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forty hours in bilpin (pt one)

June 7, 2013

bilpin, land of the mountain apple

If you take the M7 out of Sydney, that frenetic, multi-laned behemoth, exit at Windsor Road and coast for a half hour or so, past garden centres, fields of horses and the occasional hamburger shop, you may find yourself (as we did not a handful of weeks ago) on Old Bells of Line Road.

It will wind up, down and around the mountains. And if, like us, you are making the journey during the blackest and bleakest of nights after a hurried end to a long working week, you might find yourself passing through Kurrajong and realising that, perhaps, that little hamburger store 15km or so back was the last outlet at which dinner might be found.

Until you remember the Apple Bar.

Mill Paddock Cottage, Bilpin

Mill Paddock Cottage

We had chosen to holiday in Bilpin in a somewhat roundabout manner.

“It’s such a cute town”, Koji had said on his return from a cousin’s wedding “I have to take you there one day. We could pick some apples if you like.”

And then, some months later:

“We need a holiday. This new business of yours is working you into the ground.”

And then, some weeks after that:

“I found this little cottage on the internet. Which of the following weekends shall we head there?”

The entryway, sheltered and stacked with firewood.

The entryway, sheltered and stacked with firewood.

The kitchen - four burner gas stove, oven, microwave, stove-top kettle, coffee grinder, plunger, tea pot and beans included on top of your everyday cutlery, crockery and cooking utensils.

The kitchen – four burner gas stove, oven, microwave, stove-top kettle, coffee grinder, plunger, tea pot and beans included on top of your everyday cutlery, crockery and cooking utensils.

the little touches: a boquet of fresh roses from the garden, mintie jar on top of the fridge, locally made rocky road hidden in a silver sweets tray

the little touches: a boquet of fresh roses from the garden, mintie jar on top of the fridge, locally made rocky road hidden in a silver sweets tray

The leather lounge, DVD collection and fireplace.

The leather lounge, DVD collection and fireplace.

 

The bed - set into a stunning stained glass bay window.

The bed – set into a stunning stained glass bay window.

 

A (double sized, jet filled) spa bath with a view, set into yet another bay window... and the view.

A (double sized, jet filled) spa bath with a view, set into yet another bay window… and the view.

I received a phone call from Carole the next day, with questions of where we were coming from (so she could email us directions), our preference of bread (multigrain, unsliced) and milk (full-cream please), and recommendations of where to eat and what to see.

“If I were you,” she said, not at all bossily, “I’d definitely go to the Apple Bar. It’s our local restaurant and the food is wonderful!”

By this stage, we’d made a dinner booking for Lochiel House, but I’d kept that review of Apple Bar in the back of my mind.

The breakfast platter.

The breakfast platter.

Mill Paddock Cottage, Bilpin

Mill Paddock Cottage, Bilpin

A full breakfast supplied by the cottage, including locally sourced (and squeezed) apple juice.

A full breakfast supplied by the cottage, including locally sourced (and squeezed) apple juice.

One of the (very shy!) local birds that joined us for breakfast each morning.

One of the (very shy!) local birds that joined us for breakfast each morning.

Apple Bar

When we stumbled in from the cold, dark, wet, all I could think of was warmth and mussels. It was an odd thing to crave when miles from the sea, but a worthy one. A moderate glass of the house red (decent) and a larger one of the local cider (brilliant, and second-round worthy) and our order was placed with the kitchen while we grinned at the rowdy conversation of the locals in the back corner, the sequins worn by the party to our left and cringed at the snipey female half of the couple just behind us.

“What do you mean you don’t have any eggs? Last time you forgot the eggs it was a 45 minute round trip to get them! I don’t know why I come up to stay with you.”

(“Carole’s providing eggs from the garden” I whispered to Koji, as the rant continued.

“The garden grows eggs?” he asked, bemusedly.

“The chickens! They have the chicken version of the Taj Mahal just near our cottage!” whispered I, excitedly.

“Why are you whispering?” he returned.)

On and on she went, proof that even when the company and the food are amazing, an adjacent table can make or break the mood of a meal.

A mood that, by the way, had been well-established as one of wholehearted satisfaction – from the brothy, tomato-rich pot of tender, squelching mussels with garlicky pizza bread, to the peppy rocket and pear salad scattered with kernels of walnut and a zesty reduced balsamic dressing, to the blister-bottomed pizza with its unusual, yet delicious, cured bonito topping.

We ate as much as we could, and packaged up the last two slices of pizza for a late night snack… and then cheekily ordered dessert.

Now Koji isn’t a cake-happy kind of guy. He rolls his eyes at my lunch-desserts and barely tolerates those requested after dinner, but this cake! Oh! We fork-fought over it til it was nearly done. The crumbliest of butter cakes. The most fragrant apples – cooked just so they gave way to the tines of a fork without becoming a muddling, melty mess. But most of all (yes, most of all!) was the caramelised, almost toffee’d crust. It was this that had Koji stare me down, fork ready to pierce through the skin of my somewhat greedily grabbing hand.

“Halves on the rest of the crust?” I said, in an attempt to broker peace.

“That’s not a half! You tried to take it all!”

I redivided the bounty and a tenuous treaty was made.

Useful, as we still had a 20 minute drive to go.

We slept well that evening, after long, hot, double headed showers and a pot of tea in front of the fire, and woke up ready for the challenge of exploring Old Bells of Line Road – from Mount Tomah, all the way down to Kurrajong Heights (a topic I may well cover next time, seeing as you’ve been so good and read the last nine-hundred or so words sans complaint).

(There are no photos of Apple Bar – my phone made feeble attempts to capture the darkness and my camera was under piles of luggage in the car. My apologies.)

After spending a little too much time with the local birds, I started getting a little bird-brained myself. Or perhaps it was just the serenity that had me unwinding...

After spending a little too much time with the local birds, I started getting a little bird-brained myself. Or perhaps it was just the serenity that had me unwinding…

Mill Paddock Cottage

1143 Mountain Lagoon Road, Bilpin NSW 2758
Access by car only, the last 2km of road are unsealed
We paid $460 for a Friday night / Saturday night stay, with breakfast hamper and sweet treats included
For availability & bookings, visit: http://www.millpaddock.com.au/

Apple Bar

2488 Bells of Line Road, Bilpin NSW 2758
Access by car only, near the corner of Bells of Line Road and Mountain Lagoon Road
Bookings available on (02) 4567 0335 or visit: http://www.applebar.com.au/


  • #1
    June 11th, 2013

    Amazing at what things you see when you drive further and further away from the city 😛 Love that last photo of you!

  • #2
    Michael
    September 5th, 2013

    Fantastic blog on Mill Paddock & Apple Bar! well written, funny & sophisticated. Many Thanks Michael HeadChef Owner
    Apple Bar

Shez