Review: Paradox Coffee Roasters (Gold Coast, QLD)

The 4217
7/10 Beach Road
Surfers Paradise QLD 4217
+61 7 5538 3235

These days, there aren’t many reasons for me to want to venture into Surfers Paradise. Call me boring, but I like the peaceful stillness that comes with living in an area that’s slightly inland, away from the beaches, crowds and loud bogans. In saying that, I do occasionally leave the house and make my way to Surfers Paradise if I feel like some ramen or if I’m meeting out-of-towners, who usually end up booking accommodation in the heart of Surfers because they don’t know better. Sometimes, I even like to come in for some coffee at Paradox Coffee Roasters.

Gold Coast may not be Melbourne when it comes to the coffee scene, but you can still find little gems scattered here and there if you know where to look. When it comes to regular coffee haunts, Blackboard is my #1 not just because the coffee there is good but, admittedly, because it’s very close to home. If I have time to kill and if I feel like venturing into Surfers though, I’d go to Paradox – personally, they have slightly better coffee.

Short macchiato ($3.50)
Short macchiato ($3.50)

I’ve never had a terrible coffee here. Regardless of whether I order a latte, an espresso or a macchiato, they always seem to get it right. Paradox’s house blend is a velvety mix of Nicaraguan and Ethiopian coffees, with delicious berry and rose notes. I don’t have lattes very much these days but when I do, I tend to order them here – the blend goes well with milk, with delicious caramel flavours shining through.

Slow roasted lamb salad ($17)
Slow roasted lamb salad ($17)

On one occasion, I decided to have lunch here. Paradox has a very extensive menu filled with gourmet sandwiches, vibrant salads and an all-day breakfast menu that starts light with granolas and bagels before shifting to heartier options such as eggs, hotcakes and big breakfast-type dishes. I decided to go for the lamb salad which came with a generous serving of warm Flinders Island slow roasted lamb shoulder, crunchy root vegetables (so, carrots), sultanas, smashed pomegranate and fresh mint.

I was so full halfway through that I couldn’t finish everything on my plate (I did eat all the lamb though); for $17, you’re definitely getting good value for money. Would I get the lamb salad again? Probably not. It was nice and all but I just got bored eating it after a while – in hindsight, I should have gone for the house-made spinach and crab gnocchi with heritage tomatoes.

But that’ll be a dish for the next time I decide to trek to Surfers.

Review: Betty’s Burgers (Gold Coast, QLD)

Chevron Renaissance Shopping Centre
12-14/3240 Surfers Paradise Boulevard
Surfers Paradise QLD 4217
+61 7 5538 6565

Gold Coast seems to be in the midst of a burger and donut hurricane, with new establishments opening up seemingly every other fortnight. A while back, Betty’s Burgers took the Noosa cool crowd by storm before deciding to open a second outlet in Surfers Paradise. Gold Coast went NUTS when they heard that the ‘Shake Shack Rip-Off’ was opening in the 4217, despite the fact that a decent amount of new burger joints had opened shop in the space of a few months. I guess burgers are here to stay on the ‘coast…

Adam and I had the chance to check it out some weekends ago. After a leisurely (and by that, I meant boozy) Saturday afternoon session, we decided to walk over to Chevron Renaissance to suss this place out. At 6pm on a Saturday evening, the place was still dead (though it got busier as we left). Orders are placed at the counter, you’re then given one of those vibrating buzzers and asked to wait until it starts beeping.

Betty’s Classic ($10) and fries ($5)
Betty’s Classic ($10) and fries ($5)

Although there is a nice selection of burgers on the menu (including fried chicken, pork belly and mushroom), Adam and I decided to keep things simple with the Betty’s Classic and share a serving of fries which came sprinkled with ‘sea salt seasoning’ (read: just salt – and they were average). Beers at Betty’s range from pure bogan (XXXX Gold) to pure hipster (Pabst Blue Ribbon), and we both selected something in the middle – you won’t see this Victorian drinking XXXX Gold!


The Betty’s Classic was essentially a cheeseburger: Angus beef, lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese and Betty’s special sauce completed a perfunctory package, bursting with striking block colours. As someone who thinks value for money equals generous serving sizes, Adam wasn’t wowed by his burger (‘for the same price, I can just walk down the road and get a bigger burger at Boom Boom Burger,’ he muttered). I, however, thought it was great. The closest comparison would be a Huxtaburger burger – the package came in a soft, buttery bun that was deflated rather than plump. The patty was well seasoned and while the burger itself wasn’t massive, I think it did the job for $10. I can see why Noosa and Gold Coast burger lovers adored Betty’s.

