The year in review: the trends and tastes that consumed the Gold Coast in 2021
Well, 2021, it’s been a time. We’d be lying if we said it was all sunshine, lollipops and rainbows, but despite it all, some pretty amazing things happened here on the Gold Coast. The year that was witnessed the Gold Coast’s dining scene evolve in interesting ways, from bars and pool clubs to the influx of sip-from-the-source breweries and the return of the not-so-humble sandwich. Before we close the book on this year, we thought we’d take a quick skip down memory lane and commemorate some notable happenings and spotlight some of the pieces that resonated with you, our dear readers, the most …
Sandy sips and poolside dips
This year, it seems, the Gold Coast really embraced its party precinct reputation with the arrival of Australia’s largest day and nighttime entertainment precinct, Cali Beach. Encompassing multiple pools, cabanas, sun lounges, a world-class restaurant, bars, volleyball facilities and an outdoor cinema, the stunning rooftop venue has certainly made a splash welcoming more than 25,000 revellers through its doors since September. In an exciting sign of things to come, The Star Gold Coast has teased us with the first glimpses of Isoletto, an ultra-luxe new beach club that is inspired by sun-drenched days and reminiscent of an island escape – if that island was in the sky and featured jaw-dropping views of the beach and hinterland, of course. And just when you thought it couldn’t get any hotter, along came La Luna Beach Club. Touted as Australia’s first luxury beach club and restaurant built on floating pontoons, La Luna is giving us serious Mykonos/Saint Tropez vibes, and best of all, it’s set to open by summer’s end. It’s been long talked about and earlier this month, we got our first taste of Kurrawa Beach Club. Here for a good time, not a long one, the sandy sip spot slings a summer-inspired menu of bites and local brews on the sand – so that’s our summer sorted.Italian medallions
If we were to assign a ‘Cuisine of the Year’ award to one culinary niche, we’d probably pin the pennant on Italian fare. This year saw a sharp spike in the number of Italian-inspired eateries popping up around town, with some of 2021’s most notable new nosheries delivering delicious takes on the classic cuisine. Starting the year off in excellent style was Cross Eyed Mary in Coolangatta – the charming pasta-and-wine bar set about modernising tradition with good, honest fare, crafted cocktails and some seriously impressive sips of vino. Without a doubt, one of the year’s biggest (and most talked about) new openings was Tommy’s Italian. Offering unobstructed views of the cerulean waters of Currumbin beach, Tommy’s is the handiwork of hospitality veterans Tom Torchut and Ronnie Tarabay, the former owner of The Fish House, and has become known for sharp but casual service coupled with a modern a la carte menu that showcases exceptional local produce cooked simply. Bottega Chevron Village pioneered a kind of casual fine dining concept for Chevron Island, while Oscar Italia, Rustica Italia and Double Zero brought casual bites to the suburbs of Varsity Lakes, Burleigh Waters and Robina, respectively. If you’re up for a road trip, we also strongly recommend checking out Cabarita’s No. 35 and Belongil Beach Italian in Byron Bay, which is the latest eatery from acclaimed Sydney restaurateur Maurice Terzini (the man behind CicciaBella and Icebergs Dining Room and Bar).Pinot and plates
Whiling away an afternoon with a crisp wine is one of life’s true pleasures. This year, we enthusiastically welcomed Paloma Wine Bar, Restaurant Labart’s spirited, younger sibling. Hitting the sweet spot between sunset dips and post-dinner drinks, the spunky newcomer is positioned as a relaxed and welcoming space for patrons to discover new drops, which are available by the glass, and savour small plates. On the northern end, Destino at Sanctuary Cove is a homewares haven by day and a sophisticated cocktail and wine bar by night. The tipple temple features a dreamy aesthetic of white breeze blocks and raw timber alongside a geographically diverse wine list that offers drops from far-flung places including Italy, France and Spain as well as some local favourites from Australia and New Zealand. This month also saw the opening of a impressive new venue in Varsity Lakes that is fated to become a destination in its own right. The Brooklyn Wine & Tapas is not only one of the coast’s most beautiful bars, it’s here to elevate the entire dining experience – from the moment you step foot through the doors to the moment you leave.The rise of the not-so-humble sanga
