Blue Lantern Mediterranean Bistro & Bar is a secret haven, hidden away from passing traffic behind a façade of greenery overlooking the Southport Esplanade. There’s little signage to speak of, so we ask owner/chef Daniel Ladin how people find out about it.
“Word of mouth,” he says. “I’m the attraction, and loyal customers have followed me from restaurant to restaurant. They really like my cooking.”
It’s not surprising that we find it hard to put a finger on the menu’s origin. Not just Mediterranean, Blue Lantern reflects the many influences of Daniel’s life. Turkish by descent, Daniel came to Australian when he was six years old. He speaks seven languages, studied French à la carte cooking, before spending many years in Thailand, gathering flavours to share in his unique cuisine. He showcased this food in his previous restaurants: Tonic in Chirn Park, Jamieson’s in Brisbane, Daniela’s (Burleigh Heads) and Marinara at Sanctuary Cove.
“I cook with passion,” he says, “filtering all my water, using pesticide-free herbs, no meta-toxins, and making sure each meal is balanced for digestion.”
Now it’s time for him to step back, he tells us, letting his children (Chef Andrew, who cooks our lunch) and Emily (who serves at the bar) learn his skills, with a plan to take over this restaurant as their own.
Our food is fresh and tasty, with surprising flavours, well-priced through to more expensive options available. It’s licensed with a good choice of wines by the glass; otherwise, enjoy a Cherry Bean coffee from Daniel’s own Chiang Mai plantation.
The restaurant is classy minimalist, a variety of seating styles looking back to the bar at one end and across water fountains to the Broadwater on the other. It’s open and airy, decorated in autumn browns and oranges, a large blue lantern taking pride of place hanging near the bar.
We’re here for a relaxed lunch, and find it a quiet spot suitable to chat with friends, ably waited on by Joe. The lunch menu features mostly light dishes, such as wraps, sandwiches and salads ($13.50 – $16.50), with steak and prawns more expensive options at $23.50 and $27.50. The meals we chose were light and fresh, bar the pasta, its creamy bacon and mushroom sauce rich against the delicate homemade fettuccine.
Shaded from the late afternoon sun and open to the sea breezes, you can relax and enjoy one of the inventive Asian-influenced cocktails on the menu. With names like Bolivian cooler, Liquid Asia and Zen & Amaretto Sour, they urge you to stay on, moving into evening, the restaurant’s most enchanting time, accompanied by a more inventive dinner menu. With lights dancing off the water, Blue Lantern is perfect as an intimate venue for a small party or romantic dinner. It’s early days for this restaurant, but now’s the time to enjoy it before everyone else finds out about it!
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