BSKT Cafe, fuelling the food revolution

BSKT Cafe has been on our radar for a while now, so on a sunny Sunday, that just happened to be our 16th year anniversary, we decided to take a Sunday drive, with the top down, to Nobby’s Beach for lunch.

The first thing that caught my attention was the cow illustration on the wall and then after finding a lovely corner window table, reading the explanation for how the name Nobby’s Beach came to be.

According to their website, BSKT Café was founded on the beliefs of early Egyptians and Romans who used biscuits as their option for sustenance and good health on long journeys. After reading the menu you quickly realise that good health, innovation and quality of food is integral to this business.

The menu is exciting and as per usual I struggled with a decision so we ordered an apple, berry, mint juice and an apple, orange, ginger and mint juice (both $7) to start.

DSC03527The menu is broken up into breakfast, smaller and larger plates and each item has icons to help you choose wisely.

Al ordered the BSKT burger, ground Angus beef, wholemeal bun, beetroot relish, tomato, spinach, goats cheese and grilled leg ham with fries and aioli ($20). This dish looked amazing and apparently tasted as good as it looked.

DSC03535I went with the Cypriot sandwich, roasted mushroom, kale pesto, charred red pepper, haloumi, caramelised onion with tomato chilli jam on quinoa toast and served with veggie chips ($16). I loved this dish. So tasty and satisfying. The quinoa toast was particularly delicious.

DSC03540Other dishes that caught my eye were; healthy Quesadilla with goats cheese, chia seeds, pepitas, garlic confit, shallots and sesame seeds on toasted flat bread ($13), seared wild tuna with coconut, fresh basil, cashews, smoked mackerel and quinoa salad ($26), green Goji salad with kale, spinach, rocket, pear, asparagus, shaved parmesan and apple cider vinaigrette ($16), 18 hr sticky pork with fresh chilli, shredded raw veggies and sour herb salad ($26), slow braised rack of ribs with house slaw and chefs condiments ($24).

DSC03539We finished with an organic piccolo and a serve of coconut sorbet ($5). Definitely one of the most flavoursome sorbets I’ve had in a long while.

DSC03542BSKT service was friendly and despite being a busy Sunday, we were well looked after and served quickly. The website says they want to ‘create an army of healthy, productive, creative and inspired humans’ and that’s just how we felt after our anniversary lunch. We’ll definitely venture back to BSKT, most likely to try the ‘house nights’ 3 course, Fri or Sat night dinner which includes a glass of wine for $45 per person.

DSC03547Ph: 07 5526 6565
4 Lavarack Rd, Mermaid Beach, Gold Coast
Open: 7am – 4pm Mon to Thurs, 7am – 10pm Fri to Sat, Sun 7am – 5pm.

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Mandala organic vegetarian cafe

The Mandala website says ‘We invite you to come and make yourselves at home’ and that’s exactly how Al and I felt once we were seated in our comfy sofa chairs, complete with coffee table, that would later become our dining table, soft lighting and live (three piece alternative groove) band.

The space and decor is retro, share-house, op shop, hippy chic and on this busy Saturday night attracted a diverse crowd including Gold Coast party girls fueling up before a big night out, a large family birthday celebration, families with young children enjoying the live music and couples sharing a romantic meal. The staff are super friendly and the vibe (sorry, it just seems to be the right word to use here) is happy and relaxed, you just can’t help smile.

Our friends, Miss G and D are regulars so we were happy to be guided by them when ordering. We started with a dip platter ($16). A trio of dips served with raw veggie sticks, spelt flat bread and corn chips. They were all tasty but the olive dip was delicious. I loved the rustic presentation, it invited you to tuck in.

DSC02268This was quickly followed by the creamy mushroom pizza (small $16, large $26) which consisted of sautéed tamari mushroom and herb pate base, leafy greens, roasted zucchini, mushrooms, sweet corn, caramelise Spanish onion, kalamata olives, nut cheese, cashew nut sour cream and fresh herbs.

