Surfing the menu: The best Gold Coast restaurants by precinct
If you can’t find a rockin’ place to eat on the Gold Coast, than you’re doing something wrong. In fact, there just aren’t enough mealtimes in the day to get through this mammoth list of Gold Coast restaurants and cafes that are truly local faves.
We’ve broken it down by precinct, starting north and heading our way down the coast, so no matter where you’re staying, the best eats and Insta-opportunities are just moments away!
The go-to for authentic Asian eats on the Gold Coast, and home to the official CBD and Gold Coast University Hospital, you can expect to rub shoulders with office workers by day and dim sum lovers by night in Southport (or SoPo as the kids at Randy Wallhole like to call it).
Randy Wallhole is basically all your childhood breakfast dreams realised. Start your morning with their iced latte Coco Pops – yep, literally Coco Pops served over an iced latte (Tobys Estate none the less) – or go old school with a Mum’s Special Jaffle (aka Heinz spaghetti and cheese). Just like mum used to make.
If you’re feeling a little more grown up and sophisticated, they do bagels too, and The Sal (salami, cream cheese, Swiss cheese, tomato, pepper) on an onion bagel gets our tick of approval. This is the Gold Coast, after all, so you can also get yourself an acai bowl. And you thought we’d gone all refined sugar on you for a moment then, didn’t you!
Then, make a beeline for Blendlove. While they serve a full plant-based food menu here (try the Magic Mushrooms with basil vegan mince and cashew aioli for brekkie, and gluten-free BBQ Ranch Burger with housemade bean and kale patty later on), we’ll admit, it’s ALL about the raw desserts and smoothie bowls.
Top your peanut butter and jelly smoothie bowl with flaked coconut and caramel buckinis and take away a slab of Strawberry, Blueberry + Maqui Berry Cheezecake. You’ll be back for more.
If you’re after cheap, quality Japanese BBQ, head for JFX where you can grill your own or fuel up with a quick and tasty bento or ramen. For authentic north Chinese Uighur cuisine, grab a table and BYO at Xin Jiang, or grab a park in Australia Fair Shopping Centre and join the queue for yum cha at Top One.
Also check out… Chinatown Street Markets are on the first Saturday of every second month from 4pm to 8pm.
A bundle of fish and chips or a Chiko Roll are just as at home in Main Beach as the swanky prix fixe lunches found along Tedder Ave. One thing’s for sure, Main Beach packs a lot of culinary punch into its patch.
Head to Marina Mirage for the pick of the bunch, like Glass Dining, which fits like Cinderella’s slipper every time you visit. Start with a mixed dozen of the freshest oysters and wash them down with one of Glass’s signature cocktails as the sun sets over the marina. (Psst. You might have seen it in our list of 11 Gold Coast restaurants with epic water views.)
Just down the road you can treat yourself to a swanky high tea (gluten-free options available) in the Le Jardin Lobby Bar at Palazzo Versace or dine outside overlooking the Broadwater at Vie Restuarant & Bar.
For Italian, book into Ristorante Fellini, or for good ol’ fashioned fish and chips you’ve got the Omeros Brothers.
Also check out… Pick up just-shucked oysters and fish and chips at Peter’s Fish Market.
For first-timers to the Gold Coast, Surfers Paradise usually becomes the epicentre of your stay.
On the eating front, options span the entire spectrum – from Shake Shak-style burgers and frozen concretes at cult burger joint, Betty’s Burgers, to unbeatable water views (and insanely good oysters) at Seascape.
Hotels are the hot bed of restaurant stars in this precinct, with Bazaar at QT Gold Coast offering a gourmet buffet like you’ve never experienced before. If you don’t have the room for a never-ending feast, book in for one of their QTeas or Man Teas (the dude’s alternative to cakes and finger sandwiches), or hit up Stingray Bar for Taco Tuesday.
Get your teppanyaki on at Misono at the Surfers Paradise Marriott Resort & Spa – which claims to be the largest teppanyaki restaurant in the country – or experience Asian fusion delights at Catch Restaurant in the Hilton Surfers Paradise.
After you’ve eaten your way around the hotels, head to the 4217 complex for an excellent brew at Paradox Coffee Roasters, wings and burgers from Brooklyn Depot, or a gooey woodfired pizza from Salt Meats Cheese.
Also check out… Cute cafe Bumbles (okay, technically it’s Budds Beach but at just a two-minute amble from the bungee bullet).
Just six kilometres south of Surfers Paradise, Broadbeach is a food lover’s mecca, with everything from Bavarian to Middle Eastern, through to high-class Japanese and vegetarian on the menu.
If you’re into sharing, pull up a seat kitchen-side at Social Eating House for a theatrical dining experience, or keep the tapas coming at BiN 89. If you notice the BiN brand across the coast, you’re not going mad. With iterations in Broadbeach, Mermaid Beach (inside Pacific Fair Shopping Centre), Burleigh Heads and Coolangatta (more on that later), the menus might vary but the tapas retain the same high standard across the (cheese)board.
