Jack Connor is one half of Burleigh’s beloved Australiana bar, Rosella’s and one of the Gold Coast’s most talented mixologists. He began his career as a shit-kicker (same), went on to shake things up in some of Australia’s most impressive venues and now co-owns one of the best.
We sat down for a chat with Jack about his thoughts on making the perfect Martini ahead of Martini Week and the epic changes in the works for Rosella’s in 2020.
How long have you been a Gold Coast local?
I was born in Melbourne but moved here when I was still a little baby at the age of 1. I’m getting old now… so been a local for a while ha.
What do you love most about living here?
Living here so long, its great to be on the Gold Coast having so many friends and family within a stones throw is pretty special. Also pretty good living in such a beautiful small and growing city.
You co-own Burleigh Australiana bar Rosella’s, how’d you come up with the concept?
The concept was sort of an evolution from a mix of other concepts that needed work. It was a great collaborative effort between myself and Jon (co-owner) to use only Australian products and to tie that in with the more nostalgia Australiana feel. I think it’s a great way to showcase the rapid growth of Australian cuisine and hospitality in a fun and super sustainable way.
What can someone expect if they’ve never been?
If it is someone who has lived in Australia for a long time, they should expect a trip down memory lane and to be very impressed with what Australia has to offer. If it is someone from overseas, they should expect the latter from the previous statement. It’s a very common surprise for guests to see how much we have to offer in terms of amazing cocktails, spirits, wine, beer and food.
Tell us about career before Rosella’s, what did you do?
I have been in this industry for 12 years now and on the Gold Coast. It all started when I was 19, finding a job after the GFC to get me through university. I landed a job as a bar back at Elsewhere. Slogging out the shit kicker jobs (which are still very much apart of every day work still to this day) for six months, I got myself into the bar tending drinks. After a good innings of bar backing, bartending and DJing, I moved to FIX Bar at the Hilton to find the more cocktail and service aspect of hospitality, which I fell in love with. This is where I worked my way up to a management role and have been managing venues ever since. I had a quick stint in Brisneyland where I managed The Charming Squire but found myself coming back to the Gold Coast. This is where I then started at Aloha Bar and Dining for three years before opening up little ol’ Rosella’s.
What’s your favourite cocktail on the menu right now?
My favourite on the menu right now would have to be Blinky Bill. It’s a cocktail using a lot of progressive techniques in order to create a very pleasing visual experience and something that is bloody delicious. Plus the customer is donating to a very good cause. With every Blinky Bill sold, $2 of that cocktail is donated to WIRES Wildlife Rescue Organisation, with our country copping one of the worst bushfire seasons to date, this helps those centres that were overwhelmed with injured native animals. This is also by far our most popular cocktail, which makes it so much sweeter! Super fun for us to make, giving to a good cause and bloody delicious…. WIN WIN WIN!
It’s Martini Week this week, talk us through making the perfect martini…
A perfect Martini, in my opinion, is the hardest cocktail for anyone to make. There are very few ingredients (2-3), with an incredible amount of room for error! My favourite martini however is a Half-Half Gin Martini. This means upping the vermouth so that you are using half gin and half dry vermouth. Low ABV… high NRG! My preference would be Never Never Southern Strength Gin (40mls), Regal Rogue Lively White Vermouth (40mls), stir in a mixing glass till perfectly diluted, garnished with a bush lemon coin! Delicious!
FUN FACT: Before the Vodka Martini was called a Vodka Martini it was known as a ‘Kangaroo Cocktail’! However with vodkas popularity in the 1940s and onwards, saying a Vodka Martini was a little more appealing than ordering a smelly, Australian marsupial.
Rosella’s has done a few collabs with local businesses, why is it important for you to support them?
I think collaboration in any aspect is hugely important for any business and more so, personal growth. From our Rosella’s Blend Rum with Bundaberg Rum to all our takeover nights with specific brands, winemakers and/or other local restaurants. It brings us together to work towards something that is in both of our best interests. Sharing ideas, tips and tricks, techniques, and the same vision helps both parties personal growth and brand awareness. This industry [hospitality] moves forward very quickly! It is imperative you move forward with it… or stay ahead!
An exciting fun collaborative initiative we are working on now is with Husk Distillers. In the coming months we will be releasing a collaborative bottled cocktail pack, where we have designed four different signature cocktails utilising the four main products from Husk Distillers.
