Beautiful Burleigh is the destination of choice for laidback locals and in-the-know tourists who’ve discovered there’s plenty more to the sunny Gold Coast than the raucous glitter strip.
Some say bohemian Burleigh is well on its way to becoming the next Byron Bay. And given we adore our hip neighbour to the south, that’s one hell of a compliment! Burleigh is one of the few beachside precincts with a distinctive hub; with James Street at its heart, a devout cafe and breakfast culture, fashionable retail and weekend markets, all bordered by forested Burleigh Heads National Park. It’s a cool coastal pocket with an enriching sense of community and nonchalant vibe. What’s not to love?
These days Burleigh is a culinary hot spot to boot. It’s home to ample cafes open ‘til mid arvo and casual late-night eats, but today we’re here to sing praise for the restaurants! While there’s plenty of choice, to help get your next weekend or holiday sorted, here are the best restaurants in Burleigh.
Gold Coast’s foodie portfolio was elevated when Sydney chef Alex Munoz Labart and his Gold Coast-raised wife Karla opened their first restaurant in Burleigh Heads. Recently awarded the best regional restaurant in Queensland by The Courier Mail, this intimate 60-seat bistro brings a touch of European sophistication to the local dining scene. Restaurant Labart’s open-plan kitchen and charcoal grill allows diners a front-row seat to watch Alex and his talented team work their magic. The ever-changing menu is designed to share with both snacks, small and large plates on offer, with all ingredients locally and sustainably sourced.
With a carefully-curated Asian fusion menu of contemporary dishes from Vietnam, Thailand and further afield, this Burleigh beachfront favourite not only offers lust-worthy views across the table but some of the most delish dishes we’ve tucked our knife and fork into. Firstly, quality over quantity is the name of the game here, so you won’t leave disappointed after the likes of soft shell crab on betel leaf, Rick’s famous Moreton Bay bug rolls (bucket list material, for sure), twice-cooked duck and massaman curry with pork belly. Hot tip? Rick Shores’ outdoor walk-in patio seats are all-time for a vino or beer with a view, plus that golden hour around sunset is extra magical, so plan your night accordingly. Without question, this is one of the absolute best restaurants in Burleigh, if not the Gold Coast.
Harry’s Steak Bistro
Harry’s Steak Bistro, named in honour of the owners’ late pappous (grandfather), is one of the coolest restaurants in Burleigh. Inside, walls are lined with recycled red-clay bricks recovered from an old Melbourne train station and there’s a Parisian influence in the black bistro chairs, forest-green banquettes and booths. It’s sharp and minimalist styling, but that helps draw your attention to the life-size bull hanging out behind the bar or the meat cleavers and butcher’s knives doubling as beer tap handles. All that aside, the absolute star of the show here is the beef. On the concise dinner menu, four signature steak cuts take centre stage; all come topped with herbed butter and sides of salad, crusty bread and, get this, ENDLESS salted shoestring frites! Add to that, moreish appetisers and creative cocktails that’ll see you lingering on the street side terrace or chinwagging with the cool gents behind the bar well into the evening.
Iku Yakitori And Whisky Bar
By the same talented team behind long-standing favourite Etsu Izakaya, Burleigh's Iku Yakitori & Whisky Bar is next level on so many fronts. Step past the simple façade, and you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to another world. Or, at the very least, another country. Whacking you in the face the moment you slip inside, it’s sensory overload with a solid cement, open-plan kitchen on full display. It’s atmospheric, narrow and bustling, and you’ll likely be rubbing shoulders with your neighbour when you pull up a front row seat at the yakitori bar, where steam wafts and the grill sizzles as ex-pat Japanese chefs work over the robata and white-hot binchotan charcoals. While a traditional yakitori bar is almost exclusively skewers, they are complimenting the robata grill menu with options from flavour-packed salads and melt-in-your-mouth raw dishes.
With just 28 seats and 45-square feet total floor space, Rabbath, a contemporary Lebanese bistro, is the Coast’s most intimate restaurant. Everything has been custom made; from the wine display racks that hang overhead, to the compact kitchen and bar combo that occupies a third of the venue. There are old world Mediterranean mosaic tiles, cosy corners and soft lighting that’ll make you immediately feel at home. We suggest nabbing the best seats in the house, along the bar that front the kitchen. From here, you can interact with Lebanese-born owner Patrick and his smiling team. How many other top-end restaurants can you find yourself ordering direct from the source with your fresh-off-the-chargrill dishes hand-delivered across the pass? Entertainment and theatre is a cornerstone of Lebanese culture, and here, it is all on show.
