There’s an inviting hideaway just 10km off the Gold Coast, a peaceful, secluded lifestyle resort and eco-retreat set beside a lagoon, surrounded by paperbarks and sparkling water: Couran Cove Island Resort on South Stradbroke Island.
Developed at a cost of $360 million by former mayor Ron Clarke and philanthropist Chuck Feeney, Couran Cove Resort, named after the indigenous word for ‘Moreton Bay ash’, stands today as a tribute to vision and enterprise, man vs wild, the challenge of transportation always a factor in the island’s (and the resort’s) history.
South Stradbroke is a sandy island located within sight of the mainland, just far enough away to be an enticing island retreat. It’s a long narrow stretch of land hugging the coast, 22km long and only 2 ½ km across at its widest part.
A 15-minute boat ride across the Broadwater brings us into a sheltered cove, the resort a cluster of buildings set around the cove, its facilities and 354 cabins extending back into the island around a private lagoon. A few private houses peep shyly around the corners of the waterways. In fact, only half of the resort is in the letting pool, the rest being privately tenanted.
New owner Onterran, who bought into the resort in mid-2016, has undertaken a $100 million refurbishment, bringing new vigour to the settlement, always a popular retreat for boaties and their families. ‘Stay a week, visit us for a day’ encapsulates the philosophy. With its abundant wildlife and stunning paperbarks, palms and windswept beaches, the island has broad appeal for tourists and locals alike, the resort being an experience-based destination where you can do as little or as much as you like.
There’s a range of sporting and family activities on offer including ‘Virtual reality World’ where you can play 90 golf courses from around the world, or you can discover the island’s wildlife in the heritage listed bushland or walk along the islands 22km of pristine secluded beaches.
To broaden the island’s appeal, a series of culinary events featuring cuisines of countries fronting the Mediterranean will form part of the island’s allure, the first being ‘A Taste of Tuscany’, which we have been invited to preview.
“What we really miss today is a chef who can really introduce you to the food,” Executive Chef Rossano Tantulli tells us as he handmakes the ricotta in front of us for our starters. Having migrated to Australia in 1999 after working in Europe, the US and Japan, it’s the flavours of Tuscany to which he returns for this lunch: superb handmade organic produce with rich and fresh accents, matched to European wines from the resort’s collection chosen by Sommelier Mirco Greghini.
It’s rustic fine food rather than fine dining; the sort of cuisine that would grace a Tuscan restaurant or country villa for a sunny weekend lunch on the patio.
Rossano tells us the provenance of each ingredient, just as we are introduced to each wine pairing by Mirco. We look for ‘peach blossom and apples with an almond finish’ on the soave, noting that the wine is organic.
The parma aged for 24 months from Siena, fresh porcini imported from Italy, an amuse bouche palate cleanser of handmade intensely-flavoured shiraz jam. It’s his knowledge that’s the goldmine, this chef who has brought a restaurant to Michelin star standard; one of ten to represent Australia in the World Culinary Competition in Singapore in 2018.
“I often go back to a second century recipe book to get ideas,” Rossano tells us.
Organic rosemary and EVO focaccia served with 24-month parmesan, prosciutto, fresh pecorino cheese and fig jam — Matched with Soave Fasoli, the perfect balance between cheese and proscuitto
Homemade ravioli stuffed with fresh ricotta, spinach and vintage cheddar topped with burned sage and a 24-month parmesan tuille handmade to his mother’s recipe – Matched with Chardonnay Langhe Fontanafredda 2014
Eye fillet Rossini served with porcini mushrooms, foie gras and truffle potato gratin, the demi-glaze as rich as chocolate sauce cooked for 24 hours – Matched with Delas Cotes du Rhone 2013 Saint Esprit
Oven-baked panna cotta with caramel and berries – Matched with Franciacorta Ziliani Rosé
“People need to have something that is an experience,” Rossano tells us, a statement as true of the resort as it is of the gorgeous food he presents to us.
As our boat draws away from the island, a pair of golden wallabies look up in farewell from the shore as we return to the coast. It’s been a quite remarkable day.
Note: A daily island passenger ferry service travels to Couran Cove, or transportation can be arranged by the resort. Contact the resort about upcoming events. Good Food Gold Coast dined as a guest of Couran Cove Island resort.
South Stradbroke Island, Queensland Ph: 07 5597 9999