Blueberry cheesecake concrete ($8)
Blueberry cheesecake concrete ($8)

Another product that Betty’s is known for is the concrete, essentially frozen custard mixed with whatever descriptor is added to that particular concrete flavour. For example, the blueberry cheesecake concrete is a mix of vanilla custard, New York cheesecake, blueberry sauce and lemon that’s been mixed, blitzed and frozen. It’s interesting and certainly one for dessert fans – I enjoyed my concrete for what it was but it’s not really something I’d be in a rush to order again.

The burgers though are probably up there with Gold Coast’s best, despite what Adam thinks. For $10, you’re not getting the biggest burger ever but you’re getting something that’s tasty and will sufficiently satisfy your stomach even if you opt for no fries (which I strongly recommend).

Betty's Burgers and Concrete Co Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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

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)


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.


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.

Hard Rock Cafe on Urbanspoon

Review: Longboards Laidback Eatery & Bar (Gold Coast, Queensland)

Q1 Resort and Spa
Cnr Hamilton Avenue & Northcliffe Terrace
Surfers Paradise QLD 4217
+61 7 5538 2559

When my mate Adam told me about the Phat Bastard burger challenge at Longboards in Surfers Paradise, I knew I wanted a piece of that action. So basically, you had a 1.8kg burger slapped in front of you and the challenge is to finish everything on the board (including all the fries) in less than 30 minutes for a $150 bar tab.

The Phat Bastard burger itself comes at $49 and includes 600grams of grilled wagyu, a motherload of streaky bacon, melted American cheddar cheese, slow roasted barbequed pulled pork, beer-battered onion rings, lettuce, tomato, coleslaw and something called ‘house made PHAT ass sauce.’ All in a brioche bun and served with fries.

Once we got there though, we whimped out and ended up ordering burgers from the ‘normal’ menu. I blame the ‘PHAT ass’ sauce.’

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Upon opening the menu, Adam’s first words were ‘Pumpkin bruschetta? That’s CHICK food!’ I didn’t quite agree with his borderline sexist comment (what, girls can’t pack away burgers, ribs and steak?) but if we were to go by what mainstream media now calls ‘dude food,’ then having pumpkin bruschetta sitting there alongside ribs, chicken wings and other meaty snacks does seem a bit odd.

Mini Phat: wagyu beef patty, cheese, pulled pork, streaky bacon, lettuce, coleslaw, tomato, onion rings, PHAT sauce and BBQ sauce ($18.90)
Mini Phat: wagyu beef patty, cheese, pulled pork, streaky bacon, lettuce, coleslaw, tomato, onion rings, PHAT sauce and BBQ sauce ($18.90)

If you can’t stomach the thought of eating the 1.8kg Phat Bastard burger, then you have the option of eating its smaller-sized version. Adam went down this route; it was perhaps a bit sweet for me – there was pulled pork in it, but also a ridiculous amount of BBQ sauce. Add brioche, and you’re almost calling it a dessert if it weren’t for the bacon, onion rings and cheese in it.

Beach Cheeseburger: wagyu beef patty, streaky bacon, melted red Leicester cheese, onion rings, BBQ sauce and PHAT sauce ($14.90)
Beach Cheeseburger: wagyu beef patty, streaky bacon, melted red Leicester cheese, onion rings, BBQ sauce and PHAT sauce ($14.90)

I thought my cheeseburger was a much better burger. True, I would have loved a bit of lettuce in mine and yeah, it did have most of the stuff that rendered Adam’s burger a bit sweet (PHAT sauce, BBQ sauce, brioche bun) but it came minus the pulled pork and there wasn’t as much BBQ sauce. Overall, I found it to be a better-balanced burger.


Oh yeah.

And what about the fries? They were well-seasoned and crispy enough – could have done with a bit more crunch but that’s just me being fussy.

What I like about Longboards is its relaxed setting and easy-going vibe – it’s located on the bottom of the Q1 hotel and it faces the swimming pool on the ground floor. I suppose Q1 hotel guests swimming in front of burger-guzzling diners would be uncomfortable with this arrangement but it was good eye candy for us diners (teehee). Sadly, I can’t post any photos of the open-air-dining-room-facing-the-pool set-up as most of said photos of my iPhone are creep shots of topless guys splashing about.

