boutique exploring

I took a spin around #OrangeNSW last week, and was surprised at the amount of boutiques and gourmet providores I uncovered along my happy trail. Seems like here are some real hidden gems here, just waiting to be discovered.

I started at the original and the best – Hawkes General Store in Sale Street. This is fabulously located right next door to Lolli Redini (a 1 Chef Hat restaurant) and the Union Bank Wine Bar, and Red Chilli Deli is just across the carpark.

A short walk away up Byng Street takes you to Iglou – very generation next fashion stakes – and The White Place, which has rooms and rooms of delectable homewares.

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Spinning around the block back onto Summer Street brought me to the serious cook’s companion, The Essential Ingredient. And then turning right into Anson Street there’s a treasure trove awaiting almost every step – including homewares and interiors store Jumbled and regional providore A Slice of Orange.

essential ingredient jumbledonline a slice of Orange

By this time, I was due a coffee and pastry break and luckily for me right across the road in the Woolworths carpark, tucked away in a  corner, is the best bakery in town – Racine Bakery. These guys also run the 1 Chef Hat Racine Restaurant, so you can imagine how good their sourdough is. and pizzas, and pastries and and and…

One of my favourite places to browse is The Complete Garden in Lords Place, so that’s where I headed to next. Then crossed the road to Kite Street to head to Cinnabar – which handily doubles as the Word of Mouth Wines cellar door. Shopping and wine tasting. This, my friends, is what I love about #OrangeNSW.

 

racine bakery completegarden wordofmouth

 

From here, for me it’s a hop skip and a jump over the railway pedestrian bridge to Endsleigh Avenue on my way home. My last and favourite stop is my local cafe, The Endsleigh – which is right next door to a vintage designer clothing shop A Frockwork Orange. Ladies, it is possible to book private Friday evening shopping sprees at the store for you and a group of friends, accompanied by champagne and cheese. I rest my case.

 

FrockworkOrange&Endsleigh

A Frockwork Orange + The Endsleigh

 

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magical mystery tour

This wasn’t a mystery tour at all, but it was totally magical. An inner-city friend recently returned from Dubai made the trek over the Blue Mountains to spend the weekend with us, and he was completely blown away by what’s on offer here in #OrangeNSW.

We created a special boutique-style tour for him, to introduce him to the marvels of the region. Starting off with a home-cooked meal using local produce when he arrived after a surprisingly quick 3.5 hour drive from Sydney. On the menu was pork belly from Trunkey Creek Bacon with polenta, followed by rhubarb + apple hazelnut crumble inspired by the Local is Lovely cookbook.

Stopping first for a coffee at The Lakehouse kiosk at Lake Canobolas, admiring the view over the lake and soaking in the crisp fresh air, our dedicated day for the vineyards started at Brangayne, where our friend went crazy for the buttery unwooded 2011 Chardonnay, the 2012 Pinot Noir and the 2011 Late Harvest Riesling.

This was his first experience of an Australian cellar door experience outside of the Hunter Valley, and he was stunned by the views of the Orange countryside. He thought it looked like he’d very much just arrived in Italy, and The Italian confirmed he’d saved himself a long haul trip by venturing out here to savour the spectacular local wine and gourmet experience.

Our next stop was Ross Hill Wines across the road, where we were served by local winemaker Phil Kerney who has been nominated as one of Gourmet Traveller‘s 2014 winemakers of the year along with his wife Rochelle.

 

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Then it was time for lunch at Racine Restaurant in La Colline Vineyard. Our inner-city friend peaked at this gourmet experience, declaring it the best meal he’d had since arriving back in Australia. We dined on a winter menu of venison, quail and smoked trout but it was the desserts that completely blew us away. Can’t even begin to describe them.

We went for a quick scenic drive after lunch through the Towac Valley along the bottom of Mount Canobolas and headed straight for Cargo Road Wines. Sitting outside on the terrace watching the sun set over the vineyard, we indulged in a wine tasting of everything on the menu as this is one of our favourite cellar doors in the region. Our friend departed with bottles of the incredible 2013 Zinfandel, 2014 Riesling and the Dessert Zin.

