Hellyers Road Distillery

With our favourite restaurant, Bayviews, closed for annual holiday, we chose an alternative venue for a mid-week lunch with a very special friend. Hellyers Road Distillery is located in the hinterland behind Burnie with fabulous views across the Emu Valley to the Dial Range beyond.

Behind the walls of the architecturally designed visitor’s centre, interactive tours inform visitors about the origins of the brand and provide guests with the opportunity to pour and wax seal their own bottle of whisky. We have yet to experience the Whisky Walk, something to pencil in for the not too distant future.

We were met in the lobby by a wonderful paper sculpture of namesake, Henry Hellyer and his dog. Hellyer came to Tasmania in 1826 as architect and surveyor for the Van Diemen’s Land Company. He is credited with opening up much of the northwest to settlement and the road we find the distillery on was, at one time, named in his honour.

There is opportunity to relax for a casual whisky tasting treat

and a retail area for those tempted to continue the indulgence at home.

Expansive windows make the most of the rural panorama

and landscaped gardens surrounding the restaurant.

Our meal choice took a while, with so many enticing options on offer but our wine selection was easy, Josef Chromy is always a winner. I finally decided on Five Spice Roasted Pork Belly; Scottsdale pork belly rubbed with five spice, soy, and garlic, roasted and served on buckwheat soba noodles and shredded Asian greens. Finished with tempura mushrooms and an aromatic ginger and chilli broth.

Michael wisely chose something else in fear of random coriander (he was right but I love coriander) and went for The House Special; potted pie of north-west coast beef, braised in Hellyers Road Original Whisky, caramelised onion, and aromatic vegetables, topped with flaky pastry and served with thick cut rosemary scented potato wedges, crusty sourdough and butter. Our lovely friend was happy with Braised Duck Leg with Chorizo Fettuccine; duck leg slow cooked in tomato, onion and herbs, roasted and served with house made fettuccine tossed in tomato sugo with olives, capers, chorizo, chilli and preserved lemon. Finished with parmesan and fresh herbs.

A magnificent rainbow brightened the landscape outside

as our desserts had a similar effect inside. I couldn’t resist the Lemon Delicious Pudding with blueberry compote, served with a rolled up brandy snap filled with lemon mascarpone cream.

My accomplices indulged in a Mini Apple & Raspberry Cake; sautéed Tasmanian apples topped with raspberries, baked in a light fluffy sweet pastry and served with pouring cream and raspberry coulis and a Warm Whisky Raisin Brownie served with Anvers dark chocolate mousse, double cream and VDL cookies and cream ice cream.

I was especially surprised to discover, on paying the bill, a complementary bottle of coffee cream liqueur. Along with a jar of Whisky Relish (a must in any pantry) and a branded whisky tumbler, my collection is complete …. for now.

lunch at Taupo

After our diversions to Huka Falls and Craters of the Moon, we eventually arrived at Taupo in time for lunch. The lovely town has a peaceful setting on the north-eastern shore of Lake Taupo, the largest lake by surface area in New Zealand, measuring 616 square kilometres. The lake is in the caldera of the Taupo Volcano and has a perimeter of approximately 193 kilometres and a maximum depth of 186 metres. It is enormous.

We strolled along the lakefront perusing the fare on offer at various establishments and decided to dine at Lakehouse. Coincidentally, the name of our next accommodation was The Lake House, we took that as a positive sign along with the intriguing  advertisement, presumably for a local beverage.

We claimed a seat, alfresco, to observe the activity on and over the water as well as an unusual art installation comprising a series of red bicycles parked along the esplanade.

We were enthused to discover an extensive range of local wine and craft beer to complement the stone grill meals and gourmet dishes, with food sourced from local producers.

Mata Brewery started off in 2004 with a passion for home brewing and, after positive feedback from friends, soon became a family affair. Students created the Mata brand and with the fortuitous find of second hand brewing equipment for sale, the first brewery was set up in Kawerau, Eastern Bay of Plenty. The enterprise grew over the next 12 years and in 2017, moved to Whakatane where new creations and seasonal releases augment the original beer styles.

The Epic Brewing Company from Auckland and Te Aro, a small batch brewery in Wellington offer more choices on tap.

The eye-catchingly named Rocky Knob presumably refers to Mount Maunganui where craft brewers, Bron and Stu Marshall, started their business as a hobby.

Set amongst vineyards in the Marlborough region, multi-award winning Moa Brewing Company is one of the pioneers of craft beer in New Zealand.

I couldn’t resist a glass of the rhubarb cider (or two) to enjoy with the delicious bacon wrapped chicken breast with asparagus.

Unfortunately, Lakehouse closed their doors in April 2021. With the lease up for renewal, the sudden passing of a family member and the effects of a certain virus on tourism, the decision was made to cease trading.

