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If you have a friend who’s recently travelled to the Gold Coast, there’s a good chance they’ve chewed your ear off about Rick Shores. They would have mentioned the fried bug rolls. And the beachfront views. And the iconic location in Burleigh Heads. And the service, which is unerringly precise.
Since opening in 2016, Rick Shores has become one of the flag bearers for a new standard of dining in Australia’s sixth biggest city.These days, it’s telling that it’s locals who will recommend Rick Shores just as readily as the charmed travellers.
“We wanted to create an experience that really does the view justice,” co-owner David Flynn says. “The nature of the Gold Coast and Queensland in particular is, we’re relaxed. We want people to feel comfortable walking into Rick Shores in a three-piece suit or straight off the beach — as long as they’ve got clothes and a pair of shoes, they’re welcome.”
And it’s perhaps that relaxed approach that makes it easy to forget that Rick Shores is a world-class restaurant. Here are five reasons you need to add it to the itinerary for your next Gold Coast visit.
1. THE PEOPLE
The talent behind Rick Shores is intimidating. Owned by Flynn, Frank Li, Nick Woodward and Andrew Hohns, its DNA is shared by Brisbane’s edgy Thai superstar Longtime (Li is a co-owner of both venues), while the same crew is also behind Little Valley — another Brisbane favourite for communal Chinese eats. Ask any clued-up Queensland foodie and they’ll tell you these are three of the best restaurants in the state.
It’s the same in the kitchen. Former head chef Jake Pregnell and sous chef Simon Hanmer (both now at Little Valley) launched Rick Shores with a Southeast Asian-focused menu that introduced a bunch of star dishes, including the now ubiquitous fried bug roll — arguably the most famous snack on the Gold Coast. More recently, the kitchen has been taken over by James Brady, formerly of Shannon Bennett’s prestigious Vue de monde in Melbourne, and he’s continued to push the menu towards broader pan-Asian flavours.
The quality trickles all the way down to the front-of-house staff. Rick Shores pumps on weekends and during holidays, but that rarely stops the service from being efficient, friendly and knowledgeable.
But then you needn’t take our word for it. Rick Shores’ quality is reflected in the huge number of awards that has seen it rated as one of the best restaurants in Australia by both the Australian Financial Review and Gourmet Traveller, and named Delicious’s best restaurant in Queensland in 2017 (and second best in 2018).
In short, the place is legit.
2. THE VIEW
Despite its thousands upon thousands of kilometres of brilliant beaches, there are surprisingly few places in Australia where you can step straight off the sand and sit down in a restaurant. Rick Shores is one of them.
Located right on Burleigh Beach, a seat at the front of the venue overlooking the water will have the surfers slicing along rolling breaks mere metres from your table. To the north, the skyscrapers of Broadbeach and Surfers Paradise stand like sentinels in the afternoon haze.
“We’ve got this incredible view and the design of the restaurant was to keep it minimal and invite the outside in,” Flynn says. “So when you’re in Rick Shores it’s not about the fit-out. The main event [is] the beautiful vista you get when you look out the window.” (Hence it’s spot on this list.)
It highlights one of the best tips for eating at Rick Shores: by all means dine here for dinner before hitting the bars and clubs if you have to, but this is a daytime destination — particularly when you tie it in with drinks afterwards upstairs at the Burleigh Pavilion.
Can’t land a spot by the enormous bi-fold windows? No stress. The restaurant has been cleverly tiered, so even those towards the back of the dining space get to peer at the Pacific.
3. THE FOOD (AND THE WINE)
Fried bug rolls. Look around you at Rick Shores and at any give moment and maybe a quarter of your fellow diners will be demolishing these slider-sized delicacies, fried Queensland bug meat slapped between two halves of a golden-baked milk bun with gem lettuce and sriracha sauce.
But the bug burgs these days feel like they’re there just to get you through the door. Rick Shores’ pan-Asian menu ranges far and wide in 2019, from kingfish sashimi and oysters served with a Thai vinaigrette to fragrant red duck and smoked pork and tamarind curries, and madras-spiced lamb or sticky pork belly for mains.
A recent mini-refurbishment of the restaurant also introduced a coal-fired grill to the kitchen. James Brady now char-grills ssamjang chicken with corn and coriander, or West Australian octopus with sweet and sour mango, chilli and lime.
Wash it down with an award-winning wine list that reflects the broad food menu. For sure order a bottle or two of French rosé if you must, but the name of the game at Ricks is to explore its constantly evolving selection of wines by the glass — including whites, rosés, ambers and reds — allowing you to order a bunch of plates and mix and match the vino to suit. Easy-peasy.
4. THE SCENE
If nothing else, Rick Shores is a good opportunity to mix it with the locals. And we do mean locals: Burleigh Heads, hemmed in by hills to the west and the headland to the south, retains its very own sense of community.
They’re a glamorous, good-looking bunch, but also friendly, welcoming and relaxed — and like Flynn says, they’ll often be hanging at the restaurant’s bar wearing Birkenstocks and board shorts, with a beach towel draped across their shoulders.
5. THE LOCATION
You may be beguiled by the beach, beach bums and bug buns, but don’t forget about Burleigh Heads the suburb that spreads across the hills behind you. This is one of the Coast’s prettiest locales, with a vibrant cafe, restaurant and bar culture.
If you’re not having knock-offs at Burleigh Pavilion, save yourself for some of brilliant restaurants clustered around James Street and the Laneway. There are outrageous burgers at Ze Pickle, fabulous Japanese share plates at Iku Yakitori, and modern Vietnamese at Jimmy Wah’s.
Want to push the boat out? Make a booking for a window seat at the sumptuous Fish House, or wander instead a few blocks inland on West Street to discover the precise, elevated dining of Restaurant Labart.