Silo Bakery, Canberra

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Crazy delicious looking tarts

I think Silo Bakery is one of the café/bakery/eating spots to hit up while you’re in Canberra. It’s established quite a reputation for being a baked goods heaven of sorts (breads, tarts, exotic breakfasts and lunches….) and I kinda wish we had a place this fabulous in Sydney. One morning Big Bear and I decided to visit for breakfast. We arrived around 8am on a Saturday morning and it was pretty busy and were lucky to snag a table! (Unfortunately reservations aren’t taken for breakfast so you just gotta show up early okay). The staff are super nice and usher things along quite quickly (I’m guessing cause the place is so packed and they don’t want you loitering). But it’s more nice than overbearing/annoying – I don’t mind being asked a few times if I have received the menu or made my order – makes me feel attended to.

If you browse through their menu online you’ll see some wonderful breakfast selections to choose from:

  • Vegan breakfast (very impressed to see this!) with nut flatbread, tomato, rocket, avocado and cashew hummus
  • Eggs Florentine – poached eggs on grilled crostini with spinach, parmesan and olive oil

And a few items I have never heard of on a breakfast menu (some Googling is in order):

  • Welsh rarebit, egg, bacon and spinach
  • Piperade with chorizo
  • Fried milk with strawberries and candied orange

The prices are reasonable as well. Not uber bargain cheap buy the quality is definitely there.

I had the bircher muesli with pear juice, almond milk and blueberries, as well as an orange juice. Big Bear had the ham and cheese croissant (from that exotic looking menu you choose the ham and cheese croissant??) and a latte.

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Bircher muesli with pear juice, almond milk and blueberries ($9.00)

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The bircher is simply fabulous. Such a beautiful medley of ingredients when mixed and wasn’t too dry or too wet. I could have only wished for the portion size to be a tad larger. The orange juice was sublime – very sweet and refreshing.

Big Bear enjoyed his house made croissant as well, and the latte is knock out. I was tossing up whether to get one on my way out and sadly didn’t – regret! Anyway, I will definitely say that this was a lovely latte, and quite often it’s so hard to get a nice one. According to their website, all bread, pastries and jams are made on site which is such a treat and you can see the bakers hard at work making all of the breads, pastries and tarts.

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Ham and cheese croissant ($8.00)

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On your way out you can pick up some bread – walnut sourdough, walnut and cranberry, baguettes – or a delicious tart or pastry – vanilla brulee, pear and caramel, chocolate and chestnut, passionfruit and mascarpone…and many more flavours.

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Delicious baked goods a-baking

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Looking pretty darn happy with my orange and pistachio snail!

Divine pastries, breads and coffee. Canberra’s tucked away treasure of baked goodies.

Silo Bakery, Canberra

36 Giles Street, Kingston ACT 2604

(02) 6260 6060

silobakery@gmail.com

Tuesday – Saturday: 7am to 4pm

Bookings advisable. Bookings not taken for breakfast.

Website

The Epicure Store, Camden

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Through random Google searches and flicks through various issues of In Macarthur Magazine I first found the Epicure Store in Camden. I grasped a good idea of their services – sellers of cheese, tea, antipasto, oil and vinegar, sourdough bread, handmade cookies, muesli and granola, and raw honey etc etc (according to their website) which surely was good enough to drag me there. It wasn’t until, however, I happened to walk past it on my way back from the Camden Fresh Produce Markets one time that I found it and had to have a peek inside finally. I won’t spoil the details just yet, but can I just say upfront WOW! Not only is this place packed to the brim with bundles of delicious gourmet goodies, the actual goodies they sell are second to none. I have travelled to the Hunter Valley, Blue Mountains and the Sydney Good Food and Wine Show to hunt down particular goodies (Whisk & Pin muesli, The Gourmet Nut Company, and Bruny Island Cheese to name a few) when I could’ve actually driven 20 minutes down the road on any day of the week to get the same goods. On top of all that, they have a café – a quaint and divine experience where you can take the ‘epicure’ further and try out the produce they sell. I just had to drag my gorgeous partner back to make sure we got a proper chance to try out the café for brunch.

