April 6, 2011

Saddle up pardners…we’re headin out west!

Orange…the up and coming mecca for Australian foodies and winies, (that’s wineeees not whinies), and a darned tooting pretty place to visit too! MD and I had the extremely rare pleasure of a long weekend so decided to hit the happy trail and mosey along into the heartlands of the NSW Central West – are you getting sick of the western motif yet? Sorry, I’ll tone it down a little. Of course it’s not helped by the fact that MD is currently playing Red Dead Redemption on the XBox – a real shoot-em-up cowboy game – a little gory but great graphics if you’re interested!

Anyway, back to the trip…we decided to take the scenic route up through the Blue Mountains, then on to Lithgow, Bathurst and Orange, all up it took about 2 and a half hours, with plenty of cow, sheep and goat spotting as well as the sweeping hills and charming countryside this area is famous for. Forget your cactus’s, (or is it cacti), even without a lot of rain lately the pastures were still green and the towering pines a novelty for those of us from the suburbs.

You might be aghast to know that I didn’t actually get any photos of Orange itself, I’m sorry, it was raining pretty heavily, so you’ll have to just take my word for it, it is the coolest town. It is bigger than I had imagined, with its fair share of boutiques, elegant restaurants and a long, long main street prettily paved with red bricks. The streets are so wide, with huge trees growing up through the bitumen along each side, (which the locals merrily park between), and heritage-listed-esqe houses nestle cheek by jowl with old-fashioned workman type pubs. You know, the ones with the tiling up to the  middle of the walls so they can hose off the…well, you get the picture!

We had booked our night’s accommodation via Wot If at a boutique hotel called the de Russi Suites and I’m cheerfully and heartily recommending it if you’re considering hanging out in Orange for the night. I find it is always a little bit of a gamble booking things over the net but we were very pleasantly surprised, (this I did manage to take photos of). Firstly, it’s a good location, close enough to the city to be handy, down one of those quiet, tree-lined streets and is an easy walk to the main shops/restaurants if you are so inclined. There is an off street parking area too.

Continuing on with the theme the foyer was elegant, with a cosy looking reading nook and fireplace just around the corner from the left side of this photo…

We had booked a junior suite, (the only room left for that particular night), which cost $252 a night, including continental breakfast, more about that later though…

I’m afraid the photos don’t do justice to the look of the room…it was a drizzly day so the light wasn’t right, but I found it tastefully decorated and very thoughtfully appointed.

As you come into the room a set of four wood panelled doors on your left slide back to reveal a baby kitchen complete with microwave, stove top with four hot plates, fully stocked kitchen drawers, toaster, coffee plunger, tea-pot, sink and mini fridge. Sitting on the bench was an intriguing brown paper bag…inside were the supplies for our breakfast…two glass bottles of juice, two packets of whisk and pin muesli, ground coffee, sachets of butter and jam and two cutely wrapped packages each containing a slice of white, wholemeal and raisin bread, a box held a selection of T2 teas.  

The small living room managed to successfully fit a dining table with two chairs, a huge lcd tv, a pair of very comfortable black velvet tub chairs and an ottoman, without feeling crowded at all. Floor to ceiling glass doors led to a small balcony complete with teak chairs.

 

The bathroom had a spa bath, and a shower with a really fat shower head, (you know what I mean by that…not one of those horrible skinny little things that puts like four drops of water on you), and the hot water was plentiful and strong, there were four thick, soft towels and a bathrobe each.

 I hate to sound like a noob, but how cool is that glass see-through basin? 

The L’ Occitane bath products were a little touch of luxury that I really appreciated…they smell divine!

The bedroom held a queen sized bed with a feather filled pillow top to it that made you feel like you were sinking into fluffy heavenliness, a window that could be opened, another lcd tv, (this time smaller and mounted up on the wall), a comfy chair, wardrobe complete with hairdryer and coat hangers, iPod dock/alarm clock, silken pull cords to turn off each overhead light and a giant chocolate chip cookie laying on the bed. These people really know the way to a girl’s heart!