What’s in the works for the rest of 2020 for you and Rosella’s?
The biggest project we are working on at the moment is our kitchen renovation. We have acquired some very special chefs (Hamish Penner-Wilson ex Sous Chef at Fish House and Angus McCombe ex Jimmy Wahs) on board at Rosella’s now, and want to represent that in our food offering. Another big focus for us is making everything very sustainable. Using all local ingredients and minimising waste and plastic. We have acquired some compostable cling wrap so now we can say we are 99% single use plastic free. We are also working on a project to have an urban garden on top of our coolroom and storage shed for little herbs for the kitchen and bar, while also using home gardens for herbs and David doing weekly/fortnightly foraging endeavours. We have an amazing team at the moment at Rosella’s, so expect an exponential growth over the coming months in all aspects!
Tell us your favourites on the Coast…
Cafe for breakfast: Elk Espresso, Commune, Stable (if I’m awake early enough)
Coffee spot: Stable
Bar for a drink: Lockwood, Iku or Scottish Prince.
How does your weekend usually look: My weekend usually is a whole lot of work, sleep and coffee!
They say Australia is the lucky country and in particular those of us who call the Gold Coast home (made that bit up, but look around friends). Well, in the last week the lucky country got even luckier and (again) in particular a little place on the south east coast of Queensland, we like to call Burleigh Heads.
The latest little pot of gold comes to us in the form of a brand new bar but not just any brand new bar friends, it’s the kind that dreams are made of.
Rosella’s Bar flew into town just last week ahead of the Australia Day long weekend and it is the refined Aussie-inspired bar you never knew you needed in your life. But need it you do and, as usual, we’re here to tell you why.
It’s the work of local lads Jon Debeere (next-level wine connoisseur) and Jack Connor (ex-Aloha cocktail creator extraordinaire) who are both passionate about all-Aussie adventures and wanted to showcase the work of local wine and craft beer makers, plus do a little making of their own.
It’s an intimate space found on the highway in Burleigh, where a little hairdressing salon once lived, and streuth is it a beauty. Louvered windows open out into the street so you can perch yourself up there and watch the (unfairly good looking) world go by while a couple of booths and high tables line one wall and, of course, you can perch at the bar and have a chat with the boys (or talk their ears off if you’re us).
Brightly coloured, Aussie-inspired artwork is hung throughout, vintage, stained glass light shades hang overhead and Ken Done cloths line the bar. It’s beautifully put together, refined with a side of tongue in cheek and we are absolutely here for it.
Let’s chat drinks though because they are, of course the star of the show. The cocktail menu is unlike anything you’ve seen before with over 10 signature cocktails plus all your old faves. Each one is made with Australian spirits and each one is way more epic than the last.
The Ironman, for example, is made with Beenleigh white rum, Bundaberg small batch rum, lime, banana and a Nutri Grain Orgeat (a housemade syrup type situation) and topped with, you guessed it, our beloved Nutri Grain. It’s a gamechanger and our new go-to tipple.
The Rosella is made with White Light Vodka, rosella jam, Australian bitter, lemon and lilly pilly and served in a rosella shaped glass, all delightful and refreshing. Honestly, they’re all some of the best we’ve ever sampled so do yourself a favour and get there ASAP.
The wine list is equally as impressive, filled with natural, Australian-produced wine made with minimal intervention, many of which you won’t find anywhere else on the Gold Coast (or Queensland for that matter).
Rosella’s are all about showcasing Pet Nat wines (Pétillant-naturel) which refers to sparkling wines produced in the ancient way where the wine is bottled before primary fermentation and finished without the addition of secondary yeasts or sugars.
Sounds fancy, is amazing. We taste-tested quite a few and, let it be known, they are some of the most flavour-filled, clean tasting wines we’ve ever come across. And we’ve come across a lot.
Oh and there’s also Fosters. In a can. Not to mention MANY other Aussie beers you’ve probably never seen before. We’re in love.
Now to the food.
The menu has been designed with a nostalgic nod to the Aussie eats you know and love but minus the throw-it-on-the-barbie-and-hope-for-the-best attitude your Dad was all about.
Think Vegemite Beef Jerky, Bug Sambos, Raw Aussie Beef Burgers and Prawn Cocktails but all made with a refined, sophistication to match the exceptional drinks menus.
