DRIVING along the Gold Coast Hwy south of Pacific Fair, it would be easy to miss Little Truffle.
The restaurant has an understated frontage on a street packed with businesses doing their best to catch your attention with big signs and flashing neon lights, albeit fleetingly, on one of the Coast's main thoroughfares.
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But understated elegance is obviously Little Truffle's motto. As soon as you step in the doors the buzz of the busy street outside fades away, replaced by an intimate yet relaxed atmosphere.
After I order my drink, off an iPad menu, and peruse the menu it's hard to go past the three-course dinner.
For just under $60 you can sample a variety of dishes, from the rich and smoky quail and risotto to beef cheek with gnocchi, mushrooms and truffle sauce, pork belly with pork "bombs" and "expressions of chocolate and strawberries", which delivers bursts of flavour with each spoonful.
There are plenty of hidden foodie gems like this scattered along the length of the Gold Coast.
Nestled in a former garden centre converted into shops and cafes, Greendays is another oasis from the Coast's hustle and bustle. Located on the corner of Bermuda St and Ashmore Rd in Bundall, Greendays is the brainchild of owner Ai Ling, who transformed the space after it sat vacant for 18 months.
While it's best known as a breakfast spot, Greendays also serves lunch and has started holding after-work drinks to cater for nearby office workers.
I've never particularly associated peas with breakfast, but my smashed peas and poached free range eggs, with beetroot puree, Persian feta and mint on rye, leaves me feeling fresh and ready to spend the day exploring.
If you haven't visited the Gold Coast in a few years, then you may not know the old Surfers Paradise bus depot has been transformed into an "urban village" called The 4217.
At its heart is Brooklyn Depot, the first in a now four-location franchise of restaurants specialising in American fare, including burgers, southern-style barbecue and chicken wings.
The titular Depot Burger is the closest thing I've ever found in Australia to the cheeseburgers I grew up eating in the US. It's the extra effort of sourcing authentic buns, using crispy American-style bacon and perfecting the beef mince that makes the difference.
If you happen to be on the Coast on a Sunday then you're in luck. Every Sunday afternoon, Brooklyn Depot hosts an American-style barbecue cook-out with a menu chock full of southern staples like burnt ends, cornbread and grits.
Fifteen kilometres to the south is another great lunch spot with an innovative concept I'd love to see replicated elsewhere.
The Collective is a family-owned, open-air eatery that houses five mini-restaurants under the one roof, solving that age-old problem of where to go out to eat when everyone in the group wants something different.
This is more than a food court. You can mix and match from any of the five menus specialising in Italian, Mexican, Japanese, American and modern Australian, plus there are vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options.
I grab a pot of Balter XPA (surfer Mick Fanning's beer) and order the lemon myrtle crumbed calamari as I bask in the afternoon sun on the rooftop bar. It's the perfect way to spend an afternoon on the Goldie.
Managing to find room for one more meal during my long weekend escape, I head to Broadbeach eatery BiN 89 for some classic flavours before catching a show during the Bleach Festival. Broadbeach is a hub for entertainment, thanks to the nearby convention centre, Star casino and annual events like the blues and country music festivals.
BiN 89's Moreton Bay bugs and prawn tortellini with lemon burre blanc is a luxurious start to the meal and the mushroom risotto is packed full of flavour (and a good vegetarian option if you're looking for a break from meat like I was).
There's certainly a lot more to the Glitter Strip than late-night pizza and kebabs. You just have to know where to look.
The writer was a guest of QT Gold Coast and restaurants mentioned.
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