, the venue houses some seriously impressive stills, which are already hard at work creating the brand’s range of rums and three varietals of gin. Keen for more? The team run free 45-minute tours where budding distillers and hobbyists can get a glimpse of the distilling process including the botanicals that go into creating its award-winning rum.
Palette and The Exhibitionist Bar at HOTA, Bundall – Unless you have been living under a rock, it’s pretty likely you’re already across Palette and The Exhibitionist Bar at HOTA Gallery. The next-level venues opened in April and have been tantalising tastebuds ever since with Palette’s modern Australian cuisine and The Exhibitionist Bar’s crafted cocktails and sensational views. If you’re yet to check them out, consider this your official invitation.
Surfers Pavilion, Surfers Paradise – April was a busy month as it also saw the opening of the eagerly anticipated Surfers Pavilion, four weeks ahead of schedule! A venue with direct boat and jet-ski access, a dedicated frosé bar and an interactive oyster-and-champagne station, it’s little wonder why you guys lapped it up.
SPEC, Miami – May saw the opening of a dark and brooding watering hole called SPEC. Fronting the Gold Coast Highway at Miami, SPEC services the morning coffee crowd from its front window, which slings Anchorage Coffee from 6:00 am, whilst those looking for something a little more can venture through the barn doors to the dining room or outside to the open-air deck. The menu features a succinct selection of tapas-style bites ranging from grilled-corn cobettes slathered with mayo and a dusting of paprika, crispy lotus root chips, pea and fetta arancini, and tempura oysters. SPEC is also responsible for our obsession with birria tacos – if you know, you know.
The Vault, Broadbeach – If you’re a cognac connoisseur or searching for a sophisticated sip spot, there’s a stunning new whisky and tapas bar called The Vault that’s right up your alley. The luxe new venue opened in June and has completely transformed the space formerly occupied by The Coffee Club on Surf Parade in Broadbeach. The bar’s opulent interior boasts a kind of art-deco meets Great Gatsby vibe courtesy of a palette of glossy gold and matte black. A magnificent seven-metre-long bar commands pride of place and houses the venue’s seriously impressive selection of libations, which features more than 75 bottles of premium whisky, cognac and rum. At the far end, whisky lovers will spy the liquor cabinet of their dreams (an actual vault), which houses its top-shelf bottles including a prized 21-year-old Hibiki.
Sofia’s Restaurant & Bar, Broadbeach – Bringing a little taste of coastal Europe to the Gold Coast, Sofia’s Restaurant & Bar is the shining light we need in our lives. The menu, created by Damien Styles (whose impressive 30-year career also includes Melbourne’s The Point in Albert Park and local favourites Etsu Izakaya and The Fish House) is designed to bring people together with good food and good wine, which is precisely what you will find. The casually sophisticated vibe at Sofia’s is perfect for wine-filled long lunches, over-due catch-ups with friends over cocktails and dinner dates that linger – a nod to the owner Henry Hunt’s Italian heritage.
Bottega Chevron Village, Chevron Island – The former Tribeca NYC space has been reimagined to deliver an elevated take on humble Italian cuisine. Take a seat and be whisked away to southern Italy with a selection of Assaggini ranging from freshly shucked oysters, crisp arancini and burrata with chargrilled sourdough. Primi Piatti, or first dishes, include Gnocchi Latino (house-made gnocchi with slow-cooked veal and pork ragu) alongside a dedicated section for risotto, which, in years past has earned rave reviews from the one and only Matt Preston. Of course, no Italian restaurant would be complete without a selection of pizza and friends, Bottega Chevron Village does not disappoint.
Gods of the Sea, Nobby Beach – Afternoon aperitifs over a sumptuous seafood spread is something of a divine experience for us mere mortals. If you too enjoy indulging in fare from Poseidon’s table over crafted cocktails, consider this your official invitation to pull up a seat at Gods of the Sea in Nobby Beach. The sophisticated new space transformed the former Pinky’s on the Gold Coast Highway in April with crisp white-linen draped tables, an eye-catching mirrored bar and a show-stopping menu of seafood.
