By Franz Scheurer
West of the Great Divide, the land of dubious coffee, wide main streets, Holden and Falcon utes with big aerials and multiple spotlights, and lamb roasts with three veg, is slowly being changed from a total culinary desert by a gastronomic oasis here and there. Rylstone, Mudgee, Orange, Dubbo, Canowindra and Cowra all show definite signs of a culinary awakening and a blossoming café culture. My Pininfarina-designed car-powered espresso maker is now almost obsolete and I no longer have to carry life’s essentials in my car fridge when I venture ‘off the beaten track’.
Last weekend we left Sydney on Friday in the late afternoon and headed straight for Rylstone, an easy 4-hour drive.
Rylstone Food Store
Kim Currie, an avid Slow Food supporter, chef, restaurateur and believer in good local produce, has a long-standing reputation for creating good food at the Rylstone Food Store. She shares the premises with a gallery and the gallery’s knick-knacks and paintings become the ever-changing décor. Communal tables and a set menu are the go; it’s BYO, friendly, hearty and wholesome. Kim’s food is down-to-earth, full of flavour and cooked with panache. A ‘Winter Vegetable Soup with Rocket Pesto’ was hearty but refined. Full of tiny surprises like pea-sized whole potatoes, tiny carrots and Jerusalem artichokes, it was superb in its simplicity. The bread, baked in Kim’s own bakery (more on that later), was crusty, well seasoned and would have had any Frenchman in raptures. ‘Slow Cooked Lamb’ served with barley risotto was just as wholesome with good texture and melt-in-the-mouth lamb with lots of flavour without being ‘too country’. A serve of ‘Poached Chicken with Pork & Pistachio Filling’ presented very well (although the chicken was a little dry), and it was accompanied by a good potato mash. We adored the pudding, a ‘Lemon Delicious’ served with fresh cream and vanilla ice cream. They are open for Friday and Saturday dinner from 6.30pm and value for money is unbelievably good! Bookings may be made for functions at other times.
Rylstone Food Store
47 Louee Street
Rylstone NSW 2849
Tel.: 02 6379 0947
Bridge View Inn
Just a lit bit further down Louee Street is a glorious old building, which belongs to the Historical Society. About 4 months ago it came up for lease and Kim Currie grabbed it and turned it into the most wonderfully furnished and restored inn, incorporating a quaint and cosy bar, a very European-feeling dining room and a bakery, with a spacious apartment upstairs big enough for two couples to share. The apartment is simply gorgeous (although bitterly cold in winter in the middle of the night, despite two heaters and a blazing log fire in the open fire place). A tiny kitchenette, a large bathroom, a small TV room and two bedrooms complete the upstairs space. It’s quite wonderful waking up to the bakery’s aromas wafting up the stairs! The food coming out of the kitchen is terrific, supervised by Kim Currie, indeed some of the dishes are on both menus. The bakery produces some serious breads and really terrific pies with a dry and cracklingly crisp short-crust pastry bottom, a fluffy, airy puff-pastry top and generous, well-seasoned fillings. Ahh… the delights of a good pie! Have one for breakfast! Top marks, too for the coffee; starting with great beans (Toby Estate) the coffee benefits greatly from Kim’s considerable barista skills. The Bridge View Inn is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days. If you travel to Rylstone try to book the apartment and eat either downstairs or walk up the street to the Rylstone Food Store. Each way you’re guaranteed terrific food at amazingly low prices and service with a smile.
Bridge View Inn
28-30 Louee Street
Rylstone NSW 2849
Tel.: 02 6379 1807
Next morning we drove towards Mudgee. If you have the time it’s well worth stopping at the Lue Pottery where they produce some terrific plates, bowls and serving ware.
Des & Jan Howard
Lue NSW 2850
Tel.: 02 6373 6419
I couldn’t believe just how much Mudgee has grown. It’s a much more modern and vibrant country town now, without losing its charm. There are many wineries well worth a visit and if you are interested in antique motorbikes then a visit to Stein’s Wines is a must http://www.robertstein.com.au/. Adjacent to cellar door there is an amazing collection of old motorbikes, all in working order, too! http://www.robertstein.com.au/site/museum/index.html
If you’re a bit peckish I suggest a snack at the Wineglass Bar & Grill inside the oldest known original hotel building still standing in Mudgee, the Cobb & Co Court. Their ‘Club Sandwich’ is fresh, tasty and generous as is the ‘Watercress, Cucumber, Lobster Tail and Mayo Roll’. There are quite a few local wines by the glass and the rustic, coach-farer heritage is comfortable and suits the town.
