Somehow, we’ve landed at the edge of heaven: a rocky platform high above a bright green tableau of paddocks and fields that sweep out and away to a distant white-crested curl of blue we decide must be the Pacific Ocean.
Before us – and the reason for the impromptu 2.5 hour round trip walk through a profusion of lofty gums, cascading ferns and tightly packed corridors of Banksia trees that suddenly open up, 700 metres above sea level, to a rocky platform and this breathtaking view – are the intriguingly named Drawing Room Rocks; nuggety, flat-topped formations that look uncannily like tree stumps; but are so named for their resemblance to tables and stools.
It being a school day, we’ve happily had the place to ourselves. And apart from the occasional birdsong, and a lyrebird we spy rooting about in the bosky bush, it’s been blissfully peaceful and quiet.
Berry, as it turns out, is full of surprises like this. Off the main street and its assortment of cafes and dime a dozen homewares stores, we come upon the delightful Berry Sourdough Cafe, a licensed restaurant and bakery in an airy, converted Federation house. A woodfire oven blazes in one corner where sweet and savoury pastries, bread and local condiments are sold; while the rest of the room and leafy verandah out front are given over to dining. My meal, a crispy-skinned local kingfish – one of two blackboard lunch specials – arrives perfectly cooked atop a balanced sweet-sour salad of silky roasted capsicum, pomegranate, cherry tomatoes and radish.
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Dinner, at newly hatted SOUTH on Albany, is another find; a warm and elegant space where we’re soon seated beneath a striking artwork of black and white streaks that runs the length of the room. Even at our early 6pm sitting, the place is filled with couples engaged in conversation beneath soft lighting while the tinkle of jazz plays on the restaurant sound speaker. The menu – an interesting take on classic European dishes – focuses on regional produce, as does the wine list, with a peppering of local offerings and a good selection of wine by the glass. We start with freshly shucked Merimbula Sydney Rock Oysters, bursting with salty-sea goodness, before moving onto a simple salad of roasted beetroot, fig and marinated Binnorie feta intermingled with nuts and grains. The winning main, a classic duck confit, arrives on a bed of parsnip puree, the sweetness given a tangy lift with a spicy eggplant chutney and cider jus.
Our accommodation at Silos Estate, a boutique winery in Jaspers Brush, a few minutes drive out of Berry proper, rounds off an utterly romantic mid-week getaway. After a quick tour of the grounds, where we learn the property is self-sustaining with a minimum carbon footprint - solar energy for power, self-irrigated vines and alpacas to tend to the grass – we return to the cellar door to sample the wine, including three delicious sticky wine vintages.
The next morning, we waken in our comfortable and spacious suite to a stunning view of the vineyards and distant dusty blue of mountain ranges. A relaxed breakfast on the balcony, final wander around the grounds and quick lunch at Silos Restaurant, and we’re on our way, feeling completely refreshed and ready to return to the city.
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Photos by Belinda Luksic