We decided to eat dinner at a restaurant called ‘Bistro Ceello’, it came highly recommended by a lady who owns a local B&B, and it certainly didn’t disappoint! Set in one of those beautiful old houses opposite a park it has three dining areas so it doesn’t feel like you are squashed next to anyone else, and is decorated with warm modern style whilst still retaining period features such as cornices, stained glass sash windows, wooden floors and a fireplace.

The staff were friendly, efficient and very helpful – in fact, I would go so far as to say that Orange had the friendliest people I have ever met, perhaps outside Bali, maybe it’s all that calm country living. Our dishes were brought out at a measured pace, even though for a while we were one of only a few tables. Each dish on the menu was accompanied by a recommendation of a local wine to pair it with, and which was available by the glass if so desired.

I had the fried whitebait for entree which was a suggestion by our waitress, she was right, it was delicious, and the orange, radiccio and fennel salad teamed with it had enough citrus tang to perfectly counterpoint the fish. MD had the pork and duck rilettes which were served with sourdough toast and cornichons, the creamy texture and subtle flavour was lovely with the crispy toast pieces. For mains I chose pork belly served with creamy polenta and an olive, red pepper and tomato braise – mmm my mouth is watering just remembering it, perfectly cooked, the pork was juicy and literally fell apart as I cut into it. MD chose the sirloin steak which was served with tasty colcannon mash and red wine jus and even though he ordered it medium to well the chef took pity on him and didn’t over cook it at all!*

*Sorry for those who haven’t read Anthony Bordain’s first book ‘Kitchen Confidential’, it’s a reference to how chefs view cooking steak any more than rare!

For dessert I had the financier, (a french cake made with ground almonds), which I had never tried before, it was light, sweet and the texture was perfect, a little like a butter cake. It was served with local stewed peaches and the nicest home-made vanilla bean ice cream I have ever had. MD was talked into dessert, (he’s not usually a dessert kinda guy), and thoroughly enjoyed his summer berry pudding with the same ice cream – in fact he made a point of complimenting the owner on it as he was paying the bill! All up, with a couple of drinks each and some bread to start the total came to approx $160.

Sorry this has turned into a bit of an epic…in a nutshell…go to Orange…go now…I promise you won’t regret it!

March 31, 2011

Goodie Goodie Gum Drops

Man, this one’s a cinch! Why spend ages trying to come up with an interesting title for this post when it has (literally) been handed to me on a plate? Goodie Goodie Gum Drops is the name of the cutest lolly shop I’ve ever seen, and it just happens to be down the road from me at Kurrajong, is that the result of good karma or what? The shop itself is a cool revisiting of those halcyon days when lollies were bought one or two at a time from separate jars – I know I’m showing my age but I can remember when you could get the classics like milk bottles, red frogs, freckles and musk sticks for the princely sum of two for a cent. The poor (usually young) shop assistant would have to patiently dole out lollies from each jar, then, of course, you would change your mind, and he or she would uncomplainingly put them back again!

Of course, there’s more than just lollies in this shop…lets’ see…there’s hand made chocolates you can buy individually…lollipops guaranteed to get you peace for the rest of the day, (although then there’s the sugar high to contend with), imported English chocolate biscuits, boxes of nougat, big, big cookies, and there’s even a little cafe for if, (God forbid), you need something non sugar related!!

And, like all shops in Kurrajong, there’s unusual little things to buy, how sweet would these be for a wedding or housewarming present?

March 25, 2011

Kurrajong: my favourite place for village atmosphere and cuteness!

OK, just for the sake of it, let’s put Bilpin and Kurrajong up against each other in the must-visit stakes. Who would win? Well, even though it would be a really close call, I’d have to go with Kurrajong. Once upon a time it was the area’s undisputed queen of the antique shops, unfortunately most have closed down now, however it still offers two very interesting ones. If that’s not enough to lure you there’s also a cute, eclectic row of shops, (including the most amazing lolly shop), an old sandstone-and-stained-glass church and a gorgeous hybrid called Sassafras Creek that combines a gallery, shop and restaurant and has a back verandah that literally hangs out over the hill!

