There’s something about the air in New England. It’s sharp in winter, soft in spring, glows in the summer and turns crisp come autumn. But the air isn’t the only thing that’s warmer than a hug in the High Country – that good old country hospitality in Armidale is what attracts people from all over Australia… and keeps them coming back.
At the heart of New England, NSW is where you will find Armidale, a picturesque university city that offers the best of old-world charm and new-wave cool, and where inventive locals are making the most of the region’s great bounty.
It begins at breakfast
Café Patisserie, which spills onto the sidewalk on the city’s fringes, is the ideal introduction to the local food scene. Here, head chef and Armidale-native Nathan Walker serves up Crêpes Suzette alongside his French partner, Enora Chanteperdrix. Down the road, on Rusden Street, the guys at Goldfish Bowl Bakery are roasting the city’s best coffee, enjoyed best with an inventive brekkie like rye pancakes with honeycomb and caramelised bananas, or sous vide duck eggs on organic sourdough.
Complimenting Armidale’s thriving food scene is a strong line of small-batch brewers and distillers. You’ll find them in the city centre, like craft beer bar The Welder’s Dog in Armidale proper, and in unexpected places, like sleepy Kentucky where Dobson’s Distillery’s award-winning gins are made. New to the scene is Great Hops Brewery on Old Inverell Road, where brewer Sam Martin will happily sit down with you for a brew and a yarn.
Everything old is new again
A renovation five years in the making has put Armidale favourite The Tattersalls Hotel back in the spotlight. The breathtaking Art Deco-style renovation – which was carried out by award-winning architecture and interior design firm, Luchetti Krelle – instantly transports you back to the roaring twenties.
The redevelopment is “a huge testament to [co-owners] the Cassidys, their love of the area, and their passion to establish Armidale and New England High Country as a destination not to be missed,” says general manager, Ben Davies. “It was a leap of faith on their part, and one that’s well and truly paid off.”
He’s not wrong; in 2019, Tattersalls Hotel was awarded the Best Regional New/Developed Venue by the Australian Hotels Association (AHA) State Awards for Excellence. While the interiors have undergone huge change, dining at the hotel has stayed true to its roots. At the helm is renowned head chef Jean-Luc Morcellet, with gastropub fare served in the front bar, fine dining in the restaurant and pizzas in the rear garden – all of which celebrate the very best of the region’s local produce.
In the family
Another jewel in the crown, a stay at The Powerhouse Hotel promises welcome smiles and warm hospitality in Armidale. Family-owned and run by the Maguires for a whopping 39 years, general manager Monty Maguire says she’s loved every minute of it.
“Our perspective as a company has always been that just because you’re in the bush, doesn’t mean you should have any less than our cosmopolitan counterparts,” says Maguire. That sentiment carries through to the hotel’s dining options. The intimate Wine & Tapas Bar is all cosy corners and dark leather – perfect for a glass of fine wine and a small plate to share, while the main Azka Restaurant serves up the authentic taste of New England.
“[The] produce for our menu is locally sourced where possible. Our lamb comes from Neeworra Farm in Guyra, eggs from Sally’s in Uralla, fruit and vegetables from the local market and beef from Jack’s Creek in Tamworth,” says Maguire. Fortunately, the food isn’t the only thing that’s locally grown; the hospitality in Armidale and the New England High Country was made here, too.