It was the smile that first got us in. The young couple gave customers such a warm welcome that of course we had to buy their food, even though it looked different: arepas, the crunchy pocket bread stuffed with filling that’s the most common food of Venezuela and Colombia. We tried arepas and loved them and the Perez family’s stall, Fiery Deli, became one of our favourite market brunch haunts.
Two children later, Eric and Trish Perez had expanded their business from a market stall to a food truck, followed by a move to The Kitchens, Robina and Westfield Chermside.
Post their Covid closure in 2020, it’s great to see Eric and Trish (now with four children), together with Eric’s bubbly brother Kevin, reopen their restaurant in The Kitchens renamed as La Cha Cha Cabana, a South American/Caribbean styled bar and grill.
This family was always going to be near the sea. It was inevitable, given their heritage, but when we asked Eric how he came to be on the Gold Coast, he described a more circuitous route than we expected!
“We’re from a family of seven children. Our mother is German, our father Venezuelan. After living in Germany until I was ten years old, we moved to Venezuela. When I was old enough, I sailed to the US where I trained as a chef, then we took off sailing again for several years, surfing wherever we could: from Miami through Panama to the Society Islands, through the Pacific to New Zealand, Tonga, then Sydney,” he smiles wryly, looking at his wife. “I stayed, but Kevin kept sailing for a few more years. Now here we are.”
Their new bar and grill combines healthy Venezuelan street food and the Gold Coast’s favourite food – cocktails.
Arepas, Venezuela’s favourite street food dish, holds pride of place in the menu. Made on maize or corn meal and cooked to order, arepas are naturally gluten free, with no preservatives or additives. Filled with your choice of pulled beef or free-range chicken, locally-sourced salad vegetables, onion, rice, black beans, haloumi, capsicum, avocado, fresh herbs and spices or any combination of the above, an arepa makes a healthy, flavour-packed, filling meal which is easy to grab in two hands.
It’s food which fits neatly into the Gold Coast lifestyle: adaptable to our diet and easy to eat on the go; affordable yet nutritious; dairy and gluten-free, with fillings suitable for vegans, vegetarians, meat lovers or those with food intolerance.
With a delicious range of dishes, from starters of plantain chips and guacamole through arepas to steak with chimmichurri or the Vegan Amazonian, a traditional plate of Venezuelan quinoa, beans, roast vegetables, salad, cooked plantains and mini arepas, the menu is boosted with a great range of cocktails – essential to make the evening ‘cha cha’.
There’s a lot to enjoy in the Perez family’s new bar and grill, new ideas in their fresh and healthy menu as well as bucketloads of enthusiasm and good humour. It’s not just me (the couple’s arepa groupie from their ‘before kids’ days) that gets the joy. La Cha Cha Cabana is a multicultural haven; a place to have fun drinking cocktails with the world-travelling brothers whose friendly faces shine in welcome for tourists and locals alike.
La Cha Cha Cabana, The Kitchens, Robina Town Centre, 19 Robina Town Centre Drive, Robina, Ph: 07 5562 0627;
Open: Wed: 11am–3pm, Thurs – Fri: 11am – 3pm, 5pm-8:30pm, Sat: 11am–9pm, Sun: 11am – 3pm.
NOTE: Good Food Gold Coast was a guest of La Cha Cha Cabana.