This time two weeks ago, I had just come back from our quick, one night trip to the Hunter Valley. I had never been before and thought we should make the most of the weekend and get out of Sydney. We left early on Sunday morning, with the drive taking about two and a half hours. Since it was very last minute, we didn’t put a lot of thought into it and just booked a table for lunch at Muse Dining, and accommodation for the night at Chateau Elan. Both turned out fabulously.
In the limited time that I had to plan, I spent most of my time researching where to go for lunch on the Sunday. With many good restaurants using fresh Australian produce, we were spoiled for choice. The moment I saw photos of the food at Muse and the interiors, I was sold. The restaurant is beautiful, with high ceilings, open fireplace, glass walls looking out to the vineyard, and of course gorgeous looking food.
We were lucky enough to be seated, in what I felt was the best seat in the house. Right against the glass windows looking out to the Hunter landscape.
In regards to food, there is a tasting menu available but we went for the two course each option and ordered one entree to share, a main each and then a dessert to share. This was the perfect way to go, as we both left completely satisfied and extremely full.
A glass of red to accompany lunch.
First out was the amuse bouche (to amuse your mouth), a piece of Pork Crackling with Stewed Rhubarb and a Savoury Macaron.
Our chosen entree was the Desiree Potato Gnocchi Risotto with Gorgonzola Custard, Walnut, King Brown Mushroom and Fig Vincotto. The smaller bites of gnocchi were cooked al dente, with the strong flavour of the gorgonzola working well with the thick and sweet fig vincotto. I loved the presentation and the thick stem of mushroom with its earthy flavours.
A palate cleanser of Coconut and Citrus Granita is served next. All these little extra courses are divine, but added to the extremely full feeling we had when we rolled out the door.
With a choice of five different mains, we choose the two that we like the sound of the most so that we can share. My picture perfect choice was the Slow Cooked Berkshire Pork with Crackle, Quince, Pearl Barley, Roasted Onion and Parsley. I couldn’t have chosen a better dish for the chilly winter’s day. It was quite heavy from the meat, barley, purees and sauce but I soldiered on to finish it all with a little help from somebody else.
Our second choice was the Whey Poached Milly Hill Lamb Loin, Braised Shoulder with House Made Ricotta, Baby Fennel, Pollen and Blackberries. Beautifully cooked and presented, all of the ingredients are fresh and fragrant. I am a big fan of ricotta and love the mixture of the fatty lamb, fresh cheese and the sweetness from the blackberries.
By this point we were really struggling with stomach space and decided to go with the lightest dessert option from the menu. In between the pan fried doughnuts and chocolate and date puddings, we were blessed with the Pavlova with Lemon, Apple and Rhubarb. You can definitely call this a deconstructed pavlova, with its three different types of meringue, lemon curd, quenelles of smooth cream, fresh fruit and little sprigs of greenery to add to the beauty. We carefully spooned little bits of all elements into our mouths and were feeling as colourful and happy as the dessert.
Just when you think it’s all over, out come two Toasted Marshmallows flavoured with Vanilla and Fennel. Not only do the sweet and savoury flavours work well together, but the presentation in the log fits the location perfectly and seals the deal on a lovely lunch.
Our experience at Muse was amazing, and I can’t end this post without mentioning our fabulous waiter who explained all dishes and elements to us when they came out, helped with explaining the menu initially and assisted in choosing the right wine. Thank you!
Hungerford Hill Wines, Broke Road, Pokolbin, NSW.
Ph: 02 4998 6777
Tempus Two Vineyard
Post lunch we stopped off at the Tempus Two Vineyard for a quick wine taste and exploration of the shops. All of the vineyards close at 5pm so unfortunately we didn’t have time to drive around to more. This one was pretty impressive though, and definitely one to put on the list if you’re vineyard hopping.
We went through and trialled an assortment of wines on offer, looking to purchase one for the evening, as well as a bottle to take back for my parents. The clear winner was the Barossa Valley Shiraz, the minute we tasted it we knew it was our favourite. Generally I steer away from Shiraz, but this one was light and extremely fruity and served in a beautiful bottle. We purchased two and stopped by the Smelly Cheese Shop to pick up some cheese and crackers, and were ready for a night in.
Tempus Two Vineyard
Corner of Broke & McDonalds Road, Pokolbin.
Ph: 02 4993 3999
I’ve never really taken photos of the hotels I’ve stayed in, but thought it would be nice for this post as I’m sure a lot of people wonder where is the best place to stay in the Hunter Valley. Lucky for us, we were staying on a Sunday night, so prices were lower and there was plenty of availability. We got this beautiful villa, which had all the amenities of an apartment and beautiful views from the balcony.
My favourite bit was definitely the open fireplace. It warmed the villa right up, and was just as practical as it was beautiful.
View from our room in the afternoon.
Sunset view in the early evening.
Vintage Drive, Rothbury, NSW.
Ph: 02 4998 2500
So there we have it folks, a quick post from a quick trip to the Hunter. I can’t wait to go back and explore it further.