DSC02270The pizza choices are brilliant and can also be made with a gluten free base. So many unusual flavour combinations. I’d be very keen to try the rustic pumpkin with house-made napoli base, leafy greens, cinnamon roasted pumpkin, eggplant, toasted walnuts, caramelized spanish onion, kalamata olives, nut cheese and fresh herbs or the potato & caper with garlic and coconut buttered napoli base, leafy greens, rosemary roasted potatoes, capers, charred red capsicum, nut cheese, cashew nut sour cream and spring onion.

Next to arrive was the Mandala stir-fry ($19). Crispy veggies, stir fried in fresh ginger, garlic, lemon grass and coriander with tamari-marinated tempeh and brown rice, topped with sesame seeds, snow pea sprouts and a lemon wedge. This dish was a complete surprise, packed with flavour and healthy goodness.

DSC02278The Nachos ($17) arrived topped with red kidney bean chilli, spicy raw Mexican salsa, fresh guacamole, nut cheese and fresh herbs with a swirl of cashew nut sour cream. You really couldn’t fault the flavours and Al said he didn’t miss the meat at all!

DSC02280DSC02279When I return I’m definitely having the Feijoada Vegana (Brazilian beans) ($20). A traditional dish of Brazilian black beans slow cooked in paprika and cumin with celery, pumpkin, sweet potato, chilli and fresh coriander with a side of sautéed kale and a toasted quinoa and brown rice farofa.

Mandala does not have a wine list but you can bring your own with a $4 per person corkage. To go with our healthy meal with enjoyed a sweet and spicy McLaren Vale Shiraz.

DSC02267The drinks list is small and unique including Kombucha on tap ($6). A detoxifying and energising tonic, Kombucha is a powerful probiotic beverage known for its various health befefits. Young coconut water ($5) and Lemon Chilli ($6), organic lemons, lemon myrtle, lemon grass and organic raw sugar, freshly homemade, an old-fashioned lemonade. Also available is a wide variety of herbal teas ($4), Chai Latté and  Maté Latté ($5). There is also a range of smoothies with the lunch menu.

I was definitely keen to try a raw super-food dessert cake ($7). The menu described them as hand-crafted deliciousness made with the finest of organic raw ingredients. Made in varying combinations of cacao, cacao butter, coconut oil, goji berries, blue berries, coconut, cashew nuts, agave, almonds, mint, stevia leaf. Flavour choices were pineapple and citrus, chocolate or berry. We went with chocolate and berry but I’ll happily make a special trip to the Gold Coast just to try the pineapple citrus!

More like a mousse cake, the chocolate was rich but not overly sweet. It was very easy to eat and very enjoyable. The berry was lovely and light with a hint of lemon.

DSC02282DSC02284We also tried the 3 scoop ice-cream chocolate sunday ($9). Locally-made cocolucious, diary-free ice-cream, it was smooth and creamy and left everyone with a smile of their face.

DSC02281I was so pleasantly surprised by our visit to Mandala. The atmosphere was relaxed, the service efficient and friendly, the food healthy and full of flavour. What more could you ask? I look forward to a return visit.

Mandala Organic Arts Cafe is located at 4/2558 Gold Coast Hwy, Mermaid Beach, approximately 300 meters south of Pacific Fair Shopping Centre.

Dinner: 7 nights (5pm-9pm)

Lunch: Tue – Sun (11am-3pm)

Bookings: 07 5679 1762

Red Rock Bar & Grill

A Sunday lunch with our friends B & M saw us dining at Red Rock Bar & Grill located at the Hope Island Shopping Centre on the way to Sanctuary Cove. My only expectation was that the coffee was going to be first-rate due to Al’s association with barista Timothy Sweet, who is passionate, professional and very particular about the coffee (Toby’s Estate) he serves his dining guests.

Although Red Rock does offer light meals and a decent breakfast menu, this venue is not a cafe but a fully fledged restaurant with an interesting menu, a decent wine list and a great selection of cocktails.

