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Food & wine are the right match at Spicers Retreats

Dining at the five Spicers Retreats establishments around southeast Queensland is a mini gastronomic tour of the world.

If you favour food with a Vietnamese influence, head for Spicers Balfour Hotel and its Balfour Kitchen restaurant; for Thai flavours Spicers Tamarind Retreat’s restaurant The Tamarind near Maleny is the place to go; at Spicers Clovelly Estate at Montville, The Long Apron has a decided French character; at Spicers Hidden Vale near Grandchester Homage restaurant pays tribute to local produce; while at Spicers Peak Lodge near Maryvale on the Darling Downs the best produce from around Australia is transformed into the highest quality dishes at The Peak restaurant.

Spicers Clovelly Estate at nightThe Long Apron at Spicers Clovelly Estate

The five restaurants at the retreats established by Jude Turner provide outstanding food that any fine-dining restaurant would be proud to provide.

It’s difficult to choose favourite dishes but I will nominate one or two from each place that really took my fancy.
At The Balfour Kitchen in Brisbane’s New Farm head chef Nick Stapleton combines sustainably sourced seafood, ethically farmed meats and hero vegetables with beautifully balanced Asian aromas and the distinctive sweet, hot, sour and salty flavours of Vietnamese cuisine. A lot of the vegetables and fruit come from the Balfour’s own rooftop garden atop the Simla building that houses the Balfour Suites. A beehive there produces the honey that goes into a dessert to die for, the honey panna cotta with roast peppered strawberries. Mind you, I also loved the roast W.A. scallops with roast chicken butter entrée and the main of twice-cooked pork ribs, toasted kaffir lime rice, house sweet chilli and pickled pineapple.

Panna cotta at The Balfour KitchenHoney Panna Cotta at The Balfour Kitchen

Head north to Maleny and Spicers Tamarind Retreat and the food also has an Asian flavour, although more centred on Thai cuisine. Fortunately, head chef Dan Jarrett doesn’t believe in the over-use of chilli, so the dishes are spicy but not so mouth-numbingly hot that you can’t appreciate the flavours. I particularly liked the slow braised Schultz Farm suckling pig with jungle flavours, pickled papaya, roasted peanuts and Asian herbs, while they can produce a Thai red duck curry dish with any level of chilli heat that you desire.

Curry at The TamarindCurry at The Tamarind

Over at The Long Apron at Spicers Clovelly Estate in Montville, head chef Chris Hagan and his team are engaged in a French affair that has earned them much acclamation and several state and national awards. I particularly enjoyed an asparagus and mustard sabayon, with Parmesan and hazelnut and a main of Black Onyx strip loin, bone marrow emulsion, mushrooms and sauce au poivre, a delicious blend of flavours.

Various dishes at The Long ApronDining at The Long Apron

While all the restaurants try to source as much of their ingredients locally as possible, at Homage at Spicers Hidden Vale the team under head chef Ash Martin take particular pride in obtaining all their ingredients from the fertile country around the retreat, including fruit and vegetables from their own garden and beef from the property. One dish we particularly enjoyed was the delicious red claw yabbies with smoked yolk and orchard citrus, served on a crisp triangle made using the yabby shells. I don’t know how they did it but it was superb. And the wood-fired rooster wing parmigiana was a delight.

Honey Dish at HomageDining experience at Homage restaurant

Dean Alsford and the team at Spicers Peak Lodge take a slightly different approach to produce what they describe as elevated modern Australian cuisine. Again, while they like to source ingredients locally whenever possible, they don’t mind scouring the continent for the best produce. Hence, the uber-tasty WA marron tail and separate entrée course that uses the same marron’s head to produce an amazing course. Mind you, the locals do pretty well, with the Fair Game wild venison backstrap coming all the way from the Granite Belt. And the accompanying beetroot provided an amazingly sweet and succulent addition.

Marron dish at The Peak restaurantMarron at The Peak restaurant

Suffice to say each of the restaurants has a wine selection that matches the cuisine on offer: for example, at The Tamarind there’s a wide range of Rieslings that go so well with Asian dishes; the Long Apron has a selection of French offerings, including quite a few champagnes as well as burgundies and clarets and offerings from several of France’s other leading wine regions, while Spicers Peak has a great range of leading Australian and imported wines across all varieties and styles.

Staff at each of the retreats were attentive, informative and unobtrusive, while Spicers Retreat’s’ group sommelier Peter Marchant has done a wonderful job training the staff at each restaurant to help diners try a great range of wines to match with the food they’re eating and hopefully to learn more about wine. I’d recommend the degustation menus, with their well-sized portions and exquisitely matched wines as a good way to sample each restaurant’s specialties.

If you want to learn more about each of the retreats and their restaurants, head to spicersretreats.com. if you can’t find something that interests you, you’re far too picky! To sum up, the restaurants are like the retreats themselves, each unique offering a different experience but each worth exploring.

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