Where to eat on the Gold Coast: Five dining experiences to try in Australia's latest foodie destination

Composite of Surfers Paradise with shots of restaurants mentioned - Tommy's, Sofia's and Paddock
I was lucky enough to sample a selection of local restaurants to see for myself what top-rate tucker the GC has to offer - here's five dining experiences to try on your next Gold Coast getaway. Photo credit: Photo illustration - Newshub; Images - File / Supplied

When you think of culinary hotspots and foodies' favourite destinations, the Gold Coast probably isn't at the top of your list: but lo and behold, the Queensland oasis is brimming with a variety of venues from casual eateries and contemporary fare to fine-dining establishments.

As a dining destination, the Gold Coast is becoming more and more diverse, appealing to tourists and locals alike. While many still think of the holiday hotspot as a Surfers Paradise (pun intended) - perfect for beach bums, family vacays and party-goers - the theme park capital continues to burgeon with an impressive resume of options for foodies or travellers wanting a taste of home, with plenty of international cuisine on offer.

Like the renowned food cities before it, there's the all-important mixture of night bites, street-eats and hatted restaurants, with rooftop watering holes and craft breweries - although most are served with a side of sand, surf or stunning vistas of Queensland's sundry terrain, from rainforest to mountain ridges.

This boom in culinary initiatives has partly been attributed to interstate migration throughout the pandemic. Since the beginning of COVID-19, residents from Australia's southern states have been moving to Queensland in record numbers. With COVID-19 rooted in the likes of Melbourne and Sydney - cities typically favoured among Aussie foodies - many made the move up the coast and set up shop, bringing their coffee culture and diverse restaurant scenes to the sunny Gold Coast. 

On a recent press trip with the marketing non-profit Destination Gold Coast, I was lucky enough to sample a selection of local restaurants to see for myself what top-rate tucker the GC has to offer. Here's five dining experiences to try on your next Gold Coast getaway. 

The Paddock at Beechmont Estate

A boutique lodge, day spa and retreat set on a Wagyu and polo farm, nestled beside the world heritage-listed Lamington National Park, the Beechmont Estate and its chef-hatted Paddock restaurant is situated within the Gold Coast Hinterland. With picturesque views of the forested landscape, the 30-hectare site is home to quaint country cabins complete with private verandas and cosy fireplaces, luxury pavilions, an exclusive AU$5000-a-night Owner's Residence - and yes, Wagyu and Angus cattle. At Paddock, the approach is truly paddock-to-plate - you can even watch the cattle grazing as you tuck into your beef. Behind the scenes, Paddock's mission statement is to serve delicious food, sustainably. There is no gas in this kitchen: using the classical elements, the chefs prepare their à la carte, seasonal menus with a zero-waste ethos. The food champions the region's local produce and its farming heritage - all ingredients are sourced from nearby markets, the kitchen garden, and premium local producers - and any leftovers are used creatively.

Paddock at Beechmont Estate
Photo credit: Beechmont Estate

Hailed as a hidden treasure, The Paddock at Beechmont Estate often flies under the radar of the traditional tourist due to its remote location, with the general manager saying it's become something of a hotspot for European visitors seeking a taste of luxury away from the hubbub of the city. While the menu screams fine-dining, the food itself is wholesome and the impeccable service is unpretentious. I enjoyed the Wagyu with horseradish and pepperberry as a starter, then the dry-aged steak cooked over coals with 12-hour roasted tomatoes for my main. For dessert, I went for the Chocolate Aero - a divine assortment of chocolate textures. The Paddock offers bed and breakfast and dinner packages for guests of Beechmont Estate, but if you aren't staying on-site, never fear: the restaurant is open for lunch but bookings are essential. 

