George’s wild weekend on the Gold Coast: Part 1 “Friday night”.

A Cavill-cade of lights and colour on Cavill Avenue

My son George is just about to turn 12, so the night wasn’t that wild. But since he saw and did things he never had before, it was pretty wild to him. G and I have spent the past two weekends in Queensland, going back to Canberra during the week for work and school.

The first weekend was for my brother-in-law’s wedding in Brisbane (more on that in a later post). I’ll start from the most recent visit which was a trip to the Gold Coast to take G to see Queen (+ Adam Lambert). I’d booked the Queen tickets last April as a surprise for his 12th birthday.

He actually knew about the Queen bit but he didn’t know it was on the Gold Coast (because by the time I’d booked I could not get two seats together at the Sydney shows. I though a surprise trip to the Goldie would be fun! Little did I know that Uncle Leo would propose to the Divine Miss A and that their wedding would be in Brisbane the week before our Gold Coast trip! But not one to complain, I sucked up two weekends in a row in the not-too shabby South East Queensland.

We arrived at our Surfer’s Paradise hotel on the train from Brisbane at 7pm (also partly via a chauffer-driven Mercedes – that was not an Uber -which I accidentally booked, but that’s another blog post), then got ready to go out to dinner at a burger joint called Milky Lane. We walked down the Esplanade to Cavill Ave, a hive of lights, fast-food joints of every kind, souvenir shops, and all kinds of people. We even saw four bicycle-riding men dressed as super-heros. George looked around in awe.

Not Milky Lane…but Friday Night lights!

We finally made it to Milky Lane just before 8pm, and I momentarily worried about the loud music – how would my middle-aged ears and his pre-teen ears cope with this music that was too loud for us to talk – oh well perhaps we’d just get used to it – the 20-somethings in booths didn’t seem to mind. But thankfully we were led to a slightly quieter dining area down the back.

After some time studying the menu, I let George order the “Kevin Bacon” despite my better judgement. I felt he really should’ve gone for the kids burger, at half the size and half the price. The Kevin Bacon in all it’s greasy and meat/cheese laden glory arrived and two bites later he’d finished with it.

Well hello Kevin

I ordered the Chic-Kanye. This was a spicy chicken burger that was almost too hot to handle. I now realise we should’ve ordered one burger between us. In fact, the fries and vanilla milkshake (and wine for me) probably would’ve been enough. But still, all the important food groups were represented – there was a Cos lettuce leaf on one of the meat patties, right there next to the melted cheese.

All the food groups were represented, almost.

Despite the huge dinner, there was room for an ice-cream from Baskin Robins (separate stomach for dessert) “I never do this!” I said to an older woman who was looking at my honeycomb icrecream with whipped cream on top as we left the shop. “No, of course not, that’s what holidays are for! Start again on Monday” she said comfortingly. How did she know that’s exactly how I roll (not literally).

Pretty

After picking up a pair of thongs in a souvenir shop (I’d forgotten to pack/remind George to pack his thongs) we checked out the beachfront night markets, stalls of tasty treats and gifts.

As the beach is quite narrow, so close to the Esplanade, and well lit from the street lights, we ventured on to the sand and tested the water. It was the perfect temperature. George discovered what he was sure was a box jellyfish on the sand, but after googling it later back in the hotel room, I was pretty sure it was a normal jellyfish (boxes aren’t usually found south of Gladstone).

Dark: Just dipped our toes in
Not a box jellyfish

Then it was time to head back to our hotel. As we were waiting to cross the Esplanade, a car with four youths (hoodlums, my mum would say) drove past with the windows down and one of them suddenly squawked something unintelligible. It made George jump.

“Well, this has been the wildest night I’ve ever had!” he said. And I reckon he’s right. So far. I pushed thoughts of a future Schoolies week out of my head.

Next time: Part 2 “Saturday Night”

Have you ever had a wild night in Surfer’s Paradise? I did in 1995, looooong after I’d finished high school. I don’t think it was really that wild though. And I never went to Schoolies.

