If you only eat one fancy meal in Mudgee, it’s a tough call between two of the best local fine diners, both of which reside within wineries, naturally. At Robert Stein vineyard, a winery that also comes with its own Motorcycle Museum, the Pipeclay Pumphouse is focussed on paddock to plate dining. Here 50 per cent of the produce is grown and sourced on the property, and the other half is sourced within a 100 kilometre radius. Post-lockdown, the restaurant has moved to a degustation-only model for lunch and dinner, with a six-course set menu that changes every two to three weeks. If you only come for one dish, it has to be the gnocchi with duck and mushroom ragu, derived from chef Andi Crestani’s grandmother’s recipe. Get the most out of your two-hour-ish long gastronomical journey by adding on the matched wine pairing for each dish, with a choice of sticking to Robert Stein’s finest or exploring more options from the Mudgee region.
Meanwhile over at Lowe Vineyard, it’s hatted restaurant, the Zin House, is also in the business of showcasing locally grown, seasonal ingredients over a set menu (five courses, to be exact). Sat atop a hill, the west-facing porch of the terrace gets stunning sunsets – a perfect accompaniment to a Gooree Park wagyu and a smooth, fruity glass of organic zinfandel from the very vines the restaurant overlooks. Set in a former farmhouse, at this restaurant they don’t reset tables, giving you plenty of space to dine at a relaxed pace.
For something simple, Alby and Esthers right in town does all-day jaffles that can undo the results of even the most vigorous wine tasting session. For an unpretentious feed and good coffee in a rustic former butcher shop, the Butcher Shop Café will have you taken care of. Or, for hand-made dumplings, go to the nearby town of Rylstone and visit 29Nine99 Yum Cha + Tea House where owner Na Lan folds each morsel with obsessive care.
If you’re looking for something to fill your empty esky (aside from wine, of course), you’ll wanna have some ice bricks at the ready for a haul from High Valley Cheese Co. Mudgee’s own artisanal cheesemaker can be found on platters of many local wineries, and you can’t walk away from a cheese tasting at their pop-up stall – which shares an address with the cellar door for Gilbert Family Wines – without buying at least a couple of jars of creamy marinated fetta.