Last weekend, I was graced with a short visit by my friend Doc from Melbourne. He told me he was going to Hong Kong on business for an indeterminate period. We celebrated and caught up over lunch.
I had a couple of places in mind but ended up settling for South Bank Surf Club. I've wanted to go there since it first opened. I remembered a day that seems forever ago... Mochi and I tried to have breakfast there before a uni lecture but we were too early and they were closed, so we went to Piaf instead.
On this occasion, it was well into midday (somewhere between noon and 1pm) and South Bank Surf Club was buzzing with activity. I was over the moon with my choice of location because that Saturday show-cased Brisbane weather at its finest. It was a beautiful, mild and sunny day. Just the right temperature for sitting outside, eating, drinking and chatting with friends. In other words, perfect South Bank weather.
South Bank Surf Club is Ben O'Donoghue's contribution to Brisbane dining. The restaurant is expansive and features a large open deck at the front with a narrow back deck area, which is where we were seated.
The menu has undergone some changes recently, but since this was my first visit, that meant nothing to me. The dishes on offer are my idea of jazzed up, classy pub food with a focus on seafood. Think seafood platters, steaks, sandwiches and bread starters.
What excited me the most was the beverage menu. There were a list of cocktails and another list of 'bubble tea cocktails'. I asked our waiter if that meant they were non-alcoholic mocktails. He explained that they were still alcoholic but served in little plastic cups, like Asian bubble tea containers. Booze made cute. Intriguing.
Surf Club pina colada
I ordered a pina colada to start with. It was only midday but I had been out in town drinking the night before and was intending to do so again later, so I figured I'd keep the liver enzymes hard at work to maintain productivity. The pina colada was delicious. It was so refreshing and not overly sweet or creamy, like many others out there.
Surf Club seafood chowder - with sourdough
Doc wanted a light meal, so he chose the seafood chowder. Damn. That's what I wanted too. I had read somewhere that the seafood chowder at South Bank Surf Club is one of their signature dishes. I tasted a bit and felt severe dish envy. It was so tasty. The chowder contained an abundance of seafood and was intensely flavorsome with a light garnish of fresh herbs and olive oil.
BBQ Gold Coast tiger prawns - with chili jam, coconut cream and Asian herbs
My own pick with the BBQ'd tiger prawns with chili jam. The prawns were large and the sauce reminded me of Singapore chili crab sauce but lacked the full complexity so it more so ressembled sweet chili sauce from a bottle. It was still finger-licking tasty though. Unfortunately, and I realize this may be my own personal problem, I couldn't eat much of the dish. I don't eat prawn heads... and I don't eat prawn tails. The bit that was left in between was miniscule. I didn't mind this dish but it wasn't enough to satisfy me. Maybe someone who devours whole prawns would get more out of this.
Salt and pepper calamari - with rocket salad, fresh lime and chili mayonnaise
We also ordered a salt and pepper calamari to share. These were tender morsels of squid, lightly battered and fried. Overall, they were quite tasty but I think the batter could have been a tad crunchier. The actual squid was perfectly cooked though and they were lovely and fresh without the foul fishy smell/taste you get from squid that's been lying around too long before frying.
Bubble tea cocktail
Doc and I finished our meals in very different styles. He ordered a coffee because he's a fast-paced business man who requires energy to make important decisions. I ordered another cocktail because I'm a lady of leisure (I used accidentally typed lazy of leisure, which would be gramatically incorrect but somehow still accurate). My second choice of 'adult beverage' was a bubble tea cocktail with green tea, zen and lemonade.
I was a very happy camper by the end of this meal. South Bank Surf Club exceeded my expectations for sure. I admit to thinking that a celebrity chef restaurant would be built on hype but the food was honest and fresh. I need to go back to order some of that seafood chowder for myself. The cocktails are fabulous and the whole place has a fantastic atmosphere for relaxing and hanging out with friends. It really fits the whole South Bank vibe. It's a thumbs up from me.