20 September 2019
For a small country town, Mudgee has big foodie credentials. With a viticultural history dating back to the 1850s, this Central West area (three-and-a-half hours’ drive from Sydney) is now home to some 65 vineyards and more than 40 cellar doors. And, of course, with good wine comes good food lovingly produced by chefs and restaurateurs keen to showcase the region’s bounty of produce in innovate ways.
This is a gourmet destination with zero pretence – a place where you can indulge in sophisticated dining experiences served with friendly, laid-back country hospitality.
Here’s how to try it all in 48 hours.
Leave Sydney bright and early to arrive in Mudgee in time for brunch. One of the main street’s buzziest eateries, Market Street Cafe serves modern interpretations of classic brekkie combos: try the yoghurt panna cotta with house granola and apple and strawberry compote, or the chilli scrambled eggs with Spanish onion, mint and coriander. If your visit coincides with the third Saturday of the month, head to St Mary’s Catholic Church for Mudgee Fine Foods Farmers Market. Stock your bags with local honey, olive oils and preserves to take home, and grab a coffee and a bacon and egg roll to stroll with.
Once wine-and-cheese o’clock rolls around, seek out The Cellar by Gilbert on the outskirts of town. Inside this photogenic sandstone building, the friendly staff will talk you through current and vintage release Gilbert wines grown in Mudgee, Orange and Eden Valley. Plus, you can try a selection of local cheeses from the High Valley Cheese Co.
Mudgee’s most acclaimed fine-dining restaurant is the recently reopened Zin House, overlooking the zinfandel grapes at Lowe Wines. Dinner is a set four-course menu which includes the likes of three-cheese ravioli with leek and truffle, cassoulet with Jerusalem artichoke mash, and rhubarb and apple frangipane tart with honey and rose-petal ice cream. Like The Zin House, Pipeclay Pumphouse (at Robert Stein Vineyard) employs an ultra-local food philosophy in its five-, eight- and 10-course degustations. Charcuterie is made onsite, and the gnocchi with duck and mushroom ragu is a longstanding diners’ favourite. You’ll need to book.
Start the day in the leafy courtyard of Alby & Esthers – a local fave. The small but well-executed menu features the Esther Jaffle with locally smoked ham and an organic egg, and a breakfast plate with bacon, eggs, mushrooms and cheddar – again, all local. Coffee is by Underground Roasters, which many say is the best in town.
Every third Sunday of the month, Burnbrae Wines hosts Tunes@Burnbrae, where you’re invited to laze in the cellar door garden with a pizza and enjoy some live music. Of course there are great wines to be enjoyed, too – try the Home Ground Shiraz and The Lucky Find Cuvée. Mudgee Brewing Co, in the town centre, also has live music on a Sunday afternoon, as well as six signature beers, a range of seasonal brews and a hearty dining menu of main meals and snacks (pork crackling, anyone?).
Other cellar doors to visit … and stock up at before the drive home.
For more information on planning your trip to Mudgee, head to VisitNSW.com.