The Packing Shed, Bickley Valley

The Bickley Valley area of the Perth Hills is fast becoming a must go weekend destination. There’s wineries, cafes, mini golf and the popular Core Cider House. To me, the spot nestled just behind Kalamunda is a far prettier drive than the Swan Valley, with its native bushland, winding roads and green rolling hills covered in vineyards and orchards, giving it a real country feel.IMG_9659

The Packing Shed opened up earlier this year. Found at one of Bickley Valley’s vineyards, Lawnbrook Estate, the rustic eatery is a peaceful spot for brunch or lunch all year round.IMG_9668

We’ve previously been there on a sunny day and sat on the patio with a glass of wine.IMG_6679

Little Chef loved to run around on the expansive lawns.IMG_9653

This time we visited for brunch, we spent a winter’s morning sitting inside, by the roaring log fire.IMG_9661

The staff are always welcoming and friendly. The coffee is very good too.IMG_9624

The brunch cut off is 11.30am, but there are a few breakfast dishes that make it onto the lunch menu for late-risers. My top brekkie pick has to be the shakshouka. It’s one of my all-time favourite brunch dishes and the Packing Shed’s version of eggs baked in a spicy Moroccan tomato sauce is very tasty and the fresh bread is perfect for dunking! IMG_6691

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Millbrook Winery, Jarrahdale

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Millbrook Winery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Winery

I’ve been wistfully daydreaming for the best part of a decade that one day I’d enjoy a long lunch, glass of wine in hand, in the lakeside restaurant Millbrook Winery. To be fair, I don’t have a particularly good reason why I hadn’t made the trip to Jarrahdale, other than it’s at the opposite end of Perth to where I live. It’s not on the moon or even as far as Margaret River. So when I discovered that lunch at Millbrook was part of my research into the Peel region and it’s produce for Buy West Eat Best’s Signature Dish Competition, I was over the moon.IMG_8156

I’d been following Millbrook’s Head Chef Guy Jeffreys on Instagram, so I had an idea that fresh produce was a very important feature on their menu. He’s worked at some well renowned WA restaurants in the past, including Leeuwin Estate and David Coomer’s celebrated Star Anise. Not only is he Head Chef, but their head gardener too! More on that immense vegetable garden later…

Much to his disappointment, Chef was working, so I took my parents along for lunch at Millbrook on a sunny autumn day. Walking through the grounds, the leaves on the trees and vines were shades of red, orange and brown. It’s the sort of spot which really changes with the seasons. I hear Millbrook is also stunning in spring when the blossom is on the trees and their wisteria is blooming! IMG_8151

First off, we enjoyed an introduction to Millbrook at the cellar door with a wine tasting. These get very popular on weekends and a light menu, of cheese platters and the like, is offered to enjoy along with their wines by the lake. Picnic baskets are also available, I can’t think of a prettier setting to thrown down a rug.MIMG_7962

We tried some white and red varieties from Millbrook’s various vineyards around WA. As well as growing their own grapes on site, they require a cooler climate for other varieties, with drops from Margaret River, Pemberton and the Great Southern. My favourite of the wines I tried was the Millbrook Margaret River Vermentino, followed by their Shiraz blend.IMG_7996

The Food

The dining room is found upstairs, with panoramic views over the lake, jarrah forest, vineyards and manicured gardens. There’s a large stone fireplace on one wall, which must be wonderfully cosy on a chilly day in the Perth Hills.IMG_8009

The modern Australian menu changes regularly, depending on what is available from the garden. The food is filled with technique, imagination and passion. What you won’t find is overkill of fussy gels, soils and other Cheffyness – which is not needed when you have amazing fresh produce growing at your kitchen door. This is how good food should be, simple, exciting and delicious.

At the suggestion of our friendly waitress, we choose the 3 course choice for $75 per person, this also includes some sides. To start, we nibble on olives, warm bread and butter with a red wine salt. For entrée we share the kitchen’s choice, $42 for two people. This is a selection of dishes that’s made up from whatever is abundant in their garden each day. On this day it was three dishes – cured beef in lettuce cups with a fermented hot sauce mayo and tender squid with salsa and beans.IMG_8050

The real show stealer of the dishes was the bianco turnips, simply pulled from the veggie patch, washed and served with a creamy curds and whey and preserved lemon. We ate them root to leaf with our hands “bunny style” and absolutely relished the vibrant, fresh flavour. It says everything about Millbrook’s food philosophy – unfussy, flavoursome and fresh food. You don’t need to mess with food too much to create a memorable dish – it really starts and ends with outstanding local produce.IMG_8048

