A World Away –
You’d be forgiven in thinking you had been transported to a quaint European town, writes Lee Mylne
Candlelight and purple roses set the tone for romance, and the tables at The Long Apron are nicely spaced for murmured conversation.
It’s an intimate and elegant setting, befitting a hatted restaurant, and a far cry from most hotel restaurants, something we soon come to realise is the way things are at Spicers Clovelly Estate in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland.
But wait…purple roses? How intriguing. The single blooms on the restaurant table are not entirely unexpected, as the large floral arrangements in the lobby lounge have
already caught my eye. They’re newly delivered, as they are every Thursday and we’ve been lucky enough to catch them at their freshest.
It’s a beautiful touch, one of many in this elegant European-style boutique hotel. From the arrival through a winding avenue of grand fig trees, it’s clear this getaway is all about style.
Manicured lawns slope down from the main guest house, its white French-provincial architecture set off by plantings of white magnolias and fragrant gardenias and jasmine. Tables are set out on the grass under the jacaranda trees, and it’s here – after being escorted to settle into our suite – that we relax before dinner with a cheese platter.
Even this is a surprise, with delicate cubes of cheddar, Stilton blue, Byron Bay brie, a little something from Italy, and quince paste lined up on a slender black cheeseboard, with three matched wines. It’s a prelude to dinner at The Long Apron, where Head Chef Chris Hagan works his magic. It’s almost easy to believe you’re in a little corner of some nameless European city, the black and white photographs on the wall reminiscent of Paris, or even somewhere more exotic, like Marrakech.
The menu promises dishes that are “refined, innovative, unexpected” – and it doesn’t disappoint. We’ve opted for the chef’s tasting menu, five courses that start with steamed yabby tail and end with sheep’s milk yoghurt with fennel granita and torched pomelo. Between them, we feast on small dishes of figs and fried oyster mushrooms, slow-cooked suckling pig, and coal-grilled duck breast; all of them designed to look as good as they taste.
Replete, we can’t retire without first spending some time in the library, a quiet space at the end of the guesthouse where artworks and objéts compete with the well-stocked bookcase for attention. A fireplace – one of three in the public areas – ensures that winter nights are never less than cosy.
Ours is one of just 10 suites for a maximum of 20 guests; there’s also a separate, self-contained three-bedroom cottage slightly away from the main guesthouse. Rooms have sloping ceilings, king-size beds with plush brocade cushions and quality linen, and marble bathrooms with that ultimate luxury, heated floors. My favourite spot: a comfy window seat just perfect for reading, with a view over the garden.
An early morning walk on the retreat’s 22-acre property leads to the Lake View Deck, where a wooden pavilion provides a sheltered spot to admire the distant Lake Baroon.
Whipbirds call, and grevillea trees bloom golden along the path. It’s a wonderfully tranquil start to the day.
Breakfast is served on the spacious covered patio outside the guesthouse lounge. First, fresh fruit with honey yoghurt, then something more substantial: smoked ocean trout with a sweetcorn fritter, wasabi avocado puree and poached eggs, perhaps, or truffled scrambled eggs and roasted wild mushrooms, with cream cheese and chives and toasted brioche. Coffee is Glossy Black, a blend created especially for Spicers Retreats by Koko Coffee Roasters, and it’s interesting to learn that proceeds from sales go towards protecting the endangered Glossy Black Cockatoo and its habitat.
After breakfast, meandering in the expansive gardens- brings me to the swimming pool, artfully hidden behind bushes below the front lawn. And for a moment, as I open the gate, I think I’ve disturbed a lone sunbather but realise quickly that the bikini-clad poser is actually a sculpture. And I’m almost certain I’m not the first person to have this reaction!
Just five minutes down the road, the village of Montville beckons, with its cute craft shops, art galleries, antique shops, boutiques, and cafes lining Main Street. There’s plenty of browsing, or serious shopping if you’re so inclined, and also some lovely heritage buildings to admire under a canopy of fig trees on the Village Green. If you’re visiting on the second Saturday morning of the month, the Montville Growers and Makers Markets are held in the heritage-listed Village Hall, which began life as the School of Arts in 1903.
Montville was first settled in the 1880s and has been a thriving mountain holiday resort with several popular guest houses since the 1900s but is still only about 35km from the coast and the beaches of Mooloolaba.
The Sunshine Coast hinterland also offers plenty of walks, whether it’s a gentle stroll through the remnant rainforest at Mary Cairncross Reserve, with its spectacular views of the Glass House Mountains, or something more energetic such as a hike to Kondalilla Falls.
If the relaxing surrounds and a gentle game of croquet on the lawn aren’t quite decadent enough, book into Spa Anise for an hour or so of pampering. Clovelly’s signature “vinotherapy” isn’t quite what you might expect; the vino’s not for drinking but provides a rejuvenating facial treatment using Shiraz wine pressings, grape seeds and antioxidants. Of course, there’s massage as well, and Spa Anise uses Queensland-made Waterlily products.
As we reluctantly prepare to leave, the Spicers staff are readying for the arrival of a bridal party. I muse again on the purple roses and wonder if the bride will also notice them in the flurry of the day. And it turns out they’re not roses at all, according to a helpful staff member. They are called Lisianthus. Whether you stay for just one night or longer, you’re bound to leave Spicers Clovelly Estate rejuvenated and refreshed.
By Lee Mylne.