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Mitch and Nerissa McCluskey

Two of the most passionate people in the local hospo industry, Mitch and Nerissa are the brains behind two of your favourites – Commune, in Burleigh, and Etsu, in Mermaid Beach. The pair, who might just be the busiest (and happiest) couple on the Coast, are now on the verge of opening a third venue.

We sat down with Mitch and Nerissa to chat about the new yakitori restaurant and building a late night bar-hopping scene in Burleigh.

How long have you been Gold Coast locals?
Mitch: We were both born here. Next week it’ll be 39 years for me. Nerissa’s moved away a couple of times. We met in the hospitality industry out at Varsity Lakes then Nerissa moved away to the snow and I started managing Bumbles in Budds Beach. When she got back, we got in contact again and started working together.

What do you love about the Coast?
Nerissa: I’ve tried to move away a couple of times but it’s just nice, easy, healthy living here. I love being able to walk around with no shoes on. I quite often walk from our house along the beach and to Commune and you can’t do that in Melbourne and Sydney or most other places. It’s just nice, it’s our home and we know everyone, people from school. The people here are happy and you really get to see that, especially in the café, we love building relationships. In the city, it’s so different.

How do you come up with such different concepts for each venue?
We build restaurants we love and that we know our community will love. Because we were born here, we want to give back to our mates around the Coast. You just have to wait for that perfect storm – the right idea, the right time and finding the right venue. We weren’t looking to open a place but we were sick of our jobs and thought this location (Commune) would be perfect and we were just ready to do it. Then with Etsu, which has been open a few years, we knew we wanted to open a Japanese restaurant and that it would be all inside. I (Nerissa) love long, dark places and Mermaid was the perfect location for us. We have never forced anything, it just always works out.

Tell us about the new place you’re opening in Burleigh?
When we got back from Japan this year, all we ate was yakitori and everyone else seemed to be talking about it too. Yakitori means grilled chicken – the restaurants in Japan mostly just make dishes from all parts of the chicken – thighs, hearts, skin, liver, neck, inner thigh, everything and they all taste really different. It’s really sustainable using the whole chicken too. We’ll make a chicken liver pate and a chicken soup too. We’ll also definitely cater for the vegos and have some really amazing Wagyu for the boys too. There’ll be a couple of raw dishes, but it’s a really different menu to Etsu. We’re looking at opening early to mid October.

Have you got the fitout sorted?
It’ll be a bit similar to Etsu where you walk in and there’s a dining bar but we’ll have a kitchen dining bar. Everyone will sit around it and the chefs will be cooking right in front of you – we’re just going to focus on that as our main feature. We’re right next to Lockwood Bar so we’ve put a hole in the wall for back door access so we’re hoping to make a cool little late night bar hopping trade. We’ll also dedicate a little area to a small Japanese whiskey type bar, people can access that from another entrance or just sit down there if they’re waiting for a table. Dining-wise, people will sit on the floor with their legs crossed, which is how it’s done in Japan.

What are your thoughts on the Coast’s growing dining scene?
We go to Melbourne and Sydney just to check out restaurants but now the Gold Coast has so many new places opening we don’t need to. Even just in Burleigh there’s so many, tacocat just opened and all these new places are popping up everywhere. It means we can just ride our bikes to dinner, it’s so good. It’s the perfect time for us to be able to do what we want to do too with all these things opening, it gives us the freedom to get a bit more experimental. It means everyone’s more appreciative of our industry, which is really good. It works here now, where it wouldn’t have a few years ago.

It benefits us in so many ways too. It’s more attractive for people to come and live and work here. Finding good, professional staff and lots of them can be challenging, so having that pool of staff wanting to live here, especially chefs, is great. Even in terms of produce and suppliers, the bigger the industry grows, the more everyone has available. We can get our hands on more and better products. It keeps us on our toes too, if someone new opens, we have to get better. We’re constantly reevaluating what we’re doing. If you’re not growing, you’re going backwards.

What are the biggest challenges for you in the industry?
We find the hardest thing is staff – finding the right people for what we want to do and having them be as passionate as we are. We always find staff who want to open their own places, which works out really well for us because they’re super passionate and we encourage that. Our Head Chef at Etsu came from us advertising in Melbourne.

What’s the best piece of life advice you’ve ever received?
Mitch: We work hard and lead by example and that makes it all rewarding.
Nerissa: You should go to work and be excited, if you don’t love it, don’t do it. We love what we do and it doesn’t really seem like work, it’s just our lifestyle now.