A entrée sized dish of pickles, charred octopus, chorizo and a safflower mayo ($23) was a perfect match for my glass of subtlety fruity Vermentino. If they don’t grow it themselves the Millbrook Chefs are on first name terms with their suppliers, like local pig farmer James Taylor, who they source their nitrate free chorizo from. It may not look pink like typical chorizo, but the greyish meat is packed with flavour. I’m glad it doesn’t come packed with preservatives and other nasties. The octopus is also delicious and it’s genuinely the most well cooked octopus I’ve ever had.IMG_8033

For main I bite the bullet and choose the Viognier braised rabbit risotto with bacon ($39). Having had pet bunnies as a child, I’ve struggled a bit with ordering rabbit dishes. With (a lot) of coaxing from Chef over the years, I recently plucked up the courage to give it a go and boy am I glad that I did. Generous morsels of Baldivis rabbit are laced throughout this creamy risotto, topped with shavings of parmesan. It’s a rustic, soul warming dish.IMG_8075

I have to admit, I was eying up the coffee rubbed brisket ($39), which sounded amazing. My Dad loved this dish and kindly let me try a bite, giving me serious food envy. The huge hunk of meat was cooked overnight making it moist and full of flavour. On the side was a mountain corn polenta (from corn grown in the garden), and a fresh snake bean salad. This dish was well paired with the Millbrook Estate Cabernets, which my parents agreed was a top drop of red. IMG_8063

My Mum chose the market fish of the day ($39), which was a Spangled Emperor from Broome. It was draped with the most enormous piece of broccolini. The stem was as thick as a tree trunk and easily the most flavoursome part of the vegetable. The moist fish was accompanied by a house made yogurt, Venezuelan Ají dulce chilli burnt butter and Manjimup roasted hazelnuts. These are a by-product of the truffle industry, as truffles are grown under hazelnut trees and another great example of reducing waste. IMG_8066

As well as all that, we enjoyed a generous side of potatoes and more garden fresh veg. To finish, my parents both enjoyed a light apple strudel ($16), with mascarpone parfait, shaved jujubes (an apple-like fruit) and a raisin syrup, made from grapes on the vineyard.IMG_8089

Scrumptious chocolate mousse cake ($16), with a white chocolate & ginger ice cream finished my lunch off perfectly. The candied macadamias were very moreish. IMG_8104

As well as having an abundance of rave-worthy wines to choose from, I really love how Millbrook offers some really interesting non-alcoholic drinks. I’m so bored of pre-mixed soft drinks and drinking water, after I’ve finished my glass of vino. Here there’s house made ginger spritzer, a Millbrook basil, cucumber & mint spritzer, Bannister Downs chocolate milk, Jarrahdale neccessiteas and more. I chose a refreshing seasonal fruit water kefir ($7) which on this day was made from figs.IMG_8083

The Garden

After our long lunch, Head Chef Guy Jeffreys took us for a tour of his veggie patch, which really belies the size of it. It’s quite immense, and absolutely thriving in it’s unique micro climate in the valley. Guy grows his vegetables from seeds that have been saved from the previous year’s crop, cultivating them by the moon. You can’t get much more “paddock-to-plate” than that! IMG_8119

Each day after service the chefs tend to the garden. The rows of veg are teaming with varieties of plants I’ve never heard of and are rarely, if ever, seen in Australia. If you want unique produce to work with, clearly the way is to grow it yourself. At this time of year you’re likely to see broccoli, kohlrabi, fennel, beans, rainbow chard, mustard greens, turnips, carrots, lettuce and much more.IMG_8131

Here Guy hands us green leaves, one similar to a sour sorrel, the other has the most punchy mustard flavours. The flavours from fresh veg are simply unbeatable. I’m most impressed and very interested to hear the stories behind the unique heirloom vegetables. And as well as been mindful of local produce, Guy also is careful of waste. There’s a “no waste” lunch, a selection of perishable items, on the menu for Mondays.IMG_8136

Beyond the garden there’s also an orchard, olive grove and bee hives. There’s not much on the menu at Millbrook that isn’t grown here.  We also got to say hi to the playful Lochie, Guy’s dog, who’s one lucky pooch getting to roam around this lovely part of the Perth Hills.IMG_8127

So after our tour, we stroll back up the gravel path to the winery, taking in that stunning building one more time. There’s so much to Millbrook. It’s more than just a pretty winery with a fancy restaurant. Their fresh produce philosophy means that you’ll have a unique dining experience each time you visit.

