By my fifth day in Sydney, Ana and I were off to Hunter Valley, a wine country that has become one of the world’s best known wine making areas since the 19th century. From my other vineyard trips to Spain and Thailand…it was exciting to see what was going on in one of the biggest (correct me if i am wrong) producers of “new world” wines. What was even more exciting was finding out that Hunter Valley seems to be home to the finest cuisines in Australia. Since wine was so big here, they had to make sure the food was too…and thus our first lunch in Hunter was in a very upscale fine dining place called Margan Restaurant at the Margan Family Winegrowers Estate. This place has awards all the way up to 2011 and that year hasn’t even started yet!
It was a pretty far drive from where we reached Hunter Valley region itself. We saw large estates with rows and rows of vines growing on them and lots of horses and even roses. Then we saw a building that looked very Italian inspired…this was Margan. It was obvious that this was not just some restaurant. They were fully booked with all reserved tables and Ana had to book us way ahead. Everything was white, bright and simple.
The menu was simply a leather booklet with a print out of the month’s specials. Margan is the type of restaurant that changes its food often. So down to the food…
Ana got the Twice Cooked Pork Belly with Sherry Reduction, Confit Fennel, Snow Pea Shoots and White Anchovy. This was just fabulous. It was like eating crispy butter and fat with twist of the intense flavor of the Sherry reduction which just cuts the fat. The anchovies were a welcome taste and texture as they were not that salty and had a wonderful soft and velvety mouth feel.
I got the Poached Mulloway on White Bean Puree, with Apple Cider dressing and Spanish Jamon. The bean puree is subtle and delicate with a velvety mouthfeel but it compliments the fish at the same time. It’s pleasantly sweet and very creamy. The fish is very juicy and rich. It was soft and cooked to perfection. Though the wine that was supposed to come with it was a Semillon, I went for a Rose…which went well so beautifully! The Rose was crisp and dry and a little lemony. It made my food taste so flowery and had a slight guava and candy apple taste in the end. The puree was nutty and it complemented the dryness of the wine. Everything together is crisp and balanced. The ham adds the perfect saltiness to the dish and gives everything a more enhanced flavor. This was a real treat!
Ana’s friends, Jo and Evelyn ordered the Hunter Beef Carpaccio with Spiced Beetroot salad and shaved Bottarga and a Angolotti of Prawn, Seared Scallops, Pea and Mint Veloute with Chorizo Oil. This was sounding all too lofty and high but I was so inspired by their creativity and passion for their food and customers. If you’re in Hunter…you should go here.