Archive for April, 2011

April 27, 2011

Sassafras Creek – restaurant/art gallery/cool things shop!

So now we come, once again, to the subject matter I like best to write about – food. Sassafras Creek is a magnificent hybrid of a place perched somewhat precariously on the edge of a cliff at pretty-as-a-picture  Kurrajong, (do you think I could’ve possibly crammed any more adjectives into that sentence), sorry…I’m passionate…what can I say! It manages to successfully combine, (as the title says), a licensed restaurant with an art gallery space that showcases local talent and a shop that would look very comfortable on the well-heeled streets of Double Bay or Surry Hills.

 Whilst the entrees and mains are lovely, where Sassafras Creek really excels is in its desserts – and we all know by now how much I love dessert. As well as the usual menu of dishes there is a looong blackboard filled with the sweetie delights of the day, although as the weekend wears on some things can get rubbed off, so better to get in early if you can. Thus, it is a great place if you are after a little spot of morning or afternoon tea instead of the whole meal thing – they also serve a wicked breakfast if you are up and about that early – Bill’s eat your heart out!!

There is rather an embarrassment of riches when it comes to deciding just where in Sassafras you want to eat: there’s a sunny outdoor area under a vine-covered pergola out the front, (of course, nice if it’s a nice day), inside the restaurant itself, (there’s an open fire that’s perfect on a cold, wet day), or out on the rear verandah with its views clear out to Sydney!

I’m sorry but this was the best photo I could get on the day as the verandah was full and I try not to take ones of people without their permission… especially when they’re eating, not a good look: 

On this particular beautiful autumn day we had gone up on a whim, therefore weren’t able to get a table outside for lunch – it’s always wise to book ahead on a weekend. We decided to share the pesto and parmesan bread first: mmm fat sourdough bread smothered with rich pesto and topped with lightly grilled tangy parmesan…are you hungry now? Sorry…

MD decided on one of the specials for the day, Italian homestyle spiced meatballs and penne in a fruity tomato sauce…it was delicious, and a huge serving…

I chose the pork butterfly fillet that came with a mushroom and red onion ragout, Australian brie sauce and spinach polenta…

The prices vary but are very reasonable for the level of quality and taste: the bread was $7, pasta $18 and the pork $26.

The breakfast menu includes such tempters as: Toasted apricot and date loaf with honey and ricotta for $8.50, Omlette of three eggs with olives, parsley, sautéed chorizo, spicy lentils and grilled vegetables for $15 and mini croissants with Enniskillen seasonal jam, butter and hot chocolate dipper for $15.    

And then…do you know what happened? I was too full for dessert…I’m sorry but this means you’ll have to schlep up there and experience it for yourself…either that or the next time we go I’ll just order two desserts and do a new post!!!

As well as eating and looking at the view there’s also the gallery space for added interest…again, I didn’t take any photos because I didn’t have permission from the artist that was being featured that day…the exhibits change quite frequently, there have been sculptures, watercolours, collages, beautifully made hats and gorgeous indigenous paintings that we’ve seen, their website has the information about what will be exhibited and when.

Then there’s the shop…

April 20, 2011

Bathurst – a petrolhead pilgrimage and a bishop’s house…

The last town we visited was a girl’s paradise of cute shops and bric-a-brac so to even up the scales a bit I thought we’d take in Bathurst – the pinnacle for V8 motor racing enthusiasts and boy people everywhere! Each year in October this quiet farming town hosts the biggest Australian motor racing weekend in history as a 1,000 km race is fought out grimly and with take-no-prisoners-determination on the famous mountain that is Mt Panorama. The track for the rest of the year is free to drive around at any time, although the official speed limit is 60 kph and it is rumoured to be heavily policed…but the experience is still awesome. What the tv cameras don’t show is the view from the top…looking out over the town proper and off into the countryside for miles and miles…

After the obligatory hot lap we checked into our accommodation for the night, a real live, (well, he’s actually dead now but you get the picture), bishop’s house. Set up on a hill on the outskirts of town and opposite a gothic looking cathedral-type edifice that is actually St Stanislaus boys college sits Bishop’s Court, a very upmarket B&B. The house itself was built in 1870 for the first Anglican bishop of Bathurst, Samuel Marsden and his family, (and servants I presume), and then was the home of each successive bishop until the 1970’s.

It has been magnificently decorated by the current owners, Christine and David and offers a choice of six rooms…all with a little something different but with the same sense of style and decadence, (I dare you to choose one, it took me ages…eventually I resorted to getting MD to pick for me), and a magnificent acre of gardens.