Being Gold Coast locals, we have to ask your favourites…
Beach: Burleigh. Before we lived here we lived in Mermaid and loved it there too
Café: There’s a few, we love No Name Lane and we go to Alfred’s, down to All Time. There’s quite a few around now, Double Barrel Kitchen is cool. Elk is really good.
Restaurant: We love Rick Shores, sitting out in the sun is so good. The Lamb Shop, Glenelg Public House and Lupo just opened which is great.
Weekend hang: We ride our bikes around, Sunday arvos on the hill are always good.

20 reasons locals love Burleigh Heads

Oh Burleigh you little beauty, what’s not to love right? Since the dawn of time (or the dawn of the GC at least) Burleigh has been one of the most-loved suburbs amongst a slew of strong contenders.

Sure, the beach is beautiful and James Street boasts all the best eats and acai bowls galore but it’s more than that, Burleigh has a soul of its own born of cruisy, barefoot, salty seabreeze vibes you simply won’t find anywhere else.

Gushing aside, here are 20 solid reasons why the locals love it and you should too (or else). And yes, we understand there are many more, hold your horses for list 2.0.

Restaurant Labart
The fine dining venue is only a couple of years old, but in that time has become one of the Gold Coast’s premier dining destinations. Tucked away on West Street, the five-star, seasonal produce-led restaurant is an absolute must-visit and your dining experience there is one you won’t long forget. The produce is sustainable and the wine list is filled with some of the most stunning natural wines in the world. The service is impeccable too, but in a fun, not-too-formal way. We LOVE.
Where: 2A/8 West Street, Burleigh Heads 

Rosella’s 
It’s the good time, slightly fancy Australiana bar of your dreams and it is perfectly at home in Burleigh Heads. Rosella’s very quickly became a firm local favourite when it opened last year and with both a drinks and food menu made up entirely of Australian produce, we are in love. There are cocktails made with Nutri Grain, some of the tastiest toasties around and all the very best Aussie beers. It’s refined, beautifully decked out and created by a couple of absolute legends. Love.
Where: 6/1734 Gold Coast Highway, Burleigh Heads

Mr Hizola’s
Yum, contemporary Cantonese food, we love you. Mr Hizola’s is dishing up the goods in the form of tasty share-style dishes and we are here for it. Particularly the sizzling steak dish that is all kinds of delicious and an array of epic cocktails to match. Mr Hizola’s is by the gang who brought you Hideaway Kitchen and Bar, Nightjar (see below), Bine, Soho Place and Nightcap, so it’s fair to say they know what’s up.
Where: 1730 Gold Coast Highway, Burleigh Heads

Burleigh Hill
Well hasn’t this simple little piece of Mother Nature become a local legend. No matter the day of the week (but particularly Sunday arvos) “the hill” as it’s affectionately known is packed with picnic rugs, ball games and groups of revelers basking in the sunshine. Looking out over the ocean and with the city in the distance, it’s the perfect spot for a late afternoon lemonade or early morning coffee date with the crew. If you’re feeling energetic, take a stroll around the hill to Talle Creek for some Insta-worthy scenery.
Where: The south end of The Esplanade, Burleigh Heads

Nightjar
It’s the good old-fashioned party bar Burleigh has welcomed with open arms and there’s absolutely no doubt that all the best things go down behind Nightjar’s spray painted roller door. Inspired by wanderluster Sailor Jerry and with very few rules, the back alley bar is home to epic live jams, crazy cocktails and guaranteed good times.
Where: Justin Lane, Burleigh Heads 

Iku Yakitori Bar
Yakitori translates to chicken on a stick, simple enough to describe, but much more intricate in nature. As for Iku, ask the crew when you stop in. Also found in Burleigh’s bustling back alley, Iku is even better than you’d imagine it to be. Skewers are the name of the game and no part of the chicken is left behind. There’s also veggo ones and some ridiculous edamame dip and plenty of tasty cocktails too.
Where: Justin Lane, Burleigh Heads 

Jimmy Wahs
The stunning space offers incredible Vietnamese dishes inspired by Head Chef Jakes’ trip through Vietnam and a desire to eat some of the very best street food in the world every single day. Same. It’s a refined style of dining paired with mouthwatering cocktails and a sleek, paired back vibe. Jimmy Wahs is one of the Gold Coast’s most impressive eateries and we are big fans.
Where: 1724 Gold Coast Highway, Burleigh Heads

Sean Scott Boutique
Gold Coast local Sean Scott is a world-renowned surf and nature photographer and his gallery on James Street is filled with his stunning images and the coolest of clothing and accessories. The gallery has been open for five years and is the perfect spot to stop in for some creative inspo or grab yourself a piece of Sean’s incredible art. Read our interview with the man himself here.
Where: 21 James Street, Burleigh Heads

