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Tourist In My Own Backyard – Hilton Surfers Paradise & Luke Mangan’s Salt Grill

Just before Christmas I had the opportunity to be a tourist in my own backyard when I was invited* to enjoy the hospitality of Hilton Surfers Paradise and visit Luke Mangan’s Salt Bistro. Quite a few years ago, I stayed in Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast in what was one of the first ever Schoolies Weeks. Several *ahem* years later, not a lot has changed. Sure, the buildings are taller but there are still gaggles of tourists coming to enjoy the white sand beach and rolling surf of Surfers Paradise.

The Hotel
Hilton Surfers Paradise could not be more centrally situated, a hop step and jump from bustling Cavill Avenue. Just under five years old, the hotel is a combination of rooms and self-contained apartments. We were staying in a Sky Residence apartment on the 41st floor with sweeping views over the beach and out towards Southport to the north (confusing I know) and Burleigh Heads to the south.

White sands of Surfers Paradise Beach viewed from the 41st floor

Our residence was well-appointed with all the things you need for a comfortable stay including large beds, a spacious bathroom, crockery, cutlery, a washer and dryer and, as my travel companion pointed out, a vacuum cleaner. That’s one thing I could holiday without. I was pleased to see cotton robes and good quality toiletries. The mandarin body was a delicious way to rinse off the pool chlorine. The residence was remarkably well soundproofed with no noise from the common areas or lifts and the blackout curtains in the bedroom also did their job the next morning. As a frequent business traveller these small details make a huge difference in the quality of a stay and contribute significantly to my decision about return bookings.

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A quick visit to the pool deck in the afternoon revealed two swimming areas, with a large central pool and quieter pool off to one side. The larger pool had seats built into one side so you could enjoy the water without being in the middle of the action. With plenty of deck chairs and seating undercover for sun and shade seekers alike, it was a popular spot with families in the late afternoon.

Tip: Towels can be hard to come by in the pool area so bring a spare from your room, to be on the safe side.

Breakfast was a buffet, taken in Salt Grill. The peak breakfast period on weekends is around 9am so you might want to sneak in a little earlier. There was the usual hot and cold breakfast fare including cereals, bacon and, eggs cooked to order. The buffet is regularly topped up and tidied, meaning a leisurely breakfast is possible without needing to rush for the last waffle. A selection of Asian breakfast items including congee, cold pickles and rice were also on offer. After some fruit, a soothing bowl of miso was just the ticket to restore some electrolytes after an evening of wining and dining. One final cup of coffee on our balcony watching the first surf class of the day on the beach below and it was time to depart and return to the real world of living at sea level.

Tip: With 50+ floors in the hotel, consider checking out 30 minutes earlier if you can to avoid long waits for lifts.

Hilton Surfers Paradise
6 Orchid Avenue
Surfers Paradise  Qld  4217

Salt Grill by Luke Mangan
I don’t think of the Gold Coast when it comes to destination dining. Beaches, yes. Fine Dining, no. So I was a little surprised to learn that Luke Mangan has established a Queensland outpost at Hilton Surfers Paradise. Like his other ventures, Salt Grill focuses on seasonal ingredients. Dishes are simple and elegant with no need to rely on tricks or illusions to impress diners. This is not to say they don’t have interesting techniques or presentation but the key ingredient always holds the starring role.

The dining room is large, seating over 150 people however we were tucked behind the wine room, creating an intimate space to enjoy* a degustation of the best that Salt Grill had to offer. Our menu had seven courses starting with Hiramasa Kingfish Sashimi, ginger, shallot and feta. This is one of Luke’s signature dishes. Delicate slices of fresh kingfish, lightly dressed in vinegar, soy, olive oil and zingy fresh ginger. Just a few small morsels that left the palate cleansed for the meal ahead. What a delight it was.

Luke Mangan's Kingfish Sashimi served with garnish of ginger, shallot and feta

Another dish of Crumbed Buffalo Mozzarella, charred asparagus and truffle oil featured just two simple spears of  asparagus atop a small ball of crumbed mozzarella. When cut, the cheese was soft and chewy without oiliness. A tangy grape chutney provided a contrast to the cheese and asparagus. Wagyu short rib in a sticky chilli jus was tender and incredibly rich. The papaya, peanut and pickled cucumber salad freshened the dish with the perfect spicy citrus dressing that left the lips humming and coming back for more.

