The Poacher’s Way in ACT in one of  four up-and-coming foodie hotspots to tantalise your tastebuds…

When the winter chill slips through your coat, there is nowhere better to be than in front of a fireplace – which makes the Australian Capital Territory’s Poacher’s Way the perfect spot to visit, as a climate that is used to spectacular chills throws open its doors and invites people to huddle by the fire.

Two and a half hours from Sydney, the Poacher’s Way is a clever collective of artisans that cover the gamut of food, wine, crafts, spas, galleries and B&Bs. It encompasses areas outside of Canberra that you might otherwise miss including Hall, Murrumbateman, Gundaroo, Yass/Bowning and Bungendore/Wamboin/Lake George. Former merchant-banker-turned-Poachers-Pantry-founder, Susan Bruce, banded together these hand-picked artisan businesses to form a meandering trail for the curious. These gems are best uncovered by car as the distance between establishments can be 30 minutes or more.

While most know that the Australian Capital Territory can get icy cold during winter, August plays host to the Fireside Festival. Poacher’s Way members turn a slow month into a fast one putting on special dinners, cooking classes and packages designed to entice people from all over.The Australian Capital Territory also plays host to truffle lovers who flock to take advantage of their truffle industry. The bitter cold coaxes these aromatic black diamonds into appearing just under the surface of the ground. Diners at Wamboin’s Lambert Vineyards enjoy them shaved over flat bread, in a soufflé or through tender gnocchi. (If you haven’t tried truffles in a dessert, chef Daniel Flatt is putting them in a white chocolate and truffle ice cream – drool.)

Lunch and shopping is taken care of in one deft swoop at Hall’s Poachers Pantry, where their range of smoked items make wonderful gifts (or snacks for the road). Their smoked chicken with a layer of tarragon and lemon is a must buy. All smokehouse items can be sampled along with their two wine labels, Wily Trout and Fingerlings. Or you can nibble on a sweet and juicy caramelised lamb cutlet in the Smokehouse Cafe.

Save that special dinner for Grazing, a destination restaurant in Gundaroo where chef Kurt Neumann creates dishes that comfort and wow. The kitchen garden with its brood of hens has long been a source of produce. Locals are even known to drop off items from their own veggie patches, to sell to the restaurant.

Set in the old Royal Hotel originally built in 1830, there are several fireplaces throughout to warm the heart and body. The food features expertly prepared game dishes as well as classics like braised duck. Don’t forego the bread which is dipped in scrumptious La Barre Blood Plum Finishing Vinegar and Yass olive oil. The wine list is also a winner – if you can tear yourself away from the hypnotic sway of the fireplace flames long enough to read it!

Wine buffs have a range of wineries to choose from including Murrumbateman’s Clonakilla. Pulling up to cellar door, you’re likely to see a sign that reads: We are in the vineyard, please honk the horn LOUDLY! but don’t let that deter you. Tim Kirk is the family winemaker and their legendary Shiraz Viognier is an idea borne of his visit to France’s Côte Rôtie. On the 1st of September, queues form to buy a bottle of this Shiraz Viognier described as ‘ethereal’. Closer to Canberra is Mount Majura, a single estate vineyard that pairs their barrel-fermented Chardonnay or their popular TSG (Tempranillo, Shiraz and Graciano wines) with a delicious regional platter.

Looking for somewhere to stay the night? The rooms are comfortable at Murrumbateman’s Country Guesthouse Schonegg run by Swiss Australian couple Evelyn and Richard Everson. Wrap yourself in a robe and slippers before dipping in the spa bath. Save room for breakfast served between 8-9:30am which features Evelyn’s wonderful homemade jams.

Sydney-siders, don’t content yourself with fast food offerings that litter the drive back home. Stop off at Lerida Estate’s modern looking cellar door. While you’re there, try some wine and order yourself a hot truffle bread (and one to take with you). It is warm, soft as a pillow and drenched in aromatic truffle butter – calories be damned!

The Details
Clonakilla, clonakilla.com.au
Country Guesthouse Schonegg, schonegg.com.au
Grazing, grazing.com.au
Lambert Vineyards, lambertvineyards.com.au 
Lerida Estate, leridaestate.com.au
Mount Majura Vineyard, mountmajura.com.au
Poachers Pantry, poacherspantry.com.au 
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