I think I should provide some context to the title of this post before I launch into what was a truly blissful weekend at in Montville.
Mum and I have made it a bit of a habit to indulge in girly weekends away as an excuse to spend mother-daughter time (she lives down south and I am up here in Brisbane). So to pay adequate homage to these mother-daughter experiences, a regular Mimi and Mama category has been devised – with some guest posts from “Mama” herself.
Last weekend our girly trip took us to Montville, just inland from the Sunshine Coast, where we indulged in an incredibly relaxing, French-inspired stay at Spicers Clovelly Estate.
A French-inspired Friday Evening
We arrived early Friday evening and drove up to the main house, a white wash walled edifice with large, open glass windows, a bed of roses along the entrance and fairy lights in the trees, which sat picture perfect in the fading light.
Greeted and checked-in by recently appointed manager Sam we were shown to our room within the main house and left to marvel at the interior. Minimal and modest in design, the touches of soft pastel hues and cosy nooks with plenty of reading material on hand were enhanced all the more by softly playing jazz in the background. Immediately we felt transported to France – aided by the stunning Verbena L’Occitane products in the enormous marble finished bathroom. After a quick freshen up, we were ready for a pre-dinner drink before our reservation at the in-house restaurant The Long Apron.
At the bar, we were attended to by Sarah (who clearly knew her wines). We began with a French sparkling Rosé to seal the mood as we perused the menu. Head chef Cameron and the rest of the team at The Long Apron must be commended on such a delightful array of offerings, all sounding just as exquisite and inventive, as I am sure they tasted. After settling on our entrée and main choices, Sarah swiftly began to pour her recommended tipples to match. Mum settled on a surprising Riesling (you wouldn’t know it was a Riesling at all unless informed) and it only took a simple “I prefer white, not too dry” before she picked out the perfect Chenin Blanc for me. The flavour was complex and unexpected – starting out dry and finishing slightly sweet with an almost smoky note throughout.
We were then guided to our table by Tara who took our order and proceeded to bring us complimentary amuse bouche to start – a Heston-esque creation called “Edible Pot-Plant” accompanied by watermelon and rhubarb sashimi (a revelation for the tastebuds) and house baked sourdough with freshly churned butter. Never in my life have I experienced fluffier bread or creamier butter. It was surprisingly light and delectably salty with a hint of sweet. But the hero was most definitely the Pot Plant. After asking what it was we were told all would be revealed after we had tried it. Teaspoon by teaspoon we dissected and deliberated on the flavours within and then revealed our guesses to Tara. “Lemon. Goat’s cheese. Olive. Some sort of crumb?” We came close. A bottom layer of lemon verbena Goat’s cheese mousse topped with an olive and puffed wild rice crumb, finished with roasted Italian breadstick rolled out and fanned to appear like a twig. Unbelievable. It was a perfect “surprise and delight” moment.
After just enough time to savour the amuse bouche, but not too long to feel ravenous, our entrées of Jerusalem artichoke, salt baked celeriac, pear and foie and Mooloolaba spanner crab with smoked beet embers, buttermilk and Yarra Valley salmon roe arrived. Light and delicate in flavour the crab was delicious and “Mama’s” favourite. I on the other hand preferred the intense smoky flavour of the roasted artichoke and ribboned celeriac. There were suggestions of flavour akin to a gourmet cheese and bacon ball…And the dish was entirely cheese-less!
Our mains were equally as delectable – Mama immensely enjoyed the deep, rich taste of the butter poached Belli Park Pheasant breast with mushroom, artichoke and fried brown rice, whilst I opted for the lighter Reef Fish with grilled cabbage, cuttlefish gnocchi, leaves and stems and herbs and whey. The subtlety of all flavours intermingling with the fresh fish was just perfect after a slightly heavier entrée…and don’t even get me started on the cuttlefish gnocchi. Utterly superbe!
