If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to live on an olive grove in the country, check yourself in to Valleyfield Escape – an idyllic, private luxury getaway located on a top Sydney chef’s private farm
Winter is the best time of year for my favourite kind of holiday: a do-nothing-but-eat-and-sleep weekend away. Of course, you could do nothing but eat and sleep at home, or on a summer beach break – but then you’d start fretting about what you look like in your bathers. And frankly, that’s enough to put anyone over 30 off their dinner.
In winter, there’s no such worry. No matter how much you enjoy your food, it’s nothing a big, woolly jumper won’t conceal.
And believe me, at Valleyfield Escape, you will enjoy your food very much, because this is a DB&B (dinner, bed and breakfast) with a gourmet bent. Two hours’ drive north of Sydney, near the town of Laguna in the Hunter Valley region of NSW, Valleyfield is a thoroughly private, self-contained luxury villa set on a 93-hectare property owned by acclaimed Sydney restaurateur Armando Percuoco.
Renowned for the signature dish of truffled egg pasta served at his popular Paddington restaurant, Buon Ricordo, Armando is the kind of host who makes sure his guests don’t go hungry, even when he isn’t there
Which is wonderful, because having driven up from Sydney after work on a Friday evening, I am ravenous. My grumbling stomach won’t allow time to explore the one-bedroom villa with its contemporary designer fit-out. Instead, the marble-benched kitchen stops me in my tracks.
Cue a few saucepans, an impressively responsive induction cooktop and an array of traditional Italian dishes, which have been lovingly prepared in the Buon Ricordo kitchen, vacuum-packed and labelled with easy-to-follow heating instructions.
Within ten minutes, my fellow gourmet traveller and I are delightedly moaning our way through a three-course meal we’d ordered from the online menu before our getaway.
Delectable entrees of lentil soup and fagottini di carne (sausages with truffled egg) set the scene for a meal that impresses throughout. For mains, we have braciolette napoletana (rolls of veal filled with parsley, pine nuts, sultanas and garlic, cooked with fresh tomato) and galletto alla diavola (char-grilled spatchcock with hot spices and lemon), plus sides of spinach and creamy mashed potato.
To leave room for desserts – Armando’s “thousand-layer” dish of baked apple slices and an orange tart with candied citrus – we reluctantly forego the bucatini alla matriciana, a classic Roman dish of hollow spaghetti with cured pork cheek and tomato. We plan to devour that for dinner the next night, with a fresh loaf of sourdough.
But right now, with bellies fit to burst, there’s naught to do but remain very still and watch movies from the DVD library, until digestion is done and we can no longer resist the call of the king-size bed.
Because we arrived after dark, we don’t fully appreciate our surroundings until morning, when a veil of fog lifts to reveal first an olive grove, then a river, paddocks, a rock escarpment and undulating hills.
Such a view is best appreciated from the comfort of a deep, warm bath, where we wistfully pretend our lives have taken a turn for the better and this idyllic slice of Australia is all ours. And so it is… at least for the weekend.
More to explore
WHAT TO DO
• Take a stroll around the orchards and olive groves, mixing with local wildlife as you check out the collection of contemporary Australian sculpture dotted around the property.
• Relax on the deck with a book or head out by car to enjoy a tipple along the Wollombi Valley Wine Trail; wollombivalley.com
WHERE TO EAT
You’re unlikely to run out of food as the fridge is packed with provisions, including fresh eggs, homemade biscotti, preserves, bacon and Tetsuya’s smoked trout. But if perchance you do, head a few kilometres down the Great North Road to the historic town of Wollombi, where more Italian delights await at Panino Gourmet Deli-Caffe. Try the linguini with prawns and take home a fresh loaf of sourdough. See contact details here
Try it yourself
• Rates for the villa are $380 per night Sunday to Thursday, $500 per night Friday or Saturday, and $890 for a two-night stay on Friday and Saturday ($500 per Friday or Saturday if staying one night only). Breakfast provisions are included.
• Three-course dinners prepared by Buon Ricordo are $65 per head. Barbecue provisions can also be provided.
• Valleyfield Escape, 3471 Great North Road, Laguna, NSW. Tel: +61(0)2 4998 3312; see more here
Eat out in Sydney
• To eat at the fantastic Italian dining institution that is Buon Ricordo in Sydney, book a table by calling +61 (0)2 9360 6729 or clicking here. Address: 108 Boundary St, Paddington, NSW.
Note: This story originally appeared in Australian House & Garden Magazine. All prices correct as at September 2015 but please check valleyfieldescape.com.au for updates