Sometimes dreams don’t work out exactly how you plan them…they’re even better!
At least that’s how it turned out with the little plate…
Workmates Gaynor, Olivia and Nicole dreamed of owning a tapas restaurant where people could share food, enjoy good service and top flavours. They shared a common vision and complementary skills, but when one venue option dried up, their ‘share plate’ philosophy adapted to a new formula: fine casual dining in a boutique setting where the flavours of the world could be shared by those around the table.
So began the little plate…
Gaynor’s experience as a classically trained, world-travelled chef is evident in the innovative menu. While at first glance, some menu items sound familiar, the little plate presents ‘old’ dishes in a new way. The typewriter font logo is your first hint: there’s a retro old-come-new take here on world food. As you journey through food from Morocco to Singapore, from Canada to Spain, expect the unexpected!
Dishes familiar to you by name are translated into the little plate version, cooked from scratch using quality meat and produce. This means sourcing the best ingredients (such as Hāpuku, a highly-rated deep sea fish from New Zealand, or fresh plump barramundi wings), taking time to painstakingly prepare and slow cook dishes, with no amount of preparation being too much to get an authentic meal onto the plate. Even the sauces, such as the BBQ chilli sauce, are made from scratch. It’s definitely ‘the road less travelled’ route to the table.
So tortillas ain’t just tortillas, ma’am! They’re Blue tortillas, a staple of the Hopi people of New Mexico, made using a hot water blue corn meal dough. They make sweeter, nuttier tortillas than yellow corn, with a lower GI and higher protein content. Filled with jalapeno-spiced fall apart pulled pork, guacamole and coriander, they’re a tasty treat. Ah, the memories of a Sedona sunset come flooding back!
The Cypriot lamb-loaded pide, packed with the authentic flavours of the Middle East and topped with tsaziki and salad, is served on a rustic wooden board. It could be a meal for one, but it’s also great to share. Many of the dishes on the two menus, we notice, are available in two sizes.
Diners at a nearby table ask, “How many dishes do we need to order?” It’s a fair call, and our waitress Alanah gives us the pointer to start slowly, ordering more as needed.
Looking through the menu, there’s not just world street food, but also evidence of ‘dude food’, a feminised version, in some cases: Not Croque Monsieur but Croque Madam, with a fried egg on top; Sliders (or dare we say ‘burgettes’) made with beef brisket, caramelised onion and grilled cheese; Nachos topped with five-hour cooked melt-in-your-mouth beef and chilli black bean – a ‘dudette’ home-cooked version of classic street food.
The Main Squeeze indulges in a ‘pie’ for lunch; not your typical pie, but a Red wine marinated eye fillet, portabello and lamb kidney pie, the rich meat mixture topped by a pastry lid. Served with baby carrots, peas and buttery mashed potato, it’s the sort of meal needed to bite through a cold winter day. Oh so scrumptious, if only Mum had cooked like this! (Sorry, Mum!)
‘Was it a risk opening a restaurant coming into winter when things are slow?” I asked Gaynor.
“There’s a lot going on in Burleigh right now, so it was important to get both the pricing and point of difference right. Sharing’s the key. We want to bring the ‘social’ back into dining, so people can share, chat, and be flexible in their dining. It’s also about putting the hug back into the plate.”
And you can really feel the love – in the décor, in the food, and in the service! Don’t be fooled by the restaurant’s name; there’s no ‘meanness’ about this food, in size or quality! For ‘little’ plates, read ‘medium sized’ or even ‘large’, generously made, packed with flavour. The food delivers! And so does the cheerful service!
There’s a small, well-chosen and well-priced beer, wine and cider list. It includes two local boutique Aardvark & Arrow beers on tap ($4 per tall glass), and even a celiac-friendly beer! The restaurant’s also BYO wine only at $2 per head corkage.
The only ‘little plate’, in our books, is the bill at the end. With meals ranging from $9 to $25, and most well under $20, this is one of the best value authentic dining experiences around.
“Dad always said, ‘Don’t go in for the big kill. Take little steps. Little bits add up,’” quotes Gaynor…and all the ‘little bits’ of the little plate add up to a pretty impressive package!
the little plate’s tucked away in a side street off the Lower Burleigh Highway, a quiet suburban location which relies on word-of-mouth patronage. So make sure the word gets out. Explore the back streets, travel on your tastebuds, and be delightfully surprised! Soon the little plate may well be your local favourite!
UPDATE December 2013: It’s been a fabulous year of success for the little plate, culminating in scoring a place in Gourmet Traveller! With their cuisine increasing in both experimentation and sophistication, diners can’t get enough of this little place. It’s one of our favourite places. Be sure to book, as tables are hotly contested.
Shop 11/3 Deodar Drive, Burleigh Heads, Ph: 0499 724 303
Open: Dinner Wed – Mon 5.30pm – 10pm; Lunch on Sun 12noon – 3pm. Closed Tuesdays.
NOTE: This review has also been published on Blank Gold Coast.