On our arrival in the Gold Coast from North QLD, it is a little embarrassing to admit that we had never before stepped foot in an organic vegetarian restaurant or cafe - or even knew that they existed! Being vegetarian or vegan in a place with a population of less than 200,000 people can be very challenging, however the Mandala Organic Arts Cafe in Mermaid Waters, the Gold Coast, was a life-changing experience for us. It was our very first introduction to the possibility of gorgeous, decadent foods that were vegetarian or vegan, and that were readily and easily available in a convenient (and breathtaking) location.
If you have never been to Mandala you are seriously in for a treat. Swathed in rugs and carpets that are reminiscent of Byron Bay, it feels more like you are walking into somebody's living room than into a restaurant. There are a wide array of big, comfortable couches to relax in, with bright paintings on the walls and low lighting. To the front of the cafe there is a stage filled with musical equipment and the promise of wonderful, ambient nights spent relaxing and listening to the bands that frequent here weekly. There is a beautiful outside area, with bushes of organic herbs and a small play area for children to delight in.
With the outdoor area and play equipment for young children, our toddler was very happy playing at the Mandala cafe and the staff were more than happy to accomodate her. There are only one or two toilets available and they are located outside the back door, past the kitchen (in case you get lost and can't find them) and the gorgeous paintings kept our teens engaged for a long while.
As an on-and-off vegetarian/vegan for many years I was absolutely delighted to discover vegan cream, vegan mayonnaise AND vegan ice cream! On our first trip to Mandala we ordered chips with mayonnaise, which I promptly ran home to attempt to replicate for my husband (it couldn't be that difficult, could it?!) with less than promising results! Spicy and tart at the same time the mayonnaise was definitely a highlight and something that we ordered many times on subsequent visits.
Being dairy- sensitive, my daughter and I fell instantly in love with the rich and creamy, dairy free iced chocolate drink, with vegan cream and organic vegan coconut ice cream. It was so big that we were easily able to share between the two of us - and we were so excited to be able to drink a milkshake without milk in it that we raved all over facebook about it for days!
There were many menu items that we wanted to try but were unable to fit in on our last few visits, including the gourmet 'cheese' plate and unique vegan pizza's, however the raw slices have been consistently amazing and never disappoint. If you are near Mermaid Beach, do yourself a favour and try a vegan dessert with coconut ice cream and cream - you won't regret it!