The Gold Coast Hinterland and Mount Tamborine are a short drive away but feel like different worlds. Wineries, lush rainforests, misty valleys and cute-as-a-button cabins, it’s got everything you could want for that perfect weekend away from the daily grind. And now, as we all know, it’s never been more important to holiday at home and support our local tourism operators. So, if getting back to nature is on your 2020 bucket list, stop the search.
In the caring hands of passionate new owners, Songbirds Rainforest Retreat is up there with the best. Surrounded by tropical forest and more birds than your birdsong app will recognise, six rustic yet totally snuggle-worthy cabins come complete with a king sized bed, spa bath overlooking the trees, floor to ceiling windows, mini bar and tasty breakfast hamper delivered direct to your door each morning.
Though it’s the food experience that will take your breath away—Songbirds’ restaurant is the true star of the show here. Recently benefiting from a revamp and the acquisition of both Michelin Star chef Meyjitte Boughenout and knowledgeable restaurant manager and sommelier Alex Menzies, Songbirds has just been awarded an impressive two chef hats by Australian Good Food Guide. If you know your hats, you’ll know this is seriously rare; making this unpretentious restaurant, located deep in the hinterland, the highest ranked eatery on the Gold Coast. And if that’s not reason enough to scoop up your lover or bestie and pack a weekend bag, we don’t know what is.
On a mission to put Mount Tamborine squarely on the Gold Coast foodie map, Chef Boughenout has been experimenting with flavours and textures to create a fine dining excursion to remember. Each dish is artfully plated to perfection, and we recommend strapping yourself in for the wine-matched six-course degustation. With a focus on organic and locally-sourced produce—70 per cent of which is plucked fresh from the onsite kitchen garden—this a true paddock to plate experience. Heavily dependent on whichever ingredients are on hand at any given time, the menu evolves along with the chef’s imagination.
Take for instance the self-confessed Picasso-esque dish of heirloom tomatoes wrapped inside a translucent tomato water ravioli, layered with elements from olive tapenade to cauliflower puree and garlic flower. Further tease your senses with creative dishes like the frozen pea sorbet starter and poached John Dory with beetroot tofu and an almond, citrus and coco crumb.
Or, how about dessert, topped with diced pineapple that’s marinated in saffron, a Campari ball dipped in coco butter, coconut ice cream, and all smoked with cherry wood under a glass dome? Drool. The intricacy of each course will encourage you to slow down and savour each mouthful as flavours dance across your tastebuds.
We paired our six-course degustation with wines that were expertly matched by sommelier, Alex. Alex’s knowledge of each drop from his hand-picked, 90-label long wine list—including sustainable, biodynamic wines—had us filled with questions that were graciously answered. From the innovative cocktail list, Songbirds’ smokey twist on an Old Fashioned made with Willet Pot Still Bourbon, was the perfect nightcap.
With an exceptional meal under our belts, a wander back through a darkened rainforest alive with the hum of nature and a path lit only by garden lights, serenaded us into a blissful slumber. If only every dinner out could end like this!
Located a short drive from the attractions of Mount Tamborine, plan to make a weekend of it by checking out the Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk, Curtis Falls and views from The Polish Place. Next, arm yourself with fresh bread and cheese from Witches Cheese Chase, wine from Witches Falls Winery and a pack of cards before heading back to your private rainforest cabin for the ultimate relax-cation. Songbirds Rainforest Retreat and its award-winning restaurant is open for overnight stays and reservations from Thursday through to Sunday. For more information and to book, head here.
Image credit: Brooke Darling for Urban List