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The shop itself is rather small and tightly packed with limited seating on the front veranda of the store. The lady who runs the store is just delightful and helpful and pretty much steers the whole ship herself very impressively!

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The menu although “small and simple” is certainly fabulous. A beautiful selection of breakfast and lunch items – fancy cheese toasties (we’re talking with fillings of blue cheese, gruyere cheese, truffle salt, haloumi and quince jam), salad, soup, platters, gourmet toasts and granola. A really interesting feature of the menu is that they don’t serve coffee. What!??!! I know…. But can you believe that I didn’t even notice, and more importantly I didn’t mind at all, not with the absolutely delicious hot drinks on offer – chai tea, DIY Belgian hot chocolate, spiced raw hot chocolate….plus a terrific selection of T2 teas. They also have a little disclaimer at the bottom of their menu just to explain why: “We know espresso is an art, and our little cottage does not have the space for a canvas. We don’t serve coffee here, but we don’t mind if you BYO.”

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The menu looked so appetizing and I kind of wanted a bit of everything. I was tossing up between the soup of the day (lentil and chickpea) or one of the fancy toasties. In the end I chose the blue cheese toastie with fig jam and rocket along with the chai tea – blend of black tea with traditional spices and raw honey. Big Bear had the Plougman’s Lunch consisting of cheddar, gruyere, cold meats, chutney, figs and sourdough bread plus the spiced raw hot chocolate – organic cacao drinking chocolate with vanilla and cinnamon.

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Blue cheese toastie with fig jam and rocket ($8.50)

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Chai tea - blend of black tea with traditional spices and raw honey

Chai tea – blend of black tea with traditional spices and raw honey ($4.00)

Big Bear and I were so pleased with all the food and drinks – arrived promptly and with such a personal touch. I’m not a huge fan of blue cheese to be honest but I’ve been doing better in handling and adjusting to it over the years. The toastie was gorgeous! A mostly sweet flavour and the blue cheese was so subtle and didn’t overpower the sandwich. The chai was frothy, spicy but not too heavy on the spices. Big Bear’s platter was equally impressive. A generous selection of cheese (from Tasmania and New Zealand), meat, bread and local condiments. He informed me that they had run out of gruyere cheese but was offered brie instead. The brie went really nice with the chutney and Big Bear ate the prosciutto and ham faster than he realised he could’ve made a sandwich out of them!! (that being said, you can totally make a sandwich out of it all as well when you’re there). The vintage cheddar was strong and crumbly and paired nicely with the sweet, syrupy figs and the sweetness of the chutney. The hot chocolate (although not too hot) came with a side of marshmallows and cinnamon stick (so cute!) and had a beautiful spice flavour.

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Plougman’s Lunch – cheddar, gruyere, cold meats, chutney, figs and sourdough ($16.00)

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Spiced raw hot chocolate – organic cacao drinking chocolate with vanilla and cinnamon ($5.00)

All in all a beautiful, local experience of quaint country café dining in Camden. Definitely need to come back and try some more items from the menu I had my eyes on. You can also take home a range of delightful goodies from their store out back – cookbooks, aprons, pancake mix, nuts, fresh bread, tea, cheese, tea cups, sweets, jams, spreads…..so much going on!

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“Our fresh lunches are carefully prepared using a selection of our specialty cheeses, sourdough bread, local produce and gourmet ingredients from our shelves. Our menu is small and simple but delicious, and is updated regularly according to seasonal produce and cheeses.”

Local and imported goodies. No coffee? Don’t worry, we have spiced chai and raw hot choc.

The Epicure Store

Camden Cottage, 39 John Street, Camden NSW 2570

02 4655 4336

hello@epicurestore.com.au

Monday – Wednesday: 9.00am – 5.00pm; Thursday – Friday: 9.00am – 6.00pm

Saturday: 9.00am – 4.00pm; Sunday: 10.00am – 2.00pm

Website

Facebook

Amoretti’s

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Amoretti’s in Abbotsbury. Again, the South-West is giving itself a little nudge in the cool culinary direction, and it’s only a 10 minute walk from Big Bear’s house. But despite this, we still decided to drive, mainly because we were headed for breakfast/brunch and service was gonna be over real soon (hey, it was Sunday, can’t blame the sleep in).

