breathe in the view: Mount Canobolas

After two days of enforced lock-ins at home over Christmas (it was around about then that they realised that things are only 24/7 in the inner city….), we went in search of the highest mountain to breathe in some fresh air. Lucky for us, Orange is centred around the glorious peak of Mount Canobolas. We drank in the view, got the inspiration to plan to go bushwalking and generally blew the cobwebs away.

Which is what The Italian needed, as he’d just been subjected to a Lord of the Rings marathon over Xmas & Boxing Day, culminating in going to the local cinema to see The Hobbit. For someone who had never heard of Tolkien before, and was reading the subtitles, it was a bit of a tall order. Nevertheless he managed to survive the experience.

Ah the view, the view – and no dragons in sight.

Bushland scenery on Mount Canobolas

Bushland scenery on Mount Canobolas


lapping it up at Lake Canobolas


Ah the serenity… Lake Canobolas is just a short 10 minute drive outside of Orange and nothing short of idyllic on a summer’s day, with grassy picnic areas under big shady trees, bbq areas and small sandy beaches on either side of the shores.

Aside from the stunning nature, the star of the show is the new-ish café, restaurant & wine bar The Lakehouse, billed as “beachside dining, at the lake” and bringing a bit of an unexpected Bondi-Sydney vibe to the scene. The takeway coffee from the kiosk is ace, and they also serve the (in)famous Molong gelato.

We’ll definitely be coming back out here to try the breakfasts once the new year gets going.


You can find The Lakehouse on Facebook 

sunset at Union Bank wine bar

We tried to kick-off a pub crawl on Xmas eve at the Union Bank wine & dining bar, and it was a lovely place to start. This is another great venue to explore the bounty of the local vineyards if you can’t quite make it to the cellar doors, and we celebrated the night before Christmas with a bottle of Phillip Shaw’s ‘The Gardener Pinot Gris 2013’.

Unfortunately, this is pretty much where our pub crawl ended. Everything else was shut and hardly anyone else was out. So there goes our expat tradition of scouring bars at all sorts of hours in all sorts of places on the eve of the traditional festive season, ah well.

The view of the sunset from the Union Bank wine garden more than made up for it, it was a glory postcard of pinks and purples and a blaze of gold falling into starlight.

New owners, Tom Ward (also winemaker & owner of Swinging Bridge winery) and Nick Bacon took over the venue in September 2013, and things are looking good already. We didn’t get a chance at the time to mosey into the new Swinging Bridge cellar door that’s located in the wine garden of the Union Bank (location, location, location), so that also gives us a great excuse to go back. again + again.


You can find Union Bank Wine Bar & Dining on Facebook and Twitter – and for Swinging Bridge try here and here

live like a local: hunt + gather at the The Agrestic Grocer


When I say that our first ports of call on moving to Orange NSW were to Racine Restaurant and Mayfield Vineyard, I’m not actually telling the entire truth. What we actually did was unload the car, shove the boxes into corners, and hightail it to The Agrestic Grocer (which is only a 5 minute drive from us in North Orange, near the Botanic Gardens).

This place is what Surry Hills in Sydney would love to be, if surrounded by trees and hills and serenity. It’s an organic grocer, produce fresh from the farms, free range eggs, local milk, artisan pasta and cheese and preserves. A whole shelf stacked full of local vintages, so if you’re too lazy to drive to the cellar doors you can just stop off here.

…and a café with heaps of rustic tinshed ambience and awesome coffee + food + plonk. We celebrated our treechange with locally-reared venison steak and handpicked mushroom tart, washed down with a couple of glasses of vineyard vino. hooray.


Find The Agrestic Grocer on Facebook and Twitter, or find them at 426 Molong Road in North Orange – follow the signs out of town towards Molong.


meet you at Mayfield Vineyard


This vineyard is always a first port of call when I return to the countryside. it’s gorgeous, with the cellar door set inside an old 19th century schoolhouse on the farm. and the wine is amazing.

On the Icely Road just outside of Orange, the vineyard boasts two labels – Mayfield Vineyard and Icely Road. and my, the Pinot Noir Sparkling Chardonnay! James Halliday in the Wine Companion gives the vineyard a four star rating, and the Sydney Morning Herald have called it a “top cellar”.

It’s entirely possible to stay in one of the cottages on the property if you book far ahead enough – apparently give it at least 3 or 4 weeks. I also think it would be a marvellous place to get married, and made a concerted effort to drop hints to The Italian over a birthday morning tea of sparkling and a taster of every white on the shelf. He remained charmingly oblivious, but there’s plenty of opportunity to continue taking him out there – we haven’t tried all the reds yet.


Find Mayfield Vineyard on Facebook and follow them on Twitter

hidden gem: Cook Park Guildry


This is what I imagine hipster heaven looks like – handmade crafts, hand turned wooden objets d’art and preserves, slices and cakes galore.

Hidden within the glorious realms of Cook Park in the heart of the town, the Cook Park Guildry is one of the places that you should visit if you want to live like a local. Everyone drops in to pick up cakes & slices for afternoon teas and pretends they’ve baked them themselves.

Staffed by a delightful rotatation of volunteer local handicrafters (including my mum), there are the obligatory 1970s multi-coloured crocheted bed throws, fluffy coat hangers, appliquéd handkerchiefs, bent fork windchimes – oh the list is endless, it’s a virtual treasure trove. In fact, when I posted a snap on Instagram I had an instant reply from a friend asking how much the wood burned Kangaroo plaque on the wall was.

Speaking of mum, she makes a mean beetroot relish and an out-of-this-world cranberry & macadamia slice.


Cook Park Guildry, in their own words

preserves, slices, cakes - the joy at Cook Park Guildry

preserves, slices, cakes – the joy at Cook Park Guildry

race you to Racine


This is my ultimate destination for my birthday every year, depending on whether I’m in the Southern Hemisphere or not. Luckily this year I was.

This time we went for the 3 courses with local wine pairing, starting off with a sparkling rose in the garden overlooking the valley in the foothills of Mount Canobolas. Paolo was convinced he was in Tuscany.

I am totally not a food or wine critic, so I’m not going to bore you with intricate details of what I ate and drank – it’s a One Chef Hat (SMH Good Food Guide 2014, 2013, 2012), Gourmet Traveller voted it ‘Best Regional Restaurant’ (2014, 2013, 2012) and Shaun Arantz was awarded Australia’s Best Regional Chef in 2012 (Country Style Magazine). It’s better than good.

But the absolute best thing about Racine Restaurant in the rolling hills of the La Colline vineyard is THIS PLACE HAS A HELIPAD FOLKS. My nephews and I have previously sat gobsmacked watching diners fly in for lunch from Sydney, landing in the paddock area right in front of this gorgeous jasmine and rose-drenched ‘tinshed’.

After this year’s visit, I have decided next time I am totally arriving by helicopter to eat three courses of dessert paired with three bottles of the amazing Coffee Hill ‘Zinful’ Zinfandal. It was very much OMFG.

And now that I’m a local, I’m going to start going more often.


You can find Racine Restaurant on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.

UPDATE:: I’ve also discovered the Coffee Hill cellar door at The Millthorpe Wine Centre at the historic Millthorpe railway station. Chef Shaun Arantz is the only person in town at the moment with access to ‘Zinful’ & has paired it with his caramel parfait. The rest of us have to wait until Australia Day for access to bottles of this stuff, I’ve already baggsed my spot in the queue.