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Food

22 Great Places to Eat in the Hunter Valley

Visitors from around the globe come in droves to sip, slurp and sample the Hunter Valley’s many vinous wonders. While they’re here, they’re also on the lookout for fine fare to pair with the bootload of wines they’ll inevitably purchase.

So where does one go for a hearty breakfast, an indulgent long lunch, an afternoon grazing plate or that romantic dinner? We’ve compiled a list of the region’s best dining options, showcasing everything from casual cafés to bistro bliss to contemporary art-on-a-plate cuisine.

We start our list in the Hunter’s main sub-region of Pokolbin, and then look to its smaller sub-regions of Mount View, Broke, Lovedale and Rothbury, all of which have divine gastronomic offerings that will reward the drive.

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Brokenwood – The Wood
401-427 McDonalds Rd, Pokolbin

Brokenwood’s brand new $8million cellar door opened to great fanfare in December and for good reason. Alongside the tasting rooms and museum, there’s two dining options, both overseen by veteran Hunter chef Andy Wright. The Cru Bar + Pantry is a casual breakfast/lunch eatery offering woodfired pizza, artisan pies and charcuterie daily, while The Wood is a stylish 90-seat restaurant serving contemporary Australian cuisine with a focus on seafood. Think, salt cod fritters with tarragon mayo; or Stormy Bay clams with capers and anchovy butter – perfect for a Semillon-themed family feast. Lunch daily. Dinner, Friday and Saturday.

Muse
2450 Broke Rd, Pokolbin

Muse is the benchmark for fine dining in the Hunter and chef/owner Troy Rhoades-Brown shows no sign of resting on his laurels as this two-hatted venue just keeps improving. Housed in Hungerford Hill’s architecturally impressive cellar door, Muse’s modern Australian fare is a feast for the senses, with locally sourced ingredients perfectly prepared and beautifully presented, all matched with a well considered wine list. Make sure you leave room for Troy’s legendary Muse Coconut dessert. Simply stunning. Lunch weekends. Dinner, Wednesday - Saturday.

Muse Kitchen
Hermitage & Deasys Rd, Pokolbin

Muse has another more casual venue, Muse Kitchen, located at Keith Tulloch Wines where the feel is more bistro, but the technique is just as assured. It’s a favourite long lunch venue for local winemakers, who delight in chef Sean Townsend’s flavoursome dishes, such as the Mandagery creek venison with marinated stone fruit and fermented honey. Lunch, Wednesday – Sunday. Dinner, Friday and Saturday.

EXP
1596 Broke Rd, Pokolbin

Frank Fawkner and sous chef Josh Gregory operate this exciting small fine diner at Oakvale Winery. The food is simply captivating, incorporating native ingredients into their seasonal offerings and putting a unique twist to their degustation menu. Expect a series of inventive delicacies and innovative mains topped off with a delicious cheese course of a brioche filled with warmed blue cheese and honey. Lunch Wednesday –  Sunday. Dinner Wednesday – Saturday.

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Eremo at Spicer’s Guesthouse
57 Ekerts Rd, Pokolbin

Spicer’s have recently taken over what used to be Peppers, and given it a multi-million dollar refurb that includes Eremo, a modern contemporary Italian restaurant with a menu created by multi-hatted executive chef Cameron Matthews. The first reports have been glowing, with dishes such as spanner crab spaghetti, and gnocchi with braised local squid & smoked tomato. Breakfast and dinner daily. Lunch  on weekends.

Restaurant Botanica
555 Hermitage Rd, Pokolbin

Cam Matthews has also cast his eye over the culinary gem of Spicers Vineyard Resort, Restaurant Botanica, updating the seasonal produce across an a la carte, tasting and plant-based contemporary menu. Try the butter poached Fraser Isle spanner crab with saffron rouille followed by the Cabernet braised wagyu beef cheeks. Lunch, weekends. Dinner, Wednesday – Sunday.

Esca Bimbadgen 
790 McDonalds Rd, Pokolbin

Recently awarded best restaurant in a winery from the Host Plus Savour Restaurant and Catering Awards, Esca is one of the jewels in the Hunter’s crown. Famed for its hoi sin twice cooked wood-fire duck, it offers a tasting menu or a la carte perfectly matched to Bimbadgen Estate’s award-winning wines and often accompanied by acoustic music. Lunch daily. Dinner, weekends.

Hunters Quarter
576 De Beyers Rd, Pokolbin

The latest offering at Cockfighter’s Ghost Winery is the delightful Hunters Quarter. Chef Brian Duncan previously worked in fine dining hotels in London and he’s used his well-travelled skills to create a great seasonal menu. Order the lightly peppered kangaroo loin and pair with a Poole’s Rock Pinot. Lunch, Thursday – Sunday. Dinner, Thursday – Monday.

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Yellow Billy at Piggs Peake
697 Hermitage Rd, Pokolbin

Chefs Sam Alexander and Emerson Rodriguez have teamed up with sommelier Pat Hester to open the exciting Yellow Billy where the emphasis is on fire. A custom-built fire pit gets a daily workout with whole suckling pigs and local lamb the order of the day. Make sure you order sides, their honey roasted cauliflower with tahini, seeds and nuts is quickly becoming folklore. Lunch, Wednesday – Sunday. Dinner, Friday and Saturday.