My lunch at Millbrook has in my all time top 5 meals, which includes Michelin starred spots in Europe. Do yourself a favour and don’t leave it as long as I did to book a table at Millbrook. It may well be the best lunch you’ve ever had!MIMG_8144

Millbrook Winery’s restaurant is open for lunch Thursday to Monday.

Find out more on Millbrook here.IMG_7978

Thanks to Mandurah & Peel Tourism Organisation (MAPTO) we were guests of Millbrook Winery and enjoyed a heavy discount from our bill. Nothing is exaggerated or embellished. All words and opinions are my own.

Jack and Jill – Kalamunda

Jack & Jill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

As the nursery rhyme goes… Jack and Jill went up the hill and “up the hill” is where we travelled to this delicious café on the main street in Kalamunda.IMG_4348

We were up in the Perth Hills on a Sunday morning, having a wander around the weekly Kalamunda Farmers Market. Afterwards, we popped into Jack and Jill for a bite to eat. The popular café is brimming with people enjoying coffee and brunch, which we just ordered right on the noon cut off, phew!IMG_9127

The coffee is very good. We’ve visited Jack and Jill for coffee n cake a few times, usually with my parents. As well as a good cuppa, I also enjoy their iced teas.IMG_4342

Their fresh bakes are to die for. We’ve tried a few and our favourite has been the strawberry, almond and yogurt cakes. They’re gluten free too. 

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Mundaring Weir Hotel – Perth Hills

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Mundaring Weir Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

As a kid growing up in the Perth Hills, I went on many a Sunday drive to Mundaring Weir – it usually would end with a cone from an ice cream truck at the dam or a trip to the Mundaring Weir Hotel. Now with Little Chef, it was a case of history repeating itself some decades later, as we stopped at the historic hotel for a bite to eat.

The Mundaring Weir Hotel, just a two minute drive from the Mundaring Weir dam wall, has huge gardens and an amphitheatre where they stage regular concerts by popular artists like Kacey Chambers, Kate Cebrano and more. We walked through the historic hotel which is over 110 years old. The upstairs bar is full of antiques, which caught Little Chef’s interest. He’s never seen a gramophone before.

The hotel’s café is found downstairs, at the back of the building and there are loads of shady decks and verandas dotted around it in an eclectic fashion. It can be a bit of a maze. We ordered our food at the café and about 15 minutes later our buzzer went off for us to collect our lunch.

Both my Dad and Chef chose a steak sandwich, $21, to enjoy with a cold pint of beer. They gave it the thumbs up. A scotch fillet steak with onion jam, cheddar cheese, beetroot, rocket and BBQ sauce was served between two slices of Turkish bread with a serve of extra chunky beer battered chips.

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Collodel Ice Cream – Kalamunda

img_4349Collodel Ice Cream and Sorbet Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
It seems as though this Perth Food Blogger have been eating a lot of Ice cream lately! Our summer hasn’t been stinking hot, but entertaining Little Chef in the school holidays was made a little easier by my quest to find Perth’s best gelato for Buggybuddys. Here’s another spot, an old favourite of mine, that made this scrumptious list!

On a hot day in the Perth Hills, when the warm easterly breeze is blowing and the sea breeze hasn’t arrived yet, a trip to Collodel is a must. The tiny Ice creamery is found on the leafy Haynes Street in Kalamunda. Collodel has been a favourite in the hills for years. I remember going there for an after school treat when I was a kid. Their scrumptious homemade flavours are very popular with the locals.img_4323

All of the ice cream is made fresh onsite each day to a traditional recipe from the Dolomite region of Italy. Little Chef enjoyed his cone topped with a scoop of cookies and cream (child’s cone $3).img_4318

His Grandad picked his favourite flavour of rum n raisin ($3.50 1 scoop cone), which he said was delicious and creamy. There is also a range of freshly made frozen yogurt and sorbets too.img_4320

I’ve heard about their spaghetti sundae, which sounds like it would be very popular with kids. Ice cream is squeezed into a pasta shape, which is then topped with bright red raspberry and strawberry sauces (the bolognaise) and finished with a dusting of sugar (the parmesan). Definitely one to try next time!

