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Food

Top eats in the Hunter Valley

The Hunter Valley Wine Region is fast becoming a mecca for foodies. From casual bites to artisan cheeses and full degustation fine dining, there is a burgeoning restaurant scene that is exciting locals and visitors alike.

Here is our list of the Hunter’s top 20 culinary delights.

Muse

1 Broke Rd, Pokolbin
(02) 4998 6777
Hands down the Hunter’s best fine dining destination conveniently located at the gateway to the vineyards inside the sleek architecture lines of Hungerford Hill winery. Chef Troy Rhoades-Brown uses the best seasonal produce to serve immaculate dishes such as butter-poached scampi tails, slow-cooked lamb and his signature Muse Coconut dessert.

Restaurant Botanica

555 Hermitage Rd, Pokolbin
(02) 6574 7229
Restaurant Botanica at Spicers Vineyards Estate has made a name for itself thanks to its emphasis on sustainability. They make fresh bread daily and use their on-site kitchen garden to create healthy and locally sourced dishes that deliver freshness and flavour.

Margan Restaurant

1238 Milbrodale Rd, Broke
(02) 6579 1317
Margan uses produce from its one-acre kitchen garden and orchard in its the Meditteranean-inspired meals and complements it with Andrew Margan’s award-winning wines. A delightful atmosphere with views of the Brokenback Range.  

Bistro Molines

749 Mount View Rd, Mt View
(02) 4990 9553
Located at Tallavera Grove Bistro Molines is coveted by locals as one of the Hunter’s little gems thanks to the consistent cooking of Frenchman Robert Molines, who arrived in the region in 1973. Rustic provincial cooking paired with a stunning wine list.

Circa1876

64 Halls Road, Pokolbin
(02) 4998 4998
One of the new culinary highlights of the Hunter, located in the refurbished site of the historic Robert’s Restaurant at Pepper’s Convent. American-born chef George Francisco uses seasonal produce from the on-site kitchen garden to create a superb menu of modern Australian with French flair.

Muse Kitchen

Hermitage Rd, Pokolbin
(02) 4998 7899
Muse Kitchen (at Keith Tulloch Wines) is the second Hunter venue from Troy Rhoades-Brown, this one somewhat more laid back but still delicious seasonal produce. Breakfast at the weekends is not to be missed.

Esca

790 McDonalds Rd, Pokolbin
(02) 4998 4666
Located at Bimbadgen Estate, Esca serves modern Australian cuisine such as confit pork belly and Madgery Creek venison. Match with Bimbadgen wines or something off the varied international list.

Verandah Restaurant

Palmers Lane, Rothbury
(02) 4998 7231
Situated at Calais Estate, the Verandah Restaurant serves up delicious tapas or a la carte dishes such as slow-braised pork belly.  Make sure you save some space for the signature dessert of soft chocolate soufflé with Baileys and almond ice cream.

Sabor

319 Wilderness Rd, Lovedale
1300 958 850
Sometimes it’s a sweet hit you require and if you like to skip mains, Sabor is the place for you. Portuguese custard tarts, gourmet ice creams, hand made chocolates and terrific coffee.

Café Enzo

Cnr Broke & Ekerts Rd, Pokolbin
(02) 4998 7233
Located next door to the boutique wines of David Hook in Peppers Creek village, Café Enzo’s charming Tuscan-inspired courtyard is open for traditional breakfast, and lunch dishes such as barramundi on kipfler potatoes & pea purée.  

Mojo’s on Wilderness

84 Wilderness Rd, Lovedale
(02) 4930 7244
By day you can stop by the deli and stock up on gourmet sandwiches, delicious tarts and quiches straight from the oven, in the evening, Ros and Adam Baldwin serve up cultured European cuisine with natural flair.  

Restaurant Cuvee at Peterson House

Cnr Broke Rd & Wine Country Drive, Pokolbin
02 4998 7881
At the very gateway of the Hunter Wine Region is Peterson House where you can taste the best sparkling wines and pair them with the freshest of oysters then stay on for the full a la carte menu using regional produce.

Smelly Cheese Shop

2188 Broke Rd, Pokolbin
02 4998 6960
No trip to the Hunter is complete without a visit to the Smelly Cheese Shop. Now in two convenient locations, there’s no better way to match the wines of the region than to some of the locally made and international cheeses. A cheese lover’s paradise!

Goldfish

Cnr of Broke & McDonalds Rd, Pokolbin
(02) 4998 7688
Unwind in this bar & kitchen in the heart of the Hunter. Down to earth, laid back dining paired with a broad cocktail list with a range of tequila, whisky, boutique beer and of course, wine.

