June 13, 2016
Plush leather couches, crisp white table cloths, grand wooden bookshelves and a crackling fire greets guests at Homage Restaurant.
And while the décor and the historic homestead is inviting, it’s the food and the gastronomical tale that invites you in and asks you to stay a little longer.
Located in the Lockyer Valley on a 12,000 acre working cattle station and some of the southern hemispheres most fertile farming land, Homage is the culinary brainchild of Spicers Hidden Vales’ Executive Chef, Ash Martin.
True to its name, Chef Ash certainly makes sure he pays homage to this special region by serving up seasonal and ethical produce to his guests – taking the term Paddock to Plate 10 steps further and giving it back its real meaning.
In fact, there aren’t too many restaurants that can make this claim, but at Homage, you won’t find a single element on any dish that didn’t have a truly organic, local home less than 24 hours prior.
The delicate herbs are picked by one of Ash’s chefs from the onsite 89 bed Market Garden, each vegetable is sourced from the property’s 27 orchard trees or one of the neighbouring farms, the pork is grown onsite and as of mid-June the Heritage duck and lamb will be too, the seafood is freshwater farmed less than 20km away, the beef can be seen grazing from the homestead across the paddocks, the hens (which are ethically farmed down the road) are fed in the morning and delivered to Ash’s kitchen ready to be served up at dinner that same evening. It doesn’t get much fresher than that.
Every delicious morsel is nurtured, respected and cared for before it makes its way from the farm to your fork; from the earth to your soul; from pastures to your delicately handmade wooden plate. Its food you can actually feel good about eating because its food that represents a celebration of the produce, the land and the local people.
From the moment you enter the restaurant, which is stunning in its own right, to the moment you take your last bite, Homage tells you a story. The menu, the food, the narrative takes you on a journey through the region from Pittsworth to Boonah, Gatton to Tarome and everywhere in between. And that is the whole point – that is the vision behind Homage and the hard work put in by Ash and his wife Andrea, the General Manager at Spicers Hidden Vale.
“Our chefs head out several times a week to collect local farming gems like yabbies’ from Rob who has dedicated an entire pond just to Homage, Annie who makes the cheese is literally over our back fence in Mulgowie, our Grandchester beef is unique to us, we are the only people in QLD to have the pleasure of serving it, Dave raises Murray Cod for us and even branched into pasture fed chicken after asking what else we needed in the kitchen,” Chef Ash said.
“We even have locals that turn up at our kitchen door with baskets of fresh finger limes they have grown, or bunches of horseradish from their own properties. We love it! It’s these relationships that we value so much. We support our local farmers and they support us in return. It’s one of the most satisfying parts of what we do.”
For Ash and Andrea, the goal was to bring sustainability to the property and make it a way of life. To get back to basics and return to traditional food preparation and production methods. So that’s what they’ve spent the last few years perfecting.
“It’s so important to us that we know exactly where our produce has come from, how it was farmed and how it made its way to us,” Chef Ash said.
“We want to know the animals have lived well fed, free range, happy lives with sunshine on their faces,”
“It was also important to get back to old school ways of cooking, so we built an onsite outdoor smoke house, coal pits and rotisseries, wood fire ovens and set up bee hives with 40,000 bees that help pollinate our Market Garden and provide honey for the kitchen,”
“You hear the term ‘paddock to plate’ too often these days and a lot of the time it’s just words. It’s not how the venue actually operates. Sustainability is a way of life here. We don’t try to live completely off the land but we do grow or source every ingredient in the most sustainable way possible and we are extremely proud of that.”
It’s not hard to tell that the team at Spicers Hidden Vale love the direction their restaurant journey has taken. Even the plates used in Homage are hand carved by one of the chefs, and the passionfruit for the utterly delicious ‘elements of passionfruit, orange and anise’ dessert are grown by one of the waitresses.
“The team share our values and our vision. It’s this passion, and the ideas born at midnight over a beer when the dinner shift ends, that bring our Homage concept to life,” Chef Ash said.
“The relationships we foster with our staff and our local farmers are part of what makes Homage so special. It’s a huge part of the overall story we share with our guests.”
With Spicers Hidden Vale being designed for foodies, nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts, the team has ensured guests can get in on the action too – seeing their food being cooked throughout the day, watching the chefs and interacting with the produce.
“We encourage guests to wander through the Market Garden and the orchards where we grow avocados, oranges, lemons, native limes, olives, mulberries, blueberries, apples, pears and tamarillos. We want guests to visit the bee hives and the farm animals and see how they live, to watch the chefs using the traditional outdoor cooking methods to prepare the food over an open air coal pit rotisserie or in the smoke house. It is such a huge part of what we do and it helps us tell the story of Homage,” Chef Ash said.
Let’s talk a bit more about the food itself now shall we? I’m no stranger to fine dining, but that’s not ‘exactly’ what Homage is all about. It’s more than that. What it comes down to, is a menu that is fun, edgy and sustainable. There is a storyline from start to finish and it’s an experience not only for the taste buds, but a visual and fragrant delight for all the senses. And the menu, especially the famed Tasting Menu, really does showcase Homage’s back to basics cooking and production style – a rarity in today’s fast paced culinary world. But out here, in the countryside, at Hidden Vale, it’s an art form and one Ash won’t compromise on. Slow and steady really does win the race.
The Tasting Menu:
Yabby and coals
Murray Cod, red cabbage, house ferments
Pasture-fed hen, Mulgowie sweetcorn
“Sir Thomas” grain fed beef, coal pit, native pepper
White chocolate and celery
Elements of passionfruit, orange and anise
Homage restaurant has been awarded one chef hat in both the 2016 Brisbane Times Good Food Guide awards and the 2015 Australian Good Food and Travel Guide Chef Hat awards.
Spicers Hidden Vale is an uncomplicated escape just an hour’s drive from Brisbane that combines the style and comfort of a luxury retreat with the warmest of country welcomes. There is space to relax, space to listen, to laugh, to embark on an adventure amongst the abundant wildlife. Experience the uniquely revitalising effect of spending time on 12,000 acres of true Australian Bush.
Spicers Hidden Vale
Spicers Hidden Vale