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Orange Crush

Orange Crush

On one of Orange’s notoriously frosty mornings, Bailey – onetime pound puppy turned truffle hunter – is ready to work. At a command from handler Teneka Priestly, the lab-staffy mix is off, nosing the leaf litter between rows of oaks at Borrodell – an apple orchard that’s evolved into a multi-faceted enterprise that includes a winery and accommodation on the flanks of Mt Canobolas.

It’s not long before Bailey paws at the ground. Priestly brings a spoonful of soil to her own sensitive nose before digging deeper to unearth a black diamond that will later be sprinkled liberally over a truffle-themed lunch at Borrodell’s acclaimed restaurant.
Borrodell Winery's Sister's Rock Restaurant Orange

Sister’s Rock serves up artfully plated dishes such as vincotto-glazed quail with organic buckwheat, and Bramley apple pie with lavender crème fraiche and Calvados cream, along with sweeping views over the acclaimed cool-climate countryside that produces some of Australia’s best Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

F.O.O.D. aplenty

Orange might be all about the grapes, but it’s also a foodie city from way back. In 1991, the city once famous for apples staged its first F.O.O.D. Week – a festival with just two signature events: a celebrity chef-designed dinner and local producers’ market. You could also count the wineries on two fingers (Bloodwood and Canobolas Smith Wines).

These days, the annual April festival comprises 100 events over 10 days and the region boasts 30-plus vineyards and a rising number of excellent restaurants.

With so much to choose from, visitors are spoilt for choice. Before heading to Orange, I ask Bloodwood’s Rhonda Doyle what’s new. The renowned foodie, who mans her vineyard’s appointment-only cellar door along with winemaker husband Stephen, points me towards Charred Kitchen & Bar, which celebrates slow-roasted deliciousness in a vast space featuring a sculptural timber-offcut wall. Here, a custom-made wood and charcoal oven nicknamed Lucifer caramelises bone marrow, lamb rump, beef and vegetables.
Charred Kitchen & Bar

They can be savoured with wine from a global list so long it runs to 45 pages. But, when in Orange, it’d be crazy not to pick an esteemed local drop such as a Philip Shaw No 11 Chardonnay, Angullong Fossil Hill Barbera or Ross Hill Pinnacle Series Cabernet Franc.
Doyle is also a fan of Racine Restaurant, a fine-diner with a rustic corrugated-iron exterior that serves up bucolic rural views on the side. Here, you can tuck into two to five courses from chef Shaun Arantz, who favours local fare (an apple symbol means at least 75 percent of the dish is locally sourced).

If you don’t have time to linger over a long lunch that might include zucchini ribbons with parmesan custard and pork with apricot puree, head to Racine’s bakery in town for a loaf of artisan sourdough or a ham and cheese toastie.

Winning Feasts

Orange institution Lolli Redini is regularly awarded Good Food Guide hats thanks to its menu of Italian- and French-influenced fare with paired wine suggestions. You could, for instance, sip a Philip Shaw Merlot while feasting on slow-cooked pork belly with spiced apple and clove butter before moving on to a Logan Wines’ Moscato to accompany fig and honeycomb parfait with whipped mascarpone and honey jelly.
The pass at Lolli Redini

The award-winning wine list includes other local producers such as Heifer Station, worth a visit if you have kids in tow. Its family-friendly cellar door at Borenore includes a petting zoo, along with hay bales that make a perfect seat in the afternoon sunshine. 
Heifer Station is also home to a satellite farming operation providing produce to The Union Bank, a city restaurant committed to sustainable local produce. On a sunny day, there’s no better spot than the Bank’s courtyard to enjoy balsamic-roasted farm vegetables or a grazing platter, perhaps with a glass of Cooks Lot Allotment 666 Pinot Gris.

The Union Bank’s owners Nick and Emma Bacon, along with head chef Hugh Mawter, recently opened The Lord Anson Public House, a specialised craft beer pub that includes a modern English bistro (drop in on Sundays for roast with all the trimmings).

It’s part of a wave of eateries that offer serious food rivalling that of big-city counterparts. The Agrestic Grocer, on the city outskirts, is a firm favourite with both visitors and locals drawn to its ‘keeping it real’ vibe. Seasonal produce might include pine-cap mushrooms, quinces and heirloom carrots – but definitely no waxed apples. The on-site café serves hearty fare such as corn fritters and pulled pork Reuben sandwiches. The complex hosts mid-week gigs and also incorporates Badlands Brewery, which sometimes uses local hazelnuts and truffles in its brews.
The Agrestic Grocers co-owners Katie & Beau Baddock

Lunch at the Agrestic Grocer

Contemporary Comfort

Agrestic co-owners Beau and Katie Baddock have branched into another venture with Groundstone Café. They serve comfort food with a contemporary twist – think chicken katsu burgers with ginger slaw, bacon and poached eggs on char-grilled sourdough, and a pork belly salad with green papaya, nahm jim, fried shallots and Asian herbs. If you’re after a sweet something, perhaps the irresistible rocky road cheesecake will be on offer.

In 2017, the Orange Ex-Services’ Club opened a dazzling open-air eatery that will remind Sydneysiders of The Grounds of Alexandria. The Greenhouse of Orange’s menus are right on trend, offering bowls at breakfast, lunch and dinner, along with drawcards such as pulled lamb and feta burgers, venison with cherry jelly compote, and an inspired vegetarian dish of twice-cooked soufflé with braised pear, spinach, lemon oil and hazelnuts.

The soufflé showcases cheese from the Second Mouse Cheese Company (located near The Agrestic Grocer). Its double brie also features on the cheeseboard served at the Philip Shaw cellar door. Here, you can taste wines produced by this eminent Mt Canobolas vineyard as well as admire how architects melded an old bluestone farm building with avant-garde new lines.

You can also eat your way around the world without ever leaving the city limits. Mr Lim Korean & Chinese Diner’s tantalising menu includes KFC (Korean fried chicken), pork buns stuffed with local pork and honey, and kimchi fried rice. A block away is American-style Elwood’s Eatery, which loads low- and slow-smoked meats – think oak-smoked brisket, hickory-smoked pulled pork – onto burgers and buns. The main street even boasts a modern spin on the American prohibition-era speakeasy, with Washington & Co Whiskey Saloon offering liquors from around the globe.
Ferement the Orange Wine Centre

Pouring a rosé at Philip Shaw

Wine Samples and Brews

If you want to taste your way around the region without wearing out your shoes, drop in to Ferment the Orange Wine Centre. The cellar door for 16 local wineries including Cooks Lot and See Saw Wines, it offers wine samples while you nibble on a cheese or salumi board.

The good news if you over-indulge is there’s plenty of good coffee brewing in Orange. Start with an espresso from the minimalist Good Eddy, courtesy of beans from Sydney’s micro-roastery and coffee wholesaler Reuben Hills. Or for the ultimate hangover cure, head to Byng Street Local Store for an Allpress coffee paired with an egg and bacon roll stacked with streaky bacon, eggs from Aunty Rinn’s at Millthorpe, tomato relish, rocket, smoky aioli and cheese. The store also offers a compact, hyper-local wine list. Toast your tasty visit to Orange with a glass of Printhie Cabernet Sauvignon.

Well known as a wine region and a source of terrific produce, the New South Wales regional city of Orange has arrived as a food destination. 

Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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