The Hunter Valley is one of Australia’s most famous wine-growing regions. However in recent years, it has also gained a reputation as an important gastronomic locale of NSW. It is only two hours away from Sydney and so the area is bustling with Sydneysiders on the weekend. In general, Sydneysiders maintain strict diets during the week, which often includes skipping lunch, so when they escape the city they love to pig out. Many fancy restaurants and cafes have emerged in the Hunter Valley to satisfy these growing hoards. There are also an abundance of cheese and chocolate factories in the Hunter Valley. It’s not really farming land here, but rather the shops are to appease the greedy masses. I mean, if you are going to pig out, you might as well do it properly by loading up on rich cheeses and sugary chocolates filled with caramel and nuts!
Here are a selection of a few of the best places to indulge at.
Hearty Steak Tenderloin and Creamy Brie for Dinner
If you love steak, do me a favour and please dine here. It is located right next to the Pepper Tree vineyard and we ordered a good bottle of Pepper Tree Semillon Sauvignon Blanc to start our meal. Circa 1876 is a super fancy place with a posh (and expensiv-ish) menu to-boot so make sure you arrive with an empty stomach. Be prepared to indulge in entree, main and dessert!
I dined here with my family in the middle of winter. Complimentary crusty bread served with maple butter and pickles arrived first to whet our appetite. The restaurant’s wooden panelling created a homey atmosphere and the open fire in the middle of the restaurant warmed us up. Our cheeks became flushed as we drank wine and nibbled the bread, setting the perfect tone for a wonderful gourmet evening.
For starters, we shared a plate of seared sea scallops served with pork jowl, caramelised cauliflower, corn pickle and cider glaze – if I’m honest, the corn was a little off-putting – as well as a large smoked marrow bone with salt cured yolk and mushroom marmalade. However the standout entree was the foie gras with blueberry, which just melted in my mouth!
For main course, we ordered the tremendous Jacks Creek Beef Tenderloin. Mama-fucking-mia!! The waiter displayed the hot, sizzling steaks in an iron girdle first before arranging for the chef to slice them into thick, chunky pieces. The steak was unbelievable, delicious and so tender, cooked to a perfect medium-rare! They were served with potato puree, port jus, Romanesco salad and steamed broccolini. The serving size was huge and it took three of us to finish it but it was oh-so satisfying.
To finish our meal we shared a cheese plate. The Delice Cremier Brie, a triple cream, cow’s milk cheese from Burgundy, actually made me cry. They were tears of joy as with with each bite I became more aware of the meaning of life. The sprigs of smelly pepper tree leaves used to garnish the plate also made me cry. My eyes leaked tears of shock as the peppery fumes assaulted my senses.
Circa 1876 is not cheap but not too expensive either, around $100-150 per head for three courses including wine, but it was definitely worth it.
64 Halls Road, Pokolbin
NSW 2320, Australia
A Picturesque Brunch with Eggs and Avocado
When you go on holiday the main priority is finding a choice spot for breakfast. When we stayed in the Hunter Valley, we scrutinised the best places for breakfast every morning on TripAdvisor and managed to suss out a few. My conclusion was that Cafe Enzo is a great option. Enzo is located in the Pokolbin region with a very Australian, picturesque outlook. Think blue skies, gum trees and green grass… it is so stunning, people even get married here!
The menu at Enzo was varied including everything from traditional bacon and eggs (which I ordered) to a posh Farmer’s breakfast (bacon and eggs with avocado, crumbly goats cheese and expensive ham) to delightful options like pancakes and granola. The quality of ingredients was good and the service was chipper. Mornings at Enzo are a great way to start your Hunter Valley day.
Corner of Broke Road and Ekerts Road, Pokolbin
NSW 2320, Australia
Hot Chocolate and Macadamia Milk Chocolates
If you came to the Hunter Valley to indulge then go all out and stuff your face with chocolate! The best place to do that is at the Hunter Valley Chocolate Company. We went there very early one chilly morning for some pre-breakfast treats. The good news is, they do keto-friendly hot drinks including chilli hot chocolate made with hot almond milk. The milk was nice and frothy and it tasted as good as could be expected for a dairy-free substitute. But truthfully, only a silly Sydneysider would order that!
