Can you feel a change in the air? There’s a cooling of an evening that signals the beginning of autumn and a new season at The Fireplace. Each seasons change brings with it a new menu for Intercontinental Sanctuary Cove Resort’s signature restaurant. Being the start of a new month the Executive Sous Chef Parashuram Pathak has also released the new five course degustation menu which a friend and I will be sampling this evening. The meal is being expertly matched with wines from Merchand & Burch, courtesy of the Fireplace’s Castro Sommelier David Stevens.
The Fireplace is located on the lower level of Intercontinental Sanctuary Cove Resort’s “Great House.” It has lovely evening views looking out over beautifully lit gardens and cascading water features. Walking into The Fireplace feels like walking into a grand “old school” “Queenslander” kitchen. The room is furnished with warm wood tables and chairs and has subdued lighting which adds to the homely feel. The heart of any home is the kitchen, and the kitchen is the focal point at the “Fireplace.”
On display for guests to see is a contemporary, provincial style, wood fire. The fireplace blazes from 1.00pm each afternoon as chefs prepare for evening service. All the meals are prepared in the fireplace so guests are able to watch the theatrics of having chefs prepare meals right before their eyes. There are no secrets in this kitchen, and watching the plating up was like watching a magicians performance, or an artist at work.
Nepalese Executive Chef Parashuram commenced at The Fireplace in April this 2013 although he had been with Intercontinental Group for more than ten years. Having been born in Nepal, Parashuram’s started cooking at an early age. He helped his mum pick fresh produce from the farm, and create meals for the family. His respect and appreciation for fresh produce is evident at The Fireplace. The chefs have a kitchen garden containing herbs and other commonly used produce. Produce which isn’t grown in the garden is sourced from local producers where possible.
Whilst Parashuram creates the “Tasting Menus” each month, David Steven’s, The Fireplace Sommelier and Maitr’d is charged with the task of choosing complimentary wines to accompany the dishes. The March Tasting Menu has been matched exclusively with Marchard & Burch wines. Looking through the tasting menu I noticed some of the Marchand & Burch wines were from Burgundy France, whilst others were from Western Australia. When I questioned this it was explained the wines are a collaboration between a French and Australian winemaker. The two winemakers initially met in a village in Burgundy and formed a lasting friendship over a love of Pinot Noir. The friendship blossomed and they decided to go into partnership producing the wine label Marchand & Burch. Marchard & Burch wines are made using fruit from either Pascal Marchand’s vineyard in France or the Burch Family Wines Vineyard. Naturally the winemaking season in each country falls at different times in the year. This allows both winemakers to be involved in producing both the French and Australian wines. Its fair to say the label benefits from generations of French and Australian wine making techniques and expertise.
Our first wine of the evening was the NV Cremant De Bourgogne from Bourgogne France. It was a lovely light gold colour with delicate, fine, soft bubbles and gentle balanced fruit flavour. I enjoyed the clean finish and found this a very easy wine to enjoy.
A selection of Artisan house made breads were served on a rustic wooden bread board with a choice of Pepe Saya Butter or local olive oil. The aroma of fresh bread is just sublime and this was no exception. It took all my self control to keep from filling up on the bread.
The NV Cremant De Bourgogne was chosen perfectly to accompany the starter which was Muscovy Duck Rillette with Prickly Pear and Brioche Tuile. Such gorgeous presentation, and watching the chefs plating up was a treat in itself. The duck was moist, flavoursome and deliciously gamey. It rested on a sticky rich jus which had the taken up the full flavour of the meat. The fruity prickly pear purée lifted the dish and gave the duck a lovely sweet, floral balance. Finishing the dish was a crunchy brioche tuile, which echoed the rich, buttery nature of the meat but added a lovely crisp component.
The meal was off to an amazing start. Next we were introduced to the Marchand & Burch 2011 Chardonnay, Great Southern WA. Made from grapes grown at the Burch family wines vineyard, handpicked to produce this elegant wine. A pale straw colour with a delicious floral aroma. The wine had a gorgeous peachy flavour with a rich buttery finish, a testament to time the spent on French oak. A beautiful wine which achieved the perfect balance of flavours.
Our sommelier had chosen a perfect wine pairing for our Butter poached Yabby with Seafood broth and Tamarillos. The sweet meat of the yabbie was absolutely succulent, perfectly cooked with a delicious buttery mouth feel. A clear seafood broth was poured over the dish at the table which added another layer of clean seafood flavour. This contrasted wonderfully with the sweet tartness of the tamarillo, a fruit which I haven’t had in such a long time!
