The Very Very Hungry Caterpillar

YES, this is yet another Melbourne food blog!

Archive of ‘Queensland Foodie Adventures’ category

Review: Easy Street Diner (Gold Coast, QLD)

12/2563 Gold Coast Highway
Mermaid Beach QLD 4218
+61 7 5554 6542
http://easystreetdiner.com/

I get the sense that the easiest (legal) way to make money in Gold Coast is to open up a burger place. Seriously, they’re everywhere now – and quite frankly, it’s getting to the point of mass saturation. But when your non-foodie friend asks you to do dinner with him, going to the GC’s newest burger joint is a far better option than walking into the nearest surf life saving club or pub in the ‘burbs.

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Easy Street Diner is the latest ‘cool’ joint to grace the Goldie Highway. Several years ago, this long stretch of road used to be the last place you’d grab a meal at but it’s now home to some hip and happenin’ eateries. Easy Street Diner happens to be one of them. They haven’t really advertised much but if you think you can stroll in at 6pm on a Sunday evening and be seated immediately, you’d be wrong. Thanks to the power of Instagram and the all too powerful #burgers hashtag, this place was pumping when we rocked up. Luckily though, the turnover is quite quick so Adam and I were able to score two seats at the bar.

Easy Street Tonic ($8)

Easy Street Tonic ($8)

The cocktails here are cheap and simple. Apple juice and whisky were the only two ingredients in my Easy Street Tonic. If you want bells, whistle and smoked salt dust with shaved bits of gold truffle in your cocktail, this place isn’t for you.

Royale with cheese ($12)

Royale with cheese ($12)

Adam ordered the royale with cheese, an item which seems to appear on every second burger joint’s menu. It’s like, wow, you are paying tribute to Pulp Fiction – do you want a gold star for that? Sarcasm aside, Adam said it was a nice enough burger… ‘kind of like a Big Mac, but better.’

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What I liked about the presentation was that all the salad items were placed on one side so you can choose what goes into it. Being a typical boy, Adam initially picked up his burger with both hands without chucking anything into it – but then quickly added the lettuce leaves when he saw my glare. It was me who ended up eating the tomato and pickles. Bloody hell.

Chick n waffles ($22)

Chick n waffles ($22)

I decided to be different by ordering the chicken and waffles. The waffle base was beautifully crispy without being too heavy, while the chicken tenders were gloriously crunchy, light and tasty – think KFC, narrow the spice count down a bit, use better chicken meat and add a hundred times the crunch. Accompanying my dish was a bit of whipped butter and maple syrup to tie everything together. Oh yeah.

Loaded fries ($14)

Loaded fries ($14)

I probably would have been happy just eating my chicken and waffles but Adam insisted we order the loaded fries. I was reluctant after ordering a similar dish in Sydney’s Hartsyard and not being too impressed with it but hey, if I was able to make Adam eat lettuce with his burger then he can twist my arm into ordering these bloody fries.

I shouldn’t have whinged so much – they were delicious. While the Hartsyard version was soggy, gluggy and just unpleasant to eat, these were more than decent. The shoestring fries remained crispy, despite being drenched in an omg-wtf-are-you-crazy dressing of pork belly bits, bacon, cheese and creamy special sauce. While the dressing isn’t going to give anyone abs, it wasn’t terribly heavy and we were able to polish the whole thing off without feeling gross.

While Adam isn’t keen to go back to Easy Street Diner in a hurry (he argued that it was too far from his house and Boom Boom Burger Bar, while not AS good, was cheaper), I enjoyed our dinner. A lively atmosphere, fast-paced service, cocktails for less than a tenner and probably some of the best fried chicken you can get on the ‘Coast, what more can you want?

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Review: Burleigh Social (Gold Coast, QLD)

2 Hibiscus Haven
Burleigh Heads QLD 4220
+61 421 460 739

All things considered, I’m pretty lucky to be living smack bang in the middle of Gold Coast. I live within five minutes of Muso Ramen, Paddock Bakery and Bac to Nam, all excellent places to grab a feed. Another place I can add to this list of decent local hangouts is Burleigh Social.

When my old boss and her husband decided to escape Melbourne’s horrid winter temperatures by coming up to Goldie, my original plan was to take them to Paddock. Unfortunately, Paddock was stupidly busy when we drove by just after 1pm on a Wednesday afternoon. ‘Do people here not work?!’ I grumbled as we made a group decision to venture elsewhere; luckily, Burleigh Social was just down the block. It wasn’t my first choice but I had heard enough good things to pique my curiosity and plus, it wasn’t busy.