Located in Western Sydney Parklands, specifically Plough and Harrow Park, Amoretti’s has been there for a little while now (I used to jog around the area and has seen it transform quite a bit over time) and is also located in Chiswick if you’re ever in that area and want to pop in. Amoretti’s distinguishes itself as specialising in seafood, pizza and tapas, with a wine bar, and offers meals all through the day. Parking is plentiful – it has to cater for a popular and growing public park after all.

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We walked in and were informed by the waitress that yes we had made it in the nick of time for breakfast (woo!). We decided to not book ahead and we were lucky that it wasn’t bursting at the seams when we got there. We were shown to a small two-seater table inside and provided with menus. Seating is mostly indoors, with an attached and enclosed alfresco area and an outdoor area with metallic seating.

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If you know me by now, you know I love my muesli (had some delicious Farmer Joe muesli at Alby & Esther’s in Mudgee a little while ago), so alas, I chose the muesli with banana, strawberries and yoghurt off the menu. Big Bear is a tad more refined than me when it comes to breakfast, and had the eggs benedict consisting of poached eggs with hollandaise sauce and baby spinach on Amoretti’s freshly baked organic bread and choice of smoked salmon. For drinks, I had a soy cappuccino and Big Bear a full cream latte. It was a little bit of a wait on the coffee, but this was acknowledged by our really nice waitress.

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Muesli ($10.50)

The muesli was a nice sizeable portion. I also got asked what type of milk I would like and chose soy. There must have been a bit of confusion in the delegation of tasks over milk served to customers because whilst I received a tiny jug of soy milk from the head waiter/possibly owner, a second later the waitress arrived with a large teapot of regular milk. So now I have two different types and sizes of milk (?) Oh well. More for me. Back onto the muesli…it had a lovely combination of oats, bran, sunflower seeds, pepitas, raisins, dried apple and craisins topped with strawberry yoghurt and slices of banana, strawberry and rockmelon. Yum, yum! Overall, great quantities of each element and quite a hearty muesli to satisfy my brunch needs.

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Eggs Benedict ($19.00)

Big Bear enjoyed his eggs benedict too. He said the poached eggs were well cooked, the salmon was fresh and the just baked bread was lovely. He did, however, wish that there was a little more balsamic glaze and hollandaise sauce going on the plate. Portion size was decent too. The coffees were good and pretty standard when it comes to café coffee.

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Afterwards, we went for a lovely walk around the parklands. Heaps of walking tracks and a recently renovated playground area, kinda overrun by small children, so there’s no chance of getting bored here. There are also very large sheltered picnic areas with BBQ facilities, which you can either hire for an event, or get there super early in the morning and snag.

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Friendly and attentive staff. Dining in the park. Classic and comforting.

Amoretti’s

Located inside Plough & Harrow Park, Western Sydney Parklands

745-899 Elizabeth Drive, Cecil Hills, NSW, 2176

Breakfast: 8.00am – 11.00am (Saturday and Sunday only)

Lunch: 12.00pm – 3.00pm (Thursday to Sunday)

Dinner: 6.00pm – 10.00pm (Thursday to Sunday)

Bookings can be made on 0450 726 673 or (02) 8786 1777

Website

Facebook

 

Hazelhurst Gallery & Cafe

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One Sunday morning Big Bear and I headed to the Hazelhurst Regional Gallery and Arts Centre in Gymea for a leisurely brunch/lunch and a bit of peek around the gallery. Specifically, Big Bear and I wanted to check out the recently released exhibition of the work of Australian artist George Gittoes, which you can read my review on here.

Navigating parking is always a bit of a challenge. I’m fairly sure parking is available on-site, which is confirmed on their website, but I had to do a bit of a weird loop around the gallery and the suburb itself to get to it, so instead chose some free off-street parking which was also available.

