NOTE: As of May 2010, BKA Vegan has now closed their restaurant and will be operating as BKA At Home food service.
Owned by Chef Ryan Jacobs and his partner Kylie Wood, BKA Vegan sets out lofty ideals (Be Kind Always) as it dips its toe into waters where others have floundered.
If there’s one sector of the dining market that has waxed and waned, it’s vegetarian and vegan restaurants. It’s seen more than its fair share of both openings and closures, and it’s worth a moment’s conjecture as to why that may be.
Besides factors connected to the owners themselves and sites chosen, the flux may also be due to the nature of vegan diners themselves.
Like any sector of diners, vegans (who comprise a relatively small percentage of the dining public) not only have a variety of motivations for their lifestyle choice (including animal welfare and environmental protection and/or health), they also have a wide range of varying food preferences. Some choose simple but healthy food, while others want a full range of food and drink choices including vegan ‘junk’ food, vegan wine and cocktails.
So, how does BKA Vegan deal with this?
“Someone recently called us food activists and it really rang true,” says Kylie. “We want to dispel the misconception that plant-based food is boring and only for vegans. We are all about taste, preparing quality delicious and innovative food with something for everyone.”
The couple are starting with a great base. Coming from the business world, Kylie is focussed on excellent customer service, and Chef Ryan Jacobs has been in the industry for over 30 years, starting out in his family’s Gold Coast restaurant as a kid before moving to Sydney to hone his skills.
A mainstream chef, recently he’s headed kitchens at Calavera, The Collective and Iron & Resin Garage before the couple began their own stall at the Sanctuary Markets, Currumbin, gathering a loyal following of both vegans and non-vegans.
“My parents operated one of the coast’s busiest restaurants, Ernie’s, in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s, so it’s in my blood. It’s always been a dream of mine to open my own place on the Gold Coast where it all started for me,” says Ryan.
Taking over the space formerly occupied by Circul and The Local, the couple have embraced the industrial feel of the venue with its polished concrete floors, suspended timber sleepers and copper-topped bar.
Somehow it fits with the menu: un-fussy food with down-to-earth plant-provided goodness. Drawing from the palate of world flavours, Chef Ryan gives us a celebration of all things earthy, presented with the polish of an accomplished chef.
We’re invited in to taste a range of their delicious dishes. Mushrooms (often referred to as vegan’s meat) makes several appearances: Spring rolls stuffed with wild mushrooms and veg to be dipped in a house-made dipping sauce ($14) and Mixed mushrooms with kale glass and mushroom jus served on a velvety cauli purée ($16). What a great brekkie this would make, chef!
Italians have always excelled at vegetarian dishes, so the Eggplant cannelloni ($22) and Tomato Caprese ($18) are no surprise, the difference being that all sauces and vegan ‘cheezes’ are made in house. (Ryan’s range of nut and tofu-based ‘cheezes’ is shown off best in the Grazing plate for two, where house mozzarella, caramelised onion cheddar and feta cheeze are presented with vegan pâtés, fig paste, dips and flatbread.)
The Americas get a look in with Mac ‘N’ Cheese and Taco sliders.
But, fittingly, it’s the Asian Archipelago, where Kylie lived for eight years, that provides the most interest: a deliciously spicy Mushroom satay ramen with peanut sauce and chilli oil ($22) and the dish that will draw us back, Nasi Campur Bali – nasi goreng with lawar, tempeh satay and tofu kecap ($24).
Many dishes are gluten-free, and there are vegan desserts as well as a range of vegan beers, wines and cocktails to complement your meal.
Worth the walk ‘across the road’ (and even the length of the GC), BKA Vegan gives a different take on vegan food that’s world-inspired and tasty. Most dishes, particularly those that are Asian-inspired, hold mainstream dining appeal. Priced to please, with both vegan and mainstream dining support, BKA has all the strengths it needs to last the test of time.
1/1837 Gold Coast Highway, Burleigh Heads Ph: 0490 457 223
Open: Wed – Sun 10am – late
NOTE: For free undercover car parking, enter via the Esplanade under the Ambience building.
Good Food Gold Coast dined as a guest of BKA Vegan.