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Ben Howe

Slowly but surely Ben Howe is transforming Southport into a suburb set to rival the Burleigh Heads of the world.

In the last five years he and his family have opened two sweet co-working spaces in two of the Coast’s most historical buildings and now he’s about to make the daring move into the hospitality world.

We sat down with Ben to chat about Mr PP’s, Southport’s first rooftop bar, and the local 18th century poet and illustrator it’s named after.

How long have you been a Gold Coast local?
I was born in Southport and lived away for a few years then came back in 2010 and I’ve been working in Southport ever since. 

Where on the Coast do you live and what do you love about it?
I live in Mermaid Beach now, it’s really grown in the last few years. We moved there in 2014 and every few months there seem to be awesome new restaurants opening which adds a lot to the visibility of a city. The standard has been raised so high and now I’m doing my own venue, I know how hard it is.

How did Co-spaces and The Exchange come about?
Co-spaces is a family-owned business and building. My parents bought the old ambulance station in 2002 and it was awesome to be a part of that and see the impact it had on the community. In 2012 we had the light rail being built and that took two years which kind of wrecked the front of the building for that time. Our tenant moved out so I said I’d turn it into a co-share office and that’s where it all started. In 2015 we occupied a building two doors down which was the old Telstra exchange and I put another co-working space in there (The Exchange) and the building between those is the one Mr PP’s is going into, so now we’ve got the three historical buildings in a row.

We knew two businesses that wanted to move into Co-Spaces and I thought it was a great business opportunity. I knew people who wanted that flexibility and the Gold Coast was the perfect opportunity for that type of work environment. I was designing websites at the time with a friend, that was my primary business and I was looking for a similar kind of thing and couldn’t find it. No one was coming to rent it while the light rail was happening, so we tried it and it was really successful.

You’re building Southport’s first rooftop bar, how did that come about?
The old ambulance station was built in 1922 and my brother, his wife and another partner put Percy’s Corner (the cafe) in and it was named after the first Superintendent who ran the station for 40 years.

When we started this process we were looking for another historical character relevant to the building. We found out that in 1909 it was the Postmaster’s residence and where we are in the exchange was the second post office in Southport. We started looking up Postmasters and found this guy whose name was Philip Palmer Agnew who was a poet, artist, a scriptwriter and a brilliant illustrator and he was the first main Postmaster and telegraph operator. He came here in 1883 when the first telegraphs came to Southport and set that up. He was this crazy character and so talented, everyone loved him. He put on plays for the locals and was very loved. We found all these songs he wrote and illustrations he did so we decided to name the bar after him – it’s Mr PP’s Deli and Rooftop Bar. 

There’ll be a deli too right?
The deli will be downstairs and it will really focus on high quality meats and cheeses. You’ll be able to come in and get a wine and a meat board and on the rooftop we’ll be doing pizzas. So there’s a theme of quality meats and cheeses and breads and that’ll transfer through both spaces. 

Who else has made this possible?
When I first started this process I really wanted to include other businesses and young people because I feel like when you bring the community along with you, it’s really beneficial. Plus I don’t have any hospitality experience. One of my co-working members Arran Woollams has a design studio and he’s a bit of a hospitality veteran so he’s on board. Another one of my members, Kyle Sinclair is an Accountant, he does lots of books for hospitality businesses on the Coast and he’s also an ex-chef. Sam, a solicitor at IP Partnership, and Matt, a Lawyer at HW Litigation, are on board too.

What are your thoughts on the Coast’s growing start up culture?
It’s fantastic. It feels like it’s really exploded in the last few years and I think it’s because people see other great things happening and they kind of rise to that and things keep flowing and getting better. It’s cool, every suburb is starting to get its own vibe and I think for me with Southport, I see that potential. It’s got the history but it really lags behind other suburbs. You see places like Palm Beach which have come out of nowhere and exploded, I think that’s what we need to do in Southport and that’s why we’re doing what we are – to really help the suburb and encourage other people.

How did you come to be where you are today?
I went to Uni and did Information Technology then switched into 3D animation. I started working in animation and realised it wasn’t for me. I moved to Melbourne and worked in advertising and then moved back to the Coast and started a little digital design company building websites and then transitioned into Co-Spaces as a kind of accidental thing. And now I’m getting into hospitality. 

What’s the best piece of life advice you’ve ever received?
Manners maketh the man (from my Grandma) 

Being a Gold Coast local, we have to ask your favourites:
Beach: Tallebudgera Creek
Café: I like Alfred’s Apartment
Bar: The Cambus Wallace
How does your weekend usually look? At the moment it’s working bees on Saturday to finish this bar and then Sunday is family time. Head down to the beach or go for bike rides or to the hinterland. Catching up with friends.

14 reasons locals love Southport

Mr PP's Deli & Rooftop Bar (Image: © 2017 Inside Gold Coast)
Mr PP's Deli & Rooftop Bar (Image: © 2017 Inside Gold Coast)

It may be home to the Gold Coast’s bustling business district but Southport can also boast a huge array of incredible eateries, culture and general good times.

