This spot has Australia’s best pies

Nor should I, given it’s “Pie Time” — 30 days of worshipping at the altar of our flaky friends.

Bakeries, restaurants and cafes from Moss Vale to Mittagong and a dozen or more places in between have declared that the pie is king here for the month of June.

As such I’m thinking Gumnut Patisserie would have to be the castle. First stop on our 28 hours of pie tour, the humble storefront in Bowral opens up inside like the Tardis to reveal a casual dining area, enormous preparation room and separate section for cake decorating.

Their pies are top-class.
Tracy Nickl runs Gumnut Patisserie with wife Vicki. Picture: John Fotiadis

It’s the central plank in a three-store operation (with stores in Berrima and Mittagong) run by husband and wife Tracy and Vicki Nickl.

The pair have been in business for more than two decades and employ 20 pastry cooks for their operations. It says a lot that while they’ll churn out some 3500 pies a week, sweet tarts sell even more.

But Tracy sure knows his pies.

At first the dark pastry of the Gumnut pie throws me, the relative novice. I assume his batch may have been a little overcooked.

This spot has Australia’s best pies

“Don’t knock it until you try it,” he intones. “Colour is flavour”. The deeper-hued pastry is a product of using butter, specifically New Zealand butter, instead of margarine.

“Pastry is one of the privileges of life,” Tracy says. “I’d have everyone eating butter pastry.”

The other thing I learn is that pie sales are very much linked to the weather. Overcast skies in any of the seasons bring a spike in pie numbers — so much so that the Nickls will often check the area forecasts in advance to determine how many they should be preparing on any given day.

With quite the pie-tinerary in front of me, we get a couple of Gumnut pies for the road instead of eating them and my children later confirm their pulled beef version — the specialty for the month — is a winner.

Then it’s off to Centennial Winery and as you may have guessed, a pie for lunch. The vineyards are gorgeous and the rustic restaurant is an elegant place for a winter meal. Their Highlands Beef Pot Pie is certainly big and quite flavoursome but truth be told the meat could have been a bit more tender. I’ll probably have to have another pie and think about where it rates some more — and of course I don’t have to wait long.

A couple of hours later I’m at the Bradman Museum and while guessing Australia’s greatest cricketer would’ve enjoyed a pastry in his day, I otherwise can’t find any connection — save perhaps for his granddaughter Greta singing Pie Jesu (Pious God) at Don’s funeral.

But the adjoining Bradman’s Stumps Cafe have got in on the act and produced a fig and apple pie named Sweet Emily after Don’s mother.

It’s fruity and filling and goes well with some vanilla ice cream, though the pastry isn’t as deftly made as Gumnut’s.

At the risk of going into a pie coma we skip the pie-making class and pie dinner and avoid all forms of pastry the next morning.

Then after an hour’s walk at Fitzroy Falls I feel a little peckish and I think I might have a pie.

The Falls Cafe looks nondescript and given there’s going to be another pie for lunch, I opt for splitting half a kangaroo (pie that is).

While manager Ryan Strong admits to being no pie expert and seems a little on edge about how we’ll appreciate his offering, it turns out to be quite the revelation.

Dense, tasty and tender — the product of the kangaroo meat being slow cooked for around 14 hours before it was encased in pastry, this rookie effort is close to pie-fection and I rate it pie of the trip.

Second is the Beef and Guinness Pot Pie we sneak in for lunch that day at Farm Club Australia near Moss Vale, an agritourism destination with farm stay experiences, shop, restaurant and edible garden.

After that it’s on the M5 for the short drive back to Sydney. Pulling in to the local petrol station I do notice a couple of Mrs Mac’s pies in the warmer near the counter. Somehow I manage to resist.


GETTING THERE: The NSW Southern Highlands are an hour to an hour and a half south of Sydney.

STAYING THERE: Peppers Craigieburn is located in Bowral with rooms from around $170 a night.

PLAYING THERE: Get your full pie-tinerary at

The writer travelled as a guest of Destination NSW.

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