A bountiful coastline, fertile farmland and flourishing wine country – you can have your cake and eat it too in Sydney and NSW. Travelling from the cultural heart of Sydney to the vinous plains of Hunter Valley there are so many moments to savour and memories that will last a lifetime. Here are just a few you might want to take a bite out of when the opportunity arises.
Sydney's food scene needs no introduction – a world-class food destination, the only trouble you'll have is narrowing down your choices. Sydney's small bar scene will keep the juices flowing as you explore; delve into the natural wine scene at Love, Tilly Devine or Dear Saint Eloise, or drop by to taste your way through the "micro mezcal mecca" of hole-in-the-wall Cantina Ok!. For lunch, you might want to soak up the iconic setting of Bondi with a wholesome meal at local favourite Porch and Parlour or be seen among the chic stylings of Italian local, Totti's. Then at night, it's dinner and a bit of a show with the smoky theatre of Surry Hills' Firedoor, where every dish is cooked over flames and embers. If you want to take some culinary skills home with you, learn from the best at Pasta Emilia's cooking school, focusing on the time-honoured traditions of Emilia-Romagna fare, arguably Italy's richest gastronomic region. Choose to stay at boutique The Old Clare Hotel in the lifestyle precinct of Kensington Street and you'll also be well placed to explore the aromatic wonders of a clutch of Asian eateries at Spice Alley.
Next stop on your culinary journey will see you travelling one hour north-west of Sydney to the lovely riverside settings of the Hawkesbury region. Here you can fuel up on traditional baked goods at the homely Glenorie Bakery (their award-winning signature beef pie is a must-try) or new local favourite, High Hopes Road House, by the award winning team from Sean's Panorama Bondi Beach. For a comprehensive canvas of this rural idyll, the Harvest Farm Gate Trail comes with multiple artisan produce pitstops. And there's plenty to wash it all down with in these parts, such as with the fermented fruity wonders of Hillbilly Cider or Ironbark Distillery's range of beautifully balanced botanical gins. For an intimate dinner at the foothills of the Blue Mountains, tuck into locally grown produce at Lochiel House and stay on for the night at their The Coach House accommodation.
Heading towards the burgeoning foodie hotspot of Mudgee, call in at Jannei Goat Dairy for some multi-award-winning fresh and semi-hard style Australian goat cheese. Or for a divine vegan option detour to Secret Creek Cafe & Restaurant, so-called for its tranquil and secluded gully location.
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In Mudgee itself you can relax with shared plates and an enticing range of craft beers at Eltons Bar and Bites and if you're still peckish there's plenty to nibble on at a tasting at High Valley Cheese Co, whose range of handmade specialty cheeses are all made with local milk and expertise. In nearby Rylstone – a cute town well worth exploration – you can fill up at 29 Nine 99 Yum Cha and Tea house for some moreishly good dumplings
But you can't come to Mudgee without trying its increasingly famed wines; top picks include Logan Wines, Lowe Wines, Robert Stein and The Cellar by Gilbert where you'll be introduced to the unique flavours of the region, each in a gorgeous vineyard setting (for fine dining options among the vines check out Lowe Wine's Zin House or Robert Stein's Pipeclay Pumphouse). But perhaps the most fun way to acquaint yourself with the region's vinous offerings is on a Tour De Mudgee Cellar Door Cycling Tour, a self-guided two-wheel expedition of at least five wineries, that allows you to find your favourite at your own pace.
Rest your head at the luxury boutique stylings of Perry Street Hotel, a stunning heritage building in the heart of Mudgee.
It's time to get your hands dirty at your next stop. At the Hunter Valley Cooking School
you can have fun whipping up lunch (or dinner) from scratch using local organic produce.
But if you're more interested in someone else's culinary wizadry, then try the much-lauded winery restaurant, Margan, with its sustainable menu centred around the harvest from their one-hectare kitchen garden and orchard, along with their own olive trees, free range chickens, beehives and lamb.
There's more vinous exploration to be done in Hunter Valley: at Piggs Peake Winery you'll get to try the classics, such as Hunter Valley semillons and shiraz, but there's also much exploration to be had with some unusual varietals and techniques; at beautiful Whispering Brook you can sample both their wines and their range of premium olive oils; Brokenwood Wines' architect-designed cellar door is the largest in the Hunter Valley region, at 1400 square metres, and features unique circular tasting 'pods'; and Tamburlaine Organic Wines is one of Australia's largest producers of organic wines, concentrating on contemporary practices. Or, if you prefer, you could just let Two Fat Blokes do the hard work for you and jump onto one of their many winery and foodie tours.
It's always nice to end the day on a sweet note and you'll find it at Sabor in the Hunter, a place where dessert dreams come true, in the form of tarts, cheesecakes, puddings, macarons and much more. Sleep it off at the exquisite five-star Spicers Guesthouse in the heart of the Hunter Valley or take a room with sweeping countryside or manicured garden views at Voco Kirkton Park. You'll return home feeling inspired and most definitely replete.