March 02, 2023
9 mins Read
The Central West NSW city of Orange has long been known as a fruit-growing hub and has been gaining a reputation as a boutique cool-climate wine region since pioneering winemakers first planted vines on the volcanic slopes of Mt Canobolas in the 1980s. Add to the mix a new wave of innovators who are tapping into the rich heritage and earthy spoils of the Orange region and you get a dynamic wining and dining scene worth travelling for.
Head to Good Eddy for excellent coffee and a concise menu of A+ breakfast items including toasted muesli with berries and yoghurt, bacon and egg roll with spicy caramelised onion and relish, and avocado and feta on local sourdough. Alongside a boutique and a florist based in an old printworks in downtown Orange, this pint-sized space forms part of hip retail hub, The Collective.
So you’re staying at Orange’s design-driven Byng Street Boutique Hotel? Look no further than the Yallungah Dining Room, set in its glorious circa-1896 heritage wing, for a breakfast bursting with the vibrant local produce the region is famed for. Its two-course à la carte menu includes dishes such as mushrooms with thyme and creamy local quark on sourdough, and pancakes with banana, double cream and raw Springside honey. There’s also a gracious verandah for al fresco eats on sunny mornings.
Occupying a plum corner spot just down the road from Byng Street Boutique Hotel, Byng Street Local Store is a bright and bustling Orange institution – trademarked by its postbox-red door – serving Allpress coffee, T2 teas and a brunch and lunch menu that gives simple and satisfying a gourmet twist. Settle in for a breakfast roll packed with smoked cheddar, rocket, tangy house ketchup and chilli mayo or apple crumble porridge with cinnamon crème fraiche. Or grab a coffee and a pastry to go from the cafe’s street-side takeaway window.
Groundstone, from the team behind the renowned Agrestic Grocer (see below), is a modern cafe set within the Orange Regional Museum precinct. The welcoming space is marked by clean Scandinavian lines and colours and serves an impressive breakfast and lunch (weekdays) and brunch (weekends) menu that utilises the best local and in-season ingredients available. All food is made on-site and options range from the virtuous: veggie health bowl; to the slightly less so: macadamia milk waffle with spiced local apples, salted caramel and honey mascarpone. Coffee comes courtesy of local roasters Bills Beans, which also has an espresso bar, Bills Beans East Orange, worth seeking out too.
For your morning caffeine fix and some of the best croissants in Australia, form an orderly queue at Racine Bakery. Tucked away behind the main drag of Summer Street, this small space sells a big roster of patisserie and viennoiserie, sourdough and organic breads – all of which are made on site and by hand daily. The bakery is the baby of renowned restaurant Racine, now closed, and will soon be joined in this central location by Racine Bread + Wine, a new project from the team described as a little bit bakery, a little bit restaurant and a lot of fun.
Enjoy lunch with a view over the vines at Sister’s Rock Restaurant on the grounds of Borrodell Estate, which sits a lofty 1000 metres above sea level on the slopes of extinct volcano Mt Canobolas. With ingredients sourced straight from the property’s cherry, plum and heritage apple orchard and trufferie to play with, head chef Richard Learmonth lets local produce sing; the colourful flavours of corn on the cob slicked with truffle butter or dolmades made with the leaves of pinot noir vines growing metres from your table will remain fresh in your memory long after you’ve left town.
Tucked away in the peaceful locale of East Orange, Nile Street Cafe is a local’s haunt that prides itself on delicious dishes and desserts made from fresh and local produce. On the ever-evolving menu you might find eats like spiced beef goulash with sour cream, mashed potato and fresh garden herbs or crumbed haloumi with roast onions, pine nuts and roast capsicum salad; and sweet treats like Persian love cake with ice-cream or creamy rice pudding with strawberry ripple. The cafe’s BYO and no corkage policy means you can enjoy lunch with a bottle of wine sourced from your Orange vineyard of choice.
