Hunter Valley Gardens, Pokolbin, NSW. Credit: @photoholgic via Unsplash.
The Hunter Valley is Australia’s oldest wine region, and a host of contemporary restaurants and luxurious new accommodation options mean you can explore this iconic NSW wine-country in style. Here is our guide to the best places to stay and eat on your next getaway to wine country.
Where to eat in the Hunter Valley
There’s a raft of delicious restaurants and cafés to enjoy while you are in the Valley. Be sure to book in advance as many reach capacity quickly and you don’t want to miss out on these dining experiences.
For hearty breakfasts and lunches, start your day at Cafe Enzo, a local favourite in the Tuscan-inspired Peppers Creek Village. For breakfast, take a seat in the charming courtyard and dine on their bacon and egg roll made with locally sourced produce. There’s a variety of options for lunch, from burgers to brisket, prawn linguine, or caesar salad, plus desserts and house-made cakes and bakes to enjoy with a coffee. When you’re finished, pop into our Cellar Door – conveniently located next door – we’d love to take you through our range of wines.
Another casual daytime eatery and a favourite with the locals is Fawk Foods Kitchen & Bakery from Chef Frank Fawkner, the man behind the award-winning EXP. Located in Pokolbin Village, you can dine in or pick up freshly baked goods such as sourdough, quiche, scones and muffins to go. The menu is a line-up of café classics with a modern twist, from sourdough crumpets with cultured butter and local Paxton honey to slow-roasted lamb shoulder with local kale and salsa verde. Breakfast is served all day, and coffee is from Newcastle’s carbon conscious Sprocket Roasters. A great way to start your day before you set off to explore all that’s on offer.
For a long lunch with postcard-perfect views, head to Bistro Molines, headed by Robert and Sally Molines. It’s a Hunter Valley institution renowned for Molines’ hospitality, the picturesque location in the mountains overlooking the vineyards, and the generous French inspired fare. Arrive hungry for plates of duck liver pâté with pickled vegetables, tomato tarte Tatin, rack of lamb with ratatouille, and barramundi goujons with lime beurre blanc. The restaurant is open for lunch Thursday-Monday and for dinner on Saturday. Reservations are essential.
Named after a gentleman Bush Ranger who reportedly roamed the Hunter Valley areas of Broke and Pokolbin during the 1860s, living off the land, sleeping in caves and cooking over fire, Yellow Billy is a restaurant with fire at its core. Chef Sam Alexander masters the art of cooking over fire, manning the restaurant’s custom-made fire pit, which is used to char, slow-roast, grill and smoke all manner of local meat and fresh produce, from Lovedale suckling pig to freshly picked zucchini and eggplant. Sommelier Pat Hester is in charge of the drinks list – which includes our David Hook wines – and recently received accolades in the 2019 Australia’s Wine List of the Year Awards.
Restaurant Botanica at Spicers Vineyard Estate is one of the top spots in the Hunter for fine-dining with a view. It’s a culinary experience that conveys the terroir of the region, with mod-Oz fare on the menu – most of it picked fresh on the day – paired with a range of exceptional Hunter Valley wines. The menu comes with suggested wine pairings – sip our David Hook Pinot Grigio with their confit duck rillette with rosella, pickled cucumber and wattleseed brioche – and the vegetarian and vegan a la carte menu offers inspired plant-based dining.
When only Italian will do, Il Cacciatore offers northern Italian fare in a warm, rustic setting for weekend lunch and nightly dinner. Inspired by the simplicity, generosity and fresh produce of Italian cuisine, the menu features hand-made pasta, woodfired pizza, and classics such as vitello tonnato, arancini and quail with polenta. Look out for our David Hook Pinot Grigio on the menu – order it with the Tuscan Atlantic Salmon with green olives and artichokes – and save room for the tiramisu for dessert!
Our good friends at Margan are pioneers of the paddock-to-plate movement in the Hunter Valley. Set on their beautiful vineyard in the nearby Broke Fordwich district, the restaurant overlooks the vines and offers degustation menus crafted from estate-sourced produce, meat, charcuterie, olive oil, honey and cheese. The dining experience here is a must-do for a trip to the Hunter, and owners Lisa and Andrew Margan have worked hard on the winery’s sustainability credentials, too. “We recycle everything,” says Lisa. They have a glass crusher, five compost bins on rotation and chickens to help. A closed-loop composter handles all the restaurant’s protein scraps. Spent cooking oil is recycled into biodiesel and rainwater is harvested and recycled onto the garden. “What we’ve done has been pioneering namely because we did it so long ago,” says Lisa.
As you’ve no doubt gauged by now, dining in the Hunter Valley is all about the art of the long lunch, and for one of the most celebrated, book in for a relaxed yet sophisticated meal at the renowned bistro-style Muse Kitchen. While the ingredients are locally sourced, the menu has a distinctly European flare. You’ll find Muse situated in a picturesque courtyard at Keith Tulloch Wines, and chef Josh Gregory’s menu features croquettes and Branxton charcuterie to start, followed by award-winning Aussie Kinkawooka mussels, kingfish tartare with yuzu and basil and hay-smoked chicken with bitter leaves and Taleggio. Plant-based options are noteworthy, too – think Morpeth cauliflower with harissa, apricot and yoghurt, and an Indian-spiced roast carrot risotto with vadouvan and curry leaves.
Where to stay
For a secluded escape set in nature, check in to The Woods. Accommodation is in one of three charming country houses that are fully equipped with everything you need in a home-away-from-home. Perfect for groups, The Chapel House and The Folly House each have four queen size bedrooms with ensuites – some with a spa – complete with Appelles Apothecary Lab bathroom products, a tranquil fountain courtyard where wisteria blooms and a barbecue area for entertaining. Each house also boasts ducted air-conditioning, a fully equipped kitchen, lounge with an open fire, widescreen LCD TV, Bose docking station and Foxtel, as well as a dining table for up to eight guests. The third house, Blackwood, is the newest addition to the stunning property. It’s a modern retreat for a couple with opulence at every turn, from the secluded plunge pool to the private yoga deck and open fireplace that’s ideal for a night in sipping our David Hook Shiraz.
The luxurious suites at Spicers Guesthouse are the ideal base for a memorable weekend of wine-tasting and cellar-door hopping in the Hunter. There’s a bar, restaurant, private dining room, outdoor fire pit and pool on-site, plus spectacular views of the valley in all directions. The Guesthouse is located in the heart of the Hunter in Pokolbin and has been recently refurbished, so expect contemporary comfort with classic Hunter Valley hospitality.
The new 70-room boutique hotel is set on 70 acres of countryside with easy access to some of the region’s best cellar doors. Along with serious levels of luxury, there’s a high design and sustainability sensibility. Renowned Australian interior designer Greg Natale is behind the chic monochrome interior, while the handsome rooms are plastic-free and the restaurant has a zero-waste approach to food. Produce is sourced from the hotel’s vegie garden and on-site beehives produce the honey used in the food and drink menus, while voco’s resident farm animals look after any food scraps.
If you can’t make it to our Cellar Door for a tasting, pick up a bottle for a picnic, or to enjoy in your accommodation. Outside of our cellar door, you can find David Hook wines at Wine House Hunter Valley, Harrigans Bottle Shop and Pokolbin Bottle Shop.