GO FOR GOLD

Ju­dith Elen sam­ples home style and high-end bounty on Queens­land’s hol­i­day coast

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - FOOD DETECTIVE -

ALONG the Gold Coast — that bright strip sweep­ing north from Coolan­gatta, threaded with a string of beaches — fam­ily get­aways and show-off glitz are neck and neck. If Surfers is the shini­est lo­cal, its neigh­bours Broad­beach and Main Beach are the up-and-com­ing cousins.

Still with an easy­go­ing feel, there are gems here that raise the game: restau­rants such as Chill on Ted­der ( Travel & In­dul­gence, March 29-30) in Ted­der Av­enue’s smor­gas­bord of restau­rants and bars at Main Beach and, at Broad­beach, Sof­i­tel Gold Coast’s Room81, which is cor­ner­ing the mar­ket in stylish eat­ing with Fer­ran Adria-in­spired flour­ishes in the kitchen and a $7000 Ruinart Cham­pagne trol­ley on the restau­rant floor.

But ven­ture into the Gold Coast’s hin­ter­land and you will find a dif­fer­ent world. Here for a long week­end, I am de­ter­mined to dis­cover both.

Gold Coast City Tourism’s hin­ter­land food and wine trail snakes in­land from the Pa­cific Mo­tor­way to Ca­nun­gra and Mt Tam­borine and lists nine vine­yard vis­its. But my time is lim­ited so I pick some favourite themes. I dis­cover there’s a dis­tiller on the moun­tain with the coun­try’s small­est op­er­at­ing pot still, and it’s not mak­ing moon­shine but in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­claimed fruit liqueurs. There’s also a tra­di­tional brewer craft­ing clean, chem­i­cal-free beers strictly for the lo­cals.

I de­cide to go for th­ese out­siders. But be­fore I head for the hills, I have a dou­ble date with two mar­kets. My first stop will be the lo­cal farm­ers mar­ket, then Sof­i­tel’s ex­ec­u­tive chef plans to take me on a tour of a classy gourmet mar­ket at South­port.

There is noth­ing classy about Satur­day’s Gold Coast Re­gional Farm­ers Mar­ket. Al­ter­nat­ing be­tween Main Beach and Mudgeer­aba, it is as rus­tic as they come. To­day it’s at Mudgeer­aba Show­grounds, 30 min­utes’ drive from Broad­beach. On hes­sian-draped tres­tles, ba­nanas, field mush­rooms and lush greens are on dis­play. Earth-crusted pota­toes fill lumpy sacks.

One seller spruiks live black crabs, hold­ing two aloft, their claws wav­ing help­lessly. In an open-sided pavil­ion El­iz­a­beth Rore sells home­style pre­serves and Jim Ste­wart of­fers honey gleaned from the bees work­ing his trop­i­cal fruit farm and na­tive for­est. Swiss cheese­maker Markus Bucher makes Maleny cheese and but­ter from milk pro­vided by lo­cal dairy farm­ers. El­iz­a­beth Whit­taker’s homemade cakes could fur­nish a for­est fairies’ tea party. And, at the most un­pre­pos­sess­ing ta­ble of all, Charles Par­sons from Charella Goat Dairy — he makes cheeses that are flown to Sin­ga­pore for the kitchens of Raf­fles Ho­tel — cuts me a sliver from a crumbly block of aged goat’s cheese wrapped in plas­tic.

South­port’s Ferry Road Mar­ket, which I visit next with Sof­i­tel chef Daniel Ridge­way, is new and gleam­ing by com­par­i­son. Walk-in shops ar­ranged around a cen­tral court of bench ta­bles stock ev­ery­thing from Ban­ga­low sweet pork and Junee Gold lamb at Prime to hand­made choco­lates at Sweet, where a dream range of rosy-painted, ganache-filled nuggets, green-streaked pep­pery wafers and squares filled with dense fruit paste are ar­ranged jewel-like be­hind glass.

Gleam­ing sil­ver and pink fish are embed­ded in glit­ter­ing ice at one counter where a knife-ex­pert fil­lets and slices. At Flour you can watch bread be­ing kneaded and crusty loaves be­ing plunged into or scooped out of the ovens.

Sevilo Gourmet Del­i­catessen is my favourite, with sliced to or­der prosci­ut­tos, fresh an­tipasti and pack­aged im­ports. Olives are here in pink, pur­ple and black, but I fall for a Si­cil­ian: lime-green and mar­i­nated with lemon peel and gar­lic. Se­greti Tus­can wraps are melt­ingly creamy cigars of pro­sciutto, charred egg­plant and gor­gonzola; I’m al­most pre­pared to fly back here from Syd­ney to re­stock.

