Philippines-born chef and owner Ian Banghal is the driving force behind the family-run dining spot, dishing up a unique share-style menu that melds Mediterranean and European flavours with hints of Asian influence. The architect-turned-chef has a distinctive culinary style that has proved popular with Gold Coast locals – but they were at capacity, so he took the next logical step to expand, taking over the former space of Burleigh Smokehouse (next to McDonald’s) along the Gold Coast Highway. After months of work, the smokehouse has been transformed into Willow Dining’s new 75-seat home, with brick cladding, vibrant hand-painted wall art and mis-matched tables and chairs shaping its kitschy, eclectic vibe.
As for the eats, Willow retains its ethos of foregrounding local produce through a collection of smaller share-style plates. Expect crowd-pleasing dishes like chilli prawn cocktails with barbecue aioli, lemon and cajun-pepper calamari with house-pickle papaya and jalapeno tartare, and slow-roasted pork belly on quinoa tabouleh with pickled-chilli apples and star-anise maple. When the mercury drops, go for the seafood cioppino hotpot with prawns, mussels, squid and scallops swimming in a plum and chilli-spiked Napoli sauce, all mopped up with crusty bread. There’s also larger share dishes like the six-hour lamb leg with ratatouille, and the braised beef cheeks with potato galette in a red-wine-infused French-onion sauce, while sweet tooths can finish with a passionfruit creme brulee or a zingy lemon posset. Be sure to work your way through Willow’s cocktails while you’re at it!
You’ll find all of Willow’s new info, including opening hours, over in the Stumble Guide.