Kurrajong is a cruisey, pretty drive about 15 minutes from Richmond. Firstly there’s the Hawkesbury river to cross:

Check out some of the local paddocks:

Follow the Bells Line of Road up through North Richmond then Kurmond then hang a left at the lights at the Kurrajong village sign…sweep past the church then come into…the village!

I have no idea why this fence is slap bang in the middle of the village street – I think it might be advertising for the guy who builds them – but it makes for an interesting picture!

Just off the main street there’s a big picnic area with a children’s playground, public loos and some interesting local handiwork:

At the bottom of the hill past the park is the old Kurrajong theatre, now turned into one of the antique shops still residing here, it used to also offer a cafe with old-fashioned grandma-style cooking but that’s closed now. The bathroom doors are still labelled ‘Actors’ and ‘Actresses’.

And finally, because I just can’t resist pretty things, here are a few of the cuties you can see there.

March 14, 2011

A small story of old cars and orchards…

Following on from my first posts about the joys of Bilpin I just had to share these photos I took when we were up there last. I was busy photographing the old post office and hardware shop when I noticed these beautiful old cars parked together. I got talking to the man who owns them, they have all been done up by him, even the leather upholstery was all redone to match the original. He takes them to vintage car rallies and shows but doesn’t hire them out…apparently the brides are too rough with them, (you know how those bridezillas can get)!!

I’m afraid I didn’t get the owners name…thank you for letting me use your beautiful cars!

March 7, 2011

Kravings restaurant – a panna cotta lover’s delight!

Kravings is a cosy, jewel-toned gem of a restaurant set in amongst the lush, paddock strewn hills of Kurmond. Admittedly, there’s not a lot else to do in Kurmond, so you can take your time relaxing and eating without having to feel guilty about not being out there sightseeing or something. Kurmond lies roughly halfway between Kurrajong and Richmond, (hence the name), and is a haven for horsey types and people who like good food and great service with an almost cocoon-like ambience.

Once there the parking is a little countrified, in that you nestle up to the front wall of the property, and it can get a little crowded if there’s a lot of customers, but at least it is a very short walk down the path to the door – especially good if you’ve just spent an hour straightening/curling/messing with your hair!

The restaurant is licensed and not only has a cute little bar at the entrance but an inviting looking sitting area complete with local papers –  just in case you need a news fix whilst waiting for your friends to arrive.

The menu is kinda modern Australian seasoned with some Thai, Italian and French influences, and apart from an extensive list of dishes there are also weekly specials that take into account the changing seasons. They are open for lunch and dinner on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday and dinner only on Saturday. Their web site is at: www.kravings.com.au if you would like to check out their full menu.

Personally I find the menu at Kravings a just-right combination of classic flavours with enough of an edge not to be commonplace – and I can understand all the terms on the menu! The staff are well-trained, efficient and helpful and there’s enough of them to ensure the service is still excellent even when the restaurant is full, I appreciate little touches like warming MD’s cognac glass before presenting it to him.

For entree I chose the fried wonton filled with a garlic, fresh herb and cream cheese mousse on a tomato and saffron sauce…mmm, what more could one ask for in an entree…the outside was crispy, not oily at all, and the filling was nice and light whilst still giving that creamy cheesy taste.

MD went for the tempura soft shell crab served with tomato, cucumber salsa and lime ginger mayonnaise. This too was delicious, artfully arranged on the plate, my only disappointment was that there could’ve been more!

For mains I chose the grilled Atlantic salmon fillet on a bed of braised leek and fennel topped with parsley and lemon. Not having had fennel before I was concerned that it tasted of aniseed, (not a favourite), but Shane, (the owner), explained that braised in this fashion it tastes buttery and not at all like aniseed. He was right, and it was delicious, I asked for my salmon to be cooked all the way through and it was done perfectly, still juicy, which I understand is difficult to do.

MD, of course, went for meat, and got a gigantic pork chop served on crushed new potatoes with house made apple sauce and crisp crackling. The pork was so tender it nearly fell off the bone and the crackling was salty, and crisp without being teeth breakingly so! Our main courses were served with a dish of steamed veggies to share, consisting of carrot, broccoli,zucchini and bok choy.

