There’s no doubt our beloved Gold Coast is seeing an almost revolutionary hoist in restaurants, bars, and cafes.
Some might say we are experiencing somewhat of a “food rush” period of time. We’ve always had the weather, the setting, and the desire to gastronomically compete with our friends in Sydney and Melbourne. Alas, though, it’s now people that are the final link in the chain. People with food and hospitality very much in their blood.
For those who don’t know the name (we hope you’re comfortable under that rock!), Simon Gloftis is the owner of one of the Gold Coast’s most celebrated restaurants, The Fish House in Burleigh Heads, together with Hellenika; a Nobby Beach institution.
Hellenika opened its doors six years ago, while The Fish House followed some three years later. Both establishments have set the bar with what people want and expect from a Gold Coast dining experience: consistency, tasty food, and exceptional service.
Simon is Gold Coast born and bred, half Greek and an avid lover of seafood; these facets of the man which are clearly seen in his two restaurants. Hellenika takes simple Greek cuisine and gives it a clever, modern Australian approach. While The Fish House strives to find the freshest and best seafood available in the country (which it nails), presented in an elegant and relaxed dining space with a stunning view.
No easy feat, we hear you say? So do we. We decided to pull up a chair, sit down with Simon, and chat about his journey to creating two of the best restaurants on the Gold Coast.
What do you love most about living on the Gold Coast?
We’re at a perfect time on the Gold Coast. The days when people would only come here for the theme parks is well and truly behind us. We’ve hit a point now where we can now go ahead in leaps and bounds. I like living here because I can live a relaxed lifestyle but I also know what is coming in the future; I don’t need to leave to keep my career moving. We’ve got the beaches, the lifestyle, the weather, the people, the positive attitude, and we’ve also got infrastructure being put in place. I don’t feel like I need to leave to get some culture—it’s coming.
What made you decide to pursue a career in the restaurant business?
When I was 15 I worked at the markets in Brisbane; I had a little stall selling corn on the cob. I then worked at a friend’s pizza shop making pizzas, and next as a waiter. Thinking I wanted to be in real estate, I left all that behind and passed the necessary exam; yet instead of coming home to read and study real estate, I was reading cook books all night! So rather than fighting it, I decided to go with it. So starting up with Three Beans, Little Beans, and Piccolo cafés was my move into hospitality.
Tell us about your career path, how did you get your start and why did you open Hellenika?
Even though I had a knack for coffee shops and people thought I was mad for selling out of them, I always wanted to be in restaurants. The food game for me was where it was at. My background is half Greek, I love Greek food, and so I decided to create Hellenika. I went over to Greece for six months to make sure I got everything right. When you’re on the Gold Coast you can’t do things in halves, because it’s not believable. It needed to be just as good, if not better, than similar restaurants in Sydney and Melbourne.
What do you think we do well here on the Coast, and what could we perhaps improve on?
I think the Gold Coast is a place that got a little too big, too quick; we didn’t have everything ready. What we do well, though, is creating an amazing environment, having great people, and a friendly place to raise a family. But we didn’t have the infrastructure and systems in place; the council was behind the eight ball. Now we are going in the right direction, though.
What has been your biggest professional success and also setback?
I had a second-hand furniture store for about six months when I was 19. I went broke and realised that I never wanted to go broke again! My proudest moment though, I think, is being able to open restaurants exactly how I want them to be. Not negotiated, completely on my own terms.
What are some of the challenges of being a restaurant owner?
S*#@ staff! (Laughs.) Staffing is the number one problem in hospitality. I say that because I have two busy restaurants, and I think with others it may even just be getting people through the door. In saying that, though, my biggest asset is my staff. I believe I have the best staff on the Coast and I absolutely look after them.
What are your favourite places to eat and drink on the Coast?
I like New Saigon. It’s a Vietnamese restaurant between Broadbeach and Surfers, and does the best Pho. Ten in Broadbeach; they have really fresh fish and I go there for my sushi. I go to Justin Lane for a drink and a pizza; their cocktails are what set them apart.
What is your take on the Gold Coast’s dining scene?
We have an amazing future and people are really excited about it, venues are opening up everywhere. I think nine of my ex-staff have opened venues between Broadbeach and Burleigh; the only thing I would say is that it needs to be done properly. Do your homework, or you will be found out. It won’t be sustainable without the right groundwork.
If you hadn’t pursued a career as a restaurateur, what other path do you think you would have followed?
There are a few different ones (pause), but I’d love to own hotels. That would be my ultimate dream.
If a friend came to visit and they hadn’t been to the Coast before, how would you spend the weekend showing them the sights?
I’d take them to Hellenika and The Fish House! (Laughs.) I would take them to the Southport Seaway and the pumping jetty, and go for a little walk along there. Maybe take them fishing. If time allowed, I would jump in the car and take them to Byron Bay, but definitely take them to the beach. Which one? I like the quieter areas like Mermaid Beach and Miami, I think Miami is the best.
If you could take a holiday anywhere tomorrow, where would you go?
Mykonos, Greece. You have an island with the most beautiful restaurants selling grilled fish, which I love. Beaches where you can relax all day, all that white wash… as soon as I hear the word “Mykonos” I just feel like I’m on holiday.
I suppose I’m at the stage now where I can say I’ve been working on something now for the past two years. It’s been a long process, but I’m under a non-disclosure statement so I can’t physically say what it is. I am really excited about it; it will be a bit of a game-changer for the Gold Coast. It is here, it is local; but the deal isn’t quite over the line. I hope it comes off, as I believe it will take us to another level in hospitality.
Photo Credit: Brooke Darling for Metropolist