Justin Lane Establishment
Ask any local and they’ll tell you Burleigh is where the magic happens; so you’ll wanna know about one of its star attractions—Justin Lane Establishment. Justin Lane is legendary around these parts; having helped shaped the charismatic pocket of Burleigh we know and love today. Justin Lane’s sleek two-story digs attracts a hip, jovial crowd any day of the week, so come for the sun-drenched rooftop bar, misting stations and prime positioned booths with beach views; and stay for the cocktails, handmade sourdough pizzas, pastas and share plates. Don’t want to dine in? Justin Lane has got you covered with an adjacent takeout pizza bar, which also delivers to Burleigh Hill by cruiser bike and to surrounding suburbs by scooter.
Burleigh Pavilion’s signature al a carte restaurant, The Tropic’s jaw-dropping locale makes you feel as if you’re dining on the edge of the ocean. With plantation-style ceilings, a pale pink tiled bar, crisp white tables, thoughtful greenery and splashes of pastel blue, moss green and creamy yellow, every inch of the 200-seat restaurant is achingly cool. Chef Guillaume Zika, who nabbed two hats while running esteemed Restaurant Cottage Point Inn in NSW, heads up The Tropic’s kitchen, so you know you’re in for a mouth-watering treat. The menu is produce-driven featuring only the freshest local ingredients, which means anything seafood related is a must-try.
Hidden down an alleyway off bustling James Street lies Oi Izakaya. A Japanese eatery with an unassuming entrance, one foot inside and you’ll feel like you’ve stumbled upon a legit izakaya in a small Asian village. The menu is designed to be shared so you have permission to go crazy and order a whole bunch of their mouth-watering creations. Think karaage chicken, pork gyozas, yakisoba (a traditional fried noodle dish) and okonomiyaki, available with pork belly, thinly sliced beef or seafood (prawn and calamari). Post meal and to stave off the impending food coma, slink off to the bar, hidden at the back of the eatery. There you’ll find beers, cocktails, sake and 25 varieties of Japanese whisky.
Given our love affair with Asian food, we rank Jimmy Wah’s high among the best restaurants in Burleigh. A contemporary take on traditional Vietnamese cuisine, you won’t find any upturned milk crates for stools or conical palm leaf and bamboo hats here. Open for both lunch and dinner, seven days, undo your top button in preparation for plates and plates of flavour-packed soft shell crab steamed buns, pho, bahn mi and tempura barramundi. If you’re wondering who the cheerful face is smiling back at you from the wall mural, it’s the restaurant’s namesake, the cheeky character Jimmy Wah from the classic flick Good Morning, Vietnam; and he’s pleased to say, you’ve made a good choice.
Walking along the popular foodie strip you can’t miss the eatery with its neon red sign and bright lanterns drawing customers in. Offering up a flavour-packed contemporary Cantonese-style menu, Mr Hizola's signature sizzling wagyu steak is served on a fo zek (hot) stone) and is delivered to your table, doused in brandy and set alight, flames licking upwards and cooking the meat to mouth-watering perfection right in front of you. Swing by for a cocktail and people watch from the window bar or carve a few hours out of your day and order the Emperor’s Feast
Ze Pickle is another OG eatery which first helped put Burleigh Heads on the hip and happening map. Nowadays, this restaurant slash bar coaxes you in with some of the Gold Coast’s best burgers (screw health for one night, these guys are all about being outrageously UNhealthy). Before you realise, you’ll be lingering with the cool staff, listening to funky beats and downing frosty craft beers. These guys have unearthed the recipe for success, taking their madness to Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley and Camp Hill, as well as dominating the burger-bar scene in Sydney’s Surry Hills. But we can be proud knowing the Ze Pickle empire started right here in a once-musty second-hand Burleigh bookshop.
Made your way around the best restaurants in Burleigh? Head north up the highway and explore the best of Mermaid Beach, next.
Image credit: Hayley Williamson for Urban List