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The Gold Coast’s newest haven of fine food, art and culture

Tim Baker

The revitalisation of the Currumbin Creek Road industrial area has created a haven of unexpected delights, sandwiched between the Alley and the Valley.

Like the proverbial flower growing through a crack in the pavement, the once grey environs of the Currumbin industrial area have blossomed into a haven of fine food, art and culture.

Alongside the motor mechanics, screen printers, surfboard builders and metal workers you can now discover a boutique brewery, an artisan bakery, gourmet provedore, fine Japanese cuisine, and a slew of café’s offering not just great coffee and food, but art, slam poetry, surfboards and even custom motorbikes.

And talking to the passionate traders of Currumbin Creek Road you get the distinct impression they are just getting started.

The transformation of the industrial area had its beginnings with the opening of Dust Temple, an inspired café and art space, three and a half years ago.

It breathed new life into an ailing old building and has drawn the local creative community out of the woodwork to enjoy its busy roster of art and cultural events. A classic case of “build it and they will come”.

Since then, the neighbourhood has flourished, with the arrival of Zipang Japanese restaurant; Sumptuous Fine Foods – a gourmet deli, caterer and cooking school; Panya artisan bakery; Iron and Resin café, and the Bleach Festival now has its headquarters on the strip.

Perhaps the most spectacular new tenant though is the Balter Brewery, which is flat out keeping up with demand for its range of craft beers.

With high profile partners, and local pro surfers Joel Parkinson, Mick Fanning, Josh Kerr and Bede Durbidge, Balter has made a sizeable splash in the tight-knit community and has benefited many other surrounding businesses.

Sumptuous Fine Foods

Sumptuous Fine Foods’ Leesa Trigger, for example, is taking Balter’s spent grain from the brewing process and turning into a delicious muesli and tasty crackers.

The Balter team regularly hire her to do the catering for their events and she’s creating gourmet pies using their range of craft beers for popular pie nights at the brewery.

“They’re a really nice group of young men who are very respectful. They really look after us all. We do a lot for them, whether it’s lunch or events or someone’s birthday,” says Leesa, who opened Sumptuous Fine Foods two years ago, after a long career in restaurants and catering.

Leesa was drawn to the area as a long-time local who could see its potential.

“It’s changed heaps,” she says.

“I always wanted to use this area because I thought it would change even before Dust Temple opened up, because of the exposure on Currumbin Creek Road.

“It’s close to my house, my children’s school, the beach. I thought it was perfect for me.

“There are so many different sides to Currumbin. I pinch myself with the lifestyle you can have here.”

The sense of community amongst traders has become another feature of the neighbourhood.

“There’s a lot of interesting people who are passionate about what they’re doing and they’re ethical. It’s not chain store stuff, everyone’s doing it with passion,” she says. “There are so many people who are so talented … People have got to get out of their car and go for a walk and have a look.”

Dust Temple

John and Isla Wilson and their five children first moved to the Gold Coast from New Zealand six years ago and opened Dust Temple, an eclectic café, art and performance space three and a half years ago.

From a small rural community of just 300 people, in Northland, on NZ’s North Island, they were intent on creating a similar sense of community in their new home.

“The whole thing for us is, when you move to a new area it’s really hard to get a handle on the culture – Where are the musicians? Where are the story tellers? – so we could get a better understanding of the area,” says Isla.

“The idea is to support arts and culture with an economic model behind it to keep it alive. How do you stay in business and support artists? I think we’re getting there, fine tuning things. Everything’s self-funded,” says John.

Dust Temple’s motto is “fearlessly creative,” and it’s an adage the family proudly lives up to, home schooling five children and exposing them to arts and culture at every opportunity.

“You can’t create culture top down, it has to be bottom up,” says Isla.

“We have art pop up here because there’s a need. It’s rewarding on a personal level, not so much on a financial level,” says John.

A large gallery space, Hinge, showcases the bold work of local artists and slam poetry nights have proven particularly popular, especially with appearances by renowned slam poet Luka Lesson on his recent national tours.

But initially, the driver to create Dust Temple was that John, an architect by training, needed a large work space to pursue his various creative endeavours, which include large scale metal sculptures, which he’s exhibited at the Swell Sculpture Festival. He’s also the creative force behind the striking fit out of another local café, Hendrixx, in Palm Beach.

Dust Temple’s site at 54 Currumbin Creek Road has a rich history, most recently as the home of Byrning Spears, the surfing brand created by popular local surfboard shaper, the late Allan Byrne. John believes there even used to be an illegal boxing ring out the back many moons ago. The couple are passionate about honouring the heritage of the site.

“I loved the building – it’s iconic. We used to drive past it. We’ve kept the architectural integrity, it’s still got its essence,” says John.

“We were really careful about how we did it,” adds Isla, pointing out that they’ve even retained the original number 54 sign on the side of the building.

In other ways, though, the transformation of the space has been dramatic. Whole walls open out as hinged doors rise upwards into awnings. The aesthetic might be described as “industrial steam punk”, with raw metal work, exposed beams and bare concrete offsetting the artwork on display.

There are plans for artisan studios out the back and ambitious visions to enhance the entire area, as a kind of gateway to the hinterland, luring people from the beach to explore all the Gold Coast has to offer.

