72 hours hunting truffles in NSW
Cooler weather signals the start of the state’s truffle season, with coveted black Périgords unearthed and celebrated from the Southern Highlands to Orange. Here’s how to spend a long winter weekend indulging.
As rare and elusive as they are delicious, truffles are prized all over the world. Growing in super-specific conditions under equally rare trees (for up to six years), these aromatic nuggets are gold to the agricultural and culinary communities. Periodically, parts of NSW including the Southern Highlands and Orange – become pilgrimage sites for foodies fond of fungus. Luckily, both destinations are also known for cool-climate wines, equating to a long winter weekend with plenty of indulgences.
Become acquainted with truffles on a Wild Food Adventure tour
Stay on a working truffle farm
Attend the Vive La Truffle culinary extravaganza
Forage for your dinner on a country estate
Sip wines at an Orange truffière, cellar door and restaurant
The Southern Highlands is the closest wine region to Sydney, an easy 1.5 hour drive south of Australia’s largest city. When you arrive, find a haven of seasonal gardens, cool-climate vineyards and historic towns – places that unite country swagger with the kind of innovation you’d expect in world capitals. Which means you can potter around in gumboots on a farm foraging for truffles… then sit down to a memorable meal in a hatted restaurant. It’s a similar story a 3.5 hour drive west of Sydney in the Central Tablelands, where you’ll find the town of Orange.
Winter mornings in the Southern Tablelands are particularly pretty, with mist rising over neat rows of vines and the sun’s first rays casting the countryside a glorious golden colour. Your foray into the world of fungus begins in Greenwich Park at Ganymede Truffles who will guide your four-hour truffle hunting (and eating) experience.
The pretty estate hosts 900 English and holly oak trees. At the base of these beauties you’ll find black Périgord truffles, with highly trained dogs able to sniff-out the prized packages, intuitively knowing when they are ripe and ready for unearthing. Here you’ll discover the full-cycle farming process: growing, harvesting, drying, grading – and finally eating, with kitchen tips, should you wish to take one home. Or, try some of Ganymede’s truffled honey and salt, for an instant earthy hit.
On one of the wild food adventures truffle hunts your tour continues with the most indulgent three-course lunch you’ll ever enjoy. Think warmed brie with freshly shaved truffle, truffle-infused butternut pumpkin soup, truffled chicken en papillote, carbonara pasta with a dusting of truffle, and macadamia-and-honey ice cream with some of that legendary truffled honey. Every mouthful is paired with a cool climate Southern Highlands wine.
It’s not all indulgence – stretch your legs in Morton National Park, where Fitzroy Falls tumble 80m from the escarpment to the valley floor. You’ll enjoy this vista in the company of yet more wine, before moving on to the 1922 Bundanoon Hotel. A final pinot noir here is perfectly paired with Yarrawarra, Mountain Blue and Curly Red cheeses from Pecora Dairy, based in nearby Robertson.
If you can’t bear to leave, the Bundanoon Hotel has 58 rooms waiting, each with style to spare. For a change of scenery – and the ear of farmers Rainer and Tricia – continue south to Oallen where L’Air Du Wombat Truffles awaits. This self-contained cabin sits on a 40 hectare working farm, from which your hosts pluck truffes to shave over your evening’s meal.
You’ll wake to a full English breakfast with yet more lashings of black gold, naturally. Ideally, you’ve timed your visit to coincide with The Irish Corner Collection is located in the rolling hills of the historical Joadja, offers unique short-stay accommodation and eco huts. The property is set between rolling green hills and tall stands of pine adorning Berrima – Australia’s best-preserved Georgian town., who offer in-home truffle showcase experiences from June to September.
Today, however, you’re here to meet the region’s truffle growers and watch celebrity chefs offer tips on preparing your prized possession. Thus educated, set off for your afternoon’s private truffle hunt.
Pioneering Robertson Truffles is set on an idyllic estate of tall oaks. The Périgords unearthed here are four years in the maturing – this may seem a long time, but the fertile soil in the Southern Highlands actually cuts growing time by years. Your hands-on experience wandering through the truffière is led by the nose of the estate’s dogs, and involves getting a little dirty digging up your finds.
Dust off the soil and head into town to the Robertson Cheese Factory, a shrine to local produce. First stop: the Whey Cafe for a mug of Highland Tea Co peppermint with a side of scones or SoHi Handmade Gelato (cookies and cream, and banana-honey are faves). Next, the Dairy Store to pick up essentials for your truffle-complementing grazing board: premium Australian cheeses, housemade chutneys, charcuterie and heaven-sent East Kangaloon sourdough. Grab some free-range eggs to take away, which – per your morning’s masterclass – are best friends with truffles.
Back at The Irish Corner Collection, you’ve checked in to an individually designed and fully self-sustained eco hut, the rural experience will allow you to switch off, unwind and enjoy a glass of Southern Highlands pinot by the fire, with truffled cheese on bread – does it get any better? Be sure to enjoy the outdoor bath and enjoy the star-filled skies at night to complete your quintessential rural stay.
Steel yourself for two breakfasts today: your first devoured early at The Irish Corner Collection, to fuel your 3.5-hour drive north-west from Berrima to the wine-growing town of Orange. This is one of the state’s most exciting foodie destinations, with postcard-perfect landscapes and potent soil – the recipe for flavourful truffles.
Breakfast two awaits at Orange’s applauded eatery the Agrestic Grocer. During winter, order your smashed avo or okonomiyaki with a slice of the region’s finest Périgords. Then browse the on-site providore, offering everything from flowers to boutique beverages from adjoining Badlands Brewery.
Continue to nearby Borrodell Estate, which features a truffière (foraging held through winter), an orchard, vineyard, cellar door and dining room. They hold an annual winter extravaganza, the Black Tie and Gumboot Truffle Hunt and Dinner, where truffle-laden courses are matched with estate-grown wines. Outside the event, you can still enjoy the fruits of the property’s labour at Sisters Rock Restaurant, savouring views over pinot noir vines and a seasonal menu.
It would be remiss to depart Orange without visiting the town’s other top wineries, like Philip Shaw (try the No 7 Merlot 2015) and De Salis (known for minimal-intervention pinot noir and chardonnay). For bottles from 19 producers consolidated, look no further than Ferment, offering curated tastings to decode the region’s cool climate wines.
Your route back to Sydney will pass the Millthorpe Providore, a specialty grocer offering a final taste of the region via gourmet goodies including local coffee, olives, bread and cheese. And yes, of course, fresh and infused Périgord truffles.