  

 The prices range from $13.50 to $16.50 for the entrees, $20 to $33 for the mains, and $11 for desserts. There are also three pasta dishes that can be ordered as either size if you need to save room for dessert! I’m always game so I ordered the milk chocolate panna cotta with honeycomb ice cream and peanut brittle shard, there was just enough for the sweetness not to be overwhelming, (I was nice and gave MD a little bit to try), and the silky texture of the panna cotta was just lovely.

Like all good restaurants it can get very busy on a Saturday night so if you’re considering dinner I’d make sure to book at least a day in advance. Bon appetite!!

March 1, 2011

Feel like afternoon tea with the interred?

Have I got the place for you – and, no, it’s not as morbid as it sounds! On the banks of the Hawkesbury river, about a fifteen minute drive out of Windsor lies the sleepy little town of Ebenezer, famous for being the home of Australia’s oldest church. I know… I was surprised when I found out too, what about all those old piles in Tasmania? But apparently it’s true, and the street sign says so, so it must be true. There is a slight caveat in that it’s Australia’s oldest Presbyterian church, but that’s a small distinction really when you have a historical landmark practically on your doorstep!!

It has been used as a church continually from 1809, and reminds me somewhat of a doll’s house:

Of course it is free to look at, wander around in and soak up the atmosphere, and the graves surrounding it are really interesting in a sad kind of way. The oldest one is for poor little Sarah Gilkerson who died at 3 weeks old on May 14th 1813. The churchyard has a lovely peaceful vibe and the pretty scenery of the bushland and the river adds to that.

Adjoining the church itself is the old schoolmaster’s house, (even more like a doll’s house than the church), it now houses a miniature museum and a shop with all sorts of interesting bric a brac, locally made goods and souvenirs for sale. They even have those silver teaspoons with a picture of the church on the top, speaking of which, I found some girls up in Byron Bay who make bracelets out of those spoons – they are so cool! Anyway, enough of jewellery, back to the subject – the house is an interesting combination of museum and historical display. Up the steepest set of stairs I have ever come across, (and my sister used to live in a terrace house in Paddington), lies the attic bedrooms all made up as if the poor convict servant girl had just gotten up.

Finally, here comes the bit about afternoon tea, (sorry to make you wait for it), outside the schoolmasters house in a paved courtyard with views down to the river a few tables are set up and Devonshire tea/coffee is available for $5. A lovely volunteer lady sets up a tray with all the fixings and you can relax and have a nice spot of tea… and don’t worry, the graves are all on the other side of the buildings. The church still runs as a Uniting Church and is open for services at 8.30am, whilst the house is open from 10am until 3, (or 4pm in the warmer months), on all days except Christmas and Easter.

February 21, 2011

Sirens, sandwiches and scenery at Norman Lindsay’s house.

As far as I know the closest the Hawkesbury has to a famous resident is a dead artist who actually lived in the lower Blue Mountains – his name was Norman Lindsay and he was the original renaissance man. He not only painted magnificent (mostly nude) women, (who all have slightly cruel gleams in their eyes), he sculpted, (mostly nude) women, made vases, hand-built model ships and did incredibly detailed etchings of… you guessed it, mostly nude women. And then, when he had a little spare time, wrote and illustrated a bestselling children’s book called ‘ The Magic Pudding’ – which was apparently first written to win a bet with a fellow artist friend, (the illustrations used to scare the living daylights out of me when I was a child, most of the characters had evil gleams in their eyes too).

 He lived most of his life in a beautiful old house in the suburb of Faulconbridge, which is an easy pit stop if you are on your way either up to or back down from the Blue Mountains. It is however, the type of place that could easily consume a day trip in itself. Owned and run now by The National Trust the house itself holds a gallery of his art, it costs $10 per adult, $5 per child to enter, is open from 10 – 4 every day and once inside you are free to wander as you will. There are free half hour guided tours that are very interesting and are run completely by volunteers, these take in his private studio, kitchen, etching studio/printing presses, house and garden.