Okay, where was I? Oh yes, burgers! So, Surfers Paradise may be a foodie wasteland for the most part and the burgers served in (the predominantly tacky) eateries there may be mediocre at best. Longboards, however, does more than decent burgers there in pretty chilled surroundings just minutes from the beach.

Longboards Laidback Eatery & Bar on Urbanspoon

Review: New Saigon (Gold Coast, QLD)

2798 Gold Coast Highway
Surfers Paradise QLD 4217
+61 7 5538 7588

GOOD Vietnamese food is extremely hard to find on the Gold Coast so it’s a luxury that I tend to go without – I either wait until I’m back in Melbourne for my bun bo hue fix or I attempt to make my own pho broth. So when a Tinder match suggested we go to this ‘really, really authentic Vietnamese restaurant on the Highway,’ my ears pricked up.

‘Authentic Vietnamese restaurant?’ I sceptically asked.

‘Yeah, the venue is really cool – it’s like you’re sitting in someone’s house and the food is cooked by their grandmother or something.’

‘Okay, this I gotta see!’ I was as excited as I was today when I heard that The Book of Mormon musical was finally hitting our glorious shores. YESSSSS.

But then Mr Tinder ruined everything with this question: ‘So, is pho Vietnamese or Thai?’

In hindsight, that should have been a warning sign to abort this meet-up immediately. If an Asian guy can’t tell me what country pho comes from, then should I really be trusting his judgement on what constitutes ‘really, really authentic Vietnamese’ food?

It didn’t matter anyway; we were finally at New Saigon. Housed in a beautiful timber house in the middle of Goldie Highway, the restaurant’s bright neons signs glittered as brightly as the sequins on a metre maid’s bikini top. Inside, a bustling atmosphere greeted us as we took our seat. It wasn’t a full house that night but it was busy enough – so much so that we did wait more than 30 minutes for our food to arrive, unusual for a Vietnamese restaurant.

Prawn and pork rice paper rolls (four for $9)
Prawn and pork rice paper rolls (four for $9)

We started off with some summer rolls. To be honest, they weren’t the best I’ve had. Not only were they skint on the filling, the rolls themselves were tasteless. I struggled to eat just one.

Crispy chicken and vegies in sweet chilli sauce ($16.50)
Crispy chicken and vegies in sweet chilli sauce ($16.50)

My companion ordered a decidedly non-Vietnamese dish, a strange choice for someone who claimed that New Saigon served ‘really, really authentic Vietnamese’ food. I didn’t try any of it but it was definitely not something I’d order – not for sixteen-bloody-fifty anyway. Hell, it wasn’t even something I’d try to cook at home either. That said, my buddy did enjoy it so maybe I’m the one who’s wrong here.

Beef pho ($15)
Beef pho ($15)

Of course, I ordered beef pho. At $15, it was not cheap (yet, $15 bowls of pho seems to be standard in Goldie) – maybe it broke the $12 mark because of all the spring onions that went into broth.


Don’t even think for a second that this pho may be authentic because it wasn’t. It was bastardised, one-dimensional and worse of all, SWEET. I couldn’t taste any traces of beef boney goodness in the broth, no spices, no nothing. It was pretty close to slurping a bowl of hot sugared water with a pinch of saltiness but nowhere near enough. I was very disappointed.

I never saw Mr Tinder again and nor have I been back to New Saigon. And if people say this is Gold Coast’s most authentic Vietnamese restaurant then, damn, the glitter strip has a long way to go.

New Saigon on Urbanspoon

Review: Arabesque Bazaar (Gold Coast, QLD)

T2/3240 Surfers Paradise Boulevard
Surfers Paradise QLD 4217
+61 451 150 732

After Marty and I had demolished ribs at Hurricane’s, we decided that we’d chill over some shishas. What’s a shisha post doing on a food blog, you say? Well, I had Turkish coffee there. Plus this place has Middle Eastern sweets. Granted, I did not end up buying any sweets but they’re there, okay?


Arabesque Bazaar is a newbie on the now-gaudy Surfers Paradise scene. Although Surfers is pretty much full of decrepit nightclubs and the odd bikie trying to avoid detection, there are still some places worth going to and Arabesque is one of them.


