Wildernis Café + Bar captures the Palmie vibe perfectly. This once sleepy suburb, now full of building activity, houses an assortment of eateries, each one, including Wildernis, reflecting a casual Palm Beach style.
Divided into two spaces: a downstairs venue that houses a dining room and the kitchen and, around the corner, an open air upstairs terrace looking out to the sea, Wildernis is the ultimate venue for flexible dining – for coffee, meals and drinks or functions.
Local ‘tradie’ owners Andy Canfield and Josh Bailey enlisted their family and friends to help complete their vision of a twin-venue, light beach-vibe eatery and bar.
“My brother Paul made the timber work,” Andy tells us, “and friends Eden and Adam helped as well.” His pride in the completed project is evident, and why not! It’s a fabulous addition to Palm Beach, bringing beachside into the space.
“We wanted to wow people. If people are paying for a meal, it shouldn’t be about just the meal – it should be about the whole experience,” Josh tells me when we first meet.
Wildernis has always been keen to provide that experience, the café and bar going through several permutations in the last few years, from fine food to tapas to modern Australian café style, now under the experienced hand of Chef Jalal Hormez-Toma.
Three years on, it was the dining out experience we all missed during the COVID lockdown. Doing ‘drive by’ takeaway of food and cocktails, their own local deliveries as well as Uber Eats from the downstairs window, Wildernis’ staff dropped from sixteen to six, with staff numbers building again as restrictions lift.
Like most other businesses who chose to adapt to lockdown conditions (rather than close), quality control of home deliveries and financial strains became pressing concerns, restaurant manager Isaac tells us. Fortunately, Wildernis’ owners could continue in their trades to make ends meet at the café, a backup many other restaurateurs didn’t have.
Coffee, smoothies and juices are on downstairs from 6am, early enough to please tradies and early beach walkers. Upstairs, where we have breakfast, opens at 8am, the early bird’s view over the street to the ocean beyond. There’s a lot of choice on the brekkie menu, from a Nourish Bowl to Blackforest Pancakes, a Brekkie Burger through to the Açai Bowl.
We choose two savoury dishes, The Escobar, full of the goodness of bacon, egg, mozzarella, mushrooms, spinach and hash browns with sweet chilli and aioli is a complete meal wrapped in a tortilla and toasted. Sweet Potato and Kale Fritters introduce Chef Jalal Hormez-Toma’s Middle Eastern influence, the fritter parcels dropped into hot oil, then served with greens, perfectly cooked crispy bacon, tomato relish, feta and half an avocado. Chef Jalal is a wonder in the kitchen, his food on point, fresh, tasty, healthy and well presented.
Wildernis serves great coffee too, Locale’s 143 from Brisbane. A full-bodied, mild acidity blend with notes of caramel, dark chocolate and hazelnut, No. 143 copes well with milk, providing a smooth, balanced finish.
With beer on tap, cider, ginger beer, a constantly changing house cocktail on tap as well as a mid-range trending wine list, it’s easy to enjoy a drink with lunch, a selection of burgers, bao, burritos and bowls, or to chill out on date night as the sun descends, stretching weekends out into lazy decadent days overlooked by a giant eagle.
Catered for from the downstairs Wildernis Cafe, a set of sneaky back stairs link the two parts of the venue.
Our attention is drawn away from the street below to the bar where the taps include beer, cider and mixed drinks, or you can choose a cocktail to suit your mood. It’s a hard decision to make: espresso martini or the weekly house cocktail.
With a relaxing chilled vibe and views to the ocean, this tropical hideaway, complete with its own kitchen bar, is just the place to share plates of food and a few drinks.
One thing’s for sure, having braved and survived three years of customer preferences as well as Covid, this bit of Wildernis is certainly a stayer.
1166 Gold Coast Highway, Palm Beach Ph: 07 5534 5428
Open: Mon – Thurs 8am – 2pm, Fri – Sun 6am – 2pm, 5pm – 10pm.
NOTE: On one occasion, GFGC dined as guests of Wildernis.