Spicers Hidden Vale is a classy country getaway that feels as hidden and secluded as its name suggests. The working cattle farm is spread over 12,000 acres but the retreat is located near the main homestead which has superb scenic views. Accommodation consists of historic stand-alone wooden cottages which are shaded by the sweeping branches of ancient fig trees that are dotted throughout the grounds. There are also private luxury timber cabins with an outdoor bathtub and views across the surrounding land.
Our luxury cabin had a wide veranda overlooking a stand of gum trees framed by distant purple mountains. It was so quintessentially Australian that it felt like we were looking at a painting. We didn’t try the outdoor bath as it was extremely chilly during our winter stay but the secluded tub would be the ideal for stargazing on summer nights. There is also a lagoon-style swimming pool near the main homestead which can be enjoyed in warmer weather.
With a golden sunset lighting the evening sky, my husband and I relaxed on the veranda with a glass of champagne, enjoying the fresh country air and the sight of the light changing over the mountains. Kangaroos hopped across the lawn in front of our cottage and currawongs called each other home as stars began pricking the evening sky. It was hard to believe we were less than an hour’s drive from Brisbane.
Far away from the city lights the Milky Way looked like a shimmering carpet instead of an indistinct blur. Only the promise of dinner at the Spicers Hidden Vale restaurant could tear us away. Homage at the main homestead offers something far more impressive than the hearty home-style cooking you would usually expect to find at a rural retreat. Chef Ash Martin is renowned for combining locally sourced ingredients with high-end French techniques. It’s a match made in heaven for foodies.
With a two-way fireplace surrounded by cosy sofas and a dining room with widely spaced tables, this restaurant is cosy and welcoming, whether you are dining as a couple, a family or with a group of friends. Homage also has an open kitchen which means diners get dinner and a show. Lunch and dinner are a three-course menu with a choice of three to five dishes for each course. Meals can also be served on the homestead’s veranda.
We both began with coal roasted pork with lemon aspen and apple aged over olive wood charcoal. This was followed by wood roasted lamb for my husband and chicken cooked over olivewood with Jerusalem artichoke and barley for me. Don’t let the simple dish descriptions on the menu fool you. Martin’s food is far more sophisticated than these suggest.
Dessert was a rich macadamia and chocolate parfait which was my dessert fantasy as it had two of my favourite things: ice cream and chocolate. A sophisticated toffee and date pudding with butterscotch and Homage honey hit the spot for my husband. We enjoyed dinner so much that we booked for a family birthday lunch a few weeks after our stay.
For something less formal, meals are also available at the historic on-site barn, the centre piece of which is a vast wood burning smokehouse. Here you can watch the chefs at work as you dine on fried chicken with black garlic mayo, white bread, lime and fermented chili oil or a beef burger with smoked cheese, special sauce, smoked cheese, pickles and fries.
Near the smokehouse we discovered a small barn filled with the smell of warm hay and the contented clucks of happy chickens. Not surprisingly, the eggs at breakfast the next morning were superb. Breakfast is a two la carte menu which begins with house made yoghurt and fresh fruit delivered to the table.
There were two options for the hot breakfast: toasted English muffin with Homage farm ham, poached eggs and tomato relish or poached eggs served with sourdough, avocado, mushroom and chickpeas. A glass of juice and one barista made coffee was included as well, although the latter was rather small. We both purchased another coffee for $5 each.
With activities such as a market garden tour, cheese and wine tasting, tennis and exploring the retreat’s 100 plus kilometres of mountain bike trails, there is never a dull moment for guests who like to get out and about on holiday. If you aren’t keen on working up too much of a sweat, ebikes are available to explore the trails or go for a leisurely spin around the grounds. We were content to simply relax and enjoy the beauty of our surroundings.
Disclosure: The writer was a guest of Spicers Hidden Vale.
If you’re passing through Brisbane on your way to Spicers Hidden Vale and looking for somewhere to stay, we have reviewed The Calile, The Westin Brisbane, Hilton Brisbane, The Johnson, NEXT Hotel Brisbane, Sage Hotel James Street, Royal on the Park, Ibis Styles Elizabeth Street, Sofitel Brisbane, Gambaro Hotel, and Pullman Brisbane Airport.