Hungerford Hill Winery, Broke Rd, Pokolbin
02 4998 6777
Troy Rhoades-Brown is one of those chefs that invokes gasps of awe and appreciation throughout the culinary community.
It’s no wonder, considering the package he and his wife Megan present at Muse Restaurant, the two-hatted regional restaurant that consistently rates as one of Australia’s best.
When you enter Pokolbin from Broke Road in the Hunter Valley, one of the first things you’ll see is the iconic Hungerford Hill winery and its neighbour, Muse. Troy and Megan opened the restaurant in 2009 with the aim of offering a complete dining experience.
Troy first fell in love with cooking at home, where his mum Leslie would cook the family fresh and wholesome dinners. Despite missing out on the required subjects in high school, it was his mum who also suggested an apprenticeship at a local family run restaurant. From there, he was hooked. He continued his apprenticeship under renowned chef and restaurateur, Robert Molines, before travelling to Europe to gain work experience at The Ledbury. When Troy returned to the Hunter, he returned to the same restaurant to cook under Robert, working his way up to head chef. A few years later, he went out on his own and Muse was born.
Similarly, Megan’s extensive front-of-house experience means the fare isn’t the only thing that has people talking – the service is professional and friendly, contributing to an overall stellar dining experience. In a trend-bucking move, the majority of the staff are employed full-time, meaning you’re guaranteed to see their friendly faces each time you visit.
However, that’s not the only trend Troy and Megan resist. As the designers of the menu, they work 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.
All breads, pastas, gnocchi, ice creams, pastries and butchery are prepared in-house. Fresh milk, cream and butter comes fresh from a nearby dairy farmer, while cheese arrives fresh from surrounding cheesemakers, including Binnorie Dairy. These excellent ingredients are then translated into beautiful plates, which can be ordered a la carte – first, main, dessert and cheese – or part of the tasting menu.
If you choose to let the chefs do the hard work for you, expect to start with something like the Hiramasa king fish served raw with pickled and braised daikon, lotus root, lime, radish and shiso, before moving onto the cuttle fish and King Brown mushroom ‘noodles’, expertly paired with sake and miso cream, yuzu, ginger and ink wafer. Matching wines are also available for each course – you can go local with the Hungerford Hill list, or take the premium option of both Australian and international wines.
Finish off your meal with one of the decadent desserts: if you’re lucky you might find the Muse coconut – a husk made of dark chocolate, filled with a coconut cloud mousse and served on a bed of raw shaved coconut and local flowers.
Through a combination of skill, style and an intimate knowledge of local flavours, Troy and Megan have turned Pokolbin’s first destination into its nest destination.