When we travel, food is top of our agenda, and we’re not alone in this pursuit. Food and wine top the list of visitor interests on the Gold Coast.
“High quality dining experiences are really putting the Gold Coast on the map as a foodie destination, and food tourism is one of our fastest growing markets,” says Karen Inglis-Turner, the owner and consummate tour guide of Gold Coast Food and Wine Tours, which operates tours of a number of geographic areas on the coast.
We embark on a tour of Burleigh Heads with Gold Coast Food and Wine Tours. Karen greets tour participants, gives introductions, and gives us a potted history of Burleigh Heads, from the first time European explorers saw it from the sea in 1770 until the present day. We’ll visit a building built in 1925 and dine in a butcher’s cold room, she tells us.
Food. It’s the interest that we all have in common. Everyone needs to eat, but it’s also a communal activity where people talk and get to know each other. The walking tour is not a progressive dinner; nevertheless, we consume a fair amount of food and wine on our learning journey. It’s a great way to get a quick ‘catchup’ on the food scene from the perspective of a local.
We pass through the Burleigh movie theatre, one of the oldest tourist attractions still in existence. Karen tells us about the building, built in 1925 and what going to the movies was like then. It’s an interactive conversation with older members of the tour adding in their memories of the theatre from their childhood. Now an arcade, it houses several eateries.
At our first destination nearby we meet a chef who trained in Canada, France and London under Gordon Ramsay. Now he’s cooking short ribs and softshell crab on brioche for customers in a relaxed lifestyle café. With a glass of wine, we sample from a platter of Asian-influenced food that he has prepared for us before heading to a South American café for our next stop.
There we meet Kevin, who left Venezuela in a yacht, sailing around the world following surf breaks before he settled on the Gold Coast. With his brother Eric, Kevin runs a food truck, their shop in Burleigh, and they’ll be opening another shopfront later this year.
Kevin introduces us to arepas, the Venezuelan version of a cornbread sandwich, and tells us about the qualities of plantain bananas and how they can be used. We sample them as patacones, topped with black beans and avocado. All of their fare is healthy and gluten-free. These guy also have the niftiest orange juicing machine and the juice we drink is sensational!
“We have local artisans serving up incredible fare every day,” says Karen. “I look for their specialties – the things that make them really stand out.”
Gelati is next at an award-winning gelateria nearby, before we head to one of the most impressive specialty food shops on the coast. Owner Selena tells us how she travels overseas to source products for her store. You won’t find anything there that’s in local supermarkets – it’s all from small Australian producers with a focus on organic, and the best she can source from overseas, including her ‘top shelf’ specialty: limited edition aged balsamic vinegars.
The shop smells gorgeous due to the huge bunches of flowers at the front of the shop, and Selena’s specially made candles which would make the perfect gift.
The next stop, in what was once the coldroom of an old butchery, serves falafel to rival Melbourne’s Ackland Street. It also rates at the top of Burleigh’s ‘Best Cheap Eats’. From breakfasts in a pocket to lemonade with rosewater and mint, this is healthy fast food at an everyday price.
We finish the tour in style with a black coffee martini at a hidden venue. Coffee, liquor and churros – what’s not to love! Some of the tour participants even have a go at making the martinis themselves, under instruction of course!
“I like learning the background – knowing where the food comes from,” one of the participants, says of the tour.
Of course you eat delicious food on a food tour! With food to eat at every venue, a glass of wine and a mini cocktail, you’ve easily eaten a meal by the time the tour ends
“What I love about this tour is that you can check out a whole bunch of places for a really good price and pretty much know they’re going to be good before you go there,” one of the participants says.
Even for those who live on the Gold Coast there’s so much to discover in our own backyards. Our guided tour of Burleigh Heads uncovers hidden dining gems, teaches us about food production, as well as introduces us to new friends. It’s not only great fun but also terrific value. With tours ranging from $69 a tour would make a perfect present for the foodie in your life, or an excellent hen’s or engagement party. Christmas parties, corporate and private tours for 10 – 20 people are available by arrangement. You’ll find more information on the Gold Coast Food and Wine Tours website.
NOTE: This review has also been published on Blank GC.