The Queensland beachside suburb of Burleigh Heads might not top the list when it comes to destination dining, but that may change when Alex Munoz Labart turns on the lights at Restaurant Labart on 18 July.
While a sea change for the talented young chef might come as a surprise to some – his CV reads like a roll-call of Sydney's finest diners (Est, Marque, Bilson's) – the Gold Coast is not uncharted territory.
"I worked on the Gold Coast during my second year as an apprentice and Karla, my wife, is from the Coast," Munoz Labart says. "For us it's a choice of lifestyle and a chance to bring something new to the area."
In what promises to be another boon for Australia's burgeoning regional dining scene, the husband-and-wife team are looking to keep Restaurant Labart simple in all respects, from the 60-seat dining room's pared-back palette to a compact kitchen team.
"The plan is to have five in the kitchen, with four different sections and another team member on the pass," Munoz Labart says. "I think having a smaller restaurant has the benefit of getting to oversee a lot of things."
Most of the open kitchen was already in place when the couple took over the space, but they've installed two Japanese barbecues, "the idea being that everything gets touched with a bit of fire," the chef says.
To start with, that might be blackened organic baby leeks from Green Cauldron Farm in northern New South Wales accompanied by local spanner crab meat in an emulsified, seaweed-spiked stock of their shells, or a more substantial char-grilled rack of lamb with pickled turnips and a tangy green herb sauce. Smaller dishes include a mussel ceviche with avocado on toasted sourdough from Burleigh Baker – the chef's rendition of a Chilean classic he grew up eating – but the menu will change often.
"There's no real fish market up here or in Brisbane so we are using a seafood supplier run by a family called Northern Rivers Seafood in Ballina," Munoz Labart says. "It will keep us on our toes and keep people coming back because we'll constantly be changing it up."
For now, barbecued king prawns, coated in a shellfish butter with the added pop of finger lime, are one of the smaller dishes on offer; elsewhere, seared mulloway finished with peas, dill and horseradish may seal the deal for hungrier diners.
On the concise wine list designed by Tristan Habeck of Whole Bunch Wines expect minimal intervention drops from near and far, like Tom Shobbrook's skinsy chenin blanc or the SP68 Rosso, a standout blend from Sicilian producer Arianna Occhipinti. When it comes to beers, the script stays craft-focused and super-local with brews from the likes of Black Hops and Balter.
That local lens is also applied to the look and feel of the venue. The fit-out by Gold Coast-based group Open Projects deploys natural tones to evoke what the chef calls a "cosy, Parisian feel: a little bit old-school, but still contemporary". Then there's the tableware, the handiwork of local studio Marloe Marloe, whose plates have graced the tables of Paper Daisy in Cabarita Beach and Sydney's Nel.
"Marloe is someone I just happened to come across while doing my research on local ceramicists up here," Munoz Labart says. "She's done every single plate we have from side plates to dinner plates to ramekins to vases for our flowers – everything is bespoke."
Though not yet open, there's been no shortage of early support for Restaurant Labart.
"I've had numerous calls from restaurateurs offering their help, excited that we're doing this here and not in Byron," the chef says. "The idea is to really put a stamp on Burleigh. We want people to jump over and come visit us."
Sounds like an invitation worth accepting.
Restaurant Labart, 8 West St, Burleigh Heads, Qld, (07) 5576 3498, restaurantlabart.com. Lunch Fri-Sun 12pm-3.30pm; dinner Wed-Sun 6pm-11.30pm.