The entirely vegetarian eatery (with plenty of vegan options of course) has taken up the space where Steele & Co. once lived and the makeover is nothing short of miraculous.
Unsure how owners Morgan Walsh, Mary Steel and the team are able to nail entirely unique aesthetics time and time again but the proof is in the pudding as people who should probably stop making up sayings um, say.
The space is quirky with all the creative touches we’ve come to know and love from this crew and it all comes together to bring us a venue unlike anything else we’ve ever seen (again). You’ll enter past a floor-to-ceiling copper rod situation that acts as both a barrier between the coffee machine and the rest of the venue and a fun time that you need to poke your hands through to pay the bill.
Up the stairs are several seating options including high glass tables, stone benches overlooking Alfred Street and, the stars of the show, two booths that are a little bit like being one of those glass ball things with plants inside. Stone arches, hanging greenery and glass top tables with living succulents inside is probably the most beautiful seating situation around. We can’t even keep plants that get fresh air and sunlight alive but okay.
Not only is the space an Insta-dream come true, the food will have you snapping up a storm too.
The entirely vegetarian menu is made up of both all day breakfast and lunch options and my word, will you be hard up to make a choice.
The Breakfast Bruchetta is made with vine ripened tomatoes, bocconcini, fresh basil and beetroot reduction and is unlike any bruchetta we’ve ever sampled.
Creamy Mixed Berry Porridge will keep you full for days, made up of candied nuts, coconut, fresh berries and our fave, stewed fruits which may even rival those Nan used to make (soz Nan).
Our favourite though, was the Green Bowl with tempeh, crispy kale, roasted pumpkin, pepitas, cauliflower puree and many other delightful little additions and that made this dish an absolute flavour sensation.
If you’ve got any space left, wash it all down with an Activated Charcoal Vanilla Iced Latte (love you) or a fresh, fruity juice.
Vegetarian or not, the food is to die for (but not because, delicious) and we cannot overstate the need to hot foot it down there right now and EAT ALL THE THINGS.
BRB, dealing with food coma.
LOCATION: 43 Alfred Street, Mermaid Beach
HOURS: Monday to Friday 7am until 2.30pm, Saturday and Sunday 7am until 3pm
Words and photos by Kirra Smith
Radiating good vibes and a tropical, Caribbean theme perfectly suited to its balmy just-off-the-beach location, Poké Poké is bringing brightly coloured bowls of goodness to Mermaid Beach.
Poke bowls have taken the world by storm of late but in case you haven’t heard, the healthy bowls originated in Hawaii and are made up of crunchy salad, tender chunks of fish or meat, mouth watering sauces, nuts, seeds, noodles…any number of things and Poké Poké is leading the charge.
From the street, the first thing you notice is a custom carved front wall boldly enticing you to join the party. Inside the space pops with colour – an emerald green bench seat lines one wall while a neon pink sign beams in the corner declaring “okey dokey time for poké” and bunches of green bananas hang in a wide, sun-lit window.
It’s reminiscent of a tropical island takeaway joint with plenty of space to perch inside and watch the magic unfold or outside on the grass if you’d prefer.
Owner Morgan Walsh, one half of Mermaid Beach favourites Bonita Bonita and BonBon fell in love with the bowls on a recent trip and, as a lover of all things colourful, knew there’d be a market for them here.
At Poké Poké bowl options are abundant. Fresh Off The Boat is made up of the freshest salmon with edamame, zoodles, seaweed and radish on brown rice with wasabi mayo. If you’re in the mood for something warm, the Caribbean inspired roti bowls are for you. Go with the Chicken Curry bowl made up of taro and potato on coconut rice with roti.
Smoothie bowls are a thing too – try the Avocado and Kale with spinach, almond milk and banana.
Of course there are fresh and cold press juices, wine and beer and a soon-to-be-launched cocktail menu. You need never leave.
Don your most colourful Hawaiian get up and your favourite pluggas and get down there, there’s way too much fun to be had.
LOCATION: Cnr Alfred Street and Gold Coast Hwy, Mermaid Beach
HOURS: 8am to 8pm daily
Words and photos by Kirra Smith
The time has come friends and if you know what’s good for you, you’ll be as pumped as we are. FuFu is now open in Mermaid Beach and all the Chinese American diner dreams you didn’t know you had have been brought to life.
The eclectic space is exactly the kind of unlike-anything-you’ve-ever-seen magic you’ve come to expect from FuFu’s owner Morgan Walsh who also created Poke Poke, Bonita Bonita and BonBon Bar (they’re all twice as nice).
It’s a vibrant, in-your-face colour pop of epic proportions with pink velvet booths, an old-school servery complete with levered windows, pastel painted signage and splashes of greenery to bring it all to life.
A whitewashed stone walkway, lolly jars on display and pretty peach wallpaper bring home a retro chic vibe that your interior-loving, selfie-obsessed ahhh self will absolutely adore. There are neon signs with feel good messages and we would like to move in now please.
The building has been absolutely transformed since it’s Burger Fuel and Ashy Bines days. Cruising through Mermaid you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d been teleported back in time to 1950’s California. Which is definitely a place we’d like to go if any of you can sort that out.
As you’d expect from Morgan and the team, the food is both tasty AF and a little bit different from anything else you’ll find on the Coast. The idea was to move away from the share plate phenomenon while still offering eats that are affordable for all. Hooray.
They’ve dubbed it American Chinese-ish food and that is just fine by us.
The most fun things to try are the boxes which are a combo of all the best Chinese things (omelet, prawn crackers, a meaty/vegetably dish, rice etc.) or, if choose your own adventure is more your style, build your own box and let the good times roll.
