Food Review: Char Baa

4/1840 Lower Gold Coast Highway, Burleigh Heads

Three eateries opened in less than three years!

It’s been a cracking pace of development for owners Liv (Olivia) Watson and Gaynor Hunt, owners of The Little Plate. After opening The Little Bar a year ago, they’ve now made a move into casual takeaway dining with the opening of Char Baa just around the corner from The Little Plate.

Out with the kitchen and fancy bar. In with the char grill. Barbeque is now ‘secret girls’ business’!

“So many world cuisines feature grilling over charcoal,” Gaynor tells us, “so we decided to open a char grill. We got hold of a grill and took it to Millmasters, Burleigh and said ‘Pimp my grill’, which he did. Now we’ve got a Latin American hanging rack on the back, a teppan plate on one side and the rotisserie here.” She points, grinning from ear to ear, proud as punch as Liv watches the lamb turning slowly over the coals.

Gaynor looks right at home in front of the grill. “I love fire!” she tells us.

Growing up in her parents’ heritage listed hotel in Sutherland, it was Gaynor’s job to tend the wood-fired oven which cooked roasts for passing truckies. It was an initiation into food which has continued through a varied career: Head Chef in a minimum security prison in Broome where she ditched the ‘mystery meat’ and created problems when body counts showed that non-prisoners were jumping the fence into prison to enjoy meals she cooked; chef in tourist mecca Gypsy Dee’s in Cairns (where world cuisine was king), 5 star hotels such as Cairns International through to a much-loved local Italian restaurant.

After starting their own ‘fine casual’, Gaynor and Liv soon realized the hole in the market for great takeaway on the southside, so Char Baa goes some way towards addressing that need.

Even in the décor, the emphasis on takeaway is clear. Sure, you can sit in at the high tables or chef’s bar with a craft beer and flat bread wrap, but the coolness of the greys and charcoal colours (and lack of coffee) marks it as an ‘eat and go’ establishment; a place that’s not designed to lounge and read the paper.

It’s the flatbread grills which are the standout here, filling more than a third of the menu. Bread and meat, you think? It sounds simple, but that’s where the ordinary stops! This is no ordinary bread, and no gas-fired BBQ!

It’s succulent charcoal-grilled spit roasted meat: smoky Cyprus chicken laced with the specialty oregano grown on only one Greek island, succulent Middle Eastern lamb smothered in Turkish blended spices, loaded with house tzatziki, hummus and tabbouleh or Chickpea fritters (vegetarian) with smoked lemon yoghurt served in a specialty gyros flatbread that Gaynor tracked down in Thomastown, Melbourne.

The attention to detail when sourcing specific ingredients continues throughout the rest of the menu of starters and mains: USA beef ribs slathered in sticky Bourbon BBQ sauce served beside Southern slaw; Japanese tuna with house miso mustard aioli dressing; or Pacific Rim influenced Barra topped with sambal and coconut, served on a banana leaf with salad.

While the main meals will not satisfy a man-sized appetite, it’s easy to upsize with a side of Blue cheese aioli spiced fries, Char-grilled chorizo with salsa, or Charcoal flatbread served with a trio of dips.

As the ladies and their world-travelling staff add the finishing touches to the meals, behind them aromas float through the shop as the other worker smoulders away: the pit grill, slowly continuing its 8 hour shift, delivering an authentic BBQ experience that traverses the globe.

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