A short appreciation post to the culinary artists of the world who create works of art with food and can cure even the worst cases of ‘Hanger’
So about this time 10 days ago, my boyfriend Jarryd and I were packing the last of our snow gear and making our way to the airport. We were en route to Queenstown, NZ to get our snowboarding fix but not before a quick stop over into one of our favourite little nook’s of paradise in Queensland… the Gold Coast. Yeah yeah, I can hear what you’re thinking.. “the Gold Coast?? You think the Gold Coast is a nook of paradise.. you gotta be kidding?!” And yes, perhaps not so long ago I would have agreed with you but that was before I got out of the Surfers and Broadbeach bubble and found a love for the more laid back, chilled out and over all good vibes that the southern ‘burbs has to offer. I’m talkin’ about areas like Mermaid Beach, Burleigh Heads and Miami…where there is no shortage of fun and adventure and shoes are optional.
I absolutely LOVE flying into the Gold Coast. I can’t help but smile every time I look down at the never ending coastline, knowing full well that a new and exciting adventure is on the way. On this particular trip, it was my tastebuds that were going to be down right spoilt and on more than one occasion. Having some of our favourite homies living in Mermaid Beach is also a big perk to visiting the GC and there is nothing better than being able to soak up the beauty a foreign place and experience it with a local, which is exactly what we did.
First item on the menu was breakfast at The Paddock. These guys had a task ahead of them as Jarryd and I had just gotten off a near 3 hour flight, hadn’t eaten breakfast and were absolutely starvinggg! Our buddy had assured us that it was worth the uber ride to go there…and it definitely was. Going out for a meal at this place is like stopping by your Grandma’s house for a visit and being welcomed inside by the smell of all kinds of goodies baked fresh out of the oven. The restaurant itself is an old renovated Queenslander and is just radiating with good vibes. Everyone is there for the same reason – to enjoy a damn good coffee with friends and family and start their day off right with a delicious brekky.
All three of us opted for the ‘Toad in the Hole’ and were definitely not disappointed. It’s probably just as well that we all ordered the same thing or one of us could have fallen victim to food envy. Seriously, every meal that came out just looked so GOOD! The waitstaff were right on their game and even with the place being completely packed out, they were chilled out and always happy to stop for a quick chat or to answer a question. An absolute top effort from a team of people who know how to make a dining experience memorable and are saving the environment while they do it, one awesome egg-carton plate at a time.
My next hidden gem of the Gold Coast is yet another brekky favourite. We’ve been to this place twice during our last two Gold Coast adventures. With breakfast being my favourite meal of the day, it’s no wonder I insisted we stop into this place to fuel up before making the trek up beautiful Mount Warning. The Shack Superfood Cafe lives up to it’s title in every way. It is a tiny little cafe/juice bar that creates arguably the most delicious acai bowls and brekky wraps in the area. The reason I love this place though is not just because of the awesome food or the fresh juices, it’s because of the amazing customer service. Even in the early hours of the morning when the rest of the town is just waking up to a cup of coffee and the paper, these guys at The Shack are pumped up on good vibes and excitement and ready to take your order. You don’t need that first coffee, just a smile and a good morning from this place will perk you right up!
And last but certainly far from least is our unforgettable dinner experience that I will probably dream about for the rest of my life. Mandala & Co. is an organic and VEGAN arts cafe situated along the Gold Coast Highway in Mermaid Beach. Although it seems the stigma associated with vegan food has mellowed out somewhat, I feel like there’s still probably a few of you out there reading this and thinking…a vegan cafe? Yeah right…sounds delightful (with a bit of an eye roll). If you’re someone with a reaction just like I described then my only advice to you is, don’t knock it before you try it. I am not a vegan, nor am I a vegetarian but I appreciate ALL types of food and will try anything at least once… which might just be an byproduct of loving food so much.
The feeling you get when you walk into this place is like getting a big bear hug from your best friend. There’s such a welcoming and community orientated vibe that you instantly feel relaxed and comfortable. The vintage-inspired couches probably also help! Mandala is more than just a great restaurant, it’s a cafe, an art gallery, a live music venue, a movie theatre, a permaculture garden and more. If you time it right, like we did, you can catch one of the many performers throwing down some catchy tunes that you will won’t be able to help singing along to. Dinner AND a show! The most memorable part of our night out was without a doubt THE FOOD. On our friends’ advice, we all shared a vegan nachos and two pizzas – one called ‘Creamy Mushroom’ and the other ‘Balsamic’. All three dishes were an absolute knockout but I have to say that Creamy Mushroom pizza with zucchini and cashew cheese blew it out of the water. It was soooooo freaking delicious I could have taken it home with me and just cuddled it in bed for a bit. I would go as far as to say that it is the one of, if not the best pizza I have ever eaten. Every element (look at me… getting all technical with my food-related words) on that pizza was bang on and it didn’t even have any real cheese on it! And this is coming from someone who continually says I could never give up cheese. Mandala I salute you! You have proven that you can always create a delicious (and healthy) alternative to anything out there that has been portrayed or sold to society as ‘the norm’.
I didn’t write this blog as a food critic or food reviewer or whatever you want to call it. I simply wrote this blog because I am a big believer in creating a sharing community – when you find something magical or unforgettable, TELL THE WORLD ABOUT IT. Let others feel all the feels that you were lucky enough to experience when you found that hidden gem cafe or that shop where you are always treated like royalty. None of the places I have spoken about in this blog are simply just restaurants or cafes, they are much, much more than that… they are experiences. Why is it that over the last ten days of holidaying both in the Gold Coast and New Zealand (awesome blog post about this place to come!) and eating out for just about every meal, there is only a select few places that I will honestly remember?! It’s because these places understand that you’re not just there to eat your 2 fruits and 5 vege’s for the day and consume the nutrients you need to get on with your day. No, you’re there because it’s your sister’s birthday, or you’re celebrating your anniversary or you simply wanted to get dressed up and enjoy a night of not having to do the dishes. Whatever the reason, it’s places like the ones above that get it and that strive to make your experience something that you will want to tell others about, which is why I am here right now, sharing my story with you. If you’re in the Gold Coast (or anywhere for that matter, the same principles apply) and feel like you are in need of another good story to share then get your butts to any of these great places and let them take care of you and your tastebuds, I promise you won’t be disappointed.