Food review: Sandbar

53 The Esplanade, Surfers Paradise Ph: 07 5526 9994

Change is in the air in Surfers, nowhere more evident that at the Sandbar. With uninterrupted sea views and the widest offerings of beer on the coast, Sandbar is iconic. An institution.

But even ‘institutions’ need to move with the times.

After operating the restaurant for almost twenty years since its time as the Boardwalk Café & Bar, Greg and Jo Short have let their son Jake step in to rebuild Sandbar to his vision.

“I grew up in Surfers Paradise. It was the place to come to, but then it gained a bit of a stigma. Now, we want to change the vibe of the suburb, to try to bring cool beach clubs here – places where you can come for an afternoon drink and stay for dinner,” he tells us.

Despite his age, Jake knows what he’s talking about. He has spent much of the past seven years in Bali, helping mates to open venues such as Single Fin, Mexicola, Salty Seagull and Helter Skelter. Returning to Australia, he noticed huge changes to our dining scene.

Inspired by the beach clubs seen in his travels to the French Riviera and Bali, Surfers Sandbar, rebranded as Sandbar, has undergone a major refit and facelift, indicative of its new direction. Striped blue and white beach umbrellas, teak furniture and hanging plants give a fresh take to the venue’s new nautical theme.

In its new menu, valuing quality over quantity, the dishes are fresher, brighter, more vibrant; right on trend.

“There’s been a mixed reaction from seasonal visitors,” says Jake, acknowledging that some tourists are not happy with the demise of all-you-can-eat dining, “but regulars love it. Our biggest challenge is to change the public perception of the venue,” he adds.

The three menus that cover all day dining have been devised by Maxie Hill, a former Head Chef at Rick Stein’s Bannisters in Mollymook, New South Wales. Highly regarded as a chef and food consultant in Bali, Maxie brings to Sandbar’s lunch and dinner menus a rich palate of Asian and Pacific flavours.

Breakfast features modern Australian cuisine: eggs on dough or in skillets, and rainbows of fruit topping whole grains. Dishes such as Crispy corn fritters, Ricotta vanilla pancakes, Sautéed chorizo eggs, and the Lean and green salad brekkie provide lots of diversity.

Smoothie bowls cross over from brekkie to 4.00pm, adding to a lunch menu of buns (The Pastry Emporium’s famous milk buns packed with tempura soft-shell crab teamed with a mango chilli salad, Korean-style crispy chicken, hand-pressed Wagyu or crispy pork belly); Hawaiian poke bowls of tuna, snapper or kingfish sashimi on edamame salad with black sesame topped avo and quinoa; and a Rick Stein-styled fresh fish and triple cooked chips (for the asking). Seafood dominant, it’s a perfect Pacific Rim seaside menu.

From 6.00pm, the menu steps up another notch to plates of smart casual share dining, again with local seafood a feature: Hervey Bay scallops, Snapper ceviche, Char-grilled octopus with sweet corn purée and crispy polenta, and King prawns with smoked chilli jam.

Meat lovers are not left stranded on a wave though, with the latest menu item, Beef ribs, packing a mighty punch of flavour. Pre-cooked in the sous vide, the meat is then wood chip smoked, finished with a smoky chilli sambal, and served with a cranberry, coriander and candied pistachio slaw. Lip-smackingly delicious, it’s a rich jammy dish! Are these the best ribs in town?

Finish with a shared Rhubarb roulade with salted caramel, peach and blueberries; a delicious reworking of a retro classic!

With a new motto ‘Good times all the time’, Sandbar’s new wine menu hold loads of promise: a bucket of beachside cocktails such as our Blood orange margarita, 120 varieties of beer including 20 on tap, a smart interesting wine list, including the organic Hochkirch Blanc from the Grampians; that is if you can pass over the cold-pressed juice mocktails and smoothies on offer.

If you were worried that Sandbar had lost a little of its surf club feel, the Short family’s commitment to the North End Board Riders’ Club has not been abandoned. Jake says the yet-to-be-completed function room at the rear of the venue will soon be unveiled, featuring club memorabilia as part of its décor.

For us, there’s plenty of reason to visit a revitalised Sandbar, let alone as a place to bring visitors.

Life in Surfers is all about the beach, the surf, and the Sandbar. It’s one of the coolest eateries in town, the beach and Lifeguard Tower #35 are just across the street, and a cool, crisp change has arrived with the ocean breeze. Iconic!

NOTE: On one occasion, Marj dined as a guest of Sandbar.

Read more of Marj’s reviews on Good Food Gold Coast


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