Orange is one of my favourite places in the world (along with Canberra of course) and is a simple and scenic three-hour drive from the nation’s capital. The chance of a visit to Orange last week coincided nicely with its 26th annual F.O.O.D week celebrations, and I was keen to make the most of the foodie options during my short transit.
F.O.O.D week is an annual event staged in and around Orange. Anyone who has ever visited knows that it is a surprisingly snug secret foodie destination, which is not surprising given it is situated in such a food basket region. What is surprising is how slow it has been for word about the great wines, breweries, and restaurants in this region to catch on.
With my F.O.O.D program booklet in hand, I was keen to participate in some midweek action during my visit. Should I try a sunset tour at Cargo Rd Wines or wander down to the park for a spit barbeque with pork and beef grilled to accompany local beers? Or perhaps splurge on a five-course food and art degustation menu? But feeling cold and tired and not having booked any event, I instead ended less than 50 metres up the road at the pretty Union Bank building, now the site of The Union Bank Wine Bar.
I had landed in F.O.O.D central without planning it. Last weekend Union Bank hosted one of the major F.O.O.D events of 2017, a drought relief fundraiser called Feast for Farmers. And each weekend during F.O.O.D it hosted a pop-up wine event.
But you don’t need to wait for F.O.O.D for an excuse to come here. It is homely and romantic with candles and fairy lights. I’m a total sucker for fairy lights. I wasn’t there on a date but felt like I wanted to be. The Union Bank is THE place to take a date to dinner on a romantic weekend away.
I almost ordered the comforting sounding roast duck ragout with potato gnocchi ($30) but decided to focus on my wellness goals and ordered the poached chicken, sweet corn, shimiji mushroom and macadamia ($30). This was much more exciting and beautifully zen presented than the description sounded, with the chicken perfectly soft from the poaching and slightly pan fried on the outside and nicely complemented by the corn sauce. I paired this with a crisp and citrusy glass of Orange region Brangayne Pinot Grigio.
My friend’s roast lamb with pilaf rice and tabouleh ($35), was generous, full-bodied and jewelled with pomegranates on top. I liked the chunky home-style tabouleh that accompanied it; it felt like a salad rather than a traditional roast but was still substantial.
The Union Bank could have been a pretentious restaurant providing over-priced fare to cashed up Sydney tourists. Instead, the approach here is to provide quality innovative food using local produce, with local wine options to match. The outdoors area is relaxed and feels like a stylish beer garden. I loved the display of free vegetables and an honesty box system – the restaurant has developed a program to grow many of its own vegetables. This is a place to rejoice in good food without the pomposity.
What: The Union Bank
Where: Corner of Sale &Byng Streets, Orange
Open: Monday – Saturday, Midday – Midnight, Sunday, Midday – 10pm
Phone: (02) 6361 4441