There's a part of this city girl that longs to escape to the country every now and then. One of my favourite destinations is the picturesque New South Wales Southern Highlands, which is within easy reach of Canberra, Sydney and the Illawarra.
The lush green hills and charming villages scattered throughout the Southern Highlands are reminiscent of places we have visited in England. The region also offers unspoilt national parks, waterfalls, walking tracks, cycling trails, and spectacular vistas - which can be enjoyed across four distinct seasons.
And, with several award-winning restaurants, and more than 150 food and wine producers, it's a mecca for food and wine enthusiasts.
Last week, Peter and I had the opportunity to experience a delicious autumnal getaway at the newly refurbished Peppers Manor House at Sutton Forest in the Southern Highlands.
At 137 years young, Peppers Manor House has continually maintained a level of sophisticated elegance – but even the grandest of dames needs a little help along the way.
Officially re-launched on 16 March 2016 by Mayor Larry Whipper, this beautiful Southern Highlands property has been completely reimagined with a $4.5+ million upgrade, which was co-funded by a $500k Regional Visitor Economy Fund Grant from the NSW government.
Bringing a contemporary touch to the heritage hotel, the refurbishment has modernised the sophisticated elegance that Peppers Manor House is renowned for.
'Our goal has been to create a place for all seasons; a refined country escape that embraces the natural surroundings,' Peppers Manor House General Manager, Jesse Kornoff, explained.
The refurbishment has brought about upgrades to all of the facilities, including the 43 guest rooms – which have retained 1920s sensibility and 21st century comforts, complemented by classic furnishings and luxe decor. No more Laura Ashley.
A verandah has been extended to house a brand new indoor/outdoor conference, wedding and event space which seats up to 300 guests. It features a large open stone fireplace, rustic wooden bar, a fixed ceiling with heating and lighting; as well as drop down walls, a state-of-the-art sound system and modern audio visual equipment.
Other changes to the property include a new casual dining venue, reception area, and lounge areas, as well as upgrades to the grounds, roads and car parks.
Our first look at Peppers Manor House - postcards and morsels...
The Good Things team was honoured and delighted when the email arrived inviting us to the re-launch of Peppers Manor House. We've driven past the Kater Road turn off on the Illawarra Highway so many times over the years on our way to visit Peter's mam, and have always wondered what the property was like.
As you will see from my postcards and morsels, we were not at all disappointed.
A celebratory degustation...
Last week, the hatted Katers Restaurant hosted a Degustation celebrating the relaunch of the newly refurbished property, in conjunction with the launch of the Moss Vale Food and Wine Cluster. Together with local provedores, Executive Chef, John Shelly, prepared a menu showcasing the finest local produce from the Southern Highlands. Each course was perfectly paired with a local wine.
Born in Tipperary, Ireland, Katers Restaurant Executive Chef, John Shelly, grew up eating food grown on the family farm. As such, he understands the seasonality of food, and has the utmost respect for farmers and food producers. 'It's a privilege to use the high quality produce from the Southern Highlands,' he said when we met at the launch.
Showcasing the menu...
The Degustation featured a delicate chef's amouse, followed by a sweet bell pepper soup with goat's cheese sorbet and chocolate chilli panna cotta (see below), which was served with Artemis Shiraz Viognier 2012. This was an interesting and exquisite-tasting dish, reminiscent of my gazpacho shots with mustard ice cream.
A simple and fresh-tasting plate of organic vegetables (pictured second below) was served with Mount Ashby Estate Pinot Gris 2014.
Lamb back strap from Maugers Meats was accompanied by organic baby leek, roasted red onion, crushed kipfler potato and a rosemary jus. The lamb was a little chewy in my humble opinion. This dish was served with Tertini Private Cellar Collection Pinot Noir 2013.
Next, a slow cooked pork belly with confit baby fennel, baked rhubarb, cavalo nero and aubergine, which was served with Tertini Riesling 2014. While the pork and the accompaniments were nicely prepared and presented, my tastebuds felt that the combination did not quite go together.
Dessert, on the other hand, was a superb bitter chocolate chestnut torte with hazelnut coffee ice cream and raspberries, and Mount Ashby Estate D'or 2014 to accompany.
And finally, methinks the piece de resistance, fresh locally-grown figs with a wedge of locally produced blue cheese and lavosh crackers (pictured third below). The figs were perfect, and the dish was beautifully plated. It was served with Bousaada Iron Bark Dessert Mead 2014.
Katers Restaurant is open for breakfast from 7am until 10am; and from 6-9pm for dinner. Katers Larder is open from 12pm until 9pm. High Tea seatings are from 12pm to 3pm, but 24 hours notice and reservations are necessary. Private dining can also be arranged. For bookings or information, telephone +61 2 4860 3102.
Stay tuned to Good Things...
Please watch this space for my upcoming article about the launch of the Moss Vale Food & Wine Cluster, the second of nine new Food & Wine Clusters of the NSW Wales Southern Highlands.
The launch was held in front of an open fire on the indoor/outdoor terrace at Peppers Manor House.
Let's now take a peek at the Garden Wing...
Among the newly refurbished rooms at Peppers Manor House are the Highland Queen Room; the Highland King Room; the Garden Wing Deluxe Room; Garden Wing suites; and the Elizabeth Broughton Suite which is located upstairs in the main house.
Peppers Manor House is in Sutton Forest in the New South Wales Southern Highlands. Turn off the Illawarra Highway onto Kater Road, 15 minutes from Bowral, and a short drive from Moss Vale. If you're driving from Canberra, allow just under two hours; and around 90 minutes by car from Sydney. For bookings, or to find out more information about Peppers Manor House, visit the web site or telephone +61 2 48603111.
The Good Things team enjoyed the launch of the Moss Vale Food and Wine Cluster, and an overnight stay, degustation and breakfast as guests of Peppers Manor House. We made our own way by private vehicle to Sutton Forest.
Some of the images used in this article were kindly provided courtesy of Peppers Manor House (as captioned). The rest, including several that are not watermarked, are my own.
Tell me, do you enjoy escaping to the country? Have you ever visited Peppers Manor House in the New South Wales Southern Highlands?
Cooking and writing have been a lifelong passion.
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- Liz Posmyk
NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.