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Life

Heavenly servings in the Hinterland | Spicers Clovelly Estate

Take a midweek escape to Spicers Clovelly Estate and discover a relaxed haven with food at its heart

North of Brisbane, beyond the arresting beauty of the Glasshouse Mountains, lies the charming hamlet of Montville. Like her sister towns sprinkled along the elevated hinterland ridges of the Blackall range – Maleny, Mapleton and Flaxton – Montville is surrounded by lush cooling rainforest that makes you feel like you’re entering a change of season.

Montville village is a friendly, relaxed community with the cafés, arts galleries and small businesses contributing to a vibe of gentle whimsy. It’s a beautiful place to be; one minute you could be strolling through rainforests enjoying a symphony of native birds, the next sipping coffee (or wine), pondering uninterrupted 180º views of the Sunshine Coast.

 

STATELY ESTATE

There’s plenty to do in and around Montville, but just on the outskirts is the relaxed haven of Spicers Clovelly Estate.

A 13-room retreat, Clovelly Estate is part hideaway, part gastronomic treasure, part Euro-style escape. And an ‘escape’ it is, particularly midweek, when one can truly enjoy an unhurried serving of this amazing part of the universe.

Built in 1908, Clovelly is a glorious property surrounded by figs, jacarandas, magnolias and gardenias. It sits on a gentle rolling landscape of lush grass dotted with edible garden beds, leafy nooks and an impressive array of native and imported trees and shrubs. As you roll into the driveway, it feels like you’re heading down a private road in southern France.

The heart of the property is the main house that serves as reception, restaurant, bar and lounge, making it feel like a stately B&B. This residence, like the rooms, is comfortable and elegant, but tastefully understated with French doors, textured fabrics, signature furniture pieces and walls dressed with framed country scenes and illustrated fauna.

 

THE LONG AND THE SHORT

Like at all Spicers properties, food is a significant part of the allure at Clovelly Estate, perfectly complementing the service, accommodation and overall experience. The Long Apron restaurant is at the heart of Clovelly and it is easily the best restaurant north of Brisbane’s CBD.

Glowing reviews and accolades are frequent and unlike most restaurants attached to accommodation, the Long Apron has been allowed to blossom and thrive under its own creative steam. Chef Cameron Matthews has been at the helm since Clovelly opened, and for seven years has developed and shaped a truly unique and considered food offering that is intelligent, but without pretence.

“I always knew I was going to be a chef,” says Cameron emphatically.

“The first dish I made was off a Golden Circle can and it was essentially custard with pineapple pieces and meringue on top that you baked. I remember it tasted absolutely amazing! That was probably when I was six or seven.”

Cameron has an affinity for delivering dishes that highlight quality ingredients without exposing the complicated techniques and processes used to elevate them. It’s as though he wants you to know there is something significant going on beyond the plate, but not enough to distract you from what is on it.

The Long Apron is a true dining experience with an eight course tasting menu, or a five course degustation menu, showcasing elegantly utilised local ingredients from the estate’s gardens and surrounding producers. Dishes like Fraser Isle spanner crab, soured cream, beach herbs and XO, aged duck breast, duck and date sausage with olive oil poached carrots, and Daikon, lamb belly, black garlic and Ortiz anchovy are all designed to effortlessly highlight delicious ingredients and at the same time promote impressive skill, technique and creativity.

A pared back extension of the Long Apron dining experience, perfect for lunch, can be found at the recently launched Short Apron. Think coal grilled octopus with sauce romesco, or full blood Black Angus rump, grilled mushroom and onions. Then for sweets, dark chocolate mousse with bitter orange purée and passionfruit pâte de fruit.

Orchestrating kitchen magic requires Cameron to have access to extraordinary produce and during a tag along to one of his favourite local suppliers, it’s obvious that the understanding and respect for what each party does goes deeper than a simple suppler-chef relationship.

The Falls Farm, an 18-acre biodiverse property, produces high quality heirloom vegetables and herbs, specialising in rarities. Owned by Ben Johnston and Jess Huddart and tended by Ben’s greened thumbed mother, Christine Ballinger, Falls Farm is an edible oasis. The moment Cameron and Christine walk into the garden, the ideas start to flow; new dishes, flavours and preparations are dreamt up as they walk through the rows, tasting and discussing. It is clear that Cameron’s inspiration for dishes at Long and Short Apron starts at the source.

 

OUT AND ABOUT

Back on the lawn of the Estate, glass in hand, the conversation moves beyond the property to the things you can do, taste and see in the area. Once you’ve had your fill of massages, yoga, spa treatments, boules, croquet and swimming pools, the options are plenty, especially midweek, when the whole region is at your beck and call, and you can meander you way through the finer things in life.

The best advice always comes from locals and the Clovelly staff are full of suggestions. The arts and crafts communities in Maleny and Montville are thriving and both have art trails that act as a great guide and are ideal for absorbing the artistic outputs of both communities. Coffee aficionados will satisfy their cravings at Little May on Montville (don’t eat too much cake!), while nature lovers can enjoy bush walks, waterfall swimming and nature trails. Mary Caincross Park, Kondallia Falls and Lake Baroon offer scenic choices and are close to the property.

