The Hunter Valley has many beautiful restaurants that showcase the fine wines and gourmet food that the region is famous for producing. Here are three restaurants that I have tasted, savoured, and consider a must for any Hunter holidayer.
1. Tatler Tapas Cafe
We introduced our tastebuds to the Hunter's finely cured flavours with a long and leisurely lunch at Tatler Tapas Cafe. This was ideal as it allowed us to enjoy a range of flavours from around the world, and a range of the flavours that Head Chef Katy Carruthers has perfectly infused.
The small tapas dishes are great as they slowly but surely satisfy you. Between us we got to taste just about everything on the menu. Included was the baked mushrooms with herbs and feta ($22), the prawns Saganaki dish (that came served in a pot of creamy tomato and chilli sauce, topped with feta - $26), a tasty salt and pepper squid ($24), and chorizo sausage rolls that came in a crunchy pastry with some chutney on the side ($24). Every ingredient was rich in flavour and was nicely accompanied by Tatler's white and rosé wines.
Oh, and did I mention that all this is to be experienced before a beautiful panorama of countryside, vineyards and mountains? The views from many Hunter restaurants are to-die-for, with Tatler being no exception. A stroll through these vineyards in the fresh country air was a great way to wind-down after the meal.
A leisurely drive up Mount view road, above one of the valleys full of vineyards, and you will reach Bistro Molines. It goes without saying that this fine European-inspired restaurant tops off its prided culinary experience with spectacular scenery. With the peace and quiet of the countryside, along with picturesque hills, valleys, vineyards and even a small lake, this is as a ideal as it gets for dining venues.
Watch this peaceful panorama of hills and vineyards as you dine.
The restaurant is elegant, and the dishes are French and other European delicacies. For the entree, we ordered a couple of platters - or should I say Charcuteries - of duck liver pate, pork brawn, terrine de campagne, pickled vegetables, cumquat jam and Melba toast ($28). The velvety meats, alongside complementary vegetables and breads, is sure to be an enjoyable gourmet beginning to your Bistro Molines meal.
The charcuterie of duck pate and other accompaniments.
For starter, I could not resist also ordering the zucchini flower dish ($26). With a crisp, seasoned shell, goats cheese filling, and a fresh Frisee salad atop with tomato aioli, this dish was thoroughly enjoyed.
Zucchini flower with a light salad and tomato aioli.
Mains were gourmet meats, accompanied by a bed of vegetables. There are meats for all tastes. There is Sauteed Lamb Kidneys in Red Wine Sauce (with petite vegetables - $38) for the more adventurous foodies. Then, among the list, there are poultry delicacies like the Twice Roasted Hunter Duckling with braised cabbage and orange glaze ($40), and the chargrilled Spatchcock that I had ($40). The mouth-watering meat melted off the bone and was so easy to lap up with the kumera puree and corn.
Reservations for this delicious, fine-dining experience with a heavenly view are essential. Call (02) 49 909553 in advance so that you don't miss out while you are in the Hunter. I haven't even mentioned the beautiful French desserts and cheese platters - if you are not already tempted enough for a visit, you should be by now.
Address: 749 Mount view Rd, Mount view, NSW
3. Villa du Pays
One evening on an indulgent weekend away in the Hunter, we visited this elegant French Chateau in the middle of quiet countryside. We left Villa du Pays thinking the experience was superb and unable to think of any other way of describing it apart from saying it was "the best-tasting experience ever".
On this evening, we were treated to the set degustation menu that was like nothing we've had before - from around $90 per head, but certainly worth it. If you visit Villa du Pays this winter however, you will get to try a set menu for a more budget-friendly $50. If you visit during the day, you will get to try out their brunch/lunch menu, and will get to do so with views of the Brokenback Mountain range and surrounding scenery of Leogate Estate Wines.
The set menu regularly changes, allowing for a unique dining experience to be had on different occasions. One thing that remains the same are the chefs' focus on showcasing the flavour of every ingredient and every layer of their dishes. This is why every bite tastes divine.
Among our heavenly food journey was a small and refreshing serve of tuna and vegetable compote, a dish consisting of beetroot and a little showcase of an array of sauces, and a jar of divinity itself - truffle mash potato with herbs. For the main I had a crispy skin duck done to perfection, served with nuts, sweet potato, and drizzled over with a sweet sauce.
Toward the end of the degustation set dessert I tried my first ever meat-based dessert. This was duck mousse, and contrary to what the name may imply, it actually tasted sweet and was a nice part of our dessert. I say 'part' as there was also a board of sorbet and pineapple following this.
It is hard to capture just how delicious the experience at Villa du Pays was in words, which is why I highly recommend putting a wine and dine in this restaurant on your bucket list. I am sure your tastebuds will be surprised and will experience something quite spectacular. Note, it is open Thursday-Monday, which is ideal if a weekend getaway to the Hunter is on the agenda.