Dinner with a “Day of the Dead” Devotee

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My dinner companion

My sister, Senorita Margarita, has just returned from Mexico and has fallen in love with its cultural traditions. There were no Jennifer Aniston-style antics by the pool in Cabo. No, Margarita’s journey was more spiritual. She did a tour of Mexican villages with middle-aged achaeologist-type people and took part in a traditional Day of the Dead ceremony. The Day of the Dead is a yearly festival where people pray for and commemorate friends and family members who have died.

So when Margarita stumbled upon El Topo, a new Mexican restaurant in Sydney recently, she knew it was the perfect venue to celebrate her birthday, a la Mexicana. Margarita also happened upon a makeup artist at a local makeup store who knew how to do Day of the Dead-style makeup. Margarita’s face was painted to resemble a skull, a symbol of the Day of the Dead.

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Strike a pose Day of the Dead style. Check out the skeleton-back chairs!

El Topo’s decor is colourful and, from the perspective of someone who’s never been to Mexico (except for that four hours in Tiajuana in 1992), very authentic. I walked in there and felt I was escaping to a Mexican holiday destination. Or at least, escaping Westfield. (Yes, it can be accessed from Westfield Bondi Junction).  It has an exceptional outdoor terrace area with a private dining room (where my sister’s party was). There are also cosy booths, each one decorated with different Mexican-style themes, from traditional Day of the Dead skulls, to religious iconography, to pictures of guitar-strumming, movie star-style senoritas.

Cosy booth with traditional decorations

Cosy booth with traditional decorations

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Margarita displayed this poster of Our Lady of Guadalupe

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An El Topo cocktail – hibiscus, lime juice and rose (it was “el Topo”)

The food was unlike no other Mexican I’ve ever had – it was authentically Oaxacan (Wahacan). There was not a Dorito in sight –  yes, it was a Nachos-free zone. While there are fried crickets (the insect) on the menu, there are so many other delicious items for the not-so adventurous diner (that’s me).

Senorita Margarita had told me she’d eaten fried grasshopers in Mexico and crickets were on the menu here. I warned her before we went, “I’m NOT eating grasshopers! But I will try the Mole”, I said, pronouncing it “Moll”.

“And don’t call it Moll!” Margarita warned.

When Senorita Margarita first returned from Mexico, she brought over a bottle of what look like chocolate sauce. “Mole” read the label.  “What’s this Mole?” I asked, pronouncing it “Moll”.

“Mol – ay” she corrected.  Mole is a Mexican sauce containing chocolate, chili and other spices.

“What’s this Mole”? said my dinner table neighbour as she perused the menu, pronouncing it “Moll”. Some people, honestly!

I later tried some of the famous “Mol – ay” from my neighbour’s plate of “Pollo en Mole Negro y Garbanzo” (chicken maryland, mole and chickpea) and we agreed it was like “a party in the mouth”, with about five different flavours at once, like a spicy tomato chocolate sauce. On chicken. Quite amazing.

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Not Mole. Hot stuff though.

I ordered a Quesadilla or “Queso y Flor De Calabaza” which was four folded-over triangles of burrito with a Oaxacan cheese, quinoa, salsa vierge and zuchini flowers. It was delicious,  with the delicate flavours of the zuchini flowers and the salsa. It was tasty, satisfying and at $13 a great price for a meal. Wish I’d photographed the quesadilla, but was too busy eating and talking. But here’s a shot of dessert. Mmmm… donuts.

These donuts were made for dunkin’

The dessert menu is amazing, and I had trouble choosing between the “Flan Roto de Coco con Chocolate y Cajeta” (smashed flan of coconut, single origin Mexican chocolate, hazelnut and goats milk caramel) and the “Bunuelos con Chocolate” (donuts and chocolate sauce). I chose the donuts, and despite my eagerness to dunk the hot, crispy, sugary goodness into the melted Mexican chocolate (which was NOT Mole), I managed to photograph my plate first (because I had to wait for the donuts to cool down).

El Topo is located on the rooftop (level 3) of the Eastern Hotel, 500 Oxford Street, Bondi Junction, and remember, can also be accessed via Westfield!

So, Senorita Margarita, Feliz Cumpleanos! May it be a wonderful year for you.