There are so many amazing food places in Mudgee, New South Wales, it’s impossible to decide where to eat next. Thankfully the locals are the friendliest people on earth and love to help. Their recommendation: the Pipeclay Pumphouse – and it’s with very good reason indeed.
You know you’re onto something good when you receive The Slow Nod every time you tell a local where you’re having dinner.
The Slow Nod – that mark of absolute recognition, of complete approval – is as reassuring to a visitor as a mother’s hug.
Having said that, when we told people we were dining at the Pipeclay Pumphouse, the slow nod was tinged with sadness. That’s right, we’d upset the locals with our booking.
Why? Because that’s where they’d wanted to tell us to go. We were robbing the good people of Mudgee of their enjoyment of giving someone the best dinner recommendation they had. We were taking the ace from up their sleeve.
And what an ace it is.
As soon as we stepped through the doors to the restaurant set amidst the grapes vines of renowned Robert Stein Winery, it was our turn to do the slow nod.
The restaurant is laid out in such a way that the tables are quite a distance apart from each other. I really like this – It shows real thought has gone into the setup.
There’s nothing worse that feeling hemmed in or over-crowded. This spacious feel also gives you more privacy at your table, which lends itself to a more romantic evening.
The passion for food in Mudgee goes perfectly with the small-community feel that makes everyone feel so welcome.
Our waiter, Jay, came to Mudgee some 6 years ago on holiday. He came here for a break in the middle of winter and walked into the first cocktail bar he could find. All he did was tell the lady behind the bar he was freezing.
The next thing he knew there was a beautiful warm glass of grandfather tawny port in front of him – on the house.
He never left.
And that’s what it’s like here; so bloody friendly, there’s that real temptation never to leave. Especially when you’re in a place that serves food like they do at Pipeclay.
Our little amuse bouche of tomato consommé was the perfect starting point for what was to be a truly memorable meal.
Mrs Romance’s entrée of ocean trout ceviche, olive and caper salsa and salmon roe was so fresh and flavoursome, she shed a little tear of happiness.
Meanwhile, I was savaging my pan-seared scallops that came on a sweet corn puree with an amazing maple bacon crumb on top.
The break between our courses gave us enough time to finish our cocktails and choose a bottle of wine to go with our mains.
As the Pipeclay Pumphouse is on the Robert Stein vineyard, it stands to reason owner and head chef Andy Crestani has included Stein wines throughout the menu. Fortunately for us, Robert Stein wines are really good examples of those cold-climate wines Mudgee’s known for.
Mrs Romance’s main of seared beef fillet and braised beef shin came with a surprisingly good truffled pea puree, broad beans, wild mushrooms and paper-thin slices of radish grown on the premises.
My main was – if anything – more tear inducing than Mrs R’s starter! Pan-roasted pork loin with confit of pork, an olive and onion garlic lyonnaise, parsnip puree and strips of the crispiest, most delicious bacon ever – in fact it was more like bacon crackling!
We were wondering what to do about dessert when Jay our waiter made everything easier for us.
“The dark chocolate and hazelnut delice is my favourite,” he said.
Yup. And now it’s mine! Thanks Jay. This comes with a chewy caramel ball and caramel mascarpone quenelle.
How restrained are we – we shared this bad boy! We gave that good idea The Slow Nod though as we waddled out the restaurant’s mercifully wide doors!
Open for Breakfast, lunch, dinner and events all year round.
Robert Stein Vineyard & Winery
Mudgee NSW 2850
T: 02 6373 3998
Have you been to Mudgee? Have you ever received The Slow Nod? Let us know in the comments!