A certain girl, who shall go unnamed (let’s face it, everyone goes unnamed in this blog), recently celebrated a birthday of significance. Maybe this blog should be called The Birthday Blog?
The partying did not stop I tell you. Next on the birthday agenda (far more exciting than a political or meeting agenda) was a girly trip for six, away to the Blue Mountains, just west of Sydney. The funky wee village of Blackheath to be specific. This mountain town is one of my very favourite to visit. (Go on now, I love them all.)
The adorable Blackheath Getaway Cottage is a homey wooden cottage with quaint touches and a stone fireplace. This would have been my fourth stay here. (Shh, don’t tell anyone. I would hate it to become popular.) Cherry blossoms lined the streets and the well known rhodedendron gardens were coming into bloom. This weekend spoke of open fires, champagne and Cuban sandwiches. Fish river coffee and secondhand shops up the wazoo.
Wide greened streets and cookie cutter cottages that you want to shrink, pop in your pocket and take home. A dog show and waratah’s so red, lush and unreal, you think you could have fallen down a rabbit hole into a psychedelic wonderland.
Serious conversation, happy birthday toasts and the kind of ribbing that only a loved one can get away with.
Mountain appropriate glad rags were put on and we trailed out to a celebatory birthday dinner. Our destination was a restaurant that was once the iconic Vulcans and has now morphed into Vesta. Having never eaten at Vulcans, I had no preconceived notion of what this space should be or feel like. It was once the Blackheath Bakery, built in the nineteenth century and was made famous by Philip Searle and Barry Ross in the 1990’s who produced iconic food in the woodfired scotch oven.
Vesta is an intimate, rustic and charming space. The woodfired oven sits at the back of the open kitchen for all to see. This oven is a magical kingdom within itself; producing plates of seasonal, slow cooked food tinged with the smokiness that only real fire can produce.
A ruby red blood orange and Campari cocktail was enjoyed by two of our number and a cracking bottle of Provenance Pinot Gris from Victoria was ordered and promptly consumed. Woodfired walnut bread was dipped in olive oil and dukkah and we nibbled on smoked paprika almonds and marinated olives.
My standout dish was a silky light and rich, twice cooked Manchego goats cheese soufflé. I would walk to the Blue Mountains on burning hot tar just to get this down my gob again. The experience of mopping up that cheese sauce with bread requires a sonnet to be written in its honour and bards to sing to its glory. I appreciated my next dish, lobster tail with a blood orange and chervil dressing with asparagus. It was light and spoke of spring, the perfect dish after the rich soufflé.
I managed to grab a mouthful of the delicately smoky and unctuous Persian lamb ragout with dill rice and the very good ratatouille with polenta and Bulgarian feta. These dishes were also served in the black cast iron pans they were cooked in. What’s not to love about food served right from the belly of the oven? Even the sides were grand. Broccolini with garlic breadcrumbs and crispy oven roasted kipfler potatoes.
Because this was a birthday celebration, one candle holding, embarrassment causing ice-cream bombe comprising of a strawberry sorbet and honeycomb ice cream was ordered. We stuffed a gorgeous tasting spoonful into our straining stomachs. Just another wafer thin slice? I think not. Thank goodness we had the walk back to the cottage.
As we left, Vesta was heaving with a mixed crowd of the older well heeled set and uber-cool young, bearded hipsters. (Well, the blokes were bearded, I didn’t notice any moustachioed chicks.) The only question left to ask is, whose birthday is it next?