Making some furry friends at Gundaroo

Sue Harborne is greeted by one of Eaglewood’s retired racehorses.
Sue Harborne is greeted by one of Eaglewood’s retired racehorses.

“Gunda bloody where?” asked my sister when I told her where I was headed.

For the record, Gundaroo is on the northern outskirts of Canberra, but I wasn’t there yet. I was having lunch at the Poacher’s Pantry, at Springrange, very much on the outskirts of Gundaroo. You could easily say it was on the outskirts of the outskirts of Canberra.

The restaurant at Poacher’s Pantry … the adjacent garden supplies much of its produce.

The restaurant at Poacher’s Pantry … the adjacent garden supplies much of its produce.

The place — complete with long driveway through manicured gardens — was impeccable, the hosts delightful, and the food simply awesome.

The property has been in the hands of the Bruce family since the early 1970s, for much of those years under the stewardship of Rob and Susan Bruce, and, more lately, their son, William, who has the additional responsibility of caring for its vines.

In that time, the Bruces have established a thriving smokehouse, widely recognised as one of Australia’s best, plus a winery trading under the Wily Trout label and a restaurant, which, like the smokehouse, is under the extremely able command of Marcel Schulter.

I’ve been led through the Wily Trout range of wines, which includes a lip-smacking, peppery shiraz, and given a sample of the type of fare that I can expect for lunch.

The signature smoked rack lamb in the restaurant at Poacher’s Pantry.

The signature smoked rack lamb in the restaurant at Poacher’s Pantry.

The choice of main course is simple. It obviously has to be the signature smoked rack lamb, spelt-crusted and presented with yellow beetroot, elderflower and walnut jus.

The verdict is simple. In a word, delicious. Close to the best lamb I’ve ever eaten.

I’m back in the area a few days later, this time near Murrumbateman, and staying at Eaglewood B&B, established a few years ago by Rob and Sue Harborne on their alpaca stud.

It seems miles from anywhere — and given mobile and internet access it might well be — but the local cabbie has no problem finding it to take me to the local for dinner.

The cottage at Eaglewood … complete with splendid garden and roses in full bloom.

The cottage at Eaglewood … complete with splendid garden and roses in full bloom.

Anyway, the garden is gorgeous, particularly at this time of year with roses in full bloom, and the old sheepdog on the veranda an absolute and just so friendly treat.

The website warns of alpacas not always being quite as friendly as visitors would like, but I find a wander through the herd of 130 or so quite unintimidating.

Mostly they’re quite shy and aloof and tend to leave strangers alone when approached, but a few are more than happy to come straight up to Sue and almost demand a cuddle. All seem to have names — and respond to them.

Some of the 130-or-so alpacas at Eaglewood … mostly they’re quite shy and aloof.

Some of the 130-or-so alpacas at Eaglewood … mostly they’re quite shy and aloof.

So do the half dozen or so horses that they Harbornes keep, all of them apparently retired racehorses.

Staying at Eaglewood really is a hands-on experience.

Sue cooks breakfast in the kitchen at home, and it’s hearty country fare, starring a couple of poached eggs made from the previous day’s labour from the hens along the way.

It’s certainly a pleasant way to spend an afternoon and evening before the journey back to the Central West.

Susan Bruce outside the old barn at Poacher’s Pantry.

Susan Bruce outside the old barn at Poacher’s Pantry.

IF YOU GO

Poacher’s Pantry, 431 Nanima Rd, Springrange. Phone 02 6230 2487. Visit www.poacherspantry.com.au 

Eaglewood B&B and Alpaca Stud, 156 Isabel Drive, Murrumbateman. Phone 02 6227 0243. Visit www.eaglewood.com.au 

John Rozentals was a guest of Destination NSW.