Little Cooly pizza pasta bar opened recently, taking a prime position upstairs in The Strand overlooking the golden sands of Coolangatta Beach.
We’re a city of tribal people, each group with its own feel, its own lifestyle and its own favourite spots. The Cooly gang is a casual lot with a beach-centric lifestyle. They know how to enjoy themselves with mates, and they don’t need to splash out a lot of money to have a good time. So, how does Little Cooly fit into the tribe?
Proclaiming itself ‘Little Cooly’, the restaurant is sibling to the ‘Cooly’ (Hotel) downstairs, a popular local drinking spot. That’s a plus, a group that already carries creds with locals wanting to establish a different level of approachable dining upstairs.
It certainly looks the part when we visit, with huge playful cartoon-like murals by local artist Barry Patenaude depicting the beach lifestyle of sunbathing, swimming and boating. Follow and they lead us into the restaurant where those same hands twist spaghetti and eat pizza in a playful casual dining venue looking out to the surf. ‘This is your place,’ the walls tell us.
And so does the food. ‘Simple, tasty and local’ is the catch cry.
From arancini to one dish pasta bakes, handmade pasta to hand-stretched pizza, dishes are made with the best local produce Chef Joel Leader can lay his hands on.
“I’m proud to call the Tweed region home, so we’ve chosen to pay tribute to the area by featuring ingredients such as fresh large Tweed River prawns and Bangalow bacon. You can find these local ingredients in dishes such as our ‘Queenslander’ pizza and ‘The Tweed pasta’,” he tells us.
“Not only local, Little Cooly’s menu also features unique native Australian ingredients, such as Akudjura bush tomato and Australian bush pepper. You can find these ingredients paired with handmade pasta in dishes such as ‘Beach to Bush’ and ‘White Lightning’, just to name a few,” he adds.
It’s the middle of a hot day when we dine, so we skip the pizza, opting instead for a shared arancini, pasta and main. Little Cooly’s serving sizes are generous, we find out, and not for the faint hearted! Be prepared to share so that you make it to home base. We do, and still need to take out.
We sample ‘The Wipeout’ ($25), one of Chef Joel’s favourite dishes, a double serving of fresh, handmade pasta served with succulently fresh sautéed Tweed River prawns, Bangalow pork and spicy chorizo tossed through the house-made Napoli sauce. Double the goodness, it’s a winner to be shared.
The steak, too, is a generous serve, a 100-day grain fed MSA rib fillet from Nolans ($27) finished with red wine jus and served with chips. We add a topper of Tweed River prawns for good measure ($5), making it a decadent delight, juicy, flavoursome and tender.
For dessert, try the Neapolitan super sundae ($15). With its three-flavoured ice cream and gelato loaded up with honeycomb crumble, brownie pieces, blueberries, glazed popcorn, Fruit Tingles, Kit Kat and whipped cream, it’s every child’s birthday delight, that is if they can fit any in after they’ve wiped clean the Nippers’ Menu!
‘And what about price point?’ we hear you ask.
“I want to offer diners a space where they can gather with family and friends, relax and tuck into quality comfort food that doesn’t break the bank,” Chef Joel tells us, and with most pastas $15 and pizza $17, we’d say he’s achieved that.
If you love a wine, then make sure you take a designated driver. Little Cooly boasts one of the most extensive, great quality yet affordable international wine lists on the coast. With a temperature-controlled wine room, wine is backed up by a selection of beer, spirits and cocktails. This is the place to let your hair down, buy a good bottle (or two), and settle in to share it with friends.
Pizza, pasta, bar… With its everyday casual dining vibes, Little Cooly offers locals a place they can feel at home. Whether you want a few appetisers and drinks with the girls, date night, a family celebration or everyday dining, Little Cooly could fit the bill. What’s more, the beloved beach is well within sight for a walk afterwards. Come out and play at Little Cooly!
Little Cooly, Level 1, The Strand at Coolangatta, 72-80 Marine Parade, Coolangatta Ph: 07 5607 4173
Open: Mon – Sun 11.30am – late
NOTE: Good Food Gold Coast dined as a guest of Little Cooly.