French flavour and flair: Truffle hunting in the Peugeot 3008
17 May 2021
9 min read
Paid partnership with Peugeot
In autumn, the backroads that criss-cross through the villages of the Southern Highlands are lined with colour – gold-tinted trees and white houses cloaked in flame-red ivy, blue skies overhead and meadows of vivid green.
Fitting then, that we make our approach from behind the wheel of the Peugeot 3008, which is finished in a vibrant Elixir Red that perfectly accentuates the kaleidoscope of colours that burst from the scenery.
Francophiles, we may not be able to get to France at the moment, but leaving the thrum of Sydney behind us, a scenic drive south leads to Robertson Truffles, one of Australia's best-known truffle farms, for a French-flavoured weekend.
Pulling up our 3008 at the white, French country-style farmhouse, we meet Tanya and Patrick Moroney, who bought the property in early 2020.
EXCITING AND ELEGANT - PEUGEOT'S i-COCKPIT
The words "timeless" and "technology" aren't used together often, but a clever fusion of elegant French style and cutting-edge equipment ensures the cabin of the Peugeot 3008 manages to perfectly deliver both in spades.
Focus in the cabin is immediately drawn to Peugeot's innovative i-Cockpit, which delivers an all-about-the-driver experience unrivalled in the medium SUV space.
That story begins with the compact, sporty-feeling steering wheel, and the 10-inch high-definition central screen that controls everything from your smartphone mirroring to 3D navigation and voice control. But modern meets timeless directly below it, where a single, elegant line of Piano Keys provide instant access to the vehicle's key functions.
Timeless yet technologically advanced, elegant yet exciting, the Peugeot 3008's interior is a masterclass in modern luxury.
While the truffiere's first truffle was harvested in the cold soil of Tasmania's Huon Valley in 1999, the Robertson trufferie was established only seven years later by then owner Ted Smith. It shot to truffle stardom when the farm yielded Australia's largest truffle, a French black perigord weighing 1.11kg, worth roughly $2000. That record still stands today, and as I wander into the truffiere – as a truffle orchard is known – it's easy to spy the crazed earth where little truffles are starting to erupt from their cold beds.
Tanya kneels beside a patch of broken soil reverently. "Oh look, this one's crowning!" she says excitedly. And there, peering out from the ground, is the unmistakable shape of a black truffle. Tanya coos to the precious fungus as she sweeps the dirt from around it and oh, so gently levers it from the earth.
The truth is undeniable – truffles are no supermodels. Lumpy, misshapen and dark brown, they are rough to the hands as hundreds of tiny sharp pyramids make up their skin, and when sliced open, a cross-section of the coffee-coloured fungus is a web of black veins.
he truffle dogs have arrived! The two glossy American Labradors catch scent of the fungi and it’s noses to the ground and tails in the air.
The truffiere comprises perfectly straight rows of around 300 English oaks, cloaked in their autumn colours, and the smaller, evergreen holly oak.
"The first week of June is the official beginning of the truffle season, although it will probably start earlier, from what we see happening in the truffiere," says Tanya.
Singles, groups, hen's parties and millennial foodies are all drawn to Robertson Truffle's weekend truffle hunts. "We've even got a wedding proposal happening soon – he wants to plant a ring in a truffle for his girlfriend to discover!" says Tanya.
While we've had no trouble unearthing several truffles, the harvest is traditionally aided by truffle pigs. "But can you imagine holding a huge pig back from eating the truffles?" asks Tanya.
This year, the farm expects to produce its biggest haul of truffles.
As on cue, we hear a loud baying and Seal and Archie bound out of their car – the truffle dogs have arrived! The two glossy American Labradors catch scent of the fungi and it's noses to the ground and tails in the air.
"Show me!" command their handlers, Marilyn and Lee-Ann, and the dogs point their noses toward the truffles.
This year, the farm expects to produce its biggest haul of truffles, including their first ever summer truffles, which are smaller and less pungent than their black cousins, and also easier on the wallet.
Which brings us to price. At $3 a gram, or $300 a kilogram, truffles demand some cosseting.
After we lift a handful of little fungi from the ground, Patrick brushes the truffles then gently washes them clean in preparation for lunch, which is served on long benches by the farm's fire pit. I smother thick wedges of sourdough in truffle-flecked butter and Tanya serves a cheesy quiche over which she grates a truly generous amount of truffle.
I smother thick wedges of sourdough in truffle-flecked butter and Tanya serves a cheesy quiche over which she grates a truly generous amount of truffle.
"I also make shortbread truffle cookies, and the smell when they're cooking fills the whole house," she says. The scent – a renowned aphrodisiac – is musky and earthy, pungent and intoxicating.
"Sometimes, we just put fresh eggs in a jar with a truffle, and it infuses its fragrance into the eggs for truffled scrambled eggs, without having to even cut the truffle," adds Patrick, as we move to the warmth of the sunny farmhouse kitchen, where their giant Irish wolfhound, Aisling, lazes in the afternoon sun.
ELEMENTAL DESIGN THAT DELIGHTS
To you or I, the textural grille at the front of the Peugeot 3008 is stylish design feature that elevates this mid-size SUV beyond mere transport and into the realm of mobile art. But like with all great design, there's a deeper meaning here than pure aesthetics.
In fact, the 3008's designers sees the frameless grille as a way of "connecting all elements", linking the fins under the LED headlights with the sculpted side panels and the detailing at the rear, and delivering a holistic design story that ensures the Peugeot 3008 is among the most striking vehicles on Australian roads.
Little wonder, then, that it's also among the world's most awarded SUVs, including multiple Car of The Year wins across the UK and Europe.
The backdrop to this very European farm is purely Australian: the property butts up agains the Morton National Park, whose residents often drop in for a visit – stolid wombats and eastern grey kangaroos, bush wallabies and whole families of echidnas.
Afterwards, at the Robertson Hotel, vast plates of pappardelle smothered with a rich lamb ragu hit the table, and go arm-in-arm with a glass of St Maur's pinot noir, which made in nearby Exeter, then it's time to bed down in the quirkiest bed & breakfast in Tongarra, at the bottom of the Macquarie Pass.
The backdrop to this very European farm is purely Australian.
Infamous or exhilarating, the eight-kilometre Macquarie Pass is a driver's dream. Part of the Illawarra Highway that links the Southern Highlands to the NSW South Coast, it was built in 1898 on an older route used by the Wodi Wodi people. With its hairpin bends and single lanes, it requires driver focus, even as the Peugeot 3008 deftly holds the road through the many of curves as we cruise past dew-laden rainforest and sheer rock faces, the early sun shooting beams of light through the towering eucalypts.
It may be early morning, but Robertson yields plenty of finds, including the croissants made onside at Robertson's Moonacre Café, the emporium of wonders in the Robertson Cheese Factory, and the Big Potato – right in the centre of the town – fuelling Australians' love of oversized icons.
We might be a long way from France, but it’s nice to have a little French luxury, here in Robertson, and in the Peugeot 3008.
Thus refuelled, we're back on the road as a flock of white cockatoos rise from the dewy grass while we drive through an old railway crossing, their harsh voices mocking us as we pass. Mist lingers in grassy vales where cattle graze, a family of guinea fowl run across the rough country lane that leads back to the highway, and back to Sydney.
We might be a long way from France, but it's nice to have a little French luxury, here in Robertson, and in the Peugeot 3008.