Head Chef Andrew Birse draws influence from the minimalist style of French and Japanese cuisine
Spicers Clovelly Estate, set on 22 acres of lush, landscaped grounds outside Montville in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, has taken on a new Head Chef, Andrew Birse, who’s fine dining credentials will give casual diners even more reason to book into the private retreat’s The Long Apron restaurant and sample their French-inspired cuisine, matched by one of the region’s best wine lists.
Before joining Spicers Retreats, Head Chef Birse worked with Alanna Sapwell at Arc Dining and earlier rose to Sous Chef under Simon Palmer and Phillip Johnson at e’cco bistro. Birse has their same sense of celebrating the quality of the ingredients without being overshadowed by complexity or technique, with attention to detail and preference for understatement over ostentation.
Andrew says, “I have always drawn the most influence from French and Japanese cuisine as I enjoy the minimalist style driven by the base ingredient.”
Andrew enjoys the minimalist style of French cuisine
The Long Apron’s cuisine is focused on the freshest local vegetables. It’s not vegetarian but does focus on single origin produce. For the chef team knowing where their produce comes from and the producers is essential, which is why they have such a strong emphasis on building partnerships with local producers employing sustainable practices.
“It’s exciting to be working in a regional area where I get to develop relationships with growers, makers, and fishers,” says Birse. “I enjoy working with a variety of proteins, and pork is probably my favourite, but these days I am really enjoying adding a more vegetable focus to my menus.”
Showcasing the local region is central to the Spicers ethos, as is a strong sense of place and connection to the local environment.
Birse certainly agrees, “I enjoy the challenge of continuing to build upon our ‘green’ kitchen,” he says, “and Spicers’ sustainability focus was one of the many reasons I was attracted to the company.”
Spicers Retreats commitment to sustainability attracted Andrew to the role
Spicers’ commitment to sustainability is from the ground up. Their “plant the seed” initiatives, including recycling and reuse programs and composting, are in full swing at each of their retreats.
Verdant country paradise
The French call it ‘joie de vivre’, a feeling that life isn’t just good, it’s something to be embraced and enjoyed every day. There’s a captivating feeling from the moment you pass between the grand figs, shaded jacarandas and groves of magnolias and gardenias that frame Clovelly Estate’s main guest house.
The Spicers property and luxury suites centred on The Long Apron is for those who want to build connections and celebrate life among the relaxed luxury of a verdant country paradise.
The team at Spicers Clovelly Estate want to create an emotional connection with guests through engagement on all levels: touch, taste, smell; mind, body, soul. It’s an environment that inspires invention and exploration, with wonders around every bend in the path, and beautiful settings to delight the imagination and inspire gatherings.
Choose from a selection of rooms and spaces at The Long Apron: dine elegantly indoors or out, at tables on the terrace or the wide timber veranda. For that special occasion, a private dining room is available for more intimate gatherings, or you could simply relax in the tranquil gardens with a charcuterie platter and a glass of Champagne.
Classic French ethos
The Long Apron restaurant is one of the most highly awarded restaurants on the Sunshine Coast. The restaurant has been recognised with one Chef-Hat from the Good Food Guide (2020), two Chef-Hats in the Australian Good Food Guide (2020 and 2021) plus the Readers’ Choice award for the European category, and ranked 18 in the Delicious Top 100 Restaurants for 2019.
The dedicated team of chefs at The Long Apron draw on classic French ethos and technique in the kitchen, matching time-honoured disciplines with contemporary artistry. There’s a respect and knowledge of the traditional techniques and recipes that underpin modern day cooking, as well as a sensitivity to the environment, creating dishes inspired by the surroundings, the seasons and the landscape of blue ocean, green rolling hills and lush wetlands.
Ideally, you can experience the Dégustation Omnivore and Dégustation Végétarien with optional matching French wines (the Autumn dégustation is $120pp, matching wines $110pp). The a la carte set menu offers three choices each for entrée, main and dessert ($85pp, cheese course $10pp). In a sign of the kitchen team’s depth of knowledge and creativity, the three menus largely feature different dishes.
Braised organic beef features on the Dégustation Omnivore menu
Focussing on plant life, current dishes include aigre doux eggplant with roast peppers and white bean; Parisienne gnocchi with oyster mushroom, braised chestnut and cauliflower; and roasted fig with rice pudding ice cream and pistachio.
The truly extensive wine list has an understandable preference for French wines, especially Champagne, and the classic regional styles (Burgundy, Bordeaux, Rhone) that are also produced so well in Australia.
