Our favourite suburban cafés are heroes at championing the food scene for locals, providing coffee on the run, giving great service, with pricing and dishes suited to the clientele, and even weekend drinks close to home.
Once established, with each change of ownership there’s a little hesitation. What direction will the new owner take? Will we like their coffee? How friendly and efficient is their service?
As locals, they’re the questions we heard fielded when Alkemist opened on the former site of GGs (and Grocer & Grind before that). The former corner store and pharmacy had benefitted from great transformations under previous owners. However, it had also had a somewhat chequered history.
In a quick chat, owner Steve Powell tells us that he had previously co-founded the successful Wolf & I, Windsor in 2012, transforming the heritage Swan Hotel on Chapel Street, Melbourne from a dodgy pub into a modern and classy Scandi-inspired venue loved and well-frequented by locals.
Although he only moved to the Gold Coast with his family in 2018, Powell says he feels like a local already and has spent time finding out what the Gold Coast wants. He soon found the spot that he wanted to transform into his new ‘local venue’: a spacious venue with enough flexibility to be a day/night venue, a central corner location that has proven its pull, a place that’s easy to ‘find and meet’ with reasonable parking around the vicinity.
From there, he took his time. With little to no fanfare or publicity, Alkemist slid stealthily onto the dining scene in mid-2019 relying on the curiosity of local diners and passers by. New to the café scene, Steve Powell proved himself a watcher rather than a talker, taking the time to observe diner behaviour before making major changes to the café: adjusting seating arrangements according to diner preference, addressing heat with outdoor blinds, delineating boundaries with a simple white picket fence, changing some interior design elements from vintage to industrial, installing more foliage and clearer signage – Alkemist (sic), his take of himself perhaps as ‘one who transforms or creates something through the magical process of alchemy’.
Recognising coffee as a cornerstone of café culture, Alkemist is the only Gold Coast café serving the full-bodied complex Dukes Espresso from Dukes Coffee Roasters in Flinders Lane, Melbourne. There’s also single origin and cold brew, the tools of the coffee trade displayed along the edge of the bar as art in situ.
With young chef Sam Nelson as Head Chef, the menu has its own kind of alchemy – interesting modern cuisine that doesn’t push the boundaries too far: Ricotta hotcakes with maple, candied pistachios, mascarpone and strawberry coulis; Coconut porridge with seasonal fruit, granola and Earl Grey syrup; the all-day menu delving into heartier lunch dishes such as gourmet burgers, Crispy skinned salmon with chimichurri on a bed of cheesy polenta, and Wild mushrooms on sourdough being among our favourites. Our meals, on the occasions we’ve dined there, have been excellent and interesting, suiting our family’s diverse needs with vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options available in both the food and drink menus.
From early morning when beach walkers drop in for coffee to quiet business meetings and catchups on weekdays or the busyness of weekend brunches, Alkemist changes its colours as the sun moves through the sky. Café, restaurant, bar and function venue, there is so much potential for Alkemist to be a thriving community hub. As weekend dining, live music sessions and new menu items are trialled, all Alkemist needs to generate interest in its ongoing transformation is a ‘town crier’ (or two) to spread the news.
1/1 Sunshine Blvd, Broadbeach Waters Ph: 07 5664 3320 Open: 6am – 3pm