It takes a brave couple to follow their passion, go out on a limb and throw everything they’ve got into a new venture. However, that’s exactly what Daniel and Lyndal Hunt did with the opening of Daniels’ Restaurant, one of Cessnock’s newest culinary offerings.
The daring husband-and-wife duo has created a unique space in the heart of town, where dishes are both technical and accessible, and bursting with quality, local produce. Occupying one of Cessnock’s oldest and most impressive buildings – the former headquarters of the Hunter Valley Wine Society – Daniels’ boasts stunning views of the Brokenback Range, making for a picturesque dining experience.
Despite it being their first independent venture, the Hunts are no strangers to the hospitality game. Daniel was previously Executive Chef of Robert’s Restaurant at Tower Estate and Restaurant 221 – the Royal Oak Cessnock. He trained under, and was influenced by, Jamie Hartcher and Robert Molines and takes these sensibilities into his own venue.
Quite literally putting his name where his passion lies, Daniel takes on the role of head chef. He leads an expert team of culinary connoisseurs in turning 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 approach translates to delicious fare, with a seasonal menu full of fantastic flavours. Open the experience with a selection of oysters: with four different accompaniments to choose from, it’s not your average oyster offering. Go natural with lemon, or take a walk on the wild side with shaved cuttle fish, pickled cucumber and wasabi. From there, it’s onto the entrees, where the quality of Australian seafood and meats really shines through.
Try the smallgoods tasting board for a little bit of everything – it includes duck liver pate, pork terrine, salami, berry jam and toasted bread. For a dish all to yourself, opt for the seared Tasmanian sea scallops, served with pork belly pieces, nashi, shallot caramel, peanut praline and cress, or the salt and pepper fried soft shell baby crab, accompanied by cucumber, green paw paw and a palm sugar dressing. You can opt to upgrade these plates to main-dish size, or order round two.
If Asian flavours are more to your persuasion, try the braised pork cheeks with a sesame and coriander seed crust – the Japanese pumpkin, sautéed squid and wasabi aioli add Japanese flourishes to a European standard.
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.
Daniels’ Restaurant is a labour of love. Daniel and Lyndal’s punt on their very own venture has paid off – 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.