Photographers will find so much picturesque potential with the sunset botanical tour a great place to start.

For keen gourmands, there are cooking classes at Clovelly’s sister property Tamarind, located in nearby Maleny. Or you can explore the Hinterland Gourmet Food and Wine Trail, which offers the chance to taste some wine at the local cellar doors.

Behind the wheel, once you’ve called into the Falls Farm to say hi to Christine, head down the range and explore the Sunshine Coast food bowl, where there’s an abundance of local food to explore. Just ask the guys at reception or the kitchen and they will gladly point out their favourites.

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Life
The Epicurean Maturation of Porto
Words by Emily McAuliffe on 19 Oct 2017
Porto may be the lesser known of Portugal’s cities, but it’s becoming a star on the food and wine scene. Porto, which takes its name from northern Portugal’s economy-driving seaport, was traditionally regarded as little more than an industrial workhorse. As Lisbon’s blue-collar cousin, it lacked the cultural clout of the capital, and this was only intensified by a king hit during the global financial crisis that left streets bare and spirits low. But Porto isn’t a city to easily falter and its historical tenacity earned it the nickname Invicta, or ‘undefeated’. Whereas it once resisted monarchists, it is now resisting cultural demise, and has bounced back to attain this year’s title of Best European Destination (an honour it has held twice before). In tandem with this surge of social energy is a lifting of the city’s gastronomic scene. In 2017, Porto and its cross-river city Vila Nova de Gaia were awarded three new Michelin stars, bringing the tally up to five. Despite this epicurean maturation, however, one of the most appealing things about Porto is that residents – including the city’s top chefs – still maintain strong food traditions.  “I think we should fight to keep our traditions,” says Pedro Lemos , who in 2015 became Porto’s first chef to reach Michelin status, and now retains his star for a third year. “When you travel, you want to visit the monuments and experience the history, including through the gastronomy, so I’m not afraid to show our roots,” he says of his exclusively Portuguese menu. Therefore, while the culinary diversity of other Western European cities might fool you into thinking you were in any number of countries, Porto has a way of always reminding you you’re in Portugal. And that strong sense of place provides precious insight into the city and country’s identity. Simple fare
The people of Porto are known to eat every part of the pig bar the squeal and are hence dubbed tripeiros or ‘tripe eaters’. Although a reference to ‘poor man’s food’, the locals wear the label with pride and the dish Tripas à Moda do Porto is still widely available on menus across the city in line with a 600-year-old recipe. In the culinary archives, it sits alongside dishes such as the Francesinha, a greasy multi-decker meat sandwich blanketed in cheese, and dried codfish Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá, which are prime examples of Porto’s penchant for simple soul food. “The food in Portugal has history, it’s an important part of our story and culture; it’s our grandmother’s food,” says Rui Paula, who attained his first Michelin star at Casa de Chá da Boa Nova this year. Hence, he and other high-level chefs still frequent local-run tascas, where the prato do dia (plate of the day) is commonly seen scribbled on paper in restaurant windows. In these establishments, dining out remains a boisterous affair where family recipes are served and devoured with contentment and pride, and it’s an endearing example of the Portuguese saying, ‘there is always room at the table for one more’. Raising the bar
Porto’s old-style comfort food is still evident at every turn, but a sign of gastronomical progression came in 2011 when The Yeatman Hotel ’s restaurant, located in Porto’s neighbouring city of Vila Nova de Gaia, was awarded a Michelin star under the leadership of Ricardo Costa, who proved his salt with a second star in 2017. In addition to this formidable two star feat, Porto’s smaller players are offering stiff competition in the culinary stakes, with the quaint destination restaurants of Lemos, Paula and Vítor Matos of Antiqvvm part of the star spangled club. “We used to say ‘we’re lost in Foz’,” says Lemos of his restaurant’s obscure location down a cobbled backstreet in Porto’s fringe suburb of Foz. But a steady stream of locals, followed by travellers, started sniffing out his food creations. “At first people said I was crazy,” says Lemos. “But I wanted my restaurant to grow from its value, and now, the fact it’s a street restaurant makes me even more proud. People don’t stop at the restaurant because they pass it on the street, they come here specifically for us.” Paula, one of the three judges of MasterChef Portugal, is equally chuffed. “It can be difficult to get a Michelin star outside a hotel, so I’m very proud to have achieved it here,” he says from his 30-seat restaurant hidden amongst the sea rocks in Porto’s coastal outskirts. “More and more tourists are coming to Porto and it’s pushing for better dining options,” he continues, referencing the city’s growing number of refined restaurants. Regional influence