Address: 422 Binna Burra Rd, Beechmont QLD 4211, Australia

Paddock at Beechmont Estate
Photo credit: Beechmont Estate

O'Reilly's Canungra Valley Vineyards

The O'Reilly family pioneered ecotourism in Australia when they began hosting visitors in the World Heritage Lamington National Park in 1915. The third generation of the O'Reilly family now manages the iconic, award-winning property, which spans the Rainforest Retreat, the vineyards and a plethora of on-site activities, including hiking trails and alpaca encounters. The latter I participated in - at first somewhat begrudgingly, knowing their reputation for hurling loogies at unsuspecting bystanders - but despite her serious appetite, my fluffy companion Peaches was relatively well-behaved. Situated on the sprawling vineyard, O'Reilly's Canungra Valley Vineyards' 164-year-old historic homestead, 'Killowen', offers picnic baskets, gourmet pizzas, cheese boards, and tastings of O'Reilly's renowned wine. The Mountview Alpaca Farm is also on the property, where you can take an alpaca on a 15 or 30-minute walk through the lush grounds. Perhaps make a day of it: enjoy quality time with your furry friend before tucking into a picnic, breakfast hamper or sitting back with a selection of wine. 

As a lunch spot, O'Reilly's Canungra Valley Vineyards is casual, laidback and picture-perfect. The grounds stretch along the banks of the Canungra Creek, where visitors can relax with a picnic featuring a selection of local gourmet foods. Each basket is made to be shared between two and can be paired with a bottle of O'Reilly's artisan wine: the Homestead Picnic features cold meats and salads, Southern fried Chicken, antipasto vegetables, cheese, dips, crackers and ice-cream to top it off. If a picnic isn't your bag, there are also tasty lunch options, from a cafe-style weekend menu to a selection of pizzas. I sat back in the alfresco dining area and enjoyed a Canungra Supreme (gluten-free bases available!) with spiced chorizo, smoked ham and cured pork salami, overlooking the oak trees and gurgling creek. The service is friendly but hands-off - you're mainly left to your own devices to enjoy the surroundings. An ideal spot for a family day out or a chilled, boozy afternoon with friends, with local musicians often playing creekside, Canungra Valley Vineyards shouldn't be overlooked. 

Address: 852 Lamington National Park Rd, Canungra QLD 4275, Australia

Canungra Valley Vineyards
Photo credit: Canungra Valley Vineyards

Sofia's Broadbeach

A stone's throw from Kurrawa Beach, Sofia's is located in the trendy Broadbeach area, where relaxed coastal culture meets urban inner-city lifestyle with stylish shopping precincts and a sophisticated, thriving dining scene. Sofia's offers a curated, Mediterranean-style menu of coastal European fare, spanning classic Italian pasta dishes, antipasto and sumptuous, locally sourced seafood. It's also a great spot for a drink or two with friends: Sofia's has an extensive beverage menu offering every drink you could think of. I was eating solo, sometimes a daunting prospect in a lively restaurant, but I felt at ease with the warm, friendly service. Wait-staff were attentive and my water glass was always full. Allergies, to gluten anyway, are not an issue: the restaurant has a delicious gluten-free pasta option, and for the lucky wheat-eaters, their traditional pasta is handmade on-site.

Sofia's Restaurant
Photo credit: Sofia's Restaurant

The restaurant itself has a warm, inviting atmosphere, with an alfresco dining area that's perfect for people-watching. There's an open bar and kitchen with a cosy, contemporary twist on Tuscan design: think hanging vines, arched alcoves and rustic touches such as stained mirrors, stone benches, wooden stools, individual table lamps and cosy booths complete with pillows. There's warm lighting, bottles of every kind lining the walls, and floral, painted crockery that looks to be straight out of a nonna's kitchen. To start with, I enjoyed the garlic bread with sundried tomato - gluten-free also available - and the ricotta and parmesan-stuffed zucchini flowers. For the main, I had the truffle mafaldine with truffle sauce and mascarpone. The portion was generous, the sauce was creamy, and I left with half in a takeaway box. Although I'm no expert on Italian cuisine, I would argue the sauce was a little bit bland, and the bread didn't taste much of sundried tomatoes, but I'd still go a second time. Go for the drinks and delightful dishes - stay for the vibes. 

