Decades of love dedicated to Central Qld's 'best restaurant'
FERNS Hideaway have well-and-truly bounced back after the Byfield venue was devastated by Cyclone Marcia.
After 750 foodies voted, husband-and-wife duo John 'Marto' Martin and his wife Genevieve's restaurant was chosen as CQ's favourite with nearly 25% of the vote.
The picturesque restaurant, caravan park and live entertainment venue is a dream 38 years in the making for the Martins, who first came to the area for their honeymoon in 1977.
It was the climate which lured them, but Byfield's beauty captivated them. They have never left.
The pair don't want to focus too much on the negatives of TC Marica, but said two years on things are starting to look positive as visitors return to the region.
"Work, we just work every day of our lives,” Marto said of how the couple power on to remain what they believe to be one of the region's longest running restaurants.
"We opened on Friday the 13th, 1990... if you can believe it,” he told, explaining they had purchased the land 10 years prior with a vision of what has now become their reality.
The years to follow were spent saving and starting to build, and have since entailed "a lot of juggling, a lot of maintenance and upkeep”.
"There's a lot in it because we have 100 acres on this beautiful creek,” Marto said.
"When Marcia hit it devastated us, but we are back on our feet, people are just starting to come back to the region.”
One of the Martin's secrets to success are two menus which cater to different types of travellers; a café offering which meets all dietary needs (vegan, vegetarian, gluten free), and a restaurant menu for those who want the full dining experience.
A meal also comes with all access to their facilities; a canoe ride on the water, a day with the family on three acres of manicured lawns or a kick-back to the smooth sounds of Marto's trademark musical performances - requests welcome.
Stepping off the stage from a Saturday music session, Marto spoke of his joy that Ferns visitors had appreciated his and Gen's labour of love, which has seen them transform a 100-acre chunk of paradise into a warm, welcoming, family facility.
"Gen came to Rocky and did her midwifery, that was going to be one of our fall-backs; work in industry and build a lovely big house in the bush,” Marto said.
"So we were delighted with the competition... it's nice to give the little restaurants and places a chance to say what people think about them.
"I always love 'as voted by the people', that to me is grassroots... we're absolutely ecstatic.”
Though worlds away from her life as a midwife, Genevieve said her love of people and desire to care and make them comfortable, had directly transferred to her role as a hospitality industry owner-operator.
"We opened in 1990 and are very experienced at looking after people in the service industry, it's very much a part of that,” Genevieve said.
"My husband is an entertainer and I was a nurse, I trained as a midwife in Rocky Base, I am used to caring for people's needs; making people comfortable in a good environment.
"Our restaurant is air-conditioned and comfortable.
"In winter we have an open fireplace, there's a lovely ambience, and that flows to food, and people being comfortable, insect-free and comfortable in their temperature.”
The Martins work every day of their lives, and employ an all local workforce to help them.
"We have a chef, cleaner, we have a chef's hand and wait staff and casual staff... it depends on the bookings what we do,” Genevieve explained.
Marto said their restaurant's location meant they had to "bring our social life to us”.
He said word of mouth, teamed with a top listing on the Lonely Planet, meant they often manage to lure people from all walks of life.
"We get lots of European backpackers who still use The Lonely Planet as a guide, we get quite a few backpackers,” Marto said.
"Our life is really social, we have had to bring our social life to us.
"We have the best time, we have great musicians come and jam. It's a party and so relaxed.
"The whole restaurant is singing and dancing with each other. We have a lovely family feeling at Ferns, that's one of our secrets.”
The venue are open Friday, Saturday and Sunday for lunch, and Saturday night for dinner.
They are also available by booking for events, such as weddings, family reunions and functions.
A TASTE OF FERNS HIDEAWAY
- Friday to Sunday lunch, Saturday only dinner
Cafe menu (lunchtime only)
- Price range from $3 up to $20
- Includes gluten free, vegan and vegetarian
- Some items include scone, banana bread, cauliflower soup, steak pie, sweet potato wedges, vegetarian lasagne, paper wrapped prawns and a steak sandwich.
- Includes gluten free, vegan and vegetarian
- Price range from $18 to $38
- Some items include vegetarian lasagne, rib fillet, puttanesca pasta, crumbed wild caught Spanish mackeral, seafood dishes, lamb hotpot and chicken breast.