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Life

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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Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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