Guide to Morpeth, Maitland and the BEST Sausage Rolls in Australia!

We have been to the Hunter Valley more times than we have had oaky chardonnay, but there are new discoveries if you look off the beaten track. We need a break and it’s time to stretch our legs (and those of our two greyhounds) and hit the road! Morpeth is two hours from Sydney and an easy drive to vineyards. Our trip was made even better with the hire of a Toyota Kluger which definitely lived up to its ‘freedom meets family’ promise fitting in all our gear and our greys too, which is no easy feat!

Best House for Luxe Pet Friendly StayRiver Haus, Morpeth Husband and wife team Sheriden and Tim spent over a year renovating this cottage into a stylish Scandi beauty which could grace the covers of any interior design magazine. It’s a picture perfect two bedroom home with a white picket fence. A fully fenced yard is a must (we have two greyhounds Maggie and Georgia) and it gets the royal lick of approval from them both. The design has nautical touches from art on the walls, oars above the divinely comfy AH Beard mattresses and we love the high end appliances from Smeg oven to Laguiole cutlery. Its location couldn’t be more dreamy. It is a few skips away from the famed Boydells Restaurant about 60m from Swan Street and across the road are beautiful walks and a reserve. The Hunter is a short drive away if you feel the urge too!

Out & About in Morpeth – Swan Street is a really pretty village street with much of Morpeth’s historic awnings and shopfronts all kept intact. Walking from River Haus, we stroll past Boydell’s, and then down to Miss Lily’s Lollies which takes me back to my British childhood where newsagents had jars of sweeties which could be weighed and popped into paper bags to take home! Over to Campbell’s Store which is an antique shop leading to a warren of artisan spaces, mens den, and the best teddy bear, bunny and animal collection on the planet. I taste test some delicious ginger beer, fudges and pickles. Upstairs the art gallery specialises in originals from local artists such as John MCartin. I arrive too late on a Saturday to snag a fruit loaf from Morpeth Sourdough, who in the 1860s were baking pioneers! Now owned by Arnotts you can enter the Morpeth Museum further down the road and learn more. We spent more time than normal at Morpeth Cellers, the owner has an impressive gin and spirit collection, many of which you can taste test, along with a wonderful selection of Hunter Wines difficult to find elsewhere. We could have undertaken the Morpeth Heritage Walk but lunch was calling us at Graze, a fab hole in the wall takeaway which is still cash only. Order up a storm with B&E rolls, burgers to fish baskets. Loved by locals, you can eat on the pathway in the sunshine.

Best Morpeth Breakfast, House Made Potato Rosti Common Grounds is a little weatherboard cottage with duck egg blue walls and white banquet seating. Walk past the kitchen down the corridor which boasts large colourful artworks and enter the main dining room. We have instant Hunter River Views (unless, like on our visit it was raining so the blinds were down!). Award winning Glee coffee from roasters Ben and Chris Gleeson is a great way to start the morning. Owner Nadine has created a warm and friendly environment supporting local producers as we tuck into bacon from Telarah Butchery.  Order dukkah eggs – two poached eggs topped with chilli jam and a herby chermoula sits on toasted sourdough with a ring of dukkah ($21). The go to dish is the Potato Rosti. It’s a multi layer sensation of off the bone ham, deeply caramelised onion, rocket that silky, crispy hash brown topped with chunks of spicy chorizo and a poached egg!

Best for lunch, Coffee, & Grandma’s Pea Salad!Cunning Culinarian Owner Alina explains the lounge we are sitting in was formerly a dentist’s in 1902, over the years it was a doctor’s, hairdresser’s until 5 years ago she reconnected the space again into one glorious temple to honour her passion – Coffee! It’s a pretty cafe with arched doorways, a garden out back and cabinets of local goodies bursting from shelves from freshly baked cakes, sarnies, salads and local artisan produce. Art on the walls is a reminder ‘In caffeine we trust’ ‘Caffe, blah, blah, blah, gin’. Little Marionette coffee connects us inner westies to this spot instantly. Corn and Feta fritters are a tumble of micro herbs and bacon. Local Pillidge Farm pesto with activated almond and parmesan is a winner combo paired with cream, chicken and topped with herbs and edible marigold petals. The go to on our day was the pea salad, a recipe from Alina’s grandmother and loved by her customers. The wow factor is peas as you have never tasted them before. From a farm between Maitland and Morpeth which delivers regularly – it’s so crunchy, fresh, sweet the flavours slap us around the chops!

The BEST Sausage Roll in Australia & oooh! those Home baked PiesTrue Cafe & Chocolate Owner Edwin is a delight. He worked in some of the world’s most famous hotels and restaurants but came to rest in Lochinvar. Stepping into the cafe is like a Dr Who time warp – there are knick knacks from every country and decade. A world globe, old typewriter, piano, 1920s TV, retro games (a Rubix Cube!), hessian sacks on the walls, toy sailing ships and a children’s play area. Not being sure what is seating or a national treasure, we plonk ourselves on a sofa. We are here for breakfast – it’s a classic short menu with B&E roll, burrito or eggs straight up all nice stuff. But that’s not why this place should be famous. It’s Edwin’s baking. Edwin lays a masterpiece in front of us. It’s not like any sausage roll I have seen or tasted. Delicately cooked porky insides are wrapped in butter puff and then the outside is sensationally seasoned with a secret recipe of herbs, paprika, panko crumbs and dried shallots. Oh my! Next, we try the Chunky Steak Pie, made with slow cooked tip beef steak. A single cut and the insides slowly ooze out. Mr G is speechless. We also try the chicken and bacon. Glorious golden pastry is caramalised, crunchy, soft gives way to well seasoned slow cooked chicken with a surprise rasher bacon on top of the meat layer. It’s sensational.

