Connecting guests directly to the land from their plates

As the executive chef at Spicers Hidden Vale in the Queensland’s spectacular Scenic Rim, Chef Ash Martin takes his inspiration from the culinary and visual landscapes of the South-East, a dynamic and abundant food bowl where he and his team connect their guests directly to the land from their plates in Homage Restaurant.

Homage is set on a 12,000-acre cattle property one hour’s drive from Brisbane, with some of the most fertile farming soil in the Southern Hemisphere. Reflecting Ash’s intense involvement with local produce and passionate ‘from the land and sea’ philosophy, he is as close to the source as possible, ensuring spontaneous and ever-changing menus.

Fresh honey, fruit, herbs and vegetables are harvested daily from the Homage Market Garden, fruit orchard, beehives, free-range farm and hen house, or sourced from a select few nearby producers.

At Homage, Ash works with traditional methods of cooking and preserving, including coal pits, a smokehouse and preserving room. There are no shortcuts; preserving the restaurant’s bounty involves pickling and drying to minimise food waste, and almost all of what’s not used in the kitchen is recycled onsite by the chickens or composting.

Ash’s style of cooking is a superb collaboration of locally sourced, sustainable ingredients combined with structured techniques and innovative and traditional cooking methods to deliver sophisticated flavours and art on a plate.

Soothing the soul
“One of my greatest pleasures in the day is taking our guests on an evening tour of our market garden, the smokehouse and fermentation room” Martin commented, “it’s such a simple, direct connection to their experience in the restaurant.”

“Our guests can’t believe the exquisite views across the infinity rock pool through to the Livingston Ranges and Cunningham Gap. When I arrive each morning and while I’m working at the pass, quick glimpses sooth the soul,” he says.

Homage is an experience of landscape and its surrounds, and Ash is immersed in supporting those ethical local farmers who are working with nature to deliver seasonal treasures from across the region, taking in the scenic Rim, Darling Downs, Granite Belt, Lockyer Valley and Ipswich.

“I cook with what’s seasonal, what’s available here, right now,” explains Martin, “I try to capture it at its peak, and then preserve every bit of that goodness we can naturally, through smoking and preserving.”

A chef finding his place
Ash spent 10 years building his culinary expertise in Melbourne under great chefs like his mentor Julian Hills, now owner/chef of Restaurant Navi, before he and his wife Andrea moved from Melbourne to Spicer’s retreats seven years ago for a tree change.

“I worked with Julian for many years and was elevated to sous chef. Now I’m the one mentoring,” said Ash. “Spicers have really strong kitchen teams; people work here for longer than the industry norm and get to work at the different Spicer’s venues, which is amazing, thanks to the Turner’s investment and vision.”

“When I was young and looking for inspiration, I was greatly influenced by the iconic restaurants in regional Victoria; the likes of the Lake House Daylesford under Alla Wolf-Tasker and Stefano’s Cantina, Mildura in the historic Grand Hotel under Stephano de Pieri,” he said.

Ash’s ambition was always to create a restaurant like Homage that’s truly focused on provenance, and work in the country where he could grow or source remarkable seasonal ingredients and work with experienced local farmers.

“At Homage we manage our entire supply chain far more than we could at an urban restaurant,” he said. “We have achieved an amazing level of control over where our ingredients come from, how they’re stored and prepared, and how we take responsibility for waste, which is pretty much zero.”

“Hidden Vale is a different world to Melbourne. There’s more chance to connect with our amazing local producers and take in a wider, deeper experience with more direct connection to the source.”

Cooking at a new level with Spicers
For two years, Martin embraced his first role with Spicers as Head Chef at The Peak, Spicers Peak Lodge in Maryvale before relocating to Spices Hidden Vale in Grandchester seven years ago.

Ash and his wife Andrea, GM of Spicers Hidden Vale, promptly transformed its conservative Cotton’s Restaurant to an innovative inspirational restaurant by utilizing modern and wood-fired cooking techniques, embracing the stunning regional produce supported by their newly created market garden, designing award-wining menus and sourcing highly experience staff. It was they who renamed the restaurant Homage to show respect to the land, the people, and the produce.

A fire in 2018 burnt the Spicers Hidden Vale 100-year-old homestead, home to Homage, to the ground. It successfully re-invented itself in an historic barn, however, in February 2020, Homage re-emerged to claim its birthright in the newly constructed Hidden Vale Homestead, where the culinary experience has elevated to a new creative level.

As the property and its needs have grown, Ash Martin has taken a step up to be Executive Chef of the entire Spicers Hidden Vale property, while Simon Furley was elevated to Head Chef at Homage.

Martin says, “It’s an incredible privilege to have all of these fantastic resources. It’s never boring. I’ve been here long enough to see the seasons turn and change; our place and the region are always throwing up something wonderful and unexpected.”

Homage Restaurant, Chef Ash Martin and his team have been recognised by their industry and peers for their culinary achievements and commitment to quality and sustainability at every stage of the supply chain.

QHA – Best Restaurant, Accommodation 2019
Restaurant and Catering Savour Awards – Winner Fine Dining Restaurant 2019
Good Food Guide 2020 – One Hat
Australian Good Food Guide (AGFG) 2020 – Two Hats
Australia’s Wine List of the Year Awards 2019 – Two Glasses
Delicious Top 100 – Number 16
Gourmet Traveller Australian Restaurant Guide
Courier Mail, Delicious, U-On Sunday – Top 5 Restaurants in Queensland
Traveller – Regional Australia’s Ten Best Restaurants with Rooms

2019 MasterChef Venue location for three Masterclasses by hosts
2019 MasterChef Masterclass presenter
Truth Love and Clean Cutlery magazine and website

Queensland’s Scenic Rim Region and Eat Local Week – Food Ambassador and Presenter
Australian Pork – PorkStar
OzHarvest – Ambassador
RNA Royal Queensland Food and Wine Show – Branded Beef and Branded Lamb Judge