10 Beach Road, Surfers Paradise Ph: 5538 3235
First touted as a destination inspired by international precincts such as New York’s Chelsea Food Market, The 4217 has spent two years in the construction phase, traffic passing around it as it slept and grew.
Then, just as our eyes were averted, the soft opening had taken place. Chrysalis-like, the shops are opening one by one in this high quality hub: several stunning restaurants surrounded by smaller food and lifestyle retail outlets and creative spaces, a fitness centre and the OzHarvest office.
Paradox Coffee Roasters was one of the first to open. Straddled across the central walkway, Paradox takes up the western end of the building. With soaring ceilings and exposed brickwork, it’s reminiscent of stylish eateries in Sydney’s Alexandria or Melbourne’s Bourke Street mixed in with Masterchef Kitchen.
The venue’s sophistication mutates from day to night. By day a chic modern warehouse suitable for a catch up meeting or business lunch, as the sun goes down Paradox oozes mystique; the dusky sister you should seek to find beyond the surrounding flashes of bright neon. There’s a choice of seating in cosy booths, at secluded tables beyond the bar, or crowd watching at the high bench on the outside verandah.
‘Roasters’ it is first and foremost, the huge 5 metre tall Italian industrial roaster dominating the corner of the building, its hypnotic presence felt as aromas float through the open space. A batch takes 15 minutes to roast, 15kg at a time – a scientific yet sensory process of blending beans, watching and tasting, that requires a master roaster; in this case Head Roaster Matt Trow, ex Wellington’s renowned Havana Coffee Works.
“Our access to different beans is unlimited,” Matt tells us, “so we’re starting out with a crowd pleaser blend and watching how the market reacts. It’s a testing ground with simple flavour notes. We’ll move to more complexity as the market gains confidence.”
I’m standing beside the roaster drinking a double ristretto flat white, smooth, dark and dense, the house blend of Nicaraguan and Ethiopian Sidamo Coffees, its beans freshly roasted by Matt, coffee made for me by AJ.
“You can see here the sacks on display, and people can watch the roasting process. Everything is exposed. There are no secrets. It’s about education, so that people are not intimidated by coffee culture,” Matt adds.
“The more people are involved, the more they’ll be a part of it.”
A “Brew Bar” menu inside the restaurant provides information about the house blend on offer and also the rotating selection of light or dark roasted beans available for Moccamaster made filter coffee.
Of the house blend, which is equally adaptable to both black and milk coffee, the espresso has a sharp berries and rose scent with a tangy citrus flavour that lingers in the mouth. A piccolo and latte have more comforting aromas that draw you into the surprisingly bright taste of spicy caramel.
Being a bit keen on filter coffee AJ offers to make the two on offer for us, sitting down and discussing the differences between the roasts and the notes to look out for, handing us a cup of the ground beans to inhale before drinking the product.
The washed Ethiopian Sidamo is a fruity light roast with a refreshing flavour akin to citrus infused black tea. Another light roast the Brazilian Santos is an entirely different experience with a fresh, leafy scent with an earthy flavour that fills the mouth. Following AJ’s advice we let the coffee sit for a while, allowing the flavours to change and deepen with more nutty notes coming through.
There’s as much to learn as you could wish for – appropriate roasts and origins for different brew methods, how to recognize flavours in coffee…
Besides allowing room for expansion, there are plans to hold private coffee tasting events and small dinner functions in the lab space adjoining the roaster; all possible due to flexibility of both space and vision.
Look from the roastery across to the restaurant, and you can see straight into the kitchen where Head Chef Dennis Duncanson is hard at work.
In this modern take on older food traditions, Dennis knows more than most about ‘Old Skool’ with modern rules. Before moving to Australia a couple of years ago, Dennis spent ten years working with Jamie Oliver.
Like Jamie, Dennis brings unpretentious good food to diners. He follows the mantra of ‘fresh produce in season’, free-range where possible, sourced from smaller local suppliers. All bread is baked daily, and as much of the menu made in house as possible. Having worked with Guy Rossi in Melbourne before settling on the Gold Coast, Dennis’ food is multi-layered in influence, his English roots mixed in modern French and Italian accents in such dishes as Truffled eggs, Croque Monsieur, English black pudding accompanying the Brekkie salad, and Steak served with chips and bone marrow.
Given the chance, Dennis’ sense of adventure would push culinary boundaries further. He’d love to take us into ‘all things forgotten’ territory, turning under-rated meat cuts into fantastic dishes. But there’s little of that on show…yet!
As with the venue’s coffee philosophy, the startup menu is interesting while remaining on known ground, the chef treading carefully to gauge reaction, yet bringing new dimensions to our emerging modern coastal cuisine.
For Dennis’ loyal followers, you’ll find many of his trademark dishes: pork, slow-cooked lamb shoulder, melt-in-your-mouth handmade ravioli and gnocchi, and his signature polenta chips served with grated parmesan and ‘angry’ sauce.
Tuck into the rustic ‘posh nosh’ meals, shown off in a short menu that follows the seasons. The lunch menu shows breadth for differing appetites and tastes. Light lunches and All Day Sangas ($12 – $15) are suitable to share, especially with a side or two.
Mains ($15 – $26 across lunch and dinner) are generous serves, with some of the dishes bridging both day and night menus: a Bowl of steaming mussels given a classic Italian treatment of chilli, garlic, white wine and parsley; Byron Bay pork fillet capped with crackling and crispy sage; House made gnocchi strewn with spanner crab, fresh from the trawlers, Heritage tomatoes, parsley, lemon and fennel tops. Find room if you can, for a glass of wine and dessert.
Served on glistening dinnerware from nearby homeware retailer Beautiful Spaces Inside and Out, the food is devoured before a fork even touches the plate!
It’s a paradox, really, that this venue will be known primarily as a coffee roaster when its food is so good! We may have waited impatiently for Paradox to open, but it was well worth it. On many levels, Paradox is a feast indeed!
Read more of Marj’s reviews on Good Food Gold Coast http://www.foodgoldcoast.com.au