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Clifford’s Burners Beckon On The Boulevard

September 7, 2017 Accolades No Comments Email Email

Almost every meal at Clifford’s Grill & Lounge is prepared over a naked flame.

Like a well-set trap, mouth-watering aromas waft from Watermark Hotel & Spa Gold Coast’s signature restaurant to the streets of Surfers Boulevard, luring diners through the door with one burning question that needs to be answered… what’s cooking?

Pasture and grain-fed beef, fresh seafood, vegetables and haloumi cheese are all cooked on a 10 burner iron grill that sits front and centre of the restaurant, giving diners a bird’s eye view of Executive Chef Daniel Smith and his team at work.

Meals to share include 1kg of char-grilled T-bone steak sliced from the bone, free-range charred chicken served whole, a slab of Texan BBQ ribs, super slow-cooked lamb shoulder or whole pink snapper.

Those who prefer to dine solo can choose from artfully presented meals like the smashed veal cutlet, New York stripped steak, warm chicken salad or pumpkin and pesto gnocchi.

The menu caters for tastes that range from holidaymakers who want to try the local seafood to meat lovers who appreciate quality meats sourced from premium Australian producers.

Locals return time and time again to dine on their favourites or sample new offerings from a menu that changes with the seasons.

While diners look on, Mr Smith’s team make heroes of their perfectly prepared produce, and the results are wholesome, hearty and delicious.

“I suppose some people do think grill, I can do that at home … I’ve got my Jumbuck for $150 from Bunnings and that’s all there is to it,” he says.

After 25 years working in some of the world’s finest kitchens, Mr Smith knows better than anyone this is far from true.

“I’ve cooked on stainless steel, charcoal, volcanic and heat beads but nothing like this grill, where a perfect distribution of heat means whatever you throw on it, be it a steak or haloumi cheese, it cooks out consistently to all the corners.

Watermark’s Executive Chef Dan Smith – Cliffords Grill & Lounge

“The grill angles so you catch the juices. The aroma sprays back into the protein.”

Mr Smith oversees all things food at Watermark’s Gold Coast and Brisbane hotels. He came to the role from The Stamford Plaza, Brisbane, and by way of some of the world’s best restaurants like North Queensland’s exclusive Bedarra and Lizard Island resorts, The Oberoi, in Lombok, Indonesia and One and Only resorts in the Maldives, all playgrounds for the rich and famous.

He arrived at Watermark Gold Coast about three years ago to find a concrete slab where the old hotel kitchen had just been demolished. His first jobs were to develop a menu for the hotel’s new signature restaurant and build the kitchen from scratch.

“The brief was to create a sophisticated grill, something that was neither steakhouse, nor fine dining restaurant, but somewhere in between, somewhere where we’d concentrate on perfect produce, cooked well,” said Mr Smith.

The concrete slab has come a long way. Clifford’s kitchen is now the warm and pumping heart of Watermark Gold Coast where meals are prepared alongside food destined for the hotel’s other dining options Waves Buffet, Walrus Social House and in-room service.

“The grill came first and then everything around it. The kitchen you see here was first created in polystyrene blocks so I could move around it as we might work, decide this needs to be bigger or we need more bench space here where we’re making pizza; we won’t be rolling bases with a pin, we’ll be doing them by hand,” he said.

Clifford’s, meanwhile, has found its niche.

Named after world-class 19th century Gold Coast rower Thomas Clifford, its ambience combines both grill house and chic inner-city bar. Vintage Bakelite radios and Singer sewing machines are displayed as works of art in this warehouse-meets-art-deco space.

Diners might start with a drink at Watermark in-house bar Walrus Social House, or finish with a mouth-watering dessert prepared by the on-site pastry team led by Grant Turner. In keeping with the theme of naked flames, the house specialty is Bombe Alaska.

Mr Smith is one of a formidable Watermark team whose members play a pivotal role in the provision of quality food and service, raising the profile of the landmark Surfers hotel, and developing and nurturing a culture of excellence in customer service from the top down.

Over the past 18 months, management has brought a distinctive dash of style and flair to Watermark restaurants and menus, with Deputy Area General Manager Jane Kingston, Director of Operations Paul Stewart and Restaurant Operations Manager Filip Stefanovic, all former members of the management team at Palazzo Versace.

Add Smith’s experience in luxury hotels and resorts in Australia and around the world and it’s easy to see why this team is taking all things Watermark to a new and sophisticated level.

Clifford’s Grill & Lounge has recently been named one of five finalists in the Queensland Hotel Association (QHA) Awards for Excellence. Winners will be announced at a Gala Dinner & Awards Presentation Evening in Brisbane on Wednesday 4 October 2017.

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