Willow Vale Mill

Laggan, NSW

Writing about this place does raise in my mind why I write in the first place. I see this blog as essentially an aide-memoire for how I choose to spend my money & time, capturing what I thought of the places I’ve been to. Clearly being able to share my thoughts with other like minded individuals is a good thing, but when writing about the Willow Vale Mill I’m not writing about a business, I’m commenting on one man’s passion, and accordingly some respect must be paid. Not that this was the sort of place that disappointed.

We had a very memorable, albeit brief stay here, with Graham a great host who personally renovated this huge building and now runs a restaurant of sorts with three rooms for overnight guests. It’s not about money but enjoyment and as a result you get the impression that guests are vetted before they get a reservation, because Graham is essentially having guests round for dinner – and who wants to spend time with people who are going to be demanding or a pain in the arse?

We arrived mid afternoon during a miserable day and were immediately handed a mug of tea which we took in front of the huge log fire. We got to know our host for a while until he went off to prepare our dinner.

While my wife had a snooze I was able to hang out in the kitchen and meet some of the locals who were coming and going. Beers were handed around. It was a very social afternoon.

Dinner itself was equally social. Various guests congregated in the dining room around 7pm. There were about 20 this evening. Wines were chosen from Graham’s collection and we were recommended a decent pinot noir which went down well with the appetizers as we helped ourselves.

And what appetizers! – a variety of semi-dried chorizo, a potato pizza and a f’ing awesome sizzling pan of wood mushrooms accompanied by olive oil drizzled & toasted ciabatta. The mushrooms were as good as I’ve ever had and if I were in less civilized surroundings I would have fought people to keep them to myself.

We also got to know some of our fellow guests as we looked forward to our entree.

This was a simple and wholesome vegetable soup full of thick fresh veggies in a rich tomato spiked broth. We wisely only limited ourselves to a singe bowl, well aware that there would be plenty more to come.

And when the main dishes came out, they didn’t seem to stop:

A rack of pork, leg of lamb & side of corned beef, accompanied by sauteed greens, roasted vegetables, potato bake & a room temperature dish of tomatoes, cheese & courgettes. Phew…. The guests all helped serve, plates were piled high and a happy chatter filled the room.

It was gutsy, earthy food, perfect for a friendly dinner party. Graham, our host worked the room and made sure we were all having a good time.

By the time dessert arrived, I think everyone was suffering from meat sweats, but knew they had to persevere:

On the far right of the above picture was a cherry tart. Aside from the mushrooms it was a highlight of our meal – crisp pastry, sweet fruit with a nice compote, coupled with homemade cream (that’s the plate of white gooness above) which was truly delightful.

It was one of those meals which was big on generosity and we stumbled sated to the veranda to relax as the revelry continued inside. We were grateful our bed was so close and we eventually retired, two very satisfied people, knowing that we’d had a day to remember.

We were the only overnight guests and had a quiet morning and simple breakfast before we got on our way.

It’s clear the Willow Vale Mill has a unique appeal and it seems that the majority of guests are repeat visitors, which says a lot about the enjoyment of this place. I just hope Graham enjoyed our company enough to have us back. We’d very much like to return.


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