Dining

Published on May 2nd, 2011 | by Ann Rickard

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Provence on the Sunshine Coast Hinterland

Sorry for the delays in between my blogs, I’ve got a few up my sleeve here from travels to Fiji, Penang and closer to home, so lots to tell you.  If you live not too far away don’t for the Noosa Food & Wine Festival is on May 13, 14 and 15 in Noosa.  Jim Berardo’s baby, this festival is the biggest and most fancy of its kind in the country.  Every big name chef will be in Noosa to cook, eat, drink and celebrate the good life.  And there are concerts on in the park too.  Great fun…and to top it off, the World’s Best Dinner on the Sunday night.  If you have $695 to spare (per person) then get to berardo’s for 10 courses of food cooked by chefs from all over the world, matched with Old World and New World wines.  Too divine.  Click here
In the meantime, come with me to Provence, via the Sunshine Coast.
(And speaking of which, we are off to the real Provence in six weeks for this year’s Ooh La La! Culinary Tour.   We have a few spaces left for 2012 if you want to check it out.   Two weeks of indulgence in the South of France.)  click here

I’ve been to Provence, my friends, and it only took me an hour to drive there from my Noosa home.
It’s Spicers Clovelly Estate just outside Montville in the Sunshine Coast hinterland.  It’s a small patch of Provence on the Sunshine Coast it.  C’est manifique.  For once in a long while the weather behaved for our visit.  The sun shone radiantly in a clear blue sky and just a hint of autumn cool tinged the pure air as we drove along the gravel driveway to the handsome chamber d’hôte (delicious French word for B&B).   But Clovelly Estate is much more than a B&B, it is a handsome manor in true French style: ten luxurious suites in superb grounds have views over the lush Sunshine Coast hinterland.

Coasting along the range looking over green, grassy landscape was a treat in itself.  While there are no Provence vineyards or fields of lavender, compensation is more than generous with myriad tropical plants congregating brightly all over the landscape and graceful jacarandas and poinciana trees promising colour to come later in the year.
The welcome at Clovelly was all beaming smiles and convivial gestures.  Sam Giles (maitre’d extraordinaire) waited to lead us to our suite, patient in the lounge area with its  stylish French  furniture and terrace foyer bar, while we stood and watched a small wedding taking place on the lawn amongst a carpet of delicate petals.   Only when the couple finished their vows and the champagne corks popped did we let Sam take us up the tmber staircase to our spa suite with its handsome French furnishings..
After champagne (we thought about sliding into the spa; it’s window views over the flourishing countryside were tempting, but we were too lazy to strip off and then get again) it was a glide down the staircase to The Long Apron, the estate’s intimate dining room with its immaculate white table cloths and gleaming glassware for (and we admit to some timidity here) a ten course dinner.   We’d previously had anxious thoughts of asking the Chef Cameron Matthews if he could halve the number of courses to a less gluttonous  five, but he wanted to show off his prodigious talent and who were we to stop him?
So with a brave bon appétit, the gourmandising began.   I won’t give you detail of each intrepid course otherwise you’ll be reading this until tomorrow, but this was food I had never encountered before (and as you know, my dear friends, if you are my regular followers, I have encountered much on the culinary scene.)
The sirloin was sliced and cunningly hidden amongst mushrooms, onions and piquillo, and came served on a thick slab of burnt cedar wood.  The potato – it warranted a complete course on its own – was biodynamic and infused with hay ash cream.  What is hay ash you might well ask, as I did when Chef Cameron came out to sit with us at the end of the meal.   “It’s ash from burnt hay,’’ was the straight-forward reply.  Indeed, the cylindrically shaped potato was coated in sooty ash and served with a fondue.  My palate, who thought it knew everything, had never before met anything like this, but it was open to experimentation and welcomed the daring.
Then came the carrots, they too given their own place on the menu.  From Sandy Creek, they were presented with icing, persimmon, honey and bourbon.  The palate adjusted again, and gave silent congratulations to Chef Cameron’s audaciousness.
A fat Mooloolaba prawn – the palate was comfortable with that – came with snails (farmed in the Glasshosue Mountains, darlings, if you don’t mind) and  a little kiev ball scattered with nasturtiums.  Challenging.

In between courses, we stopped for an appreciated breather to gingerly taste a bowl of sherbet with gin and tonic jelly cubes drizzled with juniper-lemon syrup.
Then on to something less risky but exquisite:  Jamon from Iberico draped over buffalo mozzarella with peas, mint,  celery and chef’s own vinegar.   When I say Cameron makes everything on site I mean it – yes, even the vinegar and his own butter.  True commitment to his craft.
We ended with an Earl Grey tea cake with lemon, rose, pine nut and musk which didn’t look like a cake at all but more an artwork hanging in a European gallery.  Every course came with a matching wine, each carefully explained by maitre ‘d Sam Giles and poured from a newly opened bottle: a  Clare Valley Riesling, a pinot Gris from Mornington Peninsula, a Savignon Blac from the Adelaide Hills, a fruity Pinot from NZ, a Cab Save from Clare Valley…right down to a Petersons Botrytis Semillon from Griffith.  Spicers Clovelly Estate’s cellar is in-keeping with the exceptional standards throughout the property.
After a deep sleep in our big bed on French linen,  it was up in the morning for breakfast (I know, I can hardly believe it myself, we were going to eat yet more food) on the sun-drenched veranda overlooking the swimming pool and rolling pea-green lawn to the distant hills.  Surprisingly we got through the lot: a frittata, a pot of Kenilworth yogurt, chocolate croissants, coddled egg and grilled ciabatta with caramelised marmalade so sweet and sticky I dreamt about it for days afterwards.   .
We made our way down the gravel driveway in the morning sunshine more than a little gleeful despite the extra couple of kilos around our middles.

You have to try this place, darlings, it’s truly c’est manifique.

Spicers Clovelly Estate

Fact Box.
The Long Apron headed by Cameron Matthews offers a shared table approach as well as fine dining. Cameron loves to see a group sit at the shared table with its view of the kitchen enjoying platters of French-style food including cassoulet, duck confit, bouillabaise, chocolate terrines and tarte au citron.  And of course French (and Australian) cheeses.
Opening Times
Dinner: Wednesday to Monday
Lunch: Friday to Sunday

Spicers Clovelly Estate specialises in weddings and conferences and its Spa Anise has an extensive spa menu and luxury products.

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About the Author

is a Noosa (Australia) local and author of six successful books, all humorous travel narratives. In 2005 Ann won the prestigious ASTW’s Australian Travel Writer of the Year and in 2007 she won the ASTW Travel Book of the Year. Ann takes a culinary tour to the South of France in June every year . Ann writes travel, dining and columns for the Sunshine Coast Daily and is the Life editor of the Noosa News. Ann also maintains a well read and popular blog site. Ann’s travels have seen her explore cuisines all over the world.



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