It’s a quiet night in Burleigh Heads with hardly a soul on the street; a quiet night too at Justin Lane. All the tables are full but there’s no queue out the door. This is the third time we’d made the trek down to Burleigh to eat, only to dine elsewhere because of the hour long wait. There’s a walk in policy for groups under seven, so this time, with the odds in our favour, we’re determined. Content to sit in the lounge area off the bar, we’re assured that the first table will be ours. Time out to watch the über-cool cosily mingling.
Founded by Adam Haralampou (ex The Cavern at Nobby Beach), the inside area of Justin Lane is a great refurbishment. The long underlit bar takes pride of place, stretching out the length of the narrow restaurant. It’s a dimly lit intimate area, with the sophisticated warmth of dark wood stools and copper-topped bar, bottles of wine in functional wrought iron racks at head height along the side wall. Couples lean into each other, sharing intimate conversations fuelled by cocktails and boutique beer.
We look out to the ‘outside’ restaurant area which straddles the arcade, extending into another room further back, a different tone to the bar – more grunge chic with tiled floors, rustic wooden furniture and semi-reno’ed walls. Several couples arrive and are ushered to tables, our tapas plate is delivered and at our request we are moved to a table in the arcade.
The food is delicious: Chorizo with roast peppers and caramelized onion served with sourdough, followed by rich slow cooked beef cheek ragu and a seafood pizza, its succulent tiger prawns and calamari slices laced with mozzarella, chilli and lemon on a crisp base. It’s really good modern cuisine – tasty, light and fresh.
It’s really easy to see why Justin Lane is Burleigh’s most popular spot; but just as obvious is its ‘popularity problem’. While charcoal blinds have been added to one side of the arcade to create visual atmosphere, the noise level in the arcade is almost deafening. Couples move chairs and huddle together to hear conversation. The area rings with the high-pitched chatter and laughter of young women, to whom the waiters gravitate.
The preferential service is obvious, with staff repeatedly walking past our table to serve others nearby. Although a midweek night, the waiters are so busy that it’s impossible for them to provide a level of service available elsewhere. Food is brought to our table by kitchen staff; we have to stop a waiter to order wine (served in awkward stemless glasses below the low tide mark); we ask again for water, and later request to have our water refilled. Meanwhile, the tension builds, along with the noise.
To us, dining is a pleasurable experience to be savoured; a time to enjoy excellent food, wine and conversation. It was not our night at Justin Lane. For the young and the restless, though, there’s innovative fresh food and great service at the bar, a casual punchy vibe in the lane or more intimate mingling at the bar – a great place to meet and eat that Burleigh was missing.
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