Saddles At Mount White is an hour’s drive from Sydney and a gorgeous place to stop on the way to Newcastle or the Hunter Valley. The restaurant and bakery has a luxe but welcoming country feel and serves up seasonal, contemporary country style food with some classic country baked goods with a modern twist.
I have one recommendation if you are wanting to dine at Saddles on a weekend: book ahead as it is very popular. We arrive at noon at the property and it’s filling up quickly. There’s the queue for takeaway coffee and cakes and there are many cyclists that stop there for a break, coffee and a rest.
The restaurant is run by Central Coast based restaurateur couple Hayley and Cameron Cansdell who also own Bombini and Fish Dining. Saddles is located on 28 acres of bushland and there’s a picnic area that is popular with families with young kids as well as an adjacent plant nursery.
The team behind the design is also responsible for Pretty Beach House in Killcare also on the central coast and the owner is former ad man John Singleton who named it after the work of Heath Harris, an artisan saddler who has worked with him and who designed the distinctive saddle chairs at the bar.
Describing it as a modern country bakehouse oversimplifies it. There is a sandstone fireplace in the centre of the restaurant opposite the bustling open kitchen and there’s a pitched barn-style roof. Horse bits hold back curtains and the vibe is luxe country. The menu features points of native Australian produce with sizeable sized mains. The restaurant has an indoor and outdoor dining area and on this unseasonably warm Winter’s day the outside balcony is bathed in sunshine.
We start with drinks, a long black for Mr NQN and a lavender soda for me which is strong in lavender from the garden outside.
We go with our waitress’s recommendations of what is the most popular. The king prawn sang choy bau is a great idea but one we haven’t seen before. With tender chopped king prawns, ginger, snake beans and macadamia it comes with crisp iceberg lettuce leaves sprinkled with desert oak spice. It’s very tasty, especially with a squeeze of lime and the ginger and one that I’ll be trying to replicate at home. There probably isn’t quite enough filling for the four lettuce leaves though.
The charcuterie is house made and features a pork and fennel salami, pickled Coorong yellowtail fish, chunks of cloth bound cheddar and an ambrosial quince preserve heady with Christmas spices like clove as well as paper thin and lacy toasts.
One of the most popular items is the pie and I can see quite a few tables around us with this along with the sausage roll. It’s a puff pastry topped pie filled with soft chunks of beef, pearl onions and sliced mushrooms in a rich red wine sauce. To the side is a slice of blistered pumpkin and a generous scoop of creamy potato puree. It’s enormous and filling and ideal for those bitterly cold winter days when you need to warm up from the inside out.
However I’m all about the rainbow trout, all lusciously textured fillets with a crispy skin. There’s a generous serve of these fillets along with mussels, chervil butter sauce like a beurre blanc, lovely waxy potatoes and charred leeks but the sauce is the thing that ties it all together. Psst: make sure to order some of the house baked bread to mop up that sauce.
It was hard to decide whether to come for breakfast that runs between 8-11am or lunch but some of the breakfast items appear on the sweets section. We are really quite full so with a degree of sadness we bypass the sticky date pudding and custard tart and try smaller choices. The lamington is a vanilla cake filled with guava jam and cream and coated in Daintree estate chocolate and served with toasted coconut sprinkled with native strawberry gum dust that has a distinct eucalyptus aroma to it.
It’s almost impossible to resist the sugar rolled bombolini donut filled with a butterscotch and mascarpone whipped cream. The donut is soft and light and the cream squirts out with each bite. Heaven!
So tell me Dear Reader, when you travel, do you map out where you’re going to stop to eat or do you play it by ear? And would you more go for the pie or the rainbow trout dish?