It might be prudent to rethink it as a destination, however, if you are taking great-aunt Gertrude out for the day, the paintings are tame by todays standards but they are nearly all nudes, (his paintings were banned from the National Art Gallery for obscenity) – one famous quote goes that Norman fell in love with the first breast he ever saw and painted it for the rest of his life. There has even been a movie based, somewhat loosely, on his life, called ‘Sirens’. It was filmed at the actual house and was famous in it’s day for featuring Elle Macpherson au natural.

His garden was also his pride and joy and he managed to sculpt an English-manor-house-style area in amongst the good old gum trees of the Aussie bush, of course liberally sprinkled with cavorting naked nymph statues! The garden is free to wander in, look at and picnic in, but I have a much better idea…almost hidden at the bottom of the garden, down some cute hand-hewn stone steps is the yummiest little cafe. There are outdoor tables set amongst the azaleas and camellias, there are covered verandah tables for if it looks a little drizzly and there is an indoor little-old-house type house.

This was taken inside the cafe itself, looking out to the garden, how cool are those windows?

 The menu is rather an eclectic one, offering such delicious choices as:

Lemon infused smoked trout and potato hash with fried egg and lemon and roquette oil

Moroccan lamb burger with char grilled eggplant, sweet peppers, tomato, mesculan lettuce and minted yoghurt

Blue cheese tart served with caramelised onion, and a roquette and parmesan salad

Braised chunky beef pie with garlic and parmesan mash, button mushrooms, spicy tomato relish and a red wine jus

Pumpkin and feta pie with a roast pumpkin, pine nut and sage salad and spicy tomato relish

Gourmet steak sandwich, tomato, beetroot confit, Emmental cheese, mesculan lettuce, onion compote and tomato and chilli pickle

I thought I’d order something nice and light, seeing as how I really wanted to sample one of the amazing sounding desserts on the menu, so chose the Lindsay’s club sandwich, with smoked chicken breast, bacon, egg, tomato, mesculan lettuce and mustard mayonnaise…um, maybe not as light as it sounded…nevertheless it was a very nice take on the usual club sandwich, as well as being hearty it was fresh tasting and the mustard mayonnaise complimented the flavours perfectly.

 MD went for one of the specials, Italian sausages with garlic and parmesan mash and caramelised onion gravy, which tasted as good as it looked, the mash was lovely and creamy and the gravy not too sweet – which can sometimes be the case with caramelised onion.

 

Now for the piece of resistance – after much toing and froing I decided on the chocolate cherry black forest cake for dessert: beautifully presented, it came with not only cream, raspberry coulis and a strawberry but a dish of chocolate icecream with pieces of mars bar mixed into it…

 The prices range from $12.50 for the soup of the day, to $24.50 for pan fried barramundi with hand cut fat chips and lemon beurre blanc. Our mains were $18.50 each and there are a long list of daily specials added to the basic menu. The cafe isn’t licensed but you can BYO and there is a 10% surcharge on Sundays and public holidays. 

I’m afraid I wasn’t allowed to take any photos inside the gallery, (which is a shame because his paintings are wonderful), I can only suggest you go and see them for yourself…or check out the official website at : www.normanlindsay.com.au

See... I told you it looks scary!

February 15, 2011

Wiseman’s Ferry hotel…1834 was a very good year

The Hawkesbury area has the somewhat dubious distinction of claiming three of the oldest pubs in the country – all, of course, purporting to be the oldest! Wiseman’s Ferry pub is one of the triumvirate, and according to the sign displayed they began serving the amber fluid back in 1834. Although only spring chickens by European standards, it nevertheless impresses the hell out of me to be in a building this old.

It manages to combine a peaceful location surrounded by picnic-at-hanging-rock type mountains with a modern tastefully decorated bistro and the history value of old sandstone and leadlight windows. You can almost hear the bushmen bellowing as they stumble up the narrow staircase!

Because the roads in and around Wiseman’s are so interesting it is very popular on the weekends with tourists and day trippers and the fact that the food is great and the beers are cold…what more do you need? If it’s a lovely day and you don’t feel like eating indoors there’s an outside verandah shaded by large shade sails and tables set down on the grass under some very inviting looking trees.