Oishii

Cnr of Broke & McDonalds Rd’s, Pokolbin 
02 4998 7051
Right next door to Goldfish at Tempus Two Winery you’ll find Oishii which fuses the best of Thai and Japanese cuisine. There’s sushi, sashimi and teppanayaki as well as Thai curries and salads.  

Lindemans 1843 café

McDonalds Rd, Pokolbin
02 4993 3700
Casual and comfortable dining for the whole family with dishes like wood fired pizzas, pulled pork and wild mushroom risotto – all at reasonable prices.  

Tatler Tapas

477 Lovedale Road, Lovedale 
(02) 4930 9139
Head chef Katy Carruthers has designed a delicious range of tapas delights including bacalau & potato croquetas, sardines escabeche, and Moroccan meatballs

Shakey Tables

1476 Wine Country Dr, North Rothbury
02 4938 1744
Art and food collide at chef Paula Rengger’s Shakey Tables, which serves up modern Australian blended with touches from Paula’s Scottish heritage.

Morpeth Sourdough

148 Swan Street, Morpeth
02 4934 4148
On the other side of the Hunter in the picturesque village of Morpeth, this is the site where the iconic Aussie brand Arnott’s started. Morpeth Sourdough serves an amazing range of sourdough breads. A must visit.

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Wine
Vine Change for the Good Life
Words by Jackie Macdonald on 27 Nov 2017
Ever dreamed of making a vine change? Meet some daring individuals who took a leap of faith to embrace the good life – vinous style. We’ve all been there. Visited a winery, wandered through the vines, dreaming of days spent pruning tips and tasting wines straight from the barrel. Of course, this romantic picture glosses over the constant stress of too much or not enough rain, grape-eating pests and the changing tastes of fickle consumers. But for a special selection of wine producers, the challenges were never too great. Their dream of a life on the land was enough motivation to pack in their career and take up the secateurs for a life dictated by vines, veraison and vats. For Todd and Jeff of Belford Block Eight in the Hunter Valley , it was love at first sight of their property’s driveway. As Jeff explains, “Todd and I turned off the car, listened to nature, admired the olives, turned to one another and said, ‘this is it.’” Jeff gave up his job in the finance department for CanTeen and Todd left Ebay, where he’d worked for 12 years in strategy, marketing and analysis. Neither knew anything about winemaking. But on their property were around 12,000 vines, so, as Todd describes, “Jeff and I tracked down a bottle of 2006 Brokenwood Block Eight Semillon, a single vineyard release made only using our grapes and it was truly remarkable. So, we thought, maybe there’s an opportunity to make some nice wine from these grapes, let’s give it a go!” And given it a go they certainly have with their first ever wine, the 2014 Reserve Semillon now an award-winner. It hasn’t been all plain sailing, though, and they’ve learnt some valuable lessons. Apart from the vagaries of harvest, the necessity of tractor headlights and that their deckchairs are just for show, they also know that un-neutered piglets turn into boisterous 150kg boars and goats can be as loyal as dogs. But regrets? “No bloody way, mate!” is Jeff’s answer, “One day we’ll sit on those deck chairs, sipping on a 20-year-old Block Eight, admiring what we’ve built.” Healthy vines
Back in 1997, while Jeff and Todd were still slogging away in the corporate world, over in South Australia’s Clare Valley, medical professional, Anura Nitchingham planted his first vineyard. He’d chosen Clare because, he says, “The region is really an unsung hero in the world of viticulture. It’s unique and has some really great producers in a very small, but beautiful region.” That first planting has grown into Claymore Wines , one of Australia’s most unique wine brands. While Anura hasn’t left his medical career, he says that winemaking provides something medicine can’t: “Vines don’t complain! And there’s wine!” The medical theme is also part of the story of Hobbs of Barossa Ranges . Allison Hobbs was a nurse and her husband was a former policeman turned firefighter when they bought their vineyard in the Barossa. Their decision to make a vine change was borne of a desire to provide a rural lifestyle for their children. Like Jeff and Todd, Allison and Greg knew very little about making wine, but the stars aligned, providing them with some strokes of good fortune in the early years. Foremost was they happened to buy the property next door to local winemaking expert, Chris Ringland, who provided invaluable advice and made their wines. While being a nurse, police officer or fire fighter might be worlds away from making wine, Allison and Greg feel they brought vital skills from those professions to their new endeavour. As Greg says, “attention to detail is very important to both nursing and winemaking”, and Allison adds, “the observation techniques you learn in nursing, the police and fire brigade are important as we wander through the vineyard and take note of what’s right and what’s not.” Livin’ in the 70s