Located a five-minute drive from the city centre, The Agrestic Grocer is a destination in itself: a one-stop shopping and dining experience housed in a straw bale and brick building with a locavore philosophy permeating everything it does. Its cafe’s all-day menu runs the gamut from local eggs cooked as you please and served with greens and dukkah to warming soup and milk-poached chicken burger with Agrestic hand-cut chips. And as well as providing a cellar door space for artisan producers Badlands Brewery and The Second Mouse Cheese Co., its grocery stocks all manner of regional products and fresh produce: from unwaxed apples, hazelnuts and freshly milled peanut butter to olive oil, cider and wine. The Agrestic Grocer has also made a name for itself as a hub for live music in the region – check the website for listings.
The Greenhouse of Orange is spread over a half-hectare space on the rooftop of the Orange Ex-Services’ Club in the heart of Orange. A unique, relaxed and diverse environment, it’s made up of indoor and outdoor areas that incorporate a restaurant serving gourmet pub meals, a bakery pouring coffee, a wine bar, a wood-fired pizza kitchen and garden bar outside on the lawn, and a ‘family pavilion’ for kids to be entertained. All this adds up to an ideal place to while away the hours on a lazy afternoon.
The hamlet of Millthorpe is a 20-minute drive south of Orange and worth the trip for its historic streetscape alone. Team it with a weekend lunch at Tonic, a highly-awarded, refined and relaxed contemporary restaurant housed within a heritage-listed building, and you’re on to a real winner. Chef and co-owner Tony Worland has worked alongside culinary luminaries like Matt Moran and Gordon Ramsay and showcases finely crafted meals focused on seasonal produce from local suppliers including Mandagery Creek venison and Cowra lamb. Tonic is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday for dinner and Saturday and Sunday for lunch.
Make your way to the historic Union Bank building on Byng Street, which opened its doors in 1858 as Orange’s first bank, to sip on an al fresco ale or local wine at The Art House Bar & Courtyard before heading for dinner at the adjoining Schoolhouse Restaurant. Together these two venues celebrate the site’s past as an art school and original site of Kinross Wolaroi School. Rockpool-trained head chef Dom Aboud has created a simple but vibrant brasserie-style menu that shines a light on Orange region produce with nods to the Mediterranean – think lamb with fig, labneh, za’atar or a house-made pasta with zucchini, ricotta and pine nuts.
Orange’s second hatted restaurant, which earned its accolade in 2020, makes use of a wood and charcoal oven named Lucifer to give its dishes their signature flavour. Charred Kitchen and Bar bills itself as ‘serious food, relaxed dining’, and has cultivated an inviting space full of booths and nooks and warm timber accents. Choose from an à la carte or four-course tasting menu with matching wines that might include Farmer Doug’s potato and parmesan dumplings, Canowindra spatchcock cooked and served on the bone with bullhorn peppers and peri peri sauce, or slow-charred lamb rump marinated with burnt honey and rosemary. There’s a good selection of vegetarian and vegan options too.
Sweet Sour Salt is an ever-popular modern Asian restaurant on Summer Street. Set in a funky space with wall art and neon signage, its menu’s clean and vibrant flavours come courtesy of chef Ivan Podres. Choosing between the à la carte or banquet menus, menu items might include Korean grilled tofu, chilli basil fried chicken or deep-fried soft shell crab with green papaya salad. Look out for its regular vineyard collaborations too, which see the restaurant pair its dishes with wines of a local winery, like Heifer Station and Swinging Bridge.
Begin or end your evening at Ferment the Orange Wine Centre, a bright and characterful wine bar in a heritage building that acts as a great introduction to the cool-climate wines of the NSW Central Ranges and beyond. It’s also the official cellar door for 19 wines from the Orange region including Cargo Cult Wines, Cumulus Wines and Tallwood Wines. Settle in for a wine tasting or a glass or two – state-of-the-art Enomatic wine dispensers let you try before you buy – plus a cheese board to match.
From vineyards with a view to Australia’s only carbon-neutral winery, our pick of the spots not to miss in this boutique, cool-climate wine region. ...
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Can’t believe this doesn’t include Spilt Milk Bar Gelato….didn’t you see the queues outside for this magical stuff – the most natural and delicious gelato in Australia!