He’s the local restauranteur who has made Gold Coasters dining dreams come true for over a decade and Daniel Ridgeway isn’t done yet.
He opened Little Truffle, four BiN restaurants and Rivea Italian Dining in the last eight years and 2018 will see him gift northern Gold Coasters a rooftop bar and grill.
We chat with Daniel about Rivea’s recent move and what we can expect from soon-to-be-open Gotham Grill & Rooftop Bar in Runaway Bay.
How long have you been a Gold Coast local?
About 25 years. I was originally from Victoria and we came back to the Coast when I was about 13. I did go overseas on my travels as a Chef, through Europe, the US, Canada and Asia and then came back to the Gold Coast. After all the travel I didn’t want to go back to Melbourne and thought there was a lot more opportunity on the Gold Coast.
Have you always wanted to be a Chef?
Yeah I have. My family would always ask my older brother what he was going to do for a career. Every month we would go to my Uncle’s house, he was married to a Thai lady and I always used to help her cook, it was one of my favourite things. I remember an argument was going on and my Gran turned to me and said ‘ Daniel what do you want to be’ so I said ‘what am I doing now’ and she said, ‘oh you want to be a Chef’. Everyone asked me my whole life what I wanted to be and I had no idea what I was talking about but I always said I wanted to be a Chef. When the time came, I thought I’d give it a go having no idea what I’d gotten myself into but I just loved it. I was lucky enough to get that buzz out of the service and enjoy it.
How did your career come about?
I went to Tafe on the Gold Coast when I finished school and quickly realised if I was going to make it work I had to be in the best place possible so I started at Royal Pines. That was 20 years ago. From there I realised I liked the fine dining aspect of things and traveled to Melbourne to work in some of the top restaurants down there. Eventually I decided I needed more experience so I traveled to London and worked there for a couple of years in multiple restaurants, then to Canada and back to Melbourne. I was working for a Chef called Andrew McConnell who still has multiple venues down there when I got an opportunity to come up and open Room81 at The Sofitel as the First Chef Cuisine. It was the first time I had been given that role and I loved it and did very well and from there it transformed into doing it for myself.
Why did you decide to open your first venue?
When you open your first one it’s very emotional. You don’t care what anyone tells you, you just want to do what you want to do. No matter what advice you get, you do what you want to do. I opened Little Truffle almost eight years ago. I liked the corner location, there was nothing else around and I wanted a destination restaurant that was still accessible. Honestly back then it was probably the biggest mistake I could have made, it was really quiet and when the busy season came no one knew where we were. The first year was a struggle but I believe if you have the passion and the right product, it will work out. My thoughts are look after the locals first and the tourists are a bonus. Every year has been better and better and last year was probably our best. Now we’ve got Etsu, Glenelg and a bunch of restaurants around us and it’s become a dining hub. Just recently we won Best European restaurant in the country from Restaurant and Caterers so that was a nice little accolade.
How did the BiN phenomenon come about?
After Little Truffle, the focus kind of shifted to share plate dining and food with Asian influences so it was a good opportunity to do something new. We picked a little hole in the wall in James Street, which became BiN 12 – a bar with good food at a reasonable price and that went really well. We opened BiN 72 at The Strand in Coolangatta and got that buzz and just kept opening venues. We did BiN 232 in Pacific Fair and quickly after that BiN 89 in Broadbeach.
Why did you move Rivea Italian Dining to Broadbeach recently?
BiN 89 got hit with those massive roadworks on Surf Parade and we struggled with that, a lot of venues closed down but we pulled through. In that time we opened Rivea Italian Dining in Pacific Fair and that was such a popular venue so we’ve now moved that over to the BiN 89 space and gave it a fresh start. Having BiN 232 at Pacific Fair, less than a kilometre away you can still get your BiN fix. Rivea has been open for about a week now and we’re so thankful. We did a mini refit to give it that Rivea feel which is fresh and inviting. There’s white marble and stone and some dark wood. The cuisine is classic Italian and we just keep it as fresh as possible.
What have you got in the pipeline for this year?
Next month Gotham Grill and Rooftop Bar opens up – it will be mid-March. The one thing no one knows about Gotham is that it’s two levels of dining – so two restaurants in that one building. It will be Gotham Grill, which will be Little Truffle style but more casual, not so fine dining focused. At Gotham Rooftop Bar there’ll be pizza, pasta, cocktails, wine and draft beer so very casual. There will be two menus and two different styles, it’s pretty special.
Thoughts on the Coast’s dining scene of late?
I think we’re there now, I don’t think it’s a matter of it getting better and better, I think we’re there. Where I think we’re doing the best is breakfast/brunch. That’s something the Gold Coast does better than any city in Australia. That’s one thing I think we’ve nailed almost perfectly. We just need to get ourselves more exposure because everything that opens up now is getting better and better. We’re very excited to be part of it.
Do you have any life advice for us?
Find balance. It’s one thing I still struggle with but I’m trying to add more balance into my life. It’s amazing when you take that time off and do life stuff, you come back and feel so much better than before.
Tell us you favourites on the Coast…
Café: I can’t just say one, people will get mad. There’s so many to choose from, it’s the best part of the Gold Coast I think.
Restaurant: If I want to go somewhere and be relaxed it’s Itoshin in Mermaid Beach. It’s all about the sashimi and sushi boats there, everything raw is amazing.
How does your weekend usually look: We try to religiously take off Sundays and take the dog to the beach or got to a restaurant. Saturday is my favourite day of the week because it’s purely operational in the restaurant.