There’s something special about heritage places, especially when they’ve been reborn. It’s as though those who’ve gone before have trod the floorboards, breathed the air and imbued into the building a sense of place.
There’s all that and more at The Island.
The original five-level tower, built in 1964 by Greg Graham and Bill Reichelt, was the first Travelodge in Australia, part of the Quality Inns Group who had built the city’s first motel, the El Dorado, in 1954. Renamed The Islander in 1992, the iconic Miami-style hotel was an icon; one of the few high rise in existence at that time and, with the exception of Kinkabool, one of the few remaining.
Mayor Tom Tate’s father, Warwick Tate, bought the hotel around 2002. In its heyday, the hotel was an entertainment playground, hosting Silverchair and Grinspoon, with the penthouse a functions and events venue. However, after Schoolies began in the 1970s, it gained new fame, and sometimes notoriety.
“I like to say it is like a boomerang hotel or a bit like the Eagles Song ‘Hotel California’, because you can check out any time you like but you can never leave,” Tom Tate is quoted as saying of the hotel he bought from his father in 2011.
Just 400 metres from one of the most famous beaches in Australia, The Bickle family saw the venue’s potential, the appeal of Surfers Paradise with its moderate temperatures, long hours of sunshine and expansive beach unchanged. Having transformed Fortitude Valley into the entertainment precinct it is today, the family’s Katarzyna Group purchased the hotel in 2015, its transformation into The Island Boutique Hotel unveiled in 2017.
With its ‘relaxed, luxe beach house vibe’, “The Island is all about enjoying the good things in life, like eating, drinking and relaxing with family & friends, while staying in a stunning boutique hotel which has everything you look for on a holiday to the Gold Coast,” the hotel’s website boasts.
What a transformation it is! The formerly shabby pink building in the priceless location is almost unrecognisable, the interior completely rejuvenated into a sophisticated boutique hotel with luxurious generous-sized rooms, marble bar and tiles and lush greenery. The venue presents patrons with a range of entertainment areas, bars and dining areas – a pool bar, kids’ games room, discreet gaming room and, most of all, a spacious rooftop bar.
It’s this bar that is the crowning glory of the hotel to this point. It’s the place to catch up on a sneaky cocktail or three, enjoying live music as you look out across the later, taller additions to the Surfers Paradise skyline framing glimpses of the ocean beyond.
Serviced from the expansive kitchen downstairs, it’s the place to spend a lazy weekend afternoon or a late-night session, the perfect laidback destination, Gold Coast style.
The venue’s food is overseen up by Anthony Fullerton (ex-Executive Chef of the Regatta Hotel, QPAC and Hotel Realm), Group Executive Chef of the Katarzyna Group.
Using many of the dishes he’s established as favourites on the menu at Cloudland, the main menu is divided into Condividede (To Share), Della Terra (From the Land), Dal Mare (From the Sea) and Pizza, Pasta & Riso.
The new Italian-inspired menu reflects Fullerton’s “passion for food and wine, the appreciation for unadulterated foods, sourcing ingredients from farmers and producers…Each ingredient has its own role on the plate and palate,” he tells us, “which contributes to the overall seduction of the senses.”
At the Island Bistro, with its Italian methodology and impeccable sourcing, our senses are seduced. The produce speaks for itself.
Pan-fried kingfish, so lightly handled, wallows in a bed of mussels, clams, cuttlefish and saffron, bedded down on discs of garlic potatoes. A robust Eye fillet, sous vide until tender then flash finished on the grill is one of the best steaks we’ve enjoyed in some time, classically presented with a mushroom herb gratin and sautéed spinach.
Biodynamic, heirloom, dry-aged, slow-baked – they’re all present on this menu, the heritage of ingredients impeccable. Dairy is from Barambah Organics and Pepe Saya, jams from Cuttaway Creek and lamb from Milly Hill, a small free-range farm in NSW.
“We’ve tried to source ingredients locally, or the best we can find,” Fullerton tells us. “We work with small and artisan producers and farmers. Brasserie Bread provide our bread, made from single origin flour. Smallgoods are from the Prince family in WA. Your eye fillet is Thousand Guineas beef, Shorthorn from Bonneville, where they can trace the genetics of each cow.”
Many other dishes are made in the sprawling Italian kitchen with its own wood-fired own and next level appliances: Olive bread is made in house, as is fresh pappardelle, linguine and fettuccine. Pizza, racing from the oven in 90 second Napolitano style, comes topped with San Marzano tomatoes and fior di latte.
Yet there’s nothing overworked here, nothing too fancy, just classics to be appreciated with a touch of modernity.
Much like the hotel itself, really.
“We have such a colourful, rich history. We can’t hide from that. Everyone has a memory of The Islander,” The Island’s Danielle Barber tells us.
Perhaps, but some of those memories may be best forgotten! We may choose to reference The Islander, certainly, but not pay homage. The Island, classy venue that it is, will create its own memories, its own stories, its own mystique.
If only those who went before could see it now…
3128 Surfers Paradise Boulevard, Surfers Paradise Ph: 07 5538 8000
Open daily 7am – 10pm
NOTE: Historic photo used under Creative Commons license. On one occasion, Good Food Gold Coast dined as guests of the venue. This review has also been published in Blank GC.