Seafood has long been a part of the diet of coastal nations the world over. Yet, for our 57-kilometre stretch of coastline, we have relatively few seafood restaurants overlooking water, even less who champion our own sustainable produce above all else.
Drawing inspiration from the pristine seafood caught off the Australian coastline, Gods of the Sea recently reopened in its new venue on the northern face of Marina Mirage overlooking the marina and featuring an all-Australian food and beverage menu.
The restaurant’s co-owners, Warren Lucas and Jon Nurminen not only come from different cultures, but they also represent different historical sea journeys to their Main Beach establishment.
One of Warren Lucas’s forebears was Johan Meyer, one of the Gold Coast’s first European entrepreneurs. Meyer migrated to Australia from Germany in 1854 on the Aurora, only to be shipwrecked on Moreton Island. Undeterred, he bought 80 acres of land spanning from what is now Main Beach to Surfers Paradise, developed a cane farm and sugar mill before branching out into tourism. In 1887 he established a coach service from Brisbane, linking it to Meyer’s Ferry to transport visitors across the river to his newly established Main Beach Hotel and post office, ‘Elston’.
Over 130 years later, Johan Meyer’s descendant, Warren Lucas, would return from developing and managing restaurants in Thailand and Brisbane to co-found Gods of the Sea at Main Beach, close to the site of his ancestor’s hotel.
Co-owner and Executive Chef Jon Nurminen brings both his Finnish cultural background and his passion for Finnish culinary techniques to the mix, applying them to Australian seafood.
“I grew up about 30km from Helsinki,” Jon tells us. “In Finland, we have deep water fish, not as many varieties as we have in Australia. We use many different techniques such as drying, pickling, ageing, curing and smoking by necessity to preserve our fish.”
Emigrating from Finland in 2014, Jon worked with Philip Johnson at E’cco Bistro in Brisbane, honing his knowledge of Australian seafood at The Fish House, advancing to Head Chef before the restaurant’s closure. While working there, Jon built strong relationships with local artisan producers, growers and fishermen, connections he uses to great advantage at Gods of the Sea.
Approaching Gods of the Sea, ancient fishing prints remind us of the universality of seafood in our diet, our dependence on the ‘gods of the sea’ for fish to accompany our daily bread.
On entry, we pass the drying room, a nod to Jon’s homeland, where fish is dried with lye to provide food during the long winter. The restaurant carries Nordic colours, scandi-look wood floor and mist-coloured walls, a mere tinge of foreboding.
Yet the light is pouring in. Floor to ceiling glass opens to the Broadwater, once a fishing area for the Yugambeh people, represented in intricate artwork by local artist Goompi Ugerabah. Now it’s a marina replete with multimillion dollar yachts, the Hopo Gold Coast ferry pulling up alongside.
When we dine at Gods of the Sea beneath Goompi’s ‘Oyster Shells’, gathering storm clouds remind us of the perils of sea journeys as we embark on our own multicultural journey on a plate: Modern Australian cuisine drawing on ancient Finnish techniques and Australian native foods to bring exciting flavours and textures to dishes in this modern dining room.
In an ambitious yet rewarding menu, it is as though all the cultural forces come together, resulting in a banquet of fine cuisine. They are paired with wines from the restaurant’s wine list featuring minimal intervention, organic and biodynamic wines from boutique up-and-coming Australian producers.
Our first dish is oysters, grown in the Tweed River before being purged in the pristine waters of South Stradbroke Island, perfectly paired with the delicious Thousand Candles ‘Gathering Field’ Sauvignon Blanc. It’s a stunning sauvignon with subtle pear and tropical fruit notes made from grapes handpicked from sustainably farmed Yarra Valley vines, just one of hand-chosen several wines we try as pairings.
Next Chef Jon works his magic on a fillet of Petuna ocean trout, pickling it then torching it with native berry and spice dust, finishing with smoked oil foam and ocean trout roe. Each mouthful is a tapestry of complex flavours, the trout firmer from the pickling, wafting smoky aromas, the luxe roe exploding with silky oiliness in the mouth. What a dish!
After seeking out the best seafood the sea gods can offer, we dine on king prawns from Mooloolaba and seared scallops from the Abrolhos Islands, one of Western Australia’s unique marine areas.
And so the dishes roll out, a mix of fine technique and simplicity used to great effect, letting the sea’s produce speak for itself. Swordfish is simply grilled then placed on a bed of braised leeks and caramelised red onion cooked in chicken fat butter for a tasty finish.
We finish with a trio of artisan cheese, accompanied by the deliciously moody Guroo Syrah from Kangaroo Island, made by the 2021 Young Gun of Wine, Charlotte Dalton, a wine described by Winefront as ‘Animale…Silky…Feels of a wild place.’
For food lovers, the sophisticated yet coastal casual Gods of the Sea is perfect date night territory. It is a place to experience classic international-style cuisine. It’s not showy or overt, far from it. Instead, each dish is layered with flavours and textures from centuries old ingredients and time-consuming techniques. There are no shortcuts, no let downs, no disappointments. Royalty could be sitting beside us, and our attention would have been undivided, focussed solely on each mouthful of a sumptuous banquet.
Seek out Gods of the Sea, savour each mouthful, enjoy the experience, then plan to return.
Gods of the Sea, Shop 16, Marina Mirage, 74 Seaworld Drive, Main Beach Ph: 0452 652 215 Open: Tues – Sun 12:00pm – 3pm, 5:30pm – 9:30pm
NOTE: Good Food Gold Coast dined as guests of Gods of the Sea.