Most people I know (including people who live there) joke about the hit-and-miss dining situation on the Gold Coast. I have friends and family who dread meeting up with us for lunch or dinner simply because they have come down to Melbourne to visit, seen what variety and quality the city has to offer and know that they have far fewer reliable options to tempt us with.
Having lived a big chunk of my life up there I can say there are some hidden gems to be found, but only if you know where to look. Head absentmindedly into Surfers Parade or Broadbeach and you will have no one to blame but yourself. But do your research and you will find a few nuggets of gold like Hellenica (reviewed here) and its brand-new sister restaurant in Burleigh, The Fishhouse. Also Elk Cafe (though inconsistent) is livening up the brunch scene and is a great space in which to pass a lazy Sunday morning.
If a Rockwell and Sons opened up on the GC it would stop the city in its tracks. But the new buzz place up there is Justin Lane – a pizza joint that doesn’t take reservations. Yeah I know. Pizzas – we like them, but are they worthy of that much hype? *shakes head in shame*
But times are a-changing. The most recent opening for 2013 is a little place called Pablo Pablo – a Spanish eatery and bar down in Palm Beach. Much along the same lines of Anada on Gertrude St it serves simple tasty plates of Spanish goodness to a very willing public. Now again – I know tapas has been done to death and I too am awaiting the Peruvian cantina invasion, but the people of the Gold Coast deserve a buzzing small-plate dining experience and this is their moment.
The interior of Pablo Pablo is rustic and minimalist in its style and layout. They throw in some hacienda-chic with the choice of light fittings, floor tiles and solid wooden tables, and the quirky paintings dotted with vibrant ingredients are attention grabbing in a good way. Nothing too ‘try hard’ here.
We started off with the fresh bread and first press olive oil – a lovely green hue – and followed with the jamon serrano – the 24-month cured ham from the ‘Landrace’ breed of white pig. It was sliced pretty thick and lacked the overpowering saltiness that you can sometimes get with heavily cured charcuteries.
After this came the sobrasado, the spreadable salami which is traditionally produced in the Balearic Islands just off the coast of Spain. The kicker of this as you can see in the photo was that the smudge we received cost 12 of your earth dollars. Give me a proper pot of the stuff so I can spread liberally for that price. Dehesa in London does. We found everything else to be very reasonable.
I couldn’t fault the jamon croquettes which were deliciously savoury, cheesy, crunchy and deep-fried to perfection. This is a don’t-miss dish. The pulled pork belly, roasted onions with pear and lime dressing was off the menu due to the pork not having enough time to be pressed. Good on them for sticking to their guns.
Moving onto the chargrilled chorizo with melted manchego. Phallic? Yes. Tasty? Indeed. The decent shaving of cheese made this stand out next to places that just dish out the sausage itself.
In a huff due to no pork belly I went for the seared wagyu beef, pan juices and watercress. This was one of my favourite dishes when I recently travelled through Italy and it didn’t let me down. The quality, quantity and flavours justified the $18 price tag.
Even though everyone knows that salads and vegetables were invented for poor people, we did grab the garlic mushrooms which wierdly rocked my world. Big thumbs up for that. You can never have too much garlic. And we loved the mix of mushroom varieties. Predicable as I am I have to try the potatas bravas, which were twice cooked and served in a rich tomato sauce with an added dash of spiciness that I have come to expect.
To finish off – churros – Spanish doughnuts with warm dipping chocolate, and a mile away from the horridness of the chain we have in Melbourne. Where most places fall down, Anada included, is that the dough is too, well, doughy. Not here – light and fluffy and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. Chefs need to know the importance of finishing a meal on a high, so that the dessert blows you out of the park as much as the mains.
Pablo Pablo isn’t doing anything new, but they are doing it well and that will ensure they go far – we wish the awesome staff all the best for the future. Authenticity on the Gold Coast? You better believe it!
The deetsShop 6, 2 Fifth Ave Palm Beach
Ph. (07) 5534 7003