The Hunter Valley – wine country, just 2.5 hours out of Sydney and your ticket to a getaway filled with gourmet food and wineries to have even the most avid of wine drinkers licking their lips.
If you’re planning your first trip to the Hunter Valley (or the second or third) Pokolbin is the place to stay. Surrounded by the most famous of vineyards such as Tyrrell’s and Brokenwood wineries there are also smaller boutique vineyards like Degen that have some pretty good drops of Semillon, Chardonnay and Shiraz varieties (just don’t expect Merlot, because its not the climate or soil for it).
This was my first trip (I’m pretty ashamed to say I haven’t gotten here sooner), so staying at the Mercure Resort Hunter Valley Gardens was a great choice. Not only is this a cute little hotel, it is a gateway to some great vineyards and some are in walking distance. The rooms in the hotel are a bit outdated but, it has an old school charm about it and the beds are super comfy. I stayed in the Deluxe room that was very spacious and had a spa.
If you want to wonder a few hundred meters the hotel is next to McGuigan, Brokenwood, Wine House and Roche Estate. Alternatively jump in the car or hire a bike and head to Tyrrell’s (the oldest vineyard in the region), Degen- literally a single vineyard winery, The Hunter Distillery and a few others that are under a 10-minute drive away.
Now, with over 150 vineyards don’t expect to be able to see and do everything. The fun bit is it becomes a process of elimination every time you visit!
If you’re a foodie then this place is heaven on earth! I visited a few places all were pretty exceptional.
Wine House for some wine tasting and lunch at Wine house Kitchen. The charcuterie plate has salumi, prosciutto & chorizo with chutney, pickles and lavosh bread is a must. Compliment that with the House mezze plate – hummus, muhammara, labneh and olives with warm sourdough and a side of fried potatoes, prosciutto, parmesan, truffle, these dishes are designed to be shared. Simply delicious.
Bistro Molines situated in Mount View approximately a 20-minute drive from Pokolbin is spectacular to say the least. No words can describe the views, you are completely transported to Europe with its Tuscan and French provincial landscaping and décor. This French restaurant is romance at it’s best! The views are sweeping as you look over the valley and the vineyards whilst you dine on some truly mouth watering dishes. I recommend getting the crumbed zucchini flowers as a starter or the calamari and gnocchi, followed by the roast lamb rump and a side of pomme frites (because what’s a meal with out chips, am I right?). Perfect for lunch or dinner.
Amanda’s on the Edge has an old fashioned country style charm. Situated on a vineyard it simply oozes elegance and charm. Start with either the mushroom or king prawns as a starter and then let your tastebuds be taken on a journey. For the main I had the Queensland king prawn linguini which was very tasty and very light in sauce. The pasta is tossed through with prawns, basil, baby romas, spinach and pine nuts and served with a wedge of lemon.
When it comes to dessert, the menu changes, however, if you ever do get the chance their chocolate mousse with Mars Bar ice cream is yummy.
The restaurant does also have vegetarian options as well so it suites everyone.
Circa 1876 Where do I start? The location is a short drive from the Mercure hotel and the restaurant setting itself is quaint and very much a nostalgic journey into the past. The food is magnificent every plate is a work of art that you’re to scared to damage by sticking your cutlery in it. But when you do…WOW!
The flavours are amazing your taste buds are treated to a feast. Now you have a few options of menus ranging from a la carte (minimum of two courses) to set tasting menus. I went with the a la carte three course menu starting with the seared sea scallops beautifully brought together with cauliflower, smoked apple puree, almond puree, boudin noir and Madeira.
For a main I had the butter poached Moreton Bay bug with cured and smoked bacon, bacon cream served with tomatoes and pickled cucumber both of which are picked from the restaurants garden.
Desert. This was nothing short of a work of art! Served with brandy snaps, caramelised white chocolate, Bailey’s foam, caramel and orange powder.
There are also vegetarian options available on the menu.
These restaurants are a must on anyone’s list, when it comes to vineyards well I’ll let you be the judge as every palette is different.
So, if you’re a foodie, a wine connoisseur or just want to get out of the city into some fresh air then the Pokolbin is a must for your next short stay.