There are some Gold Coast restaurants that stand the test of time. Usually when exceptional menus, exceptional service and simple, community good vibes combine to create something people return to time and time again.
One such place is Burleigh Heads’ Willow Dining Room, an Asian fusion meets Spanish tapas-inspired venue owned by Ian Jul Banghal, who doubles as Head Chef.
Originally opening on the Lower Gold Coast Hwy in Burleigh Heads in 2016, Willow quickly became a firm local favourite thanks to the cosy, quirky interior and dishes absolutely packed with flavour.
Having moved from the Philippines (where he was an architect) Banghal creates dishes that are not only beautiful to look at, and usually intricately built into some type of tower formation, they are all extremely tasty.
Back to the space for a sec though, the newbie can be found right next door to Beleza Food House on the beach side of the Gold Coast Hwy.
It’s an eclectic space, echoing the vibe of the old with mismatched tables, chairs and lightshades, plenty of greenery, a wood block wall Banghal built himself (over many months) and a stunning mural taking up one side wall.
It perfectly emulates the welcoming, homely vibe you’re used to from Willow but with lots more space to spread out in.
The menu has stayed the same and there are a few favourites we would like to bring to your attention.
The Rare Seared Beef Fillet accompanied by sweet potato and with a garlic and soy dressing was the winner in our books, perfectly tender and flavoursome and a dish we could (and would) eat every single day if we were able to cook like that.
The Seared Scallops in a ginger, chilli and seeded mustard sauce and topped with crispy sweet potato was also a delight, as was the Jerk Chicken with zucchini and haloumi on saffron rice with a beef reduction infused with apple hickory smoked woodchips. Yep.
For dessert there is a life-changing Salted Caramel and Dark Chocolate tart with vanilla ice cream and mango puree and a Passionfruit-infused Crème Brule you should probably sample too.
Of course there are also Asian-esque cocktails that go perfectly with every single dish on the menu so why not treat yourself to a few of those too.
While in the initial space, Willow would often book out well in advance and although that will no doubt still happen, a larger space means more opportunity for feasting.
So get in quick, they really are serving up some absolute gold in the food department. Plus, they’re very lovely people and the service is second to none.
An oldie(ish) but a goodie.
LOCATION: 1957 Gold Coast Hwy, Burleigh Heads
HOURS: Monday to Thursday from 5.30pm until 11pm, Friday and Saturday from 11am until 2.30pm and 5.30pm until 11pm
Words and photos by Kirra Smith
Burleigh Heads has absolutely come alive in the last couple of years with epic eateries and beachside bars popping up all over the place.
The locals are loving it, everybody else is talking about it and we are 100% on board the Burleigh’s the best train.
If there was one thing missing in a suburb filled with good vibes and even better people though, it was an eatery centred around a sense of community and here we are discussing the team of locals who have now taken up that space.
Burleigh Co-op opened their doors today (Monday March 4th) and the sweet little venue already has a huge following, which doesn’t surprise anyone in the least.
The newbie is the work of a gang of folks whose names you no doubt know, including the Hotel Miami crew, the legends at Granddad Jacks, the guys at Lost Boys Barbers, food extraordinaires Fingers and Bones Catering and Elki Blue Jewellery.
They’ve taken over the spot where much-loved Burleigh Social once lived after quickly seeing the hole it’s absence left for the hungry locals.
The bones of the building remain the same but the fitout is all sparkly and new with a whitewashed slash industrial vibe perfectly at home amongst the potted greenery, tangled trellises and a little bench style situation covered in vines.
Inside, glossy white tiles line the back wall, which is where you’ll see the chefs working their magic and you may sit inside to watch them do just that or outside in the prettiest of courtyards.
It’s relaxing, easy on the eye and, well, perfectly Burleigh.
The menu is also one of the best around with plenty of breakfast slash lunch dishes you’ve never laid eyes (or tastebuds) on before.
The Zucchini Waffles are a taste sensation with a sunny side egg (best name for a food-related thing), mixed shoots, chilli sour cream and Parmesan snow (also epic). It’s a big old dish that’ll satisfy you for a very long while.
The Brick Lane Bombay is spice-fried potatoes, flashed spinach, fried egg, coriander, spring onion and lime. You want to eat it just after reading that don’t you. One of the best brunch dishes in the world. Big call, no lie.
There’s also an array of bowls filled with fresh, nourishing goodness and while we’ll certainly be sampling all of them, first up we’d recommend the Green Papaya Salad because fresh hot smoked tofu, rice noodles, loads of herbs, peanuts, crispy shallots and Chili and lime dressing. All of the flavours.
Oh let’s also discuss the Falafel Fritters with pickled red cabbage and caraway seeds, turmeric cauliflower hummus, barley tabouli and a seeded cracker. Yep.
Every dish deserves a mention but we can’t give away all their secrets.
The coffee is by local faves Social Espresso so you know a sweet, smooth brew is on the cards and all the produce on offer is local because showcasing our stunning city is what Burleigh Co-op is all about.
From the owners to the eats, everything about the place is part of the community, co-operative vibe Burleigh knows and loves.
