The little enclave of shops in Brooke Avenue, Chirn Park has become quite a foodie haven. With plenty of parking around, it’s a popular lunch spot, yet there’s been a sizeable turnover of cafes during the past couple of years. The longest-running cafe there is Meraki Whole Food Kitchen, dating back to 2016.
Meraki’s founding principles are written in its name. Founder Evelyn Ellis named the café ‘Meraki’ from the Greek verb ‘to do something with soul, creativity, or love’, working with her family and Nicole Joy to create a menu based on raw, gluten-free whole food.
Three years on, a trio of new owners took over Meraki late in 2019. All seasoned hospitality workers, they have brought to their first restaurant the passion we saw in Meraki’s beginnings, the owners pouring their enthusiasm into the client interface.
The food scene has changed a great deal since Meraki started and, in keeping with that, Meraki’s menu has evolved. It’s now a ‘soulfood’ menu, retaining lots of vegan and gluten-free options, but firmly geared towards mainstream diners with its tasty produce-driven food and service that’s well above average.
We’re greeted by owner Sunil ‘Sunny’ Jangra, his face a welcoming beacon. True to form, he’s darting about serving customers, making recommendations and telling us about the house-branded single origin organic Colombian he delivers to our table. It’s ‘Jungle Bean’ and it packs a firm chocolatey punch.
We also meet Chef Greg Bailey, who has recently taken over the kitchen.
Of course, we order Sunny’s favourite dish! Full of goodness, our Moroccan Chicken Salad includes a medley of brown rice, quinoa and chick peas with smoky spiced chicken breast, roasted cauliflower and asparagus with avocado and rocket, finished off with roasted seeds and zoodles, luxe ingredients such as pomegranate seeds and cranberries drizzled with a tahini dressing. This is my dish of the month, a ‘destination’ dish that turns heads as it is delivered to the table, a dish that stands out in memory as a perfect complementary combination of flavours, a dish to come back to, for lunch or a weekend dinner (yes, it’s on that menu too)!
Plated up, dishes are generous, good value (breakfast and lunch under $20, dinner under $30) and shareable enough to avoid the ‘meal envy’ that will certainly follow.
Açai bowls carry the layered goodness of fresh fruit, nuts and coconut; burgers are packed with the flavour of a real Angus beef patty, bacon, caramelized onion and house-made chipotle slaw and greens on a sweet vegan brioche bun, the side of lattice fries a crispy delight topped off with smoky sea salt and a smear of charcoal black sesame-laced labneh.
This is also the place for gluten-free baking: faultlessly moist doorstop slices of GF banana bread and muffins walk out the door by the tray; fluffy Banana-Date Pancakes are topped with strawberries and caramelized banana, crunchy grain-free granola and seasonal fruit topped with beams of light cinnamon Coyo ice cream and a moreish date caramel sauce. They’re the lightest GF pancakes we’ve eaten.
Besides the extensive men, there’s a cabinet of food to go, with raw treats, muffins, protein balls and cakes all made in house.
Early in 2021, Sunil decided to open Meraki for weekend dining with a small menu of favourites accompanied by cocktails, beer and wine, from the sour fizz of a Dirty Bucha cocktail to a Pinot Gris. We dine outside in the balmy summer air, the quiet veranda a great place for an intimate dinner date.
From the kitchen come entrees and platters to share – a great option if you want a light meal for two or four.
We loved our meals: perfectly cooked Teriyaki salmon with Asian vegetables for me, and Steak with mushroom sauce and sweet potato wedges for him. Despite the short menu, it’s no trouble for us to make a choice. It’s worth considering as well that the meals are at club prices, a consideration for many, yet with table service in a small intimate environment.
Southport does not have a lot of dining options if you want mainstream Australian fare, let alone at a keen price point. That’s where Meraki fits in.
Meraki asks us to “Come with us on a journey of good food, good company in a great environment.”
Meraki provides great wholesome food (with a touch of naughty if you choose) that everyone can enjoy with great service to match, all in a casual environment. It takes passion, soul and creativity to achieve this. You’ve got to love that!
NOTE: Meraki is open for group bookings. Discuss your needs with the owners. Meraki is fully licensed.
Good Food Gold Coast dined as guests of Meraki.
1/ 55 Brooke Ave, Chirn Park Ph: 07 5503 0340
Open: Mon – Sun 6.30am – 2pm; Dinner Fri, Sat from 5.30pm – 8.30pm.