Pipeclay Pumphouse – Mudgee (NSW)

Front and centre by the lake at awarded Mudgee property Robert Stein Vineyard & Winery is where one will find Pipeclay Pumphouse, one of the few fine dining options in the area. Like Kim Currie’s nearby The Zin House, the kitchen here, led by Chef Andy Crestani, has an unwavering dedication to the local region, paying homage to the surrounding land and farms. Of course, the menu changes with the seasons, and wine matching is obviously a big reason for a visit to this intimate, spacious restaurant.

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Robert Stein Winery is one of a handful of Mudgee wineries to regularly receive five-stars in authoritative guides like the James Halliday Wine Companion, so ordering up matching wines is without question a necessity here. Crestani seems to have designed set menus in accordance with the diverse wine selection, designing seasonal set menus that, on my visit last December, bring in a range of seafood, meats, and vegetables; simple and delicious courses plated with fine-dining flair.

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The space is dimly lit for dinner, there’s some lounge seating over near the open fireplace, distinguished from the other corners of the restaurant where spacious long tables and intimate four-seaters lay spread out. It’s a rustic lake-side cabin that was once a pumphouse that supplied the winery, modernised with gorgeous floor-to-ceiling windows that let some natural light in, and give a stunning view of the moonlight piercing the vast lake. The scene is memorable and inviting, prefacing one of the best dining experiences in Mudgee.

while there is an a la caret menu, the 10 course degustation option ($125 without wines, $160 with wines) seems the way to go here, but there’s also the less expensive 7 course degustation which is $85 without wines, $120 with wines. I chose the 7 course after a long day of both eating and drinking had left me a bit full already. Both options begin with a seasonal Amuse Bouche, which for summer is a herbaceous Tomato Consomme, light and crisp with a pleasant citrus taste from the local extra virgin olive oil used to finish it off.

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The second course was a shaped Tuna Tartare, complex with tomato, capers, berries, basil, and lemon beurre noisette. It’s paired up with a Robert Stein 2014 Riesling, completing the various textures that support the rich, sweet cuts of tuna. There’s a very garden-fresh flavour to the mixture.

Seared Quail Breast follows with quail leg crepinette, truffled celeriac, and hazelnut remoulade. It’s paired up with a beautiful Robert Stein 2014 Saignee Rose, complementing the delicate, gamey, and dark meat, balancing it along with the refreshing celeriac.

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The next two meat dishes are the highlights here. Firstly the Roasted Pork Loin with pork and ham terrine, parsnip puree, braised red cabbage, and glazed eshallot is a fantastic and varied showcase of Mudgee’s local meats, completed by a Robert Stein 2011 Merlot. The meats are rich and intense, the terrine the unequivocal winner of the combination, made even better when soaking up the light puree.

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Secondly, we had the Beef Fillet with braised beef shin, cauliflower, fondant potato, blanched eshallot, kale, and an unexpectedly sweet addition with local blueberries. There’s a lot to love here, from the tender, creamy beef shin sitting atop the soft fondant potato to the perfectly crisped kale. A Robert Stein 2011 Reserve Shiraz is a special treat with this course, a deep, dark red that has a strong palate full of blackberries and soft tannins, making sense of the blueberries scattered around the board.

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A Seasonal Sorbet kicks off the final two courses, refreshing the palate before an indulgent Dark Chocolate Delice comes plated with a slice of caramelised banana, honeycomb, mascarpone, and salted caramel. It’s all about the chocolate here so the other flavours are kept as light, supporting characters, though they – especially the honeycomb – are necessary for both texture and taste. It’s hard to slow down and savour this one, but resisting temptation means the dessert can be enjoyed the way it is meant to, with a Robert Stein NV Rum Cask Tawny, clean and not excessively rich, complex with a blend of wines dating back to over ten years old.

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It’s not hard to lose track of time here, the homely feel begging a long, leisurely lunch or dinner during the week. Breakfast is also available on the weekend, with Crestani’s most popular dish being a bacon and egg gnocchi. Save a visit for the restaurant as the cherry on top of a winery tour and this alone would be well worth a day trip to Mudgee.

Pipeclay Pumphouse

Address: Robert Stein Winery; Pipeclay Lane, Mudgee NSW 2850
Contact: 02 6373 3998
Website: http://pipeclaypumphouse.com.au/