Do you have a secret dining spot or bar that you’re hesitant to share with the world? Or even your good friends?
For me, that was the Apple Bar in Bilpin. Everyone in the Hawkesbury and the Blue Mountains knew about it, but the rest of Sydney was oblivious to the fact that one of its best dining experiences hid nestled away in the upper Hawkesbury. That was until the food journos at the Sydney Morning Herland cottoned on to this place. Several SMH articles and Good Food Guide recommendations later, it’s packed to the brim every weekend with out-of-towners.
Is it selfish that I’m almost hesitant to tell people how good this place is? And that half of me would like to keep it as a Hawkesbury secret? I’m still wondering whether I should have suggested the Richmond Club instead and steered everyone in a different direction.
The Apple Bar caters to both the traditional pub tastes, and to the “modern Australian cuisine” that restaurants love to describe themselves as having. You can get a pizza and a beer here like you can at any bar. Or you can get a good restaurant style quality meal.
On previous visits, I’ve had the margarita pizza, and the potato and parmesan pizza (the latter being particularly delicious).
This time, I order the Moroccan salad with baby spinach, Spanish onion, Valencia orange, pomegranate, fennel and fresh ricotta . It’s dressed with cinnamon and local messmate honey dressing (prior to my vegan days/ways, obviously).
North Nomad orders the wood-grilled Speckle Park beef with chips. He chooses the eye fillet cut, with café de Paris butter and crispy onions. The other choices for the beef are sesame hinted northern Chinese dressing or Moroccan chilli rubbed with sautéed chicory eggplant, lemon tahini. Like all good pubs, all servings of meat come with a side of chips.
North Nomad’s beef is cooked to his liking. He asks for it to be cooked medium, assuming that it will come out on the more medium to rare side, as is popular in Australia. He’s not disappointed. It still has a nice pink, fleshy looking middle and a satisfyingly firm outer. Not being one for “fancy food” as he calls it (North Nomad has a very North American palette, preferring simpler, more traditional meat and veg meals), he’s not fussed on the crispy onions. I try and prise off a few at the top of the cluster that can’t have touched the meat. They are delicious. I tell North Nomad he doesn’t know what he’s missing out on. The chips are also tasty, but how can you go wrong with chips? Naturally, I need to steal a few/most of them.
I’ve tried every salad this place offers. Each is equally fresh and crisp. But what makes the salads here are the dressings – unlike anything I can make at home or other restaurants offer. It’s nice to have some non-traditional dressings to make a salad come alive and stand on its own as a main dish. The spinach is fresh and plentiful. The Spanish onion is sliced nice and thinly, and pairs well with the Valencia orange. I am not usually an orange fan, but this variety is on the sweeter side rather than tangy and the colour is so vibrant. The ricotta spreads well through the salad, and the honey dressing is light, and a nice balance of sweet and tangy. The salad is huge, but I manage to polish off every last bit.
Whilst North Nomad sticks with a coke, a locally owned and made cider leaps out at me from the menu. Hillbilly Cider is a locally owned Bilpin company. It’s natural and organic, and crispy and delicious. Because their refining processes are 100% natural, it’s also vegetarian and vegan friendly. And it’s the best cider I’ve ever tried in Australia.
Aside from delicious meals and alcohol, the Apple Bar supports its local farmers and growers. That means commitment to taste, healthy food, sustainability and supporting the local community.
So now that I’ve blurted out my favourite secret restaurant, are you ready to spill your secret places?
Location: Apple Bar, 2488 Bells Line of Road, Bilpin Sydney NSW 2758
Getting there: Depends on how many toll roads you want to use. When I lived in the Eastern Suburbs and the North Shore, I used to take the M2, the Lane Cove Tunnel, the M7, and then took the Richmond Road exit off the M7, and followed the Bells Line of Road. You could always use the M4 and exit around Penrith, but last time I tried that it was an experience akin to root canal therapy.
Eye Fillet Beef – $42.50
Moroccan Salad $13.50 (good thing I’m a cheap date with NN’s expensive tastes!)
Drinks – Cider $8.50, Coke $3.50
Total + $10 tip = $78.00
You can connect with South Nomad, Jessica over at Google.