Mallee Gum Cottage, Gundaroo review: Down-home digs on the Poacher's Way

Read our writer's views on this property below

Peter Vincent finds eating his way around a heritage-protected town a capital idea.

B&Bs can be a mixed bag. At one end of the scale are places that equate "country style" with luxury. They usually have manicured gardens but you rarely venture outside because the bed is so comfortable you are reluctant to leave it. Fine details abound: brass doorknobs and claw-foot bathtubs, fresh flowers and a welcome note, a chocolate heart left on your pillow.

Thankfully I've not experienced the bad end of the scale but I've seen plenty in the middle. Usually every spare inch of space drips with bric-a-brac, the decor is daggy but the towels are fluffy and the hosts welcome you like long-lost relatives, urging you to tuck into a heavily laden breakfast plate.

Mallee Gum Cottage, our base for a visit to the Canberra/Yass region, falls into this middle ground.

My partner and I are on a trip to the nation's capital to see Irish comedian Dylan Moran, whose Sydney shows sold out. Add visits to the National Gallery, the newly opened National Portrait Gallery and the area's wineries, and we have a full weekend ahead of us. But we prefer to stay somewhere more rural and relaxing than "The Can".

Mallee Gum Cottage at Gundaroo, a tiny heritage-protected town with a foodie reputation about half an hour north of Canberra, fits the bill.

At first glance, the cottage doesn't live up to its hype. The online photos suggested a large property with a carefully tended garden, whereas this accommodation is essentially a recent colonial-style timber building with a gabled roof, divided into two separate rooms but situated on what looks like a suburban block. The gardens look untidy and our immediate view is an unpainted timber fence erected to split the block. As I stand on the porch, my eyes settle on a sign staked in the garden, perhaps 10 metres away: "Warning reclaimed effluent. Not for drinking. Avoid contact." Hmmmm.

There are no signs of the animal life mentioned online, either sadly the property's seven chooks were killed by a fox a year earlier.

But inside, our room is nice and cosy comprising a large, comfortable bed and timber floors. Fresh flowers are displayed on a dresser. The walls are painted a tranquil grey-blue and french doors lead out to the porch. The bathroom, however, is small and basic.

Remember those details? Well the lack of tea and coffee facilities in the room irk: instead we need to go outside, to an adjacent (shared) breakfast barn. Call me fussy but I resent having to dress, go outside and even carry an umbrella when I want to make a cuppa.

The one thing that makes Mallee Gum Cottage worth the stay is the warmth and professionalism of owner Susan Adams, a retired Canberra public servant. Not only does she load up the table with a breadth of breakfast choices the equal of any hotel buffet, she knows when her help is required and when we'd prefer to be left alone. When we turn up an hour late for breakfast, she keeps our food warm. Some would have said "tough luck".

Aside from Adams's hospitality, the village of Gundaroo is what gives this little B&B its magic. It was settled in the second half of the 19th century and the main street has a heritage order on it, which has preserved several of the original buildings including the Royal Hotel, now home to Grazing restaurant. Grazing has won a swag of awards including an SMH Chef's Hat in 2005 and a Qantas Tourism Award in 2007 for its modern Australian menu and local wine list. Dinner is sumptuous although my kangaroo main does not need both chutney and mango.

Grazing and Mallee Gum Cottage are just two of several businesses that have cleverly banded together to create a food, wine and art experience called the Poacher's Way, roughly between Murrumbateman and Canberra. We also tried lunch at the Poachers Pantry (excellent) and several of the wineries mentioned in the Poacher's Way handbook.

The Mallee Gum Cottage site calls it "the defining Australian country bed and breakfast". I can only agree if the measure is hospitality alone.


ADDRESS Mallee Gum Cottage, 3 Rosamel Street, Gundaroo NSW 2620

BOOKINGS (02) 6236 8366 or

RATES From $160 a night, including breakfast.

The simple life, for better or worse.

WHY YOU'D GO The soul-cleansing quiet, wineries and the hospitality of the hosts and locals.

WHY YOU WOULDN'T No WiFi or internet, no DVD/TV or tea/coffee facilities in your room, no bath, shared kitchen.

- Settle in for a long, delicious night at Grazing restaurant.

- Sample local wines at the cellar doors within 30minutes' drive.

- Have lunch at Poachers Pantry restaurant, near Hall.

- Marvel at the only $100million painting you may ever see - Blue Poles at the National Gallery.

- Wander through the new National Portrait Gallery.

The writer was a guest of Mallee Gum and Tourism NSW.