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With its sparkling beaches, hot surf spots and theme parks, Australia’s Gold Coast is the country’s most popular tourist destination. But what you may not know is that it’s also a GoldMine of Hare Krishna restaurants. Australia, the prasadam center of the Western World, has an incredible twenty devotee restaurants throughout the nation. And no less than six of those are on the Gold Coast alone – all within a thirty-kilometer radius.
So if you want the biggest and most varied amount of prasadam options, to suit all tastes, budgetsand dietary needs, it might be time to plan a vacation to the Gold Coast.
The most recent, Govinda’s of Coolangatta, opened on May 16thto instant success. Here’s our rundown of them all:
In the early 2000s, the thousand-acre New Govardhana farm in the Tweed Valley, New South Wales was in major financial debt, until temple president Ajita Das had the idea to do prasadam catering at music festivals around the country. The effort not only saved the community – it was so popular that the public began asking when devotees would open a restaurant.
Ten years ago this April, Govinda’s was established in Burleigh Heads, a pleasant beach town. Since then, it’s been New Govardhana’s main source of income, helping the farm care for its 80 cows, develop Krishna conscious schools, and more. Although it’s a small venue, it serves out 500 plates of prasadam daily.
“People would wait for us to open in the morning, and then flood in,” says manager Nitai Chandra Das. “We’d have a line out the door, and fill up until no one else could fit in. So we knew we had to open another one.”
Both the Govinda’s in Burleigh Heads and the new Govinda’s in Coolangatta are located in beautiful coastal towns, at walking distance from the beach, and share the same look and menu. Outside, Lord Jagannath’s smiling face against a green background creates a recognizeable logo. Inside, the décor is simple yet homey, with rustic wood and tile.
Prices are very affordable – comparable to a Subway foot-long – and serving sizes are generous. The main offering is a small, medium, or large combination plate with rice, curry, a special of the day, pakoras, and kofta balls – Govinda’s signature hit. Customers can also order five different salads, lasagna, samosas, filo pastries, housemade drinks like lemon ginger and lassi, and rich cheesecake for dessert.
Govinda’s has a welcoming mood, where people only explore the culture and food at their own disgression – but there is a definite Krishna conscious atmosphere. From a small altar behind the hot display, deities of Gaura Nitai and Jagannath oversee proceedings. Kirtan plays softly in the background, while free small books by Srila Prabhupada such as Perfection of Yoga and Chant and Be Happy sit on every table.
“People read them during their meal, and a lot of people take them home with them,” Nitai Chandra says. “We go through boxes of books.”
Over the years, Govinda’s has become a small phenomenon. People eat there five days a week, and take prasadam home to feed their families. Everyone loves it, from young to old; from famous surfers to health department staff. When devotees are trying to get through red tape with their local council, or snag a good deal on equipment, people are often happy to help as soon as they hear that they work at Govinda’s. The prasadam has even become a pop culture touchstone – “During a meal on the TV show The Bachelorette, they were eating our food!” Nitai Chandra says.
Govinda’s popularity has softened people to Krishna consciousness to the point that many visit the New Govardhana farm, join in when Harinamas pass, or take books from book distributors.
“Govinda’s is cool!” Nitai Chandra smiles.
The Cardamom Pod is also a small franchise of restaurants, started by husband and wife Subhadra Das and Manjumedha Dasi, with two locations in the Gold Coast area. The Broadbeach spot, close to one of the main tourist beaches, is run by Gaura Shakti Dasi and husband Phalguna Krishna Das.
More upmarket and trendy than the traditional Hare Krishna restaurant, the Cardamom Pod caters to athletes, gym junkies, health nuts, and foodies.
The décor is eclectic and colorful, with large windows, different themes at each table, multicolored furniture, straw beach “shacks” and hanging cloth. A large mural of Radha-Govardhana-dhari, the presiding Deities of New Govardhana, covers an entire wall, and the outdoor dining allows you to eat in the sea breeze.
Although the Pod also features a buffet, there is a larger range of healthy, in-vogue dishes, which change each day, and a la carte table service on the weekends. The restaurant is also 99% dairy-free, in contrast to other Hare Krishna eateries.
The menu, designed by Manjumedha Dasi, includes vegan lasagnas and moussaka as well as dairy versions; a variety of world curries such as Thai, Malaysian, and Indian; gratin vegetables; calzones; and Indian and Mediterranean samosas.