We finished off our very fine day at the Union Bank Wine Bar, which stars a plethora of local vintages and an awesome sunset-view wine garden. After an action-packed day we had a relatively early night, and recovered at Bill’s Beans East Orange the next morning, with freshly-ground coffee and quite possibly “the best BLT we’ve ever eaten in our lives”.

Our inner-city friend packed himself off for the return trip to Darlinghurst, stunned by the news that we’d only managed to visit three of the over 40 local vineyards. He’ll be back.

 

signs of a faded era

Emerging from a two week hiatus due to Masters-semester aftershock and a bout of the flu, am regaining my inspiration from a new penchant I’ve developed for discovering a plethora of vintage painted advertisements on the walls of old corner stores, gasoline pumps and warehouses in the villages that surround the Orange region.

Apparently searching for the ghosts of times past is now a bit of a thing in our cosmopolitan cities, but the real glories are to be found out here in the countryside because these signs are hardly faded at all. But it most definitely involves a skill of looking up, peeking around corners, and opening up new vistas to include the story lines of the past in your view.

The first beauty here above [ETA Peanut Butter] was found in Forbes, old Ben Hall country, and below are glorious examples of a Billy Tea ad found on the lane way side of a corner store and a 1930s Atlantic Motor Oil ad slapped on the side of a terrace house next to a disused motor garage in Carcoar.

Billy Tea, Carcoar

Billy Tea, Carcoar

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Atlantic Motor Oil, Carcoar

Over in Canowindra, I found a sign exhorting us to ‘start the day well with Kincara – the super sorted tea’. It’s on the side of an old general store which is now the elegant tasting rooms for Swinging Bridge Wines, so still enabling us all to start the day rather pleasantly.

Kincara Tea, Canowindra

Kincara Tea, Canowindra

After a roundtrip of the villages, it’s back to Orange and to my favourite of them all. Another Billy Tea stunner on the side of the wall of my favourite local restaurant, the Rocking Horse Lounge.

Billy Tea, Rocking Horse Lounge in Orange

Billy Tea, Rocking Horse Lounge in Orange

 

get your glow on: Canowindra

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It’s all fairly relative when considering the definition of a fun night out. For us, driving through the countryside while the sun spectacularly set in big swathes of red and orange and pink over the hills and vineyards, heading for Canowindra to catch the evening ‘Balloon Glow’ which marks the launch of the town’s week long hot air balloon challenge festivities, was a pretty magical Saturday night.

Of course, considering that The Italian has lived and worked in Saudi Arabia, where the height of good Saturday night times consisted of getting a takeaway sandwich and choosing between Sprite or Fanta (no wine, no women, no song. definitely no pork), standing on a country village football field with a glass of local cellar door wine in hand felt pretty good to him. Watching more than ten giant hot air balloons inflate and then synchronise lighting up to musical gems such as Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ was merely the pièce de résistance.

Canowindra is the ‘Ballooning Capital of Australia’ – and it’s also currently a movie set. It is most definitely charming. A frontier village settled soon after the foundation of Bathurst in 1815, the place started bustling in the 1840s. A wander down the old main Gaskill street (which is a National Trust Conservation Area and listed on the NSW Heritage Register) takes you straight back in time. Check out the River Bank Gallery and the Swinging Bridge cellar door while you’re there (Gourmet Traveller voted this one of the best cellar doors in NSW).

We went for a drive to check it out the weekend previously, on our way to visit Cowra’s Japanese Gardens (yeah baby, we really know how to live fast. As an aside, we’re experiencing great relief at the slower pace of life after chronically over-travelling the world the last decade). Canowindra’s best-kept secret is the Canowindra Trading Post – a two-story treasure trove of antique furniture and contemporary homeware stuff, with a huge garden and outdoor cafe. Right next door is Taste Canowindra, which in true Canowindra-style triples up as a restaurant, cellar door / bottle shop and art gallery.

There are vineyards, lots of them for such a small town (population approx. 2,000). We didn’t get a chance to visit, we’re going to have to go back, but here’s an overview: Gardners Ground, Rosnay Organic, Swinging Bridge, Toms Waterhole Wines, and Wallington Wines. Interestingly, Canowindra seems to be predominantly on-trend organic. To top it all off, you can catch a hot air balloon from the paddock next to Toms Waterhole cellar door and cafe. Hooray.