The family owned spot has are a few tables and chairs, if you don’t want to eat your ice cream on the go. The Ice Creamery is within walking distance of the Kalamunda History Village, Kalamunda Farmers Market (Sunday mornings) and Stirk Park.

Masonmill – Carmel

img_1194Masonmill Family Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Perthies head to the Swan Valley, Freo or the coast on a weekend for a family day out, but just quietly I think the Perth Hills are now the up and coming place to go! There’s the fab Core Cider House, many wonderful wineries along the Bickley Valley Wine Trail, Kalamunda with its many gift shops, Farmers Market and cafes (like the fab Chatford and Co and Mason and Bird) and the pretty Mundaring Weir. There’s heaps to do.img_1205

One place that is a destination in itself is family friendly Masonmill. Locals will know it as “The Rose Farm”, but it has undergone a dramatic facelift. It is now a modern café which also has a fantastic outdoor playground, gift shop, stunning gardens and a new mini golf course. Since we visited there’s also been an addition of an Irish Village themed beer garden. img_1199

In the café you’ll find casual home cooked style food. We usually enjoy a coffee and cake whenever we pop by. On this occasion we sat on the outside terrace, overlooking the gardens and surrounding bushland. It was lovely, though there were a few flies about.img_1192

My parents and I enjoyed a pot of tea, with a beautiful fresh rose, what a lovely touch!img_0821

Little Chef was treated to a milkshake and giant cookie before our game of mini golf.img_1187

Outside, there’s a lovely playground which is fully fenced and includes an outdoor eating area under a large pergola. The playground features a beautiful cubby house. It is a nature based play area, with lots of stepping stones and wobbly logs to balance on, as well as a slide and a grassed area too. Little Chef loves it.img_0833-copy Continue reading

Chatford & Co – Kalamunda

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Chatford & Co Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

At the moment it seems the café scene in Kalamunda is rather like waiting for a bus. You wait ages – then two perfectly fine busses come along at once! I’ve enjoyed a couple of brunches at Mason and Bird around the corner and now at Chatford & Co too.

Chatford & Co’s Head Chef Gavin Charter was formerly the Head Pastry Chef at Rockpool no less. I’d also heard that he trained at the legendary Loose Box, under Alain Fabregues. So I had high expectations for our brunch and it didn’t disappoint.img_0139

My Mum and I entered the cosy café, tastefully decked out with pressed tin wall features and we were greeted by a friendly waitress. The brunch menu is available all day long (7.30am till 2pm) and there are additional lunch options also available between noon and 2pm. Starving, we quickly ordered and though their signature dish of bacon and egg doughnuts with maple syrup tempted me, I made a more conservative choice.img_0126

Much of their produce, like honey and olive oil, is sourced from artisan suppliers in the Perth Hills. Their meat and small goods are from fabulous local butcher, Sebastian’s, found on  Kalamunda’s main street. As a side note… we used to buy the best fillet steak from Sebastian’s when we lived in the hills. Chef used to ask for them cut extra thick!

First, we enjoyed a couple of big mugs of coffee. The roast used at Chatford & Co is Five Senses, which is a coffee I can never fault.img_0129

I chose the Chorizo omelette, $17.50 . The picture below shows a humble omelette, but I can tell you this was absolutely packed with flavour and it was perfectly made too. I savoured the flavours of the delicious omelette, filled with chunks of chorizo, roasted peppers, cherry tomatoes and red onion. On the side are two buttered slices of organic wood fired sourdough. The toast was a welcome extra and was perfect for mopping up those eggy juices – I could only manage one slice before I became too full though.img_0135

My Mum chose the baked eggs, $17.50, which I also loved the sound of. The two baked eggs sat on a bed of creamy leek, tasty eggplant and well seasoned sautéed greens with a side of organic wood fired sourdough toast. I had a little bite and it tasted just as good as it looked. Mum raved about it and reminisced about a similar dish my Nanna Ruby used to bake for her family of 9, over 60 years ago in England. The fresh bread is baked by The Wood fired Baker in Maylands.img_0130

As you can imagine, with a superstar Pastry Chef in the kitchen, the cabinet is brimming with cakes, pastries, tarts, cream-filled doughnuts and lots of other scrumptious delights. This month Chatford & Co began serving high tea – so I have yet another reason to revisit this excellent little café again soon. The food and service is on point and Chatford & Co comes highly recommended.img_0140