Sydney is a great place to live but whenever we have the luxury of a free weekend, we want out. ASAP.
So for Mark’s birthday this year, my gift to him was a weekend away to Orange in Central NSW, about three and a half hours west of Sydney. Why Orange? Well, we had been given the hot tip from our dear friends Michelle and Tim (Hi guys!) that it was the hot spot for food and wine. This was confirmed once we had sampled (scoffed) the delicious bottle of Sangiovese they had brought back for us from Orange’s little neighbour, Millthorpe. And so we made it our next ‘free weekend’ destination.
Orange is an incredibly picturesque town with beautiful tree lined streets adorned with elegant historic buildings and lovingly kept homes and gardens.
We were lucky to visit the Orange region in Autumn to take advantage of the kaleidoscope of colourful tree canopies and to walk on the crunchy, fallen leaves.
When you add in Orange’s stylish cafes, wineries, bakeries, hatted restaurants and gourmet food providores, you cannot help but start conversations like, “Maybe one day we’ll move to Orange…” which later morphs into, “When we live in Orange…” while you mentally pick out a cute cottage with a hedge.
Once we found the perfect picnic spot, we came up with the following itinerary and bundled up our picnic blanket:
ITINERARY & MAP
Food: Cakes from The Old Mill Cafe, Millthorpe
Coffee: Byng Street Local Store, Orange
Picnic: Cook Park, Orange
THE OLD MILL CAFE12 Pym Street, Millthorpe
The Old Mill Café is in the heart of Millthorpe, a quaint little historic town about a 15 minute drive from Orange and a ‘must-visit’ if you’re in the area.
Our interest to make the trip to The Old Mill Café for our picnic provisions was piqued after having heard that the owner, Stacey, had trained with the renowned Adriano Zumbo of macaron fame.
We were also told that the meat pies were pretty extraordinary and so we timed our trip to coincide with lunch and each ordered the “Big Al’s” homemade beef & shiraz pie.
It is absolutely no exaggeration when I say that this pie – all tender beef and buttery pastry, with a delicious hint of shiraz – was the best pie we have eaten, in. our. entire. lives.
To give you an idea of the scale of what I mean when I say ‘best pie’, we are seriously contemplating doing a day trip to The Old Mill Café for lunch.
This will mean driving a total of around 7 hours in a day.
For a pie.
It’s that level good.
Our big regret is that we didn’t get a food selfie for you. We left the camera gear in the car and even though we ‘scissor-paper-rocked’ it (best of three), neither of us was prepared to leave the pie. And so we reasoned that sometimes in life you must embrace the moment and just eat the pie.
After we savoured the last bite, we then had the challenge of deciding between the extensive range of freshly baked cakes and pastries for our picnic, all enticingly lined up on a rustic wooden bench.
I singled out a flourless orange cake with maple syrup icing and prettily scattered floral petals. Mark chose the red velvet with cream cheese icing, intricately decorated with fresh raspberries and a white chocolate garnish.
We also reasoned that it would be nice of us to take some cakes back home as ‘gifts’ for our loved ones, so that we didn’t miss out on the fluffy lemon meringue or gooseberry frangipane tart that we forced them to share. (They had to).
Check out The Old Mill Café website. For peak lunch time (12 noon – 2pm), it was recommended to book a table. We also got the insider tip from a local that breakfast is pretty spectacular too.
BYNG STREET LOCAL STORE47 Byng Street, Orange
We had been to the Byng Street Local Store for coffee in the morning and really loved the fresh, easy vibe of this café. Plus, I am a sucker for any café that does that gorgeous thing of putting a little shortbread on the spoon. These guys went one further and put them on the takeaway cups too. Champions.
If you are in Orange and looking for a picnic lunch that didn’t involve heading to Millthorpe, we suggest you stop in here as we spotted some tasty looking baguettes that you can order for on the go. It is also in very easy walking distance of Cook Park, our next stop. Picnic time!
For more details, check out the Byng Street website.
COOK PARKCorner of Summer and Clinton Streets, Orange
Cook Park is a grand, historic park that has been around since 1873. It is incredibly green and lush and the contrast between this and the Autumn colours was simply magical. Mark took so many beautiful photos so I’m going to let you look in peace for a while… Enjoy.
Sorry to interrupt, but you have to see this – there is a flower display (of Tuberous Begonias, I found out later) from February to April each year in the Blowes Conservatory, a charming art deco glasshouse in Cook Park. So many colourful flowers! So much happiness!
There are other great things in Cook Park too, like a fernery, gazebo, aviary, a little lake with cute little ducks, and beautiful ornate park benches to rest your legs. Take your time to explore and soak it all up and then, when you’re ready, a picnic awaits.
Here’s how we set ours up:
All that’s left to do now is relax, indulge, and enjoy.
It really is food for the soul.
→ Picnic tables and toilet facilities provided.
→ Dogs are permitted in the park on a lead.
→ Sorry guys, no bicycles although you can park bikes in the bike rack provided at Bastick Cottage.
→ You can book weddings and other functions – we spotted a wedding party taking their photos and there is a beautiful cathedral in Orange too which is worth a look.
THE PICNIC PRESS RECOMMENDS:
→ For accommodation: Dalton St Studio Dalton Street, Orange. We stayed in this charming B&B in easy walking distance (via tree-lined streets) to Orange town centre. It has a little kitchenette and the lovely owner, Pam, kindly left us yoghurt, muesli and other treats to make a continental breakfast that we ate on our little verandah out front. There is wi-fi Internet, and all the usual things like TV, DVD and air conditioning, and the experience comes complete with cuddles from Bailey, their beautiful English pointer.
→ For a wine bar: Union Bank Wine Bar 84 Byng Street, Orange. We stopped in here for a nightcap, which was a great opportunity to try some Orange wines all in a lovely historic building.
→ For a winery: Angullong Wines The Old Bluestone Stables, Cnr Park & Victoria Streets, Millthorpe. Angullong Wines make the aforementioned Sangiovese that Michie & Timo got us onto – it’s so good, they had sold out of it on our visit. It’s located in a gorgeous late 1800s bluestone building (see pic below) and they take online orders too.
→ For a fancy pants dinner: Lolli Redini 48 Sale Street, Orange. We enjoyed a beautiful dinner at Lolli Redini which serves contemporary Italian and French influenced food using local, seasonal and organic produce that has been ethically farmed. It also has one chef’s hat rating and one wine glass rating by Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide Awards. Win-win!
→ For a pub lunch: Gerrys @ The Commercial Hotel 29 Park Street, Millthorpe. Gerry’s has been rated 2013 Best Steak (Rib-Eye) in NSW & 2014 Best Lamb Burger in NSW by Sydney Morning Herald Good Pub Food Guide. The Lamb Burger must be good as it was sold out when we arrived. It has a pleasant outdoor area (next to the lovely Angullong Wines’ cellar door) and a warm open fireplace inside.
→ For shopping: The White Place 100 Byng Street, Orange. I wish I could live in The White Place and pretend it was my home. It offers a gorgeous mix of stylish homewares, including things like cushions, rugs, furniture and art, as well as designer clothing and jewellery laid out in beautifully styled rooms in a converted house. Perfect for those delightful one-off pieces that people will ask about and you can casually say, “Oh I just picked this up in Orange”. They have an online store too – be careful, it could be dangerous!
We hope you make it to Orange soon.
One final tip – look into coinciding a visit with Orange FOOD Week or Orange Wine Week – or both!
And, don’t forget to pack your picnic blanket!
P.S If you like Mark’s photos, check out his professional page – Mark Jay Photography and on Facebook.