Arabesque is more than just a place to smoke shisha (water pipes) and drink Turkish coffee, it is also a retail outlet. You can buy anything from home wares to your own shisha pipe to clothes. Most people, however, go here to chill with their shishas.


Marty and I ordered a green apple shisha to share (around $20-25), along with a tea and Turkish coffee. All up, it was 30-something dollars. A dude in an ill-fitting Aladdin-like costume then got the whole thing set up for us.


Once the burning charcoal bits were set, it was on like Donkey Kong. It was my first time taking shisha so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I have to admit that I wasn’t in the right mindset to begin with – I hate cigarettes and I still had a nasty 8000-word essay to submit online the next day (and I was nowhere near close to finishing so naturally I was freaking out).


I wouldn’t say my Turkish coffee was fantastic. ‘Dirt’ was the first thing that came to mind when I took a sip. Marty also didn’t rate his tea. I guess a baklava would have gone down well that night but I just wasn’t in the mood.

Surprisingly, I enjoyed my shisha experience. I didn’t get that nasty cigarette feeling, yet I was still relaxed. It’s not something that I’d do every weekend though – I prefer my wines – but I wouldn’t say no the next time someone invites me to go to a shisha café. One word of advice: you’re best off ordering a shisha to share between several people. Marty and I tried to finish one off but we gave up just after the halfway point as we got bored.

Not that Arabesque Bazaar is boring though. It’s just a bizarre fixture in a bizarre part of Australia (in a good way, of course).

Arabesque Bazaar Cafe Homewares Gifts on Urbanspoon

Review: Hurricane’s Surfers Paradise (Gold Coast, QLD)

4 The Esplanade
Surfers Paradise QLD 4217
+61 7 5503 5500

I’ve been wanting to try the ribs at Sydney institution, Hurricane’s, for the longest time. Unfortunately, time constraints usually mean that I could never squeeze in a Sunday session there (too many other restaurants to visit, you see). Thus, when I heard that Hurricane’s had opened their flagship Queensland restaurant in the heart of Surfers, I got Marty to make a late dinner booking the night I was to fly into the balmy Gold Coast.


Nestled on the first level of Soul Tower, Gold Coast’s second tallest building, Hurricane’s is a spacious 300-seater restaurant overlooking the beach. It was Wednesday night in Surfers; the schoolies hadn’t quite arrived and the whole area was a construction site so there weren’t many people wandering about. Inside, however, was a different story.


The restaurant was more than half full, with mostly locals making up the numbers though there were a couple of tables full of Japanese tourists (what, Japanese people still visited Goldie?).


The fit-out screams out raw and industrial – kind of like inner-city Melbourne or Sydney. It was hard to believe you were in Surfers. The faux chandeliers made out of bare light bulbs, however, added a bit of warmth as did the homely services we received from our waitresses throughout our meal.

Black Forest: Belvedere Vodka, Crème de Cassis shaken with mixed berries, mint and lemon juice ($18)
Black Forest: Belvedere Vodka, Crème de Cassis shaken with mixed berries, mint and lemon juice ($18)

Marty loves his cocktails and he’s a bit of a fake German so I wasn’t surprised when he ordered the Black Forest. Although Marty has a sweet tooth, even he found it really sweet – think slushie pump cocktails.

Elderton Eden Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($10)
Elderton Eden Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($10)

I stuck to a glass of Cab Sauv just because I didn’t feel like a cocktail. The cocktail list wasn’t terribly remarkable but I did muster a smile when I saw the Queensland Iced Tea with its ingredients being Cointreau, lemon, mint sugar, ginger beer and Bundaberg rum (of course).

Half pork ribs ($34.90); half beef ribs ($31.90)
Foreground: Half pork ribs ($34.90); Hidden in background: half pork ribs ($34.90) and half beef ribs ($31.90)

Onto the food! Marty decided to give both the beef and pork ribs a go, along with monkey gland sauce ($2.50) on the side. I just went for half a rack of pork ribs with mushroom sauce ($2.50). We were both given the option to have either chips or baked potato with our ribs and obviously, we chose chips.

