A few months ago, K and I went off on a weekend away from Sydney and took ourselves to the inland country towns of Mudgee and Orange, on what ended up being a plus-forty-degree weekend. Our main aim was to visit a few potential wedding venues, on the off chance that we decided to take our late 2014 wedding out of Sydney and into the countryside. We’ve since decided against that idea, but the weekend away wasn’t a total disaster – we visited a few interesting cafes and eateries, and enjoyed the scenic drives.
We started Saturday visiting a few wineries in Mudgee as potential venues, before having lunch at the Butcher Shop Cafe and poking our head into a few shops along Mudgee’s main strip – including Little Lane Books, a wonderful second-hand bookstore stocked with hard-to-find books that we could have spent hours in!
We then drove to Orange in the afternoon and checked into the Duntryleague Guest House in Orange. I had been enchanted by its depiction on the website, and it was one of our top contenders for a wedding venue. However after having checked in and explored around the house, we realised that it was really a bit too old to fit our vision of a more modern wedding. It certainly didn’t help that our Standard Room wasn’t equipped with air-conditioning, so we spent most of the night sweltering in bed with the windows open in the vain hope that we might get a breeze coming in. That most definitely coloured our opinion of the house as a venue!
Desperate to get out of our accommodation and escape to an air-conditioned restaurant for a good dinner, I consult Urbanspoon and it points us towards Mr Sushi King as the best restaurant in the area that won’t require us to dress up. Given that we’ve only packed shorts, singlets and thongs, this is a major requirement! K orders a katsu don bowl which comes with a side salad. The bonito flakes on top of his katsu don wave in the air until they’re mixed into the dish, and the perfection of the soft boiled egg is a nice surprise. The crispy and tasty crumbing on the pork is just to die for!
I’m in a splurgey mood, and I order a teriyaki eel bento box which comes with a multitude of side dishes. I end up sharing a lot of my side dishes with K, with some of our favourites being the thin and crispy batter on the tempura vegetables and prawn, and the freshness of the sashimi and sushi. K enjoys the single takoyaki, but I prefer the crunchy gyoza. I thoroughly enjoy the teriyaki eel as well – it’s not often that you find eel on the menu, and this eel fillet is perfectly marinated and grilled.
We find out later that Mr Sushi King is listed in SMH’s Good Food Guide 2014, and we are not surprised. We thoroughly enjoyed our meal there, both in terms of value (under $60 for two people with drinks), flavour, and authenticity (vouched for by K who has been to Japan multiple times!), and it thoroughly deserves that accolade. We rate Mr Sushi King a strong 8.5 out of 10.
After leaving Mr Sushi King, we both decide that we want a cold sweet dessert for later in the night when we’re back in our overheated hotel room. We drop by the Woolworths and check out their frozen dessert section, and I again find myself cursing myself for the decision to go dairy-free. Yes, I know I feel better and less bloated as a result, but sometimes you just want an ice-cream! I settle for a “Mango Chia Pod” by The Chia Company as the only chilled dairy-free dessert in the fridge at Woolworths and find it strangely reminiscent of mango sago pudding. I wasn’t convinced of this dessert on my first try, but given some time and more desperation, I’d try it again!
We’re told to go to Racine Bakery for breakfast one day, as a more wallet-friendly alternative to Shaun Arantz’s hatted and multi-commended Racine Restaurant. We head there on Sunday morning, only to find that it’s closed on Sundays! We’re completely bummed, and it’s a good reminder that assumptions about standard opening times are perhaps not a good idea in country towns! We end up going to Bills Beans instead.
We drop by A Slice of Orange, a local produce store located on Anson Street to look for potential souvenirs. The store is absolutely packed with goodies – jams, chutneys and the like, but also oils, chocolates, cheeses, pates, pies, cakes, eggs, juices and much more. We could easily have spent over $100 here, but conscious of the fact that we have a long drive back to Sydney and no cooler bags or ice in the car, we limit ourselves!
Just before we leave Orange, we drop into Borrodell Winery as a potential wedding venue, and are just blown away by the views. Located right on top of a hill near Lake Canobolas, the vines stretch as far as the eye can see. There’s a beautiful long lawn where I can envision us holding a wedding ceremony, and a blank canvas of a function room which we could dress up as necessary for the reception. If we did end up deciding to have a country wedding, this would be where we would go!
Driving back from Orange, we drive through the Blue Mountains and stop at the Tomah Gardens Cafe at the Botanic Gardens for a quick afternoon tea, and the chance to enjoy the views. The Blue Mountains are most definitely one of the most stunning destinations in Australia.
And before we know it, we’re home and walking through the front door to a demanding cat who was not very happy about being left at home alone overnight! It was lovely to get away for a weekend (however short!), and simply getting out of Sydney and exploring new places is a great change of scenery.