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18 Gold Coast restaurants and cafés you can’t miss

It’s been a long time since The Pink Poodle was the height of culinary sophistication on the Gold Coast (if you can even remember that far back).

Metamorphosing from dining wasteland to a gourmand’s playground, the Gold Coast has award-winning fine dining options in spades. But there are also a bunch of down-to-earth, rustic and homely restaurants, cafés and diners that should definitely make the list next time you hit the GC.

Make a reservation at one (or all) of these Gold Coast restaurants for your next visit.

RICK SHORES, Burleigh Heads

Rick Shores

Photo by Rick Shores via IG

Award-winning dining? Tick. Waterfront views? Tick. Great food? A given, considering the guys behind the aprons hail from some of the country’s top South-East Asian restaurants.

Ask any local about Rick Shores in Burleigh Heads and you’re guaranteed to cop an earful. So close to the beach you can hear the waves in between mouthfuls, you won’t know what’s more impressive, the prime location or the flavour sensations blowing your mind, from bar snacks like the silken tofu with Sichuan eggplant sauce and crisp lettuce through to the finger-licking main roasted pork shoulder with apple teriyaki and red miso.

PADDOCK BAKERY, Miami

Nutella doughnut sandwich. Got your attention? A bakery this may be, but Paddock Bakery’s organic wood-fired sourdough is turned into all kinds of tastebud-tantalising treats at this cute renovated Queenslander in Miami. Surrounded by a thriving garden, fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs are handpicked to become the stars on the ever-growing and changing menu.

Their meatball sub is heaven in two handfuls – meatballs, roasted capsicum sauce and wood-fired sub all made in-house and topped with cheese. And if you hit a bit of a bread coma, the carrot cake porridge combines oats, sultanas, carrot, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, pecans, walnuts, toasted coconut and honeycomb into heartiest, most comforting breakfast around this winter. The best part? It’s open seven days.

Even if you’re not in the market for a sit-down brekkie or lunch, it’s worth making a stop for their gluten-free salted caramel and chocolate ganache brownie. #lifechanger

THE FISH HOUSE, Burleigh Heads

The Fish House | Best Gold Coast restaurants

Burleigh Headland and seafood go together like peas and carrots; like roast lamb and mint sauce; like meat pies and sauce (okay, you get the drift).

Not unexpectedly, fish is the hero here.

At The Fish House, the onus is on the highest quality catches, prepared simply so you can still taste the ocean. Oh, and an A-Class wine list.

Book for lunch, order a bottle of crisp white wine and say yes to the chef’s menu.

SOCIAL EATING HOUSE, Broadbeach

Social Eating House | Best Gold Coast restaurants

This suave culinary hot spot garnered John Cusack’s Hollywood tick of approval, but to be honest we knew it was a winner well before then. The actor opted to dine at Social not one or two, but five nights running while filming on the Gold Coast. And it’s not hard to see why he was so smitten.

Impeccable service, a classy fit out, quality charcuterie and cheeses, and inventive Spanish-inspired share plates make Social Eating House a stand out in Broadbeach’s Oracle complex.

Hot Tip: Eat at the bar overlooking the buzzing kitchen for a slice of Manhattan living on the Gold Coast.

BSKT CAFÉ, Mermaid Beach

BSKT Gold Coast | Best Gold Coast restaurants

Within a few days of opening, locals in the know were already hard-pressed to find a table at this new healthy eating café, even with the plethora of indoor/outdoor options available.

Taking over the corner opposite the Nobby’s Beach Surf Club, BSKT Café (short for Biscuit) houses a yoga studio upstairs and serves up delicious produce downstairs; most of it gluten and dairy free for the intolerant/allergic/#cleaneating purists amongst us.

Save room for the brownie with coconut ice-cream (although I can’t be sure how many yoga classes you’ll need to do to burn that one off).

HELLENIKA

Hellenika | Best Gold Coast restaurants

Photo by Hellenika via FB

Lamb shoulder. That’s all you need to know to add Hellenika to your list of must-try Gold Coast restaurants.

This Greek restaurant in Nobby Beach not only has some of the best atmosphere and décor along the coast, it also has the juiciest, falling-off-the-bone lamb shoulder to be eaten. Ever.

