Whenever the town Montville pops up in conversation, my mind drifts off to the award winning The Long Apron Restaurant. The Long Apron is situated on 22 acres with lush grand fig trees, jacarandas and a kitchen team devoted to using at least 90% of produce sourced locally. I don’t think you get any more local than your own kitchen garden. I nod and exclaim “I love that place!”
I was doing my routine research on The Long Apron (TLA) when I came across a review of TLA by Not Quite Nigella (scroll down to bottom). Apparently there is a chef’s table and you know me, I’ll do whatever I can to be at it – see my Buffalo Club review HERE.
I gave TLA a call in the afternoon of the day of our booking and luckily no one else had requested it.
The acclaimed chef of the TLA is Cameron Matthews, 6 foot 8, mad hatter and genius-like. With his promise that “I put my heart and soul in every plate”, it’s clear he has a passion for his work. He was the former head chef of Siggi’s in Brisbane and Restaurant Lurleens at Sirromet Winery (which is also amazing by the way).
With the name TLA and Cameron’s height you might expect there to be a link, but no, it is called TLA because of the traditional aprons that were worn from the chest to ankles thus a long apron.
Mum, Dad, The Princess (my sister) and I left for Montville from Maleny (where we were holidaying) late in the afternoon. As we turned into the Spicer’s Clovelly Estate we noticed a person lying down by the pool and thought that it was a bit odd.
We parked underneath the large fig tree at the restaurant. With the light failing, the Princess and I had time to venture in the garden while Mum and Dad enjoyed a glass of bubbly over looking the rolling hills.
First I noticed the large lemon tree and then found the Lychee, Lemon, Jappa Orange and Guava trees.
Then I found that the person beside the pool was in fact a statue lying down by the pool.
The kitchen garden consisted of three raised garden beds, and grew a range of herbs (chives), vegetables (carrot) and edible flowers (nasturtiums).
After going on a photography spree, the Princess and I returned to Mum and Dad where I began to state my case for ordering a degustation (at least 5 courses) and pleaded – you know this place was awarded best regional restaurant and since we’re here we might as well make the most of it. To my surprise I won. Five courses it was and we were seated at our table with a front view of the kitchen.
Two things surprised me, first, there were only 3 chefs in the kitchen and secondly, the normal dining room was away from us providing an exclusive experience given our proximity to the kitchen.
Given we could order our five courses from the a- la-carte menu, we decided our goal was to try everything on the menu. We had 15 choices and there were three dishes in each of the five sections. We all agreed that we would only miss one dish. Our waiter for the night, Martin, greeted us and took our orders and answered our many queries knowledgeably throughout the night.
A late change of the second course from Mum meant we would in fact be missing out on a really intriguing dish. To this day we still don’t forgive her for that. The Princess being her picky self (which Martin said was good because “you can pick what you like”) was only interested in one dish on the menu which was the duck so she would be just having that and if she was good she could have a hot chocolate at the end of the night.
The kitchen team was already in action with taste tests of sauces and making sure all garnishes were on the workbench. We started seeing some really interesting amuse bouches and bread come out of the kitchen. Then we saw ours.
Soft and fresh sourdough made in house with a creamy spreadable butter also made in house made from Maleny Dairy Cream. Served next to it was a pot plant! It consisted of a lemon and eucalyptus mousse, a soil made of olives and a tree branch like bread sticks.
Amuse 1: Watermelon Sashimi with Braised Fennel.
The fennel gave it a lovely sweetness. The watermelon had a soft delicate texture, unusual for a cool and crispy fruit. I think it had been marinated until it became soft.
Amuse 2: Fish crackers- snapper and squid with saffron mayonnaise.
Way better than the packet bought prawn crackers at most Asian takeaways. It had a nice saltiness that didn’t overpower with a creamy mayonnaise. The crackers were everything you expect them to be, crunchy and that great mouth feel where you can suck until it gently crumbles and dissolves.
We were very impressed, what had come so far really intrigued and was uber-creative. We saw some other dishes leave the kitchen, which heightened the anticipation for the first course even more!
My Course 1: Aged WAGYU TARTARE, charred pepper, local olives, quail egg, cured ox.
The tartare had all the usual seasoning on a regular beef tartare. However what made this one different was that Rump Cap (with a marble score of 7!) was used as opposed to a very plain beef cut. A battered piquillo pepper provided a subtle spiciness and crispiness to the dish. It had a strong onion flavour from the seasoning in the tartare. I would have loved to have more of those delicious quail eggs though.
Dad’s Course 1: Grilled leeks, HERVEY BAY SCALLOPS, marinated clams, green rhubarb vinegar, bay oil.
Nice thinly sliced scallop ceviche with leeks two ways- fried rings and grilled, lovely clams added another texture. Also included pickled samphire, which is the second time I have come across it. The first time being, at The Buffalo Club. In reacquainting ourselves with it, I said I thought it was kind of like asparagus that grows near the sea.
