Friday, March 23, 2007

Songbirds in the Forest

Eating out:
The day my mom came to visit, we went to Songbirds Rainforest Retreat, a luxurious rainforest spa retreat on Mount Tamborine in the Gold Coast Hinterland. We had no intentions to stay, or to pamper ourselves with indulgent massages or the works. We were purely there to sample the highly acclaimed and awarded food at the restaurant, Songbirds in the Forest.

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The retreat was a good 20 minute drive from the Pacific Motorway exit, but it was a drive worth the while.

Upon entering the sprawling grounds of the retreat, one immediately feels a sense of lightness and peace. The crisp mountain air, combined with the exotic balinese decor and landscaping, plus the surrounding tranquility all culminate to send positive vibes through one's bones. We just knew that it; we were in for something good.

Sure enough we were!

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The restaurant is flanked on both sides by ledges spilling over into lush tropical gardens, where the resident bush turkeys and a whole array of other wild birds come to nest, thus the name of the establishment. It's almost like an open-concept aviary of sorts, where birds from the surrounding forests can be seen mucking around in the day. Outside of the main dining area, there are shelterd pagodas where wicker outdoor tables and chairs are set, as can be seen in the picture below. I half-wished we could have spared the time to stay on till evening to sip cocktails there. Next time perhaps.

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The food was equally as good to boot, and thus stood up to the exceedingly high expectations that we had built since entering.

For starters, we ordered the:

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Parmesan custard with cos lettuce, parmesan crisp, and anchovy sauce.

This dish did not leave much of an impression on Bev. She found that the different components did not compliment each other. It could have done with a little more refinement. The saving grace, to her was that the warm weather made this cold entree highly appropriate and welcoming.

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Green pea and ham soup, panko crusted crab cake and crispy wakame seaweed.

The soup was poured into the plate at the table by the waiter, thus keeping the crab cake and fried seaweed as crispy as can be. I highly applaud this kind of attention to detail; to me, such a gesture sends a message to diners that the chef actually takes some bloody pride in his food (unlike in many other restaurants that I've patronised).

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Confit Bangalow pork belly, roast Moreton Bay bug tail, pineapple and ginger chutney.

Apart from the dry and over-cooked bottom layer of the pork belly (it was probably confit-ed on the bottom shelf of a too-hot oven), everything else came together nicely. There was, surprisingly, a lot of 'harmony' among the many components this dish.

Similarly, the main courses that we ordered were a notch better than most of those that I've had around here:

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Tempura coated soft shell crab, green mango and papaya salad, yellow chilli nahm jim.

The portion was HUGE! And the salad was pretty decent too; one of the better thai papaya/mango salads I've tried outside of a Thai restaurant.

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Roasted fillet of pork, red cabbage, crispy potato rosti.

Bev's favourite dish. The pork was cooked perfectly, pinkish and juicy in the middle. I reckon too few restaurants do a good job cooking pork to that precise internal temperature.

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Beef tenderlion, potato and bacon gnocchi, prawn dumpling, fried potato strings.

This was a very 'safe' dish. However, it was like everything else, pretty well exectued. Intrestingly, the gnocchi came in the form of a square patty sitting beneath the steak. My only quip about the dish was the odd prawn dumpling: it was nice, but it just didn't quite seem to fit in with the rest.

All in all, lunch at Songbirds was very pleasant and memorable. It scores pretty well in terms of food, but as far as ambience goes, 10/10 wouldn't even do it justice. Oh, and having said all that, did forget to mention that the restaurant actually clinched the coveted title of Queensland Restaurant of the Year 2006?

Songbirds Rainforest Retreat
Tamborine Mountain Road,
P.O. Box 275,
North Tamborine
Tel: 07 5545 2563

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