GET ME TO BERRY

On my first date with Mark, he said the most fantastic thing.

We had been getting to know each other and the topic of conversation had turned to South Coast road trips as I filled him in on my childhood weekend ritual of driving down on Friday nights to Callala Bay where my family had a holiday house.

Mark was telling me how he’d only been to the South Coast a couple of times but he had remembered driving through this gorgeous little town and being really disappointed when his friends didn’t want to stop to check it out. I asked him where it was and he said the magical words:

“I think it was called Berry. I really want to go back”.

And it was in that moment that I knew he was a keeper.

Berry is now a special place for us and one of our favourite refuges when we need to get out of the city. It’s about a 2 hour drive from Sydney so perfect for a day trip. The drive is also pretty spectacular, especially when you pass through spots like this:

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Berry has all the country charm of historic buildings and leafy surrounds but as an added bonus, comes complete with gourmet food spots and beautiful little stores which sell unique, one-off pieces. It’s our favourite weekend escape. This time, we took our mums with us as we knew they would love exploring Berry and enjoying a picnic with us. Plus, generally speaking, mums are just the best and every now and then you need to remind them of that.

Here’s our itinerary:

ITINERARY & MAP

Food & Coffee:     Milkwood Bakery

Picnic:                     Apex Park

Afternoon Tea:    The Berry Tea Shop

FOOD:

MILKWOOD BAKERY

109 Queen Street, Berry

You’ll be able to find Milkwood Bakery fairly easily – just follow the wafty scent of freshly baked bread to the line of people out the door.

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Milkwood Bakery was established in 2012 and is the more casual offshoot of the Berry Sourdough Cafe (which you can find in a rustic, lovingly restored heritage-listed barn house just around the corner at 23 Prince Alfred Street).

It has a gorgeous range of artisan organic sourdough breads baked fresh in wood fire ovens – from the classic Berry sourdough to the pane pugliese, thyme and olive flat bread, the levain blanc (a classic french style loaf) and the fig & walnut loaf.

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The display is also beautifully set up with a delicious range of flaky croissants, savoury muffins, cakes, pastries, scrolls, mini-pizzas and tarts.

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We ordered the lamb and pine nut sausage roll (incredible) and a range of the meat pies – the Beef Bourguignon, the Steak & Caramelised Onion and the Chicken, Leek, Bacon & Mushroom (all impossibly good) – plus a mushroom and gruyere cheese tart with golden pastry (I could have eaten 7!). Oh, and the sweet pastries? Yeah, we got a few of those too: a raspberry danish, a nut tart and a Portuguese tart.

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You can pick up a very good coffee to go made from a retro inspired duck-egg blue espresso machine. There’s also a range of house-made muesli, jams, and dips to bring home for your loved ones – which is handy, because I doubt the lamingtons will survive the car ride home.

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Check out the website for more details. 

PICNIC:

APEX PARK

Cnr Queen St (Princes Highway) & Prince Alfred  Street, Berry

As soon as you glimpse the the little footbridge and gorgeous rotunda set amongst trees in beautiful Apex Park, you know this is a special place and the perfect spot for a Berry picnic.

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Gah… looking at pastry makes me hungry all over again! Thanks Milkwood!

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It was so lovely to have a full day out with our busy mums. It’s the special yet simple things that are a bit ‘out of the ordinary’ – like a road trip and picnic in Berry – that will be remembered and talked about in years to come.

Facilities

→  ToiletsPublic toilets are adjacent to Apex Park.

→  Parking: There is street parking nearby or you can find parking down a side street. The main road has parking limits of 1 hour, but this is enough time for a Milkwood picnic. You may need to move the car however if you plan on shopping or enjoying afternoon tea later.

→  Bicycles: You can’t really cycle in the park, sorry – it ain’t big enough for that. But definitely take the bike around the gorgeous country lane ways in Berry and the surrounds.

→  Dogs: I didn’t see any signs, so I assume dogs are permitted on a lead. Maybe just check this when you are there.

→  Weddings: And yes, you can book Apex Park for weddings! Click here for details. How dreamy!

 AFTERNOON TEA:

THE BERRY TEA SHOP

1/66 Albert Street, Berry

Many moons ago, I had to do a uni assessment which involved inventing a business to learn how to set up a company step-by-step. It was a law subject so naturally, a lot of people were setting up their own pretend law firms. Me? Well, I figured if it was all pretend and we could pick absolutely anything we wanted, I would go with my all-time favourite fantasy business…

A tea shop.