Of course, there are also stand-alone dishes including CHEESEBURGER SPRING ROLLS (for goodness sake), Moreton Bay Bug Bao, Hot Dogs and BBQ Pork Mac N Cheese to name a ridiculously delicious few.
Asian-style cocktails are oh so tasty – we loved the Let That Mango for both personal and flavour combination reasons. It’s got sake, jelly and mango and it’s a real good time (as is doing the thing the name suggests FYI).
Also, you can get glass bottles of Coke and the like which can be made into spiders and our inner 12 year olds are having the time of their lives.
There aren’t enough words for how much we love this place. Not to be dramatic but we are eternally thankful for creative, unlike-anything-else spaces to which we can happily hand over all of our money.
LOCATION: 2375 Gold Coast Hwy, Mermaid Beach
HOURS: 12pm to late Wednesday to Friday and 7am until late weekend.
Words by Kirra Smith
She’s the brains behind two of your favourite local venues, Bonita Bonita and Poké Poké, and now the busiest gal on the Gold Coast is at it again.
Get excited gang, Morgan Walsh is opening a Chinese diner called FuFu and it’s going to blow your minds. It’ll taking up the (rather large) Mermaid Beach space where Burger Fuel, Bernie’s and Ashby Bines Clean Eating Kitchen once lived.
We sat down for a chat about Chinese bento boxes and in-your-face pink velvet.
How long have you been a Gold Coast local?
It has been nearly 12 years now, time goes so quickly these days. I moved over here from Auckland because I’m not really a big city girl. I like the sun, the beach, warm weather and I think once you get a taste of this lifestyle, it’s hard to go back to the hustle and bustle when you can do the same things in a beautiful place.
What do you love most about living here?
Definitely the lifestyle, it’s just so relaxing. I think being in this industry, there are lots of great opportunities to open venues that have a point of difference and suit the Gold Coast market. Gold Coasters have a certain style; you don’t really find places like Poké Poké in Melbourne and Sydney. People like that restaurant vibe here so it works perfectly with the style of businesses and direction I want to go in.
Tell us about your latest venue, FuFu…
Yes FuFu. Originally the idea was to go Chinese but you always start somewhere and things change. It’s now more of a Chinese diner in style. The fit out is going to be a little bit crazy, definitely in your face and will definitely stand out from the crowd. There’s lots of great modern Asian inspired restaurants already, so rather than compete with that market, I want this to be in the same vein as Poké Poké with that casual feel to it where you can walk off the beach and come grab a quick bite. Nothing fancy just really laid back and fast food made friendly. So the food will be things like bao burgers and cheeseburger spring rolls and a little play on bento boxes. So Chinese style bento boxes which will be a meal for one that has say sweet and sour pork, wonton, fried rice and all as a package, so you don’t have to share and at a really good price. Dining has gotten so expensive so having places that people can come to more often is where I want my businesses to head. We’re going to have Chinese inspired cocktails and some ridiculous milkshakes, all in the same diner vein.
Your venue interiors are always beautifully quirky, any insight on what FuFu will look like?
Think pink velvet because I like the ridiculous. We’ve got a really beautiful service window so we’ll be bringing that out into the middle of the seating area and it’s all very casual. So you’ll go up to order and it will be similar to what you’d see at a market stall. There’ll also be a really beautiful spot to take a photo.
All my food tends to lead back to Asian influences. I’ve always wanted to do an old school type of Chinese restaurant. Growing up in New Zealand we always used to go to a little local takeaway and it had all your dirty classics. I didn’t really feel like anyone was doing that style of venue so it’s very much going to play on my childhood. It will be old-school Chinese dishes made funky and fresh.
What inspires you to come up with such unique ideas?
I have a crazy brain. I want to do things other people aren’t doing so I see ideas from lots of different places and try to mould them to fit food that I can cook and food that I think will suit Gold Coast people and what they’ll like. You always start somewhere and it ends up taking a different direction. I thought a Chinese diner was definitely something no one else was doing so let’s do it.
How did your foray into the restaurant biz come about?
I’ve grown up in the industry, my parents have always had little cafes and restaurants back home in Auckland. It was never something I grew up wanting to be as a kid but I got stuck doing it and realised I’m okay at it so I’ve run with it. It’s really rewarding building something and watching it grow from scratch and I’m really proud of all the styles of venues I’ve opened but being in the restaurant game made me realise other passions and things I want to get into too. This will definitely be the last restaurant, there’s no more.
What are your thoughts on the Coast’s rapidly growing foodie scene?
Four years ago when Bonita opened there really wasn’t too much around which is why I got the idea. I wanted the style of venue people my age could go to that was affordable, casual and fun. Since Bonita days, the growth has been a bit crazy. It’s great because it always forces you to stay on your game and you can’t ever become complacent. It forces you to always be better and be pushing to try new things. Competition is good for everyone I think.
Best piece of life advice you’ve ever received?
I think these days what probably resonates more is having balance. It’s good to be driven and want to achieve more but to have down time and really appreciate that is important too. Life isn’t a competition but as you get older you realise you don’t have anything to prove. For me, this year is definitely about down time, spending more time at home, cooking at home, going to the beach more and having more of a life. Just finding some balance.
Being a Gold Coast local, we have to ask your favourites…
Café: I love All Time Coffee, Background – I’ve started going there heaps and they’re really lovely people and Alfred’s has been one of my favourites since day one.
Restaurant: Other than Bonita, I love the crew down at 8th Ave Terrace, they do everything so well
Beach: I live in Mermaid Beach so that’s definitely my favourite
How does your weekend usually look: Really busy. My weekends are usually Monday and Tuesday, which is nice because there are usually less people around and it’s a little bit more chill. I prefer to be at work on the busier days, I like it when it’s chaotic