It was a stylish pre-Christmas celebration; the first in a series of wine dinners hosted by the Intercontinental Sanctuary Cove Resort in their signature restaurant, The Fireplace. Of course we were delighted to accept the invitation to attend!
We’d already experienced the delight of Executive Sous Chef Parashuram Pathak’s food at a previous event. Tonight, Chef Para (as he is fondly known by staff), would present and explain his five course menu matched by accompanying Louis Roederer champagnes presented by one of Australia’s foremost wine experts, Tyson Stelzer.
It had been stormy on the coast, but the hotel’s a picture of tranquillity, a perfect setting for a weekend getaway, or a special celebration. Birds sing in a garden freshly sparkling from the rain; a cascade of pools extend down the hill to the swimming pools, with the natural waterway beyond.
Inside, the hotel is finely cheerily decked out for Christmas. Excited chatter emanates from the cosy restaurant as people gather and champagne flows. White-uniformed chefs continue preparation around the double wood-fired oven, the centrepiece of The Fireplace Restaurant.
Historically, a wood-fired oven has been the beating heart of many kitchens. For me it formed part of my NZ childhood ritual: gathering mushrooms and chopping wood, stoking the stove which cooked the dinner and warmed not only the house but also the water for our bath in the copper. When the fire subsided to coals, the baking began.
Tonight’s dinner gives glimpses of rustic cooking methods and foraging: the use of cooking stones Para has collected from the Coomera River, the slightly smoky flavour infused into the seafood, samphire cropped from an undisclosed location on the Gold Coast foreshore, fresh yarrow picked from the kitchen garden which the chef established…
Foraging is almost second nature to Chef Para. As a child growing up in Nepal, he learned firsthand the hard work required to produce and gather food, helping his mum pick food for his family’s table, and to sell at the market.
Now, so far away from his childhood home, he is the gentle master of the Intercontinental’s kitchens, overseeing every detail of the food service from sourcing of food to its presentation.
“He checks in on breakfast all the time to see what we’re doing,” one of the breakfast staff tells me. “He manages to have a handle on everything – quite amazing, and always so happy!”
Chef Para passionately explains the provenance and detailing of each dish before we consume it. His great respect for fresh produce leads him to source from local suppliers as much as possible – fruit and vegetables from Mt Tamborine, Witches Chase cheese, Gold Coast seafood, grass-fed meat from the Darling Downs.
Diners participate visually as each course is assembled onto rows of hand thrown plates lined up on the huge island bench fronting the ovens, chefs interweaving like ballerinas, each completing their allotted task.
The food shows elements of rustic provincial fare, influences of Chef Para’s training in Japanese cuisine in Dubai, some dishes using French ingredients and method, yet there’s something else again – the essence of imagination and creativity which puts every true chef’s unique mark on their work. Each course is a miniature work of art, with diners taking the time to feast with their eyes before they take the first bite.
Or before they sip. Carefully chosen to contrast but not overpower the food, a glass of champagne accompanies each course. Between courses, the erudite Tyson Stelzer explains each wine and its heritage – Louis Roederer, the largest family-owned champagne house in the world. He gazes upwards as his words transport us to Reims, France, where we picture vines kissed by the winter sun.
The NV Louis Roederer Brut Premier, which accompanies our second course, is blended from the wine of one hundred or so villages in Montagne de Reims, one of the most esteemed areas in the Champagne Region. Each village ferments their own wine in barrels, maintaining the ‘terroir’ or individual characteristics of those vineyards in the champagne.
Picking up his glass, Tyson quotes Dom Pérignon’s Chef de Cave, Richard Geoffroy as saying that “…wine should be about bringing people together.”
“Raise a glass to someone special in your life,” he says.
This dinner, the first in a monthly series to be held by the Intercontinental Sanctuary Cove Resort, is a celebration of diversity and abundance; a visual and culinary feast resulting from a true passion for food and wine, its service and the art of the table.
As we savour our meal, I marvel at the diverse origins of this food and wine; how far-reaching the elements that have brought this meal together. I picture workers harvesting grapes on a hillside in Reims; a small boy picking food to be shared at his communal family table in Nepal, and realise I can’t begin to imagine the culinary journey he has travelled.
Yes, we may be taking part in the oldest communal activity in the world, the sharing of a meal, but when I ask Para how he would explain the food he’s prepared to his parents, he says simply, “I cannot.”
DISCLAIMER: Good Food Gold Coast was a guest of The Intercontinental Sanctuary Cove Resort. Food and beverages were provided by The Fireplace Restaurant.
Copyright photo of Parashuram Pathak courtesy of the iKapture. Used with permission.
Address: Manor Circle, Sanctuary Cove, Queensland 4212 Ph: 07 5530 1234