For a more refined presentation, specialty items are often used – side salads have Danish carrots, sautéed tofus and tempe, and broccolini. There’s a raw activated nut salad for raw foodists; and a feta-baked pumpkin with pomegranate salad. The Pod also makes its own pastes and sauces: in the popular a la carte weekend breakfast, there’s an avocado burger with cashew hollandaise and rosemary roasted potato wedges. If you’d prefer your breakfast sweet, there’s the famous raw chocolate waffle.
The food presentation at the Pod is also incredible – with your waffle you might get edible flowers, fresh fruit arranged in various shapes, and blue-colored vegan mousse in a mehndi design.
There’s also a whole juice bar with an array of healthy smoothies and herbal teas; while desserts include housemade vegan ice creams, sundaes, cheesecakes, cakes and doughnuts.
“Many people who were skeptical about eating vegetarian come to us and leave feeling fulfilled,” Gaura Shakti says. “And that’s who we want to attract. Some, who have been dining with us for years, became vegetarian, and some of those ended up working in our restaurant! One girl even married a devotee as a result.”
A second Cardamom Pod has opened at the Brickworks Centre in Southport, another beach suburb just five kilometers away, and is run by Pod pioneers Manjumedha Dasi and her husband Subhadra Das.
Even more upmarket than the Broadbeach location, Brickworks is completely a la carte with full table service. The Hamptons style décor is simple and elegant, the prices more expensive and the food gourmet and entirely vegan.
Brickworks’ breakfast menu is similar to that of Broadbeach’s, with an avocado benny; sourdough gourmet toastie with pesto, grilled zucchini and semidried tomatoes; banana and walnut pancakes and double chocolate waffles. Lunch features healthy, trendy dishes like a protein burger with panko crusted tofu; crispy risotto balls served with saffron aioli; and handmade sweet potato ravioli.
There are also the stunningly colorful smoothie bowls, with ingredients like fresh fruit, mango mousse, homemade granola, protein powder and caramel sauce; and desserts like spiced carrot cake and macadamia or pumpkin cheesecake.
The restaurant attracts a wealthier clientele including many food critics. “Every mouthful is delicious and cruelty free,” one customer raved. “And their presentation is one of a kind.”
Also located in Southport, Giri Kana goes back to a simpler more relaxed style, with a warm, homey feel, leaf mural walls and lots of natural light.
“Our emphasis is on fresh and wholesome foods, that are good for the body, as well as the mind and spirit – and to this end, our food is cooked with love and devotion,” the owners say on their website.
Breakfast includes kichari and papadams, tofu scramble with organic sour dough toast, organic pancakes, hash brown potatoes, and acai berry blends with gluten free muesli. Lunch and dinner features a combination plate with wholesome hot dishes and fresh salads with brown rice. There are also veggie burgers, kofta pockets (kofta balls in a pita pocket, a variety of salads, smoothies, juicies and desserts.
Although it’s also called Govinda’s, the Surfers Paradise location is not connected to the New Govardhana-owned franchise. Privately owned by husband and wife Jamal Arjuna Das and Subhangi Dasi, it was in fact the first Hare Krishna restaurant to open on the Gold Coast.
The restaurant’s décor is simple and straightforward. But with an all-you-can-eat vegan buffet for $14.90, including koftas, pakoras, poppadam, veggie curry, rice, dahl, potato bake, pasta bake, six salads, halava and custard, it’s definitely the place to go when you’re starving.
A huge hit with tourists and holiday makers, the restaurant caters free prasadam meals for programs at the ISKCON Surfers Paradise Bhakti Centre – so it’s a great business to support.
According to Gaura Shakti from the Cardamom Pod, prasadam is especially popular in Australia for two main reasons. Firstly, Australians are often very well-traveled, and thus are not scared of exotic flavors. Secondly, they have developed a taste for prasadam over two decades of catering at music festivals – many have grown up with it.
The Gold Coast in particular is a goldmine for prasadam distribution because local temple New Govardhana – where all the restaurant owners come from – started the catering and is uniquely prasadam-focused. In addition the Gold Coast, sometimes called the California of Australia, has beautiful nature spots and great weather all year round, drawing large amounts of potential clients in the form of tourists.
Whatever the reasons, people on the Gold Coast can’t get enough of prasadam. And fortunately, devotees at the six restaurants distributing it all know each other, respect each other and support rather than compete with each other – creating a force to be reckoned with.
“There are many vegan and vegetarian places on the Gold Coast – but the most successful ones are the Hare Krishnas,” says Nitai Chandra. “As far as the proliferation of devotee restaurants, you walk down the street and there are twenty different food places – so why can’t they all be prasadam? We’re not in competition with each other. Some of our restaurants are ten minutes drive from each other, some even five. I think the fact that we can all be here and distribute prasadam, with so much popularity, is pretty amazing.”