We’re not surprised Kiyomi scored a coveted chef’s hat in the 2017 Brisbane Times Good Food Guide. Tucked neatly away inside The Star Grand, this modern Japanese restaurant hits all the right notes. (Read our full review in this post.)
For a more high-end Japanese dining experience, book in for the incredible degustation at TEN Japanese Restuarant (also with one chef’s hat) or if Asian fusion is more your bag, check out Mamasan Kitchen + Bar (hello, spanner crab ravioli dumplings!) and the new Hideaway Kitchen and Bar.
From yellowtail sashimi and Thai-style ceviche from the raw bar, through to dumplings and wontons and barbequed seafood, and a good ol’ serve of roti with curry sauce, every variety of Asian street food garners a mention here. Wash it down with imported Asian brewskies or a local Balter can.
Looking for breakfast? If there was an award for the prettiest cafe on the coast, we’d give it to Elk Espresso. Always buzzing and always adorable, this Broadie cafe starts the day with the likes of coconut, lime and beetroot pannacotta, and basil and chilli scrambled eggs with goats cheese, and warms up to hearty salads and burgers at lunchtime.
But if you’re more of a coffee date kinda guy or gal, their drinks menu is worthy of a mention all its own. Shake up your usual flat white routine and order a maple macchiato, creme brulee thick shake, marigold latte (safflower, pineapple, orange, mango, marigold), or a freshly cracked coconut.
Also check out… Epic vegetarian eats at Cardamom Pod (now also in Southport).
Once only seen as a strip of the Gold Coast Highway where Sizzler and Hooters laid their claim, Mermaid Beach has slowly but surely been blossoming into a hot foodie haunt with everything from meatballs to perfectly flaky croissants.
If you like your margaritas spicy and your empanadas stuffed with pumpkin and salted caramel, slip into Bonita Bonita for blow-your-mind Mexican. While you’re waiting for a table, road-test their cocktail list in sister bar, Bon Bon, right next door. (Psst. Bonita Bonita also do an epic brunch. Breakfast margaritas, anyone?)
Consistently rating its pants off on the Gold Coast dining scene since the doors opened in 2010, Little Truffle is on an unassuming corner but once you step inside, it’s so Frenchy; so chic. We love the Monday to Thursday three-course deal for $59.
Looking for something more casual? After lighting up the backstreets of Miami with Paddock Bakery, the owners decided to open Bam Bam Bakehouse in homage to artisan croissants through to a full bistro menu. Order the croissant French toast. Don’t ask questions.
When we said Elk would win the award for cutest cafe on the coast, we had forgotten all about everyone’s favourite Disney movie (and also Gold Coast cafe), Little Mermaid.
Just like Ariel’s high notes, Little Mermaid’s menu is filled with sweetness, from the Nutella & Grilled Strawberry Toastie with flaked sea salt at breakfast time, to jugs of rose-infused sangria and Stone & Wood beer-battered fish and chips come nightfall.
Forgetting about food for a second though, the cafe’s decor is a whitewashed brick, hanging-plant-filled dream topped off with beautiful white cane chairs and more palm tree-print cushions than you can flick a tail at.
Bonita Bonita is home to melt-in-your-mouth Mexican food, like Seared Scallops with agave prosciutto, green mole and gremolata and Chorizo Croquettes with shaved manchego, smoked sour cream and habanero jam.
Also check out… Mandala Organic Arts Cafe for raw pad thai or raw pizzas made with house made cashew cheese and Etsu Izakaya for sublime Japanese.
Ten years ago, Nobby Beach wouldn’t have been a blip on the food radar, but this beachside strip now has some of the coast’s most-wanted menus and linger-all-afternoon vibes.
Hellenika could be credited with starting the movement, the Greek baby of restaurateur Simon Gloftis, that will want you leaving more with every mouthful (with a newly revamped interior that is very aesthetically pleasing).
From zucchini chips to wood-fired octopus and melty lamb ribs, you can’t go wrong here. But if we were the betting type, we’d put our money on the $70 banquet, which takes the decision-making out of the equation so you can just indulge in the seemingly-endless stream of dips, saganaki, calamari, salty pork belly, fish, salad, baked lamb and greek sweets.
A few steps away on Lavarack Road, Sparrow Eating House is a harmony of mint green and timber interiors with a crescendo of a menu. Don’t ignore the house made gnocchi, with forest mushrooms and crushed hazelnuts, but save room for the peanut butter martini.
If you’ve got a hankering for Cocowhip, superfood salad or big ‘ol bowl of sweet potato fries, wander down to the beachfront to BSKT. You can downward dog before or after you eat with their yoga studio just upstairs.
For a slice of Italiano in Nobby Beach, intimate pizza and wine bar Gemellini (sister restaurant of Gemelli in Broadbeach) is ready and waiting to serve you with piping hot, cheesy arancini, traditional pizzas and nonna’s secret bolognese recipe.
