The Rusty Barrel opened in Varsity Lakes in time to usher in 2020, its ready audience not only Bond University, but also in the suburb’s fast-growing business hub and medium density housing area yearning for a greater range of night-time venues in the area.
“Looking around for a place to start my first business, I realised that there was a gap in the market at Varsity Lakes for something like this,” says owner Billy Crean. “I wanted to build a place that was funky and energetic yet classy enough to appeal to a cross-section of people,” he says.
‘We’re all mad here’ the neon sign quotes from Alice in Wonderland, its quirky energy reinforced by a playful mural on the wall. ‘Don’t take life too seriously’, we’re reminded.
In an open venue spilling out to a garden-edged alfresco area seating 70, there’s plenty of room for fun and frivolity, acoustic music on Saturday nights and lots of weekday specials to entice diners to stop awhile.
Whiskey barrels provide decoration and there’s a full bar along one side of the venue, drawing our attention. The Rusty Barrel offers fine whiskies, spirits, beer and wine with an emphasis on the innovative cocktail menu designed by Jesse Chan (ex-Lucky Bao) using everything from house-made syrups to native cassia. I’m sold on ‘The Chilli Jam’ with its bite of house-made chilli tequila, agave, grapefruit and lime packing a punch of heat and flavour, but given a great occasion you might also be tempted to try one of the great whiskies on offer, such a Macallan 18 year old single malt or an aged Johnnie Walker & Son XR 21 year old scotch.
With Executive Chef Leigh Sanders guiding the kitchen (Cradle Mt. Lodge, Hayman Island, Seabelle at Kingfisher Bay Resort), his extensive impressive experience is evident in the classy menu.
Yes, this is a bar, but due to its dual nature, the menu offers a great collection of share-style tapas plates, and an equally full loading of ‘dude food’ burgers and sliders, all with a twist.
The tapas offers lots of choice, from a Rusty Charcutie board to fresh seafood, such as Oysters au naturel or Buttermilk deep fried oysters with house-made truffle aioli (highly recommended), as well as a delicious Sesame seared tuna with yuzu. Char Sui and cherry pork belly bites can follow along with a plant-based poutine or the Maple bacon and provolone cheese-loaded fat boy fries.
Sourcing all their fresh ingredients from local farmers’ markets, the burgers are also laden with goodness. Vegans are catered for with a plant-based cheeseburger, there’s a classic Mac Daddy & Maple, a Hipster ‘el’ Tuna Burger, a Brisket ragu burger and BBQ Peri Peri Chicken Burger. My favourite so far is the decadent Croissant burger with buttermilk chicken and house-made truffle aioli, everything we love about France in the one dish!
There’s the opportunity to ‘choose your own burger adventure’ with the ‘Stack it up’ option on any burger purchase, giving a choice of 15 additions.
The ultimate decadent burger is the whopping Canadian maple burger stack: a 200g beef patty, cheese, onion rings and maple chilli jam stacked between two doughnuts, with buttermilk fried chicken on top and a jug of maple syrup to pour over the lot. Yep, you read correctly. This is a 7-course meal on a plate, entrée, main and dessert in one!
There’s something for everyone at The Rusty Barrel and, according to your choices you can dine and drink according to your budget as indulgently as you wish. This is a great addition to the Varsity dining scene.
The Rusty Barrel, Shop 11/228 Varsity Parade, Varsity Lakes Ph: 07 5562 2837
Open: Wed until Sun 11.30am – late
NOTE: Specials include: Wednesday $10 Burger with any drink purchase, 5pm – 10pm; Thursday $5 Taco night 5pm – 10pm; Friday Ladies night Tapas & Cocktail package $20 Limit one per person. 5pm – 10pm
Good Food Gold Coast dined as a guest of The Rusty Barrel.