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Meet Karla Munoz Labart

Co-owner of Paloma Wine Bar and Restaurant Labart

Karla & Alex Munoz Labart, Paloma Wine Bar (image supplied)
Karla & Alex Munoz Labart, Paloma Wine Bar (image supplied)

Karla Munoz Labart is one half of the superstar couple (the other half being chef extraordinaire Alex Labart) behind Burleigh’s beloved Labart and Australia’s Wine Bar of the Year, Paloma Wine Bar. We sat down with Karla to chat about the hospitality scene on the Gold Coast, get the insider tips on what to order at Paloma and she dropped a hint about their upcoming plans.

Paloma Wine Bar, Burleigh Heads (image supplied)
Paloma Wine Bar, Burleigh Heads (image supplied)

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I grew up on the Gold Coast and moved to Sydney for uni when I finished high school. I studied Media + Communications at UTS and worked in Public Relations in the entertainment industry before moving into PR for restaurants and bars. I met my husband Alex in Sydney when he was Head Chef at a restaurant I was managing the PR for. I didn’t think I’d ever move back to the Gold Coast but Alex was keen for a quieter lifestyle somewhere close to the beach, so the Gold Coast made sense. We moved to Burleigh in 2018 and opened Restaurant Labart. In late 2021 we opened Paloma Wine Bar just down the road on James Street.

Karla Munoz Labart, Paloma Wine Bar (image supplied)
Karla Munoz Labart, Paloma Wine Bar (image supplied)

What do you love about the Gold Coast?
The laidback lifestyle and community feel of Burleigh makes it a pretty special part of the world. We have a one year old daughter and it really is the greatest place to watch her learn and explore. We’re lucky to live so close to the beach and to have restaurants, bars and cafes all within walking distance from our house.

Your wine bar, Paloma, recently won Australia’s ‘Wine Bar of the Year’ Award. Congratulations! Tell us a little bit about Paloma.
Paloma is a relaxed neighbourhood wine bar in the heart of Burleigh Heads. We wanted to create a place that locals and visitors could pop into for a quick snack and drink. Nothing too serious, just somewhere to kick back and have a good time. We don’t have a beach view like some of our friends down the road so the atmosphere comes from what’s happening inside.

Paloma Wine Bar, Burleigh Heads (image supplied)
Paloma Wine Bar, Burleigh Heads (image supplied)

Why did you think the Gold Coast needed a wine bar like Paloma?
There aren’t many wine bars on the Gold Coast. We wanted to open the kind of place that we like to eat and drink at on our days off, so when this site came up in the heart of James Street we knew we had to take it.

What would you recommend we order at Paloma?
I recommend working your way through the wines by the glass so that you can try different varietals that you might not have had before. The menu is mainly made up of snacks and small plates so you can graze as you go. Although Paloma is first and foremost a wine bar, the cocktails are some of the best on the Coast so it’s definitely worth starting with a house cocktail before you move on to wine.

Paloma Wine Bar, Burleigh Heads (image supplied)
Paloma Wine Bar, Burleigh Heads (image supplied)

What do you think about the hospitality scene on the Gold Coast
The GC hospitality scene has come so far in the past five years. Great operators moving to the area have raised the bar. There are a lot more venues opening in the coming months so I’m excited to see what else is in store for Burleigh and the greater GC.

What are you most looking forward to in the next 12 months?
Alex and I are looking at a couple of sites for our next project which should hopefully kick off in 2023 so watch this space.

Karla & Alex Munoz Labart, Paloma Wine Bar (image supplied)
Karla & Alex Munoz Labart, Paloma Wine Bar (image supplied)

What are your Gold Coast favourites…
Café/Coffee spot: Seadog on James St for the best coffee in Burleigh
Restaurant: The Tropic for lunch with a view and Piatto for a cozy dinner
Bar or place for a drink: Cantina in Mermaid Beach
Beach: Talle Creek (when it’s not school holidays)

How do you choose to spend your weekends?
Weekends are the busiest time for us at Labart and Paloma so you can normally find Alex and me popping into both the venues to see our teams and say hi to regulars. On our days off you can find us at the beach with our daughter and catching up with friends and family over a BBQ at home.

