Putting the Gold Coast in your face

Risque ... chocolate three ways at Salt Grill Restaurant, the Hilton Hotel.
New food stars have come out to shine on the Gold Coast, leaving kebabs and burgers in the shade.

The new Hilton hotel features another Gold Coast newbie, Sydney chef Luke Mangan, who has made the trek north to open Salt Grill restaurant. Four months after opening, it was awarded a Chef Hat at the 2012 Australian Good Food Guide awards. As we toss over the difference between striploin, fillet and tenderloin, Mangan works the room, smiling and shaking hands like the best-trained celebrity chef.

In case you forget who designed your dinner, his name is on every plate laid on the table. And there are many, many plates on our table.

We eat the kingfish sashimi, with the most divine crust of ginger, eschallot and Persian feta. We eat chargrilled quail on shredded zucchini studded with pine nuts and currants. We eat the tenderloin, we eat the striploin. Heaven help us, we eat dessert: a strip of sunshine-orange cheesecake and a risque-sounding chocolate three ways.

You might be shocked but, finally, we are so full we forgo a post-prandial cocktail in the hotel's heaving bar, Fix, even if it is by international barmeister Grant Collins, who lists Sydney's Zeta bar among his conquests.

You would think we wouldn't eat again but you'd be wrong. The next night is earmarked for Bazaar, an "interactive marketplace" housed in the QT Gold Coast hotel (qtgoldcoast.com.au). Forget tired hotel restaurants: every table is packed, wine is flowing, and the chefs in the alfresco kitchens are running.

It's an eye-popping international array of hanging meats, sizzling barbecues, woks on fire, an embarrassment of raw fish and, when the dessert chef pops out, he's mobbed by grateful women like a celebrity turning up to an AA convention. "It's a buffet but it's a buffet on steroids," one of the many beautiful staff members says.

The restaurant pumps not only to its own beat but the beat of the nightclub Stingray, one floor below, where waitresses in tight 'n' t'riffic red minidresses mingle between thirtysomething local partiers, who are all happy to leave at midnight, while still beautiful.

More great eats

1 Hellenika, Nobby Beach An effusive Greek restaurant famed for its luscious baked lamb, though the white marinated anchovies and chargrilled Mooloolaba king prawns are worthy of the journey. (07) 5572 8009, hellenika.com.au

2 Vie Restaurant, Palazzo Versace, Main Beach Now serving Sunday brunch. The duck confit on polenta is creamy and rich with the scent of truffle and the wagyu beef divine. Order Bloody Marys and pretend you own one of the yachts in the marina. $49 for two courses and welcome drink. (07) 5509 8000, palazzoversace.com.au

3 The Food Store, Hilton Surfers Paradise Create the perfect picnic with charcuterie and ask hotel staff to set up a picnic at Main Beach. Must-eats include dried, tissue-thin wagyu beef, black truffle duck, chicken liver pate and muscatels. (07) 5680 8000.


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