Archive for ‘food’

October 22, 2011

Would you like a cappuccino with that withdrawal madam?

Wandering somewhat aimlessly around Richmond last week, (it was a lovely sunny Spring day), I came across a very cleverly designed and beautifully executed new hybrid. The owners have taken the old National bank building and turned it into a very glam antique shop merged with a coffee shop that offers a snug reading/sitting corner, indoor and outdoor seating, and a very pretty garden area. I couldn’t resist…

Cleverly called ‘The Bank Bazaar’

 it is open Mon – Fri from 9.30am until 5pm, Saturdays from 9.30am until 4pm and Sundays 10am until 4pm.

This sitting area looked so inviting but since it was such a nice day I opted to sit outside in the garden…

How cool…you can have lunch next to the original vault…

The courtyard area outside is shaded by a huge Jacaranda tree, which will look gorgeous in summer when it flowers…

I chose the smoked salmon and dill rissole, (poor MD had to work so I was flying solo), which was interestingly served with both salsa and a delicious youghurt and cucumber sauce…

And, of course I couldn’t let the opportunity pass to try one of the tempting cakes on show…this one was a coconut and lime…it was quite dense and not overly sweet…

September 25, 2011

Where the hell is St Albans?

Well, as they say in the classics, you’ll never never know if you never never go! St Albans is the countrified home of one of the oldest pubs in Australia…it’s proper name is The Settlers Arms Inn and the doors first opened in 1836. Made of convict hewn sandstone blocks it nestles prettily into a small village bordered on one side by a meandering stream/river called The MacDonald river and the other side by a real, actual mountain. Apparently it was a stop for the Cobb and co stagecoaches back in the 1800’s between Newcastle and Sydney. If you’re in the market for a lovely drive with the promise of a relaxing, delicious lunch or dinner at the other end I can’t recommend St Albans highly enough! There is a slight catch however, (and don’t say you weren’t warned), because it is so popular I would recommend a Saturday, (or preferably through the week), if you must go on a Sunday be prepared for a looong wait at the bar or for lunch – but, then again, it is Sunday…who needs to rush?

 And, now, to answer my title question – to get to this little hamlet of heaven follow these precise directions, (or you could just google maps it or use your phone nav thingy): head out to Wiseman’s Ferry, then just before the village itself, as you come to the bottom of the winding road turn left to get to the Webbs Creek Ferry, the ferry is free and runs 24/7, on the other side it is a very picturesque 22 km drive to St Albans itself, the road was dirt up until only a few years ago which tended to deter everyone but the most determined, now, however it is blissful bitumen.

The inside is a little difficult to photograph as it’s so dark in there…plenty of convict atmosphere but not so good for photos…

And check out the home-made cakes on the antique dresser, (more about that later)…

The hotel is set on a large area of parkland…if it’s a nice day bring a blanket and stretch out…(although you can’t bring a picnic, but who’d want to when the food there is so good)…

The food is ordered at the bar, then is brought out to you when it’s ready…there is a kitchen garden that supplies a lot of the fresh produce and the menu changes often according to the season and what is locally available…

I tried the zucchini, leek and mushroom tart, it was light and fresh tasting, set on the prettiest arrangement of salad I’ve ever seen…

MD had the beef pie with mash, it had big chunks of tender melt-in-your-mouth beef in a tasty vegetable laden gravy…

And now for the cake – as well as the desserts on the blackboard there’s three cakes sitting temptingly in the foyer under glass domes…I chose the chocolate, for a whole $4 a piece it was a bargain…and just as nice as it looks!!

The drive from Wiseman’s to St Albans has so much beautiful scenery I could’ve bored you stupid with so many scenery shots…but in the interests of good mental health I’ll confine myself to only a couple…I couldn’t resist this teeny old church and accompanying graveyard…

It’s called St Jude’s Anglican and the church was built in 1918, the surrounding graveyard has been in use since 1869…what a peaceful looking place to rest!!

