If you follow From the Kitchen on Facebook, you will know that I have just come back from the most extraordinary adventure in Australia. I was incredibly privileged to have been invited to attend the Invite the World to Dinner gala as part of Tourism Australia's 'Restaurant Australia' campaign, and in the lead up to the big event I spent a whirlwind week enjoying vastly different tastes of Queensland. My first stop was arriving at the Cairns airport, then hopping on a helicopter for an hour and 20 minute flight out to Orpheus Island Lodge. The moment we landed I knew I was in for a relaxing time. I was met by General Manager Ranaul Crabb and as my bags were being unpacked from the helicopter and taken to my room we headed across the grass for a glass of welcoming champagne. "Slow down," he said as we walked "people will wander what's wrong!". And he was right - I had launched myself across the grass at my normal break-neck city pace, and not just from the lure of bubbles, but because I was still in total work-mode. Thankfully a few minutes later I had already given in to the disarming nature of the island, my shoulders dropped from around my ears and I started to unwind. The resort, which has a remarkable 'Fantasy Island' feel about it, has just 14 rooms, and can host up to 28 guests, with an equal number of permanent staff. Mickey, pictured with one of the boats and Erin, Martha in the restaurant, Tom the gardener and head chef Arie Prabowo amongst them. It was pretty much like paradise as you can see, and a magical place to totally escape the stresses of regular life - for more pics and news about my stay, just hit the 'click here for recipe link' below. :)
Once I had unpacked my bag, freshened up and had a good wander around the grounds it was time to board the Maree Ann for a lovely jaunt around the bay enjoying a sunset cruise with wine, beer and delicious cheeses. One of the wonderful things about Orpheus is the way guests interact with each other - it's not that you have to, you could easily keep to yourself for a secluded island experience, it's just something about the totally relaxed vibe (and maybe the wine) that loosens lips and inhibitions and before you know it we were all chatting, sharing histories and enjoying a laugh together. There is no formula to the guests Orpheus attracts, from honeymooners to retirees, pregnant couples enjoying a pre-arrival last moment of romantic down-time, families celebrating a special occasion and even the odd food writer, glued to her camera just soaking up the warmth and peace.
One of the things I loved about the island was that you could be as busy, or not, as you wanted. There is plenty on offer when it comes to activities - paddle-boarding, kayaking, sailing, fishing, diving, snorkeling, or taking one of the motorised dinghies out for a jaunt are all popular. However if all you want to do is loll around in a hammock, wander down the beach for a luscious spa treatment, then head back to the infinity pool then that is also totally fine (and highly recommended! :) ) As the sun dips gas torches are lit and the island takes on a different air - glowing, romantic and somehow even more tropical. I enjoyed the most incredible dinner prepared by chef Arie, seated at a table on the pier over-looking the sea. The only sound was the soft lapping of waves and the occasional raucous splash below as fish and stingrays enjoyed mucking about in the warm evening water. The menu was fantastic, and made the most of fresh produce, grown in the on-site herb and vege garden, brought in by boat and sourced in the local waters - like our fish, caught that day by one of the staff. We started with delicious Mussel Mariniere, followed by Red Throat Emperor with Leek Fondue, Roast Baby Chicken and finished off with Caramelised Apple, Confit Rhubarb and strawberries. Delicious. For my next and final night the menu was just as fabulous - Pan seared Harvey Bay Scallops, red Coast Coral trout with Brown Rice and Enoki Mushrooms, Grilled Quail with Spiced Figs and Truffle Spiked Free Range Pork Fillet with Apple, Broccolini and Pressed Potato and Bacala. To finish we had an unusual and clever Banana Curry with Coconut and Lime Sorbet. It was a wonder I still managed to break out the swimsuit during the day!
After two short nights it was time to get back in the helicopter and head onwards to my next adventure. The flight is fascinating - over sea, reefs and land. The transformation from island paradise to Aussie sugar cane country is so cool to see - I loved the patchwork pattern of the land, the contrast of browns and greens and the totally different perspective you enjoy from the air. My lovely pilot happily pointed out the 5km jetty that stretches out to sea allowing ships to collect the sugar without being stranded at low tide, the sugar cane crops being burned to strip the outer leaves ready for harvesting, and the crocodile farm, with pools full of crocs far below us...thankfully!!! My next stop was via a small Cessna headed for the outback - more on that next stage of my journey coming soon :)
Orpheus Island Lodge