Sunday lunch has a new destination. Flying under the radar, Yellow Billy Restaurant opened up quietly in Piggs Peak winery about a year ago. Named for local bush ranger William White, who took on Yellow Billy as a pseudonym, the restaurant’s food offering centres upon the fire pit.
This mode of cooking reflects the foraged meals the outlaw would have had while he evaded capture in the nearby Brokenback Range.
While White would have no doubt liberated his lamb, the Yellow Billy team have ethically sourced their tasty Pukara Estate Lamb ($32/180 grams) from an hour up the highway in Denham. After spending eight hours over the pit that you can see from your table, your weighed portion of moist lamb is served with jus. The intensity is cut by a sharp mint and verjuice jelly that keeps things ultra-local by being made using unfermented grapes from the winery you’re sitting in.
With recycled timber archways dripping in grape vines, the dining room is accessed via an attractive courtyard, where an array of drought-resistant plants, from cacti to spiky grasses, help to create an attractive outdoor dining space.
In winter it’s warmed by a large sandstone fireplace, though on the blistering hot day I attended, we quickly retreated into the air-conditioned dining room for lunch.
Inside repurposed timber beams and window frames are the highlights of a neutrally toned space lined with wine racks. We are in wine country, so as you’d expect, the booze list here is substantial – twenty pages in fact. The estate’s own wines – Chardonnay, Tempranillo, Shiraz, fortified Verdello – are all available by the glass. There’s also a Coravin system that gives you the opportunity to try wines usually too expensive to be available by the glass, like the 2016 Bret Brothers La Soufrandiere Climat Les Quarts Chardonnay ($36/glass), which offers up layers of unfolding flavour.
These systems also affords you the opportunity to try less popular varietals, like the 2018 Murdoch Hill Pinot Meunier ($16/glass), which impresses with strawberries before getting some of the lip-smacking acidity and leathery qualities I love about these light reds. To get the road dust from your palate, perhaps kick off with a craft beer. While the locavore ethos sees brews from the Hunter and nearby NSW well represented on the list, we can’t go past Gippsland’s finest brewery, Sailors Grave. We hit up their Lemon Meringue Cream Sour ($14.50) and their Down She Gose Ale ($13) that are both quite pricy here, but as they're such high-quality craft beers, you’re unlikely to mind. The lemon meringue sour kicks off with tart lemon curd, then after a hint of cream, ends on biscuity pie crust. It’s a definite converter beer for anyone who thinks they don't like beer.
We take our meal as a one-course shared family meal, combining the aforementioned lamb with Merrifield Suckling Pig ($32/180 grams). The Berkshire pork is moist and flavoursome against a homely apple jam; and the crackled wood-fired and oven roasted skin that crowns it, deliver just the crunch you want to get from well-executed crackling.
Bathed in smoke on the top shelf of their fire pit, the 16-hour Black Angus Onyx Brisket ($34/180 grams) is the pit’s crowning glory. Smoky, juicy and topped with the best chimmichurri I’ve had (plenty of olive oil and dried mint), this fatty cut of New England Tablelands beef is perfectly handled - actually the most tender brisket I’ve eaten in a long while.
We break up our meaty feast with Spring Peas ($21) and snow peas arranged around creamy burrata cheese with eschallots and fresh spearmint leaves.
Grilled Asparagus ($15) is another winner, adorned with pasture raised duck egg gribiche, shaved Parmesan, croutons and frisee, on an old-fashioned patterned plate that appeals to home for a Sunday roast vibe.
With a whole section of snacks left to explore, I’m predicting another Sunday drive to wine country sometime in the very near future.
Yellow Billy Restaurant
Piggs Peake Winery, 697 Hermitage Road, Pokolbin
Ph: (02) 6574 7204