Cleverly located just off the M1 at Mount White is Central Coast chef Cameron Cansdell’s latest culinary venture, Saddles.
It’s noon on a Friday when the Herald drops by and Saddles is booked solid all day. It has only been open a matter of weeks.
Perched on a dam in a 28-acre bushland setting within a working nursery, Saddles is a breath of fresh air. It is also poised to become a foodie hot-spot for Coasties, Novocastrians and Sydneysiders alike.
The menu has been designed as a modern take on a traditional country bakehouse. The food is uncomplicated and honest with generous servings of the delicious house-made pastry, and it is fascinating to watch the chefs at work in the open kitchen.
Standout dishes include the puff pastry tart with Romanesco cauliflower, caramelised onion, hazelnut and goats cheese; Roast Hill Little Farm chicken with radicchio, almond cream, pomegranate and pan juices; Saddles beef, red wine, pearl onion and mushroom pie with potato puree; and the potato scallops with chive mayonnaise.
The pork and fennel sausage roll is enormous. As for dessert, they were all $6 and the vanilla slice is to die for. There is also an a la carte dining menu for more formal lunches and dinner on a Friday evening.
The restaurant itself is casual and rustic, in a Victorian highlands cottage kind of way. It fits right in with the surrounding native Australian bush.
A project of The John Singleton Group and White Dickson Architects, Michelle Leslie Design took care of the interior style and Blair Build was responsible for construction.
The restaurant name takes inspiration from the craftsmanship of Heath Harris, an artisan saddler who has designed unique saddle chairs for the dining room’s brass-scalloped bar.
The dining space itself has been designed to overlook a prominent waterfall feature at the front of the property, wrapping around to a secondary large deck space situated over an oversized dam for waterside dining by the bush.
No expense has been spared in the finer details. An over-sized sandstone fireplace is at the heart of the venue. A piano bar sits alongside the bar complete with a pianola. Mature indoor trees are a unique feature of the dining room, set against recycled timer, sandstone, marble, aged brass accents, pendant lighting and a pitched barn-style roof.
Cansdell and his wife Hayley also own and run Bombini at Avoca Beach and fish dining at Point Frederick.
He was the 2016 Electrolux Restaurateur of the Year and has a simple and ethical approach to food which champions seasonal produce and heirloom varieties. He is busy at work in the kitchen when the Herald visits.
“Saddles has been an exciting project from start to finish, and I’m grateful to work with John, Hayley and the rest of the team on this project to deliver an earthy, honest venue where the landscape inspires the culinary story,” he said.
“It’s an incredible spot that lets diners feel like they are in the middle of the bush, a million miles from care, yet we’re only minutes off the motorway.”
The kitchen will, he says, accommodate cooking classes and demonstrations in the near future.
Saddles has been a “lifelong dream” of Singleton’s. He has enjoyed a long working relationship with the Cansdells since first meeting them at his former boutique hotel and restaurant, Bells at Killcare. Cameron was head chef and Hayley took care of front-of-house duties.
“Cameron and Hayley’s energy, experience and inspired vision make them the perfect team to lead the charge at Saddles,” Singleton said.
“I wanted somewhere that, as a local, I can go to eat and enjoy an unpretentious meal that doesn’t scrimp on quality. I have always liked [the Cansdells] no-nonsense yet passionate approach to food – delivering consistent, humble and absolutely delicious food that appeals to everyone.”
Saddles is at 20 Ashbrookes Road, Mount White. It is open seven days, 8am to 5pm, and extended hours on a Friday, 8am to 8pm.
Food & Wine is told a crepe shop is soon opening underneath The Huxley Apartments on Bellevue Street in Wickham. Frappes and iced tea are also on the menu.
The same source also advised Little Caesars is opening in the KFC complex on Hunter Street, Newcastle. A quick check on the franchise’s website proves this to be correct. The Australian franchise of the American pizza chain already has seven restaurants here, with another to open in Orange as well as Newcastle.
Mister P’s Burger Bar at Charlestown is closing and owners Katrina and Mark Phillips have worn their hearts om their sleeves in recent weeks asking for community support to help keep them in business.
Their lease at Charlestown Square has expired and they are hoping to find another home – or acquire a “truck” so that they can take Mister P’s on the road.
The good folk at Honeysuckle’s The Empire Coffee Co are lending a hand and co-hosting a farewell at the Charlestown Square restaurant this Saturday, July 14, 10am to noon.
All are invited to enjoy burgers at the restaurant one last time before the northern end of the Square is redeveloped. Customers are encouraged to dress up and have a bit of fun.
Who knows? You might run into a T-Rex or two so bring the kids.
Mister P’s is located in the North Piazza next to Sushi Bay just up from Pets Domain in the former Noodle Hut.