The last time I visited Burleigh Heads as a teen many eons ago, it was all about the beach and working on my already ridiculously-tanned tan. The beaches are still spectacular and the same laidback vibe remains, but this time it was all about discovering the foodie delights, and it didn’t disappoint. Turns out I needed more than just four nights to get around all the places of note, which must mean just one thing – I’ll have to go back for more. Here’s a taste of what I discovered.
It’s said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and that view seems to be especially noted in Queensland where the breakfast bar is raised to a new level. There’s a world of delicious choices—fresh, healthy and delicious and served by a swag of smiling and efficient souls. So, when in Rome …
Just on the outskirts of town is Commune Cafe, a humming, quirky cafe breathing new life into an old concrete block from the ‘70s. While lots of fellow diners focussed on the array of healthy choices— like acai bowls, super smoothies and maybe the famed corn fritters with coriander—it was the great display of home-baked goodies that spoke to me. I mean, who puts a snickers bar in a muffin? Well, apparently Commune do! Pancakes, my breakfast of choice, seem to have gone out of cafe favour of late but here they’re brought back to glorious life, with a great little twist – and I mean that literally. Great space and teamed with efficient, happy peeps and Campos coffee.
Another excellent discovery was Paddock Bakery. Technically, it’s not actually in Burleigh. It’s in Miami Beach but let’s not split hairs when the food is excellent. As the name implies, it’s a bakery pumping out fresh breads and pastries, part of the extensive menu that will have you struggling to make a choice. It sits in a cottage behind a picket fence in the ‘burbs, full of cute indoor and outdoor spaces including a huge shaded courtyard with various nooks and crannies and now with an extra building to keep up with the crowds. A charming horse float serves quick coffees for those seeking takeaways. You can even pick up a pretty plant or cactus or two. Don’t miss the freshly pressed juices.
If you prefer to have brekkie at home, or even if you’ve already eaten out, do not miss Burleigh Baker. It boasts a small selection of sourdoughs which are fermented and baked on site. The fig and walnut bread was recommended to me and I’m going to proclaim it as the best fruit bread I’ve ever eaten.
Tarte Bakery makes an impressive French statement on the corner in its black and white tiled glory and tempers it with a bit of coastal cool. Headed by the former owner of Paddock Bakery above, it’s a relatively new addition to town. It certainly didn’t take long though to draw the crowds who happily line up for crispy pastries, lemon curds, bagels and freshly baked breads as well as cooked favourites with a twist.
The village also has a couple of fab delicassens and gourmet foodie stores on James Street: the aptly named James Street Deli and the nearby Golosi Food Emporium. We’re talking cheeses, antipastos, fresh dips, prosciuttos and pretty much anything your gourmet heart desires for fancy takeaways or picnics. James Street Deli has a range of ready-to-go meals for eating at home and Golossi also has a cafe menu—all your bases covered.
Lunch or Dinner – you choose
For a true slice of Italy, head to Osteria del Mare where the food is an authentic as the accent of ex-Sydney chef and owner Andrea Riva. A casual coastal-inspired cafe in blue and white and fresh timbers, it serves up all the traditional fare you’d hope for and a few little variations as well, like fritto misto with calamari, prawns and zucchini. The pizzas are stretched and rolled and left to rise naturally for 48 hours before they’re cooked on stone and pasta choices abound. I’d recommend the creamy mushroom ravioli. The excellent Nero D’avola red wine wasn’t available by the glass, so hell, we just had to order a whole bottle, or perhaps do like the Italians and take an early aperitif and try a refreshing Aperol or Venetian spritz.
The bustling crowds at sleek but casual Vietnamese restaurant Jimmy Wah’s in downtown Burleigh is a sure giveaway that the food inside is good. Very, very good. Under the watchful eye of Jimmy Wah himself of Good Morning Vietnam movie fame, every beautifully plated dish that emerges from the visible kitchen is singing with vibrant Asian zing, full of rich and sometimes subtle flavour but without the burn. The remarkable dumplings in a mirin and soy broth had me playing the Masterchef taste test game trying to identify each ingredient. It’s refined, modern Asian all about the flavours. Think tempura spiced cauliflower, fresh salads or pork belly with lychee and chilli salsa. Don’t neglect the excellent wine and cocktail choices—they’re worthy of thorough investigation and a good pairing lifts the fare to an even higher level.
Whatever you do, you really shouldn’t miss relative newcomer to Burleigh, Labart Restaurant. The work and lovechild of an ex-Sydney chef who headed up the kitchens of Monopole, Cirrus and Est, along with marketing wife, it’s raised the dining bar level in town a notch or two. Sophisticated without being pretentious, it currently offers a set dinner menu for $125 a head or a shorter lunch menu for $90 a head, which changes with the season and the availability of ethically-sourced produce. Each dish is a perfect blend of flavours and textures. I’m still dreaming of the star anise ice cream, spring raspberries and puffed wild rice. The wine list is dedicated to natural and biodynamic wines.
If you’re after a fun place for dinner washed down with a cocktail or two, and maybe some beats on the side, Light Years Asian Diner is the place to be. It’s described as a modern Asian diner, so think vamped up diner style seating and long tables but way cooler and with much better food and a bar on the side. It’s Asian and the food meant for sharing, so lots of little plates and big plates. Probably more for the younger crowd as the night wears on and the music gets turned up, so get in early if you want a quieter meal. The Vietnamese slaw is terrific. I’m also learning a great new respect for how cocktails can complement the food.
If you venture some a couple of kilometres down the road, you’ll discover Miami Marketta in, you guessed, it Miami Beach. This is a vibrant street market affair featuring stalls from cuisines across the globe—gozleme, paella, karagi chicked, sushi, bao buns and just about everything in between, with an array of sweet choices to finish. There’s an atmospheric bar with shades of bohemia on one side and open seating on the other, and a supply of live music. There’s also a charming collection of unique and quirky fashion and jewellery stalls featuring local designers as well to keep your retail hunger sated. Lots of fun for a night out.
If you’re looking for suggestions on other activities to do on the Gold Coast beyond Burleigh, have a look at this article as well: https://boomingon.wordpress.com/2020/11/23/a-canberra-girls-guide-to-the-gold-coast/
Have you been to Burleigh? What are your fave must-do places to eat?