Since Hunter Valley dining was a great delight to me and Ana, we decided to go for a spur-of-the-moment-on-the-Hunter-map place and this eventually led us to the Shakey Tables. Although we called several other dining places, it seemed that all were already too late to book and the Shakey Tables was lucky number three on our sights. And so from Peppers, we drove long winding and dark roads until we came to out turn to Hunter Country Lodge and drove on a long and pitch black dirt road in the middle of the forest. In the clearing, we saw little cottages and eventually, the Shakey Tables restaurant.
When we entered this dimly lit room, we saw that the inside seemed to have been decorated by an artist who loves both color and eclectic stuff. We sat down, and we were so hungry. This better be good, I thought, since we drove so far and into the middle of nowhere for dinner!
After we ordered, a wonderful bowl of amuse bouche came our way…I knew that this was going to be a real treat. Citrus salmon with salmon roe with wasabi sorbet. It was both delicious and interesting in a small package. The salmon and roe were both salty and tasted like the sea then you get a cold surprise like the sorbet which that packs a very strong punch because of the wasabi! One bite and this was gone. Now I was ready for my food.
A few minutes later a small plate of bread and herbed butter came out. Bread was really dry and already a bit hard and the herbed butter was a little bland. Didn’t really touch it after the first bite.
Finally our meals were out: Slow cooked pork cheeks with potatoes colcanon and muscat sauce and pig trotter croquettes. The pork cheeks were super soft and gelatinous. The muscat sauce’s tartness cuts the fat of the pork cheeks and yet adds to the richness of taste with it’s deep buttery and smooth flavor and texture. I couldn’t help but eat the fat as well! The pig’s trotter croquette was crisp on the outside and so gelatinous on the inside and yet perfectly seasoned. It was topped on a baked green apple. Sweet, creamy and a melt-in-your-mouth texture mixed with the tartness of the sauce and apple, as well as the crispness of the croquette. The potato colcannon was just the right saltiness and it had chives on it, the bacon was very thin and looked like a cracker.
Rainbow trout with pancetta and spring bean medley. There were beans, peas as a bed in an lemon almond-butter sauce and it was just creating all sorts of creamy and citrus tastes in the mouth. There was different dimensions of nutty flavors from the legumes and herby flavor from the sauce and asparagus. The pancetta wrapped trout was cooked perfectly producing a slightly creamy and slightly salty and smokey flavor when eaten together. Burnt almond butter was wonderful with the beans and fish and this was something that you couldn’t really fully grasp because of the number of things going on in a dish. It was quite complex because of all the flavors, and yet simple at the same time.
Siding: Potato with toffee pistachio. This boiled and then sauteed potato has a slight garlic and olive oil taste but what makes it so delicious is the toffee pistachio. The burnt, sweet and salty mixture is wonderful with the potatoes. And the texture of the pistachio toffee really gives the otherwise soft potato a wonderful texture.
Dessert sounded a little complicated but Ana was so up for it: Cranachan – Raspberry, Toasted Oatmeal and Honey Ice Cream Terrine with Whisky & Almond Praline Filled Tuile Cigars. The dessert looked like a small chess board that was beige and red. The board looked like it was sitting on top of little ice cream cones. When we tasted the raspberry part of the ice cream, it was pleasantly sour. Then the toasted oatmeal, it had a good flavor of honey and once the ice cream melts in your mouth, you will begin to taste and feel the toasted oatmeal. It was divine. The Whisky and Almond Praline Cigars were accompaniment to the ice cream that gave it a more mature take on the ice cream. The flavor of the whisky and almond was very apparent because it was whipped into the cream that filled the crunchy tuile cigars. The tuile cigars provided a caramel dimension to the dessert.
It really was worth the drive. Hunter Valley is truly a foodie’s paradise.