After a thoroughly filling and exhausting morning sampling local delights at the Mudgee Fine Foods Farmer’s Market (I think the entire 10,000-strong population* of Mudgee was there that morning), it was time to scope around town for a bite to eat for lunch. Walking through the main town centre of Mudgee we spotted many cute cafes that could easily round off our delightful morning and continue our Easter long weekend – Butcher Shop Café (a café, not actually a butchery despite the name), Market Street Café (a French café/restaurant) or Di Lusso Estate (a winery/restaurant located in the main wine region of Mudgee). Alby & Esthers popped out to us mainly because of the intriguing exterior décor. The café/wine bar (did I mention it’s also a wine bar?!) is set down a dark, mysterious little alleyway and opens up into an impressive cobblestone courtyard. Serious cuteness.
A bit of research further and the obligatory Facebook search told us that this was a relatively new establishment in Mudgee town (operating since September 2013 according to our trusty friend Facebook) and by its popularity it seems to have had no troubled getting off the ground.
After entering in and having a little peer into what exactly was at the end of this alleyway we were seated down and waited a bit for the menus to arrive. We chose a two-seated table within their narrower courtyard area. The area is split up between a smaller, darkly lit indoor area (with tables, the kitchen and service counter) and a larger outdoor area with space for large groups or couples. Seating was ample, though I would definitely recommend booking ahead on public holidays/weekends as it was at fairly full capacity by midday when we showed up. Note also that the café closes at 3pm on Saturday, but re-opens at 5pm, so you might have to re-think the late Saturday lunch if you had your hopes on this. Be warned too, it does get a bit chilli with the autumn Mudgee wind blowing through. My knitted jumper and scarf were definitely appreciated. Ample shade is also provided by the gorgeous overhead leaves which took some of the harshness off the bright sun. All that being said, it is a lovely space and we weren’t bothered by any of its outdoorsy-ness.
The menu was a touch different to the one available online. However, as disclaimed, on their website “This menu is probably outdated by the time you read it, as we are big on taking natures produce dictated by the seasons.” So there you go!
The menu looked very appetizing and I was fairly disappointed that it was my last day in Mudgee. Everything looked very fresh and local with a special Alby & Esthers twist. As a bit of a breakfast fan myself although it was well into lunch time (muesli geek alert), I settled on the $12 farmer joe muesli with stewed local fruit, fresh milk and natural yoghurt (probably a staple item on the menu, but the fruit is definitely seasonal). After tossing up between the reuben sandwich ($18) and the hunza pie ($15), Big Bear settled on the hunza pie as the description was a winner. Fair to say though we had no idea what a hunza pie was! A bit of googling informed us it was a vegetarian pie with a main base of spinach and cheese and a few extra goodies thrown in. This was paired up with a long black and regular full cream latte (to lessen the outdoorsy chill!)
Our coffees and food arrived promptly. The muesli looked delectable – toasted with green pepitas, dried flaked fruit and whole almonds. This was served with sour natural yoghurt in the same bowl, and a very tart but delicious fruit compote – chunky, halved fruit of what I think was peach and apricot. A generous amount of milk was provided on the side (typically better than the occasionally lacking side of milk that can happen at other places, but, having said that, I’m guessing milk alternatives have to be requested). The flavours were balanced well. I didn’t feel like I was eating a heap of sugary muesli and sweet yoghurt for breakfast/brunch/lunch – again, can happen at other places. I am now wondering who this amazing farmer joe is….The long black was perfectly rich and warm.
Big Bear’s slice of hunza pie, as described by the menu, was made of brown rice, spinach and three different types of cheese, served with a side of baby spinach and relish. Overall, the pie was nice with a good combination of elements. The cheese blended well with the rice and the spinach with the tomato-based relish providing a nice tangy and spicy element to the dish. Big Bear was a bit underwhelmed, however, about the portion size which wasn’t remarkably sizeable for $15. The coffee was also quite nice too.
The service, whilst a touch slow to begin with, was very hospitable and pleasant. Forgiveness is given because of the very busy Easter weekend.
Following up we thought to sample some of the homemade treats. Big Bear popped into the interior area to enquire about what was on the menu, then asked the waitress if she could come out to recite them to me. After hearing about a lovecake, muffins and lemon lime tart amongst other sweet, the fig tart sounded delectable. The tart had all-round balanced flavours with a light almond meal texture and orange zest surprises. The fig could have shown off a little more though.
I’ll be very interested to sample some delights at the wine bar when I’m in town next!!
Delicious muesli. Quaint. Courtyard and cobblestoned. Yes, this is Mudgee.
61 Market Street, Mudgee, NSW, 2850
(02) 6372 1555
Mon-Thu: 8.00am – 4.00pm
Fri: 8.00am – 4.00pm, 5.00pm – 10.00pm
Sat: 8.00am – 3.00pm, 5.00pm – 10.00pm
* Source: Wikipedia. Correct me if I’m wrong!