A short drive south from my base at Broad­beach, Bren­nan and Peta Field­ing last year opened Burleigh Brew­ing Com­pany where they pro­duce Duke lagers and a pale ale; a wheat beer and In­dian pale ale are planned. Field­ing, who has brewed in the US and Ja­pan, is com­mit­ted with mis­sion­ary-like zeal to mak­ing fresh ad­di­tive-free brews for the re­gion.

‘‘ We are not try­ing to be the beer barons of the world,’’ he says. Beer is at its best when de­liv­ered within ‘‘ one day’s horse and cart ride from the brew­ery’’, four hours’ by truck, that is. Field­ing’s tra­di­tional beers go to Her­vey Bay, Noosa, Bris­bane, Burleigh, By­ron Bay and Coffs Har­bour; and are avail­able here at the brew­ery shop.

Field­ing leads tours of the im­mac­u­late stain­less steel plant most Satur­days and tast­ings are held in a cosy bar­rel room; his com­men­tary is a dis­tilled ed­u­ca­tion in beer.

An­other al­co­holic high spot is the ec­cen­tric Tam­borine Moun­tain Dis­tillery. Here Michael and Alla Ward pro­duce some­thing rarely made in Aus­tralia, trans­mut­ing moun­tain-grown fruit, herbs and spring wa­ter into an ar­ray of liqueurs, vod­kas, schnapps, eau de vie, arak and ab­sinthe.

Their cop­per still is tucked away in one of the Tu­dor-style build­ings they’ve cre­ated in this vil­lage-like com­pound. Rus­sian-born Alla, who hand­paints all the bot­tles, re­mem­bers her fa­ther’s still bub­bling away in her child­hood. The fruits — from tamar­illo to pas­sion­fruit — with herbs such as laven­der and, Aussie touches, lilly pilly and lemon myr­tle, are fer­mented, pro­cessed in the still and aged in oak bar­rels. The quirk­i­ness of this place makes an in­trigu­ing visit and the liqueurs are world class, hav­ing landed awards in Europe and the US.

Back at base, in Broad­beach, Sylvain Pas­de­loup, Sof­i­tel’s food and bev­er­age man­ager, and chef Ridge­way are over­see­ing a so­phis­ti­cated revo­lu­tion in the ho­tel’s kitchens. Room81 with al­fresco ta­bles in front and a New York-style bar at the back, has set­tings in front of the open work­sta­tion where a chef’s ta­ble menu is on of­fer.

Ridge­way in­vites me into his kitchen to watch some El Bulli-style an­tics, us­ing Barcelona chef Fer­ran Adria’s chem­istryclass tech­niques on luxe in­gre­di­ents. He makes a foie gras veloute; slices, sautes, deglazes and mixes, to pro­duce ‘‘ spheres’’,

pearls’’ and ‘‘ caviar’’ via doses of Adria’s spher­i­fi­ca­tion aids. Don’t ask. But you can see for your­self. Demon­stra­tions can be ar­ranged for ho­tel guests.

For a longer fix, I sit down to a 12-course chef’s ta­ble of morsels. I watch and eat: start­ing with Breads (from Ferry Road Mar­ket), I work through Trout (with orange flower wa­ter, baby basil and salmon pearls); Tuna (tar­tar sparked with roasted pep­pers, black se­same and chilli) and Flower (steamed zuc­chini flower with bug meat, prawn and scal­lop mousse). The foie gras spheres fol­low, then Scal­lop (ac­com­pa­nied by con­fit of pork belly, pea and mint puree); Quail (filled with chicken and truf­fle, served with trompettes de mort) and Lamb (a noisette with foie gras mousse wrapped in cre­pinette, pureed potato and truf­fle jus).

I fin­ish with a shot glass of rose-scented straw­berry: coulis, foam, cream and a jew­ellike cube of jelly; then a baby souf­fle of blue­ber­ries with white choco­late ice cream. I by­pass the cheeses and petit fours, in case you’re count­ing.

This is the fi­nal flour­ish: I’ve tasted hin­ter­land pro­duce and now high so­phis­ti­ca­tion, two sides of the same golden coin. Ju­dith Elen was a guest of Sof­i­tel Gold Coast.

Check­list

Gold Coast Re­gional Farm­ers Mar­kets: at Ma­rina Mi­rage, The Spit, Main Beach, first, third and fifth Satur­days of the month, 7am­noon; Mudgeer­aba Show­grounds, Mudgeer­aba, sec­ond and fourth Satur­days, 6am-11am; (07) 5525 3525. www.gold­coastc­ity.com.au www.sof­itel­go­ld­coast.com.au www.fer­ryrd­mar­ket.com.au www.burleigh­brew­ing.com www.tmdliqueurs.com www.tam­borinemoun­taindis­tillery.com

High life: The Gold Coast’s fa­mous tower blocks backed by fer­tile hin­ter­land, top; above, from left, Michael Ward of Tam­borine Moun­tain Dis­tillery; a stall­holder at the re­gional farm­ers mar­ket; Sof­i­tel chef Daniel Ridge­way (right)

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