For decades visitors have made culinary pilgrimages to Mudgee in search of olives, wines and a little country spirit and after sampling the pan-European fare at Pipeclay Pumphouse it’s clear the journey shall remain in vogue. This charming restaurant, launched in October 2013 and found, as the name would imply, in the pump house that once supplied the Robert Stein Winery, is Mudgee’s best chance at a brand new hat. So yes, do put it on your epicurean bucket list!
Managing to be both modern and rustic the Pipeclay Pumphouse, as will all good regional restaurants, is all about atmosphere. Wooden flourishes, stone floors and a corrugated iron roof keep the heart of the original 23-year-old pump house beating while an ever-changing array of paintings from regional artists (magpies, trout and yabbies featured strongly during my late February visit) and floor to ceiling windows give the venue plenty of contemporary charm - not to mention a side of natural light for those who like to have their gastronomic adventures earlier in the day and sample Pipeclay’s breakfast menu. Overlooking neighbouring fields and a sculpture-adorned dam, it’s a setting to unwind in.
Pipeclay Pumphouse is the sort of culinary gem that can only exist in a regional environment synonymous with exceptional produce and production. Most ingredients are home grown or locally sourced and while created from allegedly simple techniques (techniques I for one would never be able to contemplate mastering) designed to intensify freshness, the dishes dutifully pay homage to the land. Owner and Head Chef Andy Crestani, of Nove Cucina fame, wouldn’t want it any other way. A passionate follower of the ‘paddock to plate’ ethos he can be found, when not inventing new seasonal flavour combinations, foraging in Pipeclay’s veggie patch and orchard. He even has his own free-range pigs and tried his hand at ducks, although the latter proved to be a little messy.
The focus remains on expertly-sourced ingredients that Andy allows to speak for themselves. Proof that simple, fresh flavours can go a remarkably long way and that a genuine love of foods can do wonders for culinary creativity. Case in point, the amuse-bouche (talk about getting it right from the get go). This dish, a brilliantly clear tomato soup garnished with micro herbs, tasted as if it had just been plucked from the earth. Likewise, the salmon ceviche, which was delightfully fresh and dished up with a vibrant assortment of garden fresh veggies, showed just how far well-matched, well-prepared ingredients can go. It went down a treat with a glass of 2012 Rose. It must be noted that the wine all hails from the Robert Stein Winery and is served at near cellar door prices - just one of the perks of being located within their grounds.
When it came to mains the twice-cooked chicken breast with braised leg voulevant, parsnip puree, baby carrots and eshallots, changed the tone of the evening. Hearty and comforting, this dish had a creamy, wine-infused feel to it. Yet despite its richness I remained acutely aware of the individual, vibrant ingredients that were a treat to the eye as much as the taste buds. The puree in particular had a beautiful buttery finish.
Then there were the desserts – a stand out being the caramelized fig mille feuille, complete with honey marshmallow. Sweet, airy perfection. Some French dishes bode rather well when reimagined in a country environment. With meals like this Mudgee is sure to stay on the gastronomic map.
Where: Robert Stein Vineyard & Winery, Pipeclay Lane, Mudgee, 2850.
Contact: 6373 3998, email@example.com