The Local Hero Shaping Spicers Tamarind Retreat

March 24, 2023

Spicers Tamarind Retreat, nestled in the green hills and rainforest of the Sunshine Coast hinterland, has become one of the region’s culinary gems under the 12-year tenure of executive chef Dan Jarrett.

Jarrett is born and raised on the Sunshine Coast where he lives with his young family, and has been delighting foodies in South East Queensland for many years. French-trained but leading an Asian fusion culinary experience, Dan has been influenced by travel in China and Malaysia, and has an affinity for the diverse cuisines of Asia – vibrant, colourful and enthralling – that embrace the verdant sub-tropical environment.

Spicers Tamarind Retreat and award-winning The Tamarind Restaurant are situated near the town of Maleny on a picturesque 18-acre property next to Gardner’s Falls. It offers intimate, rainforest-fringed luxury infused with the seductive spices of Asia, giving friends, family and foodies every reason to book in for a trip to culinary paradise, truly in tune with its location.

“I love coming to work at The Tamarind,” says Jarrett, “every day is different, it’s such a beautiful location.”

Life and flavour in harmony

Operating in harmony with nature is central to Spicer Retreats’ brand of luxury, and their commitment to sustainability is from the ground up. Jarrett and The Tamarind source seafood from sustainable fisheries, ethically farmed meats, and the produce is always seasonal and mostly sourced locally or from Tamarind’s kitchen garden.

Jarrett explains, “What we source from the local area is already amazing and it’s my job is to show it respect, so I don’t overdo the number of ingredients or push them too hard; I seek to complement what’s already there, not convert it.”

“Maybe that’s why my favourite cooking techniques are heat and fire from charcoal or wood, I’d really love to cook that way all the time.”

Jarrett is a fan of the Seafood Smokery in Bundaberg. “Their fish is incredible. They smoke our Spanish mackerel using macadamia wood and their fresh fish is some of the best I have used.”

Healthy, fresh, alive with flavour and little bit cheeky, Jarrett’s menus emphasise fresh produce, paired with incredible local seafood and interesting red meat choices. He uses the spectrum of Asian sauces and ingredients, with profusion of leaves, herbs, spices, fruit and flowers.

Asian fusion at its best

To see why Jarrett has made such a reputation on the Sunshine Coast, The Tamarind’s ever-changing a la carte and banquet menu exude effortless style and innovation, sweet, sour and spicy through a modern lens, a meeting of traditional and new.

For the three-course a la carte dinner menu, diners could begin with Hakka-style prawn stuffed eggplant; dark, tender, slow-cooked beef short rib marinated in green curry paste; or the intensity and delicacy of whole crispy fried fish with three-flavour sauce. The desserts are unique, try the sweet, light and zingy pandan panna cotta, pineapple salsa, gula syrup, and ginger beer sorbet.

The Tamarind Experience vegetarian menu is a celebration of the bountiful regional produce and Jarrett’s masterful blending of ingredients. Dishes include doju-jorim, baked tofu with a spiced Korean chilli and shallot sauce, pickles, toasted pinenuts; and shiitake and sushi rice arancini with mala dressing and parmigiano reggiano.

Guests of Spicers Tamarind Retreat have the opportunity to try the breakfast menu, which Jarrett says is aspirational and ambitious as the kitchen team trial new dishes and is not to be missed.

A chef’s journey to Asia

For a young Dan Jarrett, cooking was an antidote to the boredom of school and a mum keen for her son to be productive. He spent the next four years building his skills in a restaurant owned and run by a French family, before joining a Greek family in their restaurant for nearly another five years. Being able to develop as a chef, in these family environments in his younger days, was an amazing, supportive experience, in an environment driven by a love of food and warm hospitality.

Like many chefs, Jarrett found inspiration in his formative years through cookbooks by some of Australia and the world’s leading chefs. He says, “My cookbook collection started with Marco Pierre White, Stephanie Alexander, Neil Perry, Thomas Keller, but one of my favourites is Est Est Est by Donovan Cooke.”

Dan Jarrett has now been working in restaurants in Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast for over 25 years and began with Spicers Retreats at The Long Apron restaurant, in nearby Spicers Clovelly Estate just outside Montville.

“I’m just a coastal kid who had a great childhood here on the Sunshine Coast,” Jarrett says. “If I’m not working, I spend time with my family, listening to music or tinkering on my car. I love watching soccer! I’m a diehard Manchester United fan.”

He also found time to open Junk Restaurant as partner over 2014 and 2015, which has now morphed into the Junk Asian-fusion restaurant chain on the Sunshine Coast.

Escape the daily grind

Just an hour north of Brisbane and three kilometres east of Maleny, Spicers Tamarind Retreat is an Asian-influenced oasis of natural beauty and tranquillity that makes you feel a world away from the daily grind.

The Tamarind Restaurant sits in harmony among the lush greenery, an elegant timber construction ringed with strings of lights, in privacy and tranquillity. There’s private bar at the entrance, and guests can dine inside or on the deck, plus there’s a number of outdoor dining options available on-site. The Tamarind has earned an enviable reputation for quality, being awarded one Chef Hat in the 2020 Good Food Guide, as well as one Chef Hat in the Australian Good Food Guide for 2018, 2020 and 2021, and two Chef Hats in 2023.

The Tamarind Cooking School at Spicers Tamarind Retreat, orchestrated by Dan, gives in-house guests, friends, family and foodies every reason to book in for a weekend trip to culinary paradise.

Spicers Tamarind Retreat offers intimate accommodation in six one-bedroom villas and either two-bedroom villas, as well as meeting facilities and two venue spaces with room for 80 guests.

Guests can enjoy the outdoor swimming pool, take a dip in the popular Gardner’s Falls next door, or venture into the local region to continue their culinary adventures at local wineries and the Maleny Cheese Factory. Those looking for more action can visit the world-famous Australia Zoo, go bush walking, mountain biking or take the Glasshouse Mountains scenic drive.