discover: Jayes Gallery, Molong


One of my favourite local destinations, and a gorgeous country drive, Jayes Art Gallery and Cafe in Molong is a real treat. Local artisan jewellery and pottery and boutique items are available in the gift store as you enter, and the art gallery at the back of the store is always featuring exhibitions from local and Australian artists. The real secret to this place is the outdoor sculpture garden and the cafe next door.

This month’s exhibition, opening Friday 31 January, is focused on quintessential Australian artist Norman Lindsay (1879-1969). The exhibition features originals and etchings by Norman Lindsay, in conjunction with Canberra’s Aarwan Gallery  – with all of the works available for sale (that’s just a little bit wow).

The Norman Lindsay exhibition is running from 31 January to 2 March. Take the drive out to Molong to see it, have a coffee while you’re there, and then drop into The Agrestic Grocer on your way back into Orange. That’s pretty much what I do.


Local artists represented by Jayes Gallery include the award-winning Joy Engelman, Michael CarrollAida Pottinger, Tim WintersEris Fleming, Julie Williams, Jaq DaviesCatherine Hale and Josephine Jagger-Manners.

You can also find out more about Molong here, personally I am waiting with anticipation for Belgravia Wines to open their new cellar door at the old Molong railway station – hurry up guys :0) Follow them on Facebook for updates.


The magic of marvellous Millthorpe


Believe me, I was lucky to get this snap of Millthorpe looking like the goldrush-era village that time forgot. Because in real life it’s bustling with action on the weekends, with visitors and locals all swarming to the Millthorpe honeypot of its award-winning restaurant and pub, as well as its cafes, hotels, cellar doors, antiques and boutiques.

I’d intended to do a focus on the pure magic of Millthorpe at some stage, but I’ve landed my first bite for a group of Sydney visitors to make the trek over the Blue Mountains to experience this year’s Slow Summer Festival in February, in which Millthorpe plays a starring role. So here’s my suggested Magic Millthorpe itinerary for them, which you might like too.


Before you get too cosy in Millthorpe, venture out to Mayfield Vineyard, Moody’s Wines, Patina Wines and the Highland Heritage Estate which are all part of the Eastern Heritage Trail.

Cellar Doors

Millthorpe is awash with charming cellar doors all in stumbling distance of each other. This is why I am recommending my Sydney friends actually stay in Millthorpe for the weekend of the festival they’re coming up for. All the accommodation is also in stumbling distance of the cellar doors – very handy.

Start at the old Millthorpe Railway Station, now the Millthorpe Wine Centre ALL ABOARD! This is the cellar door for the very tasty Coffee Hill and Edgecombe Wines. Open on weekends.

Next, the Angullong blue stone cellar door is gorgeous, and used to be the stables for the hotel next door. Very cosy in the chilly months with a roaring fire to go with the roaring reds. The cellar door is open Friday, Saturday + Sunday.

Then wander down to the Bantry Grove cellar door and order a charcuterie or cheese platter to wash down with your wine. Open Friday, Saturday + Sunday.


For starters, The Old Mill Cafe is a well-regarded institution. You can’t go past it. And just across the road is the new-ish contender, The French Press which makes very good coffees, homemade pizzas and with pastries supplied by Racine Bakery.

Then make the pilgrimage to the destination gourmet experience of Tonic Restaurant, awarded a SMH Good Food Chef Hat in 2014, 2010, 2009, 2008 & 2007. Chef Tony Worland has worked with high-profile chefs such as the UK’s Gordan Ramsay and Australia’s Matt Moran and he’s a bit of a local legend.

There’s also Gerry’s Commercial Hotel which won ‘Best Burger in NSW’ and ‘Best Steak in NSW’ in 2014 and 2013 respectively in the Sydney Morning Herald Good Pub Food Guide. Gerry’s Hotel was also given a ‘2 Schooners’ rating by the guide in 2014 and 2013, and it has some wonderfully reasonable pub accommodation.


As they say, a visit to Millthorpe isn’t complete without a visit to tomolly for lifestyle, design + homewares – it’s a little treasure trove. There’s also the Blue gift shop, Galvanised at Millthorpe, the Peppertree En Pym Emporium, the gloriously named Salon des Refuses and more little gems to discover.


