Wild Rocket at Misty’s – Montville, QLD

Narrows CottageOver the years my husband and I have had many happy retreats to the Sunshine Coast, more often than not staying in Noosaville. This time, hanging out for a last little snap of winter, a bit of green and a dash of red, we headed to Montville – a little inland from Noosa and set between Baroon Pocket Dam and the coast, abundant with rain forests and delightful crafty village shops.

Narrows RainforestWe found just the sanctuary we had a yen for at Narrows Escape. A small retreat run by the most delightful people who seem to anticipate everything you might need before you even consider it. Each wooden cottage is nestled amongst the trees, some alongside a little creek and all with a hammock, spa bath and fireplace.

Narrows Escape Breakfast HamperFor once it was nice not to have to pack any provisions, as included in the rate was an impressive breakfast hamper laden with eggs, bacon, fruit, spreads, orange juice, milk and chocolates; a welcome bottle of bubbly and a cheese platter. Every morning we had warm, freshly baked croissants delivered to the cottage with the newspaper on Sunday, and if we had chosen not to venture out we could have had a two-course meal cooked and served to us in our cottage.

Misty's ButtonsWe spent the first morning walking up an appetite in the rain forest and then settled in at Wild Rocket @ Misty’s for a lazy, lengthy lunch over a bottle of wine. Situated in one of the most historic buildings in Montville, but serving modern bistro-style food, Wild Rocket offers great value with a side of charm.

Misty's BurgerThe burger is a hunger buster and loaded with freshness and zing. A proper homemade beef patty, perfectly cooked and juicy, with smoked chilli relish and pickled cucumber a perfect complement to the bacon and hand-cut fries.

Misty's Thai Beef SaladThe Thai beef salad is just as well balanced and fresh. So good in fact that we returned the next day and switched choices.

If you haven’t been to the hinterland before, it’s a great place to the get the cement out of your system. One of the most beautiful walks is to be found at Kondalilla Falls and an easy half hour drive takes you to the Eumundi market on a Sunday. A little way away, tucked into a surprising sanctuary in Yandina, is my favourite Thai restaurant – Spirit House.

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L’etoile – Paddington, Sydney

Le'Toile WindowWhy did I wait so long for this exquisite experience? From the lovely little walk along Glenmore Road to the quaint old terraced houses and the rare boutiques surrounding L’etoile – I’m immersed in the European finesse which the French so rightfully lay claim to.

I am greeted at the door by the thoroughly French and fabulously attentive Didier. He delights me with a little window table in the corner … perfect for the lone diner and better yet for one with a penchant for observing life. As I sit down the sun breaks through the clouds and glistens on the drizzle.

I am the first diner to arrive and so have the restaurantScallop Sausage with Crustacean Bisque – and Didier – all to myself. I order a glass of Champagne and the Boudin de St Jacques to start – the silkiest scallop sausage with crustacean bisque. The sausage is unimaginably light but given a balanced depth with the fullness of flavour from the bisque. The roe pops delicately in my mouth and for the first time I get what all the fuss is about.

Le'Toile TroutI’m tempted by everything on the “plats principaux”, but settle on the rainbow trout fillet with Grenobloise sauce. Did you know there are 20 variations of butter sauces in French cuisine? One for each of the proteins or vegetables they accompany. This one is a butter, parsley, lemon, caper and crouton sauce. The trout is pan-fried with crispy skin and the most delicate flesh and so I’m pleased the butter is gorgeously nutted, served with adequate restraint and cut through sufficiently with the lemon. I also love the little pop from the capers and the peppery finish of the watercress.

Le'Toile Citroen TartBy now it’s started raining again and I decide there’s nothing for it but a little coffee and dessert. Didier ably predicts my choice (Crème Brulee – of course), but gently steers me towards the citron tart instead. I’m not sorry.

A gorgeous champagne and lychee gremolata cleanses my palate and prepares me for the sweetness to follow. The lemon tart is smooth, creamy and um … tart. The meringue reminds of me of marshmallows melted over a fire and the pastry is flaky decadence. Again, it’s all about balance and the raspberry and rhubarb sorbet is just the ying for the yang.

The Best of my Best in Brisbane

I was asked tonight which are my favourite restaurants in Brisbane. It’s not the first time I’ve been asked and I realise that while I have only been writing this blog for a few months, I have been indulging in my food passion for far longer. So here is a very short, very sweet mention of a few of my favourites ….