Wagyu Sticky Rib & Papaya Salad

Wagyu Sticky Rib & Papaya Salad

Prawn Pancake w Seared Scallop & Lamb Cutlets w Creamed Spinach, Peas & Goat Curd

Prawn Pancake w Seared Scallop & Lamb Cutlets w Creamed Spinach & Goat Curd

After the cheese course, we finished on Assiette dessert tasting plate featuring a deceptively light as air churro, a small but rich peanut, caramel and chocolate ice cream bite and very generous crème brûlée with a pleasing crack when hit with a spoon. A glass of 2008 Sauternes from Bordeaux sealed the deal.

Dessert plate with churro, quenelle of cream and small chocolate bite topped with peanut and edible glitter

Dishes were expertly paired with wines from Australia and further afield. The cleverest pairing was a Barossa Valley 2008 Peter Lehmann Margaret Semillion with the asparagus. With its distinct flavour, this is not an easy ingredient to match but the acidity in the Semillion cut through the creamy mozzarella and complemented the herbaceous asparagus. Service was top notch. Discreet and knowledgeable when questions were posed about wines or meal ingredients.

Two spears of Charred Asparagus & Crumbed Buffalo Mozzarella with a light dressing.

The menu is updated each quarter to reflect the changing seasons though perennial favourites such as the Kingfish are always included.

Tip: Licorice Parfait w Lime Syrup is another Mangan signature dish. Be sure to order it if it’s on the menu.

Though Luke has a number of restaurants and projects that he has put his name to, he is still very much involved in the oversight of them. On the weekend I visited, he was flying in on the Sunday to spend time with the kitchen and do a service with them. Overseas travellers often wonder what typifies Australian cuisine. If I were taking an overseas guest to a restaurant that reflected contemporary Australian cuisine, Salt Grill would be high on the list. Fine Dining on the Gold Coast? Indeed. Simple, fresh and in a perfect location for a visit to the beach afterwards.

Women walking down Cavill Ave in bikinis at Surfers Paradise, Queensland. 1967.

Salt Grill
Hilton Surfers Paradise

Salt Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

*TIFFIN stayed among the clouds on the Gold Coast and enjoyed the delights of Salt Grill as a media guest of Hilton Surfers Paradise and PEPR Publicity. All meals, activities and accommodation were supplied.

9 comments… add one
  • Elizabeth January 12, 2016, 7:11 pm

    Thanks so much Fiona… I was planning on taking mum there for her birthday and now I will definitely go!
    I recently had 4 days in a hotel in Surfers (even though I live only 15 minutes away in Biggera Waters) and it was wonderful to get up and go to the beach everyday, not to be bother with parking and then enjoy various food offerings….
    There is a smashing Tokyo Ramen Noodles house tuck away if your ever in town again! 🙂
    Liz xx

  • sherry from sherrys pickings January 13, 2016, 11:01 am

    yes i am surprised too to see fine dining on the gold coast:) it looks delicious for sure. i agree about hotels; my big thing is to have large bedside tables so i can throw my book and a glass of water and my specs etc over it. and also very bright reading lights over the bed. it is very rare to get anything other than piss weak (oops!) lamps. Believe it or not I take a headlamp with me when i go away!

    • Fiona Ryan January 16, 2016, 7:55 am

      I hear you on the bedside tables and lamps. It’s not hard is it? Thankfully, the Hilton had both (with a view!)

  • Tandy | Lavender and Lime January 13, 2016, 2:00 pm

    What a great review and love the tips you included. Semillon is a great varietal and I shall remember it for asparagus 😀

    • Fiona Ryan January 16, 2016, 7:57 am

      Thanks Tandy. I don’t review too many hotels and night at the Gold Coast for someone from Brisbane is a rarity. So much so that there is actually a dedicated campaign to attracted us to stay a night rather than rushing home!

  • Liz (Good Things) January 29, 2016, 7:15 am

    Great post, Fiona… I’m not a fan of Surfers to be honest, but Luke Mangan’s food looks divine!

    • Fiona Ryan January 31, 2016, 11:39 am

      Surfers is a place of mixed feelings for me as I used to love visiting as a teenager but honestly, it’s not my favourite spot on the Gols Coast. The meal was well worth it though and I would never have thought to visit Surfers for such an amazing meal.

  • Lea August 1, 2016, 6:44 pm

    Hi Tiffinbitesized,
    Thank you for posting your article. I found it really nice the place is elegant and luxurious.
    Keep posting !

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