This isn’t a definitive list by any means, but here’s some of the choice picks for lingering longer in Millthorpe.

Millthorpe – heritage with style, you’ll love it

Oh yes you will, you won’t want to leave. Most people who visit start casting around for ways to make a permanent move. It’s just so charming. Take a look at Millthorpe Village’s Facebook page to keep up to date with the action.

Enjoy, Kelly

How to find Millthorpe: if you’re coming from Sydney, it’s 15 minutes outside of Orange on the highway. It’s clearly signposted, swing a left. To visit the vineyards on the Eastern Heritage Trail, just get back on the highway and head towards Orange, you’ll see signs to the individual vineyards signposted on the way. If you’re not feeling overly energetic, just stay in Millthorpe, drink in Millthorpe and eat in Millthorpe. It’s entirely possible :0)

slow summer festival, are you kidding? this year is totally fresh


Just a little more than two weeks to go and festival season in Orange kicks-off for the new year, starting with the salubrious Slow Summer Festival – which this year is dedicated to the Australian poet Banjo Patterson (1864-1941), one of Orange’s most famous sons. Running from  7 to 17 February, the swinging Slow Summer Fest will be packed full of gourmet experiences, poetry + plonk. There are sporting and family activities too if you are so inclined, but I am wilfully ignoring an entire section of the program.

Here’s the top picks that have me salivating already:

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Week 1

It all kicks off on Friday 7 February with festival night markets in Robertson Park, followed the next day by the official Banjo Patterson art festival launch and the Orange Region Farmers Market. Saturday 8 February is actually jampacked with awesome events, these are just some of my top picks (and please note that I am allergic to sporting activities unless champagne is involved):

1. choose to ‘Munch and Meander in Millthorpe’, strolling through the historic village and soaking up the wine cellars (Angullong Wines, Bantry Grove, Belgravia Wines and Edgecombe Wines + Coffee Hill). There’s also poetry & music at Gerry’s @ The Commercial.Saturday 8 Feb @ 12-5pm.

2. Mandagery Farm Venison Lunch, including a Farm Tour and 3 course lunch on Saturday 8 Feb @ 12.30m. Call 0400 032  326 to book – and if you can’t squeeze this into the schedule they hold regular farm kitchen lunches on the second Saturday of each month.

3. an Amateur Poetry Regatta at Mortimer’s Wines‘ unique Cellar Door at the Old March Public School (est. 1866), Saturday 8 Feb @ 2-6pm.

4. and a twilight garden party @ Stockman’s Ridge Wines featuring food by Australian renowned and local chef Michael Manners on Saturday 8 Feb starting @ 6pm.

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Week 2

And while there’s a whole week of activities in between, I’ll be saving myself for the following festival weekend for (watching) the Dragon Boat racing on Lake Canobolas and (listening) to one of Australia’s most loved actors, Jack Thompson, reading some of Australia’s most loved poems. My other top picks for the weekend are:

1. ‘Pasta, Plonk & Poetry’ at Mayfield Vineyard, Saturday 15 Feb @ 7pm. Call 02 6362 8898 to book.

2. Family Day @ the opening of Emmaville Cottage at the Orange Botanic Gardens, Sunday 16 Feb @ 9am-2pm.

3. Charles Sturt University Wines (CSU) Sparkling Brunch, which should be good because it stars their award-winning 2009 Cellar Reserve Pinot Noir Chardonnay Sparkling, Sunday 16 Feb @ 10am-11.30am

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

All this, and then Flix in the Stix comes around 22 February. Woohoo!


[DISCLAIMER: I’ve really got to point out here that I haven’t included a detailed list of all the amazing activities around the Slow Summer Banjo Patterson Festival, I’ve only focused on the stuff I personally think is stellar – and I’m not kidding when I say I’m allergic to anything sporty. Download the entire program from the lovely Taste Orange website].

summer mountain wine run: Borrodell Vineyard, Ross Hill Wines, Brangayne of Orange

We had every intention of going to the Orange Picnic Races, truly we did. But it’s 35 degrees out there, and Dad said for the twenty buck entry fee each we’d be better off going to a couple of vineyards and scoring some great bottles of plonk.

It’s about here where you can probably tell that genius runs in the family.