We’ve rounded up 15 things locals love about the place and we reckon you might enjoy them too.

In no particular order, enjoy.

Southport Sharks
There is many a good time to be had at Southport Sharks including dining at one of the delicious dish-packed restaurants, drinking at Aviary Rooftop Bar overlooking the city, joining in on one of their classes at the Health + Fitness Centre or getting involved in one of their many good time events. The possibilities are endless. It’s the perfect spot for a family event or take the crew for a Sunday afternoon session. Happy days no matter what.
Where: Olsen Avenue and Musgrave Avenue, Southport

Southport Yacht Club
Waterfront dining is the name of the game at Southport Yacht Club with two venues to choose from and stunning scenes from whichever you choose. You’re also welcome to just sit back and kick up your heels with a cold beverage or two while gazing lovingly at one of the many beautiful yachts in the marina. It’s one of the Coast’s best locations and you’re guaranteed to have a good time.
Where: 1 MacArthur Parade, Main Beach

Zero Latency
Zero Latency is a free-roam, virtual reality experience like no other. With up to eight players per game, you’ll have the BEST time fighting zombies, exploring mystical places and challenging your friends on space stations. All you need to do is put on the VR headset, strap into the backpack and pickup the controller. Get 10% off here. It really is so good.
Where: 34 Smith Street, Southport

Panezski Distillery
The Coast’s first vodka distillery opened in Southport a few short months ago and what a treat. The family-owned business are whipping up three types of vodka, two types of gin and even a couple of beers on the premises and you can pop in to grab a bottle to go, or you can sit down and enjoy a cocktail and a charcuterie board and spend a bit of time. Very cool. 
Where: Unit 7/55 Bailey Crescent, Southport

Vinnies Dive
Who doesn’t love a good dive bar. Particularly one that doubles as a live music venue and has a huge range of your favourite beers on offer (and some you may not have heard of). Head in there to discover some new music from both local and interstate bands and if you’re in the mood for a party, which we know you are, you can hire the space out for your next one.
Where: 44A Nerang Street, Southport 

Boudoir Lounge interior (Image: © 2020 Inside Gold Coast)

Mr PP’s Deli & Rooftop Bar 
On the ground floor of the building you’ll find the deli section of the establishment, with an array of delicious meats and cheeses that will be brought together in platter form for your feasting pleasure. Upstairs, the rooftop bar boasts tasty cocktails, even more delicious eats and views across the city. It’s a real good time.
Where: 43 Nerang Street, Southport

Randy Wallhole
To put it bluntly, you haven’t lived until you’ve tasted a Randy Wallhole bagel. There are eight flavours to choose from which means you have multiple per day if you so choose. Go for the Pulled Bas first up, it’s got Smokey BBQ pulled beef, peri mayo and apple slaw. Wash it down with some of the best coffee on the Coast and be on your merry way.
Where: 4/21 Nind Street, Southport 

Boudoir Lounge
A newbie amongst the Southport bunch, Boudoir Lounge is the very best spot for a tasty brunch with the girls or simply a few cocktails after work. Found on Como Crescent, it quickly became the go to spot for those looking for some delicious eats, in a sweet setting and with unique sips of course. Inside there’s also a hair and beauty bar so you can get fabulous before you head out on the town. Perfect.
Where: 410/1 Como Crescent, Southport

Broadwater Parklands
Whether you’re four or 40, theres tons of fun to be had at Broadwater Parklands. For starters, you can sit and stare out at the yachts you’ll never set foot on. Then, there’s the bouncy pillow (maybe don’t go on there without a child), a kiddies train, a water playground and weekly events from theatre shows to foodie markets. See, fun.
Where: Marine Parade, Southport

D Point Ten
Oh donuts, how we love you. D Point Ten can be found on Stevens Street and, in keeping with the general donut vibe, is a little hole in the wall space pumping out the freshest of donuts we may have ever excitedly shoved into our greedy mouths. In all the best flavours no less. Go the Ferrero Rocher for sure.
Where: 6/1 Stevens Street, Southport

Cardamon Pod
The delightful folk at Cardamon Pod are serving up delightful dishes with a focus on clean eating but of the prettiest variety. They offer vegan and gluten free options for breakfast and lunch with a side of organic coffee and vegan desserts. All very delicious and it’s very hard to stop at just one thing or not to post on your Instagram.
Where: Brickworks Centre, 3/3 Brolga Avenue, Southport

Panezski Artisan Distillery (Image: © 2020 Inside Gold Coast)

Gold Coast Aquatic Centre
Southport’s centre of swimming is something for all of us to be proud of. It’s as pretty as a collection of swimming pools can be and, as it was home to all the Commonwealth Games water activities, it’s world class. The architecture is sleek and there’s a training room featuring pits filled with foam for the divers to practice in.
Where: Marine Parade, Southport 

