Rustic Rural Dining Experiences ⋆ Silver Compass Tours
From fine-dining to rustic, to really out-of-the-box experiences there’s something for every gourmand and bon vivant in the cool-climate wine region of Orange, NSW.
If you’re tired of the traditional restaurant experience – where you book a table, order off the menu, pay corkage for wine or astronomical mark-ups – we’re going to let you into a little secret about dining experiences in the country. One of the superb discoveries of living in regional Australia is that many proprietors are shaking up this traditional dining paradigm.
One of our favourite experiences of rural dining was lunch for 30 people at the local venison farm, Mandagery Creek. We rocked up for the three-course set menu (entrée and main course inspired by venison, naturally) after driving through spectacular countryside, turning off onto a dirt road and driving past the photogenic deer herds. Arriving at a delightful tin shed on the farm, we were greeted with a glass of local sparkling. These events are held monthly by local venison farmer, Tim Hansen and his wife Sophie, a food blogger and former Slow Food journalist. Best of all, it’s BYO wine – forget corkage charges, this is the country, and the neighbouring vineyards provide a 10% discount on their cellar door prices if you’re attending the lunch event. This is truly a communal dining experience par excellence. We left after four hours feeling well-nourished by fresh produce and with a whole bunch of new friends.
Another revered dining institution here is Sunday brunch at a converted old convent. It’s only open on Sundays for brunch and lunch, and it’s a bit of a #localsecret (ssshhh, don’t tell them we told you). Ever had a three-course set breakfast before? Neither had we. The menu here never changes, but it never needs to – it’s amazing. It’s a venue full of charm and history and good food; what more could you ask for?
Pop-up dining is also being embraced wholeheartedly here. The popular Byng Street Café crew hold pop-up winter dining events at the Orange Botanic Gardens, with a different theme every year. This year it’s Southern Soul Food, featuring cuisine from America’s deep South, and will run for two weeks from 24 July to 9 August only. These events get booked out by locals in a flash, so plan your trip now if you’d like to catch the experience.
Another pop-up event that has been enthusiastically received by the local community is our rustic Roman wild-style degustation event held at a local vineyard’s cellar door. Pochi ma Buoni means ‘Small but Great’ in Italian dialect, and these events are aimed at celebrating the coming together of good people, good food, good wine – for good times. Imagine a three course home-cooked Italian dinner based on Nonna’s recipes washed down with lashings of local cool-climate wine. Can you think of anything better?
Throw in regular special events held at the local vineyards, like the annual ‘Black Tie and Gumboots Truffle Hunt and Dinner’ at Borrodell Vineyard, or the ‘Winemakers Table’ at Philip Shaw Vineyard, and you’d be mad not to live here. Or at least visit.
And if after all this epicurean excitement, you’re still searching for five-star fine-dining, we can also point you towards three of New South Wales’ finest regional restaurants – Lolli Redini, Racine, and Tonic.
A version of this article first appeared on The Localist in July 2015.