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When we initially arrived we walked straight into a bit of hustle and bustle working out where we needed to wait to be seated and wondering if we were even going to get a table! Okay…so the website does warn us and say that bookings are recommend. I would advise that needs to be amended to say bookings strongly recommended despite the seating being generous. It was seriously busy that morning. The café is definitely a hot spot in the shire with a mix of eclectic people. After a little wait we managed to snag a two seater in their indoor/outdoor area. To me the seating area seemed split up into three – two exclusively indoor and outdoor areas area and then a space in the middle which allows the sun and breeze to come in. This area was perfect for a leisurely, unseasonably warm 25 degree day for this time of year.

After sitting down we were provided with the regular lunch menu and the autumn specials menu. I had a bit of a dig around the menu online before arriving, but the specials definitely tantalised me further. The menu itself is always changing to keep up with the seasons. So what deliciousness was on the seasonal menu? Sirloin with mash and mushroom sauce, red wine beef pot pie, twice cooked pork belly…I ordered the caramelised beetroot, goats cheese and pine nut tart on dressed rocket leaves and Big Bear ordered the wagyu beef burger with hand cut wedges and chipotle mayonnaise sauce, along with a soy cappuccino and a full cream cappuccino.

Upon sitting down we were advised that it would be about a half hour wait for the food to come out as the kitchen was quite backlogged with breakfast orders. We said that was okay and were happy to mill around and chat (always really helpful to be advised of the wait time so you’re not bugging the staff!) Sitting around we noticed a small pamphlet on our table advising us of High Tea. Yum yum! Ribbon sandwiches, scones, cakes and pastries (and crème brulee spoon!!) At $29 per person (a bit extra for champagne) it doesn’t break the bank either. After about 5 minutes into the lunch we were presented with our cappuccinos to sit on whilst we waited for our meals. Cutely coloured coded (red cup for soy), the coffees were a good temperature (not too hot) although the soy was a bit too soy and Big Bear said his coffee was a tad bitter.

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Red for soy

True to word, about half an hour later our tart and burger arrived. Initial thoughts – immaculate presentation. Despite the wait time, both dishes were beautifully presented which kind of makes you forgive the kitchen staff a bit more.

Caramelised beetroot, goats cheese and pine nut tart on dressed rocket leaves

Caramelised beetroot, goats cheese and pine nut tart on dressed rocket leaves

The tart was a nice sizeable portion sitting on top of a small bed of rocket and decorated with micro herbs. Beautiful flaky pastry, sweet, caramelised beetroot which wasn’t intensely sweet, overdone or gluggy, soft melt-in-the-mouth goat’s cheese, and a decent portion of rocket but not drowning in rocket. I find it’s often tricky to jazz up rocket but this was just enough. The textures of the dish also worked together very well with the softness of the goat’s cheese and the beetroot melding perfectly with the pastry, which surprisingly didn’t become soggy despite all those moist ingredients. Visually, the stain of pinky purple beetroot on the cheese was gorgeous. Safe to say I was pretty full after the meal and impressed despite the wait.

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Wagyu beef burger with hand cut wedges and chipotle mayonnaise sauce

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Big Bear’s wagyu beef burger came filled with homemade pickled cucumber, swiss cheese and tomato relish inside a brioche bun, and with a side of hand cut potato wedges lightly salted with sea salt and a chipotle mayonnaise dipping sauce (like a regular mayo with more tang). He noted that overall the presentation was lovely – everything was served on a wooden chopping board and arranged in an appetizing manner. I couldn’t help notice the ooziness of the burger and the cheese well on its way towards a delicious melting state from across the table. Big Bear said that at first he thought the wedges were a little under done as they were still quite hard, however, after a few more bites realised that they were not meant to be like your regular store bought frozen wedges. Instead they were more akin to baked potatoes, and mixed with the chipotle mayonnaise he couldn’t get enough!

