Archive for February, 2011

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!!