Hellenika is on the side of one of the busiest highways in Australia, however, the unlikely setting makes the cosy and welcoming atmosphere inside even more surprising. It’s also one of the best spots for a long Sunday lunch, just be prepared to leave full!

BONITA BONITA, Mermaid Beach

Bonita Bonita | Best Gold Coast restaurants

Photo by Bonita Bonita via FB

Thank goodness Aus-Mex has gone as stale as a two-year-old Old El Paso shell and been removed from our dining repertoire. In its place, a funky-as-hell soundtrack, moody Day of the Dead decor and a killer menu from the ladies behind Bonita Bonita in Mermaid Beach.

Think scallops with hazelnut mole and chorizo crumb, piquillo poppers filled with melted Meredith goats cheese and slow-cooked lamb tacos followed up with sweet pumpkin empanadas with salted caramel. We’d say arrriba, but then we’d had to slap ourselves for being so cliché.

Neighbouring BonBon bar is the perfect spot for pre or post-dinner drinks.

SPARROW EATING HOUSE

If you’re familiar with Elk espresso in Broadbeach, then you’ll be booking a table at Sparrow Eating House before this sentence is read. Brought to you by the talented couple behind Elk, this chic restaurant is all geometric wire light shades and copper bar and tabletops, making it as pretty to look at as the delicious offering you’ll find on the menu.

Get set to share and take your pick between the likes of pumpkin and walnut croquettes, tempura zucchini flowers, mac and cheese with smoky speck parcels and honey mustard, and scallops with artichoke puree, prosciutto and pistachios.

Whatever you do, just be sure to leave enough room for a dessert cocktail; the peanut butter martini is worth the drive from Brisbane alone.

KIYOMI, Broadbeach

Kiyomi | Best Gold Coast restaurants

Itadakimasu! World-class, fresh and inventive-as-Einstein Japanese is found in the form of Kiyomi on the lobby level of The Star Gold Coast in Broadbeach.

Chase Kojima of Nobu and Sokyo (The Star, Sydney) is the master of the menu here, with a lengthy selection of small bites, tempura, grill traditional sushi and sashimi taking you from tuna tataki with asparagus, enoki and tosazu leek sauce to cloud-like snapper tempura with coriander, chilli, black pepper amazu.

Then, if the sake selection isn’t hitting the right spot, dessert will smack you around the sweet tooth with the insanely good Goma Street signature stack (it involves sesame ice-cream and yes, you need to order it).

BURLEIGH SOCIAL, Miami

Take three mates, an unused tin shed and a back street in Miami and what do you get? One hipper than a hipster-with-a-pug-on-rollerskates café that pumps out great coffee, a hearty breakfast menu and epic burgers and share boards come afternoon.

Burleigh Social Club is sharing the crowd load with Paddock Bakery up the street and competing on the plate with their popular Paleo breakfast and (not-so-Paleo) white choc salted caramel popcorn muffin. Bring your pug and get amongst it.

BAZAAR at QT Gold Coast, Surfers Paradise

Buffets are never normally an acceptable eating venue unless you’re on a cruise. However, QT Gold Coast changed the game when they introduced their gourmet all-you-can-eat Bazaar back in 2010. And my God, it’s such a good concept. Something for everyone, and lots of it.

This very cool buffet has a seafood station to rival any good fish and chippery, an Asian chef who steams up dumplings to order, someone pulling chunks of meat off a pig on the spit, a BBQ guy who grills steaks to order, a pasta station, pizza, charcuterie, salads, the list goes on and on.

One of the hardest things about a buffet is discipline and small portions. But save room for dessert – the dessert chef is like Willy Wonka with his love of popping rocks and fizzing candies.

JUSTIN LANE

Justin Lane | Best Gold Coast restaurants

Photo by Justin Lane via FB

Nestled down a lane in the surfing mecca of Burleigh Heads, Justin Lane suits the cool vibe of this area to a T. The bohemian set congregates here in big numbers on a Friday and Saturday night (expect to queue) for some of the best pizzas around.