After such magnificent fare, there was (alas!) no room left for dessert, especially with a French breakfast to look forward to in the morning. We thanked Tara for all her wonderfully descriptive and knowledgeable explanations of each dish and made our way back to our room, where we found our beds turned down and a Dello Mano brownie placed on top. We fell asleep with the soft hum of jazz still playing in the background.
An indulgent dinner called for a morning walk around the property. The morning was glorious – blue skies and sunshine, which reflected off the lush, dewy grass. Our walk took us down to the bottom of the property, via the “rainforest walk”, up another crest to pass an adorable abandoned hut with magnificent views of Lake Baroon, down by the macadamia grove and back up a fabulous hill that provoked childhood memories of playing roly-poly. It was a lovely way to take in the fresh, winter-morning air and work up an appetite.
Breakfast was served on the open terrace of the main house. Shannon guided us to our table in the sun and informed us of the fresh juice of the day – berries, apple and orange – and invited us to help ourselves to a small table laden with fresh croissants (just out of the oven), fresh fruit and house-made strawberry jam and marmalade preserves. We quickly reviewed the menu and ordered a Croque Madame with ham, Gruyere cheese and a slow poached egg and a serving of Sonoma muesli with seasonal fruit, berry compote and Kenilworth natural yoghurt. Having never had a Croque Madame before it only seemed fitting, although it paled in comparison to the utterly scrumptious croissants. Light and airy on the inside with a perfectly flaky and crisp outer shell, the petite pastry melted-in-your-mouth and served with lashings of house-churned butter and a smear of jam it was a decadent delight indeed.
Not long thereafter it was time for our scheduled spa treatments. Words cannot even begin to describe how blissful the experience was. My therapist Nick managed to de-tensify my back and shoulders whilst maintaining the promise of a gentle, relaxation massage. It took a few hours before we properly emerged from our treatment-induced comas, which we spent lounging on the bay window bed, reading about Gay Paree and watching the passing afternoon sun shower.
Mid-afternoon called for a drive into Montville itself – a township with an adorable main street lined with artisanal shops of local purveyors and providores offering fresh produce, eclectic fashions and hand-crafted timber furniture, leather goods, crafts and other wares. The Clock Shop was simply charming and arriving on the hour meant we had the pleasure of listening to the walls of cuckoos sing and the room of grandfather clocks chime. Next door was Chocolate Country, which has been serving up bounties of sweet treats and fudgy delights to Montville visitors (and residents too, I’m sure) for 20 years. A small tasting of the handmade chilli chocolate fudge ensured we were warmed for the rest of our afternoon explore – which took us to the top crest of main street to admire the sweeping view of the valley below.
As dusk settled we decided we were ready for an early dinner and made our way to our final destination at the base of Montville – the picture-perfect Poet’s Café. A French bistro with quintessentially Parisienne café style seating and interior, we devoured petite bowls of creamy sweet potato soup mopped up with slices of crunchy bread and finished with tiger prawns, seasoned with chilli and garlic served sizzling in a mini cast iron pot with a fresh euro-style salad. It altogether sealed our “Gallic voyage”.
Au revoir Spicers…
Breakfast was again served on the sunny terrace after a brisk morning walk around the estate perimeter. We savoured our fresh juices, creamy cappuccinos and petite pastries before relishing in our orders from the menu. My choice of sautéed mushrooms, avocado, and goat’s cheese on sourdough sprinkled with almond dukkah was packed with flavour and heartily filling, whilst Mama savoured her slow cooked eggs and speck with roasted tomatoes and spinach. The sunny setting and garden outlook with bright pink blooms were parfait, which made it all the more difficult to tear ourselves away and prepare for checkout.
An establishment such as Spicers could have easily been pretentious in its service design and delivery, but there was no trace of that whatsoever during our 2 day stay. The staff were absolutely marvellous – knowledgeable, accommodating and attentive in every way. For a girly spa weekend, a couples escape or even just as an excuse to visit The Long Apron for gastronomic pleasures, Spicers Clovelly Estate is a winner and a hands down “top try” in Mimi and Mama’s books.