In Food + Drink

How This Gold Coast Suburb Became One Of Australia’s Top Dining Spots

Amidst the high rises and urban sprawl of the Gold Coast, Burleigh Heads is a breath of fresh air – a beach town with pumping surf and a strong sense of community. Though tacos were once the height of local cuisine, Burleigh has flourished into a gourmet powerhouse.

Chef Guillaume Zika, formerly of the two-hatted Cottage Point Inn in Sydney’s Ku Ring Gai National Park, says Burleigh now ranks among the top dining destinations on the southern Gold Coast – joining the likes of nearby Nobby’s and Palm Beach.

As head chef for Burleigh Pavilion, a glamorous venue with an enviable location overlooking the beach, Zika is revelling in the opportunity to help shape the town’s future.

Image: Burleigh Pavilion / supplied

“Burleigh has that always-on-holiday feeling where people are always happy and smiling,” he says. “It’s a beachside town that’s super relaxed, but still close enough to the cities so you don’t feel isolated. People are drawn to the lifestyle because it’s fantastic.”

While it couldn’t remain a local secret forever, Zika believes a recent influx of sea changers from Brisbane and Sydney have spurred on Burleigh’s transformation. Used to the large selection of high-quality restaurants and cafes, they’ve forced the town to step up.

“Since there’s a lot of tough dining competition these days, only the great ones survive.”

Ready to bite into Burleigh? Here are all the essential spots you need to try.

Burleigh Pavilion / The Tropic

Good things always come in pairs. Occupying the second storey of the iconic beach pavilion on the waterfront, this two-in-one venue Burleigh Pavilion offers an unforgettable view with an experience to match – all under the direction of Michelin-starred chef Guillaume Zika.

Tuck into delicious wood-fired pizzas and burgers at The Pavilion, a casual bar and eatery on the outdoor terrace, or choose full-service restaurant The Tropic at the northern end of the pavilion. The Tropic’s produce-driven menu is big on fresh, locally sourced ingredients.

Rick Shores

Image: Rick Shores / supplied

Located just downstairs at the northern end of the same building, Rick Shores is all about casual elegance, lapping waves, gorgeous views and tantalising pan-Asian flavours.

Chef James Brady, formerly of Shannon Bennett’s prestigious Vue de monde in Melbourne, is the star in the kitchen, so it goes without saying you’re in for a stellar dining experience. If there’s just one thing on the menu you try, though it’s highly recommended you do order a few dishes to share, make it the fried bug rolls – they’re life-changing!

Light Years

After experiencing huge success at their venues in Noosa and Byron Bay, the Light Years team have turned their attention to Burleigh Heads. The result is a sleek, pastel-toned Asian diner with a great vibe, feisty menu and delicious cocktails to match.

Sharing is a big part of the menu, with dishes such as eggplant katsu bao, five-spice roasted duck pancakes, and shitake, chestnut and ginger wontons packing a flavour punch. Wash it down with a pineapple margarita and you’ll have a one-way ticket to foodie heaven.

Justin Lane Establishment

It’d be criminal to explore Burleigh’s dining scene and mention Justin Lane Establishment. Opened in 2011, its grown from humble pizzeria into a multi-storey venue with restaurant, takeaway, and rooftop terrace. Many also credit it with sparking Burleigh’s renaissance.

The sun-drenched venue offers five distinct venues in one, meaning there’s something for everyone. As a result, it attracts an eclectic crowd and is packed every day of the week from lunch till late. Sourdough pizzas and homemade pastas are only the start.


For a more intimate and stripped back affair, head to Labart. Led by talented head chef Alex Munoz Labart, formerly of Monopole in Sydney, the smart and sophisticated eatery offers a taste of European elegance with a distinctly Gold Coast edge. Choose from the a la carte menu or send your taste buds on culinary adventure with a long or short degustation.

The menu changes regularly depending on seasonality and availability of seafood, though dishes such as barbequed king prawns with garlic butter and capers are a regular fixture.

Harry’s Steak Bistro & Bar

Go weak at the knees over a really good steak? Then Harry’s Steak Bistro & Bar need to be on your radar. More than just a steakhouse, it’s a love letter to the beef industry, with outstanding quality meats sourced from top some of Australia’s top producers. They also have their own organic farm nearby, creating a true paddock-to-plate experience.

Whichever Burleigh venue you choose, you’re pretty much guaranteed an exceptional time.

(Lead image: The Tropic / supplied)

Published 31 January, 2020