Paloma Wine Bar, Burleigh Heads (image supplied)
Paloma Wine Bar, Burleigh Heads (image supplied)

Paloma Wine Bar is love at first sip

Paloma Wine Bar interior (image courtesy of @kennysmithshoots)
Paloma Wine Bar interior (image courtesy of @kennysmithshoots)

With all of the excellent and plentiful eateries on offer on the Gold Coast these days, it can sometimes be hard to take your pick. Options. Options. Options. And for the most part, we must all agree; it’s a brilliant thing. But when you want to slow things down a nudge and enjoy just the simple things — executed with utter finesse — there’s a new kid on the block we just know you’re going to love. Burleigh’s newly opened Paloma Wine Bar is your new sophisticated hangout spot — and you’re going to be smitten.

But who is behind the venue? For those who are no stranger to the much-lauded and hatted Restaurant Labart, you’ll be aware that husband and wife team Alex and Karla Munoz Labart are some serious hospitality veterans from Sydney who made the sea change to West Street Burleigh Heads in 2018. And for that, the Gold Coast will always be thankful. However, their focus has now turned on creating a James Street wine bar that is fun, vibrant, and at its core, just a simple place for people to enjoy fantastic wine and equally brilliant small plates.

The space takes over from former venue Burleigh Bar & Bites and, through the pair’s love of decor, has been transformed into a haven of clean coastal chic with oceanic blue leather banquettes, dune sand white walls, and soft khaki green tiling. Hand-blown light fixtures from Currumbin’s Soktas punctuate the entire setting with classy low-level lighting, perfect for staring lovingly into your glass of wine in hand.

Alex & Karla from Paloma Wine Bar & Labart (image courtesy of @kennysmithshoots)
Alex & Karla from Paloma Wine Bar & Labart (image courtesy of @kennysmithshoots)

When it comes to a wine list of breadth and approachability, you’ll be hard pushed to find anything else similar on the Coast. A no bars approach has been taken with the offering, affording the customer a vast range of styles, producers, and countries to choose from to spoil their tastebuds with. Maybe a zesty and crisp Savignin (Sauvignon Blanc’s cousin) from the hilly Jura region of France will quench that Friday knock-off thirst, or perhaps a sultry and smooth Pinot Noir from Victoria’s Gippsland will take the edge off a hectic weekend of festive shopping.

Take your time here to explore the list and you’ll be rewarded with some absolute treasures, including a robust collection of natural style (skin contact) wines and pet nats (naturally sparkling), which if you haven’t tried, you should at least give a go. For those giving the wine a miss, you’ll still be catered for with a solid selection of signature cocktails (the bar is named after the refreshing tequila/grapefruit cocktail afterall), a well-stocked back bar, with a spattering of local craft beers.

Small dishes will complement the drinks forward focus here, but certainly not lacking any creativity or flavour. Think European-inspired and Mediterranean splashed dishes such as Burrata, white anchovies and peppers on toast, and Beef tartare with tarragon and anchovy vinaigrette. Oh and we’ve even heard a whisper that their beloved lockdown, La Burger, is set to make its comeback to Paloma. Be sure you have those stretchy pants within reach, folks!

Wine offering from Paloma Wine Bar (image courtesy of @kennysmithshoots)
Wine offering from Paloma Wine Bar (image courtesy of @kennysmithshoots)

Chef and co-owner Alex Munoz Labart tells us this, ‘Paloma is a neighbourhood wine bar. Pop in for a pre or post-dinner drink or come early and settle in for the night. We want you to treat it as your own, get to know our team and make it your home away from home”.

With such a stellar line-up of drinks and fabulous flavour laden dishes on offer, we doubt you’ll need any further encouragement.

When: Wednesday – Friday 3pm – late & Weekends 1pm – late
Where: 12 James Street, Burleigh Heads

Words by Alex Mitcheson.

