Take a travelling gourmet escape with a Food Path tour through the cool climate Southern Highlands region of New South Wales, just an hour and a half drive from Sydney airport.
Escape to the country with a Food Path tour lead by Jill Dyson that will see you talking to farmers, growers and chefs in the cool climate wine region around Bowral, Moss Vale, Mittagong, Sutton Forest and Bundanoon.
Simply pick up a hire car with a GPS at Sydney airport and head out along the Hume Highway to discover the small villages and a landscape very different to Queensland’s. It’s a region where the four seasons have a large impact on the vistas and the farm gate produce.
Jill takes all types of tours, from sausage or jam making classes to market or truffle tours, but my day was spent exploring the farming side and chatting to the people behind the wonderful produce.
The day started with breakfast at Magpie Cafe in Berrima and sitting under leafy green trees and a brilliant blue sky to enjoy poached curried eggs. I could just as easily have been temped by the French toast with crispy bacon and maple syrup or the ‘warm the cockles of your heart porridge’.
First road stop with Jill was to meet Kym Burrows at Sutton Forest Olives and hear how their award winning olive oils are grown and produced. Kym took me for a walk through the olive grove to check how the new season olives were progressing.
At Montrose Berry Farm near Exeter, I sat on the verandah of Montrose House (circa 1861) with owner Fiona and took tea. The house is surrounded by a working berry farm which is open during the fruit picking season for ‘pick-your-own’. Check their website for more details. There’s also a farm shop where you can buy their delicious jams, sauces and spreads and the berry pies are legendary.
Katrina Spark at Redleaf Farm near Fitzroy Falls farms saddleback pigs free range. The pigs were hungry when we arrived and it was a delight to see them enjoying their ‘muesli’ breakfast of mixed grains followed by an ear rub. This is a farm where the animals are treated with respect and low numbers enable a hands-on approach. The Saddleback sows – Pepper, Ginger, Nutmeg and Poppy, look as happy as a ‘pig in mud’ as they snuffle around the fields. Redleaf Farm pork is sold at around 10 to 12 weeks old and the suckling piglets are snapped up by local and Sydney hatted chefs. It’s often on the menu at much lauded local venue Biota Dining in Bowral.
The final Food Path tour stop is a two course lunch with a glass of Southern Highlands wine at Katers Restaurant at Peppers Manor House just 15 minutes from Bowral. Chef Daniel James is so passionate about local produce he has turned an atrium ground floor space into a market garden growing all types of vegetables. The food matches the elegant dining room and I’m especially pleased to find some of the ingredients were picked from the restaurant’s garden that morning. Daniel also turns out an exquisite high tea for day visitors.
I stayed the night at Bendooly Estate’s Book Barn Cottage. Formerly the gatekeeper’s residence, this fully self-contained house would be great for a family or small group of friends and sleeps five.
There’s a ‘My Southern Highlands’ available a the App Store filled with plenty of extra information on the area, or find out more from Visit NSW.
Disclaimer: Kerry Heaney travelled in the Southern Highlands courtesy of Destination NSW.