The room we (eventually) chose was called the ‘Harmony’ suite, how lovely is that colour scheme? Behind those cool white shutters was a view down into the valley and the wooden doors opened onto an antique strewn verandah that looked out over the gardens…I’ll show some photos of it in a minute…

I kid you not…there’s chocolates in every room of the house!!

 
Some of the other rooms…they range in price from $270 – $295 on a Friday or Saturday night, I actually found this on Wotif…
 
 
 
 
The living areas are available to be used by the guests whenever you would like, there  is a huge lcd tv in the main lounge room and an open fireplace that would be just gorgeous in the cooler months – I was going to say winter but it gets a little chilly out here so maybe more than just winter…
 
See, there’s the chocolates again…
 
Breakfast in the morning is included in the room rate, a lovely local lady had set the table with yoghurt and fresh fruit salad to start, (there was a selection of boring old cereal if we had wanted it), then asked what we would like for breakfast…MD had a mountainous plate of bacon, cooked tomatoes, fried eggs, mushrooms and turkish toast, I had two poached eggs on turkish that she very thoughtfully drizzled with a little hollandaise and added some fresh baby spinach…just delicious! Out the back of the house is a kitchen garden that supplies a lot of the home-grown produce…
 
 
 And then there’s the chapel…yes, you heard right…the house has its own mini chapel with a high vaulted ceiling lined in wood and a baby pulpit! Now it is used for functions and special dinners, the wooden door that can be seen on the right of the lounge room is the door leading into it…
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 The premises is licensed so you can kick back with a coldie on this beautiful verandah and listen to the birds chirping!
 
 
Our room opened onto this lovely upstairs verandah, those lounges are as comfy as they look…
 
 
 
 
 
Your humble scribe checking out the gardens…
 

 

Although Bishop’s Court doesn’t have a restaurant of it’s own it is a short walk or taxi ride to many of the local restaurants, the owners would be only too happy to give advice on somewhere nice to eat – or you could just live on the chocolates!!

April 13, 2011

Millthorpe – the grand old dame of the Central West.

Now I like a bit of history maybe slightly more than the next person so when I found out that there was a whole town classified by the National Trust I was dead keen to go there! Millthorpe lies almost exactly in between Orange and Bathurst and is a cornucopia of historical buildings, quaint shops, delicious eateries and country scenery. Unfortunately, it’s cute size is also a little bit of a drawback in that there’s not a lot of options when wishing to stay the night somewhere. MD and I tried in vain to get accommodation but the town was full, (we found out later that there were a couple of weddings on that weekend), so we settled for a day trip on our way back from Orange.

This artistic shot was taken by MD, I was a tad worried about getting run over but as you can see, the road was lovely and quiet.

The main street could be a set straight from the movie ‘Australia’, the two-story buildings complete with enticing shady verandahs and black slate cobbled streets vying with the pretty countryside for attention.

And if you’re feeling a little peckish, of course there are lots of choices, all showcasing the wines and produce of the local area.

This old shop now houses a cafe…

This lovely little house is owned by the nicest lady…I’m afraid I didn’t get her name but we talked for ages. She and her husband bought it recently and she sells beautiful handmade paper products, cards, photo albums, journals etc, as well as offering tea/coffee and the yummiest looking homemade cakes in her back room. It is all fitted out with eclectic chairs and tables painted in pastels and overlooks a riotous garden complete with hundred year old fig tree. I was sorry we had couldn’t stay as the following day she had arranged for an Elvis impersonator friend to do a concert in the garden to benefit a local charity.

Another interesting shop we discovered is called ‘galvanised’ and was originally an old potato storage barn, the owners bought it, (complete with a yellow dart hanging from the highest wooden beam in the ceiling – which they kept of course), then took 18 months to completely renovate it and turn it into this amazing place which sells an enticing mix of homewares, furniture, books, antiques, art, lollies, soaps and bath products, and soon they’ll add jewellery.

Of course, just for the sake of research we had to check out the local hotel for you…aptly named ‘The Railway Hotel’ it sits in front of…you guessed it…the railway station…how cute is the matching colour scheme?

Millthorpe Station…

Inside the hotel has been modernised whilst still retaining its period charm…

 Charcoal sketches done by a local artist hang on most of the walls, this one shows the hotel and surrounds blanketed in snow one epic year…

This antique shop was a great, dusty, higgeldy piggeldy mass of the most authentic antiques I have ever seen, not necessarily beautifully presented but real and old!

And how come my hydrangeas never flower like that?

Sorry this post seems to be getting longer and longer and I haven’t even shown half of the town proper…I’ll finish with a view of the main street from a grassy knoll, well…more of a hill really but knoll sounded so much nicer…

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!