For starters Al ordered Oysters Kilpatrick which were plump and very fresh and were served just how they should be with a decent amount of topping and a wedge of lemon. My salad of toasted walnuts and pancetta was a meal in itself. Beautiful flavours with feta, spanish onion and orange segments with a congac seeded mustard dressing. I loved this dish, it was light, fresh and tasty.

Oysters KilpatrickSalad of walnuts and pancetta

For mains Al went with crispy skinned Ocean Trout, pan fried and served with an avocado and fresh crab meat tian, sweet potato chips and pilaf rice ($32). Not a single complaint and nothing left on the plate, I’d say this was successful. For my main I chose another entree dish of braised beef cheeks with parsnip puree and caponata of eggplant, zucchini, capsicum and Sicilian olives ($22). This was everything it should be. Tender, rich with jus and a creamy puree, it was perfection on this cool winter Sunday.

Ocean TroutBeef cheeksHighlight of the afternoon was a special dessert based around a coffee from Costa Rica that Timothy is currently experimenting with. Timothy, knowing that we are mad coffee lovers designed this dessert to bring out the caramel flavours in this gorgeous syphon coffee. I believe we were the first customers to have the pleasure of trying this dessert designed by Timothy and the Red Rock team but I’m pretty sure it’ll be hitting the menu anytime soon. It’s an absolute must try dessert, but leave room as it is rich and once you start, it’s very hard to stop. A mouthful of brulee followed by a sip of coffee was sublime. I think I’ll call it caramel Costa Rica creme brulee! Enough said, I think the photos say it all!

Costa Rica syphon coffee

If you happen to find yourself heading to the coast or Sanctuary Cove, then Red Rock is a great alternative to the usual Tedder Avenue, Main Beach restaurants. It has a warm atmosphere, the staff are friendly and efficient and you are guaranteed to get a cracker cup of coffee at the end of your meal.

Red Rock Bar & Grill

Hope Island Shopping Centre

Santa Barbara Drive

Open every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner, except Monday.

Lake Cafe

How do people feel about fruit in salads? Some combinations are classic; pear, rocket and blue cheese or Waldorf salad with crunchy apples but what about berries?

Recently some girlfriends and I had lunch at Lake Cafe & Bar at Varsity Lakes. It was a pleasant setting on a warm day but it was too breezy to sit on the deck overlooking the lake, so we choose a spot inside next to the large windows and the large white garden pot complete with tree. The Lake menu is also large including breakfast which is available all day.

The reason I ask about fruit in salads is because my choice was called the Summer Salad and it was huge. Grilled chicken, avocado, asparagus, tomatoes and snow peas sat on a bed of mixed salad leaves, rockmelon, strawberries, blueberries and cottage cheese. Such an unusual combination. I didn’t dislike it and individually everything was fresh but did all the different flavours work together, the jury is still out for me.

Soon to be mum M had her favourite on the menu, corn and zucchini fritters with bacon and tomato and pumpkin relish. This really did look delish (I had a tiny bit of food envy). Other choices at our table included the Margarita pizza (topping was tasty but the base was a little too thick to be really crispy) and the turkey and avocado with cranberry panini.

Of course, we all had to finish with dessert. The trio of sorbet (chocolate, lemon and raspberry) was silky and lip-smackingly good. The mango crepes, another huge serve, were light and filled to the brim with fresh mango slices. The creme brulee was rich but certainly not the best I’ve had and the mango panacotta with creme anglaise and blueberries was a lovely finish to a satisfying meal.

Lake Cafe and Bar won’t blow your socks off but it’s honest food for a reasonable cost. The wine list is not large but almost everything is available by the glass. Coffee is by Merlo.

If you happen to be in Varsity Lakes on a sunny day, it’s well worth a visit. If you prefer your berries in a fruit salad, then stay clear of the Summer Salad.

Lake Cafe & Bar

235 Varsity Parade, Varsity Lakes

www.varsitylake.com.au