We decided that both ribs were very good but not the best we’ve had. The meat on both were tender but they weren’t exactly falling off the bone. The beef ribs were on the sweet side and the pork ribs, while better, were not as good as the ones we’ve enjoyed at Mike’s Kitchen and Squires Loft. For one thing, both Mike’s Kitchen’s and Squires Loft’s ribs have more meat and sauce on them. The ribs at Hurricane’s also suffered from a lack of tanginess that I’m used to. Marty even went so far to say that the ribs had a bit of an industrialised Lonestar feel to them. I’ve never been to a Lonestar restaurant so I couldn’t make a fair comparison but in all honesty, I couldn’t see what all the fuss was about…


In saying all that, the ribs were still good. ESPECIALLY with the mushroom sauce. I can honestly say that Hurricane’s makes the best mushroom sauce out of all the steak houses we’ve been to. It is THAT good. The monkey gland sauce wasn’t too bad either – what’s monkey gland sauce? It’s a South African sauce that’s sweet and chutney-like; no monkeys were harmed in the making of this sauce (at least none that I know of). It was delish but oh my, nowhere near as good as the mushroom sauce! Part-Campbells canned mushroom soup (but in a good way, of course) and part-creamy garlic, we pretty much licked the whole tub clean.

Even though our minds weren’t blown, we still had a lovely meal. After all, great service, excellent views and super-friggin’-awesome mushroom sauce made up for the fact that the ribs weren’t excellent. On the night, I wasn’t sure if it was because I was expecting too much (thanks a lot, friends) or if the ribs are actually a lot better in Sydney. My friend later told me that she reckons the Sydney restaurants aren’t as good anymore so maybe it’s an organisation-wide thing.

In saying all that though, Hurricane’s definitely deserves a spot in the heart of Surfers Paradise because goodness knows that this area needs a bit of a foodie revamp. With a bit of Sydney style rolling in, hopefully we’ll see an overall increase in quality dining once all the construction work is complete.

Hurricane's Grill on Urbanspoon

Hakataya Ramen Surfers Paradise (Gold Coast, QLD)

Shop 26 Centre Arcade
3131 Surfers Paradise Boulevard
Surfers Paradise QLD 4217
+61 7 5526 7055

Melbourne’s ghastly cold weather of late means that it’s the perfect time to enjoy a bowl of ramen (or two… or five). And although I’m far from being able to make my own ramen at home, I’m glad that there are a handful of cheerful restaurants in Melbourne that serve this glorious bowl of collagen and goodness. That said, I haven’t been able to find a restaurant here that can make ramen as good as Taro’s in Brisbane. In fact, the only other place that I could consider a serious contender would have to be Hakataya Ramen on the Gold Coast. What?! Queensland does ramen better than Melbourne? Yeah, well, you better believe it…


Marty and I came across Hakataya by accident. We were meant to try out this other Japanese restaurant in Surfers Paradise for lunch but we took our time in getting ready and what not, so by the time we arrived the restaurant had already shut its doors. Damn. Luckily, Hakataya was just downstairs – and open – so we decided to give it a crack.


Hakataya is a bit of a Queensland institution; there are two branches in Brisbane and one in Goldy. Their menu is short and sweet, with only four ramen dishes to choose from (and one being the same as another variation, except with more chashu (pork slices)) and several side dishes. Hakataya claims that their broth is made from the ‘selected bones of Australian pork’ and simmered for 39 hours before being dished out to customers.


We started off with some gyoza (six for $7). They were beautiful, especially dipped in chilli oil though I would have liked it if they had that lovely sweet-salty-tangy gyoza dipping sauce available rather than just vinegar. The waiter also gave us complimentary takana (spicy Japanese pickles made with mustard greens), which was greatly appreciated. Bags of it were available for takeaway for $10 and in hindsight, I wish I had bought a few to take home with me.


Marty ordered the karaka-men ($11.50), which was essentially a spicy tonkotsu ramen (background). I also went for the spicy option by going for the miso spicy-men ($12), a miso broth with chilli.


There was the option of adding extra chashu for $3, which Marty took up – he’s a pork lover so naturally, he thought this was necessary.


I can definitely give Hakataya two thumbs up. Both bowls were super-injected with heaps of collagen, a generous serving of bouncy noodles and lots and lots of flavour. They tasted fantastic on their own, but adding more chilli oil, takana and ground sesame seeds just made each mouthful verging on orgasmic.