Cobb & Co Court
Wineglass Bar & Grill
97 Market Street
Tel.: 02 6372 7245
Once in Mudgee it would be a pity to miss Gulgong, the birthplace of Henry Lawson and a very well preserved town, full of local history. You might remember the streetscape from its picture on the old $10 note. I love the old Gulgong Pioneers’ Museum, which is one of the most comprehensive folk museums in Australia. The aim of the museum is to show visitors how earlier generations and pioneers of the Gulgong district once lived. There are whole rooms dedicated to a theme, e.g. a Victorian dining room, a drawing room, a barber shop, a bakery, a café and even a hospital. Another attraction is the Henry Lawson Centre, displaying a comprehensive collection of his works, early editions, artefacts and art works. If you’re interested in early architecture then I suggest the ‘Gulgong Essentials’ walk, and if you get thirsty have a beer in the old Post Office Hotel in Herbert Street.
Have a look at: http://www.gulgong.net
The drive from Gulgong to Mudgee snakes around the northern boundary of Burrandong Dam to Wellington. It’s a beautiful drive with long, uninterrupted vistas. It’s about another hour from Wellington to Orange, and I suggest you stop and visit Stephen and Rhonda Doyle at Bloodwood on the way. Once in Orange you have the choice of many terrific B&Bs, a couple of good motels and of course there’s Lolli Redini and Selkirks Restaurants. Having reviewed Lolli Redini previously we had a booking at Selkirks.
Selkirks is a proud old house, freestanding and a block away from the busy main street. A grand stairway leads to the entrance and although it may be bitterly cold outside on the night, the interior is warm and immediately welcoming with its yellow walls and many-coloured, chequered chair covers.
The menu contains five entrées, five mains and five desserts. Michael Manners uses regional produce as much as possible and his food is refined and known well beyond his country location. We chose the ‘Charcuterie plate’, featuring a homemade paté, a rillettes and a terrine. The bread, a lightly soured mixed grain and a potato and rosemary (charged as an extra) were outstanding and in my opinion a much better accompaniment to the charcuterie assortment than the rusks that came with the dish. An entrée of ‘Goats curd cheese galette’ served with a spicy carrot and sultana salad shone because of the incredible quality of the goat’s curd (and went quite well with the charcuterie plate’s rusks). For mains we tried the ‘Rainbow trout, trout mousseline, potato blini, dill sauce’, a credible rendition of a classic dish and a ‘Slow cooked loin of pork, apple and prune compote, mashed potato’, consisting of three thinly cut slices of excellent quality pork, served quite pink, sitting on top of a good mash with quite a sweet apple and prune sauce. We applaud Michael’s practice of recommending a glass of local wine with each dish, especially as the recommendations work very well. For dessert we shared a ‘Mixed dessert plate’, which consisted of a couple of ice creams and a sorbet, almond brioche slice, honey roasted apples and pears with short crust pastry, a sweet almond cake with a rhubarb and strawberry compote, and a rich (baked to order) chocolate torte. Although competent none of the desserts rocked our boat. They offer a good selection of loose-leaf teas and reasonably good coffee to complete the meal.
The wine list shows off local wines almost exclusively, which is commendable, although maybe a little constricting. Service was helpful and friendly. This is an excellent country restaurant, aiming very high and almost succeeding. A little more attention to some of the small details could lift it from good to great.
For more information or bookings:
179 Anson Street
Orange NSW 2800
Tel.: 02 6361 1179
Stay the night in Orange and next morning go to ‘Proven Artisan Breads’, a terrific small bakery with a couple of dozen different breads, great pies and good coffee.
Proven Artisan Breads
26b Sale Street
Orange NSW 2800
Tel.: 02 6360 0722