2488 Bells Line of Rd Bilpin, NSW 2758
|Opening hours||Daily from 8am-4pm; dinner Fri and Sat 6pm-8pm|
|Features||Family friendly, Outdoor seating|
|Phone||0466 158 814|
Talk about a good vibe. I'm sitting on the verandah of a little roadside cottage in the Blue Mountains village of Bilpin, perched at a wooden table topped with a checked red gingham plastic tablecloth.
A floral granny plate of garlicky local mushrooms on toast sits in front of me, as gentle rain patters down onto old-fashioned foxgloves in the garden. Members of the local spinning club (as in, the actual spinning of yarn) have just finished their weekly session and are walking out, wooden looms tucked under their arms.
I can even hear the Beach Boys inside, singing about good vibrations.
Manoo (Michael) Robertson and Sean Moran of Bondi's Sean's Panaroma opened the karmically enhanced High Hopes Roadhouse in June last year, after the devastating bushfires in the region (hence the optimism and innocence of the name).
It's an apple pie's throw from their Blue Mountains farm, and the hand-scrawled blackboard menu of home-cooked dishes puts their own herbs, vegetables, eggs and beef to good use.
The cafe – best not to call it a restaurant, or you'll be expecting things such as cloth napkins and table service – is a cosy, make-yourself-at-home space with raggle-taggle wooden tables and art deco light fittings. Shelves of Australiana memorabilia lead to the High Hopes Sweet Shop out back, complete with old-fashioned weigh scales and jars of chocolate freckles and licorice all-sorts.
But let's meet Savanna Jurevics, who today is the cook, order-taker, bar-tender, herb-picker, and general all-round enabler (Robertson and Moran are at the farm dealing with the aftermath of a lightning strike). She has the same can-do attitude and quick wit of Diana, the shouty chef's daughter on ABC TV's Aftertaste.
The menu is an absolute trend-free zone, which is, of course, a trend in itself. Instead of parmesan foam and smoked ice-cream, there's roasted tomato soup with sour cream, Moran's trademark linguine with lemon, rocket, chilli and parmesan, and grass-fed sirloin steak with a farm egg.
The food is good without being startling. In its defence, it probably doesn't want to startle. Sausages and mash ($22) sees stubby little chipolatas in thick onion gravy – and I mean, old-fashioned Commonsense Cookery Book thick – that come with fluorescently green peas and a good, domestic mash.
There's a mumsy zucchini and feta slice with salad ($19) that is the kind of dish you could make for yourself – if you had a chook house and vegetable garden out the back so you could call on fresh eggs, zucchini and their flowers, and the last of summer's tomatoes. I like the mushrooms on toast ($15) very much; they're meaty and textural, beautifully pan-roasted, and shining with garlicky oil.
The famed "Sean's roast chicken" (on for dinner, and the Mother's Day special in May) is today shredded through a crunchy Waldorf-ish apple and red cabbage slaw ($22). It's just good produce, simply done, like eating a picnic at the table.
Drinks are listed on a blackboard, including a complex, spicy, Impressionist Tempranillo from Eden Valley in South Australia ($15/$42). Prices seem all over the shop, with a similar wine being $12 a glass and $52 a bottle.
Dessert is a big wedge of "Ben's apple pie" ($12), made for the restaurant by Ben Porteous of The Hive Berambing, home to Bilpin Wild Honey. It's elegantly domed in soft, fine, flaky pastry, scented with real vanilla; the apple pie of your dreams.
In spite of being called a roadhouse, the big trucks don't stop, but roar past the door in a constant reminder that somewhere out there people are in a hurry. Not in here. Here, things take time, probably because Jurevics is doing everything herself.
So don't come if you're in a rush, you're grumpy, or you're just too privileged to go to the bar to put in an order and have a chat with the local spinning club. That would kill the vibe, and we don't want that.
Vegetarian: A healthy number of options.
Drinks: Oranges and apples juiced to order; local ciders and beers; natural wines from mostly boutique NSW labels.
Pro tip: Grab a bag of goodies from the sweet shop before you hit the road.