Last but not least, there are jaffles. The very best jaffles at that. How does Vegemite, Cheddar and Wattleseed butter sound? Yep. There’s also Onepot Lamb with soft herb cheese and spiced chutney.
Okay we’re done. Seriously just go. Right now. We’ll seeya there.
Love you ‘Straya.
LOCATION: 6/1730 Gold Coast Highway, Burleigh Heads
HOURS: 4pm until late weekdays and 12pm until late weekends
Words and photos by Kirra Smith
On June 13th each year we raise a glass to World Gin Day and the spirit that has certainly had its come up over the last little while. The Gold Coast boasts our very own gin distillery plus a host of bars making magic with local gins. All of which you won’t be surprised to learn we’re big fans of.
In honour of that, here are the best spots to get your gin fix on the Gold Coast this World Gin Day (or anyday for that matter). Happy sipping.
Tamborine Mountain Distillery
Tucked away on Mount Tamborine is one of Australia’s smallest and most unique distilleries with over 280 International Awards. Their gold medal award winning gin is the Lilly Pilly Gin, a pot still gin using botanicals such as Australian Lilly Pilly (Riberry), Juniper, Angelica root, Orris root, Citrus peel, Caraway, Coriander, Aniseed Myrtle, Elderflower, Mistletoe, Passionflower, Shepherd’s Purse and more. The best part about it, it’s got a delightful pink hue.
Where: 87-91 Beacon Road, North Tamborine
The Island Rooftop
It’s always a good time on the rooftop in Surfers Paradise, overlooking the city and with guaranteed good vibes. While all the sips are sweet, our recommendation is the Clover Leaf made with Beefeater gin, raspberry, lemon and egg white, so good.
Where: 3128 Surfers Paradise Boulevard, Surfers Paradise
Aloha Bar & Dining
How does a Saturn Juniper Uranus sound? Cool right. That’s exactly what you should order at Broady’s most colourful alleyway bar, Aloha Bar & Dining. It’s got Four Pillars gin, sloe gin, orgeat, passionfruit, lime and rosemary and it’s out of this world. The bar itself is decked out in full colour, with hidden rooms and moody, good time vibes aplenty. Follow the music down the alley and you’ll find yourself in a magical world of tiki goodness.
Where: 18 Main Place, Broadbeach
Fig & Frankies
Another delightful Broadbeach bar dedicated to exceptional sips and very good times is Fig & Frankies, also newish on the scene and also very well-loved amongst Gold Coast locals. Their cocktail list is tight and filled with delights made up of local spirits and you’ll want to try them all. Drinks are numbered rather than named and each is absolute perfection to be honest. We particularly loved Number One (aptly named) because it is made up of MAC by Brookies, clarified green apple and house lemonade and we cannot overstate tasty enough. Gather the crew and sip up a storm.
Where: 4/2707 Gold Coast Highway, Broadbeach
A must-visit cocktail bar in Broadbeach, Roosevelt Lounge is one of the city’s sexiest spots for a cocktail, capturing the seductive style and glamour of decadent New York. For World Gin Day try the Down the Rabbit Hole Signature Cocktail made up of Ink gin, in-house chimmer liqueur (pink moscato, pisco, peach & orange blossom), blueberry vinegar, citric acid and life of cha crystal tea. Delightfully served in a tea pot, this cocktail is an Instagram dream.
Where: 75 Surf Parade, Broadbeach
The Gold Coast’s first gin distillery Granddad Jacks are, quite obviously king when it comes to gin cocktails (and gin in general). Our number one on their list is the Seymour Street with their very own Greenhouse Gin plus Eucalyptus and fresh lime juice because it’s the ultimate in Aussie-inspired freshness and it tastes top notch too. Love your work mates.
Where: 45 Lemana Lane, Miami
Oh Rosella’s, little love of our lives. A refined Australiana bar in the heart of Burleigh Heads, Rosella’s is bringing all Aussie eats and tipples to the very appreciative people. On a list of cocktails that will 100% improve your life (especially the Pet Nat Slushie – love you) but for the purposes of this article let’s chat about the Kylie Minogue Martini with Vickers Gin from Beenleigh Distillery no less, vodka, elderflower, verjus and pink peppercorn. It’ll have you spinning around in no time.
