Up for a gourmet wine weekend? Taste the wine and check out the cellar doors, sample the food and bed down for a night or two in NSW's Hunter.
Where to eat and drink
For breakfast: Enzo
Diners regularly interrupt their breakfast to take a turn around Enzo café’s perimeter. The courtyard, with its brick paving warmed by the sun and its soothing water feature, invites such relaxed perambulation with a good flat white in hand. The menu at day’s open is a brief list of well-executed fare, including local free-range eggs and some-of-everything breakfast boards in vegetarian and ham-lovers’ varieties.
For lunch: Margan Restaurant
Located in Broke, the Margan estate is anything but. Owners Andrew Margan (winemaker, viticulturist) and Lisa Margan (chef, nutritionist, organic farmer, restaurateur) have coaxed a bounty of riches from the earth. The ethos at the restaurant is “estate grown, estate made”. From the alfresco tables, guests can see the 4000-square-metre biodynamic plot that produces 90 per cent of the ingredients. The estate grows vegetables and fruit and has olive trees, beehives, chooks happily pecking insects among rows of heirloom tomatoes (truly organic pesticide) and a flock of sheep. Butter, cheese, salumi, bread, pasta and gelati are prepared on site and the Mediterranean-influenced menu changes according to what’s pulled from the soil.
For dinner: Exp.
The opening flourish sets the tone for a meal at Exp. as something not merely consumed but experienced: mortars filled with vivid-green herbs, snap-frozen by liquid nitrogen, are brought to the table, steam billowing. The greenery, pounded to a fine dust, is combined with butter then spread on rounds of housemade sourdough. Though the menu changes seasonally, the parade of dishes that follows could include housemade Jersey-milk haloumi with pumpkin and warrigal greens and Australian Pinnacle Meats Wagyu with native rice, mushroom, black garlic, daikon and wasabi. Exp. stands for any word starting with those letters, especially experience and experimental.
For taking home: Cocoa Nib
While her mother is manning the counter at Cocoa Nib, chocolatier Aymee Slaviero, the owner of this temple to the mighty bean, is in a purpose-built kitchen in her garage, creating. The display is as beautiful as a jewellery store but any reluctance to destroy these perfect creations is soon forgotten when the chocolate starts melting on your tongue. Bags of Orange Kisses and Coconut Roughs and blocks studded with Turkish delight and pistachios should find their way to your home. And whatever you do, buy extra Macadamia Coffee Toffee. Trust us.
Where to stay
Spicers Vineyards Estate
The fireplace is kindled so expertly that within minutes of entering one of Spicers Vineyards Estate’s 12 spacious suites and lighting it, its warmth and cheery crackling suffuse the room. It’s all about thoughtful touches here: the ready-to-blaze fire; the guilty pleasure novels; the bath “caviar”, pumice stone and nailbrush in the enormous spa bath; and the comfy slippers and robe to slip into afterwards. Outside the back door are rows of vines, while beyond the front door is Restaurant Botanica, where breakfast is taken with views of native bush. After a long day of wine-tasting, settle in for a treatment at Spa Anise.
Château Élan at The Vintage
A place for those with diverse interests, Château Élan at The Vintage is both a golf resort and spa – set on fairways designed by Greg Norman, no less – in prime Hunter wine country. While the golfers are taking a swing at The Vintage, those who didn’t pack plaid shorts can be pampered in one of the Spa and Salon’s 17 treatment rooms. The suites and villas are remarkably well equipped, the latter including a dining room, full kitchen and even a washing machine. The contemporary décor eschews country flourishes in favour of a palette of muted lime and chocolate. All rooms have glass doors that open onto a balcony or terrace, where mobs of kangaroos can be seen bounding past.
This piece was originally published in 2017 and has been updated.
Image credits: Margan Restaurant, Hunter Valley Wine Country Tourism (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0); David Hook Jason Wong (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)