How to solve a mystery

or – how to solve a mystery picnic – or . . . .

For a birthday, Christmas, reward or any time present really I’m loving receiving a themed gift voucher.

I’ve been lucky enough to receive vouchers for numerous afternoon teas (embraced with gusto) – at lots of lovely and varied locations; a sky diving day (gave that one away); gift cards for upmarket shopping sprees; a weekend getaway; a pottery class; dumpling making class (still trying to get that one underway as Covid stuffed it up) and recently my partner and I took up the two year old (bloody Covid) voucher to enjoy a mystery picnic in the Southern Highlands (just under two hours drive south of Sydney).

Now, this area of New South Wales is pretty spesh, and heading there at this time of year gave us a glorious blue sky two days and the joy of trees in autumn golds and reds.

To keep the weekend low cost rustic, we booked into a caravan park and stayed in a cabin – cosy, clean, wifi, Netflix and an excellent shower. We took our own tea and coffee (and plunger) and picked up a box of fruit at a brilliant truck stop along the way.

The premise of this foodie adventure is that you are given a set of clues that you have to solve (via your smartphone), then you have to find your food and the last clue sends you to a picnic spot to sit and enjoy.

We drove down a day early to enjoy the sights and in the middle of the day as we were driving to Berrima, the car swerved, all by itself into a driveway to Berkelouw Books on the Bendooley Estate close to Berrima. What to do?

C’mon, what better way to live life than eat fab fod surrounded by a fine selection and collection of books. we sat outside for a splendid lunch of blue swimmer crab linguine and a (doubling up on carbs now) bowl of the restaurant’s famous chips.

Last lunch course was a meander through the book aisles and a purchase of a book each. Too full for a dinner date we ate fruit for dinner and worked on the clues as we thought we could be a bit slow on the uptake early in the morning.

First stop was Il Topolino, Owen Street Mittagong. The street looked pretty un-Italian deli-ish, but it’s a newish light industrial site and the deli is there. A room of delectable smells and an array of goodies to buy were on display. We rocked up to the owners and they politely told us that our pick up was for ‘yesterday’. Whoops, it wasn’t us who made the mistake. But they graciouly suggested we had a coffee and they would prepare our antipasto selectin.

Stuffed tomatoes, artichokes, pickles, three types of salami, ham, hummous and three cheeses plus sough dough bread sticks packed in cardboard boxes were our first pick up. But before we left the owner told us about a fab chocolatier just four doors down from them – ‘Ms Peacock’, confectioner was worth a visit. we did.

Not saying we purchased anything at all but the raspberry nougat bars covered in chocolate were (not are, now) damn fine.

Onward to the Mill Cafe, Bong Bong Road Bowral where we missed the entrance (and a very wide door it is too) and came in the back way. What a beautiful space this is with lovely wall art and the aroma of lunch cooking to capture us – but no, we picked up our drinks here (non alcoholic) and skedaddled out to the next stop.

Bendooley Estate Larder, Bong Bong Road Bowral was the ‘wraps’ pit stop. Smoked salmon for the vegetarian and tandoori chicken for moi. The Larder is a great shop and we picked up salads and a giant pie to bring back to Sydney – who needs to cook?

Last pick up stop was The Post Office in Moss Vale, village next after Bowral. Here we could choose whatever cake we wanted from the menu. A lemon tart was chosen but I had to have the huge apple crumble slice.

Then a few clicks down the road to Carrington Falls, a natural wonder that I had never visited before. As we pulled in to a tiny car park I noticed a couple getting out of their car which I had spotted at every food stop we had made. They were on the Mystery Picnic trip too. I rushed out to bags the best picnic table – selfish maybe, but all’s fair when you are in a national park and you want the best dappled light to make you look good while eating. Just sayin’.

The food was lovely and there was a lot of it, and to my shame I could not fit the apple crumble in, quel dommage! It came back to Sydney for dinner that night.

And so, to a short walk to see Carrington Falls. You beauty! After much rain the falls were falling beautifully. What a sight and what a gorgeous place with a view – turning the head left – to a valley patchworked with green and grey coloured shades of shadow as the late afternoon light took place.

What a wonderful two days in the Southern Highlands eating our way to glory.

For the Mystery Picnic



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