Owner and stylist at Teacups and Roses. I hire out vintage crockery and accessories for birthdays, weddings, baby showers, high tea events and photoshoots. Visit my website at www.teacupsandroses.com.au
Published June 6th 2012
If you want to escape Sydney for a weekend and get away from it all, then a stay at Willow Vale Mill is the perfect place to relax and unwind. This delightful old flour mill was built in 1886 and has been lovingly restored over the years to operate as a guest house and restaurant. Nestled in the Crookwell Shire, this hidden gem is tucked away in a sleepy little town called Laggan, only a three hour drive South of Sydney.
As you approach Willow Vale Mill at the bottom of its narrow tree lined driveway, the first thing you notice is a charming stone building with traditional wooden windows and a welcoming front porch. Under the shade of magnificent silver green olive trees in the front courtyard, there are a few bistro tables covered in blue checked tablecloths. A cat is strewn lazily across the path enjoying the afternoon sun and a duck waddles around purposefully. Imagine old world Tuscany meets NSW bush and you are on the right track.
Upon your arrival you are given a warm welcome by its owner and host Graham Linney. As you enter the mill it's like stepping back in time with its exposed wooden beams and huge stone fireplace. There are several pieces of original machinery and interesting artefacts decorating the room which resembles more of a lounge than a restaurant. Two cosy armchairs sit in front of the open fire which are perfect to relax in and enjoy a glass of red wine, whilst listening to Graham as he explains the history of the mill. He is an interesting person with a warm and lively personality who clearly has a passion for what he does. He has spent thirty years renovating the mill both inside and outside and is currently improving the grounds of the mill at the next stage of his ongoing project. Keen to be as self sufficient as he can, he also grows his own potatoes and vegetables and sources all of his meat from local farmers.
On weekends the restaurant comes alive at Willow Vale Mill. Families with country properties in surrounding towns turn up for dinner and greet Graham like a long lost uncle. Relying on seasonal produce only, there is no menu or wine list and the informal atmosphere is a refreshing change to a typical Sydney establishment. Everything is on a help yourself basis so guests choose their own bottles of wine off the wine rack and dinner is self service from the bar area. No one bats an eyelid if you go back for seconds either which believe me, you will!
Graham is a fully trained chef and rustles up delicious homemade soups, risottos and antipasto which are just for starters. Make sure you save some room for the mains which may include a chunk of beef as well as rabbit, duck or lamb with fresh home grown vegetables, mushrooms and potatoes. Dessert is a scrumptious affair and won't let you down either.
With a choice of several homemade fruit tarts, cheesecakes and pies with homemade custard or yoghurt, it is hard to choose just one slice. I suggest you starve yourself for a least a week before going to stay at the mill so you can sample everything on the menu! There is a lively buzz as guests mingle in between courses and chat by the warm, open fire so you may even find yourself deciding to share a table with some new found friends. We have certainly met some interesting and unusual characters at the mill during our visits over the years.
Willow Vale Mill is only known by word of mouth and regulars go back as often as they can. You can book in for lunch or dinner on a weekend and also have the option to stay the night on a dinner, bed and breakfast basis. There are three double bedrooms tucked away on the top floor of the mill which are basic although clean and functional. Breakfast is set up in the main lounge on a help yourself basis again and consists of toast, yoghurt, fruit and cereals. Guests are welcome to explore the surrounding grounds and there is a creek and lots of interesting nooks and crannies to discover.
Willow Vale Mill is also located in an ideal position for day trips to Abercrombie and Wombeyan Caves or you can take a scenic drive to the country towns of Gunning, Crookwell or Taralga. Be warned, it can get very cold during the winter months so it is best to wrap up warm.
If you are looking for something a little bit different off the tourist trail that really feels like a home away from home, then Willow Vale Mill is the perfect choice for solo travellers, couples or families. With great ambience, food and company you really will find a little piece of Tuscany in rural NSW.
For bookings contact Graham Linney on 02 4837 3319.
Dinner is $60 per person (not including alcohol).
Dinner, Bed & Breakfast is $120 per person (not including alcohol).