Also check out… The Yard for shakshuka eggs by morning and cocktails and cuca tins by afternoon.
A blink-and-you’ll-miss it suburb snuggled in between Nobby Beach and Burleigh Heads, the Gold Coast’s Miami is not so much ’80s TV cop dramas and South Beach pastels, but more hipster grunge and vegan delights.
Housed in a cute cottage, Paddock Bakery brought queue-inducing dippy eggs and salted caramel cruffins to the backstreets of Miami a couple of years back, and locals have been addicted ever since. We don’t know what we love more – the fresh pork, apple and pistachio sausage rolls or the Purple Eggs (poached eggs served over house woodfired toast, slathered in beetroot and za’atar puree and topped with fetta)… or the eggy custard tarts… or the, well, everything!
Head to Greenhouse Canteen when you want to treat your body like a temple and your Instagram feed like a boss. Working under the tagline, “Cruelty-free and killing it”, you can expect brain-tricking dishes like the adzuka beah gourmet hot dawg (aka house made quinoa and bean sausage served on a sourdough baguette topped with caramelised onion, smoked relish, mustard, pickled cabbage and almond cheese) and an epic plant-based antipasti board.
If cheap and cheerful Chinese is more your cup of (Jasmine) tea, Miami Rice will keep your belly happy and Kung Po your taste buds with Malaysian and Thai dishes sidling up alongside your chow mein and Cantonese crispy roast duck.
Also check out… Miami Marketta for a smorgasbord of food trucks eats and live music every Friday and Saturday night under the fairy lights.
The list of epic eats in Burleigh Heads is as long as the sets of perfectly peeling waves curling around the headland, best watched from a picnic rug on the hill. From beachfront fine dining to rooftop bars and backstreet secrets, you’ll feel completely satiated here.
The fresh catches flown in twice-daily, the crisp, white tablecloths and the smooth-talking sommelier are just a few of the reasons why we’re sure the judges awarded The Fish House two chefs hats in the 2017 Brisbane Times Good Food Guide. The views and the tasting menu are what takes it over the line from fine to freakin’-fabulous-every-time for us.
Across the road, in prime beachfront territory, Rick Shores (winner of the best Queensland restaurant in the 2017 Delicious 100 awards) offers up its trademark Thai twist, with bar snacks like cuttlefish popcorn and betel leaf topped with soft shell crab and apple slaw, through to beef massaman tartare, and wok fried diamond clams with chilli jam.
The intensity of the flavours – and the cocktail list – will slap you sillier than the view itself (which is pretty boss).
For casual eats and curl-your-toes coffee, head to Burleigh Social (do not pass go without a mushroom, halloumi and beetroot burger) or local fave Commune.
When the sun starts to shimmy its way down towards the horizon, the rooftop at Justin Lane is where you want to be.
Also check out… Willow Dining Room for tapas by candlelight.
It’s hard to go past the Currumbin Beach Vikings Surf Life Saving Club – perched on the most impressive piece of waterfront land on the entire coast – but the dreamy, beachy strip of Currumbin has plenty of other food stars in the lineup, too.
Start your day the right way with an acai bowl from the kings of the purple berry, The Salt Mill, or munch on breakfast bruschetta and bircher at Elephant Rock Cafe.
By night, make a booking at everyone’s favourite Francophile, Allure on Currumbin. With the likes of duck pate and pork rillette, or deep-fried camembert to start, and duck a l’orange for the main event, this is not your everyday steak and frites joint.
Also check out… Biker hangout Iron and Resin Garage on a Sunday for great coffee, live tunes and a rolling roster of food trucks.
Home of pro surfers, one of the coast’s most famous breaks, and right on the border of New South Wales, Coolangatta is Queensland’s final frontier when it comes to beachfront eats done right.
If you’re into cafe hopping, you’ve found your zen. Plan to spend a morning at longtime local fave Cafe Dbar, then check out recently-opened Rockleigh Cafe (can you say all day brunch?!) and Black Sheep Espresso Baa, which you’ll find in The Strand.
Make a sneaky sidestep to Griffith St Larder. They do a mean breakfast, but let’s face it, with the sweet treats being dealt from their window, we know it’s all about the doughnuts. And the cakes. And the eclairs. (Okay, we’ll stop now.)
Later on, tame your tapas cravings at BiN 72 or discover Americana in full swing at Eddie’s Grub House, with burgers, Southern fried free-range chicken, Texas chilli cheese fries and poutine just some of the waistband-stretching wonders on the menu.
But perhaps our favourite food baby on this end of the coast comes from Tupe Aloha for its Mexican delights and tiki cocktails. Becuase, let’s face it, how can you not love tiki?
Also check out… You can’t leave Coolangatta without a triple scoop from Gelato Messina.
*For more ideas, check out our 48 hours in Coolangatta post.
That should keep you full! Are there any you think we’ve missed? Add your favourite Gold Coast restaurant to the comments below.
This post was originally published in 2016 and was updated on 28 March 2018.