Always looking for a reason to abandon the minutiae of everyday life, during the week it was the birthday of my significant other and to celebrate we decided to leave the city behind us for a few days and head south on the road to Gundagai. Our destination was on a farm in Killimicat located at the junction of the Tumut River and Nimbo Creek, however our first stop was for lunch in Jugiong at the Sir George Hotel, which although it had been established way back in 1885, had had a recent makeover and the addition of some stylish accommodation surrounding a picturesque garden and lush green lawns which complimented the old hotel perfectly. As we hopped out of the car the air was fresh and we donned our warm coats before we sat under the shade of the vines next to the veggie patch and enjoyed a celebratory drink and some warm food, the highlight being some spring lamb sourced from a nearby farm. After lunch we strolled around the beautifully manicured gardens, peered into the on-site bakery before heading inside the hotel and up the creaking wooden staircase to the gift shop located on the second floor. As we wandered around we pondered over the many travellers tales that were told in the hotel over the years since it had opened. If only the walls could talk!
Accomodation at The Sir George Hotel, Jugiong, NSW
Returning to the warmth of our car, we continued south towards Gundagai, before veering west in the direction of Tumut, along dusty roads parting lush green farmlands abundant with grazing sheep and new lambs, and alongside creeks and rivers filled to the brim after heavy rains. Around three in the afternoon we arrived at a rusted milkcan mailbox with the name of the lodge painted on it, and turning right for the last leg of the journey we climbed along a narrow unsealed road shared by cows and calves, until we reached our destination, Nimbo Fork Lodge. The lodge overlooked six huts perched on the banks of Nimbo Creek and from where you could hear the peaceful sound and trickles of flowing waters and observe the natural raw beauty below. Our hearts and minds immediately slipped down a gear to a place where we felt we were in relaxation nirvana.
Tumut River, Killimicat
After a stroll through the muddied grass along the river bank dotted with healthy cows grazing or docile under the trees, we returned to the lodge where we sat on the verandah enjoying a glass of wine and a charcuterie board of local cheeses, bresaola, smoky mortadella, house made lavosh and fruits, whilst taking in the spectacular sunset as it faded away in the distance. As we sat and gazed, a little blue feathered fairy wren hopped around on the floor nearby occasionally flicking its tail.
Charcuterie board, Three Blue Ducks, Nimbo Fork Lodge, Killimicat
The next day after enjoying a leisurely continental breakfast on the verandah, we decided to jump in the car and go on an adventure to see where it would take us. First stop was the sleepy little town of Tumut located on the banks of a picturesque river in the valley of the Snowy Mountains. The highlights were, a walk along the banks of the bubbling Tumut river overflowing with gushing water after heavy rains, the old grandstands at the Tumut racecourse, the not to be missed Millet Broom Factory, the last of its kind in Australia, the labyrinth, and the local brewery. Back in the car we then headed along the road towards Batlow which is known for its fruit orchards and apple cider. We were delighted to come across an echidna crossing the road and later on as we pulled into the carpark of the Wilgro Orchard and Batlow Road Cider, another echidna scurried across the ground where it hid beneath a picnic table. We loved watching as it dug holes into the ground with its long beak to source insects to eat. We felt lucky to have seen one echidna that day, but to have seen two on the same day was an absolute treat.
That evening back at Nimbo Fork we dined in house at the prized Three Blue Ducks restaurant enjoying stuffed zucchini flowers, pork terrine, whole trout sourced fresh from the nearby Tumut River before being char grilled, and ethically produced Provenir beef cooked to perfection, succulent, and melt in your mouth delicious. The meal was almost outdone by yet another spectacular sunset with guests rushing to the verandah to photograph it. I couldn’t leave without purchasing a jar of Three Blue Ducks Ducks-Mite, a yeast spread similar to vegemite which I had been wanting to try for some time. It is delicious served on fresh sourdough with lashings of Pepe Saya butter.
Charred trout caught fresh from the nearby Tumut River
served at Three Blue Ducks, Nimbo Fork.
The next morning we reluctantly bid farewell to Nimbo Fork before setting out on the next leg of our journey to visit my elderly uncle in Canberra, however, first we followed a dirt track alongside the swollen river to Jugiong, giving way to lambs on the road as we headed towards our favourite Long Track Pantry for breakfast. We devoured a pancetta and egg breakfast bun and a generous bowl of yoghurt served with the most divine berry coulis. Oh my yum, it was simply irresistible! Before we departed we picked up a selection of fragrant jams and chutneys all made in house at the pantry.
