Elegant. If I could choose one word to describe our recent luncheon at The Long Apron restaurant in Montville it would be ‘elegant’.
Crisp white tables were set at private intervals along the length of the restaurant gallery; a wide and welcoming verandah space on the ground floor of the main guesthouse at the grand Spicers Clovelly Estate. Reminiscent of the Hamptons; the guesthouse architecture and design features classic timber lines dressed in shades of charcoal and ivory, and as we sipped on champagne overlooking the manicured gardens, croquet lawn and private swimming pool, it felt like we had stepped into a scene from The Great Gatsby.
The Long Apron restaurant is attached to Spicers Clovelly Estate, a boutique hotel and ever-popular wedding venue in the picturesque Sunshine Coast hinterland village of Montville. Part of the Peppers group, the Estate is equally reputed for its luxury accommodation as it is for the restaurant, led by Executive Chef Cameron Matthews. For the past three years the restaurant has been awarded two chef hats in the Queensland Good Food Guide and in 2015 the restaurant was also awarded two chef hats in the Australian Good Food and Travel Guide. The Long Apron menu is described as European inspired, but it is so much more. It’s innovative and entirely intriguing. There are 15 dishes to the menu and each one highlights local produce. For lunch there is a five course á la Carte menu that can be enjoyed with or without matching wines. There is a full five course vegetarian menu too. The wine list is by the glass and features Australian and imported varieties. Alternatively you can leave your dining decisions in the hands of the Chef by choosing the Tasting Menu, which is abbreviated simply to: Amuse, Oyster, Prawn, Chicken, Mojama (salt cured tuna), Brahman, Curd and Meringue with or without matching wines.
For our Sunday luncheon we settled on the five course á la Carte menu. Each of the courses had three selections (hence the 15 dishes) but this didn’t make our decisions any easier! We had reached a standstill on the third course choices when our waiter arrived with what appeared to be a bonsai vase nestled in a miniature rocky landscape. It turns out that the ‘bonsai’ trunk and branches were hand moulded grissini bread decorated with herbs for leaves and the rock bed included two of the most delicious burst in the mouth cheesy gougères I have ever tasted. They certainly got the taste buds in motion and our decisions came flowing.
Before too long a little amuse bouche arrived from the kitchen. Gosh I love it when that happens! There were savoury oyster bites served on a slate shelf above a pool of river stones. These were followed by glasses of warm broth with the scent of hay and lids of crisp bread. The third element was a pot of rabbit rillettes hidden beneath a grassy green soufflé for scooping with your fingers and a practical warm scented washcloth to clean your hands. What a delightful start – and there were still five courses to go!
Now, not wanting to reveal two thirds of The Long Apron menu to you in this post, I thought I would simply share with you our highlights from the five courses.
Steamed scampi, fennel and pine shoot oil. The scampi were unadulterated – steamed, pure and simple. The pine shoot oil was the colour of the forest and added a clean but complex element to the dish made pretty with petite jellies and fennel flowers.
Butter poached chicken, Kingaroy peanuts, puffed rice, lemon puree, wild bee honey. Wow – there were so many textures in this dish. The soft chicken was such a contrast to the varying heights of crunch in the crispy puffed rice and the robust peanuts. The textures were all brought together with the lemon and honey highlights and the addition of mild pickled garlic.
Leaves from the garden, aged wagyu tartare, mushroom caramel. Nestled beneath crispy bitter leaves harvested from the estate garden was a bed of finely chopped raw wagyu. The mushroom caramel gave a slight earthy and savoury essence to the dish and added flavour to the beef without being overpowering. Like the scampi, the dish was perfectly designed to showcase the hero ingredient.
Part of a suckling pig, confit squid, pollen, ink and pork jus. What a sculptural and aesthetic dish! The tender belly pieces were the foundation for the al dente squid, crispy pork and blackened crispy noodles served with an inky and unctuous pork flavoured jus that was plentiful and looked absolutely decadent.
Malted potato ice cream, miso caramel chocolate mousse, hay ash and beer. I’m going to go out on a limb here – a very sturdy one at that – not one made from grissini! I have to say that this is probably the best dessert I have ever eaten. I also need to add that this statement is even bigger than it sounds as I am not really a chocolate dessert eater – chocolate is usually the last thing I would order for dessert.
I can’t begin to describe the perfect harmony of flavours and textures that this dish was for me. The ice cream had a pretty malted pink blush and was exceptionally creamy. The mousse was sweet and salty and umami flavoured and the crunchy crumb – dare I call it soil – brought your mouth to life. The beer element seemed frozen in time but I was in love with the earthy combination of yeast, malt, miso and cocoa dressed with leaves and hay ash for a hint of smoke. It was just sublime.
Did I mention that before dessert we were served a palette cleansing sorbet featuring finger lime? Then, following dessert, we were presented with a chocolate box to choose from. Yum.
The service throughout the afternoon at The Long Apron was warm and relaxed yet polished. One of the standout parts of lunch was the perfect timing of each course – we were never rushed nor did we ever feel waiting. As we savoured our chocolate box selection our waiter invited us to stroll the estate grounds before driving back to the coast. Of course we did – to stretch the legs and to have a snoop. The gardens are abundant with produce for the kitchen and the accommodation looks private and a little bit romantic. There is also a separate function venue just a skip away for that special event.
The Long Apron is the perfect venue for an elegant luncheon or dinner in the Sunshine Coast hinterland. The food and service are distinctive and the only fault I could pick was that we should have stayed for the night to enjoy the atmosphere and hospitality a little longer.
The Long Apron is open for lunch Friday to Sunday and for Breakfast and Dinner seven days. Reservations are essential to avoid disappointment.