Travels with Tim and Lisa

"If my discoveries are other people's commonplaces I cannot help it – for me they retain a momentous freshness" (Elizabeth Bowen)

The search for dinner on Monday

Posted by Lisa Hill on January 19, 2010

Millfield General Store

After a day of complete idleness (reading, writing, Sudoku, antipasto lunch on the deck), we set out for dinner at the Millfield General Store. The store has changed hands, and now has a splendid selection of Hunter Valley treats for sale – gourmet cheeses, handmade pickles, beautiful olive oils and an amazing range of seafood and cut meats. There’s also a small bar and you can have a meal there that’s a step up from the usual café fare. Alas, at 5.30 they had closed the bar, café and take-away, so after some Melbourne muttering about inhospitable kitchen hours in the countryside we set off for the rather appealing café we had noticed in Wollembi en route on our first day. That was closed too, and so was the kitchen in the pub. We could barbecue our own steak, suggested one helpful chap, but we were not in the mood for either steak or cooking – so we set off for Cessnock.

Well at least there were plenty of places open. The usual fast food outlets were there but we were most certainly not in the mood for children en masse. Having driven so far (about 10k from Bellbird Cottage and that’s not counting the 15k side trip to Wollembi), we felt we deserved a proper meal and were feeling ambitious. We tried the main street and found an ‘Asian’ café open and a Thai restaurant closed; we checked out the fish-and-chip shop and a greasy Joe’s. There were some pubs too, of the sort that most travellers in Australian country towns have seen. Our ambitions faded, and we adjusted our expectations.

So the Kurrajong Restaurant in the Cessnock Hotel was a surprise. It’s nicely decorated, the service was friendly, the wines-by-the-glass options were good and the ambience was ok. (No children, no drunks, no shrieking 20-something old females). Tim was brave and ordered the kangaroo; I thought they couldn’t cook it as well as he does and chose the seafood paella. Big mistake. His roo was excellent, and my paella was awful. I think they made the stock from tinned tomato soup and the rice was gluggy.

Summer pudding that wasn't

Still starving, I ordered dessert. Tim chose the burnt orange pannacotta which was more than edible. With fond memories of Tina’s New Year’s Eve Summer puddings bursting with berries of all kinds – I chose the Kurrajong’s version of the same. Another big mistake. I sulked over a Baileys and made various belated New Year’s Resolutions regarding eating out in country Australia.

10 Responses to “The search for dinner on Monday”

  1. LOL Lisa! This is a great story. We had a similar story – but one that ended better – when in mid 2008, after attending the Jane Austen Society of Australia Conference at Cessnock we (hubby, Mum and Dad) decided to go into the Hunter for dinner. After all, aren’t wine regions famous for restaurants? And we’d had many lovely meals before in the Hunter. Well, place after place was closed – but we eventually ended up at the Peppers place. High end, but we had a lovely pre-dinner drink in the bar and a very nice dinner as I recollect. We learnt our lesson though about doing more planning before setting off in future!

  2. PS Don’t tell me you too drive a Subaru Forester!

  3. Lisa Hill said

    Well we should have known better too – after all Monday is often a restaurant’s night off and Cessnock isn’t a tourist town.
    But when it comes to resort towns – what is it with the Australian hospitality industry outside the capital cities? I remember going to Noosa some years ago for their Long Weekend of Arts, and on the Friday night we went to a concert that started at 6pm and ended at 8.30pm. It was too early to have dinner beforehand – but as it turned out everything in Hastings Street was closed by 9pm! We couldn’t believe it – people with initiative had planned a great weekend to attract tourists and the restaurant industry wasn’t open to receive them.
    Goodness knows what international tourists must think about this…

    • yes, I was going to mention the Monday business too … but you are right about the restaurant industry here. I guess we just don’t have the market to properly sustain it but you would think in Noosa! For a Festival ‘n all!

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