Enjoy! Kelly

 

beautiful Byng + a bygone era

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Byng is another village steeped in time just outside of Orange, and full of glorious history.  It’s not that easy to find, but if you’re approaching Orange from Sydney there is a turn-off to the right before you come to the Millthorpe turnoff. And if you’re coming from Orange, when you’ve passed the Millthorpe turnoff you’ll need to do a sharp left as soon as you see a gorgeous bluestone church.

It’s definitely worth the small drama of finding it, because once you’ve turned the corner you’ve turned a page in history. Settled in the 1830s by a small group of Cornish settlers, by the 1850s this is the area where scores of miners descended to search for gold in the rivers and hills around Ophir. In fact, William Tom, a local Cornish man and the first discoverer of gold in Australia, is buried in the Byng churchyard cemetery.

Sadly, the chapel and graveyard are all there’s really left of the original Byng village, but the surrounding countryside is delightful.  Taking a spin around the dirt track that circumnavigates the area really takes you back into a bygone era of horse drawn carts and walking to church on Sundays.

There are also several original homesteads such as Springfield and Bookannon, but the true delight is the Godolphin property (established in 1839) which has self-catering accommodation available in the homestead’s Old Dairy colonial cottage and the convict-built converted Stables (1859). If you want to experience living like a local in the pioneer days, this place is fabulous.

We picked up supplies from The Agrestic Grocer in north Orange before we headed out – think artisanal cheese from The Second Mouse Company,  venison salami from Mandagery Creek, as well as locally produced pancetta and pork sausages that we flung on the bbq when we got there. But first, we stopped at Millthorpe on the way to pick up a few bottles of Angullong wines – the Italian swears by this vineyard, he is in heaven every time we visit this cellar door.

By the way, this is the best thing about this region. The concept of the cellar door and ‘trying before you buy’. It’s just so enormously civilised. Take a seat at the bar of the cellar door, sample the entire range, chat with the owner, purchase several bottles of your favourites and depart. Bottleshops are so last century.”

We also stopped in at The Old Mill Cafe to pick up delicious desserts, and we weren’t disappointed. We spent the whole evening on the verandah of the Old Dairy cottage, drinking + eating + chatting + listening to the crickets. We were lucky enough to get a tour of The Stables which sleeps 6, and next time we come out here we’re bringing a bunch of Sydney friends to experience the bush in the chillier months so we can get a fire roaring.

Byng’s a great place to stay if you want a weekend of exploring, and Millthorpe is only a five to ten minute drive away for antique shopping, fine dining and great coffee. Mayfield Vineyard is also only a short drive away along the Icely Road, and I’ve said it once I’ll say it again, this is one of my all-time favourite places to visit

Enjoy, Kelly

explore Borenore

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This is soul country for me, the picture is a snap of my great-grandmother’s house in the heart of Borenore where she apparently brought up 13 children – good grief. There’s lots to explore in this rural community, just 15 minutes west of Orange – top class vineyards, orchards, restaurants, a cider house and the old convent where my Great GM went to church every Sunday (which is now a gourmet destination restaurant, wedding venue and B&B).

Driving west out of Orange along the Escort Way towards Borenore, you’ll pass the charming Hedberg Hill Wines and the unparalleled Philip Shaw Wines vineyards. This is just the start of the Borenore Trail and you’ll need to pace yourself – but if you stop off at these two places and sample the entire ranges of both you can always take a break at the nearby and contemporary Black Sheep Inn to sleep it off.

If you make it past the vineyards, you can stop in at the Hillside Orchard to pick your own cherries in season or to grab some fresh stone fruit, apples, pears as well as jams, honey and sauces from their public store. Orange Mountain Wines is just a stone’s throw away, and then you’ll come to the Borenore dilemma: a crossroads offering a multiple choice choose-your-own-adventure.

Follow the Borenore Road option and you’ll come to the Borenore Store, a breakfast and brunch restaurant open Wednesdays to Sundays and with one of the greatest selections of local wines. Check out the abandoned 1885 Borenore Village railway station while you’re in the neighbourhood (it’s just across the road) and then follow the signs to Small Acres Cyder, where they’re making some champion Australian apple cider – read the glowing reviews here.