Escape Hunt
Imagine being wrongly accused of murder, chained to a wall and having to rely on your friends’ detective skills to free you. Who you gonna call? Welcome to Escape Hunt, Southport’s brain bending game guaranteed to test your problem solving skills like they’ve never been tested before. There’s a few scenarios you might be faced with, all of which involve solving a mystery with a set of intricate clues. It’s the most fun you can have inside a locked room. Make sure to take your smart friends. Grab 10% off here.
Where: 2/162 Scarborough Street, Southport

Brickworks Centre
Where to start. There are SO many excellent places to peruse at the Brickworks starting with Ferry Rd Market where you can nab yourself everything from beautiful flowers to the freshest breads, seafood and fruit and veggies galore. God it’s good. Within the Centre, there’s also stunning homewares, fashion and design stores and health and beauty services. Oh, there’s also always some really cool events.
Where: Ferry Road, Southport 

Words by Kirra Smith

Southport Aquatic Centre (Image supplied by Destination Gold Coast)

New to Southport: Swannie’s

Swannie’s has only been open for a couple of weeks and is already a Coast favourite, but why?

This stylish new restaurant reminds us of a bar somewhere in a metropolitan city, well it’s in our little CBD, Southport. Cafe/ breakfast joint in the morning, restaurant during the day and tapas lounge bar at night. And the crazy thing? They’re effortlessly good at it all!

Located on busy Nerang Street, Swannie’s is the perfect spot for business meet-ups, casual lunch or Friday arvo knock-off drinks. Upon entrance, you’re faced with a huge bar (filled with all kinds of alcoholic goodness for later) and a tempting cake display filled with doughnuts (the injectable kind), pastries, caramel slices, muffins, sandwiches and ciabatas! The zebra striped floor, large pendant lights and curved wooden wall hint of your night to come. But you know what’s better than a coffee in the morning? Old-school R&B music! It;s a soulful and smooth start to your day, way to go Swannie’s!

So what’s on offer for brekky? A refreshing iced-coffee, smashed avo and marinated fetta served on crispy toast topped with fresh coriander and just a sprinkle of basil and feta oil (optionally you can add eggs). Sounds pretty basic, but they do it well.

Swannie’s ‘Our Eggs Benny’ consists of two perfectly poached free range eggs with smoked salmon on an English muffin, smothered in mouth-watering house-made hollandaise. Now if you can handle a bit of booze in the morning, we’re not promoting, but informing that their signature dessert/cocktail Don Pedro involves vanilla ice-cream, Bailey’s and chocolate cream (don’t mind if we do).

If you’re enticed to stay beyond breakfast, Swannie’s have live music every night of the week* plus some great specials like $10 Beer and Burger Tuesdays or Cheese and Wine Tasting on Wednesday nights!

Best day to go: They’re literally busy everyday, but we like the buzz of a crowd on a Friday or Saturday night from 4pm til late!

Signature dish: Angus Eye Fillet Steak Sandwich (do it for lunch).

Favourite drink: All the cocktails are tasty, but the Don Pedro s a dessert and cocktail in one for the sweet tooths.

Mon – Live Music from 6pm
Tues – Live Music from 6pm
Weds – Jazz & Blues Night, live music from 6pm
Thurs – Classic Rock Night, live music from 6pm
Fri – Live Music from 6pm
Sat – Live acoustic soloist over breakfast from 8am
Sun – Live acoustic from 12pm

 See ya at Swannie’s!

34 Nerang Street, Southport

 

 

By Louisa von Ingelheim

Zi Espresso

The Southern suburbs have certainly seen their fair share of fancy coffee haunts of late and now our Northern neighbours are getting the goods.

Zi Espresso opened recently to tickle the tastebuds of those of you who spend your working days in Southport and have been in dire need of some quality caffeine.

The space, on Scarborough St, is long, skinny and quite Melbourne-esque with fresh white walls and natural wood accents. Fresh flowers and pops of colour ensure plenty of feel good vibes and a nice little escape from the crazy that is our bustling business district.

Coffee is the heart of the business (and all of our lives) and the crew use the crème de la crème of machines – the San Remo Opera v2 – which has never been used before in Australia. It’s very pretty and has many fancy gadgets.

There are definitely some technical words to explain the things it does, but because we don’t know them, here are some other words: each shot is digitally dispersed then balanced out (not compressed) and weighed to ensure the perfect coffee consistency. It’s like a little coffee puzzle but the epic end product is all your coffee dreams come true. Especially when the beans are by local legends Silipo.

Owners Daphne Zi and Scott Lo are the husband and wife team (previously of Expressions in Bureigh Waters fame) offering a menu designed to encourage diners to make healthier choices – there’s no soft drink, fried foods, ice cream or super sugary treats available in keeping with the couples’ personal food philosophy.

There’s salads, smoothies and cold pressed juices as well as immune booster shots and your favourite and ours, acai bowls (there’s cacao flavour).

OH and, if you don’t mind a chai, get involved in the Prana Chai Masala Blend because it is all the fresh, spicy flavours of India in a cup and if you could bathe in it, you would.

Now is Zi time to try it out.

LOCATION: Shop 2, 149 Scarborough St, Southport
HOURS: 6.30am to 2.30pm Monday to Friday

Words and photos by Kirra Smith

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