UPDATE OCT. 2015: Hard Rock has just added far more vegetarian options to their menu. We especially liked the Quinoa burger with a touch of curry to spice things up, and the Grilled Vegetable and haloumi wrap. Wash it down with a beet, orange and ginger juice and you’ll feel a whole lot better than most rockers do the morning after!
We’ve noticed the towering Gibson guitar as we’ve passed the Hard Rock Café more times than we care to mention. Unbelievably though, it’s our first time ascending the stairs, invited to visit Hard Rock to sample the new ‘Smokehouse’ range, a set of dishes cooked in the traditional Southern style.
It’s been over forty years since the first Hard Rock Café opened, and thirty-five since legendary musician Eric Clapton donated a guitar for restaurant owners Isaac Tigrett and Peter Morton to mark his dining spot, but 70,000 guitars later the café itself has become a part of rock and roll history. There’s a lot of mileage and countries between the redneck Tennessee of Tigrett’s homeland and the business’ present day philosophy.
The Surfers restaurant revolves around a central circular bar, its waiters jiving and pouring beneath a huge globe and the motto: “Love all, Serve all”, everyone welcome, irrespective of age, sex or race. There’s a caring, sharing attitude evident, with a part of the downstairs shop’s profit going to charity, an altruistic streak especially displayed by founder Tigrett.
Love and service it may be, but there’s a hell of a good time going on at the top of the stairs. It’s party central, with groups of friends and families of all ages buzzing with the music.
It’s also rock and roll heaven up here, a bit of Memphis in a museum, the walls plastered with memorabilia of all sorts: framed rock star jackets, guitars, photos, art works and more – a treasure haven to be explored at another quieter time. Huge screens face outwards from the bar so the fans can watch the greats perform. I draw my eyes away from Jimi Hendrix long enough to check out the menu.
We begin with a half serve of Hickory smoked ‘buffalo’ wings, one of the signature dishes and popular 50 cent Happy Hour specials, made the same in every Hard Rock Café worldwide. Smoked in house, they’re smothered in Frank’s Hot Sauce, imported from the U.S. to achieve consistency of flavour. The wings pack an addictive punch, softened only by dipping each wing in goey blue cheese sauce, licked ceremoniously off each finger.
It’s a smoking hot start to the meal, but not as hot as the action in the kitchen, orders being yelled out and dishes lining up on the counter to go. The floor’s abuzz too with 250 covers. It’s a frenetic hands-on experience for staff, even for Steve the Duty Manager who’s running with the best. Rock’s the man, racing past with meals for two. When I spot his bevy of cool badges, I ask for a photo.
“No, no photo. I’ve got starving people out there,” he crows, singing as he floats past us to the terrace, all go go go, his badges glinting. “It’s a beautiful daaaay…” wafts along behind him. He’s a trooper.
We’re chasing the big names, so I order a Hurricane, the original cocktail used in the London restaurant in 1971. At $18, the price is hefty, but when it arrives I can see why! It’s a Mai Tai on steroids, a spectacular huge glass of sunshine-coloured orange, mango and pineapple juice infused with white rum, Bundaberg Vat Select, Disaronna Amaretto and Grenadine. I make its acquaintance, realizing it will be my first and only drink for the evening!
Our mains arrive. They’re U.S. size meals, suitable to end a day in the surf! The Pulled Pork is to die for, hickory marinated then slow cooked for 18 hours, hand pulled off the bone before being doused with more hickory flavoured sauce, all packed into a hamburger bun.
The Main Squeeze’s ribs are outstanding as well! Suddenly we’re sharing! Can’t have meal envy here! Tender and gracious after twelve hours of slow cooking, the ribs obligingly fall off the bone; another OMG experience. It’s hardly worth mentioning that these mains are accompanied by loads of chips, fresh coleslaw and ranch beans – they don’t even get a look in with us. The meat is definitely the main event.
We’ve left enough food untouched to feed the starving, so look through the menu for how to avoid that next time. There’s a duo or trio combo of Bar-B-Que Ribs, Bar-B-Que Chicken and Smoked Pulled Pork with sides for $36.95 (for a duo) or $39.95 for all three meats, which would be great to share.
Somehow, though, under our waitress Zoe’s firm persuasion, we still find room to share a brownie. It’s rich, crumbly and walnutty, a decadent slug of deliciousness topped off with cream and ice cream. Zoe tells us how much she loves working here, and that a good reference from Hard Rock is a passport to the world. Seeing how hard the staff work, it’s not difficult to believe her.
Rock silences the floor. On Table 9 it’s Emma’s birthday. The crowd stops to sing her Happy Birthday, the first of several to follow.
“We’re just one big happy family,” Zoe enthuses. And for tonight, we’ve joined in the Hard Rock family celebration. It’s been an iconic great big rocking road trip!
Cnr Cavill Ave & Surfers Paradise Boulevard, Surfers Paradise Ph: 07 5539 9377 Open daily 10am – 10pm/12midnight Fri – Sat
NOTE: Good Food Gold Coast dined as guests of the Hard Rock Café, Surfers Paradise.