Circa 1876
64 Halls Rd, Pokolbin

Located in an historic cottage on the picturesque grounds of Roscrea Estate and The Convent, Cicra 1876 embodies the ‘farm-to-fork’ ethos across their stylish two-course, three-course, and a five-course tasting menus. Highlight dishes include sesame-crusted yellow fin tuna with chipotle aioli and wasabi roe; and seared duck breast with fresh black truffle, asparagus and jamón. Lunch and dinner, Friday – Tuesday.

Baume at Ben Ean
119 McDonalds Rd, Pokolbin

Baume at Ben Ean is located in one of the most historical settings at Lindemans Estate, where wine has been made for 174 years. Baume offers contemporary bistro fare cooked in a wood fired oven. Try the Baked Hunter Belle Brie with honey and thyme or the Italian lamb shoulder. Lunch daily. Dinner, Thursday – Monday.

Oishi
McDonalds & Broke Rd, Pokolbin

Oishi offers the finest and freshest Asian in Wine Country. Japanese and Thai dishes such as prawn tempura, pad Thai and sashimi. Oishi is great to graze early afternoon or at the end of a long day tasting wine. Lunch and dinner daily.

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Villa du Pays Restaurant
1693 Broke Road, Pokolbin

Leogate Estate’s fine diner offers modern Australian cuisine across a la carte and tasting menus. Their speciality is dry aged steaks – perfect paired with their mouth-watering Brokenback Shiraz. Lunch daily. Dinner, Saturday – Sunday.

Nanna Kerr’s Kitchen
16 Pokolbin Mountains Rd

This wholesome hotspot is owned by the brother of Aussie supermodel Miranda Kerr. It’s a homage to healthier organic eating and to Kerr’s grandma who grew up in nearby Maitland and was a formidable cook. Go for breakfast and feast on their share plate for two, and stay for some vegan goodness for lunch. Breakfast and lunch daily. Dinner by special function.

Fawk Foods Kitchen & Bakery
2188 Broke Rd, Pokolbin

Another great breakfast option is Frank Fawkner’s kitchen and bakery. Amazing sourdough and pastries plus savoury dishes such as corn fritters and haloumi & pumpkin salad for lunch. The local brekky ‘go to’ is Frank’s Egg & Bacon Roll – local belly bacon, slow cooked egg, BBQ ketchup and American cheddar on panini. Daily, 7am – 3pm.

Sabor in the Hunter
2342 Broke Rd, Pokolbin

If you have a sweet tooth that needs satiating then Sabor is your saviour. This dedicated dessert bar is a cornucopia of sweet filled indulgences from Portuguese tarts to cheesecakes and copious dessert share plates paired with local beers, wines and ciders. Daily, Thursday – Monday.

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Bistro Molines
749 Mount View Rd, Mount View

Perched up in the sub-region of Mount View, in the highest part of the Hunter, you’ll find the fabled Bistro Molines. Robert Molines is considered the Godfather of Hunter Cuisine, the man who started it all over four decades ago. He and his wife Sally run what is regarded by some as the best bistro in the country. Elegant, thoughtful French fare served in a blissful atmosphere. Start with the shared charcuterie plate, order the twice roasted Hunter duckling and civet of farmed rabbit with Dijon mustard, and soak in the breathtaking views of the Hunter for the rest of the afternoon. Lunch, Thursday – Monday. Dinner, Friday and Saturday.

Margan Restaurant
1238 Milbrodale Rd, Broke

The multi-awarded Margan Restaurant pioneered the locavore philosophy in the Hunter, designing a menu based around their one acre garden and orchard at their picturesque winery in the sub-region of Broke. Chef Thomas Boys gets inventive with dishes such as Suffolk lamb, kohlrabi and spinach; and hen egg with Jerusalem artichoke, matched with Margan Wines. Lunch, Friday – Sunday. Dinner, Thursday – Saturday.

Emerson’s Café & Restaurant
492 Lovedale Rd, Lovedale

Whether you want a lazy breakfast, a tasty lunch or degustation dinner, Emerson’s at Adina Estate is the place. Chef Emerson Rodriguez’s spin on contemporary Australian features dishes like quail karage and porchetta of suckling pig. Breakfast, Saturday and Sunday. Lunch, Wednesday – Sunday. Dinner, Thursday – Sunday.

Mr Busby’s at Dalwood Estate
700 Dalwood Rd, Dalwood 

An exciting new venue has opened at the former Wyndham Estate, one of the oldest venues in the Hunter. Mr Busby’s is run by the chef behind Newcastle’s Meet Restaurant with a delicious Brazilian inspired family- friendly menu enjoyed on the banks of the Hunter River. Breakfast and lunch, Saturday and Sunday.

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Ridgeview
273 Sweetwater Rd, Rothbury

Set in the picturesque vines of Ridgeview, there’s a dining experience with a twist. Ridgeview’s winery restaurant specialises in Cypriot and Middle Eastern food including a four-course Meze feast. Expect to find souvlaki and Cypriot-inspired pastries. Breakfast, Friday – Sunday. Lunch and dinner, Thursday – Sunday.

Restaurant 221
221 Vincent Street, Cessnock

If you’re staying in Cessnock or just passing through, visit the Royal Oak Hotel for Restaurant 221, which was awarded best restaurant in a hotel nationally. Alongside classic pub fare there’s a smart degustation menu that sees dishes like miso glazed quail, all matched to regional gems off the wine list. Lunch and dinner, daily.

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