Aria – Eagle St Pier, Brisbane

Matt Moran is unashamedly my foodie hero. He’s unpretentious, lives up to his food ideals (sustainability, waste not, paddock to plate) and is one of the nicest people I’ve met. An evening at Aria can be eye-wateringly expensive but is worth every hard-earned penny. It’s easy to tell when food is farmed, prepared and presented with unwavering dedication and care, but it’s not always easy to find. And you get what you pay for. I promise.

The Stokehouse – Southbank, Brisbane

Hot on Aria’s heels. This is a great destination for a summer’s lunch on the river. Go casual with the bar menu and a bottle of wine on the deck, or relish the very fine and beautifully presented, magnificently balanced dining in the restaurant.

Alchemy – Brisbane City

Heston-lovers this one’s for you. Gastronomy, liquid nitrogen and foams delight.

L’Aquitaine – Southbank, Brisbane

Slightly less pretentious, more modern French dining. Great value, fantastic service and on the river. Perfect for a pre-show dinner if you’re heading off to QPAC.

La Vie – Southbank, Brisbane

Also perfect for the pre-show dinner; this Italian gem is a must. Casual dining, lively (aka a little noisy) but great food. Don’t miss the arancini if it’s on the menu.

Mariosarti – Toowong, Brisbane

This was one of my very first Australian restaurant dining experiences and the first one I enjoyed. If you live in the area it’s worth a go. Contemporary Italian.

The Fat Noodle – Treasury Casino, Brisbane City

Blog coming soon, but if you’re after pho this is where it’s at. Luke Nguyen is the master of Vietnamese.

Oyama – Fortitude Valley, Brisbane

Traditional Japanese and outstanding. Mind you don’t confuse the wasabi for avo though (novice mistake – ahem).

Mons Sabai – Cannon Hill, Brisbane

My favourite Thai restaurant in Brisbane. Curry pastes are house-made and everything on the menu is good (yes, we’ve tried most of it). My favourites though – prawn and grapefruit salad (sometimes on the specials menu) and the red duck curry.

Kingsleys – Eagle St Pier, Brisbane

Contemporary Australian steakhouse. The best soft shell crab and you can’t beat the steaks. You might need to be a little patient though.

Didier – if you read this you’ll have to write to me with some suggestions for the Gold Coast 🙂

Look out for my breakfast guide … coming soon.

Gerard’s Bistro – Fortitude Valley, Brisbane

130928 Gerard's Bistro CharcuterieRecently rated one of Brisbane’s best restaurants by Gourmet Traveller, Gerard’s has been on my bucket list for a while. The attraction? Modern middle-eastern cuisine served share-style, intriguing décor and an impressive wine list. It’s also conveniently located if you’re heading towards the Valley for a show – walking distance from The Tivoli and the Judith Wright theatre and close enough to the Powerhouse for a quick pre-show dinner if you’re driving.

The menu is diverse and thoroughly contemporary – house-made smallgoods and pickled accompaniments abound and its clear smoking is a technique favoured by chef Ben Williamson.130928 Gerard's Bistro charcuterie 3

The charcuterie board with Lebanese pickles goes so much further than the usual well-sourced and assembled offering. The house-made chorizo paste has a fabulous kick and works really well with the pickles. The liver pate packs remarkable flavour for its feather-light smoothness and finishes beautifully atop the seeded crispbread. The prosciutto is delicately smoked but watch those pickled chillies.

130928 Gerard's Bistro Suckling Pig PSSuckling pig with pear, walnuts and Jerusalem artichokes is the signature dish and it doesn’t disappoint.

The Pategonian toothfish with mussels and jamon is perfectly complemented by lentils shot through with a hint of lemon.130928 Gerard's Bistro Pategonian Toothfish 1 Both dishes work beautifully with sides of smoked potatoes with tahini, sumac and nigella; and roasted beetroot with shankleish, barberries, hazelnuts and lemon balm. Also on the menu and fantastic with our selection is the Stoneleigh Pinot Gris.

With all this we left no space for sweets, but will happily return to finish the experience.

A side note – if you’re a real foodie with a penchant for collecting recipe books, pop into Scrumptious Reads, just diagonally across from the entrance to Gerard’s. It’s open late and is the perfect appetising distraction on the way in if you’re a little early for your booking.