We recently took an extended weekend to travel to the NSW country town of Bathurst. This is the chosen place of residence for our Papa, Mr Bagpipes. He was celebrating a rather, cough cough, significant birthday. How old you ask? Bloody 70, he would reply. Despite his misgivings, this is a good thing. He is a young 70.. I mean, like a 21 year old 70.
Beautiful Bathurst was the place of the first goldrush in Australia. With a population of around 41,000 people, there is an elegant and historic city centre with a slightly slowed down country feel. To balance this, Bathurst is also a university town with a youthful and energetic vibe. It is famous for Mount Panaroma, an internationally known race track that attracts petrolheads from all over every October for the awesomely noisy Bathurst 1000.
Bathurst is a bit of an understated beauty. The dark haired, brown eyed demure lass who stands undemandingly in the corner. But when you give her your full attention, she shines like soft sunlight on a stained glass window.
There is no sugar coating it, in winter it is BC…Bloody Cold. But what better excuse to rug up in your snuggliest clothes and traverse from shop to shop, park to park, red apple cheeked like someone from a 1950′s American TV sitcom? There is much to appreciate. The fine architecture, fabulous food and coffee and great shoes. (Shoes do matter, well, they do to me….)
First stop, Legall Patisserie, this is when I really know we are in Bathurst. Toffee choux, lemon tart and creme brûlée tart. Naturally, I have no scientific basis for the next claim but this has got to be the best patisserie in Australia. I kid you not. The light choux pastry balls filled with fresh cream and coated in a thin crunchy almost burnt but not, toffee coating almost bring me undone. Served with Fish River coffee, blended locally, this java always has a luscious, smooth mouthfeel and great aftertaste. It ain’t crap people.
Icicles on bench parks and shrubbery, Jack Duggans Irish pub for plates of cockle warming country food the size of a small galaxy and pints of velvety Guinness that make the world a happier place. Duck feeding at the pond, excellent takeaway coffee from Crema or Country Fruit and fat ice creams (yes, children will still eat them, even when it is 9 degrees outside.)
Green leprechaun boots from Gorgeousness, the temple of all things girly and beauiful. The very cool Keppel Street with the marvellous secondhand shop The Naked Bud, op shops and other delightful wee retail outlets worth a squiz at. Artisan handcrafted takeaway pizza from Capers, devoured in the stunning cottage rented by Sister No 4. (We all had serious rental house envy.)
And the shindig itself? Come Saturday evening, we popped our glad rags on and headed off to celebrate. Mr Bagpipes had booked out The Hub, Espresso Bar & Eatery for the entire evening. A charming, partially red wall painted, cosy eatery on the aforementioned Keppell Street. Owned and operated by Mr Ross, a chilled out dude who’s personality is reflected in the happy food and service this wee gem provides.
Family and friends of Mr Bagpipes gathered from near and far in this welcoming space and sipped on sparkling wine whilst snarfling delicious tidbits of canapés. The chilled dinner party atmosphere was framed by the beautiful musicianship of Aaron Hopper and Rob Shannon. Mr Bagpipes surprised us all by banging out a few cool tunes on the bagpipes accompanied by Mr Shannon on the tabla, an Indian drum. The mystic sounds took us to a more ancient time where windy, bagged instruments ran free on stilted legs, shepherded by crazy, wee percussion instruments.
Back to the food. To start, a cauliflower soup served with truffle oil and fine shavings of fresh truffle. Holy fungi! Seriously, one of the most luxurious soups to ever slide down the gob of this greedy Cheergerm. The sweet brassica was highlighted by the hard to describe, earthy taste that is that strange little orb, the truffle. This was followed by tender crusted lamb rack on a bed of kumara mash, a red wine jus and lovely steamed fresh garden vegetables. Vegetarians and the vegetarian Silly Yak dined on a tasty veggie curry. They were well pleased.
Music, warmth, poetry, food, wine and laughter. Hopefully Mr Bagpipe’s heart swelled as his friend piped in the kiwi decorated birthday cake. Celebrations are important, they might not totally erase the darker times but they feed our souls and give us hope for the future.
Enough of that serious malarkey, let’s talk dessert. Adorable piccolos of Fish River Coffee came to the table accompanied by Sister No 2′s amazeballs kiwi covered birthday chocolate stout fruit cake and slices of lemon tart from Legall next door.
Sunday, in party recovery mode, we drove through freezing cold sleet like rain to visit the Beekeepers Inn 20 minutes outside of Bathurst. We enjoyed nice food and coffee along with a great honey tasting station, a myriad of amber honey jars, bee type goodies and gourmet yummy things to peruse. As night fell, we met once again in the enviable cottage rental for great warming Indian curry from Tamarin Indian Restaurant.
Before we took our leave on Monday, we needed to stuff our faces for the last hurrah. Back to The Hub we went. Trunkey Creek triple smoked bacon was the business served with heavenly (give me a hallelujah chorus from the balcony) scrambled eggs that were like tiny little hobbit clouds. A friend devoured chorizo, sweet potato rosti and poached eggs topped with a silky hollandaise sauce that was lemony and not heavy or overpowering as some. A reliable expert on sausages (the Polish stepfather) assured me the fennel and pork sausage with beans was superb. No words left his mouth whilst he chowed down.
So happy birthday Dad, as you traverse into the next decade of your life, may the road rise up to meet you and the melodic drone of bagpipes be the continuing soundtrack to your life.
Bathurst, we will be back.