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Destination Dining At Songbirds Rainforest Retreat

Songbirds Rainforest Retreat

Destination dining. The concept is familiar to anyone who has more than a passing interest in the source of a restaurant’s food and the process of getting it to the plate. It is a commitment to eating the freshest, locally sourced produce for personal health as well as economic and environmental sustainability.

Restaurants that take pride in serving up these foods are often located in the countryside where they cultivate their own vegetable and herb gardens, and design an ever-changing menu around seasonal, regional and organic produce.

One such place is the restaurant at Songbirds Rainforest Retreat in Mount Tamborine, Queensland. The multi award-winning restaurant added yet another Chef Hat from the Australian Good Food Guide earlier this year for its beautiful, innovative meals.

When woman with drive recently visited the mountain retreat, Head Chef Mathew Fulford, had just brought in a fresh batch of regional red claw.

Watch: Chef Mathew creating a appetiser of grilled red claw with pickled green pumpkin and crispy potatoes (post continues after video).  

“I love cooking with red claw because it is a really good product,” he said. “It is also rare so it is not like you are able to pop into the supermarket to pick some up yourself. That is the kind of food we create here.”

“Red claw has a lot of shell and can be a little pricy so it is always good to use the whole piece. And always crack open the claws. There is a lot of good meat inside.”

The other beauty of red claw, he added, is the simplicity of cooking it. A basic marinade, a few minutes on the grill and you have an exquisite appetiser on your hands. For this particular dish, Mathew headed into the garden for the ginger and turmeric that were in peak season.

He then turned these two ingredients into a marinade for the red claw, which he paired with a homemade pickled green pumpkin, crispy potatoes and a salad. Each component featured Songbird’s own produce.

“We have become a fine dining destination restaurant and our garden is the real key to that,” he said. “If we can grow it, we use it. We try to do everything in-house and where we cannot, we use the local guys.”

“There is a guy down the mountain who makes an amazing chorizo. And in a couple of weeks we will have a proper American style smoker delivered here. That will be really interesting for us.”


Grilled Red Claw With Green Pickled Pumpkin & Crispy Potatoes

Serves 2


Grilled Red Claw


1-2 large red claw

1 tbsp fresh turmeric

1 tbsp fresh ginger

1 clove garlic

Olive oil

Murray River sea salt



Blanch the red claw in boiling water for 1 to 2 minutes or until the colour of the shell changes to bright red. Then remove from the boiling water and immediate plunge into a pot of ice-cold water.

Peel the shell off the bottom half of the red claws.

Blitz the turmeric, ginger and garlic into a paste.

Marinate the red claws in the paste for 30 minutes. Do not leave it marinating longer than this because red claw is very subtle and you may end up with an overpowering taste of ginger.

Grill for two minutes on each side.

Serve immediately with pickled green pumpkin, crispy potatoes and a salad.


Pickled Green Pumpkin


100g green pumpkin

2 tbsp Chardonnay vinegar

5 fennel seeds

5 coriander seeds

5 star anise

2 tbsp olive oil

Pinch salt

Pinch sugar



Peel, deseed and finely slice the green pumpkin.

Place the slices in a zip lock bag with the rest of the ingredients. Get as much air out of the bag as possible, seal and refrigerate for as long as possible. Alternatively, use a vacuum packing machine if you have one. Serve raw.


Crispy Potatoes


1 potato

100g butter

Salt and pepper



Peel and finely slice the potato.

Toss the slices in salt and pepper.

Melt the butter in a pan and fry the potatoes until crispy.



Amaranth, nasturtium flowers and leaves, borage, society garlic flowers, marigold, red elk lettuce, mizuna and baby kale. Wash and serve without dressing.


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