Why Wolgan Valley should be on your bucket list

Rugged sandstone escarpments peppered with eucalypts soar around me as I turn off the steep, narrow, winding road into Wolgan Valley. Far behind are the Blue Mountains and Jenolan Caves tourist crowds and I’m struck by the peacefulness and seclusion that’s such a part of the allure of Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley.

Nestled on an awe-inspiring 2800-hectare wildlife reserve between the Garden of Stone and Wollemi National Parks, the multi-award-winning conservation resort is a bucket-list luxury destination for local and international travellers alike. And for good reason. An easy three-hour drive from Sydney (or 45-minute helicopter ride), the Australian bush comes to life here as if straight from a May Gibbs story. Kangaroos, wallabies, wallaroos and plump wombats happily graze among the 40 private villas.

Why Wolgan Valley should be on your bucket list

The resort provides a kick-back-end-relax, nothing-is-too-difficult kind of experience, with meals, drinks and most activities — think guided nature tours, mountain biking and horse riding — included.

Today, the extra activities include one of the resort’s epicurean events, an intimate masterclass with butcher Anthony Puharich, owner of boutique Sydney butchery Victor Churchill, and his team: head butcher Darren O’Rourke and head chef Romeo Baudouin. Food is central to the resort, with executive chef Nancy Kinchela offering seven daily-changing menus featuring mostly locally sourced produce from the Orange, Mudgee and Bathurst regions. Meat comes selected by Vic’s Premium Quality Meat, Victor Churchill’s wholesale arm that services Australia’s top chefs and restaurants.

In the kitchen, we don butcher’s aprons and are each handed a boning knife. First lesson, holding our knife. “The knives are sharp — if you want to keep your fingers, be careful!” advises Darren. Step-by-step, he guides us through how to bone and trim a lamb loin. It’s a lot of fun, but (as warned) the knives are indeed sharp and it’s not long before someone needs a blue sticking plaster. Ultimately, though, our lamb loins are ready to truss and Darren, with Boy Scout dexterity, teaches us the butcher’s (or slip) knot. This string is my undoing. After maybe five failed attempts, Darren comes to my aid and patiently runs me through the process. Another few minutes, et voilà, I succeed.

Next, Anthony hosts a talk and taste session on 10 more unusual cuts of Australian beef. We sample each and the unctuous braised beef cheek ultimately wins the day.

A picnic lunch at the secluded Panorama Deck, a 10-minute drive from the property’s main homestead, rewards our hard work. Boards laden with charcuterie showcasing the mastery of Victor Churchill chef Romeo, a native of France, await us. It’s a grazer’s heaven.

Our masterclass ends with a lesson in eating — a candlelit long-table dinner under the stars at 1832, the original heritage homestead. Anthony and Darren man the barbecues and spit they’ve carefully tended for hours. Wine and conversation flow as we devour the succulent lamb and perfectly seared steaks sprinkled with garlic salt and chimichurri, together with vegies from the resort’s kitchen garden. It’s a glorious way to end our day.

The story was originally published by delicious and is republished with permission.

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