I ordered a hot black coffee and a plate of individually crafted chocolates. The pecan chocolate had a delightfully sticky centre. However I must warn you to steer clear of the peanut butter chocolate that I ordered, because it tasted more like aged praline.
We left the chocolate shop with a few bags of milk chocolate-coated macadamia nuts. Not only do they taste amazing, they are a great present for friends. They are also addictive as well as reassuring eating for when you are stressed out at work.
Hunter Valley Chocolate Factory
Shop 5, Hunter Valley Gardens Broke Road, Pokolbin
NSW 2325, Australia
Creamy Blue at the Cheese Factory
Do you like cheese? If you answered no, you are no friend of Bossy Flossie. If you answered yes, then you are going to LOVE the Cheese Company at the Hunter Valley. Located in Pokolbin, the Cheese Company is every foodies dream! When you enter, you are greeted by wall-to-wall fridges full of Australian cheeses! They have everything from aged cheddars and creamy blues to hard goats cheese and runny bries. A cheese lover can easily go cross-eyed here as its hard to decide what to focus on first.
As an international visitor, it is unlikely you are going to buy any cheese to take home, which is where the next room comes in. The second room is styled like an American-Italian restaurant (I’m talking red-chequered table clothes and cheap wine glasses – what can I say, Australians have no sense of decor) but this is the place where you can take a seat and relish tasting a range of cheeses. If you don’t mind to splash the cash then feel free to sample any cheese that you desire in as large a quantity as you can stomach. But if you’re on a bit of a budget, you can order a cheese sampling border for a reasonable price. A sampling board includes the following: Sicilian Feta, Branxton Brie, Pokolbin White Washed Rind, Tomme De Chèvre and Pokolbin Club Blue. They are all completely yummy but the blue is a definite highlight.
The Cheese Company is conveniently located next to Brokenwood Wines, so pop in there for some fruity Semillon when you’re done!
Hunter Valley Cheese Shop
447 McDonalds Road, Pokolbin,
NSW 2320, Australia
Choking on Garlic redeemed by the Tasty Octopus
I went to eRemo Italian restaurant with my family in the Hunter Valley and our experience was mixed. You may take or leave my advice. eRemo is Italian with a twist, which in Australian terms means “modern cuisine” with enough tomatoes thrown in for good measure. The poor sommelier here was rushed off his feet and we needed to wait 20 minutes for his advice on what wine to order. After all that, we did not like his recommendation and ignored it by ordering a bottle of cheap fizzy wine.
We started on a high note with some orange-coloured octopus. The octopus was roasted with spicy nduja and Romesco sauce and we gobbled it up quickly between four of us. It was delicious. For starters we also ordered the Hiramasa kingfish that was served with crudo prosciutto, almond and agrodolce peppers. If I’m honest, it was a bit weird. The poorly presented dish looked like my cat had eaten an Italian antipasto and thrown it up. The taste was both fishy and nutty and the texture was spew-like. “Italians” should NEVER attempt to do kingfish sashimi. Raw fish is supposed to be crunchy, not slimy, folks!
Things took a turn for the absolute worse when our mains arrived. We ordered the roasted potato with rosemary and garlic. The garlic was not properly cooked-through and when my mum bit into a clove of garlic she ended up with terrible garlicy sore throat and lasted for a week! The king prawns with barley were not particularly appetising either. The mains were all rather blah.
With that said, the menu at eRemo changes frequently based on availability of ingredients. I believe we simply had bad luck on the night we visited which was exceptionally busy – it was a Sunday in the middle of school holidays after all. If I’m in the Hunter Valley again, I would give this place another go but next time try their pizza.
57 Ekerts Road, Pokolbin
NSW 2320, Australia
Enjoy pigging out in the Hunter Valley with my recommendations and drop comments on your experiences below!