So, after all that, obviously the only thing left to do is get down to Hibiscus Haven and get involved in the goodness.
Words and photos by Kirra Smith.
LOCATION: 2 Hibiscus Haven, Burleigh Heads
HOURS: 6am until 3pm daily
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, Japanese food is one of life’s greatest pleasures. So when a new, perfectly curated eatery bringing the traditional tastes of Japan to Burleigh Heads opens up, we are obviously all about it.
The newbie, Oi Izakaya can be found in the little alleyway off James Street where the Mexi-goodness that is Hail Mary also resides.
It’s the work of local lads Troy Olsen and Stephen Thompson who, along with renowned Gold Coast design genius OJ Thompson (of Ally Chow and Etsu fame), have created something the Gold Coast is going to absolutely love.
The newbie is a low-lit, moody space reminiscent of back alley, Tokyo-style Izakayas with all burnt wood paneling, dark intimate corners and an open-style kitchen, so you can watch the magic unfold.
The bar, at one end fits snugly into the corner and is jam-packed with an impressive array of whisky’s (love you), sake and Japanese beers. Tiny samurai fight for attention on one wall, while a (really quite magical) golden orb shines out from another.
The vibe is the perfect combination of old school Japanese and modern sophistication and we’re big fans.
Menu-wise the eats are refined and authentic, infusing mind-blowing flavours into dishes you’ll never want to stop eating.
To start, sashimi, always. The freshest of tuna and salmon for your tasting pleasure. But also Edamame Cheese Chips, a thing we have never before had the pleasure of sampling but will now order at any and every opportunity. Don’t ask, just order.
The Squashed Cucumber is not only one of the great dish names, it is a great dish. Basically it’s cucumber in plum sauce but the flavours defy that overly simplistic description. Eat it.
Oi Izakaya also have a Sushi Burger on the menu and yes it is indeed stacked like your run-of-the-mill burger but made with sushi. Genius and so very tasty.
Of course, the menus’ pièce de résistance is Okonomiyaki, the dish that made Troy and Stephen fall in love with Japanese eats and the reason we now get to spend all our time at Oi Izakaya.
If you’ve not yet had the pleasure Okonomiyaki is made up of many things including egg, cabbage, flour, Japanese spices and your choice of meat. The dish we sampled was Hiroshima-style (with noodles) and it was the very best variety we’ve ever tasted.
We ate the entire thing and you should order it and subsequently be impressed by how good we are at eating.
To drink, we suggest getting involved in one of the MANY Japanese whisky’s on offer but if straight up isn’t your thing, the Brown Rice Old Fashioned is as good as it gets.
All in all, Oi Izakaya is quite a treat and the perfect addition to Burleigh’s foodie scene and we suggest you get down there at the earliest available opportunity and give the boys some love.
And if you need someone to mentor you in the art of whisky drinking, you know where to find us.
LOCATION: Shop 4-6, 30 James Street, Burleigh Heads
HOURS: Wednesday and Thursday 4.30pm until late, Friday to Sunday 12pm until late
Words and photos by Kirra Smith
How good is making new friends in a sweet, good time space while pretending to work but really just watching animal docos? So good, gang.
In an (un)surprising turn of events, you can now do all of those things at the Coast’s sweet new co-working and events space in the suburb that may just be our new fave – Miami.
The gist is this. Lemana Lane is a kind of urban, cool kids paradise that was once only home to mechanics and warehouses hording who knows what. Now though, it’s a place you definitely want to be, what with the recent opening of Hotel Miami and a coming soon gin distillery.
Hotel Miami’s creators realised the areas potential far before the rest of us, nabbed themselves a warehouse space and filled it with all kinds of goodies. There’s velvet couches, handmade desks (ask ‘em how that went down) perfect for Insta-snaps, a dartboard and best of all, a Yamaha parked right in front of a neon sign that reads “fuck yeah”.
Oh and there’s a photo studio too. See, good times.
The idea was to open a space that would allow co-owner Nick to escape from the confines of his bedroom and a cat whose actual name is Winston Smushface.
Jokes. It was so Nick, along with his fiancé Jessie (the boss) and mate Darran, could create a place to hang out with other creatives, “work” on their various other businesses and create a fun little Miami community. They adapted a community event they used to attend in Venice Beach where local businesses would come together and showcase their goods while also making rad new friends.
The point is, you can rent one of those handmade desks for a day or on a fulltime basis (recommended for bulk good times) and there are upstairs offices up for grabs too.
The photo studio can also be hired for any fun projects you’ve got going on and there’s super speedy Internet and everyone’s other favourite thing – air conditioning.
As of April 6th there’ll be an event on the first Friday of every month (dubbed First Friday to make writing about it easier) that’ll showcase local artists and finally bring Gold Coasters the live music we need and deserve.
Whether you’re in the market for a new workspace or not, get down there and check it out, the crew are keen to meet all the like-minded creatives they can muster.
And they’re not bad at hilarious banter either.
LOCATION: 1/49 Lemana Lane, Miami
Words and photos by Kirra Smith