AWOL, Burleigh Heads – When it comes to craft brews on the coast, we truly are spoilt for choice with plenty of top-tier bars and boozers slinging their own signature swill. Lynchpins to the local sipping scene is Black Hops, who opened the doors to its first brewery back in 2016 and has since gone on to open a massive brewery and taproom in Biggera Waters and up the M1 in East Brisbane. Well, the beer-loving trio was back at it again in April with a tastebud tingling new addition to the family called AWOL. The new venue is the Gold Coast’s first dedicated barrel-aged beer taproom and if you haven’t already, stop in for a brew or two.
BOBs Beer, Surfers Paradise – Speaking of beer, BOBs Beer, an acronym for Best Of Beers, opened its doors in Surfers Paradise in May to bring you ice-cold brews, a seasonal menu of top-notch nosh and a seriously impressive fit-out. When it comes to the food, BOBs is not your regular pub grub. The menu offers a worldly selection of sophisticated bites ranging from the sweet-on-the-outside-savoury-on-the-inside profiterole craquelin filled with ricotta and king island mousse through to a hearty halaszle (a Hungarian chowder) and oysters mignonette-style. BOB’s has lofty ambitions to become Australia’s first hatted brewery restaurant.
Brezel, Varsity Lakes – This place is singlehandedly responsible for our obsession with German pretzels and judging from the empty cabinets daily, a lot of other people’s too. Opening in April, Brezel found a home at Varsity Lakes and specialises in proper German pretzels, rye bread, spelt rolls, flaky pastries, cakes, and other such niceties. Hot tip, if you have your heart set on a pretzel, you best get there early as they fly out the door pretty quick.
Fat Pig BBQ by Split, Nobby Beach – As the seasons change, so too does the ever-evolving space perched above the Nobbys strip. Friends and fellow revellers, say hello to Fat Pig BBQ by Split – the brand-new winter-appropriate incarnation of the ramshackle rooftop space. Fat Pig BBQ by Split is, as you may have deducted, all about the barbecue. The irresistible aroma of smoked and barbecued meat wafts over the beachside suburb and, unlike its predecessors, food is the focus here.
WildFlower Gin Distillery, Varsity Lakes – Recently claiming gold in the Australian Gin Awards for its Signature Gin, WildFlower Gin Distillery has quickly become one of the Gold Coast’s largest gin and vodka producers and often releases deliciously creative creations (like its Australia Day Lamington Vodka). Carrying over this inspiration to the drinks menu for the bar was only natural, meaning that gin-lovers can enjoy the opening feature cocktail The Honeycomb, which is inspired by the Gold Coast’s distinctive bee-attracting flowers. Those who prefer simpler sips over cocktails may choose to enjoy the recently released Pink Gin which also features flavours from WildFlower’s very own backyard honey.
Seadog in the Park, Burleigh Heads – The sister space to the pint-sized hub on James Street, Seadog in the park is perched at the far end of the green at Burleigh Heads Bowls Club. Primarily a takeaway coffee slinger, there are a handful of picnic benches shaded by sky-blue and white umbrellas if you prefer to sit and savour your brew. In true Seadog style, what the venue lacks in size it makes up for in personality, passion and excellent coffee.
Honourable mentions: As much as we wanted to include every single new opening for 2021, our word count would simply not allow it. If you’re still thirsty for more, may we suggest you check out Milk Money Espresso in Robina for seriously next-level sandwiches, Spice Kitchen and Bar in Broadbeach for tasty Thai and while you’re in the area, pop in and check out Fig + Frankies new-look! Matteo’s in Clear Island Waters is also a firm favourite but technically opened in December 2020 and if you’re in the mood for a Lebanese feast, check out Jaybriells.