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Burleigh Social was started by a group of mates who worked in the airline industry and two of them were pilots – being a bit of an aviation geek with a bit of a thing for pilots, this joint was already getting thumbs up from me. The joint is a tin shed at the back of the site that was once occupied by Feather and Docks. Fitted out with an open kitchen, coffee bar and alfresco seating options at the front, Burleigh Social is a lovely, relaxing space to unwind and, um, be social.

Granola cup

Granola cup

Although I was tempted by the hot options on the menu (burgers, croissants and the like), I decided to be good by ordering a granola cup with my coffee. I drink macchiatos these days but I had cravings for a milk coffee, so I had a latte. Made with Allpress beans, my latte went down a silky, smooth treat.

Unfortunately, my granola took quite some time to arrive. A storm was passing through so the power went out for 10 minutes or so. While all this was going on, the kitchen somehow forgot about my order (my companions both had their fruit salads and croissants). After a quick follow up with the kitchen, my granola did arrive in a matter of minutes with an apology.

I’m not one to normally order granolas when eating out (I make my own quick five minute version at home with lots of honey and butter), but Burleigh Social’s version was pretty damn good. It was toasty, nutty with a lovely hint of butter and not overly sweet. Paired with natural yoghurt and fresh Queensland strawberries (gotta love Queensland winters), it went down a treat.

At just after 2pm, we got the firm but polite nudge to leave the premises as they were packing up for the day. Despite the fact that they forgot my order, it was a lovely lunch. While I can’t see myself coming here every week, it’s definitely one to add to my Gold Coast café list for those odd mornings when I need to leave the home office to recharge with yummy wholesome food and a lovely coffee or two.

Review: Boom Boom Burger Bar (Gold Coast, QLD)

7-9 Burra Street
Chevron Island QLD 4217
+61 7 5538 3718
http://www.boomboomburgers.com.au/

My friend Adam lives on Chevron Island, just west of Surfers Paradise. It’s a bit of a strange place; there’s a main drag that tries to be buzzing and hip like Surfers, yet it’s full of mediocre bars, takeaway eateries and late night Asian massages. In other words, it’s not known for excellent dining options. But when a workmate told me of this new burger place that just opened up, Adam and I decided to give it a go. Plus, it had a pretty quirky name: Boom Boom Burger Bar.

We rocked up early on a Sunday evening, thinking that it’d be quiet and that’d we’d snap up a table quickly. WRONG. The place was packed with happy families and couples while a guy with a guitar supplied the live music. There were only a couple of empty tables so Adam and I were lucky to arrive when we did or we would have had to face a bit of a wait.

Smoking hot ($15)

Smoking hot ($15)

I ordered Boom Boom’s signature burger, the Smoking Hot. It was presented under a smoke-filled dome and when the dome was flitted, we were supposed to ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ as the smoke wafted out. It was a bit of fancy schmancy stuff, a nod to owner Meyjitte Boughenout’s Absynthe days, that was designed to make the casual dining experience more memorable.

Unfortunately, the waitress kind of spoiled this ‘boom boom’ experience for me. Naturally, I was like ‘give me a sec, let me take a photo!’ before she lifted the dome. To my annoyance, she sighed and rolled her eyes. Look, I get it. I was definitely not the first person to want to take photos of the above and as someone who serves hundreds of this, I’m well aware that she’d be over it by now. But still, not need for that attitude!

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The burger itself was nice enough. The 150-day old aged beef was gently smoked to give it a bit of a lift. It was served with mushrooms, spinach, cheddar and ‘secret sauce’ (which tasted almost like a Big Mac sauce but with a hint of mustard).

They also chucked in cucumbers in the burger. No, not pickles. CUCUMBERS. They were soggy and tasteless; I’m not sure why they bothered, but it did damper what could have been a better-than-decent burger.

Meanwhile, Adam had the Boom Boom Bang, their basic $10 burger comprising of wagyu beef, beetroot, caramelised red onion, cheese and lettuce plus homemade tomato sauce. He polished it in a matter of half-minutes and said that he’d come back to get this burger if he felt like takeaway so it had to be better than mine.

Hand cut chips ($5)

Hand cut chips ($5)

I was also underwhelmed by their chips. They were super thick, which meant that they were soft on the edges but also a tad hard inside. They were also not the least bit crispy and they were definitely not golden.

