Located in the Central west region of New South Wales and 254 kilometres (158 mi) west of Sydney, Orange is known as the 'NSW food basket’, and with good reason. Blessed with rich soil, it is generously peppered with gourmet eateries and family-run providores. I ts high elevation, coupled with long warm days and cool, star-studded nights, produces intense, full-flavoured wines. Whenever I think of Orange, I conjure up visions of delectable organic produce and salivate at the imagined aroma of freshly baked bread wafting through the hallways of cute heritage-listed homes.
One thing I don’t associate with Orange, on the other hand, are cookie-cutter motels. And that’s exactly where Peter and I booked to stay on our two night stay last weekend. Whate were we thinking? Maybe it was the thought of the motel’s central location - smack bang in the middle of the town square - that appealed to us, or even the idea of no-frills accommodation offsetting the expense of all the wining and dining that we were planning on doing. Who knows. But no sooner had we lain our heads on the pillow on our first night than the ludicrousness of our decision dawned on us. Hearing every stumble, toilet flush and drunken drivel from the neighboring room through paper thin walls, the sight of Peter futilely knocking on their door at 2 am in his pyjamas was like a skit out of an introspective comedy.
The sun rose on an impossibly glorious day and a change of rooms (and part refund from the management) took care of our first world problem. Meanwhile, Orange revved up its charm in compensation.
Seeing the day as if for the first time, never had Autumn air seemed so crisp and the sky so endlessly blue as we walked the few easy blocks to Byng Street Local Store for breakfast. Approaching the unassuming grey corner structure, which used to house The Orange Spinning Wheel, its red door opened to a funky space that screamed “ Light, Bright, Fresh!” Quickly shown to our table by the attentive staff, we were grateful for the quick service and were savouring Byng Street’s great Allpress coffee in no time. For breakfast, I thoroughly enjoyed the Green Eggs and Ham, with Buckwheat (gluten-free) toast. While we were tempted to dawdle and soak up the chilled Byng Street vibe, we had a lunch date at a local vineyard with our group and had to get a move on. http://www.byngstreet.com.au
As it was unknown to us, we never would have thought to visit Borrodell Vineyard had it not been for the brilliant organization of our dear friend (and Orange local), Don. One of Australia’s highest vineyards at an altitude of over 1030 metres, Borrodell’s views stretch across the valley, past the township of Orange and beyond to the Central Ranges. Booking a table at Borodell’s Sister’s Rock Restaurant, we sat underneath a magnificent Japanese maple overlooking the Pinot Noir block and over the slopes of the Towac Valley to Orange in the distance. Our group’s dining setting could not have been more bucolic.
With Sister’s Rock Restaurant’s focus on the variety of produce grown on the estate and around regional Australia, my entree of Pan Fried Black Tiger Prawns with a hot vindaloo sauce and Jasmine rice, followed by a Risotto, was nothing less than stunning. But the star of the show was the Borrodell Gewürztraminer ’08, which rates as one of Australia’s top white wines. On leaving, I was disappointed that we had just missed the vineyard’s enticingly sounding annual Black Tie and Gumboot Truffle dinner. We definitely had more than one reason to return to Orange, and to Borrodell Vineyard. http://www.borrodell.com.au
After two totally different, though no less sensational, Orange dining experiences, we thought, “surely the third strike will not quite hit the mark,” and yet it did with dinner at Racine. Just down the road from Borrodell Vineyard on the foothills of Mt Canobolas, Racine o wners Shaun and Willa Arantz aim is to create a ‘flavour of the region’ in a sophisticated and beautiful way, sourcing their produce from as close to locally as possible . Feeling relaxed and centered in their green-painted dining room - green, by the way, is the complementary colour to ‘Orange’ - I had the House Smoked Ocean Trout, carrot escabeche with almond, white quinoa as an entree, followed by a sensational Lamb Rump than seemed to melt in my palette the moment it hit it. They say that Racine is more than a place to have a meal, it’s a dining destination and I couldn’t have agreed more. http://racinerestaurant.com.au
While the meal at Racine was amazing (and perfectly complemented by a variety of Orange’s cool-climate wines), I resisted the temptation to overindulge knowing that breakfast would be at The Agrestic Grocer.
Sitting on an isolated location along the Mitchell Highway, The Agrestic Grocer is housed inside a rustic structure that’s been constructed from recycled materials from old storage rooms. A cafe/retail store with a firm focus on local, real food, its three rooms are a charming jumbled mix of fruit boxes, wine barrels and thick solid timber table tops groaning under the weight of fresh seasonal produce direct from producers, deli items, and gourmet food lines. With s ervers more than likely dressed in shorts and muddy gumboots, and the unhurried attitude to go with it, this atmospheric cafe will dispel any doubts that you are in the country. As for the menu, the servers are only too happy to share where each ingredient is sourced from. There aren’t too many establishments that can do that anymore! Here’s a tip: the Bacon and Egg roll is legendary. http://orangepost.com.au/the-agrestic-grocer-orange/
The Agrestic Grocer’s out-of-town location suited us perfectly. Having checked out of our accommodation, our noses pointed towards the Blue Mountains, where we planned to spend another night before driving home to Sydney. With plans to get there via historic Millthorpe, Peter programmed in the town onto our ‘trusted’ GPS.... except that he didn’t. We found ourselves straight back in the middle of Orange, driving around in circles over familiar ground.
Ever the opportunist, Peter parked our car next to Dan Murphy’s bottle shop to ask for directions and to see if, on the off chance, they stocked that unbelievable Borrodell Gewürztraminer that we had over lunch at Sister’s Rock Restaurant.
“No, mate, but try Kelly’s Bottle Shop around the corner. They might have it.”
Eureka! There it was at Kelly’s Bottle Shop, Borrodell’s Gewürztraminer: $165 per bottle at Tetsuya’s, $30 cellar door prize, $22.99 at Kelly’s Bottle Shop, and $21.99 to us for buying half a dozen bottles. We felt like we had won the lottery.
As for Orange, it will come calling to us again next Autumn like a siren and we won’t be resisting. After all, we still have Lolli Redini Restaurant and the Union Bank Wine Bar & Restaurant to visit, in the company of our good mate, Don.