Sandwiches never really went out of style, but 2021 certainly saw a resurgence in sandwich specialists across the Gold Coast and we’re not mad about it, not one little bit. Just to be clear, we’re not talking about a stingy slather of Vegemite between bread, no siree, we’re talking seriously fat stacks loaded with mouth-watering meats, swathes of sauces and carefully selected salads and accompaniments. Scott’s Luncheonette & Bar along the Gold Coast Highway in Palm Beach is one such venue that nailed the art of the sandwich (also coffee and wine, but that’s another category). Mermaid’s Cheese Me Baby also went and upped the ante with its selection of salivation-worthy sambos, and Aperitivo Cafe & Panini Bar in Currumbin singlehandedly fed our obsession for delectable deli meat and fresh focaccia. After falling out of favour from the carb crusaders, bagels also made a triumphant return to the spotlight with Broadbeach’s O Bagel and Tarte Bakery & Cafe’s dedicated takeaway window spearheading the revival.Sip from the source
The Gold Coast’s craft brewing scene is hotter than the surface of the sun right now with microbreweries and distilleries popping up all over this fine city and beyond, and we couldn’t be happier. One of the biggest names to move into this space is FIZZ HQ, which is being hailed the world’s first interactive seltzer brewery. Perched on Hibiscus Haven, in between Paddock Bakery and Common Ground, FIZZ is the perfect place to pop in for an afternoon sip and emerge much, much later than you had anticipated because you were having too much fun. Froth fiends were also spoilt this year with the opening of Madocke Beer Brewing Company in Ashmore and AWOL, which is the latest from the beer-loving trio behind Black Hops and is another first for the coast. The tastebud-tingling new addition is a dedicated barrel-aged beer taproom and is open to the public, however, the best way to truly experience the offering is to do a brewery tour. The Gold Coast’s spirit selection also gained some tasty new arrivals including Capricorn Distilling Co. and WildFlower Gin Distillery in Burleigh Heads as well as Against The Grain Distillery in Mudgeeraba. The repurposed pokie room has been transformed into an intimate cocktail bar complete with plush velvet seating and a neon light that reads ‘BBQ, beer and moonshine’. In case there was any lingering doubt in your mind, that’s precisely what you’ll get.Global adventures
We were still pretty limited on the travel front in 2021, so it’s no surprise many satiated their wanderlust by seeking out global cuisine. Sofia’s Restaurant & Bar opened the year by bringing a little taste of coastal Europe with an overarching desire to bring people together with good food and good wine. Lucia in Tugun is an ode to long, leisurely lunches and spirited sundowners, bringing a little taste of San Sebastian to the beachside suburb, and NAÂMi (from the same owner), is a pint-sized speakeasy that will transport you to the bustling backstreets of Vietnam. Costa Taco in Palm Beach is keeping things simple with a succinct menu of seasonal tacos, while Agave Rosa is pushing the culinary envelope with its enticing fusion of Mexican and Asian flavours. Goya is a small Japanese-inspired cafe with epic eats and big hip-hop energy. The all-day brunch menu is inspired by street-side eateries in Osaka and Tokyo with a dash of Melbourne’s celebrated coffee culture. If it’s Cantonese you crave, look no further than Uncle Su, which offers much-loved traditional dishes with some tasty tweaks. What you loved
Looking over the year as a whole, our readers (yes, you!) once again proved that they have an exceptional (and diverse) taste. When it came to round-ups, you frothed the fish and chips, as well as the cheap eats, fine dining and seafood. Bakeries also consistently popped up in our top stories alongside Freddy’s Chicken Shop and Two Yolks. It seems a lot of you are also really excited for Siblings Kirra. It’s been an absolute pleasure bringing you exciting new stories to devour every Thursday (if you’re not yet subscribed to our e-newsletter, do so here – it’s free!) so thank you, dear reader, for keeping the dream alive. Let’s do it all again in 2022, shall we?
The Stumble Guide is our comprehensive Gold Coast dining guide with more than 870 places to eat, drink, shop and play.