The Mountain Run wine tour

Moving onto other excellent ideas, we chose the The Mountain Run winery tour of Orange for exploration, which takes in Borrodell Vineyard, Ross Hill Wines and Brangayne of Orange. Firstly, because these are all top notch cellar doors, and secondly because it’s cooler up on the mountain.

Borrodell Vineyard + cellar door

Borrodell has one of the best views of the rolling hills of the Towac Valley and Mount Canobolas, so if it’s a scenic cellar door you’re after, this is it. It also has a fantastic restaurant, Sister’s Rock, overlooking the Pinot Noir block in the valley boasting inspiring views and a super convenient helipad on the grass concourse alongside the restaurant.

Folks, I am a big fan of a vineyard restaurant with a helipad. Could there be anything better? (check out my previous post on Racine Restaurant at La Colline vineyard).

Back to Borrodell, it has marvellous cottage accommodation (more here on that from the Sydney Morning Herald) and is one of the most popular spots for weddings – they were setting up for one when we dropped in.  Yes, yes, yes, but what about the wines I hear you say – well, they speak for themselves. A 3 star rating for the Borodell Sparkling Wine 2009 from WineState Magazine and James Halliday rated it a 4.5 star vineyard in his 2010 Wine Companion.

After this, a nice winding drive around the charming country lanes of Towac Valley will bring you to the Ross Hill and Brangayne cellar doors – almost directly opposite each other. How convenient.

Ross Hill Wines vineyard + cellar door

Ross Hill Wines was declared ‘the toast of the town’ at the 2013 annual Orange Wine Show, and James Halliday seems to agree with the verdict, giving the vineyard a 5 red stars rating in his 2014 Wine Companion. He’s also rated the 2012 Pinnacle Chardonnay in Australia’s Top 12, while Sydney Morning Herald’s Huon Hooke rates it in Australia’s Top 10.

To be honest, the high class Pinnacle Series is lovely, but we preferred the more reasonably priced Family Series. It looks like others do too, because the 2012 Ross Hill Maya & Max Chardonnay was sold out. So we bought a 2013 Ross Hill Jessica & Lily Sauvignon Blanc.

Brangayne of Orange vineyard + cellar door

Over the road at Brangayne the vineyard is charming, and the wines even more charming. This is a vineyard of choice for me, and The Italian out of curiosity wanted to know why I adore it so much. I like its ethos more than anything, basing its brand on the legend of Tristan + Isolde and the supremacy of love. swoon.

Of course, the wine is also marvellous. The 2013 Sauvignon Blanc took the Silver Medal at the Australian Cool Climate Wine Show, the 2013 Riesling was given a 4.5 star rating from WineState Magazine and the 2011 Isolde Reserve Chardonnay received a Gold Medal at the 2013 Boutique Wine Awards and a Silver Medal at the 2013 Le Concours des Vins du NSW wineshow. We thought the divinely buttery 2013 Chardonnay (Lightly Oaked) was actually slighter better for our palates, and better value on our shoestring budget.

My itinerary add-ons

So there you have it, The Mountain Run tour of Orange NSW. If I were you, I’d start at The Lakehouse at Lake Canobolas for a coffee before reaching the Borrodell cellar. Following your first wine tasting you could stop by Fiorini’s Ristorante Italiano (a veritable #localsecret) for lunch, and take another coffee break at Miss Daisy’s Teahouse at the foot of Mount Canobolas as you wind your way towards Ross Hill and Brangayne. Or you could do the whole tour in reverse if you like.

Enjoy, Kelly

DECLARATION: It might be obvious that we only tried the whites at all of these vineyards. It’s summer, it’s too hot for reds. And it gives us a great excuse to go back and do it all over again in Autumn.

and postscript: Fiorini’s is only open for lunch on Saturdays and Sundays, and dinner on Friday and Saturdays. You’ll find them on the corner of Canobolas Road and Lake Canobolas Road, it’s BYO and call to book on 02 6365 3863. You’re welcome.

let the vineyards come to you: Kelly’s Rugby Hotel

This place might just about be Orange’s best kept local secret. Don’t be fooled by the goldrush era exterior, Kelly’s Rugby Hotel  not only has a drive-through bottleshop (very classy, very handy in winter) but it has the best-stocked local and regional cellar in town.

If you are on a flying visit and can’t make it to the vineyards, don’t despair. Kelly’s stocks it all, and better yet, because they buy in bulk they pass on the savings. TOP BLOKES.

