I’m not sure if visiting two establishments really counts as a food tour, but when you travel from Sydney to Hartley it feels like a tour. You get to travel over the Blue Mountains, where you can stop at lookouts to view the sandstone peaks. From the top of the mountains you wind steeply down Victoria Pass. This is the route that was taken by the explorers Blaxland, Lawson and Wentorth, and today it remains the main pass through the mountains. There are some interesting old stone bridges paralleling the modern road which are worth looking at, although these aren’t particularly well sign posted. When you get to the bottom of the pass you will reach Hartley, and this is where my mini food tour takes place.
Since Hartley is just down from Victoria Pass, it’s more of a valley in the mountains than part of the Western Plains. When you drive through Hartley there are two things to notice, apple orchards and galleries. Usually I hurtle through Hartley to some destination further West, but I have made a few stops in Hartley and that’s how I discovered the Talisman Gallery and Adam’s Shed.
The Talisman Gallery has been in Hartley for a while now. The art is metalwork, including mirrors, candelabras and statues. Some are finished shiny silver, and others have a shimmering black metallic sheen. My favourite piece at the gallery is the Goddess Mirror. I had one made for my 21st birthday and when I visit the gallery it still stands out as my favourite mirror. Unfortunately I don’t dare drill a hole in the wall while I’m renting, so it has to hang at my parents’ place.
The cafe is a newer addition to the Talisman Gallery that is very popular. It’s only open from Thursday to Sunday for lunch and dinner. We dropped in on a Friday night, and discovered that there were no tables available because of a big birthday party. We were disappointed not to be able to sit amongst the art, with the heat of the wood-fired oven, but we settled for take away.
We shared a roast pumpkin and goat’s cheese pizza. The pumpkin was beautifully soft and sweet, and went well with the tangy goats cheese. The swirl of olive tapenade was pretty, but didn’t have a noticeable flavour. Most of the pizza bases are made on the premises, but the gluten free ones are brought in to avoid contamination problems in the small space. I’ve been trying to choose which gluten free pizza bases I like best, and this was a thin one with a good texture.
Adam’s Shed is my other Hartley favourite. They sell local wines, cheeses, olives, honeys and preserves. There are wine tastings too. Out the back there’s a farm supply section that sells giant bags of animal feed and irrigation parts and all kinds of other mysterious things. I’m a tourist though, so I’m here for the food. I picked up a bottle of olives from Forbes, some marinated fetta from Mudgee and a dozen Hartley eggs. I couldn’t resist a giant tea towel chequered with cows either.
Whether you’re on your way West, or you’re looking for a nice day trip, Hartley is an excellent destination for foodies. I’ll certainly be stopping there again soon.