Our weekend away in Mudgee last year, centred mostly around Blue Wren and rightly so, we hadn’t been so blown away by a restaurant in a while. When you’re dining out upwards of 3-5 times a week and you experience something so jarringly creative and inventive, you take notice. And that’s exactly what happened over two nights at the Chefs table at Blue Wren.
We did do a little bit of exploring in town and visited a few wineries. And in all honesty, with the gorgeous Blue Wren as a base, we weren’t too fussed about going out and seeing the sights, we were perfectly content lounging around and enjoying the gorgeous scenery.
I had heard many wonderful things about Pipeclay Pumphouse, I’m not usually one for breakfast but the menu sounded interesting so we went ahead and made a 10 am booking. We made a mental note for Robert Stein winery, so it was just a happy coincidence that they both sat on the same property. With floor to ceiling windows overlooking the vineyards and a small pond, it’s gorgeously picturesque.
Usual coffees were ordered, the menu is small and limited but for me to be torn over what to order at breakfast is a good sign. The Potato & Dill Pancake w/bacon (replacing salmon), fried egg, avocado & lemon creme fraise $18 was beautifully presented and an ample portion for me first thing in the morning. The potato pancakes were interesting, very light but somewhat dense in that the dough was ‘compact’, basically not your traditional pancake. I liked the acidity in the creme fraise and the yolk added some creaminess.
Alex went with the Caramelised Onion tart, roast capsicum, leaning oak, goats cheese mousse and poached eggs $17 so these are definitely not your local corner store cafe portions if you have a big appetite you might walk away a little unsatisfied… depending on what you order. The tart itself was tasty, crisp pastry and caramelised vegetables, there just wasn’t enough of it for Alex. He also thought scrambled eggs might have been a better accompaniment over the poached eggs.
But I think the unanimous winning dish was the Bacon and Egg Gnocchi w/ truffle oil and baby herbs $17. Without question, this is a MUST order! Pan fried pillows of gnocchi with crispy diced bacon – the yolk once broken added a creamy coating. The truffle oil was prominent but not overpowering.
Make sure you drop into Robert Stein Winery and say hello to Karen (our sommelier from Blue Wren) and grab yourself a few bottles of the Half Dry Riesling $40.
After a stroll in Mudgee centre, including a pit stop to check out the local bakery (disappointing, sorry!). We headed back out to a few wineries. Gilbert Family Wines attracted our attention because of the huge street sign ‘cheese tastings’. Alas, we’re hacks. High Valley Mudgee Cheese Co do cheese tastings in the courtyard, some stand-outs included the pesto fetta and the brie. We saw some fantastic antipasto / cheese-boards being made but I prodded everyone along to our next stop.
Moothi Estate was on my list for a number of reasons but everyone mentioned that they do one of the best antipasto platters in Mudgee. Killing two birds with one stone, we also tried a few of their wines. I was a big fan of their 2013 Moothi Dreams Block 3 Botrytis white blend. Easily feeding a group of five of us, the Ploughman’s Lunch platter was a good lunch filler to tide us over between breakfast and dinner. The creamy pesto fetta, pickles and cheddar were big standouts for us. Add some bean bags, an extra few glasses of vino and THAT view, we lounged around for a good few hours.
If you’re wanting a quintessential country-town experience then I do recommend a stop in at the Mudgee Corner Store. Everyone couldn’t stop raving about their famous Bacon & Egg roll and we were equally impressed, with the tomato relish and arugula keeping things interesting. The shop itself is extremely quaint and the prices are wallet-friendly. Probably not the best choice if you’re in any kind of a hurry because the coffee and food were slow to come out.
Kip from Blue Wren made mention to Campbell at the corner store my love for a good burger. So he surprised me with their Wagyu burger (somewhere in the vicinity of $8-9). Ordinarily, they don’t serve burgers on Sundays so I was touched he went to the trouble for me. But I was instantly sceptical once the burger was placed in front of me and I saw the beetroot. But I was pleasantly surprised. the semi-soft/crunchy bread roll absorbed all the juices without becoming soggy and cutting the roof of my mouth. The beef was seasoned perfectly, the cheese wasn’t overly prominent but the bacon was crisp, a touch of pepperiness from the rocket and the beetroot adding a nice hint of sweetness.
Rylstone Olive Press instantly reminded me of a provincial farmhouse in the south of France. We were bundled inside and taken under the wing of a precious lady who informed us that they were currently in the process of processing their olives and would we like to watch? Umm yes!!!! Ushered into the factory, we were shown the machinery used to process the olives. We also tried freshly made olive oil, an extremely bitter potent concoction. And then began our olive oil tasting; I collect olive oils like they’re going out of style and serving them with a good quality warm crusty loaf is one of my favourite things on the planet. My two picks were the Cudgegong and the Murrumbidgee.
After our impromptu olive oil show and tell we made our way over to the centre of Rylstone. The town centre is quaint, with a few knick knacky shops and eateries. One such restaurant is 22 Nine 99.
Somewhere that came highly recommended. A lauded yum cha restaurant in a town with a population of 900-1000 people? Well, I was intrigued. They offer four set menu dining options, starting at 6 dumplings + tea for $17. The boys went with the next option of 8 dumplings + tea + a pork bun $23.50. We gave our dumpling preferences and then our teapots were brought to the table.
The dumplings were brought out two at a time but it was a little hard to keep track of what we were eating. But we were instantly drawn to the Vegetable & peanut in rice flour with the peanut flavour at the forefront, the wonton wrappers were paper thin. Perhaps too thin, as 3-5 dumplings broke apart as we tried to pry them from the plate. I would also suggest springing for the BBQ pork bun as it was one of the better pork buns I’ve eaten, the combination of the concentrated pork flavour and the light as air dough was a real winner. Perhaps not the best dumplings I’ve had but certainly an interesting find in an unassuming place.
Photos by Alex