Individual wines are highlighted throughout the wine list with tasting notes, which goes for the entire range of beverages at The Long Apron, from tea and coffee to the excellent selection of (many local) beer and spirits, including a homemade clarified rum punch that’s macerated for three days using fifteen fruits and spices.
In addition to a sparkling Sommelier Selection of vintage and prestige cuvée Champagne by the bottle, a Coravin wine preservation system allows The Long Apron to pour more premium wines by the glass than would otherwise be economical, including Chablis, Cote Rotie, and Châteauneuf Du Pape, as well as unique regional styles from around the wine world, like aged Hunter Valley semillon and Barbaresco from Piedmont.
The Long Apron’s wine list understandably features a large range of Champagne’s
Much more than cooking
The Long Apron’s new Head Chef Andrew Birse started his apprenticeship more than 15 years ago, inspired by a fascination with how the right methods can transform simple ingredients into something more deeply nourishing.
“Over the years I have had a lot of influences and mentors,” says Birse. “Damon Porter of Saison Salumi and Dalton Catering (who’s cooked at Vaquero, Malt Dining, Aquitaine Brasserie) and Alanna Sapwell from our time at Arc Dining.”
As Sous Chef, Birse developed menus with Head Chef Alanna Sapwell, and helped win the venue a host of major awards, including the number two place in Delicious Magazine’s list of best Australian restaurants and one chef’s hat in the Good Food Guide Awards during Arc’s first year, and Alanna received Gourmet Traveller’s Best New Talent for 2020.
Birse says, “It was very sad to see Arc Dining close because of the pandemic, but great to see Alana open Esmay at the ex-Wasabi space in Noosa. The Sunshine Coast has such a great food scene, and of course it’s a more relaxed vibe than Brisbane City.”
Andrew enjoys the relaxed dining vibe of the Sunshine Coast
Andrew moved to Arc Dining from Malt Dining in the heritage Wenley House in Brisbane City, where he was Head Chef from 2016, and just as responsible for the logistics of running all back of house operations as the busy kitchen and menus for one-off events and dinners.
“My time at e’cco with Phillip Johnson and Simon Palmer was also a big influence and made me focus on my career,” Andrew continues. “I started as Chef de Partie in 2015 and was later promoted to Sous Chef, and helped e’cco achieved a second chef’s hat while I was in there.”
Birse’s first Head Chef position was, four years from 2011, at the Bitter Suite craft beer gastro pub in Brisbane’s hip inner city New Farm, working with owners Braden and Katherine Saunders. He says, “I really enjoy the development of a restaurant from the beginning to now, which was something I experienced at Bitter Suite and Arc Dining.”
Andrew says, “I take a lot from everyone I work with regardless of their position within the kitchen, which is why staff training and mentoring is critical, everyone needs to be inspired to be their best and support the team. We need to encourage young people into the restaurant and hospitality industry by giving them great places to work.”
A country destination with a world to explore
Located just 1 kilometre from Montville and 15 minutes from Maleny in the beautiful Sunshine Coast Hinterland, Spicers Clovelly Estate feels a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
The Estate is a showcase of the other side of the Sunshine Coast, away from the sand and surf, in the shade of ancient trees and an expanse of carefully tended garden.
Just outside of town overlooking the lush, rolling hills around the Baroona Dam, Clovelly Estate provides a refreshing backdrop for lively discussions and new perspectives, perfect for small board meetings and conferences.
Each of the uniquely designed suites across the property offers a different configuration and style, welcoming customisation and flexibility. There’s the six-suite Montville House, the three-bedroom French Cottage and 10 suites in the main guest house, serviced by the Spa Anise day spa. The quality of the materials speak for themselves, matching the ever-present natural world that extends from landscaped gardens to ancient rainforest.
Spicers Clovelly Estate
Whether you seek privacy or companionship, adventure or tranquillity, business meetings or contemplation, Spicers have created a true estate experience that melds with the landscape to draw you into a verdant world of natural, unadorned luxury.
Montville is a destination town replete with galleries, craft shops and fashion boutiques on the road winding along the ridgeline of the Blackall Range, with spectacular views over the Sunshine Coast, before it dips down north toward Noosa and south to the Glasshouse Mountains and the world-famous Australia Zoo.
The area is perfect for a scenic drive, with magnificent tracks for walking or mountain biking. If you want to be swept off your feet, take a helicopter directly from Clovelly Estate to the World Heritage listed Fraser Island and find the perfect spot for a picnic, or immerse yourself in the breathtaking views of the hinterland right down the coast on a scenic flight over the Sunshine Coast from Bribie Island to Noosa.