Onion rings ($5)

Onion rings ($5)

Ditto the onion rings. The batter was so thick that Adam and I ended up playing a frustrating game of ‘where are the onions?’ – we left the rings mostly untouched.

I didn’t have the best meal here (half because of the food and half because of the waitress), however Adam said that he’d come back again. I guess if I was living just around the corner from Boom Boom, I’d come back when I’m craving a burger and can’t be bothered cooking. And I guess if I happened to be chillin’ at Adam’s place that afternoon or evening and if he insisted on going to Boom Boom, I’d tag along. But for me to make the 10-15 minute drive from my end of the ‘Coast? Hm, probably not.

Review: Globe Café (Gold Coast, QLD)

30 James Street
Burleigh Heads QLD 4220
+61 7 5520 0230

On sunny mornings, I like to take my laptop out and find a café to work in. Sometimes it’s nice to grab a window seat and sip a well-brewed cup of coffee (i.e. one that’s not made by me) and watch the world go by in between churning out work and faffing away on social media.

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When in Burleigh Heads, I normally duck into Quest. Introduced to me by one of my first Gold Coast friends Yanni, Quest is one of my favourite places to enjoy a milk coffee on the ‘Coast. Unfortunately, it’s also a favourite of many coffee-loving Gold Coast folk so mornings are often super busy. Plus, there is limited seating so if you rock up between 8:30 and 11 in the morning, you’re usually forced to take away.

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Just a few doors down on James Street though is Globe Café. If you’re in search of a place to plonk your laptop by the open window down for an hour or two, this would be it. On a Friday morning, it attracts a steady stream of patrons and although it’s busy, it’s not terribly noisy.

Latte

Latte

When I used to live in Melbourne, I was a frequent visitor to Di Bella Roasting Warehouse in North Melbourne. I’m not particularly a brunch person per se but they did a decent breakfast and their lattes were always reliably good. I’ve yet to try a coffee from Di Bella Coffee outside of this establishment (probably due to my bad experiences with Campos coffees outside of Campos flagship cafés – Trunk, I’m looking at you) so this was my first time. I need not have worried though – my latte was rich, nutty and velvety, very much like the ones I enjoyed at the Melbourne café.

Banana bread board

Banana bread board

Because I wasn’t terribly hungry, I ordered a banana bread to go with my coffee. Perhaps a bit astonishingly, it arrived on a board with all these bells and whistles. To be fair, it was kind of my fault. When I asked the lady at the counter for a banana bread, she then asked, ‘On the board?’ to which I absentmindedly said, ‘Yeah, sure.’ I didn’t know that I was being given an option to have it on its own.

So anyway, the bread itself was lovely – it was warm, light and not terribly sweet (always a plus in my books). The hazelnut butter that came with it actually complemented the bread quite nicely, giving it a bit of a salty nutty kick. It was just the presentation that threw me off. Planks of wood? Yawn. Lots of icing sugar everywhere? What on earth for? And yeah sure, berries and stewed pears are nice but this was perhaps trying a bit too hard.

I also ordered a chicken schnitzel wrap to take away for lunch. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo of it but it was a little wrap that contained chicken schnitzel pieces, maybe a pinch of shredded cheese, spinach, walnuts, avocado and a LOT of sweet chilli sauce. At $10, I thought they were a bit stint on the fillings – not so much the chicken but I did expect more than an index finger-sized slice of avocado, for example. It didn’t taste bad, but a little less sweet chilli sauce would have been fab.

Although I wouldn’t come back for the food, I think Globe is a nice place to chill for an hour or so. You get the sun streaming through in the morning and the beach is just a short walk away. The service is also friendly, quick and efficient and I definitely can’t fault the coffee. I’ll definitely use Globe as my coffee back-up option if I can get a seat at Quest (which, let’s face it, is most of the time).

Review: Bin 12 (Gold Coast, QLD)

12 James Street
Burleigh Heads QLD 4220
+61 7 5535 3085
http://bin12.com.au/

Burleigh Heads is one of my favourite places in Gold Coast (that is, besides my house, the Asian grocery store and the airport). It’s got a beach, nice cafés, non-bogan drinking holes and a few decent restaurants. It also has a pretty neat wine bar, Bin 12.

Fellow food-loving Asian Chris and I decided to go there one Tuesday evening after work. We weren’t particularly hungry but we were in the mood for some vino and tiny bites to eat. Given that Bin 12’s menu is full of quirky little sharing plates that hover between the $4-16 mark, we knew this would be the perfect place for such a meal.

