I had pre-arranged for my fur baby to join my husband and I for dinner at The Mill Restaurant at Tuscany Estate Hotel in Pokolbin. The staff were extremely accommodating and set up a table for us on the veranda, which had floor-to-ceiling plastic awnings covering the walls to keep the bitterly icy wind at bay. A cold snap had swept across the whole of NSW that day and while initially concerned when I saw the thick plastic blinds shaking violently, I was relieved the wind didn't blow in through the gap between the blind and the permanent structure. The strip of heaters at the top kept the area warm and toasty.
Our waiter was friendly and professional and explained the dining choices to us. The savoury dishes could be served as a starter or main. The main decision was how much to eat; either two, three, four, five, six or seven courses. Each dish turned out to be substantial and rather rich so the full count of seven courses would only be for the brave or very hungry.
We were given complimentary home-made thyme bread with organic garlic butter. I really wanted to like the bread as they were two shiny, perfectly formed balls. Sadly, they were nothing to write home to Mum about. The buns were warm but only relevant to the ambient temperature and the thyme slightly overpowering.
The thyme bread looked better than it tasted. Photo credit: Nicole James.
The chef made an amuse bouche of creamy, velvety parsnip soup. It came with crispy dehydrated parsnip slivers on top. This was a definite step up. I could have eaten a whole bowl of it! It was rich and unctuous and made me very happy.
Amuse-bouche of parsnip soup was heavenly on a Wintery night. It hit the spot! Photo credit: Nicole James.
For entree, we ordered scallops on crispy pork, that I thought would come wrapped in pancetta. They were served on a rectangle of actual pork belly with seaweed for texture. The combination was tasty if a little underseasoned. The portion was generous for a starter.
Scallops on pork belly. The entrée was sizeable, especially as it was quite a rich dish. Photo credit: Nicole James.
Our two mains were Barramundi with Cassoulet and Chicken Roulade stuffed with Pancetta, served alongside Jerusalem Artichokes. Both were beautifully presented and well-cooked but overall the taste didn't have the wow factor.
More art than a meal, the beautiful and vivid Barramundi at The Mill Restaurant in the Hunter Valley. The red chips / crisps were yummy. Photo credit: Nicole James.
The chicken had salty pancetta offset by sweet balsamic which somehow didn't marry well together. The fish was dainty and the chef turned out two decent dishes but I might not remember them next month. Overall, I am likely to remember the fact that the waiter put out a water bowl for my dog, the horrendously icy weather and the fact that our mains took an hour to arrive.
Chicken Roulade with Pancetta and Balsamic Vinegar. I initially wondered if there was something else missing from the plate, but realised the gap was as the chef intended. Photo credit: Nicole James.
On that note, the waiter had good initiative and handled a customer service issue well. After our starters were served, we didn't see any food for a long time. The puppy started to get restless so we chased up our order. We were told it was coming 'right now'. I have no idea if our order was missed, or there was a fire in the kitchen, but the waiter had good PR and offered us a complimentary dessert.
Pudding was a dense gingerbread cake which is exactly how I like my cakes to be. No airy, fluffy cakes for me. It came with a quenelle of sorbet on top. The whole dessert was delicious and chef even went to the trouble of adding a candle and writing, 'Happy Birthday' in chocolate on the plate for my husband.
Winter warming gingerbread cake at The Mill Restaurant, Tuscany Estate Hotel, Pokolbin, Hunter Valley. This dessert was a winner. 10/10 to the chef for a dessert that made me smile and also entertained my tastebuds. Photo credit: Nicole James.
The lighting in the main restaurant is warm and you can see the bar across the way, which is also prettily lit at night. The veranda attached to the main restaurant was a bit dim with one glaring cold, white light at one end panning across the length of the veranda. Luckily for me, I had my iPhone torch app to shine a light on the food. Otherwise, it may have been reminiscent of eating at Dans Le Noir.
The courtyard at The Mill restaurant. The grounds are lovely at this hotel. In Summer, when there is more daylight go early as it is nice to spend 20 minutes walking around the hotel before dinner. Photo credit: Nicole James.