Although Allison, Greg and Anura faced challenges in the mid-1990s, things were even more basic in the 1970s. Having left successful careers in the emerging computer industry, Linda and Ian Tyrer bought a property in WA’s Mount Barker region to establish Galafrey Wines . Again, they had no experience, but, as Linda describes, she arrived at their new home four months pregnant, armed with a few thousand grape cuttings – “naive but starry-eyed, full of enthusiasm.” A lack of money meant a lot of back-breaking work, but by 1985, they had won their first Trophy and Ian’s tireless dedication saw him awarded the George Mulgure Award for outstanding service to the industry in 2003. Unfortunately, the same year, Ian lost his battle with cancer. However, his legacy lives on with Linda still at the helm, along with daughter Kim, who left her own career as an artist to return to the vines. One thing all these people would agree on is that a life among the vines is a hard slog. But is it the good life? Absolutely!
Life
Sharp Thinking
Queensland mechanical engineer Mark Henry had the professional chef in mind when, as a student,   he set about developing a range of knives that were supremely functional and of such quality that they could withstand the rigours of Australia's busiest restaurants. They became so popular with chefs, they are now sought by home cooks as well. “I developed the knives for working pro chefs,” recalls Mark. “As a young student with no commercial experience, I had no idea about retail. I just wanted to redefine the working chef’s knife and eliminate all those traditional old weaknesses. “Chefs really liked the Füri knives from the beginning, then they talked about them, wrote about them in their food columns, at their cooking schools. Soon, the department stores were getting so many enquiries from consumers that they wanted Füri too. The demand was such that Füri was an immediate success, and quickly became Australia’s #1 premium knife brand.” The best metal for the best blade Most professional knives are produced in Europe, but Mark wanted to design a knife range that totally re-shaped the category. His first idea was to use high carbon Japanese stainless steel, noted for its superior durability and ease of sharpening.   For the best combination of sharpness and toughness, Mark specified the blade be between the thick, strong European style and the sharp, light Japanese style. “I was determined to use a type of high carbon stainless steel alloy that was more like the old carbon steel knives than the modern European knives,” says Mark. “Without the complex metallurgy, that means Füri knives have the ideal combination for working chefs of a blade material that holds its edge a long time, but is also easier to sharpen than the more common CrMoV alloys used in German knives, and most Japanese knives today. I would love to use full carbon steel, like the famous old French chef knives that take such a sharp edge so easily, but the corrosion would drive everyone mad these days, so it had to be also stain-resistant! Not an easy combination of features, but we achieved it.” Seamless design The next crucial element was in the seamless construction. The blade and the handle are one, so there is no place for food to get trapped, and no rivets or plastic parts to fail. So not only does it look stylish, it is the ultimate in food hygiene and durability. “I thought it was a bit silly that after 800 years of chef knife making, in the ‘90s we still had the same riveted handles, sometimes still with the same type of wood ‘scales’, or plastic more recently,” says Mark. “My chef friends and I all had knives with handles that had split wood, lots of gunk in the gaps, rivets missing, melted plastic, etc. I worked on a way to make the blade and handle into one seamless piece, while still keeping a hollow cavity in the handle for the correct balance. “Nothing beats this construction for hygiene and durability, particularly when combined with our tough steel and strong blades. The Iconic handle What also raises Füri above its competitors is its innovative handle design. The iconic reverse wedge shape means the handle locks into the hand for a safer grip, which helps reduce hand fatigue, and reduces repetitive strain injuries. “While I was still at university (QUT) studying my mech engineering degree, I put some research into the forces involved during the most repetitive and heavy cutting motions chefs use,” explains Mark. “It became quickly evident, to me, that the traditional handle shape (basically the same for 800 years) was opposite to what it should be. The traditional taper which becomes narrower toward the handle actually encourages hand slip toward the blade. Then I realized why nobody cut themselves, even with wet/oily hands: the brain automatically compensates for any small slip by making the hand squeeze tighter on the handle to produce more friction and grip. “That means fatigue for chefs  in the short term, and arthritis, carpal tunnel and other problems in the long term The Füri reverse-wedge handle actively reduces this slip by becoming thicker toward the blade, in the direction that counts, so that less hand squeeze is required for the same cutting work. This means less fatigue and less hand problems for chefs, or anyone with sore hands.” Füri’s innovative design elements and materials result in knives of the utmost quality and are the reasons Füri is the knife of choice for chefs around the world. TV chef and restaurateur Kylie Kwong is a Füri brand ambassador, while Nigella Lawson is also a big fan. Füri knives are ranged in all major department stores and independents around the country. For more information visit furiglobal.com
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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