Best Fine Diner and Wine List in Morpeth, Boydell’s Cellar Door & Restaurant Daniel and Jane Maroulis are a busy couple. They breed cattle, run a vineyard and also opened a stunning cellar door and restaurant in Morpeth. They own some of the oldest vineyards in the Hunter which was first settled in 1826 by Welshman Charles Boydell. Dining is an intimate experience among open wooden beams, original fireplaces and corrugated iron roofing transporting us back in time. The kitchen sits back from the main dining floor with windows onto a busy space. We start with a seasonal blood orange margarita and a Boydells sparkling verdello which is fruity and dry. We order the brandy cured gravlax. It is a picturesque garden of flavour as pickled veg sprouts from a soil of smoked salmon mousse. Ocean trout with herbs and a citrus beurre blanc is an elegant twist on a salmon wellington. Mains of Murray Cod on a bed of silky confit potato and slices of juicy leeks benefit from blood orange acidity on a pool of golden saffron butter. Service is smooth and the wine list takes us on a journey across the regions.

Best Dining and Service experience in MaitlandDukes Restaurant & Bar Whilst Boydell’s has carved out a legacy in the area, Duke’s has perhaps been off the radar. Husband and Wife team Tim (ex
Baume Restaurant at Ben Ean Winery) and Lindsay took over this historic building which was formerly a pub in 2020. It’s like dining in a grand country home with soaring ceilings, bookcases and tapestry carpets. On a frosty evening, we open the front door and get a blast of good vibes; a roaring fire, the hum of happy diners and Lindsay’s beaming smile welcoming us. She escorts us to our table at one of the end rooms and we chat about the space, their experience of taking on this venture pre covid and their passion for great food. Over the next few hours, the team dart from table to table checking on wine, the dining experience all with care and genuine hospitality. It’s a theme that continues into the food. House made dips with ciabatta melba toast is a feast! Three quenelles – sweet potato, hummus, and sundried tomato are a great start to the meal paired with a First Creek Botanica Cuvee ($10) which is great value. Four golden seared scallops are topped with finely chopped apple, radish and pork floss with a vibrant green watercress puree. The main dish of house made gnocchi is a masterpiece of how using local produce enables the flavours of sweet peas, fennel, mint to shine. The mascarpone cream (instead of ricotta) gives a silky mouthfeel. It’s a fabulous dish. Braised duck leg is falling off the bone into a citrus sauce, balanced by snow peas and baby corn with chewy, soft dumplings. We finish with a vanilla bean brulee which cracks in all the right places when we give it a satisfying thwack! With wines spanning Sadlers Creek, Lakes Folly (swoon) and Tyrells it’s great to see local vineyards feature. Dukes is one of our favourites -service, delicious food (and good portions of it) along with a sense of dining in a space which has history and soul.

Best for cafe for views and future potential, Morpeth Savannahs on Swan (Name will be changed shortly to The Bond Store). Situated towards the end of the high street this is one of the most photogenic and picturesque spots along the river with oh so famous bridge views. A new alfresco dining bench lines one side of the restaurant creating a great spot for a cuppa. Downstairs, the garden area will be transformed for the summer, which will be perfect for an afternoon glass of wine. The new owners bought the building a few months ago, there is a new kitchen, and they are transforming the upstairs area into an art gallery which will be a home for artists, local activations and the community. We are here for breakfast. They are finding their feet with the menu as almost every dish we tried was overpowered by a balsamic glaze which sadly kills a delicious open black truffle omelette. A traditional breakfast board arrives on a plate! but it has all the greats, eggs, open cap mushrooms and house baked beans. Corn fritters are nicely cooked but it’s the French Toast which is the star (and no balsamic!). Two slabs of white bread are golden bubbly from the eggy batter. A softly baked pear is a textural contrast to the homemade berry compote ($20). Order a Beloroma coffee from Manly Vale and this is a great kick start to the day.

Festivals and More! – Maitland seems to have something going on almost every week. The Maitland Regional Art Gallery was a real surprise, my favourite artist was a collection called See You In The Soup Soft Stories – a series of miniature installations as they follow the adventures of Del the Duck. Other artists included indigenous artists Nongirrna Marawili who paints on bark. We could have stopped for a bit to eat at the cafe but we had other plans…

We headed over to the much loved Maitland Aroma Coffee & Chocolate Festival. By the afternoon the crowds were in full swing, drinking coffee, wine, local beer and cocktails along with tucking into food trucks dishing out plates of donuts to paella. A range of stages had artists belting out covers, haunting acoustic guitars and more. It started raining (booo!) so we took up seats at the coffee stage and watched our heroine, Alina from Cunning Culinarian take the stage and help us with top tips on coffee making at home. Maggie the greyhound made friends with a few whippets and with a few purchases of wine we are homeward bound with hounds!

About the author

Karen’s corporate job back in the UK had included entertaining clients in some of the best restaurants. This ultimately sparked a curiosity 'Just how do they do that?' (she confesses she was brought up on meat and vegetables, so this was all very exciting). Currently a Mr & Mrs Smith 'Tastemaker', she’s flashpacked around the world, learning about wine, experiencing different cultures and cuisines and had a two- year love affair with it all. Originally from England, she finally settled in Australia and continues to be besotted by food, wine and travel preferring to focus on the luxury end of town (thread count does matter).