Charlie de la Barre de Nanteuil and his wife Julia are standing in the grand ballroom of their new home, contemplating the future.
With its dark wooden floors, Georgian green walls and sweeping balcony with ornate wrought iron railings, the elegant space conjures up a bygone era.
And well it might. Charlie and Julia are the new custodians of The Globe Inn, an elegant old guesthouse that has seen more transformations than Madonna, but remains a landmark in Yass, just 45 minutes’ drive from Canberra.
Opened as a hotel in 1847, The Globe Inn has served as a boarding house, flats, even the booking office for The Telegraph Line of American Covered Coaches between Yass and Young. In recent years it has been a boutique B&B, offering an ever-increasing number of visitors to Yass a comfy bed and a warm welcome.
Surrounded by vineyards and farms, this NSW southern tablelands town has become a focal point for food-lovers. So it’s fitting that the Globe’s new owners have strong ties to the local agricultural community.
Charlie and Julia are the name – or part of it at least – behind La Barre Olives, combining French heritage, Italian training and a thoroughly Aussie setting to create a distinctively local range of extra virgin and infused olive oils, and vinegars.
The secret to their success, says Charlie, is having two olive groves with different climates and growing conditions. Hardwicke Grove, located just down the road from the Globe Inn, mirrors Tuscany with its cold winters and warm summers, creating oils with intense and robust flavours.
On the other hand, Cowra Olive Grove at Billimari in the central west of NSW is likened to central Sicily, which produces oils with sweeter, more intense fresh fragrances.
The ability to combine oils from each location – capitalising on the flavours of each variety when they are at their peak, and changing the blend as those characteristics morph over time – means La Barre produces distinctive and consistently high-quality oils.
The defining feature of the Canberra region, Charlie says, is its high altitude, which delivers crisp and sunny winter days, and long summers with lots of sunlight. Olive trees love the combination of cold and sun.
“We will never produce as much as other places but we will get more intensity of flavour in virtually everything we do produce,” says Charlie.
“The other fantastic thing about this region is that there are interesting people who have come from around the world to work in Canberra and a lot of them have gone from being in the public service or captains of industry to moving out into the region, having farms and producing things themselves.
“They bring expertise from all around the world – Italians, Croatians and Greeks are making wine, cheese, olive oil. In the past 20 to 30 years, it’s become a much more diversified agricultural scene and a much more interesting one because of it.”
The plethora of amazing produce, and talent, on the doorstep presents many exciting culinary opportunities for the new owners of The Globe Inn.
Charlie and Julia are contemplating a dinner club, in which a rotating cast of chefs will create a special night out for food-lovers in the Globe’s grand ballroom.
“We’d love to make it an experience, with a real social component, where people can meet, have dinner and enjoy a good night out,” says Charlie.
Olive pickling workshops, cheese tastings and more are some of the other ideas Charlie and Julia are mulling over, to continue the Globe’s long history of conviviality.
The benefit for participants is that they won’t have far to go to get ‘home’. The Globe’s four comfortable guestrooms and its Mediterranean-style garden room offer the full package for those who want to make a night of it. And Charlie will be at the pans cooking breakfast in the morning.
Charlie’s olive oil tips
What to look for in a good olive oil: “It should have lovely fresh taste with just a little bit of bitterness and bite to it. That’s what brings out the flavour. It’s a little bit like orange juice. If you have a very sweet orange juice it tastes a little flat. A slightly fresher, younger fruit has a little bit of acid in it and that’s the thing that makes it delicious.”
How to store it: “Make sure it’s kept in a cool, dark place. The worst thing in the world is to leave the bottle half full on your windowsill because the light will break down the oil very quickly.”
How long to keep it: “If the bottle is full it can be kept much longer, but once open you should use it within three to six months.”
While La Barre doesn’t have a cellar door, Charlie is a familiar face selling his oils and vinegars at Canberra’s EPIC markets. La Barre products are also sold at Woden’s Southside Markets and selected stockists, and can be ordered online. The Globe Inn is located at 70 Rossi Street, Yass. Rooms range from $190 to $290 for a family room. Book your stay here.