Stephanie Holmes eats her way around the Sunshine Coast and is left with a good taste in her mouth.
Mooloolaba Surf Club
There's no better place to start a Sunshine Coast holiday than with lunch at Mooloolaba Surf Club's Boathouse Restaurant. There's been a club on this site since 1822 and its place in the community has grown over the years - now it's a popular spot for locals and visitors alike. With a large open deck looking out to the soft golden sands and the coastal pathway, it's a great spot for people watching while you dig into some of the Coast's freshest produce. It's open from 7am every day so you could easily stay for breakfast, lunch and dinner - take turns to bags the table, while the rest of you pop down for a quick dip. The seafood is exceptional - we tried huge, succulent oysters; sand crab and zucchini fritters; calamari; barramundi; salmon; giant, plump Mooloolaba king prawns; and fish and chips - all of which left me ready for an action-packed, sun-drenched weekend in this beachside paradise.
Asian fusion restaurants seem to be 10 a penny, but there's nothing tired about Spice Bar. The decor combines industrial with rich opulence and some quirky touches, such as steamer baskets fashioned into light fixtures that cast a flattering light over the always-bustling space. The open kitchen is a whirl of activity and the degustation menu exceptional. Those impressive Mooloolaba prawns were on the menu again, this time atop a delicate betel leaf with chilli and tamarind. Other highlights included Fraser Coast spanner crab wontons, Hervey Bay scallops with soy ginger sabayon served on the shell, and octopus with celery, pear, and five spice mayo. The surprising flavour combinations and delicacy of every dish meant even after five courses comprising two small plates each, I felt freshly satisfied, not full to bursting.
Driving past Aromas, my transfer driver remarks on how all the outdoor seating is lined up, facing away from the restaurant and out to the street. "Why you'd want to sit in a line like that beats me," he harumphs. He's obviously never been to a Paris pavement cafe and experienced the joy of eating a leisurely meal while watching the world go by. It's this very Parisian concept, and the local produce-packed menu, that makes Aromas a top spot to linger longer over brunch. Starting with a cold-pressed juice, I make my way through two coffees, a breakfast of thickly sliced juicy red tomato, creamy avocado and huge cubes of salty feta on fresh sourdough drizzled in balsamic oil, while reading the Sunday paper. The world passes by, back and forth, as another sundrenched Noosa day gets underway. Paris, eat your heart out.
Noosa Beach House
Sri Lankan Australian chef Peter Kuruvita moved to the Coast from Sydney a few years ago. While he's left big city life behind him, he's sacrificing nothing when it comes to the quality of food at Noosa Beach House, a joint venture with Sofitel Noosa, where he is executive chef. This contemporary chic bar and restaurant on Hastings St feels like a hub for the well-heeled and fashionable - the bar is open all day for more casual dining and cocktails; the restaurant is fine dining at its best. The decor is beautifully understated with clean lines, an open kitchen and glass wall looking down to the bar and out on to the street. Kuruvita creates a regularly changing Sri Lankan-influenced menu, strongly focused on seafood and fresh regional produce. The Sri Lankan snapper curry with tamarind, aloo chop and steamed rice - one of Kuruvita's signature dishes - is not to be missed; but you really won't go wrong with anything you order. It's all incredible and the service is exemplary.
Thomas Corner Eatery
After a morning stand-up paddleboarding on the Noosa River, I was absolutely starving - trust me, it's hard work hauling yourself back on your board every time you fall in. Thomas Corner Eatery helped fill the gap and with a sunny Hamptons-esque deck and views back to the river, the place will have you instantly in a relaxed holiday mood. The menu makes the most of the excellent local produce. We ordered the kingfish ceviche with Fraser Island crab, and smoked fish with witlof, labne, apple and pancetta crumbs. Fresh, flavourful ... full marks.
On Hastings St, and a sister to Aromas, Locale is a popular upmarket Italian eatery. It has an opulent dining room, a covered outdoor area for dining alfresco and a bar for casual drinks and snacks so you're covered, whenever your tummy rumbles. My decadent meal of buffalo mozzarella burrata with prosciutto and basil, then Mooloolaba prawn and squid ink taglioni with calamari and a prawn crumb, topped off with a cinnamon brulee with rhubarb and pears, was the perfect end to a perfect long weekend on the Sunshine Coast - a foodie paradise just a hop, skip and a jump from New Zealand.
Air New Zealand flies non-stop from Auckland and Christchurch to Brisbane, and connections are available from all around New Zealand and with partner airline Virgin Australia on non-stop flights every week from Wellington, Dunedin and Queenstown. One-way Seat fares start from $259.