Some of Portugal’s best produce is found in the north, so Porto’s restaurateurs can easily tap into quality supplies. Renowned Portuguese food and wine critic José Silva, whose accolades include television presenter, guidebook writer and columnist, cites the smoked meats of Trás-os-Montes as the best in the country, for instance, and Paula, Lemos and Silva all credit the cold vegetation-rich waters of the North Atlantic for producing second-to-none seafood. Though top-notch produce is readily available, local chefs aren’t wedded to northern produce, preferring to draw on regional strengths. “I’ll use local where I can, but I’m not fundamentalist,” say Lemos. “Besides, Portugal is a small country, so really, everything is local.” Costa agrees, saying he prioritises regional products where possible, but also scours the country to find Portugal’s best, such as seaweed from the Algarve region and cheese from the Alentejo.  A fine drop While port has long been a household name, Portugal’s table wines are starting to break international barriers as people discover the 14 principal wine regions, including Porto’s nearby Douro Valley. “In the next few years I think places like the Douro will be one of the 3–4 most important regions in the world for both port and still wines,” says Silva. Francisca Lobão from Porto’s beautiful chapel-turned-wine bar Capela Incomum agrees. “People already have worldwide references of Italian and French wines, for example, and Portugal is on that path,” she says.  Confidence in Portugal’s table wines also led husband and wife team Filipa Garcia Fernandes and Moisés Cardoso Campos to keep the focus away from port wine at their riverside bar, Wine Quay . The gamble paid off, as they have since expanded to include the Quay Market next door for patrons wishing to purchase wines offered at the bar. “People are starting to take Porto more seriously when it comes to food and wine,” says Fernandes. “We have good food, good wine and nice people, and I’m not just saying that because I’m Portuguese,” she laughs. “Oh, and of course, Porto is a beautiful city,” she gushes with true tripeira pride. And, really, what more could you want?
Life
Cellar Doors Italian style
Words by Alessandro Ragazzo on 20 Aug 2015
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Australia's emerging wine regions: making their presence felt!
This Aussie Wine Month we're exploring some of the emerging wine regions across Australia. While they're not as well-known as some of the big guns, Orange, Canberra, Geographe and the Granite Belt are all producing fantastic quality wines. Plus, discover Riverland's new look and new take on alternative varietals.   Orange Located in the central west of NSW, about 280kms west of Sydney, the cool climate region of Orange is producing exceptional Sauvignon Blanc , Chardonnay , Merlot and Pinot Noir , and has winemakers from across the state vying for its premium fruit. Sitting at almost 900m above sea level and with some vineyards climbing to 1100m, Orange is the highest wine region in Australia. It's this altitude coupled with the volcanic soils of Mount Canobolas that make its Sauvignon Blanc so amazing. 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Look for Sangiovese, Barbera, Vermentino , Grüner Veltliner, Arneis, Zinfandel, Tempranillo , and Barbera. Browse our range of Orange wines    Canberra Although grape growing and winemaking in the Canberra district dates back to the 1840s, production went into a dramatic decline, and it wasn't until the 1970s and 1980s that the industry was rekindled in the region. Over the last 20 years, there has been growing interest in the region, and the three sub-regions of Bungendore/Lake George, Hall and Murrumbateman are now home to around 110 vineyards with approximately 450 hectares under vine. The Canberra region experiences a strongly continental climate with a high diurnal temperature range (cold nights and hot summer days) and generally a cool harvest season. Some vineyards are planted on near-alpine slopes with cool autumns contributing to elegant cool-climate Shiraz , Pinot Noir , Cabernet , and Riesling , while those on the lower slopes create full-flavoured Chardonnay and Shiraz. A number of alternative varietals are also on the increase with small plantings of Sangiovese , Tempranillo , Malbec, Marsanne, Roussanne, Graciano and Grüner Veltliner producing fantastic quality wines. Browse our range of Canberra wines   Granite Belt Three hours south-west of Brisbane on the southern Darling Downs, the Granite Belt is situated around Queensland's apple capital, Stanthorpe. Surprisingly, its first plantings of grapes date back to 1820 and precedes Victorian and South Australian regions by 15-plus years. While Queensland is usually thought of as having a hot or tropical climate, the Granite Belt has some of Australia's highest altitude vineyards and it's the associated cool climate that is the perfect setting for the region's fine boned, European-style wines. Think medium-bodied, savoury reds with fine tannins and pronounced acidity. In the whites, expect lighter, citrus driven styles with elegant layers and fine acid lines. 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There are four districts in the region: Harvey, Donnybrook, Capel and Ferguson all with their own unique terroir and topography, but it is the cooling afternoon sea breezes from Geographe Bay that ensure a long stable growing season and that help create the local style of wine. Look for stunning Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, plus alternatives Arneis, Chenin Blanc, Tempranillo and Nebbiolo. Browse our range of Geographe wines   Riverland A warm climate region, Riverland is located east of the South Australia's Barossa Valley and extends for 330 km along the Murray River from Paringa to Blanchetown. Producing up to 30% of Australia's annual crush, it's the largest wine producing region in Australia and home to 1,000 wine grape growers representing 20,600 hectares of vines. Once known for growing fruit for large scale production, Riverland is now being recognised for turning its talents to exciting and premium alternative varieties like Petit Verdot, Montepulciano, Nero d'Avola, Tempranillo, Fiano, Arneis and Vermentino. Fiano particularly, is giving local winemakers a chance to show they can make exciting, cutting-edge wines. Browse our range of Riverland wines  
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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