Published on November 27th, 2013 | by Ann Rickard0
France in the Hinterland
How would you like to visit Provence?
Have a leisurely lunch full of epicurean surprises in an elegant maison surrounded by manicured gardens overlooking undulating green hills?
Can’t afford it?
Neither can we. But we can have the almost-real-thing at Spicers Clovelly Estate in Maleny.
The Long Apron restaurant in this glamorous estate in the hinterland is as close as it gets to Provence.
Its distinctive local approach to produce combined with French cooking techniques along with stylish Provencal furnishings and decor, gives you a sense of being in a world far away from Queensland.
It seems The Long Apron adds another prestigious award to its large collection almost every month. We dare not even begin to list them.
Executive chef Cameron Matthews’ talent is obvious but we think his real skill is in presenting delicate dishes that defy their description and dish up revelations with every mouthful.
Dining on the stone terrace overlooking the lawns is pure pleasure. But then so too is it inside the elegant dining room with its soft grey and white furnishings and profusion of flower arrangements, especially when friendly and informed staff glide quietly towards you with a bottle of Pol champagne to start you off in the happiest of directions.
Every plate coming to the table brings layers of surprises
Hervey Bay scallops unrecognisable among sea greens, grilled leeks, bone marrow and roasted celeriac juice.
A duck breast we did recognise, but not the tiny curls of duck ham with pear and local honey and a charred shallot.
Guinea fowl, not as we knew it, but in small shapes with a crunchy outside among tiny mushrooms, artichokes, brown rice and chestnuts.
Reef fish wrapped in grilled cabbage with cuttlefish gnocchi that took us a moment to decipher.
It was a culinary adventure into exhilarating, unchartered territory. (And we like to think we know our food.)
There were leaves and stems, and herbs and whey, and foams and jus – all making their appearance subtly as we prodded and poked with knives and forks.
There were thin pretzel-like twigs and feathery shoots.
There were cubes and crumbles and texture and depth and flavours and delightful mouth-tantalising discoveries underneath tiny morsels of produce we had to ponder over.
It was a case of nothing tasting like it looked, especially when it came to a spectacular dessert of Maleny Guernsey milk sherbet which arrived looking more like a collection of flotsam from a damp forest floor. An intensely dark round among what we thought was a mound of moss turned out to be chocolate mint truffle, and the ‘moss’, a sweet and sumptuous mint sponge.
More recognisable was a mandarin delight with botrytis, rosemary and oat crumble with a sinful lemon leaf ice-cream.
The wine list, as you would expect, keeps up with the food standards and offers a pleasing number by the glass. The staff are knowledgeable and the dining options flexible so you can dip into the a la carte menu or go the Fully Monty with a multi-course tasting menu matched with wines.
The only disappointment to our long Sunday lunch was that we hadn’t booked into one of the comfortable suites to stay the night in this charming French-inspired estate.
Spicers Clovelly Estate,
38-68 Balmoral Road (between Montville and Maleny.)
Tasting menu with wine – $200 Tasting menu – $125
Five courses – $105 Three courses – $85 Two courses – $75
Perfect for groups, functions, weddings or memorable a la carte dining.
Open: Dinner: Wednesday – Monday Lunch: Friday – Sunday Breakfast: Everyday (8:00 – 10:00am)