Creatively prepared local produce served in a book-filled barn nestled amongst the grape vines of one of the region’s foremost wineries.
Of life’s many simple pleasures, food, wine and books surely rate amongst the best. And at Bendooley Estate, located in the rolling, vine-clad hills of the picturesque Southern Highlands, they can be enjoyed simultaneously.
Locals fondly remember the iconic Berkelouw Books, which has stood on this site since the early 1900s. Recently refurbished, it is a sprawling space with cathedral ceilings, exposed wooden beams, dramatic pendant lights, a grand open fireplace and, of course, thousands of wonderful books. It now doubles as the wholesome and atmospheric home of the Bendooley Estate Restaurant. Tables are nestled cozily amongst bookshelves, while an additional glasshouse-style wing gives diners uninterrupted views of the Bendooley Estate vineyards and gardens.
And then there’s the food. Bendooley prides itself on using seasonal local Southern Highlands and regional produce, with hero ingredients treated simply and respectfully. Grilled peaches make a perfect match with endive, buffalo mozzarella, hazelnuts and aged balsamic for a light and vibrant starter, while other standouts on the entrée menu include the ocean trout carpaccio with vanilla and pink peppercorns, puffed rice and crème fraiche, and the wonderfully simple and delicate heirloom vegetables with jamon, seeds and nuts, herbs and Bendooley flowers. No doubt about it, this is food made with love.
For the main, we opted for the fish of the day, which was a perfectly cooked salmon fillet served with braised lentils and green peas on a silky cauliflower puree. At the waiter’s recommendation we also ordered the slow braised kid with roasted pumpkin, tamarind, chickpeas and garlic yogurt. We’d have been equally delighted with the roasted spatchcock with corn puree, roasted figs and red wine reduction, or the Sri Lankan beetroot and green bean curry, with wild rice, coriander and sambal, but there’s only so much two people can eat at one lunch sitting.
For those after a lighter lunch, the gourmet woodfired pizza menu caters perfectly. Standouts include blue cheese with apple, grapes, truffle honey, ground pine nuts and wild rocket, along with the smokey pulled pork with fennel, apple and BBQ sauce. Paired with a generous bowl of shoestring fries with rosemary and smoked paprika salt and one of several yummy side salads – perhaps the pea, asparagus and green bean salad with fetta, sumac and flowers – and you’ve got yourself the perfect, shareable lunch.
And if you manage to save room for dessert you’ll be rewarded with treats as indulgent at caramelised chocolate ganache with pomegranate granita, port wine caramel and chocolate crumble, or perhaps Tunisian citrus samosas with orange caramel and vanilla ice cream. The menu at Bendooley is fun, creative and filled with love, and the dessert menu is no exception.
And of course, it goes without saying you’ll have a fantastic selection of wines to choose from. The warm days and long, cool evenings of the Southern Highlands mean a longer ripening period, resulting in aromatic, fruit-forward wine styles. Bendooley Estate produces Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Pinot Gris, a Merlot Cabernet blend, a cool-climate Shiraz blend and an Ex Libris. Have a glass (or three) with lunch, then amble over to the beautiful cellar door adjacent to the book barn to sample the available line up and take a few bottles home.
Old books, modern cuisine and world-class wine, all set within the vineyards and established gardens of a much loved winery; you’d be hard pressed to find a better way to pass a few hours on a Sunday.
Bendooley Estate Restaurant is located at 3020 Old Hume Hwy, Berrima, NSW.