COM­ING HOME

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It’s also a rea­son that peo­ple are com­ing back, such as the head chef of Charred Kitchen & Bar, Liam O’Brien.

Born in Or­ange, O’Brien grew up in Bathurst, be­fore mov­ing to Thai­land at the age of 14. Flu­ent in Thai and in­spired by the food cul­ture, he worked un­der chef David Thomp­son in Syd­ney be­fore stints at Bistro Moncur and Bent­ley Restau­rant & Bar, be­fore re­turn­ing to Or­ange to open Charred in 2016.

O’Brien’s venue is ar­guably one of the most ex­cit­ing re­gional Aus­tralian res­tau­rants to de­but in years — and it’s no sur­prise, with dishes such as con­fit duck leg with braised chest­nuts, man­darin and celeriac, and fire-roasted beet­root and goats cheese served with hazel­nuts and fen­nel jam.

Both dishes are pre­pared with the help of ‘Lucy’, the restau­rant’s be­spoke wood oven. Made of five inches of solid steel by O’Brien’s old in­dus­trial arts teacher, it’s fed with char­coal, wood and, oc­ca­sion­ally, vine clip­pings and holds pride of place in the kitchen.

Yet while Charred’s menu shows off O’Brien’s culi­nary mastery, it’s not be­holden to one style of cui­sine. Rather, it’s fo­cused on show­cas­ing lo­cal prod­uct.

“When you’ve got such good pro­duce you want to high­light that, as op­posed to strong flavours,” says O’Brien, who no­tice­ably in­cludes a list of ‘lo­cal food he­roes’ — farm­ers and pro­duc­ers who sup­ply his restau­rant — on the menu.

“Or­ange for me is pretty much home. Be­tween here and Bathurst I’ve got so many farm­ers and friends I know that have got great pro­duce. It was a good move for us to come back.”

While there’s a pal­pa­ble sense of achieve­ment shared by the com­mu­nity of restau­ra­teurs, farm­ers, wine­mak­ers and pro­duc­ers who have pro­moted the re­gion, there’s also a sense that this is just the be­gin­ning. “We’re still first gen­er­a­tion, and we’re set­ting it up for the gen­er­a­tion af­ter. It’s a re­ally nice thing to be part of,” says Ward. “The next 10 years will be re­ally ex­cit­ing.”

GET­TING THERE TO BOOK YOUR FLIGHT TO SYD­NEY, VISIT WWW.VIR­GIN­AUS­TRALIA.COM OR CALL 13 67 89 (IN AUS­TRALIA).

CLOCK­WISE FROM TOP The open kitchen and wine se­lec­tion at Charred; and con­fit duck leg from the menu; aerial view of Or­ange vine­yards; chef care­fully plat­ing a meal at Tonic.

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