Many storms are followed by a rainbow.
When we gather on a bright winter’s day in June for a long table lunch beside the lake at Mavis’s Kitchen, we are thinking celebration. But the sobering trip along the Tweed reminds us of the devastation caused by the flood just two months before. Grass, beaten into submission, lies in brown swathes beside the road, flood levels still evident well above head level.
“We were attending a staff wedding in Europe when the flood waters swept through the ground floor of the restaurant, taking out the office and telecommunications,” Mavis’s Kitchen co-owner Charlie Ebell tells us. With the 10-hectare grounds and car park left knee-deep in mud, the partners returned home, devastated, to begin the heart-breaking job of mud removal and estate restoration; work that would take several weeks.
“Two weeks after cleanup, dinner guests witnessed the most stunning sunset, its colours changing over its half hour duration. You know, no matter how hard a time you have, there’s always reason to go on.”
The trauma is far behind us today as we gather to celebrate Italy’s Republic Day with rustic Italian food, Italian beverages and opera. It’s the latest in the restaurant’s ‘long table’ events held in their magnificent grounds at the foot of Mount Warning, the first event to be held since the flood.
The afternoon begins with appetisers and Aperol spritzers served beside the restaurant. Then, we adjourn to more formal seating.
Three long tables clad in Italy’s green, white and red have been laid out beside the lake, pointing towards the stage where emerging opera star Julia Allsop from Melbourne will entertain us. Dense foliage and towering mountains provide the backdrop for the performance.
“We’ve always wanted to hold an event beside the lake,” Charlie tells us. “I love the idea of communal tables. You never know who you’ll sit beside!”
He’s right. With a small enough group to maintain intimacy, at lunch we chat to other guests from Perth and New Zealand, drawn by a dining experience with entertainment; an event where our mutual interests in food and opera bind us together enough to make conversation with strangers, finding other common interests.
Head Chef Pepe (Eric Garcia) has prepared a 5-course Mediterranean feast for us. Just up the hill we can see him cooking a suckling pig on the spit and two other beasts in Spanish ‘a la cruz’ style over coals.
After antipasto platters and stuffed mushrooms as entrée, the suckling pig is served on huge platters with roast potato and bowls of rich caponata, a family feast in Italian style.
The meal finishes with generous serves of tiramisu and biscotti.
There’s something really special and serene about this place: an almost mystical energy at the green heart of the caldera that must be experienced to be believed. We talk about this with Charlie, the way that the venue itself touches and changes people who come here, winning over guests who return again and again.
It’s a perfect afternoon to bask in winter sunshine surrounded by peaceful rainforest. With Italian wine served with every course, lunch becomes a party celebrating birthdays and new friendships.
Soaring above it all between each course, diners are spellbound by Julia Allsop’s lilting voice, echoing through the valley as if reaching the height of the mountain itself. The finale, Puccini’s ‘O mio Babbino Caro’ is sublime.
As the sun tucks itself away behind the hill, Madam Butterfly provides the ‘rainbow touch’ on a simply brilliant afternoon.
64 Mount Warning Rd, Uki, NSW 2484 Ph: 02 6679 5664
Held: Saturday, June 3, 2017. COST: $95pp, incl. 5 courses, Italian wines and opera
Part of Mavis’s ‘Event Series’. Details of future events can be found here.
NOTE: Good Food Gold Coast dined as guests of Mavis’s Kitchen.