We returned a few days later, this time for dinner. We rocked up just as they were getting ready to close (our bad) but they happily accommodated us. Marty ordered the karaka-men again while I decided to try their Nagahama ramen ($10), which was the name given to their standard tonkotsu (pork broth) ramen. Although my Nagahama ramen was lovely in all its milky-ness, I thought my miso spicy-men was much tastier. Marty, on the other hand, thought his broth was thicker and fattier this time around and thus, didn’t like it as much. Because we were dining pretty late, we figured that the broth had more time to let the collagen seep through, resulting in a thicker broth. While I thought that was a good thing, Marty didn’t and all the fat sitting on the surface put him off – but only very slightly because he did manage to eat the whole thing.

These days, not a lot will convince me to go to Surfers Paradise. After discovering Hakataya though, I now have another reason to actually visit Surfers. Okay, so they could do with a hygiene practices refresher (tables were sometimes left unwiped for a long time and I saw soap suds on cutlery when I went to pick up some soup spoons) and I marked them down for not giving us the option to add egg to our ramen. That said, I will still rate Hakataya higher than all the ramen places I’ve had in Melbourne so far – and that includes Little Ramen Bar, the newest kid in Melbourne CBD.

Hakataya Ramen on Urbanspoon

Absynthe (Gold Coast, QLD)

Shop 4, Ground Floor, Q1
Corner Surfers Paradise Blvd & Hamilton Ave
Surfers Paradise QLD 4217
+61 7 5504 6466

Absynthe is a restaurant that I’ve wanted to visit for a very long time. Established by Michelin-starred Meyjitte Boughenout, the dude who is said to have introduced haute dining to the Gold Coast several years, Absynthe mixes French cooking techniques with fresh Australian ingredients with the less skanky side of glitzy Surfers Paradise in the background. And he’s picked up several awards including Gourmet Traveller’s ‘Best Regional Restaurant in Queensland 2010’ award along the way. So when I saw that Absynthe offered a ‘buy one main, get one free’ Entertainment Book discount, I was making a booking before I even bothered to read blog posts.

Now just before our dinner, I had quickly skimmed through a few comments on Urbanspoon. If the 29% rating didn’t alarm me, then the number of people writing negative comments in the ‘diner reviews’ sections did. Still, I knew that crappy Urbanspoon ratings didn’t necessarily mean anything, and certainly not worth the act of picking up the phone to cancel. Unfortunately, we had to push our 6:30pm booking back to a later session because idiotic and greedy Marty thought it would be a good idea to wolf down four massive sushi rolls and a fajita for lunch that day. Subsequently, he was still full by the time the sun went down.

Thankfully the guys at Absynthe were very understanding and agreed to let us rock up later – ‘but no later than 8pm because then it would be too late’ (huh?). Anyway, we left the house at 7:30pm, allowing sufficient time for parking but it seemed like we should have allowed ourselves more time because finding a parking spot was a nightmare. Finally, we found one … about 10 minutes walk away from the restaurant. So yes, we did up 10 minutes late for our already-‘too late’ booking but the waitresses, again, didn’t seem to mind and happily showed us to our table by the window.

If the size of Little Truffle‘s dining room was akin to a glass of riesling, then Absynthe was the size of its namesake drink in a tidy shot glass. A little banquette lined the wall while only a couple of random tables were scattered wherever there was room. It was small, but intimate and cosy. While we waited for a waiter to assist us, we admired the bar that was stocked with local wines, beers, champagnes and of course, absinthe.

We also liked the artwork  – I just couldn’t decide whether the funky crimson standing lamp was cooler, or the row of paintings of nude girls.

Warm bread was provided throughout the night, with French butter and vinaigrette on the side. I am proud to say that we ended up eating all the butter that was on the table though sadly, this was only one of a couple of things that we actually enjoyed eating that night.

 We did like our amazingly lit-up absinthes very much though. I had the Lemercier 72 ($25) from Fougerolles, a famous absinthe-producing region. Lemercier has been around for yonks, producing good-quality absinthes and mine tonight certainly didn’t disappoint. It may have been a little light on the herbs, but the result was a sweet and sexy drop that let off a bit of a burn at the end that may be deemed too harsh by most (c’mon, it had 72% alcohol in it, mate) but certainly not for someone who isn’t versed in the art of drinking absinthe like myself. Loved it. Oufffff! Meanwhile, Marty had the Absinthe Mansinthe ($35), an absinthe that was developed by shock rocker, Marilyn Manson. After necking the stuff quickly, Marty was pretty much the only star in the dope show rather than one of the beautiful people (hah!). The absinthe’s alcohol content? Yep, you guessed it: 66.6%.

