Perfection on a plate

BY SHANE DAVEY

I’ll come clean up front, Yellow Billy is my favourite restaurant. It was also the last restaurant meal I had on the last day that it was possible to eat out before going into lock down. So, it only made sense that it was the first restaurant meal I had on first day that it was possible to eat out after coming out of lockdown.

In the long months between meals I would drive past Yellow Billy on Hermitage Road at Pigg’s Peake winery desperately hoping that famous Singleton pan wizard, Sam Alexander, Co-Owner and Executive Chef, and The Hunter Valley’s very own rock star sommelier Patrick Hester, Co-Owner and Manager, would survive it all so that I could be fed, watered and reminded that all is good in the world.

Yellow Billy is technically a Singleton Restaurant due to its position within our shire boundaries.

As Pat told us, “We really want to be a place that locals feel a part of, especially from those from Singleton and Muswellbrook. In fact, we are the closest relaxed fine dining venue to downtown Singleton and just an easy 15-minute drive away.”

They told us there may even be a shuttle bus to Singo in the near future for those that like a glass.

“As Hunter locals running this restaurant, it’s also Hunter locals we work hardest to attract. Of course, the tourist trade is great, but our local clientele is just that extra bit special, as we really love seeing familiar faces. It’s a bit like having friends over for a special meal and spoiling them as much as possible,” Pat said with a smile.

Now that they’ve reopened, and while restrictions are in place, they are offering their classic popular dishes, developed over the past two years.

“The menu’s a bit Mediterranean, but with a distinctly local, Australian influence cooked like your grandmother would, only with a little bit of professional flair and polish. That’s all it’s ever meant to be. Family, sharing and good times in a relaxed environment,” said Sam.

The star of this food show is the outdoor fire pit that roasts bespoke hand-reared local produce direct from local farm gates to the restaurant’s plates.

The whole banquet feast of about 18 dishes is too long to list here, but take my word, every single mouthful is as good as anything you have ever eaten….and there’s lots of it!

From small plates like the finest Baba Ghanoush with Binnorie Fetta, to Chargrilled Fremantle Octopus and others, the meal starts with a very loud bang.

You tend to over eat at Yellow Billy, but save yourself, because it’s a gastronomic marathon.

The main course stars are off the fire pit charged with Ironbark, Maple and Mahogany. Lovedale Suckling Pig with jus, apple jam and ‘best ever’ crackling, battles fiercely with Pukara Estate Lamb with tzatziki and jus as my favourites.

‘Best in ocean’ fish and fine steak round it out. The Vego’s are well looked after as well.

Sides are a meal in themselves, smoked cauliflower, tahini, honey and toasted seeds is a stand out along with fried sprouts, parmesan, parsley, fried shallots and truffle.

If you’re on your game, the finish line is flagged with ‘Boozy Tiramisu’ and an ‘Orange Blossom’ syrup cake.

On the wine side Pat loves to spread the list with a bit of everything. “Plenty of Pigg’s Peake of course which are great wines. I always try and push it a bit with my international offering which always includes an Italian offering as well.”

All in all, if you don’t absolutely love it, I’d say we can’t be friends.

It’s a beautiful and intentionally local produce story as well.

“We’ve got to the point where we buy direct from the farm with no middle man. I’ve got Gary Wills a local guy in Lovedale who grows Saddleback Cross Durock and Landrace pigs and he solely supplies us. I have Merrifield Farm from Denman who breed a Black Berkshire. The lambs we get directly from Pukara Estate in Muswellbrook,” Sam proudly enthused.

Other locals like Mick and Lisa from Wollombi Providor provide local veg. They also have a network of local foragers who go out every now and then as well as growing small batches of special produce in home gardens.

“We’ve developed a great relationship over time. Our suppliers work with us and we work with them, it’s a real partnership,” Sam said.

They are in the process of putting together their next menu which will drop in around three weeks where Yellow Billy does Little Italy for a month or so.

From next week Yellow Billy will be open Thursday to Sunday for lunch and Friday and Saturday for dinner.

If you’ve been before come visit again and if you haven’t, get moving, you’ll simply love it.

The heart and soul of Yellow Billy is the team.

Pat Leads from the front with quiet confidence and charm.

Sam grew up in and went to school in Singleton and played for the Greyhounds and all that kind of stuff. Aiden Dwyer is his right-hand man and Head Chef.

Then there’s Tahi Ngaronoa as Sous Chef and the in-house fire pit man.

Another Singleton local is gun apprentice Tyson Atton who won a scholarship with the Hunter Cullinary Association and is going places.

Then there’s Thommo here on the weekends who works fulltime at a steelworks factory and comes to help us on weekend because he just loves it.

‘Pickle Mick’ comes in and helps every now and then when available too.

Vienna Dowell is Assistant Manager and took out the rising star award at the Hunter Cullinary Association in 2018. We couldn’t ask for anyone better.

Mikayla McEwenout front is another Singleton star.

Then Isabella Guadagnini behind the bar and some wonderful new crew as well.

It’s an all-star team.

*This story was published on Friday, June 19 2020.