Kirra, Coolangatta and Tweed Heads

Sunday 18 May 2014

Mandala Organic Arts Café

Pizza Lovers Fly to Venice at Mermaid Beach

"The moon shines bright: in such a night as this, When the sweet wind did gently kiss the trees, And they did make no noise, in such a night as this…"
Shakespeare’s swooning Lorenzo may have found much poetic inspiration in the outdoor setting of the Mandala Arts Café under the May full moon on a crisp mid-autumn night. The fairy-lit garden, swirling tendrils of the passionfruit vine, and the warm woodsy smell of pizza wafting over that chill sweet wind is enough to bring out the romantic ardour in all but the most jaded lover.  
We’re not in fair Belmont, but at Mermaid Beach on Australia’s Gold Coast. The olfactory senses are being gently teased and the anticipation barometer is set to “high”.  And when the pizza makes its entrance, at the perfect moment, in all its mouthwatering aromatic glory, the senses are peaked and tastebuds whetted in delicious expectation.
We’ve ordered the Authentic Pesto and the Thai pizza from a menu that offers 11 choices (small $16 and large $26). Both are good but the pesto slices (topped with cashew nut and basil pesto, roasted zucchini, broccoli florets, sun-dried tomatoes, caramelized Spanish onion and kalamata olives) are disappearing more quickly. Who will have the last piece? Politeness prevails and it lingers longer than it ought.
The Margarita inspires further ardour; a classic smattering of tomato, basil and olives atop a garlic and coconut-buttered napoli base, complete with freshly plucked leafy greens and nut cheese. I make plans to return, if only to try the Creamy Mushroom. But then there’s the Rustic Pumpkin, Sun Rocket, Potato and Caper, Satay, and the Mandala Supreme, amongst others, to anguish over.
With some application of willpower, you might ignore the tantalizing aromas from the pizza oven and try another of the main meal offerings: the Eggplant & Quinoa Moussaka ($22), the Mandala Veggie Burger ($18) and the Feijoada Vegana ($20) all sound wholesomely sublime. Or from the raw menu, the Raw Pad Thai ($18) might well entice you. Or the Ocean Salad ($18) – with its kelp noodles, raw cashew nut and basil pesto, broccoli florets, fresh mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes and olives topped with edible flowers and super-fresh leafy greens – might tempt you across the shore.
It’s hard to imagine a dessert that trumps a triple chocolate cake but the cheesecake we order from the changing menu does just that and is consumed with a haste that leaves no time for the creamy white scoops of the locally-made Cocoluscious vanilla ice-cream to melt.
Everything here is vegan (100% free of animal products). It’s all organic and all locally sourced. And most of it is gluten-free. “Our garden is your garden, our kitchen is your kitchen! Make yourselves at home!” says the website. That sweet licorice basil growing so profusely in the permaculture garden is looking very take-home tempting. I ponder the open invite. Should I ask first?  I hesitate and decide it’s meant to be enjoyed on the scene.
We’ve come on a Tuesday night and this large bustling artsy space is humming. Are there really that many vegans on the Gold Coast? Perhaps “awesome” fresh organic food has universal appeal and the many charms of this community-spirited, live music, art gallery, Arts Café are attractive to food lovers of all persuasions.
The clock strikes 8pm. The moon is at 98% fullness. We wander inside. “In such a night as this, who shall pay the bill?”  “In such a night as this, it shall be the one who is the more beautiful and cleverer of the two”.  Thus the bill is paid and into the starry evening the fair friends do depart.
Address: 4/2558 Gold Coast Hwy Mermaid Beach, Gold Coast 4218 Australia  
Phone: (07) 5679 1762
Hours: Dinner: 7 nights (5pm-9pm), Lunch: Tue - Sun (11am-3pm)
In a nutshell:  A gourmet pizza lover’s dream.

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25 Jul 14

The Kimberley of Cabarita

Sounds absolutely delightful. What a heart felt, enticing review. I shall have to unfurl the fairy wings and fly up there. Ta Rah !