Food and wine have an intrinsic link, and nowhere is this clearer than in the Hunter Valley.
The New South Wales’ wine region, two to three hours north of Sydney, is not only home to some of Australia’s best wineries but also to some of the country’s best restaurants.
We’ve put together a list of our favourite restaurants in the Hunter Valley from Cessnock to Lovedale, from Mount View to Broke and Pokolbin to Rothbury. Wherever your Hunter Valley escape takes you, you’re sure to find a wondrous culinary experience waiting for you.
Robert Molines has created an empire from his passion for French cooking and a dream of sharing his country’s cuisine with the world.
Now settled in the Hunter Valley, Robert and his wife Sally operate Bistro Molines, a restaurant that quickly gained a loyal following and a string of accolades.
The tables in the light-filled restaurant are adorned with crisp. white linen cloths and vases of beautiful, fresh flowers created by Sally. The atmosphere is best described by Robert himself: ‘It is not a room, but a sea of space filled with tables; it’s like having lunch at your grandmother’s house, the only thing that’s missing is your grandmother!’
749 Mount View Rd, Mount View
Centrally located in the heart of Pokolbin, The Cellar is one of the Hunter Valley’s original restaurants, where excellent food and passion for produce run abundant.
If you’re looking to impress a loved one with a romantic date by the fire, The Cellar Restaurant is the place for you. With a dedication to treating local produce with care and respect, and the sophisticated ambience of the restaurant, it’s no wonder The Cellar Restaurant has won so many awards within contemporary Australian food culture.
Hunter Valley Gardens Village, Broke Rd
Daniels’ Restaurant is one of Cessnock’s newest culinary offerings. An expert team of culinary connoisseurs turn out a European-inspired menu full of fresh ingredients. Vegetables and herbs come from the kitchen garden, while all other produce is found as locally as possible. This translates to delicious fare, with a seasonal menu full of fantastic flavours.
Come mid-week, Daniels’ also offers local nights, making it easier to enjoy a meal out. Pop by on Wednesday for pasta and pinot, or make it a day later for beef or barramundi. You can also visit on Sunday mornings for a lazy weekend breakfast. With delectable dining and a fantastic atmosphere, it’s a family run restaurant the locals didn’t know they needed but now can’t go without.
4 Wollombi Rd, Cessnock
In Lovedale, a town known for an abundance of great food, produce and wine, it can be hard to stand out. However, Emerson’s does just that, offering a diverse menu full of local ingredients.
A focus on local produce is highlighted throughout the dinner menu, where entrees and mains can be enjoyed individually or shared. The smoked Hiramasa kingfish, served with spiced eggplant puree, radish and red pepper crumbs, sets the stage for the rest of the meal, with mains that include a 12-hour braised Wagyu beef cheek with king brown mushrooms, potato cream and pickled onions.
The knowledgeable staff understand that wine is an important part of the fine dining experience and will be happy to suggest a glass of some of the best wines from the Hunter Valley. These can be enjoyed with your meal in the modern dining room or the outdoor patio, where vineyard views will simply take your breath away.
492 Lovedale Rd, Lovedale
A visit to EXP. Restaurant can be described with many words: experimental expert, exposure, exploration, expression, explosion… but most of all, it’s about the Experience.
In an innovative move, the chefs also serve the food themselves so they can interact with the guests. After slaving away for hours to create perfection, it’s understandable that they might enjoy showing-off just a little.
EXP. organises your dinner in a five- or eight-course tasting menu, each of which celebrates a humble list of ingredients. However, don’t let this simplicity deceive you. The flavours are deliciously complex and enhanced through clever and innovative combinations that remain appealing to the eye.
After a fantastic meal, there’s nothing better than a stroll through stunning vineyards. Luckily for visitors to EXP., the restaurant is part of the beautiful Oakvale winery, meaning a post-lunch wander is almost a necessity.
1596 Broke Rd, Pokolbin
Located amongst the vines of Cockfighter’s Ghost Vineyard, Hunters Quarter is an outstanding restaurant run by the talented local chef, Brian Duncan.
The kitchen makes use of local produce wherever possible, which results in regular deliveries of Milly Hill lamb, freshly caught trout, olives, cream, cheese, olive oil, micro herbs and coffee to the bustling kitchen.
Featuring floor-to-ceiling glass windows and doors, every seat in the beautiful restaurant provides panoramic views of the surrounding vineyard.
The Cellar Door adjoins the restaurant and gives guests the opportunity to extend the culinary experience beyond the restaurant. It’s the perfect pairing of experiences, combining a smart and modern, yet casual dining destination with the chance to delve into the region’s best-known offerings.
576 De Beyers Rd, Pokolbin
Lillino’s has become a culinary playground for locals, visitors and even celebrities, offering guests a taste of true Italian cuisine. Many dishes are based on traditional family recipes, meaning the kitchen team is able to pair seasonal local produce with the very best in imported products, including Culatello, Parmigiano Reggiano, Sardinian pecorino and Caputo flour.
This emphasis on seasonality means dishes change regularly and every visit will bring something new. No matter the time of year, you’ll find a mouth-watering selection of pastas, the flavour combinations of which vary.
What makes Lillino’s so remarkable is the combination of excellent, local wine; traditional Sardinian flavours; and the stunning views of the Hunter Valley.
136 Talga Rd, Lovedale
Margan Restaurant carries an estate grown-and-made ethos, with ingredients coming from the one-acre kitchen garden or local suppliers. Free-range chickens, Black Suffolk lambs and beehives are also on the property, looking after their meat and honey needs.
The seasonally driven menu is influenced by the flavours and traditions of Europe and is regarded as ‘agri-dining’ at its finest.
For a complete food and wine experience, it’s hard to beat Margan Wines and Restaurant. Stop by the Cellar Door and restaurant to admire all that is good about the Hunter Valley.
1238 Milbrodale Rd, Broke, NSW
No list of Hunter Valley dining experiences is complete without mentioning Muse, the two-hatted regional restaurant that consistently rates as one of Australia’s best.
The team works to present dishes that hero quality produce, rather than prescribing to the flavour du jour. This emphasis on seasonality means the offerings are constantly changing, but there’s a consistent culinary approach across the board: technique, restraint and respect.
Through a combination of skill, style and an intimate knowledge of local flavours, the team has turned Pokolbin’s first destination into its nest destination.
Hungerford Hill Winery, Broke Rd, Pokolbin
Restaurant Botanica is known for its emphasis on sustainability and commitment to seasonal produce. The menu is based on the produce sourced from either the restaurant’s own kitchen garden or local producers in the Hunter Valley, which results in delicious, wholesome and hearty food. Every dish is full of vibrant colour and is plated so that your eyes can feast as much as your palate.
Perched on a hill overlooking the sprawling vineyards, it’s no wonder that this restaurant boasts a 15-page wine list. Yet, there is no need to be intimidated, you’re in very good hands and the staff will happily guide you to the perfect drop for your meal.
555 Hermitage Rd, Pokolbin
The Scottish Highlands come to the Hunter Valley in the form of Shakey Tables. Although they may be half a world away, the two regions are linked by a love of traditional techniques and a deep respect for produce. Taking an innovative and modern approach to these philosophies, Shakey Tables has established itself as one of the gems of the region.
With its unique blend of innovation, tradition and eclecticism, Shakey Tables is sure to charm every guest.
1476 Wine Country Dr, North Rothbury
Did we miss your favourite Hunter Valley restaurant? Let us know.