Our wines came shortly afterwards. We were both having steaks for our mains so we asked for a glass of red each: a 2010 Kangarilla Road Cul de Sac Shiraz from McLaren Vale ($17.50) for Marty and a 2010 M Chapoutier Shiraz ($16.80) from the Rhone Valley. Unfortunately, they were out of the M Chapoutier so I made do with a 2007 Chateau Juliette Shiraz Blend ($16.80) from the same region ($16.80). Both were excellent wines, though the mark-ups were beyond ridiculous.

Now, the food. Absynthe claims to produce an epic dining experience that’s as potently addictive as the drink. Furthermore, its degustation menu claims to be a ‘journey into taste.’ For some reason, these statements remind me of what French electro pop artist M83 said about his current album (he used the words ‘epic’ and ‘journey’, too). Unfortunately, this dinner was as odd and as disappointing as his much-anticipated album.

I had what Absynthe called ‘East Tasmania’ ($36), which was a dish of pan-fried scallops, parmesan and potato gnocchi, chunky slices of beetroot cooked in champagne vinegar, lettuce heart & light herb jus and dried chorizo. I actually liked that Absynthe gives cute and succinct names to each dish. While they’re not particularly descriptive, at least it saves people from having to recite the entire dish’s name. I was amazed at how tiny my dish was.

Three little scallops, as fresh and as sweet as they were, did not $36 make! And neither did the three pillow-y gnocchi pieces, which were actually beautiful. I did like that the champagne vinegar in which the scallops were cooked in, combined with the beetroots, provided a lovely piquant sauce. However, the crispy lettuce heart and  the dried chorizo piece were just odd additions.

Marty fared better with his ‘Black truffles’ ($42), which came in the form of a black truffle risotto, braised mini cep mushrooms, petals of organic garlic and cheddar foam. He had issues with the portion size (understandable, at $42) but no problems with taste. The risotto was effortlessly smooth and creamy with the lovely natural earthiness of the black truffle pieces shining through. The cheddar foam also added a beautifully light salty touch, though Marty did find it too subtle. If this entire dinner was analogous to Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, then this was definitely ‘Reunion.’ This was the only really good dish of the night.

We waited quite some time for our mains to come – something like 40 minutes. At this point in time, half the patrons had since gone home so it wasn’t the case of there being too many diners. Finally, our steaks – they were both called ‘The pasture’ arrived in tandem. Marty had the one subtitled ‘Angus beef’ ($55), a grilled Angus beef striploin (grain-fed 100 days), confit Spanish onions in red wine and enoki mushrooms. It also came with a side of Parmesan potato puree. Marty thought that his steak was good, but not fantastic. In fact, it was something that he reckoned he could easily whip up at home with a bit of Worcestire sauce and for a fraction of the price. I also found the confit Spanish onions to be too sweet and the enoki mushrooms just looked (and tasted) awkward in the grand scheme of things.

I did, however, like the soft and cheesy potato puree that came with it.

My main – ‘Poached beef’ ($45) – didn’t fare much better. Although we both had Angus beef steaks, I was amused as to why Marty’s was the one that was called ‘Angus beef’ while mine was unglamorously called ‘poached beef.’ Perhaps it was because mine was grain-fed for 150 days, not 100 days like Marty’s. I don’t know. Anyway, it came with some wilted spinach, braised king brown mushrooms in diable sauce and caramelised walnuts (plural, but I only counted one piece of walnut). Although steak was cooked beautifully medium-rare as requested, I couldn’t seem to enjoy it. I’m not sure whether it was the sauce that was too sweet, or the random piece of walnut that not only didn’t belong there but was also coated in so much sugar that it would have sufficed for a single dessert.

We weren’t in the mood for dessert so we grabbed the bill, which ended up being $272.30. Although we managed to get it down to $230.30 thanks to the Entertainment Book, we did find it too expensive. Granted, the absinthe and the wines did make up a fair chunk of the bill but the dishes were just too dear for the quality and quantity of food we received. As much as I wanted to like Absynthe, we couldn’t wait to get out. We loved the concept and the service was great despite the long wait between courses, but I can certainly see why people were quick to diss it. Ridiculously high wine mark ups and overpriced foods do not impress us. While I do think that a 29% rating on Urbanspoon is a bit too harsh, I won’t be quick to come here in a hurry not recommend this place to anyone.