The guy behind Bin 12 is Daniel Ridgeway of French restaurant Little Truffle. Apparently Ridgeway decided to open up Bin 12 for something to do on the side but funnily enough, I think Bin 12 has slowly become more popular than Little Truffle – hell, it even has a sister restaurant called Bin 72 down in Coolangatta.

Seared salmon sashimi, jalapeno, coriander and yuzu soy ($12)

Seared salmon sashimi, jalapeno, coriander and yuzu soy ($12)

With glasses of wine in hand, we got to work with the plates. The first dish, a seared salmon plate was done beautifully – the fish was just seared, perfectly soaking up the delicious yuzu soy dressing that was drizzled on top. If I was to nitpick though, I’d question why this dish was referred to a sashimi because clearly it ain’t raw!

Fried zucchini flowers stuffed with prawn

Fried zucchini flowers stuffed with prawn

I’m not a fan of zucchini flowers but Chris was really keen on these babies – and I’m glad I listened to him for they actually didn’t suck. The batter was light and crispy and the filling, almost mousse-like in texture.

Scallops and chorizo

Scallops and chorizo

The scallops and chorizo were a nice dish but kind of unmemorable seeing as I didn’t even remember having it, let alone what sauce was used to flavour the dish (perhaps I should stay away from the wine list for future dinners…). I do, however, remember the scallops being plump and juicy.

Chicken karaage soft shell taco ($5, on special)

Chicken karaage soft shell taco ($5, on special)

Tuesday nights are $5 taco nights at Bin 12 so if you love those edible heroes in a half shell, then definitely order one or two. Chris and I both had a chicken karaage taco, which was decently sized at that price point. A simple combination of lettuce, coriander, Bulldog sauce and Kewpie mayo brought crispy chicken and tortilla flour together into one tasty package. This was definitely my favourite dish of the night.

Vanilla panna cotta, rhubarb compote, caramel and salted popcorn crumble ($9)

Vanilla panna cotta, rhubarb compote, caramel and salted popcorn crumble ($9)

The desserts here are also worth looking at, especially if you decide on another glass of wine. We decided to split a vanilla panna cotta which was presented in a drinking glass (a bit odd, if you ask me). A smooth layer of rhubarb compote added a lovely tartiness to the dish, while the salted popcorn crumble created a lovely textural contrast.

It didn’t look like we had a lot of food (let’s face it, we didn’t) but it was more than enough to sustain us over a few glasses of wine. I’m not sure if Bin 12 is a place I’d go to for a substantial meal as the menu is really designed for grazing over wine but I’ll definitely come back if all I want is wine and a few chicken karaage tacos on the side.

Click to add a blog post for Bin 12 on Zomato

Review: Lester & Earl (Gold Coast, QLD)

1097 Gold Coast Highway
Palm Beach QLD 4221
+61 7 5598 2889

Winter is the perfect time to curl up in cosy surroundings and enjoy slow-cooked meats, hearty carb-loaded sides and a bottle of red wine – in other words, the stuff that ain’t going to give you abs. In all seriousness though, leave all the clean eating and exercising for the summer months; winter is the time to indulge imo and Lester & Earl, Palm Beach’s hottest kid on the Goldie Highway block is perfect for that.

Sharky was briefly in town so we decided to hit up this American-style eatery that was already proving to be a hit with the locals – an impressive feat given that this place has no website (apart from a Facebook page) or social media presence as yet. Hell, I probably would not have heard about it if it weren’t for a colleague at work, a Palm Beach resident, who mentioned it in passing one lunchtime.

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It may have felt like Melbourne outside (cold, wet and miserable) but this spacious 300-seater restaurant was cosy and warm enough to take our minds away from the crappy weather. I can also imagine how great it’d be to sit here in the hot summer months – there is ample balcony seating for those who want to soak up the fresh easterly sea breeze and admire the view. (although tbf, a dingy car park and the Palm Beach Surf Life Saving Club ain’t the best view on the Gold Coast)

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Lester & Earl’s menu is all about burgers, smoked meats (brisket, pulled pork et al) and sides such as mac and cheese – you know, all the things you see in every second so-called eating house along Australia’s east coast these days. In saying that, the whole American-style slow cooked food thang is still relatively new in Gold Coast and it’s been a while since I’ve had this sort of food so I was keen as beans to give Lester & Earl a go.