The burger did attract a little criticism however. Because of its sheer size he wasn’t too sure at first how to approach eating it. The pattie was quite large and although satisfying maybe half its size would’ve been perfect to avoid overpowering the other elements in the burger. The cheese looked very nice but unfortunately got a little lost in the pattie.

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Rhubarb and strawberry frangipani tart with vanilla ice cream and poached champagne rhubarb and strawberries

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After all that eating and drinking I still had a tiny bit of room left and couldn’t pass up dessert. There were two autumn dessert specials on offer – rhubarb and strawberry frangipani tart with vanilla ice cream and poached champagne rhubarb and strawberries, and classic sticky date with almond praline, butterscotch sauce and vanilla ice cream. Usually I would indulge in the sticky date, but the description of the tart sounded divine.

An elegant presentation of not-too-dense tart with vanilla ice cream, crumble, oozy soaked strawberries and cinnamon rhubarb. We demolished it fairly quickly. All elements worked beautifully together and filled us up. The only small let down was the tart itself, which I thought could’ve had a richer, more show-off flavour.

After a bit of a look around at what the other guests were sampling, I noticed quite a few of them had ordered wine and was a little let down that we weren’t offered the wine menu as a cool glass would’ve rounded off a lazy Sunday lunch nicely. Oh well, next time.

Once you’ve had a little peek around the gallery itself you can also go outside and enjoy the gallery’s beautiful park area which gets transformed into an exhibition from time-to-time and is home to the more weather durable sculptures and installations.

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Art class anyone?

Art class anyone?

Gift shop

Gift shop

The great outdoors

The great outdoors

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Seasonal. Filling. Art meets deliciousness.

Hazelhurst Regional Gallery & Arts Centre – Café

782 Kingsway, Gymea, NSW, 2227

Mon-Sun: 9.00am-4.00pm

Breakfast: 9.00am-11.00am

Lunch: 11.00am-3.00pm

High Tea: Saturday’s only from 2.30-4.00pm. Bookings essential.

Closed on Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day and Good Friday

Bookings are strongly recommended on (02) 8536 5755

Website

Facebook

Alby & Esthers

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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.

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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.

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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!)

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Farmer joe muesli and stewed local fruit ($12)

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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.

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Hunza pie ($15)

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.

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Fig tart

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!!

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Delicious muesli. Quaint. Courtyard and cobblestoned. Yes, this is Mudgee.

Alby & Esthers

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

bookings@albyandesthers.com.au

Website

Facebook

* Source: Wikipedia. Correct me if I’m wrong!

High Valley Wine & Cheese Co.

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First stop on the long drive from the Blue Mountains to Mudgee – High Valley Wine & Cheese Co. According to their website, High Valley has been producing wine for the last 18 years and gourmet cheeses for the last decade. To be honest, the website looked pretty swish and the grazing plates on offer for lunch kind of grabbed me instantly. So naturally, I had to try it on my travels.

Located at the beginning of Mudgee wine country, just beyond the main town centre, the first impressions of High Valley are promising. Pulling up on a short gravel drive, parking is ample, although overflow can happen pretty quickly across the front and back lawns because it’s that popular.

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I came. I saw. I conversed with an emu!

Before we entered the (I’m gonna call it a barn) we were stopped by a yard full of animals. But not real animals, sculptural ones. The animals out the front were part of ‘Mudgee Zoo’, an initiative of Mudgee Underground. Now, someone will need to fill me in with more specific details, but Mudgee Underground seems to be the work of the cool kids of Mudgee showcasing the latest in Mudgee art and performance. I think we will get along very well Mudgee…..

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After taking happy snaps with the animals, we sauntered inside the barn for some food. The space is a food store meets takeaway goodies meets wine/cheese tasting area. So you can stop for lunch or a swig and nibble, or even a private wine and cheese tasting experience. We arrived a bit later in the day, around 2.00pm, and were invited to sit where we liked. Seating is split up between the indoor barn area and a large al fresco area on the back lawns. The al fresco dining area is lovely. A lot of their tables cater for big groups with some scatterings of smaller tables. After the long drive, we chose a table outside in the sunshine under one of their large shaded umbrellas.