Cortona revisited

We fell in love with Cortona on our first trip to Italy in 2014 and, even though it was a two hour drive from Montepozzo, we just had to revisit. Yes, it is another Etruscan hilltown but from an elevation of 600 metres, the panorama across the Val di Chiana and Lake Trasimeno is breathtaking.

The alluvial valley covers 2,300 square kilometres and is home to the Chianina cattle, the largest breed in the world and one of the oldest. The beef is sold at premium prices by approved butchers and you will pay handsomely for Bistecca alla Fiorentina in any ristorante.

The Chiesa di Santa Maria delle Grazie was built on the site of a former tannery where, in 1484, an image of the Madonna and Child, painted on the wall of a basin used for tanning leather, began to perform miracles. Because of the steep terrain and presence of a stream, the building wasn’t completed until 1525 and the original icon is still visible on the high altar in the church.

We made our way along narrow stone streets

to Piazza della Repubblica, the centre of the city since Roman times. There was so much to take in around the piazza; gorgeous shops, medieval architecture and sunshine.

We enjoyed coffee & pastries while being serenaded from the steps of the Palazzo Comunale. The town hall was built in the 12th century on the ruins of the Forum of the Roman City and was extended in the 1500s.

Pietro Berrettini was a 17th century Italian Baroque painter and architect. Although he worked mainly in Rome and Florence, he was known by the name of his native town, Pietro da Cortona.

We wandered around Piazza Signorelli

before exploring the shops along Via Nazionale

and celebrating our purchases with an Aperol Spritz in Piazza Garibaldi.

We retraced our steps to lunch at Caffè degli Artisti, seated in the street we savoured our surroundings as much as the food.

Starting with bruschetta, we decided on ravioli with butter & sage, pici with cream, porcini mushrooms, sausage & truffle sauce and pici with walnuts, gorgonzola cheese & pear.

Reluctant to leave, we returned to the car and drove to the top of the town to see Fortezza del Girifalco and the fascinating Basilica di Santa Margherita but that is another story.

Pitigliano

After our relaxing lunch in Saturnia, we detoured on the way home to explore Pitigliano. You might think we’d seen enough gorgeous medieval hilltop towns perched on tufa rock but it’s not something I could ever tire of.

The town is also known as Piccola Gerusalemme or Little Jerusalem, as it became a haven for the Jews escaping from the ghettos of the cities in the 16th century. They lived happily here until 1622 when the residents were confined to the Jewish Quarter and remained so until the Jews were emancipated in the mid 19th century. Many of them moved to the cities and by World War II none were left. Houses seemed to emerge from the rock

as we made our way into town.

We didn’t get far before our attention was diverted by La Dispensa del Conte (The Count’s Pantry), a wonderland brimming with local produce.

With a few purchases in our bags, we wandered to the edge of town

and discovered a spectacular structure with two large arches and thirteen smaller ones incorporated into the walls of the town. The Medici aqueduct was built between 1636 and 1639 to bring running water to the village and the Lorraines added the series of small arches in the 18th century.

From there we had a great view of the road into town and the stunning arched bridge over which we would soon be driving.

Adjacent to the aqueduct, the 14th century Palazzo Orsini is now a museum. The twenty one rooms are filled with antique furniture, jewellery and wooden sculptures as well as sacred art and precious fabrics.

As we drove out of town, there seemed to be one gourmet paradise after another.

It would have been wonderful to spend more time in Pitigliano, there was so much more to see.

Mr. Pickles

After a wonderful morning meandering our way around Hamilton Gardens, we were ready for a spot of lunch. We asked the lovely ladies in the gift shop if they could recommend somewhere, preferably by the river. Without hesitation they suggested Mr. Pickles, a new establishment they hadn’t actually tried but had heard excellent reviews. Despite their detailed directions, we had to ask a couple of locals before finally finding it tucked away off the main thoroughfare.

The interior was light and airy

but on this beautiful day we dined alfresco

overlooking the Waikato River.

The tapas style meal was incredible and we complemented it with a glass of 2018 Seresin Pinot Gris from the Marlborough region.

The first dish, tantalisingly named Saucy Boys, combined fried squid with spring onion, peanuts & house made xo sauce.

Next came baked potato dumplings with crispy bacon, brown butter & chives and beef cheek croquettes with habanero mustard.

Grilled scotch fillet with roast capsicum & zucchini salsa and spiced sticky eggplant with sesame & ginger followed.

With little regard for our cholesterol levels, we couldn’t resist the duck fat crushed potato with parmesan & truffle salt.

Once sated, we wandered along the riverside

for a different perspective of Mr. Pickles

and the magnificent Waikato River.