This could blow your hat off

The Courier-Mail - QWeekend - - ESCAPE - LEISA SCOTT

What an evening it would be if all the in­spi­ra­tions for the cock­tail list at this Gold Coast ho­tel’s funky bar and grill sud­denly ap­peared in a haze of ab­sinthe. Hold on to your hats and turn off your po­lit­i­cally cor­rect Geiger counter. Here comes “God”, aka Keith Wil­liams, the tough-talk­ing de­vel­oper go­ing gooeyeyed at his beloved dogs as he sips a spiced rum and black­berry mar­malade-in­fused Black Schnau­zer. Paula Stafford is prop­ping up the bar in a bikini, drink­ing a Stafford’s Punch, while the leath­ery-skinned Al Baldwin downs a cou­ple of Spray Tan Mans – a cheeky almond-in­fused Bac­ardi with fresh mint, lime juice and Grand Marnier.

There’s the cham­pagne and co­conut Kitty’s Fizz, named af­ter the bor­dello of the 1800s, and a Bom­bay Rock, the blend of white rum, crème de ca­cao and co­gnac ca­pa­ble of blow­ing your head off in as metaphor­i­cal a way as INXS, Divinyls and the Ra­di­a­tors blew the roof off of the clas­sic Gold Coast rock venue in the ’80s.

As you sit at Clif­ford’s Grill & Lounge, rem­i­nisc­ing, there’s no deny­ing how much the Coast has changed. On the doorstep of the Water­mark Ho­tel is a ter­mi­nal for the rev­o­lu­tion­ary light rail that runs from South­port to Broad­beach. In front of that is Q1, with its the SkyPoint Ob­ser­va­tion Deck on Level 77 to take in the panorama.

The Water­mark, too, has un­der­gone a trans­for­ma­tion with the high-ceilinged, open-air dining re­vamp at street level a per­fect place for peo­ple-watch­ing. And eat­ing. Try the beef cheeks with roasted gar­lic sko­rdalia and the sea bass slid­ers.

When the last Wanda 74 (named af­ter the cy­clone of that year which bru­talised the coast) is sucked dry, we wan­der through the Wal­rus So­cial House, a chic bar area with eclec­tic fur­nish­ings that has live mu­sic on week­ends when it’s open un­til 2am. Then it’s back to our deluxe ex­ec­u­tive room ( left) on the 20th floor, with king bed, bathrobes and slip­pers, pay TV, movies and free wi-fi, but no bal­cony. It’s also fairly sound­proof. Af­ter an af­ter­noon kip, we awake to see sod­den streets and hoard­ings ly­ing on the road. A storm has whipped through the coastal strip but we’ve slum­bered through, obliv­i­ous. The cock­tails prob­a­bly helped.

The next day, we clear our heads with an early dip in the Pa­cific, just a short walk from the ho­tel. Tense mus­cles are ex­pertly teased out back at the ho­tel’s L’Aqua Spa be­fore head­ing to one of two pools in the com­plex to in­dulge in a spa bath.

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