The thing about Oskars, is that it has been a quality Burleigh institution for such a long time (since 1997, according to its website), that people have started to forget why it became one in the first place. The transient, faddish (it's a word!) nature of the Gold Coast has a tendency to see people chasing after what is new rather than what is good. Being spoiled for choice can be seen as a good thing, however sometime it's important to go back to the roots, the quiet achievers, the places that never go out of style simply because they keep setting the standards. Oskars is one such place. The truth is, it's actually very difficult to find somewhere on the Southern end of the Gold Coast that has the same exquisite combination of location, ambience, service and food quality. Of course, you have to pay for it.
View from Oskars on Burleigh
If, like me, you're one of those people who gets hungry when they're near the ocean, then you'd find that being seated at a table next to a glass wall that literally sits on top of crashing waves is a rather clever money making move by the restaurant owners. Instantly I crave an abundance of local seafood. The seafood chowder doesn't disappoint, being that just-right mix of sweet and creamy, thick and delicately herbed and absolutely chock full of succulent seafood chunks. I nearly cried when it was finished.
With pork and seafood having been the combination du jour for quiet some time, it was hard to go past the idea of combining the chowder with a side dish of maple pork belly bites, an interesting choice for a side dish at any restaurant. Lightly rendered, the crisp fat of the pork was offset by the sweetness of the maple glaze, however a warning: these bites are moreish, and a small plate to share between two feels like not enough as you're eating them, but too much once you're done. Share between three or more.
Zucchini flowers are another fairly common dining out experience these days, however there is nothing ho hum about the ones at Oskars. Large and lightly battered, with juicy stems and delicate petals bursting with a lemon zested goat's cheese, they are a close to perfect example of what this dish is supposed to taste like. Oskars does an interesting flavour and texture trick by adding to the plate a generous garnish of sticky yet hard aniseed toffee and tiny dollops of tomato gel, that when eaten at alternate mouthfuls in varying quantities, provide a surprising and unique experience with every bite.
Perfectly cooked and seasoned scallops couldn't quite make up for the gigantic chunks of salty bacon upon which they were perched. In fact they were quite overwhelmed by it, and we had to leave the bacon to one side. A strange rookie chef mistake, I felt, for such a sophisticated and subtle establishment, yet still, as the last dish, probably not the worst thing in the world to happen as we were exceedingly full. So full, in fact, that we couldn't even manage dessert, an rare occurrence for me when dining out, certainly.
I'll never be able to afford to eat at somewhere like Oskar's on Burleigh on a regular basis. But if I'm celebrating a birthday, a new job, an anniversary or a slight windfall, it will always be one of the first places that pops into my head, because of the surety that comes with knowing you are in safe hands. The staff are professional, attentive without being obsequious and definitely know their food and wine. The atmosphere is clean and elegant, cleverly leaving the rolling blue ocean all along one side of the restaurant as the main decorative statement. The food is always properly cooked, artfully presented and carefully paired with a delicious array of wines. It's a quality experience all around.