A vision statement, total designer concept including furniture and styling, piped music…
You may think we’re talking about a very expensive specialist medical centre or even a private school but no, welcome to The Wattle Hotel. Intrigued, we accepted the invitation to dine at The Wattle as guests.
Recently purchased by the Redcape Property Group, Australia’s largest independent hotel group with 26 pubs plus associated liquor outlets under their belt, The Wattle is their first hotel in Queensland’s south-east corner.
The Group’s website details their philosophy of property acquisition and management:
“Our venues are positioned at the heart of their local communities. We provide a friendly and safe atmosphere to meet and interact. Our Venue Managers create an environment that is in tune with their local communities.” (Redcape)
Following a complete makeover in concept and venue, it’s obvious that no expense has been spared in making The Wattle ‘The Heart of Coomera’. By all accounts, The Wattle is also Redcape’s showpiece.
Marketed to ‘mum, the family and friends’, The Wattle is true to its audience. In subdued taupe/khaki colours with fresh lime green accents, it’s a fresh, sophisticated yet comfortable space, ideally suited to a family outing.
“Something for mum, the family and friends, The Wattle offers all-day dining experiences in café, al fresco and dining room settings.” (Redcape)
Mothers’ groups meet during the morning, taking advantage of the children’s play area to grab some quiet time at the café for a chat. With over $150,000 invested in the play area (open 10am – 9.30pm), it’s money well spent! There’s always a staff member on hand to check on safety, but supervision remains the parents’ responsibility.
The emphasis on a ‘family hotel’ is obvious. The new Sports Bar (with its huge projection screen and its own bar menu) and Gaming/TAB area (with free tea and coffee, soft drinks and food) are accessed through separate entrances, tucked discreetly away from the dining areas. There are even designated pram parks just outside the restaurant door and a viewing room adjacent to the play area. Dwell a while, supervise the kids and use the free wifi to do some work…lots of different scenarios can work here, all family friendly! As the slogan on the screen says, ‘Families that eat together…’
Care and attention extends to the menu as well. All members of the family are catered for in a healthy and [where possible] locally-sourced menu:
Aromatic, house-made, farm quality, grass-fed, natural…the Wordle decal above the café shouts home the message reiterated in the website: “Our cooks source quality, local-produce and cook it to perfection to deliver a substantial foodies and kids menu.”
In a menu featuring house-smoked salmon and ham (smoked every second day using Canadian applewood chips in a smoker out the back), grass (and grain) fed beef from the Darling Downs, RSPCA-approved chicken, bush tucker spices, bread made locally to order and lettuce sourced from a farm a suburb away, gluten-free options are obvious and every menu component, from sauces to batters, is made in the hotel kitchen.
There are five Kid Menu choices, all of them praise-worthy: Chicken skewers with rice, Spaghetti bolognaise, as well as the Wattle box (GF mini muffins, sandwiches, fruit and fresh vegie sticks). The Cracker Box with fresh vegetable sticks, rice crackers, a sweet treat and seasonal fruit (8.5) is the ultimate in a GF, vegetarian, healthy kids’ delight.
To emphasise its authenticity, a self-watering green wall is situated beside the open kitchen. It’s a neat designer feature which gives a clear message: ‘We grow some of the food you’re eating, we do our best to give you fresh food, and we want you to know it!’
Besides being an educator, Chef Jonathon Wood is a veteran in the Hospitality industry, his diverse experience including P & O cruises, the niche market of Hamilton Island and setting up cafés for new owners. He was won over by the Wattle’s attempt to bring healthy food to the suburban heartland.
“We aren’t reinventing the wheel with the menu,” Jonathan says. “Our approach is simple and honest: take the dishes we know people love, and make them the very best they can be, using fresh, quality ingredients…My top picks are the tiger prawn linguine or the house smoked salmon salad.”
We order from the Dinner menu: entrées of Crispy tempura prawns with sweet chilli mayo (12), Salt and pepper calamari with house-blended native pepper spices (11.5), Seared barra with zesty pickled red cabbage slaw, macadamia and tomato chipotle relish (26) and Black Angus 400g rib eye on the bone (36.5) as mains. The rib eye, the most expensive item on the menu, is succulently tender, the fish less startling, but the accompanying salad is fresh and delicious, the macadamias a touch of luxury.
Most mains fall in the $17 – $25 range, wine $7 – $9.50 a glass and cocktails $9 – $13, prices similar to a suburban restaurant. However, the facilities at The Wattle as well as its real attempt to make healthy food available to the whole family set it apart.
“The new Wattle Hotel will become the heart of Coomera and a real destination for great food in the region. Safe, comfortable and impressive, The Wattle is the authentic food, drinks and recreation venue for the local community.” (Redcape)
They’re big claims, big goals, but in the affordable family heartland of Coomera where the TV aerials stretch towards Brisbane, it’s to The Wattle’s advantage that apart from fast food chains, there are few dining options available. It’s a burgeoning suburb with healthy mortgages, so value for money also plays a key role in food choices.
While we may like to see all seafood sourced from Australasia and all meat grass fed, The Wattle has taken a huge step in the right direction in its local sourcing and delivery of fresh healthy food to Gold Coast families. It’s the changing front of hotel dining, investing heavily in its customers, making a judgement that the Gold Coast cares about its health and will spend that little bit extra to eat well.
“…Success in restaurants is not about business models but passion and incessant attention to customers. It’s not about what the latest cool dish is, it’s being attuned to your customers, figuring out a model your customers want and you can afford…businesses that really know their customers, really keep them happy.” (Cornell, 2013)
And there’s a lot to be happy about at The Wattle!
Corner Reserve Road & Brygon Creek Drive, Upper Coomera
Ph: 07 5500 0700
Cornell A 2013, ‘Turning the tables: how restaurants make money’, Australian Financial Review, 22 February, Accessed 19 October 2014, http://www.afr.com/p/lifestyle/afrmagazine/turning_the_tables_how_restaurants_LN8BWzExVJbf2liPY6VYMN
Redcape Hotel Group 2014, About us, Accessed 11 November 2014, www.redcape.com.au
NOTE: Good Food Gold Coast dined as guests of The Wattle Hotel.