Complimenting the food menu was a great selection of Aussie and American craft beer as well as spirits and cocktails. Sadly, I was on a self-inflicted alcohol ban so all I had to drink that night was an LLB but I’ll definitely be on the grog for my next visit.

Hereford/Angus cross brisket platter ($28)

Hereford/Angus cross brisket platter ($28)

Lester & Earl’s meat platters are certainly big enough to feed a hungry Gold Coast Titans player – Sharky and I shared one between two and we were more than satisfied. Lester & Earl buy meat from highly reputable suppliers so you know you’re going to get a good piece of meat here. Our brisket came from Cape Grim; beautifully smoked and full of flavour, we both gave it our thumbs up. Accompanying our protein was plethora of sides: honey mustard potato salad, tangy coleslaw sprinkled with fresh coriander and mint, soft white bread, cheddar and jalapeno cornbread and pickle. Apart from the cornbread (it was tough as nails), every side on the platter was delicious. The guys also threw in some crispy potato lattices in there too, even though I swore it wasn’t on the menu – nice one, guys.

Smoked mac and cheese ($6)

Smoked mac and cheese ($6)

I can’t go past a mac and cheese and pretty much anything that comes with the prefix ‘smoked.’ Lester & Earl’s mac and cheese came in a perfect brick-shaped formation which quickly crumbled at the slightest touch of my fork. The sauce was made from a decadent triple cheese sauce – oh god yes, so friggin’ good. A side serve was plenty for us but if you’re feeling extremely indulgent, go for a full serving for $16.

Peanut butter, chocolate fudge and bacon ice cream

Peanut butter, chocolate fudge and bacon ice cream

Lester & Earl didn’t have a proper dessert menu when we visited but when we asked our waitress if there was any chance we can have something sweet to finish on, she said that the kitchen can whip up an ice cream trio. The guys in the kitchen just so happened to be playing around with the ice cream machine and leftover bits of bacon and ‘would you guys like to try bacon ice cream?’

Um, hell YES?

The sexy trio was made up with the all-American flavours of peanut butter, chocolate fudge and bacon. The chocolate fudge ice cream was nice enough (but then again, I’m not the right person to ask when it comes to chocolate things because hell, chocolate is chocolate to me) but the peanut butter ice cream was something that I can have multiple bowls of at home while watching Orange Is The New Black season three – it was smooth, creamy and nutty with the slightly hint of caramel. The bacon ice cream, however, OH BOY THE BACON ICE CREAM.

It was insanely good. It had a caramel-vanilla base that worked well with the saltiness of the maple glazed bacon, all enveloped in an indulgently smooth texture. Multiple bowls? Man, I think need multiple FREEZER-FULLS of this stuff.

I haven’t been back to Lester & Earl since but I already know that I’m going back to try their fried chicken, pork ribs and burgers (yes, I’ve already planned my next outings there). Hopefully by then, their bacon ice cream will be a permanent fixture on their menu – on second thoughts, maybe not. After all, I don’t want anyone else getting their hands on that stuff, dammit.

Review: Cucina Vivo (Gold Coast, QLD)

Jupiters Hotel and Casino
Broadbeach Island
Broadbeach QLD 4218
+61 7 5592 8100
http://www.jupitersgoldcoast.com.au/dining/Pages/Cucina-Vivo.aspx

Disclaimer: Adam and I dined as guests of Jupiters and Wonderland PR.

You might recall me whinging about the severe lack of good, authentic Italian restaurants on the Gold Coast in my last post. Sure, if bastardised Aussie-Italian food is what you’re after, there’s plenty of it here. Want authentic nonna-style Italian fare? You’re better off going to Sydney, Melbourne or booking a flight to Rome. Can’t afford a plane ticket? Then a meal at Cucina Vivo is probably your best beat if you’re stranded in the Goldie.

Cucina Vivo happens to be the Italian jewel in the newly refurbished Jupiters Hotel and Casino complex in the heart of Broadbeach. It boasts an spacious open air dining room overlooking the swimming pool plus views of the Broadbeach and Surfers Paradise skyline, making it a great venue to wine and dine during the warmer nights. In comparison to the rest of the (non-refurbished part of the) casino, it’s stylish, polished and effortlessly breezy.

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To start things off, Adam and I were presented with a selection of appetisers.

Schiacciata ($9)

Schiacciata ($9)

First up, the garlic pizza with pesto verde. A short stint in the wood fire oven gave this beauty a crispy exterior and a slightly chewy middle, forming the perfect base for a simple topping of fresh basil pesto perfumed by fruity olive oil and a bit of parmesan. Due to the massive amount of food that we consumed throughout the course of the evening, we weren’t able to polish this off but it made for a mighty fine lunch the following day.

