With international borders closed, and state borders problematical at best due to the fluidity of COVID-19, food and wine lovers are now exploring their own state’s regions more. Tonic, established in 2003, and located in historic Millthorpe – just a short trip from Orange – is a local gem that is a must-stop on any journey. Owners Tony and Nicole Worland have created an exceptional restaurant that has stood the test of time, showcasing local produce and wines whilst maintaining the warmth of regional hospitality.
The culinary pedigree of Chef Tony Worland is obvious to see on the plate, having worked with Gordon Ramsay, Matt Moran, and Michael Manners. The five-course chef’s menu for $80 is incredible value, and I start off with a vibrantly coloured and well-presented beetroot and goats curd salad. It is a triumph of multi-layered textures and reveals that this chef fully understands the importance of acidity to perfectly balance out a dish. This is followed by oxtail minestrone that I must say is slightly awkward to navigate when served in a dainty teacup, however all is forgiven once the depth of flavour and clarity is tasted. It is not long, once the divine pasta with tender oxtail filling is devoured that the teaspoon is abandoned, and the remainder is drunk straight from the cup. It is hard not to appreciate the level of techniques demonstrated, and one immediately senses that you are in very safe hands at Tonic.
The white tablecloths and nicely designed open space lets the lovely natural light, and slow meandering of day trippers passing by, inform the relaxed ambience and measured pace of the meal. Service is very accommodating and professional, and there is no place you would rather be at this point. The first of the major savoury dishes, nicely pan-fried snapper with a nuanced and aerated bouillabaisse sauce, once again emphasises the fundamental foundations of flavour, texture and acidity that underpin the menu. Likewise, the well-seasoned and roasted spatchcock presented two ways with celeriac and figs is technically flawless and wins you over with the aromatics, before consummating the deal with a synergy of flavours.
By the time the more-ish date tart dessert arrives on a matte black slate, you begin to realise that Tonic is simply everything you want from a regional dining experience. It is a poster child for the food and wine bowl in which it resides, and is overseen by a very accomplished chef who expertly showcases the impressive bounty available in Central Western New South Wales. As I sit back and watch the majestic clouds gather in the distance, it is a salient reminder that memorable experiences exist if we are prepared to make those journeys that had been put off for far too long. I would highly recommend Tonic as just one reason to do exactly that, and I for one, will be definitely be returning to celebrate this iconic regional restaurant.
By Dane Richards
Corner of Pym and Victoria Street, Millthorpe NSW 2798
02 6366 3811
Open: Thu, Fri & Sat for dinner; Sat & Sun for lunch
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