Recently I had the fortunate opportunity of visiting the Sunshine Coast of Queensland, Australia. It’s been some time since I last visited this area and I was blown away by a community who celebrate and rejoiced in the state’s long-forgotten food chain, serving it to me on a platter (quite literally). I embarked on a time-honoured, but recently forgotten, trail from farm to feast, plant to plate, with dedicated folk determined to use ‘nose to tail, but to root and all bits in between’.
In short, I indulged in a foodie’s paradise, with the warm sun, crisp air and magnificent scenery thrown in for good measure. If I thought I knew this area ‘like the back of my hand’, I was very wrong.
First-time visitors and those like me will experience great joy on such an adventure. There is a collective enthusiasm and passion for culinary innovation that is contagious and a push for the Sunshine Coast to source local product for local food outlets; restaurants, vendors, takeaways, markets and specialist shops alike. What’s grown and farmed in the region, stays in the region.
I spent two days in the area, staying in a villa at Spicers Tamarind Retreat at Maleny. It was an extraordinary experience. It’s an Asian-influenced oasis in which I was not only surrounded by natural beauty and tranquility, but was treated to such fine Asian cuisine I made audible noises of my pleasure. The retreat, situated near Gardners Falls in a beautiful ranforest on a picturesque 18-acre property, features 14 villas all with king-size bed, a wood burning fireplace (to make those frosty winter nights cosy), deck and outdoor seating and modern luxuries that make you feel at home away from home. I wallowed in luxury, walked through the rainforest, spent time in the on-site Spa Anise, relaxed in the outdoor cedar hot tub, eased myself into a plush bathrobe and settled into my double day bed on my private deck to read a book. It wasn’t long before sleep came.
Sub-tropical gardens surround the restaurant, cooking school, luxury suites, day spa & The Tamarind restaurant here at Spicers Tamarind Retreat. This Saturday the retreat hosts the Sunshine Coast Asian Food Festival – an afternoon of stunning food, drinks, demos & entertainment. Book via www.eventbrite.com #spicersretreats
While visiting the Sunshine Coast hinterland, which is an easy 1.75 hour drive from Brisbane, I stopped in at The Falls Farm, Mapleton (30 minutes’ drive from my accommodation). The farm is a family affair — run by Ben and Jess, and their parents Christine, David, Peter and Val — dedicated to both traditional farming and the latest organic soil knowledge, with the goal of growing quality food while increasing biodiversity on the once-negelected 30-acre property.
They produce fruit, vegetables and herbs and are often visited by local chefs, foodies and farmers who like to talk fresh produce and preserves. The Falls Farm folk also receive incredible produce requests and take pride in giving anything a go. I take my hat off to them.
From the farm gate I ventured to Noosa to experience the produce on the plate. Sum Yung Guys at Sunshine Beach is passionate about Asian cuisine and culture. The restaurant showcases the talents of four dedicated, exceptionally gifted owners with Matt Sinclair (MasterChef Australia runner-up 2016) leading the team that includes Michael ‘Moe’ Rickard, Jeremiah Jones and Dylan Campbell.
The cuisine, the drinks, the cocktails and the ambience have all been carefully crafted to compliment a shared experience, encourage a warmth of laid-back ‘occasion’ and the boys’ absolute dedication to exceed service expectations in a casual environment.
The menu is a work of culinary art. The roti is exceptional, but the king prawn toast will have you scratching your head for superlatives … And, please, try at least one of the cocktails.
Before snuggling down for the evening, I was treated to one of the most perfect, picture postcard sunsets at The Old Dairy at Maleny. It too my breath away. This is perhaps one of the most romantic places to celebrate a wedding or special occasion, with uninterrupted valley views. The sprawling acreage of scenic rolling hills and rainforest is the perfect canvas from which you can personalise your event.
After a restful sleep at Spicers, an indulgent massage and a dip in the pool, it was time to check out … I wondered if perhaps I could hide under the bed. However, it was time to explore more of the hinterlands and my first stop was to the local craft brewery, Brouhaha at Maleny. Brouhaha Brewery and Restaurant adopts the principles of its hometown. It embraces the slower pace and fresh local produce of its community in its craft beer and seasonal menu.
I’ll be honest, I’m happy to try new things but a beer drinker I was not. However, the range of beers at Brouhaha has been carefully crafted and designed, which made me something of a convert after sipping raspberry and blood orange fruited French saisons. The beers were innovative, delicious and adventurous and I’m so pleased I gave them a go. Try as I did, I couldn’t fit in the other 29 flavours and that means a return visit is in order.
In addition to the brewery, Brouhaha’s restaurant uses the freshest produce and ingredients from around the Sunshine Coast. James Ostridge is the head chef and has created a menu that compliments the brews. I had a Wagyu beef steak that came from ‘just up the road’ and was melt-in-the-mouth-glorious.