There is nothing as deliciously delicate, sweet and moist as the perfectly cooked flaking flesh of fish which has just been caught. I have a soft spot for snapper as I feel it has more flavour than a lot of other varieties. Chef had selected a locally caught Goldband Snapper and after gentle pan frying served it on an impossibly sweet and creamy corn purée. Complimenting and contrasting slightly from these flavours was an eggplant caponata. The caponata had rich flavours of dried fruits, spices and eggplant, such an interesting and unique dish. I would love the recipe for this component as it’s like nothing else I have tried before. I can imagine it pairing well with so many other dishes.
2011 Marchand & Burch Chardonnay Chablis France was the matched wine for this course. Seafood and lemon are such complimentary flavours and our sommelier had obviously chosen this French wine for its bright citrusy appeal. The wine was pale straw colour and picked from a single block in Prehy, France. The zesty lemon and subtle acidity work exceptionally well with the dish.
Simply referred to as a cucumber sorbet with candied orange on the menu, the title gave know clues as to the depth of flavour this sorbet would encompass. Cucumber is a subtle and refreshing flavour, perfect for a palate cleanser, but with the addition of honeydew melon the sorbet became sublime. Such a silky smooth sorbet with just enough sweetness from the melon and cleanness from the cucumber to make the perfect amuse-bouche. The occasional burst of flavour from the strips of candied orange gave intermezzo yet another element to be enjoyed.
Our third course took full advantage of the fireplace. We were served fire roasted veal strip loin with a celeriac coffee with confit garlic. The fire lent the veal a rich smoky depth of flavour. The meat had a slight charring on the outside but perfectly pink moist flesh throughout. The melt in the mouth meat was presented on a white coffee celeriac. I learned this rich coffee flavour was achieved by soaking coffee beans overnight in the milk, then incorporating the milk into the celeriac puree. The slow cooking of anything gives a lovely “melty” texture but confit garlic is a standout. The caramelised squishy confit garlic was amazing spread over the veal and finished the dish nicely.
Given that it was a love of Pinot that resulted in the Merchand & Burch wine collaboration, I was looking forward to sampling the 2010 Marchand & Burch Pinot Noir, France. I have to admit I have never tried a French Pinot Noir, but I do enjoy the New Zealand and Tassie Pinots. The first indication that this would be a new experience for me was in the colour of the wine, it was a much deeper shade of garnet than expected. Upon tasting it was immediately evident this French Pinot had a more complex flavour profile. It was deliciously spicy with plump cherry flavours and a lovely silky texture. It wasn’t an overly sweet pinot, and had a medium level of acidity with lovely oak rounding the finish on the palate.
Dessert was Liquorice parfait with a crunchy filo triangle and a cherry & cassis sponge. There were so many wonderful flavours on the plate. The liquorice was only mild which I am grateful for but the dessert was creamy and soft, the crunchy filo made the perfect partner. I am sure the chef had buttered and honeyed each layer of the filo before baking it to crisp perfection. Another contrast was the vivid purple sponge, impossibly lightly with a vibrant cherry flavour.
Matched with dessert was a big full 2009 Margaret River Shiraz from Marchand & Burch. Whilst Shiraz is not a commonly selected wine to accompany dessert, we were in the hands of an expert sommelier who explained why this pairing worked perfectly. As it was explained a dessert wine needs to be sweeter than the dish it accompanies. Our desert had been full of flavours but not overly sweet. The rich berry and plum of the Shiraz provided a match for the dessert, and the wine provided the overall sweetness.
Coffee and petit fours saw the completion of our meal. I couldn’t help but wonder how the chef managed to create a new tasting menu every five weeks. We had experienced beautifully presented dishes with perfectly balanced flavours. Each dish had a number of components which took advantage of unique foods, flavours or techniques. In addition the Fireplace also changes their regular menu every three months to take advantage of new seasons produce. Lets not forget, all this is cooked in a fireplace!
At the end of the evening we said goodbye to our dining companions. We had been enjoying our meal with a lovely couple who regularly frequented The Fireplace. The gentlemen took me aside and told me the meals he had experienced at the fireplace were always this exquisite! He said it was the exceptional food, the warm and friendly atmosphere and the changing menu that keeps them coming back. He told me the staff go out of their way to look after everyone well, and the service is always impeccable. I could not agree more with this sentiment. I would highly recommend reserving a table at The Fireplace and please ensure you chose the matching wines.
The FireplaceIntercontinental Sanctuary Cove Resort Manor Circle, Sanctuary Cove, QLD Ph: 1300 306 952 Gourmet Getaways dined as a guest of The Fireplace. All opinions contained in this article are a true and accurate reflection of the writers views on the experience.