After a slow and steady makeover, the Gold Coast has emerged with a host of cool restaurants. Here's our pick of the bunch. By Emily McAuliffe and Natascha Mirosch.
Best for Japanese
A carefully guarded local secret, Etsu Izakaya is colourful, loud and plenty of fun. An Australian interpretation of a typical Japanese izakaya, the eatery serves coal-grilled meat, seafood and sushi, while the drinks list features beer, whisky and Japanese cocktails. There’s no signage so just look for the red lantern and sliding door.
2440 Gold Coast Highway, Mermaid Beach; (07) 5526 0944
Best for seafood
The views over the beach in Burleigh may be impressive but it’s the premium seafood, European-focused wine list and slick service that diners really come to The Fish House for. The freshest Australian fish and shellfish are on the menu, including Tasmanian abalone, coral trout from Cairns, live Victorian scallops and locally caught tuna.
50 Goodwin Terrace, Burleigh Heads; (07) 5535 7725
Best for burgers
Betty’s Burgers & Concrete Co. is a modern diner that serves the pick of burgers, fries and milkshakes on the Gold Coast. There are six burgers, including Betty’s Classic made with Angus beef, as well as pork belly and portobello mushroom versions – plus a kids’ size. Create your own Concretes dessert of frozen custard ice-cream mixed with a choice of sauces and sweets.
Shop G.12-14, Chevron Renaissance Shopping Centre
3240 Surfers Paradise Boulevard, Surfers Paradise; (07) 5538 6565
Best for Italian
There’s usually a full house at Gemelli Italian – for good reason. The atmosphere is welcoming and laid-back and the food is authentic and made with love, with many of the recipes handed down from the Gemelli brothers’ nonna. Pizza with a perfect chewy crust is cooked in an imported wood-fired oven.
Shop 2, 2685 Gold Coast Highway, Broadbeach; (07) 5504 7413
Best for Vietnamese
Jimmy Wah's – a bright, contemporary Vietnamese eatery named for a bar from the 1987 Robin Williams movie Good Morning, Vietnam – focuses on fresh Vietnamese flavours. Try roast duck with ginger, aromatic pho or the betel leaves rolled around tender beef. The playlist comes from the 1960s and ’70s and the bar serves cool cocktails, craft beer and wine.
1724 Gold Coast Highway, Burleigh Heads; (07) 5659 1180
Best for casino dining
The five-star service at stylish Japanese restaurant Kiyomi is matched by food designed to please both the eye and the palate. While seafood dishes such as kingfish sashimi, king crab tempura and octopus are plentiful, there’s more than enough for meat-lovers, too, including a beautifully presented Wagyu tenderloin with wasabi butter.
Jupiters Gold Coast; Casino Drive, Broadbeach Island; (07) 5592 8100
Best for a good steak
Moo Moo sources premium beef from all over Australia, including Master Kobe and Black Wagyu. The menu notes not just the breed but also the cows’ age, size and diet. The steaks are cooked over a combination of coal and wood and served with a selection of mustards. The restaurant’s impressive wine list includes a range of famous Penfolds Grange.
Broadbeach on the Park; 2685 Gold Coast Highway, Broadbeach; (07) 5539 9952
Best for sunset views
Rick Shores has a glamorous beachfront location, with every table offering a sea view. Come early and toast the coast with a glass of Champagne at the bar before sunset then dine from a clever, refined Asian menu. Expect dishes from Thailand, Vietnam and Japan, including plenty of fresh local seafood.
Shop 3, 43 Goodwin Terrace, Burleigh Heads; (07) 5630 6611
Best for modern Australian
Social Eating House + Bar, much loved by locals, is as lively as the name suggests. A drinks list of Australian and imported wine, beer and spirits is paired with a smart global menu ranging from bar snacks – such as whole school prawns with chilli, garlic and jalapeño mayonnaise – to tender saltbush lamb shoulder designed to share.
Shop 137-138, 3 Oracle Boulevard, Broadbeach; (07) 5504 5210