We loved the ambiance at our hotel. And since we had such a great time eating at their bar the other night, Ana and I decided to try their Ala Carte menu for lunch at the Sanctuary. By day 1 it was already apparent to us that Hunter Valley was the foodie place, and our hotel’s restaurant has been consistently winning awards for the past few years. The atmosphere was relaxing…the weather was perfect as well as the setting. And as we found out, the food was an extension on how great and beautiful hunter valley is. This was what we had:
Charred ciabatta with local pukura olive oil and aged balsamic. The bread was grilled and was served with this thick aged balsamic vinegar which was really delicious. It was just a basic bread basket but the perfection in the ingredients and the extra treatment of grilling the bread made all the difference.
Local “Binnorie” Labna filled Courgette Flowers with a Butternut “Risotto” When you look at this dish…it was so beautifully presented. It was like art on a plate. The courgette stems (the green stuff on the sides) were lightly fried and it formed a light crust. The zucchini stem was flavorful, it tasted slightly of garlic and basil. The cheese stuffed Courgettes was unforgettable. The flavor was slightly sour, creamy and buttery and yet the texture was whipped up and light. I guess this was the main characteristic of Hunter’s local cheese called Binnorie and this complemented the delicate flavor and texture of the flower that encased it. Eaten together, there was an explosion of crunchy, soft and light with a hint of balsamic vinaigrette which again brings in a fruity dimension to a very dairy based dish. The butternut was cooked risotto style which made it perfectly cooked on the inside and yet still crunchy on the outside.
Soft Shell Crab in Light Tempura with Horseradish Mayo, Coleslaw and Passionfruit Ice Cream Ana ordered this because she was thinking of the ice cream and the crab together. IT was just so creative and perfect for a sweet tooth. The soft shell crab had a slightly crisp shell and the passionfruit butter and mayo made it taste so divine. You can taste the crab flavor but then the tartness of the passionfruit butter adds a wonderful dimension to the experience. Everything was rich, buttery and greatly textured – soft, crunchy, creamy, cold, hot, crisp. There were so many components that were properly executed creating the ultimate perfect dish.
Red Gate Farm Duck Breast with Willted Spinach, Walnut and Apple Salad The duck was bursting with juices and flavor and was perfectly cooked to a medium rare. It was really tender and properly salted which allowed you to taste the meat. The sauce was a demiglace made out of veal stock most probably with all its rich gelatins in order to get its very deep flavor and slightly sticky texture. The duck had a wonderfully salted skin which complemented the tart green apples. For an added richness, there was a little mayo on the green apple. The roasted walnuts also gave extra texture and a very nutty flavor into the dish which was wonderful with the duck and demiglace. Spinach was there to add texture (soft and slippery) to the duck. Fried celery was added and enhances the flavor of the duck and demiglace. This was a marriage of many components again that created the absolute dish! It was really something carefully done and we experienced it.
Because of this lunch Ana and I realized that the trend in Hunter Valley was the careful and different treatments to all components of the dish. Hunter Valley’s cuisine made use of a lot of layering of flavor, texture and even cooking methods. This was a place where they carefully prepared food and had the customer’s experience in mind . Though these dishes seem so complicated, it is a welcome experience for me.