Carpaccio ($16)

Carpaccio ($16)

The beef carpaccio was in the ‘nice but don’t rush to order category’ – it wasn’t a dynamic explosion of flavours or textures or anything, just a good ol’ seared sliced eye fillet drizzled with lemon and topped with shaved parmesan and perhaps a bit TOO much rocket.

Calamari fritti ($15)

Calamari fritti ($15)

The calamari fritti was a better starter; lightly fried, these tentacles were beautifully tender. The dill aioli that came with it was nice enough but I wouldn’t have been too miffed if the dish came without it – the calamari was already perfect on its own.

Filetto di Manzo ($35)

Filetto di Manzo ($35)

It was funny how we both decided to order the steak. Despite being half-Italian, Adam is still very much a steak and parma guy so he opted for the filetto di Manzo. The 180g chunk of 100-day grain fed tenderloin was gone within minutes – partly because Adam has a massive appetite and partly because it was apparently really good (I wouldn’t know, he ate it all before I even finished taking photos, the bastard). The heirloom carrots and farro that came with the dish also went down quickly, proving that they were no lame-o supporting acts to the steak. Even though Nonna may not have used farro in her day, hell, I think she would have been down with it if she took one bite of this.

Cape Grim rib eye ($41)

Cape Grim rib eye ($41)

I’m normally one to get excited over pastas at Italian restaurants but unfortunately, none of the pasta dishes caught my eye. Along with the usual carbonara and bolognese business, they had maybe one or two ‘house specialty’-type pasta dishes but nothing that really inspired me. For that reason, I went with the steak – that, and because Cape Grim is relatively hard to find in Gold Coast restaurants so you can imagine my excitement when I saw that Cucina Vivo offered it. The 300g beauty was cooked medium rare and served with crushed kipfler potatoes and a lamb’s lettuce salad; I couldn’t really fault anything in this dish – everything was well-cooked and tasty.

Despite my pasta comment, I still ended up ordering the lasagne ($16) much to Adam’s chagrin. He is of the view that restaurant lasagne is never as good as home-cooked lasagne, a very valid point. However, lasagne is one of those annoying dishes that requires time and patience to put together – two things that a lot of stressed out full-time workers like myself don’t have much of these days, hence why it’s usually always much easier to order it at restaurants.

In this case, I wish I listened to Adam instead of the left side of my brain that constantly thinks lasagne is the answer to everything in life. The lasagne was small (you can’t really see it but it’s in the background of the above photo), yet deceptively filling. Unfortunately, that was probably the best bit about it. The dish was sloppy, the meat layer was very skint and there seemed to be more cheese than pasta sheets. It didn’t taste bad, but it wasn’t a well-executed dish, this reinforcing Adam’s long-held belief that making your own lasagne is definitely the way to go.

Flavours of Italy dessert platter ($12)

Flavours of Italy dessert platter ($12)

We would have been happy leaving at this stage but the lovely folk at Cucina Vivo refused to let us leave without trying their dessert platter. Featuring a star-studded line-up of Italian desserts, the platter is definitely one of the best value dishes on the menu; $12 got you mini-sized versions of tiramisu, zuppa inglese, panna cotta and your usual gelati flavours of pistachio et al. They were all pretty good, but the coffee-soaked tiramisu with its delicate layers of mascarpone was my favourite.

There may have been a few misses over dinner at Cucina Vivo but there were definitely some hits. Do go here if you want breezy al fresco Italian dining in Broadbeach minus the bad faux accents and stodgy Aussie-Italian dishes full of cream, grease and tales of regret. And while you won’t miss much by saying ‘no’ to the lasagne, definitely order the schiacciata and if commit the sin of bypassing pastas for steaks, then you’ll be forgiven (no, REWARDED) by the Italian foodie gods.

Cucina Vivo on Urbanspoon

Review: Mario’s Italian (Gold Coast, QLD)

The Oasis
Victoria Avenue
Broadbeach QLD 4218
+61 7 5592 1899
http://www.mariosrestaurant.com.au/

Let’s continue with the theme of restaurants to avoid when in Gold Coast with Mario’s Italian in Broadbeach. Don’t worry, I’ll be spreading some cheerful Gold Coast love in due course – I just want to get the less than fantastic restaurants out of the way while I’m on roll.

