Rockpool-trained chef Dom Aboud moved from Sydney to Orange in 2019 to head up The Union Bank restaurant. He serves up some suggestions for those visiting his hometown and some insights as to why Orange, NSW landed at no.8 on your list of Top 50 Aussie towns.
Find the complete list of the Top 50 Aussie Towns here.
What draws tourists to Orange, NSW?
We started off as tourists. We’d come to Orange F.O.O.D Week. My partner Sarah [Crowley] is from Orange and we’d visit her family. We picked the food festival as the perfect time to go. We always bought tickets to Forage – it’s a walk through the vineyards, where you spend the day tasting wine and trying local produce. That became an annual tradition for us. Then in 2019, the head chef position came up at The Union Bank. So, here we are.
Chef Dom Aboud in action. (Image: Destination NSW)
What should culturally curious visitors look out for?
A fellow by the name of Gerald Power runs Indigenous Cultural Adventures. His tours around Orange delve into Indigenous history and discuss the importance of Wiradjuri Country and how it provides.
Gerald Power, of Indigenous Cultural Adventures
He has set up a kitchen garden with all these beautiful native ingredients for the benefit of the community. I was lucky enough to do a walk around with him and taste some bush tucker.
What sets Orange apart from other Australian towns?
Orange is unique. You forget the fact you’re only a couple of hours away from Sydney – it’s the drive in when, all of a sudden, you’ve got these gorgeous green rolling hills and you start to feel completely immersed in the countryside.
Orange is rich in heritage. (Image: Destination NSW)
What defines the Orange dining scene?
There’s an incredible scope of wineries and restaurants, and the food culture here is starting to explode. Passion and relationships are the two things that define the Orange dining scene. You’ll note that everything revolves around quality, local produce, whether you’re stopping for a quick toastie or sitting down for a full degustation.
Where should visitors stay?
If you really want to treat yourself The Byng Street Hotel seems to be the go-to for everybody. They’ve done an impressive job renovating and setting it up – it’s breathtaking. It’s such an awesome place to stay, and it’s located just one block away from The Union Bank.
Where should visitors dine?
The Schoolhouse Restaurant and The Bar & Courtyard are housed in The Union Bank. We’re really lucky to have an old charmer like the 165-year-old bank, as well as the adjoining courtyard and a blossoming magnolia tree. It’s pretty much the epitome of Orange – the heritage-listed architecture, the foliage, great food and drink – and you get all of that just sitting at the UB.
The 165-year-old bank is the ideal spot for a bite to eat. (Image: Union Bank and Sarah Crowley)
What produce should we try?
All the produce is so seasonal that you’re doing something different and exciting every part of the year. At one stage, we were using a tonne of saffron milkcap mushrooms, which pop up all over the forest. We then had this glorious period of black truffles coming in – fresh out of the ground and into the kitchen. We have an abundance of apple and cherry orchards in Orange; I like to eat my own weight in cherries over Christmas. It’s funny how good things taste here, something as simple as the humble potato; you think you’ve had a potato until you’ve tried one of Farmer Doug’s spuds.
Can you share the perfect day’s itinerary?
After rolling into town, I’d want to get out to the wineries as soon as possible – that’s the main attraction for anyone coming to Orange. ChaLou Wines would be at the top of my hit list; Steve [Mobbs] and Nadja [Wallington] do amazing wines.
Head to Printhie Wines for some bubbly. (Image: Destination NSW)
Meanwhile, foodies would kick themselves if they missed out on a long lunch at Printhie Wines in its stunning new dining space. For a top-notch night, my pick would be Charred; [chef] Liam O’Brien creates a degustation menu that really hits the mark.
Expect pretty plating at Printhie Wines. (Image: Destination NSW)
After dinner, I would meander to Washington & Co for a couple of cocktails. It’s good vibes only. Locals, tourists, everyone’s there. The next day, I’d wake up and head to Groundstone to have myself a big brekkie.
Your go-to breakfast?
Groundstone. 100 per cent. I’m a basic man. I just love the bacon and eggs with a side of avocado. The cafe also does the ‘Magic Roll’ – a ham, egg, spicy hollandaise little number, which is pretty delicious.
Make Groundstone your go-to cafe for breakfast.
Best coffee in Orange?
We are absolutely spoilt for coffee up here. If I had to choose, it would be Gather at the Sonic.
Best winery in Orange?
I’d check out De Salis – the tasting room’s great. I’m an absolute sucker for the Lofty Chardonnay. Everything up here is at a decent altitude [1050 metres] and its cellar door is perched up high on Mt Canobolas.
The sunny deck overlooking the vineyard at De Salis Wines.
Where to source supplies for a picnic?
Rowlee Wines is one of the vineyards that does outstanding picnic hampers, which are all set up and ready to go. If it was me curating the basket, I’d be popping to Sugar Mill for a loaf of its ciabatta. I’d also visit Cured to pick up its famous twiggy sticks, salamis and cured meats. Agrestic Grocer is a great one-stop-shop for all your local food and booze needs, your dips, and your locally made cheeses. SJ from Second Mouse Cheese Co. makes a cracking double-cream brie.
A perfect spot to park the picnic blanket?
Fourth Crossing is a quintessential country river region lined with trees. Sitting on those warm rocks, especially on a nice sunny day, dangling your feet in the creek with the water trickling around you. It’s just so peaceful and relaxing. Maybe it won’t be if I go telling everyone to go there for a picnic!
The beautiful Lake Canobolas.