Cosy country escape
For ages JJ and I have been talking about visiting the New South Wales central west region of Orange – it’s known as the ‘food basket’ of NSW, and is a renowned cold-climate wine growing area, so we knew it’d be right up our street. I’d also heard that the area is really beautiful in the Autumn months. We don’t really get a proper Autumn where we live in Sydney ’cos we don’t have many deciduous trees by the beach, so I was looking forward to kicking big piles of fallen leaves while walking in the crisp country air.
JJ drove the 256km West (around 4 hours) on Thursday morning, he had some meetings in Orange which is why we decided to make the trip last weekend. I flew after work on Thursday evening, the flight’s only 40 mins with Rex and although it’s the most expensive option for getting there it saves so much time. The train from Sydney takes about 5 hours so flying was worth it. I worked remotely from our hotel in Orange on Friday and was ready to start the weekend as soon as I logged off for the day.
Where we stayed
On Thursday and Friday, we stayed at the de Russie Boutique Hotel on Hill Street. The de Russie is a self-contained apartment hotel located in the CBD and is within walking distance of a range of restaurants, cafés and shops. All rooms include a complimentary light breakfast; fruit, muesli, bread, condiments, juice and locally brewed plunger coffee. We had a lovely, quiet, comfortable stay at the de Russie and the in-room WiFi was more reliable than my connection at home.
Friday feeding frenzy
At lunch time I walked into town to Scrumptious on Summer Cafe. I had the Moroccan vegetable tagine which was very tasty and the service was friendly. Scrumptious make everything in-house including their cakes, I might have also grabbed a yummy lemon slice to take away for afternoon tea 🙂
We met a couple of JJ’s colleagues for after-work drinks on Friday at the The Union Bank. JJ and I only stayed for one drink because we had a dinner reservation somewhere else but the others ordered food which arrived just before we left and it looked gooood. I had serious food envy seeing the epic cheese boards arriving at other tables as well.
My food envy was short-lived because tonight’s dinner venue was Lolli Redini which is just a couple of doors down from The Union Bank. Don’t miss this place if you visit Orange, we had the best and most memorable meal that we’ve had in a long time at this restaurant! For entrée, I had the cheese soufflé (JJ had the beetroot cured salmon), followed by the Turkish slow cooked lamb, both courses with paired wines. For dessert, we shared the passion fruit bombe (the meringue gets flamed at the table). I’m not a food critic, so don’t think I have all the words to describe the deliciousness of the meal we had at Lolli Redini – please just try it if you’re ever in the area because the food is seriously excellent, so much flavour.
After breakfast in our hotel room and check out we wandered down to the Orange Visitor Information Centre to get a wine trail map. From town we drove up to Mount Canobolas to take in the view of the region, the drive was about 25 mins. There are a couple of nice looking walking trails that start up at the Mount Canobolas State Recreation Area, we didn’t get up particularly early and were keen to get on with wine tastings so we didn’t do any hikes this time.
We thought it’d be a good idea to get some food in our bellies before wine tastings so we decided to grab a pie and a coffee at The Mountain Tea House (bottom of Mount Canobolas Road). The pie took about half an hour to arrive and we started getting a bit hangry wondering how long it could possibly take to warm up a pie. When our food finally arrived we realised that the wait time was probably due to them making the pies from scratch rather than reheating – so fresh!
We turned off the mountain road to join the Pinnacle Road wine trail. Orange is a pretty chilly place and sits over 600 metres above sea level, this means white, sparkling and Pinot Noir country. Our first stop was the Word of Mouth cellar door, followed by Ross Hill. Next, because JJ was designated driver we decided to head to our lovely B&B in Millthorpe, check in and then walk to nearby Angullong Wines so he could have a proper tasting. We had great experiences at all of the cellar doors we visited, the winemakers/staff were friendly and we found different delicious varieties to take home from each one.
The picturesque historic village of Millthorpe is about a 20-30 minute drive from Orange, the main reason we decided to stay a there for a night is that I’d heard great things about the hatted Tonic Restaurant. I had to book Tonic several weeks in advance, they’re only open Thursday – Saturday for dinner. I found this restaurant experience a bit disappointing to be honest. The food was quite average in terms of flavour and it was luke warm, I would call it nice just not very special for the price or the hype. Also, the acoustics in the venue are pretty bad, we were seated next to a large group and they weren’t being particularly loud but 20 people talking at the same time created this wall of sound that JJ and I had to scream across to be able to talk to each other. Another thing was that the service was extremely slow, we were there 3 hours in total which was too long with the whole shouting across the table situation, by the end we couldn’t wait to leave. Maybe our menu choices weren’t great, so in case it helps we both had the smoked ocean trout for entrée, I had the lamb rump for main and JJ had the smoked pork, we shared the blood plum soufflé for desert – it was all a bit blah.
Sunday drive back to Sydney
On Sunday morning after breakfast at our cosy B&B and check out JJ and I went for a stroll around the village. We petted some friendly alpacas and a donkey, then stopped in at The Old Mill Café for tea and homemade cakes which were delicious.
It’s fair to say that JJ and I rolled back to Sydney with a belly full of wine, cheese and lamb, our car boot chock-full with new wine favourites – highly recommend!
Have you ever been to Orange? What should we try on our next visit?