But wait, the love and regard and esteem I have for this place knows no bounds. Their friends at the vineyards also send through cleanskins when they’ve had a bumper year. So much value, so much joy, who needs labels to understand what you’re drinking.

I have friends who make the drive up from Sydney just to visit the two Kelly’s – me and this bottleshop.

Share the love and enjoy,


You’ll find the legendary Kelly’s Rugby Hotel Orange at 133 Lords Place. You can also find them on Facebook to keep up with the specials. 

so, what was Abu Dhabi like? said no-one ever

It’s an interesting experience returning to the home country after seven years in the desert. Despite being away for so long, the most surprising thing to deal with on the return is the almost complete lack of interest from friends and colleagues in what you’ve been doing and where you’ve been doing it. I generally put it down to cognitive dissonance, the Middle East is too far beyond comprehension to get your head around if you’ve never been there.

So I’m going to go for it here.

What’s Abu Dhabi like? Charming, eclectic, inspirational – it’s my soul country.

It’s an entire emirate, and a capital city

What exactly is Abu Dhabi? It’s an entire emirate, and it’s also the name of the capital city of the United Arab Emirates (made up of seven principalities that decided to band together and form a country in 1971 – Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras Al-Khaimah, Sharjah & Umm Al-Quwain). Abu Dhabi is the largest of the seven emirates, and it comprises three distinct regions: Al Gharbia (the western region), Al Ain (the eastern region), and Abu Dhabi city.

It’s where the desert meets the sea (Western Region)

Most people would be able to imagine its glorious desert dunes, but few would realise that this emirate actually has hundreds of kilometres of coastline and archipelago islands. The spectacular Al Gharbia western region boasts not only the world’s largest uninterrupted desert, the Rub Al Khali (Empty Quarter) but also the incredible Desert Islands, a wildlife reserve and resort on Sir Bani Yas Island, and the stunning five-star resort Qasr al Sarab (Palace in the Desert) nestled within the dunes of the Liwa Desert on the edge of the Empty Quarter.

It’s ancient heritage and culture (Eastern Region)

The eastern region of Al Ain is no less enthralling, it’s full of ancient heritage and culture and is the traditional home of the Abu Dhabi ruling family, the Al Nahyan tribe. Al Ain city itself is one of my favourite places on earth, for its roundabouts, flowers and rustic charm. It has a working oasis full of date farms right in the heart of town, and the only surviving camel market on the outskirts.

It’s one of the 21st century’s emerging capital cities

And Abu Dhabi city itself….well, this place has morphed into a destination of distinction in its own right over the last seven years. It has the warmth of a big country town with incredible skyscraping architecture and a five-star lifestyle. It’s full of flowers and trees and fountains and parks and beaches. It has its own F1 track and hosts the Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix each year. It has islands – the entertainment destination of Yas and the glorious glorious emerging cultural destination of Saadiyat (Island of Happiness).

It’s the crossroads where the minds and culture of the East meet the West 

Saadiyat Island deserves its own paragraph, as this is where the Louvre Abu Dhabi museum is currently emerging from the sand and expected for completion and opening to the public in December 2015. Following hot on its heels will be the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, a maritime museum dedicated to the traditional wayfaring and pearl-diving heritage of Abu Dhabi, as well as the Zayed National Museum recording the history and development of this incredible place.

Why on earth did I leave?

At about this point, you’ll probably get that I worked for the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority. All this runs through my veins. Think I’ll have to write a Part II to share stuff about the charm of Emirati culture and its people.

Why did we leave? That’s another story too. We kind of really liked our lifestyle of living here and here, and spending weekends on Saadiyat Island here and going out to the archipelago on this. The UAE is a place of shifting sands and you have to go with the flow of it. I’ve been back three times and each time had a completely different adventure. This time round Paolo’s contract with his company completed and we had two weeks to come up with an alternative plan for us to make a life together before he got shipped back to Italy.

So we picked Australia.


live like a local: beer + barber shop

Now where else could you find a 1940s-era barber shop inside a pub eh? All this and you can catch up with whose running for the Cox Plate.

You’ll find this little gem tucked away in the front entrance corner of the Hotel Canobolas, on the corner of Summer Street & Lords Place.