Where: 6/1743 Gold Coast Highway, Burleigh Heads
Tucked away down Justin Lane behind a red velvet curtain is Lockwood Bar. They a serving up a sexy sip titled Brookie’s Aviation which fuses Brookie’s Dry Gin, lemon juice, Tempus Fugit liqueur de violette and Luxado Maraschino liqueur. Topped off with a maraschino cherry, you know it’s a goodie.
Where: Justin Lane, Burleigh Heads
An intimate little space down Palmy way is Suga, a cocktail and rum bar open until late and serving up cocktails that are quite unlike anything you’ve sipped before. On World Gin Day we recommend a Gin Lippy with Larrikin Gin, citrus syrup, housemade lemonade and a whole lots of tastiness. A very tasty tipple indeed. Pop on in for a few of those this weekend.
Where: 1142 Gold Coast Highway, Palm Beach
The Collective Palm Beach
The Rooftop Bar at The Collective Palm Beach is a gin-lovers paradise with beloved gin-based cocktails including the Rose Hip Martini with Poor Toms Gin, hibiscus syrup, lime and grapefruit and the Unnamed Sympathy served Tiki-style with macadamia-infused Nobel Cut Gin, Bushfire Botanic Australis Gin and pine-lime allspice. Both of which are tried and tested by us and both of which are really very delicious.
Where: 1128 Gold Coast Highway, Palm Beach
Saint Helen’s Kitchen + Bar
If sipping cocktails seaside is your thing (and we know it is), you’ll love Saint Helens Kitchen + Bar signature slurp The Gin Thruster. It’s got gin, blueberry and tonic. It’s bright, refreshing and super Insta-worthy – if it lasts that long.
Where: Shop 2/78 Musgrave Street, Kirra
Words by Kirra Smith
Burleigh Heads is on absolute fire with venues swinging open their doors left and right, much to the delight of locals who apparently can’t get enough of tasty eats and bunkering down somewhere warm with a wine in hand (same to be honest).
The latest eatery to grace us with its’ presence is Restaurant Labart (opening tonight), a stylish space on Burleigh’s West Street, where Burleigh Chinese once lived. It’s simple sophistication at its finest and unlike anything the Gold Coast has seen before.
Which is of course, due to the fact that Restaurant Labart is the work of Sydneysiders Karla and Alex Munoz Labart who bring quite the impressive rap sheet to our beachside city.
But first, the interior. The narrow space is beautifully designed with walnut leather bench-style seating lining the walls and not-quite-khaki paneling with dark wood furniture and low-hanging lighting completing the picture. The vibe is earthy, refined and understated and we quite like it thank you very much.
The menu is, happily, the star of the show and that is a concept close to our hearts (and tummies). It’s made up of snacks (best) and both small and large share plates all of which are absolute taste sensations.
To share we recommend the BBQ King Prawns with shellfish butter, crème fraiche and finger lime and the Veal Tartare with sun-dried tomatoes, tarragon and potato crisps.
The large plates are all kinds of goodness and in particular the Seared Mulloway with peas, dill and horseradish and the Grilled Lamb Rack with charred turnips and green herb sauce should make you happy.
For dessert (OUR FAVOURITE) Chocolate Mousse with popcorn ice cream and salted popcorn is probably the most exciting dish there is in the world. Keep that one coming please.
You may also indulge in a cheese plate and if that’s not enough to have you making a reservation right this minute, please explain.
To compliment the stand out menu, a carefully curated selection of wines (including biodynamic and natural choices) along with Australian craft beers and seasonal cocktails are on offer to delight your tastebuds.
As mentioned owners Karla and Alex made the move from down south where Alex was the Head Chef at famed Sydney venues Monopole and Cirrus Dining, both of which were awarded Chefs Hats during his tenure.
Restaurant Labart is their first venture and, with the philosophy of aiming to simply make people happy, they’re sure to fit in just fine around these parts.
Excuse us, we’re off to consume all the chocolate mousse before the rest of you get your hands on any.
LOCATION: 8 West St, Burleigh Heads
HOURS: Dinner Wednesday to Saturday 6pm until 11:30pm. Lunch Friday to Sunday, 12 until 3 pm
Words by Kirra Smith. Photos supplied – interior shots by Andy MacPherson – food images via Restaurant Labart.