After a relaxed drive from Jugiong, we arrived in Canberra to warm temperatures and blue skies, and after checking in at the historic Kurrajong Hotel we headed off to the nursing home in Lyneham. My cousin and uncle were sitting in the shaded courtyard when we arrived and it was wonderful to see them both again. We noted how frail my uncle had become since we’d last visited back in January and were concerned for his well-being and longevity in the months ahead. Uncle Earle was being housed in a residential high care facility which felt more like an institution, than a home where we would want him to see out the rest of his life. He said ‘it was a wonderful place’ but his sullen eyes told a different story and we felt his sadness. The conversation flowed. He listened rather than talked and as we said goodbye we hugged him tight. We hoped our visit had contributed in some small way towards him having a better day. His son Neil kindly invited us back to his home to catch up with our aunt and cousins, where his wife Louise had gone to a lot of trouble preparing what felt like a delicious banquet of nourishing and tasty food. The piece de resistance was a divine cheesecake made with a hazelnut base and topped with a berry coulis which rounded out a rather delicious dinner.
On Friday we set out on the final leg of our journey, stopping in the historic village of Bundanoon to stretch our legs and enjoy the gardens before heading off to the quaint little Birch Store in Moss Vale, a foodie's heaven where we bought some Christmas presents. It was cold and we were in need of a stopover at Highlands Merchant for a warming chai before heading onto the majestic Robertson Hotel, set amongst the well established English style gardens and alongside what once was the old railway station. The old hotel had been quite magnificent in its day and one of the country's most grandiose places to stay for societies hoy poloi, however over the years it has become tired and neglected and in need of some restoration. Our room was located at the top of the grand staircase with large heavily curtained windows that looked out over the picturesque front garden. We strolled around the stately rooms peeking into every nook and cranny, then tramped through the water soaked muddied grounds to the stately blue swimming pool located at the back of the hotel. It was cold and the air was filled with a misty haze at which point we decided to return to the warmth of the hotel for an afternoon cocktail in the grandiose sitting room. We ate that night in the hotel dining room. The meal was not so memorable that I’ve now forgotten what we had.
Saturday was the final day of our little regional getaway and the day started off well with the most amazing breakfast at Moonacres Kitchen in the heart of Robertson. Robertson has some of the most arable and lush farmland in the Southern Highlands and the organic produce at the kitchen is sourced from Moonacres Farm nearby in Wilde’s Meadow, the bread and pastries are baked fresh in house and the meats are cured as they hang through the window inside the cafe. As we were ushered to our table in the back corner of the room we were already anticipating what we would order as we passed beautifully plated food being delivered to every table. I could not go past the salted cod and zucchini noodles with a perfectly poached egg on top. My significant other ordered the pancakes made with wholesome milled flour and served with poached rhubarb that had been picked that morning at the farm. I was particularly enthused by the spicy pot of Tea Craft chai. We couldn’t depart without picking up a bunch of fresh rhubarb and mixed organic salad leaves to take home to enjoy.
Our tummies satisfied and more than happy we strolled up to Pecora Dairy shopfront to buy a selection of artisan cheeses. Pecora, which means sheep in Italian, is one of the few sheep dairies in Australia. Cressida and her husband Michael raise around 130-150 sheep for milking on a small two hundred acre farm in Robertson. They have become known as purveyors of fine handcrafted ewe’s milk cheeses in Australia and have won many awards for their produce especially the much loved Bloomy and triple trophy winning Yarrawa. In conversation with Michael he let us in on a little secret, that he and Cressida are opening a French style wine and cheese bar next door sometime in December. As both of them previously worked in corporate jobs in the wine industry I’m sure Pecora Wine & Cheese bar will definitely warrant a return visit to Robertson soon.
Only a few more stops before we’ll be heading back up the freeway to Sydney. If you haven’t already gleaned it, I love food and as part of my travels I must always explore all the foodie places I’ve come to know (you could be forgiven for starting to think this trip was turning into a eat-cation), is why our next stop was to a factory in the back streets and industrial area of Moss Vale to the Mouthwater Sourdough micro bakery to purchase some almond and fig fruit sourdough to take home and some Zumami condiments to serve with our cheeses. And then it was off to Bowral. We popped into Dirty Janes, a retail precinct selling vintage style homewares, books and collectables and also the venue for a naughtiest dog competition being judged by the rather eclectic Gai Waterhouse. I believe the dog that won had a fetish for stealing socks and women’s underwear! Around the corner at The South Store I browsed high end imported fashion as well as designer Collete Dinigans new range of speckled ceramic homewares and fragrant candles handcrafted in Italy. Our final port of call in Bowral was to experience an all consuming honey bar, The Honey Thief with all types of flavoured honeys handcrafted from the Highland hives. After a tasting, we left with a jar of Eucalyptus Amber honey.
We couldn’t leave the Highlands without popping in to see the new cellar door at the Bendooley Estate in Berrima which was designed and fitted out by the hugely talented architect and crafter, Natalie Miller. Overlooking the estate's vineyard we enjoyed a glass of dry Sangiovese and Tempranillo before heading back to the car as the rain came down. Next stop….home.
Today we had a relaxed day before heading out to the Orpheum Cinema in Cremorne to see the documentary The Rescue, which portrays the dramatic rescue of 12 Thai boys and their soccer coach from deep inside a cave in Thailand. With little chance of a successful outcome, volunteers from all over the world came together to pull off what can only be described as a modern day miracle. If you get the chance you really must see it.
Until next time may your days be both serendipitous and enjoyable.