Burrata, white anchovy, peppers, on toast (image courtesy of @kennysmithshoots)
Burrata, white anchovy, peppers, on toast (image courtesy of @kennysmithshoots)

Alex Munoz Labart

Alex Munoz Labart is a relative newcomer to our sparkly city but, in the year since he arrived and brought Burleigh’s exceptional venue Restaurant Labart into our lives, he’s made quite the impact on the local dining scene.

At a time when the hospitality world is experiencing so much upheaval Alex, his wife Karla and the Labart team have come up with an idea to create takeaway dishes (of the same high quality) rather than opening their venue to the public.

We sat down for a chat with Alex about restaurant Labart’s ethos of sustainability, seasonality and simplicity and how this new plan is going to work.

How long have you been a Gold Coast local?
Exactly one year. My wife Karla and I moved to the Gold Coast from Sydney in April last year to open Labart.

What do you love most about living here?
We live in Burleigh and the ocean plays a big part in why we moved here. I love the Gold Coast’s sunshine and the beach weather that sticks around for the majority of the year. That, coupled with the amazing local community and slower pace of life. It doesn’t get much better.

Talk to us about the initiative you’ve just put in place to provide takeaway dishes rather than having diners eats in…
Labart at home will be available for pick up from the restaurant from Wednesday to Sunday afternoon and meals will range from $20-$30. An online ordering and payment system will ensure minimal physical contact and Labart’s high quality hygiene standards will remain in place, as well as the introduction of additional sanitization methods. We want to nourish people in a time when the world needs it the most. Dishes will be rustic, comfort food as we head into the winter months. Think Chicken coq au vin + mash potato, Free-range pork, chickpea + pumpkin casserole and beef bone broth minestrone. We’ll also have an offering of desserts and sides. It will be the same Labart quality to enjoy at home. Stay tuned for delivery to be announced soon.

Tell us about your career thus far?
I’m lucky to have worked with some of the best chefs in Australia like Mark Best and Brent Savage. When I was starting out, there were enough restaurants in Australia pushing the boundaries that meant young chefs like myself didn’t have to go overseas to learn. Putting myself in a fine dining environment early on really set the bar for where I wanted my cooking career to head.

Have you always known you wanted to be a chef?
Cooking has always been part of my life from a young age. My oldest brother is a chef and he pushed me into the kitchen knowing I’d love everything about it.

Why did you think the Gold Coast needed a restaurant like Restaurant Labart?
We’re starting to see a lot of people relocating to the Gold Coast from bigger cities like Sydney and Melbourne. They’re used to dining in restaurants of a certain level and we saw an opportunity to offer that on the Gold Coast. We wanted to give locals a restaurant with a high-end level of food and wine but without stuffy, formal service. For us, Labart is the kind of restaurant we love to eat at and we saw an opportunity for the Coast to experience that too.

You just released an autumn menu, what do we need to know about it?
Our menu is small but changes almost daily based on the high quality produce our local suppliers have available on the day. The change from summer into autumn means we have access to new season produce like pine mushrooms and artichokes. Keep an eye out for new dishes featuring these seasonal vegetables as they make their way onto the menu.

Tell us about your venues’ ethos…
In one sentence – Labart champions sustainability, seasonality and simplicity while hospitality remains paramount.

What are your thoughts on the Gold Coast’s dining scene in general?
The Gold Coast dining scene has grown up a lot in the past few years. There’s a move away from cheap eats and overly-themed venues and more of a demand for proper restaurants offering excellent service alongside technique-driven food and drinks. It’s an exciting time to be a Gold Coast local.

What do you have planned for the remainder of 2019?
We have some exciting collaboration dinners coming up with friends of ours in the wine and spirits world and we’re working on a line-up of interstate guest chefs who will be cooking one-off dinners at Labart.

Favourites on the Coast:
Beach: Burleigh – of course!
Restaurant: Iku Yakitori Bar
Bar: Lockwood Bar
How does your weekend usually look: Saturday and Sunday are work days for us but I make sure I still find time for the beach. The day normally begins by crossing the road for a surf, followed by breakfast on the balcony with my wife before I head into the restaurant.

Restaurant Labart

Photo credit: Andy MacPherson
Photo credit: Andy MacPherson

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.

The end.

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.

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