Mum’s Course 1: Jerusalem artichoke, SLOW COOKED CELERIAC, hazelnut, pear, foie.
Consisted of artichoke three ways (unfortunately Mum recalls two, fried and pureed) foie gras sauce, burnt hazelnuts, thinly sliced slow cooked celeriac.
So far everything was very artistically presented with many components, though all complementing each other, but never overpowering nor detracting from the star of the dish.
Mine and Dad’s Course 2: smoked beet embers, MOOLOOLABA SPANNER CRAB, buttermilk, yarra valley salmon.
My favourite component was the Buttermilk foam. We both agreed that the buttermilk wasn’t as tasty in the mash as foam. The beet embers were smoked then dehydrated which gave them an intricately good texture. Something was very salty but we couldn’t pick where it came from, possibly the crab. The roe was beautiful and made that perfect pop in my mouth.
Mum’s Course 2: PLOUGHMANS, pickled cucumbers and onions, jamon iberico, emmental, herb taramasalata.
Mum thoroughly enjoyed this dish saying best Ploughman’s plate she has ever had. I was quite interested that it was on the menu as it is not a usual fine dining kind of dish.
The kitchen was in full swing with beautiful looking plates going out at a fast rate. Bring on course 3!
My Course 3: Braised GLASSHOUSE SNAILS roasted leek, morcilla, fennel & apple.
Based on an actual garden with leaf like lettuce leaves and a log like roasted leek with Glasshouse Mountain snails and crunchy morcilla (which is a Spanish blood sausage)representing soil. The addition of fennel and apple created a refreshing crispness. The snails were glossy and plump and as expected, an earthy flavor. The long leek was surprisingly easy to cut and wasn’t stringy. A selection of different lettuces gave variations of green.
Dad’s, Mum’s and The Princess’ Course 3: Roasted DUCK BREAST, coastal honey, pear, linseed, duck ham & nasturtium.
The duck ham was made in house and was with a tender roasted Gympie duck breast. The honey and mustard seed sauce was just strong enough to come through with all the other ingredients. A seed mix including linseed, caraway, fennel and sunflower seeds was used for crunchiness. Cameron said that it would be the seed mix he would feed ducks if he owned some.
A lovely massive glass bowl was placed on the presentation table, I thought to myself that looks very interesting. It was in fact my next course.
My Course 4: steamed fillet of REEF FISH, beets, radishes & smoked prawn butter.
The Snapper was perfectly steamed befitting its delicate nature with a touch of sweetness. The semi-dried carrots were slightly crunchy while the mini steamed beets and radishes were soft to the bite. The smoked prawn butter sauce added some complexity to the fish. A single fish scale its only minute error.
Mum’s Course 4: rump cap of WAGYU, onions, tea & beer, horseradish cream, heirloom vegetables.
Mum’s beef was very, very tender. The horseradish cream, tea & beer sauce and a flavoursome dust (possibly tea flavored) while lovely by themselves were perfection with the meat. The heirloom vegetables were perfectly cooked and the mash – sublime.
Dad’s Course 4: confit LAMB LOIN, buttermilk ricotta, asparagus risotto, nuts & grains.
Best dish of the night! The ricotta plating technique reminded me of a dish at The Buffalo Club, both spread around the sides of the plate with quite possibly a paintbrush. The lamb was amazing!! It was topped with crumbs of nuts and with a summergreen risotto, which Martin explained was not a risotto at all because it was rice less. Dad picked out a strange shaped piece of crumbed meat. It was soft inside and we all agreed that it was possibly a crumbed sweetbread.
Wow, what an amazing journey already through the savoury dishes. Onwards and upwards!
My course 5: salad of “FRUITS & FLOWERS”, violet, rose, elderflower, raspberry sorbet.
Elderflower and raspberry sorbet with a selection of many freeze dried fruits like raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries. I loved the coldness and crunchiness of the dish. Out of the whole menu the freeze dried fruits are one of the only ingredients that Martin advised were bought elsewhere – though still reasonably local in nearby Brisbane.
Dad’s course 5: blueberries, fresh, dried, sorbet, PINE PARFAIT, lemon thyme.
Martin described this as “the simplest dish on the menu” which was funny because he then described Mum’s dish as “the most complex dish on the menu”. Dad hogged this dish as he loved it and I only had one spoonful of it but it had very clean flavours.
Mum’s Course 5: mint sponge, MALENY GUERNSY MILK SHERBET, choc-mint truffle, green rhubarb jam.
So many elements! I swapped with Mum half way through and it was amazing. The mix of many mint components created a rich dish with many textures- my favourite being the ganache like truffle. Mum preferred the refreshing style of my dessert with its array of berries a refreshing and beautiful fruit salad, while I loved the indulgence of her dessert with its silver foil covered ganache.
The Long Apron sets a high standard for not only the Montville/Maleny region but also for Queensland and while Cameron is at its helm using most of the restaurant’s ingredients sourced from the Sunshine Coast Hinterland, I am certain it will stay at the forefront of fine dining restaurants in Queensland.