WHEN I think about travel experiences and the places I remember most, my memories are all inextricably linked to food.
In Rome, it’s a tiny, non-descript taverna near the Colosseum, where the food is “casalinga” rustic and served without fanfare by a stern woman who rarely smiles; in Spain, it’s the best tapas in the country in the narrow backstreets of San Sebastian and holding up toothpicks to the staff to indicate how much I’ve eaten; in Portugal, it’s about a barbecue loaded with fat sardines in nosheries anywhere from Porto to the Algarve.
In Orange, my food travel compass is fixed at Lolli Redini, hatted recipient of a string of industry accolades since opening in 2001. Lucky to have family in town, I visit whenever I can and I’m never disappointed.
If you’re into fads and molecular cooking, forget it: chef Simonn Hawke’s not into flash-in-the-pan ideas. Her shtick is solid, generous cooking inspired by French and Italian cuisine starring seasonal ingredients sourced from the fertile Central West plains.
That includes Grassland Poultry Heritage Sommerlad Chickens from Wellington, Crack Willow Farm pork from Oberon and goodies from local Mastronadi Orchard.
Hawke’s partner Leah Morphett curates one of the best cool climate wine lists around, with some interesting drops to placate the palates of wine snobs.
The cheese souffle at Lolli’s would feature at my Last Supper, but it’s all splendid.
In case you wondered, the late Lolli Redini was a Tuscan nonna and friend of the Hawke clan. I’m sure she’d raise a glass to this classy fine diner.