I spent a lot of time imagining how beautiful my tea shop would look, what it would be called (“Tranquilitea”, for the record) and the huge range of tea I would have. Much more time than necessary given I wasn’t actually getting graded on how awesome my invented shop was.

So, for someone who has imagined the perfect tea shop, I was blown away when I first visited The Berry Tea Shop. The shop doesn’t only just sell amazing tea but they have all kinds of beautiful tea accessories, like tea pots, cups, strainers, canisters, cake stands, teaspoons, paper goods, decorations, tea cosies and books. And, what’s more, you can sit inside and take it all in while drinking delicious tea and eating a freshly baked scone with Cuttaway Creek raspberry conserve and double cream. Yeah, amazing right?

It’s like all my tea shop fantasies brought to life and my equivalent of a ‘kid in a candy store’ experience.

Check it out:

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In my mind, tea drinking is all about the experience and the ritual. It’s about fine china and teapots with cosies and, most importantly, taking time to enjoy and savour the moment. I’m therefore a firm believer that tea shouldn’t ever be in a takeaway cup or rushed or drunk on the run. Hence, I have a ‘no tea on picnics’ rule… unless it comes in Royal Albert, Royal Doulton or Wedgwood, then I might make an exception. Anything less would be disrespectful, really.

Luckily for us, at The Berry Tea Store, we got to enjoy a warming cup of tea with a slice of the gluten-free orange and almond syrup cake (a favourite of mine) and the hummingbird cake as a final treat to round out our picnic / Berry adventure.

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I challenge anyone who goes to The Berry Tea Shop not to fantasise about giving it all up and moving to an adorable country town to open up an adorable little tea shop. If you need some inspiration, this is what husband and wife owners Cliff and Paulina did with a life-swap from stressful Sydney to country calm – and to great success.

I’m sure it’s not always tea and biscuits but if you get the chance to meet the bubbly Paulina, you get the idea that this probably comes close to “living the dream”. I was able to draw the simple conclusion that beautiful tea shops make people happy. The proof’s in the sign:

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Tea really is like a hug in a cup. And if you take two mums out for tea, you get a bonus round of double hugs. I highly recommend it.

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Check out the website for more details and to shop online – but make sure you go to the store as well!

Final note

There’s plenty to see and do in Berry that we didn’t get to showcase in this post, so take your time when you’re down there to explore. Some of our other suggestions are as follows:

♦   There’s Il Locale Gelato on Queen Street which sells delicious locally made ice-cream and has the cutest wall mural ever:

 

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♦   If you fancy donuts, you cannot go past The Famous Berry Donut Van. Yes, famous for being awesome. Mmm… donuts.

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♦   For gourmet food supplies, check out The Emporium Food Co at 127B Queen Street. You can also pick up a great picnic lunch here too as they have a wonderful range of deli products.

♦   For gifts, my pick is Huckleberry Home which has French and Hamptons inspired homewares and furniture. Find them at Shop 2, 94 – 96 Queen Street.

♦   For more gifts, homewares and some textiles as well, go to Juniper Hearth in a beautiful old building on the corner of Alexandra and Princess Street.

♦   And if that wasn’t enough and you want even more gifts, homewares etc, head to Moss Nest at 69 Queen Street.

♦   For art and design, check out Flying Pig Precinct at 12 – 14 Alexander Street, for a range of ceramics and handcrafted pieces.

♦   For the fashion I’d buy if I wasn’t on a budget, go to Roots & Wings Design at 83 Queen Street.

♦   For gorgeous hand cremes and toiletries, stop in at Scullys & Co at 108 Queen Street.

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Next week on The Picnic Press: We make good on our promise to show you where to find the best pork belly in Sydney and a bonus ice-cream stop.

L&M

P.S If you love Mark’s photos, check out his other work at Mark Jay Photography and on Facebook.

 

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GET ME TO ORANGE

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.

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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.

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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

FOOD:

THE OLD MILL CAFE

 12 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. 


COFFEE:

BYNG STREET LOCAL STORE

47 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.

PICNIC:

COOK PARK

Corner of Summer and Clinton Streets, Orange

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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.

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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!

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You can tell I’ve paid attention to Mark’s wedding shoots – this pose is a bit bridal…

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:

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All that’s left to do now is relax, indulge, and enjoy.

It really is food for the soul.

  Facilities

→  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.

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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 shoppingThe 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!

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And, don’t forget to pack your picnic blanket!

L&M

P.S If you like Mark’s photos, check out his professional page – Mark Jay Photography and on Facebook.