Rick Shores
Literally opening out onto the sand at Burleigh beach, Rick Shores is loved (not only locally) for its stunning sunset views and those tiny little taste sensations otherwise known as Bug Rolls. If you’ve never tasted one, you’ve been wasting your life, make a booking RIGHT NOW and order them all. Wash them down with one of Rick’s signature cocktails and you’re a bonafide Burleigh-ite.
Where: Shop 3, Goodwin Terrace, Burleigh Heads

Burleigh Bowls Club
A relaxing little beachside club loved by young and old alike, Burleigh Bowls has been around since 1937 and is certainly a prime piece of real estate these days. Barefoot Bowls roll on from 12 to 5pm every Sunday and it’s a measly $5 per person including coaching and bowls (AKA ball whipper snappers). Live music can be heard on Sunday arvos from 2 to 6pm. Get down and support your local while sipping on a schooner.
Where: Connor Street, Burleigh Heads

The Village Markets
Our beloved boutique fashion and lifestyle market, The Village Markets, is home to hundreds of local makers and has helped to launch the international careers of countless creatives. Head down for an early morning coffee and breakfast while wandering through the stalls until it’s time for lunch. Oh and there’s always live music if you need a breather. It’s the best way to spend a sunny Sunday
Where: Burleigh Heads State School, Gold Coast Highway, Burleigh Heads

Burleigh Baker
The baked goods that come out of this friendly little bakery are honestly something else. Owners Geoff and Lisa are passionate about baking and opened Burleigh Baker to provide us with the best tasting and most nutritious Artisan Sourdough and boy do they deliver. They use only the finest ingredients and the traditional process of fermentation. Do not buy bread anywhere else. You’re welcome.
Where: 13/50 James Street, Burleigh Heads

Freedom Float Centre
Floating in an enclosed tank of water may not seem like the most freedom-inducing activity in the world but trust us, it is. It’s the perfect place to experience the deepest of relaxation for the mind and body and literally involves floating weightlessly in a concentrated salt solution in a specially designed lightproof and soundproof pod. You’ll be shut off from the entire world. Sign us up!
Where: 105 West Burleigh Road, Burleigh Heads

Justin Lane Rooftop
Don your finest frock and rally up your girlfriends for a Sunday session and a spot of people watching on the roof at Justin Lane. With cocktails in hand and a balmy breeze blowing in through the windows, you need never go anywhere else again. After a few hours, pop downstairs for one of Justin’s famous pizzas and that’s your Sunday sorted.
Where: 1708 – 1710 Gold Coast Highway, Burleigh Heads

Burleigh Pavilion
Absolute beachfront views and balmy ocean breezes aside, Burleigh Pavilion is a real treat. The interior is all pastel hues with greenery dotted throughout, two distinct sides including a sit down restaurant (The Tropic) and a more casual beach bar-style situation (The Terrace) for the best of both worlds. There are tasty eats on both sides and many a refreshing cocktail. Not to mention their new baked goods-filled van. Get involved in all of that.
Where: Goodwin Terrace, Burleigh Heads

Burleigh Pavilion (image supplied)
Burleigh Pavilion (image supplied)

Ze Pickle
The OG of giant, gourmet burgers, Ze Pickle’s Burleigh Heads store is all the best burgery things. Opened by friends Joey, Nathan and Aaron in 2012, the concept has spread around Australia and is now loved nationwide. Paired by your favourite local craft beer or a tipple of primo tequila and you’ve got yourself a good time.
Where: Corner Park Avenue and Connor Street, Burleigh Heads

Burleigh Farmers Markets
Everyone’s favourite Saturday morning market adventure. Get up early, grab your basket and set out in search of fruit, veggies and of course, your first coffee of the weekend. These days the farmers market also boast locally made clothing and homewares, flowers, meat and seafood and delicious breaky and lunch options. There’s also live music and plenty of laughter floating around. Happy days.
Where: Burleigh Heads State School, Gold Coast Highway, Burleigh Heads

David Fleays Wildlife Park
Nestled in the heart of Burleigh Heads, David Fleay’s is a wildlife park with a difference. Stroll through the tranquil surroundings to experience some of Queensland’s most iconic natural habitats and meet the resident wildlife — all in just one day. Explore the park solo or join the dedicated Park Rangers at the daily wildlife shows.
Where: Corner of West Burleigh Road and Loman Lane in West Burleigh

