It has taken a long time for me to post this blog and the one tomorrow as not long after this mum was diagnosed with cancer then passed away 4 months later. If you re interested in reading about it, it was my first Monday Musing to relaunch my blog.
Mum and I have been wanting to get along to this restaurant and cooking school for a while now. So for Christmas I got her a voucher. Yes it took us 7 months to use it, but at least it didn’t expire. We decided that if we were going to the school that we would want to have dinner or lunch as well, however, when booking our class, the staff were very helpful, suggesting that dinner the night before would be better, as there would be a lot of food for lunch (that we would make) at the end of the cooking class and we probably wouldn’t then want dinner. So we have the restaurant first and then the Cooking School Blog tomorrow.
We stayed at the Nambour Motor Inn. This is a very basic motel, but it was clean, the beds were comfortable and it is family owned. It was exactly what we needed, as we were really only there for a hot shower and a sleep. There is nothing like an old school Motel that you drive right up to your door and you can order breakfast in you room, that the owners cook. It felt like we were on an old fashioned family driving holiday. If you are in Nambour and need a bed for the night…this is a good stop! Nambour Lodge Motel.
Now, we arrive in our quaint motel, read a bit, had a shower and got ready for dinner. The dream that is “The Spirit House Restaurant and Cooking School” is a wonderful tale of retirement, that technically didn’t happen, read all about it by clicking on the link above as well as the menu and cooking school classes.
As you walk into the grounds either during the day or night, you are transplanted into a tropical paradise. The restaurant is set up in smaller “pavilions” that are situated around a lovely small lake. During the night it is lite up with citronella candles and lights that accentuate the beauty of the trees. During the day, the sun (lets face it is shines pretty much all the time here in Queensland) filters through the trees and lights the spectacular garden.
Mum and I chose the Spirit House Classic Banquet Menu for our first visit, as it is always great to try as many things as possible. Mum and I chose just to have a glass of wine each (we needed our game face on for cooking the next day) that we enjoyed throughout the meal. Before I comment any more I need to tell you of the terrible photos I took… the lighting was not fantastic for taking photos, so the photos definitely do not do this most delicious asian inspired meals justice.
Coconut Soup of Smoked Salmon – if it tasted horrible, the way it was severed would have been enough to make me like it, but it was sublimely divine. The perfect blend of creamy, sour, tangy and sweet, with cooked hot smoked salmon and all the Thai aramats.
Crispy Bungalow Pork Belly with Citrus Caramel – This is probably one of the most perfect mouthfuls of Asian food I have ever eaten. It was even pretty close to some of the best mouthfuls of food I have ever eaten and I had the opportunity to dine at “The Fat Duck” in Melbourne Part 1 and Part 2, click if you want to read that experience. Anyway back to the pork…. seriously, imagine a mouthful of delicious asian flavours, slow cooked pork belly that melts in you mouth with the divine crunchy crispy pork rind surrounded by a sweet sticky citrus sauce that was equally sweet and sharp. Top it off with a light salad of coriander, mint, lemongrass and chilli. I could have just kept eating it..
Wok Seared Scallops with Pickled Green Papaya, Pomelo, Peanuts and Red Nahm Jim – This was a really tasty dish, but in comparison to the soup and pork, (I can’t believe I am saying this) it was just lightly seared scollops. I’m sure that if this was the only entree I had, I would be raving about it, but the previous two dishes were remarkable.
Whole Crispy Fish with Chilli Tamarind Sauce – As you can see this is a whole fried fish and we were fortunate enough that it was a small barramundi. It was hot… too hot for mum, so she had more of the fish once I had got into it. I throughly devoured it… Perfect mix of heat for me…I’m sure that you could ask for mild if you like. Really, this was the only dish that had any real heat in this banquet, so very chilli friendly suitable for everyone. Next time I think I will be ordering off the menu and diving into the heat that is Thai cuisine as this dish was delicious.
Massaman Curry of Slow Cooked Lamb Shoulder with Potatoes, Shallots and Pickled Garlic – I only had a small taste of this on the night, as I pretty much ate the whole fish myself (not allowed to be taken home) so I ate the massaman next night for dinner… it was the best massaman I had ever eaten. That’s it, the next day it was still the best I have tasted. It had that subtle hint of the influence of indian spices on Thai food, but the creaminess of the coconut milk contrasted the richness of the spices with the add lightness of the cucumber and pickled garlic to create a perfect balance of food.
Compressed Cucumber and Pineapple Salad with Lime and Peanuts – delicious, light and fruity to go with everything and help with the heat of the fish.
Rice – I think I only had 1 tablespoon with the taste of the massaman, “ain’t nobody got room for rice.”
Dessert Duo/Share – one of these I couldn’t have as it had banana in it and I didn’t think to tell them, but the chocolate plate was far superior anyway.
I don’t know about you, but I generally give dessert a miss at most asian restaurants? These desserts were very fancy, tasty and western, with asian inspired flavour infused into recognisable tastes. Unfortunately I forgot to take photos until we had already eaten these desserts… so they look a bit disheveled! LOL Oh and we didn’t even eat them all because we were so full!
The best way to sum up this extraordinary food is, balanced. I know that doesn’t sound very sexy or appetising, but there is a lot to be said for getting the perfect balance of salt, sour, sweet, spice, in perfect partnership with the ingredients you are working with. This happens in every mouthful at this restaurant. All The Spirt House produce is sourced locally and because they have been so successful, it has led to farmers and local growers being able to expand their business’ to keep up with the demand. When you think about it, Northern Queensland is a fantastic place to grow all the wonderful asian herbs and roots used as well as freshly source meat and seafood. It is really hard to compare this meal to most of my local thai restaurants as its really not fair. So do yourself a favour and just go… if you live in Queensland, drive for lunch, even if you have to leave really early in the morning, only problem is no one will want to drive home because you will be too full and want to sleep. If you don’t live here and you decide to holiday on the sunshine coast… book a table, you will thank me!
If you could have a perfect mouthful of food, what would it be? My choice before this resultant would not have pork… but I still think about it, it was so delicious.
Thanks for reading.
Happy Cooking! The cooking school blog out tomorrow!