This small city in regional NSW is putting itself more firmly on the tourist map as a burgeoning foodie destination, writes Gillian Serisier.
Bathurst, Traditional Lands of the Wiradjuri people, is changing its image with a new wave of entrepreneurs stepping up with interesting takes on what the tourism experience can be.
That said, some of the established names are rethinking their approach with slick new architecture and crafted encounters that are all about showcasing regionality. Moreover, with a large shift of former city dwellers into the country, what it means to be a local is changing its spots as well. Food is at the heart of this transition, as it often is, with both new and established names making their mark.
In the known camp is Matt Moran, the celebrity chef behind Aria, Chiswick, and Chop House. Having grown up in country NSW, he is giving back with Rockley Pub. One of the key things to know about this venue is that it is a pub. It has great food, but it is a pub. This must be reiterated over and over, as carloads of madams arrive and are flatly disappointed with the venue. Shame on them. The food is excellent, but it does need the weekend crowds that make sense of the sprawling space and roaring fire as it fills with a whole range of people who have travelled to the venue, including the madams who fit right in once a buffer crowd is added.
Closer to town is Moubar Vintage x Bootleg Bakery. Now this is impressive. Effectively a hole-in-the-wall café servicing Brooke Moore House’s leafy and cobblestoned courtyard, the enterprise comprises a partnership between two greats of the local hospitality industry: Nicko Fitzpatrick (coffee aficionado extraordinaire); and John Mannion (amazing baker). Once side by side, the coffee shop (once serving out of a 1950s coffee caravan) and bakery joined forces with sourdough bread, seriously good sweet and savoury pastries, and expertly brewed coffee — their totally-worth-travelling-for staple.
Kisuya Japanese Restaurant is another newcomer. And, while not new to the Central West (with sister restaurant Raku Izakaya in Orange one of the best Japanese restaurants, whether in a city or not), Kisuya (meaning ‘joyful food and drinking place’) is authentically impressive. Twice-cooked pork, flamed salmon, melt-in-the-mouth Nasu Dengaku (eggplant with miso), and the crispy deliciousness of Miso Hotat (scallops with shredded potato) make this an absolute favourite. The interior is simple Raku style, with co-director John Lee shifting from the dark interior of Raku Izakaya to a softer palette with polished terrazzo floors, pale timber furniture, and counter facing paired with pale, slatted timber screens.
About 30 minutes outside Bathurst is Renzaglia Wines, one of the region’s best-known cool climate wineries. The Renzaglia Cellar Door blends rural and architectural well with a ripple iron lined and faced building. A simple ply ceiling and glass-topped counter with family memorabilia, is augmented by a long timber table with benches. In 2022, they won Halliday’s Dark Horse Winery award, with wine critic Tyson Stelzer stating Renzaglia’s wines, “wowed the tasting team”.
Also about 30 minutes outside of town on the Fish River, is Bathurst Grange distillery, where father-and-son team Toby and Nick Jones are creating premium whisky and gin. Plans are in place for a new facility, with architects Schubert and Wong on board for the development. Simultaneously, the current distillery rooms will be reappointed as tasting rooms with the former grand windows of the National Bank in Young, finding a good home.
Back in town, things are getting rowdy with a female-led craft beer brewing company. Founded and managed by friends Grace Fowler (Head Brewer) and Alice Wilson, Reckless uses the freshest ingredients to make their 100 per cent all-natural beer — unpasteurised and preservative-free.