So, my Melbourne friend Tim was in town for a visit one weekend – not to see me particularly but to watch his beloved Collingwood Magpies take on the Suns. I can totally understand; after all, Nick Maxwell is worth the flight up to OOL and not the friend of 12 years. It’s all good.

We were in Broadbeach one afternoon, checking out some beach babes waves when we worked up a bit of an appetite. This was at an awkward time of day too (as in, way too late for lunch but too early for dinner) so a lot of Broadbeach’s restaurants were closed. Frustrated, we decided to settle on the next restaurant that was open – and it happened to be Mario’s. Now, I’m not one to fork out money for a mediocre meal at an Aussie-Italian restaurant (those places seem annoyingly popular in Gold Coast) but Tim was getting hangry so we decided to walk in.

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The place was decked out in neon lights and faux neo-classical murals, so not unlike many Aussie-Italian places in Gold Coast. Thankfully, there was none of the fake exaggerated Italian accent thing happening and for the most part, service was great. Our food arrived quickly, though we did have to signal our waiter twice for water.

Fettuccini Princess ($25.90, for entrée-sized portion)

Fettuccini Princess ($25.90, for entrée-sized portion)

I ordered the curiously named Princess pasta which, imo, didn’t sound particularly princess-like. I mean, green prawns, bacon, mushrooms and shallots is a combination that sounds more like dude food to me but anyway. The mixture was tied together by a Napoli and cream sauce. Taste-wise, it wasn’t bad but for $25.90, I expected something nicer (better quality ingredients would have been a start too).

Risotto al Paesano ($27.90)

Risotto al Paesano ($27.90)

Tim ordered the above risotto dish which only came in one size. To me, the mix of diced chicken breast, mushrooms, peas, corn, semi-dried tomatoes just screamed out ‘special fried rice’ and ‘did the kitchen just chuck whatever ingredients were left from last night’s dinner service into one dish?’ with the basil and cream sauce along with the shaved Romano on top adding in more flavour confusion to the mix. Granted, the dish did taste miles better than the chorizo and mushroom risotto I had at The Hub but even Tim said that it wasn’t the best risotto he’s had (and he’s usually one to LOVE Aussie-Italian food).

I haven’t been to Mario’s since and I don’t intend to; like many Italian restaurants here, the dishes are overpriced, mediocre on a good day and you can forgot about getting anything remotely resembling authentic Italian fare. I guess the only time I’ll recommend going to Mario’s is if you’re REALLY hungry and can’t be bothered waiting two hours for the other Broadbeach restaurants to open up, or if you’re legitimately craving La Porchetta fare but your legs can’t walk the few hundred metres up to the Phoenician Resort where you can find said restaurant.

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Review: The Hub (Gold Coast, QLD)

4/240 Varsity Parade
Varsity Lakes QLD 4227
+61 7 5689 1771

Here’s another place to add to the ‘AVOID AT ALL COSTS!’ list when on the Gold Coast. Okay, so the list might contain more than half the restaurants in this fair city but seriously, The Hub one takes the prize for being the worst of a lousy bunch.

It’s situated just around the corner from Bond University so the place is always buzzing with students looking for a feed between tutorials or after a 6PM lecture. It also within walking distance from my house, so when my housemates suggested we try this place one evening, I didn’t bat an eyelid.

It was a Friday night when we rocked up, so the place was busy. To add to the vibrant atmosphere, they had a live solo act – a guy who was actually decent at singing sappy ballad covers but was way too loud so it was hard to have a proper conversation.

Bruschetta ($10.90)

Bruschetta ($10.90)

The four of us started off with a serving of bruschetta, a disaster before it even hit the table. Initially, the plate was topped with cold white bread and a shitload of diced tomatoes and stale parsley; that was it, no olive oil, no nothing. Fail for presentation too. We sent the bread back to be heated up in the grill oven which made the bruschetta SLIGHTLY better but c’mon, man, still no olive oil? So we asked if they had olive oil and after a quick nod, our waiter came back with a little bowl of it so we can dip our bread in it. The olive oil did improve the taste slightly but failed to hide the fact that this was a sorry excuse for a bruschetta. Seriously guys, at least TRY.

Chorizo and mushroom risotto ($18.90)

Chorizo and mushroom risotto ($18.90)

I had the chorizo and mushroom risotto, a dish that I no longer order today because I can make it easily at home now. But back then, I was a noob who had never made a risotto before and that’s what I felt like that evening. At first glance, it didn’t look appealing but at least it looked marginally neater than the bruschetta did.