The building on the right houses the shops I spoke about on my last blog.

 
The menu at the bistro offers the usual array of pub food, steaks, schnitzels, hamburgers, roasts and seafood, (most fried but you can order the fish of the day grilled), priced at about $15 each. I decided on the pot pie, which was made fresh to order by the chef, it was delicious, full of large chunks of tender beef, carrot and onion in a rich, tasty gravy.
 
 
MD went for the home-made rissoles that were served with parmesan mash, vegetables in a creamy cheese sauce and spanish onion gravy, (he always picks better than me)! We were too full to sample the desserts unfortunately, but some children at the table next to us had some wicked looking ice cream sundaes!
 
And to finish up, here’s the view from the verandah…how’s the serenity?
February 8, 2011

Wiseman’s Ferry, vintage style

Let’s face it – Wiseman’s Ferry has everything you could ever want in a day trip, first, not one but two ferries, (and they’re free), a really, really old pub and the cutest little clutch of shops for some retail therapy whilst hubby props up the bar! A very popular destination for those looking for a nice drive, the road down into the valley is picturesque and winding, perfect for a fun Fangio-style run.

Once at the bottom and just before the town of Wiseman’s itself you have the option of turning left and going over the Hawkesbury river on the Webb’s creek ferry which accesses an even more picturesque road… eventually ending up in St Albans, where another really, really old pub awaits you, (well, old for Australia anyway), but I’ll leave a post on that for another day. 

The other option is to continue straight ahead through the town, down the big streets-of-San-Francisco-style hill and into the lush park grounds perfect for a picnic, bbq or a swim in the river, here is also ferry number two, which leads to a road that winds alongside the river to a little town called Spencer then about 30 minutes later Wollombi, (famous home of Dr Jurds jungle juice), and then the Hunter Valley.  

While in Wiseman’s itself look out for the little arcade handily situated next door to the pub…I found the perfect little antiques/vintage/collectables shop called, funnily enough, Wiseman’s Ferry Vintage and Collectables! I spoke to the owners, Karlene and Paul, (cute couple but camera shy), who have only owned it since November. It opens from Thursday to Monday, from 10am – 4pm. You have to check it out, it has the most divine things, and really prettily displayed.

Here is a taste of their wares, and don’t worry men, I’m going to the pub next week!!

February 1, 2011

Apple bar – the restaurant at the end of the universe

I know, I know, it’s a bit of a schlep to get all the way out to Bilpin just to dine, but believe me, both the drive and the eating are well worth it! Apple bar is named a little oddly, in that, yes it does have a bar, (quite a wee one), but it is (justifiably) famous as a restaurant. It is a cute little old-cottage-type house set on a long sweeping road lined with huge fir trees and jacarandas, quite literally in the middle of nowhere.

For a quick guide on how to get there and things to do on the way, check out my first post about Bilpin itself, for now I have to concentrate on this haven of culinary delights!! Yeah, I know that’s a bit excessive but I only write about places I really enjoy and this is one of them. Once you finish gawking at the scenery and go inside you’ll find it a quirky mix of rustic shearers shed and sophisticated chic.

The open kitchen idea I quite like, as well as the cool life-size metal statues lurking around…they are done by a local artist.

Being up in the mountains there is usually a cool breeze coming in through the shutters, there is also a stone double-sided fireplace which makes it cosy and atmospheric in Winter.

This is the view from the side verandah

This is the view from the verandah that wraps around the side and back of the building, if it’s a nice day you can eat out there and take in the view.

OK…I’ve exhausted all my scenic photos… now about the important bit, the food…firstly I should warn you that it gets quite busy up there on a weekend so it’s probably advisable to book…also, while the service is very good it can get a little overwhelmed so be prepared for a good lunch not a quick one…the wood fired pizza’s are to die for but seeing as there is only one smallish pizza oven it can take a little time but the wait staff will let you know how long to expect when you order.

So far as is practicable the ingredients are sourced locally and of course there are vegetarian options. The entrees range from $13.50 – $19.50, the mains $23.50 – $39.50 and the desserts $12.50.