Absynthe on Urbanspoon

Black Coffee Lyrics (Gold Coast, QLD)

Shop 41 Centre Arcade
3131 Surfers Paradise Blvd
Surfers Paradise QLD 4217
+61 402 189 437

Gold Coast: a city that’s better known for its meter maids, its beaches and its struggling AFL team than its coffee culture. You will no doubt find more good cafés in the Melbourne CBD alone than in the entire greater Gold Coast region – but fear not, Gold Coastitutes, for you guys are catching up. No longer will you have to contend with overly saccharine coffees[sic] dished up by the likes of Gloria Jeans and Starbucks and watery beverages advertised as ‘lattes’ at so-called ‘beach cafés’ in Runaway Bay. Yes, good coffee in Goldie DOES exist – and I’m excited about it!

To date, the best coffees I’ve had in Goldie have been at Black Coffee Lyrics, a cool café hidden in the cesspool that is Surfers Paradise. The place itself is difficult to find; armed with Google Maps, even I managed to get lost. However, once your iPhone’s green dot (you) meets red dot (there), head upstairs  rather than walk around ground level like an idiot and you’ll see it: a hipster-grunge-chic café to your left – just look for the hipsters.

At first glance, BCL seems more Melbourne than Gold Coast. The whole retro-grunge feel seems more like Fitzroy than Surfers, what with mismatched furniture, random artworks created by local artists and hipster waiters. What makes this place different from a typical Melbourne café, however, is that the hipster waiters here don’t take themselves too seriously so there are no signs of wankery or pretentiousness in the air. Wonderful.

I’m not exactly sure where the café’s name comes from. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if the owner was an Ella Fitzgerald fan who happened to type in ‘black coffee lyrics’ on Google search to find the words to the seventh and eighth line late one night … then suddenly, BAM! THAT SHALL BE THE NEW CAFÉ’S NAME! AWESOME! Whatever, it’s a cool name despite the fact that I’m not much of a black coffee drinker (lattes FTW, yo!).

I’ve been to BCL several times and I’ve never been disappointed. The first time I went, I enjoyed a post-lunch latte ($3.50) with Marty. I’m not sure what beans were used but I was told that ‘came from everywhere.’ My latte may not have been the sweetest brew I’ve had, but it what I would consider an amazingly bold brew. It was full of solid flavour until the very last drop whilst still managing to be beautifully creamy and smooth. No sweeteners required.

The last time I went, I decided to treat myself to a post-facial lunch and coffee late one Friday afternoon. I had heard good things about their pizza and tapas menu so I wouldn’t have minded a pizza. Unfortunately, I was told that they weren’t serving pizza and tapas until 6pm that day so I had to settle for the lunch menu which comprised of sandwiches and salads, with the odd pasta and soup dishes. The breakfast menu was also available at the time but having already had my fill of hearty breakfasts lately, I decided to go for a roast beef panini ($10).

Packed with slices of roast beef, pickles, mustard and Swiss cheese, it was the perfect lunch. The panini also had a bit of sauerkraut in it which I admit made me a little wary as I’m normally not a fan of that stuff (UNLESS I’m buying a bratwurst from Queen Vic Market). However, the sauerkraut they used here was surprisingly mild yet still piquant enough to stand out without being too overbearing. Loved it. For an extra $4, you also had the option of adding a side of fries or a salad to your meal. I decided to go healthy by grabbing a salad, which happened to be surprisingly better than the panini itself. Shreds of lettuce, rocket leaves, red onion, tomatoes and mango bits shared a bowl with feta cubes before being held together with a lovely, light dressing. The result was a delicious balance of salty and sweet, and arguably one of the better salads I’ve had in a long time.

Unfortunately, my latte that day was a little on the burnt side – but not overly so. It was still pleasant and certainly miles better than anything I could probably find in Surfers Paradise.

An amazing café serving great coffee and great food, far away from the tourist traps of Surfers Paradise, BCL is an ideal place to chill. Its relaxed and friendly atmosphere during the day makes it a great place for a long, leisurely catch-up while at night, I’m sure it would be a lively place for post-work or pre-clubbing snacks and drinks. BCL is steezy, warm, friendly and pure awesome; Ella would be proud.

Black Coffee Lyrics on Urbanspoon