“We’ve started our own economic development group for Currumbin Creek Road, with all the major stakeholders along the road. It’s self-directed, not waiting for someone else to do it,” says John.

But far from wanting to gentrify the area, John says they are delighted to be neighbours with so many fascinating, small, industrial, work spaces.

“I always acknowledge the industry. You can get tools made, steel work done. We think all this industry should be live and work, with studio apartments upstairs and workshops down stairs. Make it a destination.”

Balter Brewery

It’s been said a region hasn’t truly come of age until it has its own beer, and in that regard Currumbin has definitely reached maturity.

The arrival of Balter Brewery, with a bunch of local surf stars on its management team, has sent a buzz through the Gold Coast and the craft beer world.

“There’s a lot of provenance in craft beer. If you go anywhere in the world it’s a big part of the brewery story,” says Stirling Howland, Balter’s brand director. “We’re really proud to be in Currumbin. It’s really rewarding for us. Community is the greatest thing in the world.”

The brewery was the brainchild of local pro surfer Bede Durbidge, who quickly roped in a few of his pro tour mates – Mick Fanning, Joel Parkinson and Josh Kerr. Stirling had worked in marketing at surfwear label Billabong when he got the call up and jumped at the chance to get on board.

The first order of business was to recruit the best brewer they could find and that quest led them to Scott Hargraves, who has won a swag of awards since he switched from concreter to beer brewer. The title of Aussie home brew champ in 2006 was quickly followed by gold medals with his former employers at the Sunshine Coast Brewery and Stone and Wood in Byron Bay.

“He was highly cynical of us. He didn’t fall over himself just because a few pro surfers were involved,” says Stirling. But Scott was convinced the team were genuine about creating great beer and has since won them two gold awards from the Craft Beer Industry Association for their XPA.

And Balter’s headquarters in Traders Way, just off Currumbin Creek Road, has become a busy, open door hub for those wanting to sample their wares and see how it’s made.

“The opportunity of the building was a big part of it. We wanted to be in a good industrial estate and we wanted to be close to the ocean,” says Stirling.

They’ve been overwhelmed by the response to their small range of craft beers and have quickly had to expand operations to keep up with the demand.

“We’re blown away. We’ve had a pretty rapid growth spurt. We’ve had to order more equipment to expand. It’s never a sure thing until the people decide. We’re bloody stoked that people love our beer so much. We don’t rush anything. We refuse to speed up the process.”

And Stirling believes their location has had a lot to do with that success.

“When we first came here there was an energy happening,” says Stirling. “The Gold Coast has evolved. It’s got an amazing food scene, a really good nightlife scene, it’s a beautiful location, and a great beer drinking climate.

“Where good coffee goes, food and all the other craft scenes follow. The Gold Coast feels really alive right now. I’m really proud that we’re a part of that.”

Mount Woodgee Surfboards Australia

Round the corner in Stewarts Road the long-time headquarters of local surfboard label Mount Woodgee has had its own makeover, with plans to create a social and tourism hub for the surfboard industry.

The Surfboard Workers Club began as a bit of idle banter between mates.

“It actually came from a conversation over a few beers between the guys from Mt Woodgee and Byrning Spears. We’re all really good mates and we were lamenting the fact that we’re all so busy that we never get together often enough for a chat and a few laughs,” says Peter McGuinness, Group CEO of the Surfboard Workers Club.

“Someone said, ‘We should form a club!’, which was met with suitable hilarity… but the seed of the idea was definitely planted.”

The idea has grown into a major renovation of the Mount Woodgee factory and retail space to create a new showroom, with coffee bar, casual dining and display facilities to follow, so that customers can watch surfboard craftspeople plying their trade.

“We’re getting terrific support and advocacy from Council, along with the local and state tourism bodies. Amazing … what started out as a thought bubble between mates has turned into this communal great vibe we’re really looking forward to sharing.”

Mount Woodgee began in a dilapidated old farm house on the nearby hilltop of the same name, within eyeshot of their current premises.

“Mt Woodgee has been in the estate for a long, long time as you know. I reckon we’ve seen more change in the last couple of years than we have in the decades before. Change for the good,” says Peter.

“You’ve got Currumbin Valley five minutes away and Currumbin Alley two minutes away. And for years there’s been this kind of ugly heavy industry in between.

“To see heaps of people actually choosing to come into the area to hang out, rather than to just drive through it, is really cool. We’re humbled to be a part of it.

“Once you’ve seen an aerial shot of how close the estate is to the beach, the estuary, the rainforest and the M1, you don’t have to be a genius to figure out that the future around here is a bright one. Great for the community, great for tourists. And if we get it right, great for local businesses.”

Currumbin RSL has recognised the virtues of what’s happening just up the road from its creek-front location and are actively helping local traders develop a coordinated plan for the area. There are visions for a bike trail through the neighbourhood, with bikes that can be loaned from racks stationed at Currumbin RSL, Dust Temple and Balter Brewery.

“Hopefully we can be part of the group who work collaboratively to create a sustainable community not only through social and environmental enhancement but through creating financially successful business. I think everyone can benefit from working together,” says Currumbin RSL CEO Anne Stoven.

“I think Dust Temple opened people’s eyes to the opportunity and then the arrival of Balter confirmed that Currumbin industrial area had arrived … We are so fortunate to have it all in such a small area, beaches, creek, arts, culture, hinterland and of course a strong community.”