For decades one of Australia’s most important food bowls, the Scenic Rim region of Southeast Queensland is also (finally) turning into a regional dining destination.
Where are we, again? We close and open our eyes. It’s a hedge-lined byway on a broad plateau, driving past rolling farmland parcelled off by enormous windbreaks. The road reaches a narrow ridge and then snakes through a canopy of trees. It could be the Dales of England, or perhaps the Hügelland in Germany – except the Pacific Ocean is barely 30 kilometres away, as the crow flies. An hour earlier we were sipping coffee in the shadow of a Gold Coast skyscraper. This is Beechmont, on the edge of Queensland’s Scenic Rim region. For keen hikers, it’s a gateway to Lamington National Park and miles upon miles of bush walks through the Gondwana rainforest. For the rest of us, it might as well be a lost world.
We’re so taken by the stunning scenery, we initially miss the entrance to Beechmont Estate, and have to turn back to find its imposing white gates. This five-star retreat sits on 30 perfectly manicured hectares of former Wagyu farmland. A winding driveway dips down across a creek and up to a handsome modern lodge built in white timber and stone. Out the back of the property, there are horse stables and a polo field, and on a northern-facing slope, our accommodation – an immaculate little cabin with modern timber features, a fireplace and a spacious deck within mooing distance of some neighbouring cows.
But it’s the retreat’s restaurant we’re really here for. The Paddock is a beautiful 40-person dining room – all polished concrete-aggregate floors, vintage leather furniture and pendant lights. A vaulted ceiling and enormous western-facing windows bring the views outside into the room, the sun setting through the trees on a distant ridge line.
On a property like Beechmont, it would be easy to phone in the food. But The Paddock is part of a new generation of restaurants redefining regional dining in Southeast Queensland, and has become a prized lunch location for day-trippers from Brisbane and the Gold Coast.
We find executive chef Simon Furley foraging in the garden, collecting olive leaves for that night’s service. Most of the planter beds are asleep right now, he explains, but by the spring – in just a few short weeks – they’ll bloom with warrigal greens, salt bush, finger lime, karkalla, ginger and lemon myrtle.
“The regional dining scene has definitely come along in recent years,” Simon says. “People are more willing to travel inland from Brisbane and the Gold Coast, for starters. The Scenic Rim was a place to go for hikes and walks. People didn’t think there was much here in terms of food.”
There have always been good places to eat in the valleys, ranges and villages beyond Brisbane, the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast – Spirit House in Yandina, The Long Apron in Montville or Homage
in Grandchester. But the pandemic highlighted the ties that bind restaurants everywhere to the farmers who supply them, and in turn shone a spotlight on the wider region’s role as a food bowl. Chefs such
as Simon are capitalising on that awareness.
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The menu at The Paddock is supplied by a hit parade of local producers – Towri Sheep Cheeses, Tommerup’s Dairy Farm and Rocky Point Aquaculture. The furthest Simon travels for produce is to Miami
Fish Market, one hour away.
“I’d never go back to cooking in the city, no way,” Simon says. “It’s just not the same. I go to the garden and pick some stuff, or my farmer texts me in the morning and he’s dropped some melons off at a clothes shop down the road – they’re in her fridge. It’s just four melons, but they’re the best melons you’ll ever taste. Cooking here just has a real sense of place.
This is an abridged version of the original article written by Matt Shea. Read the rest of this article on page 81 in the second issue of Dream by Luxury Escapes magazine. Get your copy here.