Mermaid Beach Got Cool While You Weren't Looking

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Behind a nameless white barn door, underneath a giant massage parlour sign, a small izakaya is thumping on a Wednesday night. As I walk towards the back of the narrow restaurant, the timber wall to the right of me curves towards the bar like The Great Wave heading straight for the myriad Japanese whiskies lined up in all their distilled glory. A gnarled tree grows from the centre of the room, while illuminated signs pop from the decoupage wall of Japanese comics and magazine pages above diners’ heads, telling them to “have a nice day”.

It would be hard not to, after a dining experience like this. Etsu Izakaya has been a best-kept secret of Gold Coast locals for three years now, hidden away in a nondescript Mermaid Beach address – once a dining wasteland where Sizzler and putt putt reigned supreme, and at first glance, still do.

But in the past two years, change has been quicker than Ariel’s transformation from mythical fin-tailed beauty to landlubbing songstress and now the suburb is as cool as its name – a name bestowed after explorer John Cutter discovered the nearby Tweed and Brisbane rivers on the HMS Mermaid.

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