 For an entree I had the zucchini flower fritters stuffed with ricotta, lemon, herb and grana padano, (which is a rich Italian parmesan cheese) on Napoli sauce. They were delicious, not oily at all and the sauce was well-flavoured and a perfect counterpoint to the creamy filling.

MD had the local Hawkesbury squid cooked with salt and pepper, it was tender and juicy with the addition of fried whole green chillies which he loved but which were ferociously hot!

 

For mains we decided to split a pizza, (on account of MD saw one being carried past and fell in love instantly), deciding on the sopressa which had a combination of sopressa della nonna, (a tasty mild Italian salami), provolone, garlic, tomato and grana padano.This pizza would qualify without doubt as one of the best we have ever eaten, deceptively simple but with a complexity of flavours that shows the need for top quality ingredients in a dish. The base, (as you would expect), was light and crisp and the toppings were a perfect match for each other. I have dreams about this pizza…

Then we arrived at dessert, the piece de resistance of any meal if you ask me. MD wussed out, (probably because he had the lions share of the pizza), so I was left to carry the torch on my own. I picked the raspberry, white chocolate and pistachio clafoutis which managed to be light, tangy and sweet all at the same time. All up it cost us $86.20 including 3 cokes and a beer. I must also recommend from previous experience the apple cake, (made of course from locally grown apples when in season), it is really yummy!

If you would like contact details or for more information on the Apple bar this is their website: www.applebar.com.au.

I might add while I have the chance that convict stock contains completely my own views from my own experiences. I am not affiliated in any way with any of the businesses I write about, this is just my idea of fun!!

January 25, 2011

Bilpin: my favourite place for orchards and cuteness!

Do you like the succulent taste of fresh-off-the-tree fruit? How about vistas so picturesque they almost bring a tear to the eye? Maybe lots of quaint old buildings and a restaurant that people drive from Sydney to experience – then folks, you will just have to trek it to Bilpin. Bilpin is a small blink of an eye and you miss it town about an hour and a half’s scenic drive from Sydney, (a little more if you strike freeway traffic), and due to its altitude is perfect for growing fruit, (especially apples), as well as being a lovely cool spot if it’s hot and humid in the burbs.

OK get ready cause I’m going to get all Google maps on ya… firstly head to Richmond, the flagship of our Hawkesbury area, good for watching cricket on the town pitch, (look out for the stand reminiscent of the Bradman era), and plane spotting at the RAAF base, (there’s a cool little park across the road complete with a miniature plane the kidlets can climb inside). On the weekends if the weather is good you can watch the towing planes and gliders taking off and landing. From Richmond follow the Bells line of Road, (yes, that’s really its name), over the Hawkesbury river then up through North Richmond and Kurmond, past the turn off to Kurrajong, (another really cute village, more on that in another post). Now you’re beginning to really climb, the road has lovely sweeping bends and some tight hairpin corners perfect for a drive and as you head up the aptly named Bellbird Hill be sure to open the windows or your visor and listen for the sound of them, they never fail!

Here is an example of the scenery to expect on your drive: this is a laneway that runs off the main road in Kurrajong Heights…

I couldn’t resist taking this photo of the gate to someone’s house:

There is a lookout on the right as you exit Kurrajong Heights, with a view that stretches all the way to Sydney, I’m afraid the photo doesn’t really do it justice but you get the general idea…

Stay on the Bells line of Road and soon you’ll have all the fruit you can handle!! A few of the growers will let you pick your own, some have cute stands by the side of the road, some such as the Bilpin Fruit Bowl have big shops laden with jams, preserves, pickles, fruit pies, mustards etc as well as the fruit.

We got talking to the lady who owns the stall in these photos…her great grandfather used to log in this area using a bullock and dray…this International truck belongs to her 92 year old grandfather who used to use it to cart logs as well…it has fairy lights on it for Christmas…how cute would it look all lit up at night?

Directly opposite this old shop is the Apple Bar, (confusing name, it does have a little bar inside but is actually a restaraunt), and the food there is worth the drive on it’s own! But…more about that on my next post…

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