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After having a thorough scan of the menu before our arrival, the stand out for me was the local antipasto grazing plate (shared amongst 2) described as including “two of our fabulous cheeses and a grand selection of house specialties.” Mm mm mmmm. The menu itself is very impressive and seems to capture a lot of local Mudgee delicacies. In addition to other cheese plates which showcase their wonderfully handmade cheeses, their menu is a lovely sampling of fresh local specialities including tarts, pies, salads and scones echoing their “philosophy of handmade throughout”. Breakfast, available on weekends and public holidays, is served until 11.00am, and consists of some traditional pickings such as muesli, bacon and eggs, and eggs benedict.

The wine list strictly showcases the High Valley wine range whilst the beer list includes some traditional favourites and local specialties. Their wines cover a good cross-section including Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Rose, Gewurztraminer, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Muscat, and are available as either a glass or bottle. Coffee and tea are reasonably priced and provided by Toby’s Estate.

Big Bear was after some kinda beer but had to settle on a latte instead as a back-up. Providing a warning up front always manages customer expectations is a good way to lessen the let down when something on the menu might not be available that particular day. More of a white drinker myself, I tried their Chardonnay. The drinks came out promptly. It’s their local, home grown wine, all positives here from me! And Big Bear said the coffee was nice too.

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Along with the drinks and share platter, we were asked by our waitress if we wanted some additional bread, which we agreed to. We were also allowed to select our own cheeses! With a bit of assistance we chose High Valley’s pesto feta (from the selection of pesto, olive, chili or tomato) and had a wedge of their…I think it was brie (from a selection of their award winning Caerphilly (cheddar), brie, rouge, stefan blue or colly blue) – great hospitality and knowledge of the range!

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And what a platter it was! Ok so my tastebuds aren’t skilled enough to tell you exactly what every component was but I’ll give it a crack!

  • Pumpkin and feta dip
  • Pickled vegetables
  • Fresh garden salad
  • Pate with gherkins
  • Terrine wrapped in bacon with beetroot relish

We also ordered extra bread on the side, but to be honest, that extra bread could have been a component of the dish itself because most elements did require some soft, spongy, crunchy bread to pile the deliciousness onto.

Once you’ve finished up dining you can check out the range of local goodies in the food store. Local artwork, canvas bags, clothing, cards, bags, tea towels, crockery, and of course more wine and cheese to take home with you.

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Regional, seasonal, cheesy and winey. What is truly expected in wine country.

High Valley Wine & Cheese Co.

Breakfast and Lunch (breakfast on weekends only)

137 Cassilis Rd, Mudgee, NSW, 2850

(02) 6372 1011

Mon-Fri: 10.00am – 5.00pm

Sat-Sun: 8.30am – 5.00pm (breakfast available 8.30am – 11.00am on weekends and public holidays)

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Solitary Restaurant & Cafe

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Solitary Restaurant & Cafe. Our first stop on the long-awaited 4 day trip to the Blue Mountains and Mudgee. I found out about this place through some simple Google searches of must-try restaurants when you’re passing through the Mountains.

“Solitary strives to provide organic produce from the restaurants own extensive garden and the best possible local produce available seasonally.”

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I always love when a menu is available online. It gives me ample time to peruse and (roughly) decide on what I want to order before we arrive to our destination, otherwise I just get too overwhelmed when I can’t take in all the menu on the day. We decided to sample some items from the café menu (didn’t want to blow the budget completely on the first day with the more elaborate but equally spectacular restaurant menu!). And FYI, although the website says the restaurant is open for lunch Wednesday to Sunday, this also applies to the café side of things. I found this out through emailing them earlier the week before and received a near instant, personalised email response of confirmation. Has this ever been heard of?! Dramas averted.

Getting to Solitary proved a little more difficult (despite the ‘GPS WARNING!’ on the website). It doesn’t help that I’m a terrible map reader/GPS follower even when I’m the passenger and not driving. Dramas increased. So hint: use Google maps, not Apple maps (according to expert Big Bear).