It’s at this point that you need to chuck a u-turn and come back the way you came, otherwise you’re going to hit the start of the Cargo Road wine trail, and that’s another story entirely…

Coming back through Borenore village (blink, you’ll miss it), now venture down the Amaroo Road to discover the Faisan Estate and Printhie vineyards. Printhie has a five-star rating from James Halliday’s Wine Companion, with its cellar door open weekdays from 10am-4pm, and Saturdays from 12-4pm. Faisan is an upcoming local contender, well worth a visit but you’ll need to book ahead for a wine tasting visit. Just join their Dead Pheasant Society and be done with it.

And now heading back into Orange along the Amaroo Road, onto The Escort Way, you’ll see a left turn onto Convent Road. This is where the charm offensive really commences. The winding lane of Convent Road, a dirt track dripping in Eucalyptus, will take you back a couple of centuries and bring you to The Old Convent. This gourmet destination is a bit of a #localsecret, and it’s only open for breakfast + brunch on Sundays. And you need to book in advance. And when you get there it’s all worth it. There’s also stylish overnight accommodation for 2-4 people in the former nun’s cottage, so you may as well stay.

Instead of heading back to Orange after our visit to the convent, we followed the signs to the old gold town of Forbes instead. This took us past the historic Boree Cabonne homestead, past Escort Rock (the scene of Australia’s most dramatic gold rush era robbery), through Eugowra and the heart of bushranger country, and finally to Forbes which must have been a bustling city centre in the late 1800s and is the final resting spot of infamous bushranger Ben Hall.

Enjoy, Kelly

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cosmopolitan country cafe culture brewing

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The surprise of the new century is the cosmopolitan cafe culture that seems to have percolated throughout Orange recently. It was still cups of Nescafe and shortbread creams last time I lived here more than 20 years ago.

Bill’s Beans set the pace in 2007, with a move from Sydney to open an espresso bar and bespoke coffee roaster in a converted butcher’s shop in East Orange – with roaring success. In March 2012 they opened their flagship roastery and espresso bar ‘Factory Espresso’ in Kite Street, with its murals and black tiles giving it a distinctly ‘Surry Hills-vibe’ in the big heart of a country town. Here’s a great blog article on the Bill’s Beans / Factory Espresso experience from A Food Story.

Byng Street Local Store appeared in 2011 – on Byng Street – with its Allpress espresso and toasted Turkish bread and sourdoughs and bull nosed verandah causing an excited stir on the scene. Find ’em on Facebook.

Sipping a latte surrounded by blossoms and blooms on Summer Street, just a puddle jump away from Cook Park in the centre of town, is a drawcard for Anything Grows Cafe – which also moonlights as a boutique garden nursery. These guys are very active on Instagram, check ’em out.

With an electric combination of Campos coffee and a recording studio, the Dotted Eight cafe also sprang into action in 2012, channelling a distinctive ‘inner city laneway’ ambience by tucking itself away up McNamara Street (corner of Summer Street, just up from Hotel Canobolas) which was previously only home to some second-hand shops and garbage bins. Much has been made about the emergence of this local contender, and it was declared the ‘best coffee in town’ by the online Orange Post

(ps: The Italian agrees these guys do a mean espresso shot, so if you’re going to drink it black shoot it down here. But we personally reckon it’s a toss up for ‘best coffee’ crown between Factory Espresso and Dotted Eight).

Like a wildfire bloom The Agrestic Grocer sprang up overnight in 2013. These guys make superior iced lattes and smoothies, seriously – and/or maybe I have a penchant for slurping stuff out of jam jars. Stop for coffee and lunch and then pick up some fresh farm produce before going home, I’ve got more info on a previous post on how to ‘live like a local’.

I’m also a big fan of The Lakehouse out at Lake Canobolas, ten minutes drive out of town – we drift out every Sunday just for the coffee. I gave it a plug in a previous post ‘lapping it up at the Lake’.

And then you’ve got marvellous Millthorpe, 15 minutes outside of eastside Orange with the The Old Mill cafe and The French Press. Locals in the know also make the short pilgrimage to Borenore 15kms west of Orange to show up for weekend breakfasts at The Borenore Store and brunches at The Old Convent, but that’s another story…

Enjoy, Kelly