Burleigh Brewing Co.
If there’s one thing Burleigh deserves (the big legend), it’s a brewery and Burleigh Brewing Co. certainly delivers. After opening in 2006, Burleigh Brewing Co. has produced nine delicious drops with delightful names such as ‘My Wife’s Bitter’ and ‘FIGJAM’ – perfectly Burleigh. Get a sixer for Netflix and chill or head into the brewery from Wednesday to Sunday afternoons to get amongst it. There’s live tunes too, what a combination.
Where: 2 Ern Harley Drive, Burleigh Heads

Lockwood Bar
A somewhat hidden little speakeasy in the heart of Burleigh Heads, Lockwood Bar specialise in all of the very best varieties of whiskey along with many a local tipple transformed into tasty cocktails. It’s a laidback, jazz bar kind of vibe, low lit, often with live music and once you’re inside, you likely won’t want to leave. We dig it.
Where: Justin Lane, Burleigh Heads

Words by Kirra Smith

Bringing Good Vibrations to Burleigh

Unfortunately, this restaurant has now closed – but you should stick around and check out these other restaurants!

They say a change is as good as a holiday and this has certainly been the case for the latest addition to Burleigh’s foodie scene, Good Vibrations.

Formerly known as Anna Karena, the teahouse turned old school takeout has undertaken a complete transformation at the hands of owner Karina who wanted to provide great quality takeaway food in the perfect location, just a hop skip and a jump from the beach.

The vibe is reminiscent of a laidback 1980’s surf shack and the food is the kind you’d go out of your way for. Luckily though, you don’t need too.

Offering an array of burgers from the New Jersey Slider, Big Kahuna and (our fave) the Mahama Mama plus fresh fish and chips, milkshakes, coffee and the ever-elusive classic hot dog, there is literally something for everyone.

Best of all may be the fact that you can drink a delicious cold beer while you wait as part of Good Vibrations $15 Old Skool burger and (any) beer deal.

It’s the Gold Coast wrapped up in a friendly, easy to access takeaway shop and the name really does say it all.

Oh, and if you ever visited Anna Karena and sampled one of Karina’s magical cake masterpieces, you’re in luck – they’re still there.

Bye New Year diet, it was nice knowing you.

Open Tues – Fri 10am – 8pm, Sat 8am – 8pm and Sun 8am – 5pm

3/1957 Gold Coast Highway, Burleigh

Words and photos by Kirra Smith

Mo’s Desert Clubhouse

With their creative powers combined owners of Mo’s Desert Clubhouse, Emilia, Christian and Kim, have recently introduced the eclectic new creative space to Burleigh.

Combining events, gigs, workshops, yoga classes and collaborative office spaces, Mo’s is set to be THE meeting place for the Gold Coast’s coolest movers and shakers.

Found in Burleigh’s industrial area, the former storage space has had an impressive makeover, complete with a wall to ceiling mural (by local artist Mystic Rufio) depicting scenes from the trio’s serendipitous meeting in the Mojave Desert. With fairy lights, the comfiest of couches, a rope swing and copious cacti dotted throughout, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d found yourself in the hippest downtown suburbs of San Francisco.

How did the dream come to life you ask? Well, in the aforementioned desert in fact (hence the name of the clubhouse). The three found themselves camping next to each other on a recent overseas adventure and after 10 days together, discovered they had a few things in common. First and foremost was their passion for supporting local creatives and business owners.

Having returned to their respective hometowns of the Sunshine Coast (Kim and Christian) and Yamba (Emilia), the stars aligned for the team to move to the Gold Coast and make the magic happen.

Kim and Christian also run Beats Cartel, a booking agency that manages and promotes bands and Emilia holds creative workshops for her macramé business. Together they had all the ingredients to put together the perfect place for Gold Coast locals to gather and immerse themselves in creativity.

Mo’s also has a rehearsal room for musicians to hire with plenty of gear available, a bar that can be utilised for private functions and the opportunity to host any kind of workshop, art show, gig or get together that might tickle your fancy.

Pretty soon you’ll be able to hire out the desks above the space, so everyone with a laptop can get involved in the good times.

On Sunday the 6th of August from 3pm, Mo’s Desert Clubhouse is hosting a charity fundraiser for local not-for-profit company Livin featuring musical acts The Lyrical, Jackson Dunn and Tokyo Beef.

Head down and get your first taste of what’s sure to be the Coast’s new favourite creative space.

LOCATION: 6/36 Central Drive, Burleigh Heads
HOURS: Dependent on events

Words and photos by Kirra Smith

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