With the village-like hub of Chirn Park a rising star in Gold Coast dining, Tonic on Chirn is a tried and true local hero, an establishment where we can recommend food, drink, ambience and service as being equally important and on point.
Walk into Tonic on Chirn, and you could be mistaken for thinking that you are in an upmarket bar in Flinders Lane, Melbourne, a brick-clad laneway retreat off Argyle Street, The Rocks or even on the latest TV set of some funky bar. But no, this is Chirn Park, and Tonic is the place to be!
Originally built by local shopfitters Alex Toomey and Kane McCarthy, present owners Colleen and Shaun Measday have embraced the venue’s heritage, building its sophistication from retro to metro industrial, taking it from invitingly cool and intimate in the daytime to flame-lit and sexy at night.
The range of seating suits many purposes – street gazing, groups, an intimate date or even solo dining at the bar where faces reflect off the vintage pressed metal sheeting on the wall and ceiling. The bar itself is crafted from the recycled timber of the Old Southport Pier, a subtle reminder of the suburb’s heritage.
Wood, metal and concrete render; Tonic is a welcoming rustic cave-like venue, warm and enveloping, appealing to our need to be ‘embraced’.
“We returned to Australia for family and life balance after living corporate lives in Asia for several years, and fell in love with this place,” owner Shaun Measday tells us.
Who wouldn’t! With no hotel in the village heart, this is the people’s ‘tonic’; a fully licensed community meeting place where locals can spend time with friends, attend work functions or birthday gatherings.
Midweek, when share plates are priced at $12 to $14, is a great time for an intimate date night. On weekend evenings, Happy Hour (4 – 6pm) sports $10 cocktails, $6 tap beer and house wine, leading gently into lingering evenings of promise. Live music rounds out the weekend on Sunday evening preparing us for the working week.
Offering a great choice of boutique wines and beer on tap, Tonic does its own take on classic cocktails served in crystal: lychee and elderflower martini, passionfruit cosmopolitan and espresso martini with a twist.
In the back corner of the restaurant, a hidden booth sits below a New York street, fire escape-clad tenements towering along the wall, the perfect place to hold a private party for six to eight.
Beyond that, a full stainless-steel kitchen can be seen behind hand cut and grouted bricks where Head Chef Andrew Buzaglo offers up the food that locals love and return for: tasty Arancini balls, Smoky sweet potato wedges with aioli ($14) – the best we’ve tried, and Grilled scallops with tamari sauce, shallots and pink ginger ($18). Vegan and gluten-free options are clearly marked on the inclusive menu.
On this visit, one of many, we linger with cocktails at lunch, trying heartier items from the new winter menu: Crispy fish tacos with pineapple salsa, lime mayo and slaw ($16), a perfectly cooked crispy-topped Filipino style pork belly with chili jam ($18), and rich Braised beef cheek in sticky honey tamari sauce ($25). Nutella and coconut spring rolls with vanilla bean ice cream complete a delicious meal.
From laid back and casual to buzzy and celebratory, Tonic on Chirn is a great place to ‘Relax, Escape and Enjoy’ the niceties of life with friends. Well-executed tasty food, excellent service and the feeling of being embraced… Tonic has them all. Little wonder that locals have given Tonic on Chirn their stamp of approval, voting with their patronage to make this place their own. It’s a gem!
Shop 1, 37 Musgrave Ave, Chirn Park Ph: 07 5532 2201
NOTE: This is an updated version of a review first published in 2012. On one occasion, Good Food Gold Coast dined as guests of Tonic on Chirn.