It was a horrible dish, one that I immediately regretted ordering; there was no soul, no depth and no flavour except the rancid oil that emancipated from the very poor quality chorizo pieces. Additionally, the sauce was very watery – almost like the person cooking it had just chucked in chicken stock in the pan in one go (rather than gradually), saw that the stock wasn’t reducing, freaked out and then added cream to thicken the sauce.

Chilli coconut seafood pot ($15.90)

Chilli coconut seafood pot ($15.90)

Apologies for the above photo, I know it’s horrible but then again, so was the food we had so far. Surprisingly, the curiously named ‘chilli coconut seafood pot’ dish that the girls ordered wasn’t TOO terrible. Okay, let’s not get ahead of ourselves – it’s not going to win Gold Coast dish of the year but it was better than anything I ate that evening. Think of it as a watered down curry laksa, minus the curry but with lots of sweet chilli. It sounds really strange on paper but in some weird way, it worked. Sort of. In fact, the token male in the group ended up ordering a serving just for himself in addition to the salmon he had just devoured.

Our meal at The Hub was the worst I’ve had in Gold Coast so far – and trust me, I’ve had some shockers. Half my household aren’t into food but even they had to say that it was ‘very shit.’ So with that in mind, I’m not exactly sure why this place is always packed every time I walk past on my evening walks. Perhaps it’s the fact that it’s the only vibrant place in the Varsity/Bond Uni area that isn’t a bogan pub and the owners don’t have to try so hard because they know they’ll always draw students in. I’m not one to reward mediocrity so I do think it’s unfair that places that don’t give a stuff about food succeed. I did, however, get the last laugh when not long ago, the Gold Coast Bulletin stated that The Hub got fined for breeching food safety laws and failing to pay adequate wages to staff. Perhaps things have changed since then but I’m really in no hurry to go back and find out.

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Review: Hard Rock Café Surfers Paradise (Gold Coast, QLD)

Corner of Cavill Avenue and Surfers Paradise Boulevard
Surfers Paradise QLD 4217
+61 7 5539 9377
http://www.hardrock.com/cafes/surfers-paradise/

When it comes to dining options in Surfers Paradise, there’s mediocre and then there is shit. Sure, you have the odd gem but they’re as a rare as a decent Tinder match. And one does not need to have half a brain to know what which category Hard Rock Café belongs to. (hint: it’s not a gem)

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I’m not exactly sure why I ended up here with Melbourne friends Aaron and Cathy one weekend. I think someone wanted to suss it out as they never had the chance to visit the Melbourne branch before they closed down years ago. I had never been to a Hard Rock Café myself and even though I wasn’t keen to begin with, I won’t lie – curiosity did get the better of me in the end.

Hickory-smoked pulled pork sandwich

Hickory-smoked pulled pork sandwich

The menu here is pretty straightforward: generously portioned American-style burgers, sandwiches and mains, not unlike the stuff you get at TGI Friday’s. Cathy ordered the hickory-smoked pulled pork sandwich which came with a drizzle of hickory barbeque sauce (that’s a helluva lot of hickory), citrus coleslaw and a small tub of what they called ‘cowboy beans.’

I found the pulled pork to be very sweet and one-dimensional – so much for all the hickory – though Cathy didn’t mind it that much (that said, she didn’t finish the whole thing).

Original legendary burger: smoked bacon, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato and golden fried onion ring

Original legendary burger: smoked bacon, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato and golden fried onion ring

Aaron and I both ordered the original legendary burger. The menu promised the beef pattie to combine the ‘flavours of brisket and prime rib’ into one neat package. How, I’m not quite sure – it just tasted like your standard burger pattie from a nondescript café with no flavour, no character, no nothing. The toasted brioche bun was more akin to your basic white bun while the seasoned fries were bland, boring and barely even crispy.

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To be fair, I did like the giant onion ring that sat smack bang in the middle of the burger. It provided a bit of crunch (i.e. a smidgen of excitement, if you want to call it that) to what was otherwise a very boring burger.

While Gold Coast isn’t (yet) Australia’s burger capital, there’s still plenty of places to keep people happy. I don’t remember exactly how much our meals were but they were definitely in the $11-17 mark. With decent places like Ze Pickle and Longboards charging similar prices for better burgers, there’s really no need to bother going to Hard Rock Café for a burger fix. Avoid like the trashy Surfers Paradise nightclubs.

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