July 20, 2011

Wentworth Falls: a cool place to visit

both literally and figuratively! MD and I drove up for the day on a sunny but really cold day in winter…it’s definately pack-your-thermals up there, so we had the perfect excuse to while away some time in a warm, cosy cafe. First on the agenda, however, was a visit to the oldest bridge still standing on mainland Australia – Lennox bridge. It is a little way off the beaten track but worth a visit…first head to Glenbrook, turn right at the McDonalds and follow that road towards Mitchell’s pass…you’ll almost literally bump into the bridge, unfortunately the road behind it that was the main route up to the Blue Mountains is closed now due to falling rocks.

 

The bridge was designed by David Lennox, a master mason with plenty of experience building major bridges in England and built by him and a party of 20 especially selected convicts using locally quarried stone – it took from November 1832 until July 1833 to build. Apparently David was taken by the good work of his men, as he petitioned for the pardon of 8 of them after work was finished! 

About a half hours drive up towards the Blue Mountains themselves lies the picturesque town of Wentworth Falls – it seems to specialise in cute, quirky little shops and enticing looking cafes – and we all know how much I like that particular combination!

This antique shop had not only lovely objects inside but beautiful tiles on the outside of the building:

 The original Wentworth Falls post office has been turned into one such cafe – I don’t know where the post office went to…but it certainly makes a lovely place to eat…

Inside was eclectic, cosy and warm, with a roaring open fire set in an antique grate…

 Although it was quite small that only seemed to add to it’s charm…there were a few tables scattered outside, but they were all taken, (plus it was a bit too nippy for me to eat outside, even in the sunshine!)

MD ordered a toasted turkish pide with bacon, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise, it was fresh and delicious and at only $11.90 a good value lunch…

I went for the potato pancake with smoked salmon, the pancake was thick and chunky, just slightly sweet and the salad accompanying it had a really yummy whole grain mustard dressing…this one cost $14.50

Because we were too full to pack in dessert I took some photos of them just to show you, (even though I got some very strange looks from the other patrons)…

June 15, 2011

A sweet combination: sailing boats and German food

Tucked away quite out of sight to the casual observer, in the green paddocks of a suburb called Luddenham lies the yummiest German/Austrian restaurant I’ve yet to encounter in Sydney. It goes by the impressive sounding name of  The Hubertus Country Club and even though it’s a little bit of a drive from…well… anywhere really, the food and ambience is definitely worth it! You’ll have to hold onto your taste buds for a little bit, however, because before we get to the delicious bit I’ve some cool shots of the model sail boats that were merrily tacking and leewaying on the lake in the front of the clubs grounds.

This one was hand built from scratch by it’s owner…he said it had taken him 2 and a half years…partly because he kept getting called out of the shed by his wife…

We visited on a rather chilly winter Sunday…perfect for the warm heartiness of german food…

The restaurant itself is actually a part of the club, so although it is licensed you’ll have to sweet talk hubby into going next door to the bar to buy drinks – but that means pub prices, and they have a german pilsner on tap!!

As an entree we shared the amazing dish called langosh, $7.50. For the uninitiated it’s an airy soft bread that has been fried and is served with a topping of fresh crushed garlic and with a pot of sour cream to dip in – the texture is something akin to an un-sweet krispy kreme donut!

I chose the main course size of the stuffed cabbage rolls, ($24.50, or entree size $14.50), a dense filling of mince and rice encased in cabbage and served in a light tomato broth…those baked potatoes were the best I have ever had, (sorry mum), they were crisp outside, soft and fluffy inside and tasted like no ordinary potato has a right to taste…

MD being MD went for the most meat intensive offering he could find…the gypsy platter, ($32.50). This tower o meat was held together by a wooden skewer and consisted of: baked potatoes on the bottom, then a chicken schnitzel, a pork schnitzel, (both melt-in-the-mouth tender), a kransky sausage, two huge crumbed mushrooms and a lemon wedge!! Artfully heaped onto the plate around the sides was a delicious lemony potato salad, some token pieces of lettuce, and a cubed beetroot salad…

For dessert, (and yes, I know what you’re thinking – how on earth can she fit in dessert after all that food, well, at the Hubertus whatever you can’t eat can be packed into a little container and taken home), so it just had to be the strudel…it was served warm, with big chunks of firm apple pieces and a decadent handful of double cream…and at $8.50 was a steal! 

The Hubertus club has a rather unusual variety of entertainment options: it is also a pistol and rifle club…

the aforementioned model boat club and on the first Sunday of the month offers Fruehschoppen, (home-made German delicacies for sale), as well as old-time dancing in the beautifully decorated auditorium, complete with a live band!