Their website claims to offer “one of the most fortunate sites in all the Mountains”. Can’t go wrong there… It overlooks Mount Solitary, Kings Tableland and the Jamison Valley. It also provides a gorgeous history of the happenings at Solitary before the Solitary arrived in 2000 – a worthwhile quick read if you’re interested.

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After arriving at the restaurant/café we were greeted and chose a seat outdoors to bask in the picture perfect beautiful weather that Leura put on show for us that day. Once you pull up to the parking lot and walk through the front gate you first walk to the back area where Solitary’s spectacular views greet you. Seating is split up between an outdoor area positioned to look out at the lawns and view and the indoor house/cottage area which is more formal and caters for weddings and functions too. A lovely, and I would say a pleasing-to-everyone, canapé and function menu is available online too with some prices (and bonus floor plan) included. Oh and you might want to check out the wine list while you’re there too. It’s very comprehensive but I’m predicting would also flatten my wallet fairly swiftly.

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We arrived just around midday and it was quiet and peaceful, not a heck of a lot of patrons there that early on a Wednesday. After sitting down we were provided with menus and a glass bottle of filtered water. We couldn’t sit down for long though, the views were too spectacular not to capture immediately. I settled on the vegetarian option of toasted sourdough, roasted eggplant, grilled haloumi, hummus, semi-dried tomato and spinach salad ($15). Big Bear/Mr. Can’t-get-enough-of-salmon chose the salmon croquettes, horseradish aioli, celeriac and red onion salad ($16). We didn’t want to indulge in dessert this time around (saving ourselves for the afternoon’s treats) so Big Bear got a full cream latte and I a lady grey tea with hazelnut and almond biscotti on the side ($6 package).

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Whilst snapping the cameras away feverishly like tourists in our own State, our tea, coffee and biscotti arrived. The lady grey was lovely with great flavouring and a generous scoop of tea leaves in a good size, easy pour teapot. Big Bear said the latte was not too hot, but very smooth and creamy and the coffee beans weren’t over roasted. The biscotti’s had a subtle lemon flavour with some scatterings of hazelnut throughout. They were however crunchy (very crunchy!).

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My ‘this is crunchy’ face

Meals were prompt as well. It’s safe to say my toasted sandwich was delish and elegantly presented. The filling was very juicy with the eggplant and haloumi working well together in their mushy texture. The sourdough was also nice and crunchy without the toasting of the bread going overboard. The hummus/semi-dried tomato spread combination was also really interesting and delightful with hints of turmeric providing a lovely spicy element to the sandwich. The haloumi was also not too salty or overpowering and worked well alongside the other ingredients. The side salad was a simple concoction of baby spinach with red onion and generous olive oil and balsamic dressing. Half way through the sandwich and salad I was pretty full though and had to give a good portion of the second half to Big Bear to gobble down.

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Toasted sourdough, roasted eggplant, grilled haloumi, hummus, semi-dried tomato and spinach salad ($15)

Big Bear said the salmon croquettes were by themselves a bit bland. However, the tanginess of the sauce which was very light with hints of horseradish matched the croquettes well and seemed to ignite the flavours in both. A little extra crunch from the breadcrumb coating would’ve lifted it higher as well. Both meals were very generous but achievable. The staff were also attentive throughout the afternoon.

Salmon croquettes, horseradish aioli, celeriac and red onion salad ($16)

Salmon croquettes, horseradish aioli, celeriac and red onion salad ($16)

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Cottage interior

Cottage interior

Wine bar

Drinks bar

I wish more Wednesdays were like this – a beautiful and picturesque beginning to the holidays.

Solitary Restaurant & Café 

90 Cliff Drive, Leura Falls, Blue Mountains, NSW, 2780

(02) 4782 1164

Lunch: Wednesday-Sunday, 11.00am-4.30pm

Dinner: Friday & Saturday from 6.30pm

Bookings and enquiries can be made online.

Functions can be booked at other times by arrangement.

Different trading hours may apply for public holidays so check the website or enquire beforehand.

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