Address: Oasis Shopping Centre, Shop G0/53 Victoria Ave, Broadbeach QLD 4218, Australia

Tommy's Italian

Situated along the stunning esplanade of Currumbin Beach, consider stopping by Tommy's Italian the next time you're in the Gold Coast for the beautiful beachside location. With sweeping views of the sea and Surfers' skyline, particularly from the balcony, you're a stone's throw from the sand and surf after a tasty, homely Italian meal (just beware of bloating if you're planning on wearing boardies or a bikini). With an extensive menu, Tommy's offers familiar favourites and staples of Italian cuisine, homemade with fresh ingredients. There's antipasti, contorni (sides), griglia (from the grill), authentic pasta and pizza, dolci (dessert) and bambini offerings (a kid's menu), as well as a wide selection of wines and a set menu with wine pairings. The portions are heaped, the cocktails are delicious, and there's sangria to share. Like many other businesses in the area, Tommy's aims to shop and support local to maintain a high quality of produce. Open for lunch and dinner, it's a great place to share a pizza or enjoy traditional, homemade Italian fare. You can peruse the beautiful wine list against the backdrop of the east coast sunset, or soak up the afternoon sun with a margarita in hand and a selection of antipasti.

Tommy's Italian
Photo credit: Tommy's Italian

If you're wanting a pizza that's a little outside the box (read: not a Meatlover's or Hawaiian), Tommy's has an array of gourmet pizzas on offer. For example, the Potato: a mix of fior di latte, fontina, gorgonzola, crispy chats and ricotta. Or the Cavolo Nero, featuring yellow tomato, fior di latte, cavolo nero, stracciatella and macadamia nuts. Then there's the Salsiccia, where broccoli, Italian sausage and whipped ricotta cream is given a hot chilli kick. I had no room for dessert, but if I returned, Tommy's butterscotch tiramisu would be at the top of my list. My recommendation would be to make a day of it: Currumbin is about a 30-minute drive from Surfers Paradise, so take the car or public transport and enjoy the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary (there's even a koala breakfast) before soaking up the sun on the beach. Stroll up the boulevard to Tommy's for lunch, which is just a 10-minute walk from the sanctuary, or enjoy a coffee and spot of retail therapy at Cornerstone Stores: Stable Coffee and Kitchen has local beer on tap and a menu that supports local artisan producers.

Address: 818 Pacific Parade, Currumbin QLD 4223, Australia

Tommy's Italian
Photo credit: Tommy's Italian


A bustling Japanese restaurant and sushi bar, Yamagen is situated on the ground floor of the trendy QT Gold Coast Hotel in Surfers Paradise and a mere stroll from the iconic beach and esplanade. The self-proclaimed first fine-dining Japanese restaurant on the Gold Coast, Yamagen offers a unique experience with delicious, high-quality food that's made to be shared, all in a sleekly modern space with impeccable service. Step inside and you're greeted with glossy black finishes, chic and eye-catching details and a dimly-lit ambience. There's market-fresh sashimi, intricate sushi, kushiyaki from the grill, or you can put your faith in executive chef Adam Lane for an Omakase experience - which essentially means 'I'll leave it up to you'. Lane has impressive culinary credentials: from his time in Sydney at Sake, Sushi E and Tetsuya's, he has cooked alongside Japanese celebrity chef Nobu Matsuhisa and shared the bench with David Thompson at London's Nahm.

Photo credit: Yamagen

A word of warning: the menu is extensive, so be prepared to spend time umming and ahhing over what to order. If this is your first time, perhaps consult the menu beforehand, or don't plan for a quick bite. It's a place where you want to take your time to peruse the offerings and soak up the atmosphere. With sharing encouraged at Yamagen, also expect to rack up a fair bill by the end of the night, particularly if you're ordering drinks. The staff are incredibly knowledgeable and took extra care to explain the menu and assure me what dishes were gluten-free or could be made so. While certainly fine-dining, there's another more casual side to Yamagen with an izakaya approach: similar to tapas bars, izakaya is more informal and focuses on enjoying a slew of small dishes and alcoholic beverages. So if a lengthy dinner isn't on the cards, you could stop by to enjoy the izakaya offerings - think edamame, sashimi tacos, nasu miso and gyoza - with a curious cocktail. Or alternatively, sample the select saké collection or curated list of whiskeys from Japanese distilleries. The flavours are vibrant yet refined, where traditional Japanese fare is given an inventive, modern twist - and the sushi is simply divine.

Address: 7 Staghorn Ave, Surfers Paradise QLD 4217, Australia.

Lana Andelane travelled to the Gold Coast and enjoyed the above restaurants as a guest of Destination Gold Coast.