Chef Andy Crestani of Pipeclay Pumphouse, the fine dining restaurant at Robert Stein Winery in Mudgee, talks about what’s on the menu for autumn and winter.
Can you set the scene for us?
Our restaurant is at the Robert Stein Winery, overlooking the vineyard and a beautiful dam. The dining room itself is actually built around a pump room which draws water from the dam and, in turn, waters the vineyard, our vegetable patch, the cattle, pigs and sheep around us. It feeds the land, which, in turn, feeds us.
How does the menu work?
We change the menu every three weeks, depending on what’s going on in our half-acre garden. We don’t manipulate produce much, we just try to accentuate natural flavours. It’s honesty on the plate, an expression of the region, with a lot of love and care and passion in each dish. Since COVID-19, we’ve moved to a six-course set menu which allows us to utilise the garden a lot more and change the menu as we feel. It also means diners get a taste of the region in one meal.
So what’s cooking this winter?
We grow a lot of silverbeet and kale. We might throw the leaves into a braise at the last minute to bring some crunch. Sometimes I braise silver beet and make a dip out of it. I love using Jerusalem artichokes in winter too, roasting them with rosemary and thyme and serving them with pork, maybe slow-braised pork belly, milk-poached pork loin or pork neck cooked with dates.
Sounds like you love your pork?
We have free-range pigs on the farm and we make our own salami, rillettes and terrines. Charcuterie is our first course, because it sums up who we are and what we’re about. It changes all the time but in winter we usually have chorizo, a hot salami and a warm terrine, accompanied by glazed figs, pickled cucumber or radish and our own baby carrots.
How do you approach food and wine matching?
My brother-in-law Jacob Stein is the winemaker here. We work really closely in matching the wines. If I tell him a dish is quite peppery or buttery, he will get the gist of where I’m going with it. We talk about the flavours and bounce ideas off one another.
What about dessert?
In winter we bring on the local Spencer Cocoa dark chocolate for puddings and cakes, perhaps with caramel and honeycomb for those bigger wintry flavours. We love working with local producers: I’ve been here for nine years and Mudgee has grown as a food bowl with a lot of like-minded people coming to the region. It’s great to be part of a thriving food and wine destination.