Archive for August, 2010

Deebs Kitchen, Mudgee, NSW

August 25, 2010

Cnr Cassilis Road & Buckaroo Lane, Mudgee

Getting out of Sydney we spent a couple of nights in Mudgee and through a recommendation on Chowhound came across Deebs Kitchen a few miles outside of the town. It seemed the perfect place to accompany a rustic weekend which had included a farming festival, as you do. We were lucky to get a table.

It’s a real home restaurant – about 8 tables set in front of a large open kitchen. Dinner is served at 7.30 and all tables are required to be seating for then. You have to love the homely feel and its as close to a family meal you can get. The husband & wife time clearly run a well oiled machine. Personality oozes through. We are made to feel very welcome.

We sit down and peruse the Lebanese inspired menu:

We’ve arrived a little early and get a couple of snacks:

What’s not to love about this? Chipolatas with Aussie flags. It can’t help but raise a smile. Cream cheese on crisp toast are perfectly fine. Although not exactly wow, you just know you’re going to have a fun meal!

Instead of the normal bread we get a couple of bread crisp pittas discs, which are tasty.

The first course is a globe artichoke heart stuffed with chicken & almonds on rice with a light lemon sauce. It’s classic 70s food, but none the worse for it. The chicken is cooked to an unctuous stickiness and although not exactly pretty is good eating.

The fun continues with lamb backstrap, grilled with chilli and ginger. Again no-nonsense food and is packed full of flavour. Lamb is nicely rare and no mucking around with portion size. I could eat this every week. Getting stuck into a second bottle of wine (it’s that sort of place) everything seems right with the world.

We order a couple of puddings – Lemon sponge with cream. It’s actually a little bit dry, but the flavours are good.

Instead we fight over a delicious caramel walnut tart. It’s sweet and moreish and brings to close a good meal.

Clearly this restaurant is about more than the food, it’s about a homely cooking with a bit of love. You can’t help but enjoy it. The food is simple & tasty and the service is charming and sweet. The world needs more restaurants like this and we look forward to returning whenever that might be.


Vulcans, Blackheath, NSW

August 15, 2010

33 Govetts Leap Road, Blackheath

I am a restless soul. If I spend too long in any one place, I get cabin fever and have to get out. Sydney was beginning to grate a little bit – too much time looking at furniture and not enough time doing anything interesting.

We decided to spend a weekend in Mudgee which conveniently meant a brief stopover in the Blue Mountains and the opportunity to try Vulcans, a much vaunted institution, which has been the recipient of 2 chef hats.

Having quickly become Sydney softies we were a little taken aback by the mountain chilliness of Blackheath. But the outside of Vulcans was all the more inviting for it – a cosy red brick restaurant with steamed windows and a great Friday evening buzz.

We took in the huge wood fired oven and felt immediately at home. Clearly this was a place which was all about the home-style food. We  were quickly offered a menu and settled in.

The sourdough bread was a pre-requisite – a good hunk of warm bread, which was deliciously crusty & moreish. I could have eaten this with our bottle of red the whole evening and left a happy man.

But we were here to eat more than the bread. We both started with an artichoke soup with crab.

The soup was delicious. Often artichoke soup is rich and suffocated with cream. This was smooth & intense flavoured with the vegetable. It was studded with many chunks of crab. Every spoonful surfaced with a piece of the crustacean.  It was a whole meal in itself and of such a large portion, impossible to finish, if we wanted to leave room for mains.

We were eager to see what else would follow.

My wife ordered glazed pork with papaya salad. It was another sizeable portion. We both love som tum, so had high hopes. No arguments on how the pork was cooked. The papaya salad had the anticipated spice & heat, but simply lacked sweetness.

I had the blade of beef with kaffir lime & lemongrass – another Asian inspired dish. This followed a similar theme of the previous dish. It was hefty, with the beef benefiting from long slow cooking and spoon soft. The Thai flavours hit like a sledgehammer, making the dish pretty assertive. It was as a result hard to love the dish as a whole. The dish needed a greater balance of flavours to create harmony. The accompanying vegetables (beans & roast potatoes), although good just weren’t up to it.

Moving on, we decided to finish with a chocolate orange wedge.

This was more like it, but funnily enough not unlike the mains – big rich flavours with intense accompanying saucing. Like all the other dishes we weren’t able to finish it (a first!).

We wanted to enjoy this restaurant – good earthy cooking with a simple philosophy. It was promising to begin with, but the mains were a let down. There was no balance and for a restaurant this well regarded we expected better. That’s no fault of Vulcan’s, but of our own expectations, but if we return we would be wary of what we order and leave the Asian influenced dishes well alone.