May 31, 2011

Windsor markets: from bonsai to button necklaces

Continuing on from last weeks extravaganza about our local Sunday markets comes the other half of the promised post. While we’re at it I should probably warn you that the Windsor markets are primarily a craft market rather than a produce one, although there are a few stalls that offer fresh local produce, mainly its oh-my-god-that’s-so-cute type of stuff!! I was a little constrained by how many photos I could reasonably expect you to sit through so only featured the unusual stalls, many others sold clothes, handbags, snacks, plants etc so if that’s what you need its got you covered…

This weeks installment begins with bonsai carefully crafted by Chris and Cindy…the first one has been growing since the 90’s!

These bright and colourful wooden puzzles are handmade…any name, colour or combination of pictures can be ordered…

How cool are these metal sculptures…the proverbial flying pig and a chook! 

The stall is quite aptly named ‘Yeah, but it’s unique’, they used to be in a shop at Windsor mall but now can be found at the markets…

As you can see these jams are called ‘truly tasty’ and are made by a lady in Kurrajong…man, they’ve brought home a lot of ribbons!!

This stall sold the most gorgeous and detailed wooden dolls houses, it was very busy so I couldn’t get close enough to take more than these two photos, but they had every little girl’s dream, a house that opened completely on a hinge…as well as all sorts of miniature furniture, even teeny tiny food!

How beautiful are these colours, they are scented wax melts and the names sound positively delicious…just peachy, coffee break, strawberry fields, amber and patchouli, lavender lips, jazzy jasmine, rosie cheeks, luscious lime and kiwi kiss, to name a few… 

Mmmm…cake…pardon me while I drool a little…

How cute are the old-fashioned roses on the patty cases…

The sweet ladies-of-the-icing even make handmade flowers for you to buy and pop on top of your own cake!

A practical demonstration of the honey making process, it’s fascinating to watch the little guys work…

This stall offers everything you can think of that’s honey related: soap, beeswax furniture polish, clear honey, honey with the wax comb in it…

This apparatus I found really interesting…apparently it is an IVF system for reproducing the queen bee…not quite sure how…

This lady’s stall had masses of beautiful fuchsias all in flower…I had to just take one photo…

Fancy a carriage ride m’lady?

And now we come, dear reader, to the last of the stalls…these unusual and pretty creations are by Christine on Terrace, from Terrace Road, Freeman’s Reach…

May 24, 2011

Windsor markets: from Annie’s jam to vegemite teatowels

Every Sunday come rain, hail or shine, (well, within reason anyway), Windsor holds it’s markets. As the main street is paved to create a mall it provides the perfect traffic free area for strolling and gazing at the lovely local produce and bits n bobs for sale. It runs from 9am until approximately 3.30pm and is very handy to three historic pubs so hubby can take a load off while you’re shopping!

MD and I took a wander around them again on a lovely autumn day a couple of weeks ago…I got so caught up in the gorgeous items that I ended up taking 176 photos!! To save you from having to look at anywhere near that amount I will only be able to show a few from each stall I photographed, (and there were lots I didn’t), and I will have to do this post in two parts…so keep an eye out next week for the next installment!  Firstly, before we dive into the lovely colours of the pictures I must say thank you to all the generous stall holders who gave me permission to take them, if anyone would like a copy of the shots I took that day email me at: convictstock@hotmail.com and I’ll be happy to send them to you.

Here is where it all begins…next to our old post office…

Annie’s stall is first, with a colourful array of anything edible that can be put into a jar! 

Shiny things, snuggly things and dangly things…

These felted items were made by a lady named Denise Hill, if you look closely you can see the ribbon she won from the Castle Hill show for her beautiful scarf…

These colourful dishes caught my eye immediately…

How nice do these pretty, (and natural), handmade soaps look…and take it from me, they smell even better! They are made by a lady called Kim Julius, she has her own website at: www.kimsclassichandmadesoaps.com

 How’re these for some cute and quirky tea towels…and how patriotic is the vegemite one!

This is Nin – she makes delicious cakes, biscuits and slices…and she was the only one brave enough to have her picture taken…

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 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 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!!

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 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…