In recent years, the NSW Southern Highlands has been developing regional “clusters” to showcase the region’s sublime produce, historic ambience and gastronomic delights. An easy two-hour drive from Canberra is the Berrima Cluster, which CW editor Julie Samaras was invited to explore.
The General Store & Café
First stop was lunch at The General Store & Café, owned and operated by the talented and charming Italian chef Diego Arata. Born in Italy, Diego offers up home-style Italian fare and tasty breakfast and lunch staples – but it’s on the ever-changing blackboard menu where you’ll find seasonal dishes inspired by whatever local produce is available. My companion relished the house-cured salmon with poached eggs and potato cake, while my platter of hummus, falafels, roasted vegetables, pickles, tomato relish and crusty ciabatta was an edible work of art. Open Wednesday-Monday 7am-4pm; closed Tuesday.
The General Store & Cafe, 1/13 Old Hume Highway, Berrima. Facebook: @berrimageneralstoreandcafe
Mrs Oldbucks Pantry
If you love traditional jams and spreads, you can’t go past Mrs Oldbucks Pantry, Berrima’s iconic jam shop founded in the 1970s. Carol Brown, the delightful owner and “brand custodian”, is passionate about supporting and promoting the Highlands’ products and small producers. Mrs Oldbucks offers 406 lines via its website, with most available in Carol’s wonderland of a store – everything from fruit jams, chutneys and lemon butter, to local honey, nut butters, sauces, mustards, old-fashioned lollies and teas of every variety. Tastings available in store daily.
Corner of Wingecarribee Street and Old Hume Highway, Berrima. T: 1800 440 144; mrsoldbucks.com.au
Next we checked into Hillside Cottage, a beautiful, three-bedroom, historic 1843 cottage which has been sympathetically renovated to offer the latest mod cons while retaining original period features. Each queen-size bedroom has its own ensuite and there is a shared bathroom off the comfortable living room with sofa bed and fireplace. The well-appointed kitchenette was handy to brew up a cuppa to accompany tasty treats from nearby Stones Patisserie while overlooking the rose garden. A great place to stay for couples and families; also popular with wedding parties and guests, it’s the epitome of Berrima charm.
10 Wilkinson Street, Berrima; hillsidecottage.com.au
That evening, we took a short stroll to Eschalot, renowned as one of the Highland’s best fine dining restaurants. Housed in a significant heritage stone cottage with white tablecloths and elegant décor, the ambiance is elegant yet relaxed, the service is first-class yet friendly, and the menu is innovative with a focus on sourcing fresh produce of the highest quality, local where possible – some from the garden right outside. The award-winning wine list also includes a selection of the best offerings from Southern Highlands winemakers. Owned and operated by maitre d’ Cass Wallace and her husband, head chef Matthew Roberts, the couple have two decades of hospitality industry experience behind them. Easy to see why Eschalot is popular with locals and as a half-way point for diners from Canberra and Sydney to meet. Open for lunch and dinner Thursday-Saturday; lunch only on Sundays.
24 Old Hume Highway, Berrima. T: 4877 1977; eschalot.com.au
The Courtyard Café Berrima
On Sunday morning, we wandered down a little lane off the main street to find this hidden gem. Former school teacher Anthony Banboukjian has revamped the place to create a rustic country café that serves up traditional Australian fare – hearty breakfasts and lunches, towering burgers and smooth coffee. My smashed avo on toast with fresh local greens hit the spot while my companion’s generous serving of fluffy pancakes with macadamia nuts, syrup and ice-cream was enough to satisfy the most ravenous appetite. It’s a family-friendly space that welcomes everyone – and can accommodate big groups, too. Open 7 days 8.30am-3.30pm (till 4pm on Sundays)
Shop 2-4, 117 Old Hume Highway, Berrima; 4877 2729. Facebook: @courtyardcafeberrima
Bare Body Beauty Scrub Hub
Right opposite The Courtyard Café you’ll find a yurt filled with delicious, all-natural skincare and beauty products made by local mum Donna Jennings, often sourcing local produce such as the lemons and lavender from the family farm. The shop smells divine; natural scents of rose, lemon, vanilla and coffee drift in the air. The products smell good enough to eat – and you probably could, because there are no added nasties – but you’ll reap the benefits better by applying the luscious scrubs, lotions and serums to your skin! Donna created Bare Body Beauty to not only support herself and her two children, but to offer all nautral, pure, organic skincare to the masses. The Scrub Hub is the little sister to the main shop in Bowral, which also runs workshops. Check out the full range in store or online. Just beautiful!
Shop 5 The Gazebo, 117 Old Hume Highway, Berrima; barebodybeauty.com
To find out more, visit southernhighlandsfoodandwineclusters.com.au