There’s a rooftop bar and a cocktail list that keeps you going back for more. Don’t expect to linger though as this place is so popular a bill will be on your table by the time you finish your last slice.

WILLOW DINING ROOM, Burleigh Heads

You don’t want to dine here if you’re a bit precious about sitting on mismatched chairs and stools, but if you’re happy with a couple of ice buckets to dunk your BYO wine into and tables large enough to seat the whole crew – with tasty nosh a bonus – then say hello to Willow Dining Room.

Non-locals might have to look a little harder than most to find this pretty little sidewalk café, tucked off the main highway just north of Burleigh Heads. Again, share plates are the name of the game here with the bonus being the super relaxed, unpretentious vibe.

MARKETTA STREET FOOD, Miami

Miami Marketta | Best Gold Coast restaurants

Okay, so it’s not technically a restaurant, but if you’re looking to eat out on the GC (and especially if you can’t decide on a cuisine that will keep your horde happy), take a stroll down a laneway in Miami and get in on the buzz that is Marketta.

Every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evening, the markets serve up everything from Spanish, Italian, Thai and French cuisine – as well as boutique local beer and wine, a dessert hall and live music.

You could be gobbling down dumplings for starters, filling up on fresh ravioli for your main and taking home a sinfully sweet French pastry for dessert (or let’s face it, eating it all in the one sitting because you only live once).

CICCHETTI

Sitting (exceptionally) pretty at Capri on Via Roma in Surfers Paradise, Cicchetti is a treat not just to the tummy, but to the eyes as well. Artfully designed with floor-to-ceiling windows and dazzling chandeliers, the pizza and pasta bar is a first-class dining experience minus the hefty price tag.

Following the success of their original Byron-based restaurant, the owners decided to bring the same casual yet chic atmosphere to the GC, and we’re so glad they did.

Mangia! mangia! on their Italian eats (FYI, the pastas are house-made) and wash it down with a cocktail or a glass of red from their extensive wine list

ALFRED’S APARTMENT

Alfred's Diner | Best Gold Coast restaurants

Cutthroat shave, barbershop snip, new designer threads, and a box of surfboard wax, yep, you can add them all as extras to your order of a bacon and egg roll and flat white at Alfred’s. Opened initially as a barber and retail shop, the boys at Alfred’s Apartment decided to add Alfred’s Diner to the premises making it the ultimate place to hang out in Mermaid Beach.

Toted as ‘gourmet street food’ the diner serves up tasty breakfast fare, like deluxe acai bowls topped with caramelised buckinis, Steph Gilmore’s favourite poached eggs on avocado toast sprinkled with dukkah and goats cheese, and a Mexican breakfast burrito. Lunch takes a leaf squarely out of the American cuisine cookbook with a short offering of two burritos, one salad and three hot dogs.

It’s a place where you can sip on bottles of Living Juice, get a beard trim and shop the carefully-curated collection of gentlemanly fashion and accessories, at the same time as getting a bite to eat.

THE LITTLE PLATE

Little by name but certainly not by reputation, this boutique restaurant and bar tucked away in North Burleigh is a booking mandatory type of place – you don’t want to miss out! A little bit Mediterranean, a little bit Asian, the tapas-style menu brings fine dining into the share plate philosophy. No amount of preparation is too much, it seems.

The Little Bar is its perfect partner, just one shop away, serving great cocktails and wine and chocolate boards, perfect for chilly winter nights (or, any night).

THE YARD

The Yard | Best Gold Coast restaurants

Adding to the already impressive Nobby Beach foodie line-up, you’ll find The Yard on your way down to the beach and once you stick your head in to see what it’s all about, you’ll definitely find it hard to leave (especially if the kids spy the playground out back).

Here the onus is on paddock to plate, with an all-day menu line-up featuring shakshuka with cherry tomatoes, fetta and chorizo and blue swimmer crab cakes with habanero slaw, as well as favourites like pulled pork tacos and a wagyu burger.

The addition of a liquor licence means the bar is pumping out wine, craft beer, cocktails and jugs of sangria, too! Did someone say boozy brunch?

Still hungry?

What’s your favourite Gold Coast restaurant? Share with us below.

*This content was originally published between 2013-2015 and updated in March 2018.