Hungerford Hill Winery, Broke Rd, Pokolbin NSW
02 4998 6777
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 Rhoades-Brown and his wife, Megan, opened the restaurant in 2009 to offer 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, Roberts, working his way up to become the head chef. A few years later, he went out on his own and Muse was created.
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.
The restaurant prides itself on supporting and showcasing the best produce of the region with the deer, quail, duck, wagyu, chicken, cuttlefish, mackerel as well as a large portion of the fruit, nuts and vegetables coming directly from Hunter Valley farmers. Fresh Jersey milk comes from a nearby dairy, while cheese arrives fresh from surrounding cheesemakers including Binnorie Dairy.
These excellent ingredients are then translated into beautiful plates, which can be ordered as part of a four-course dinner menu, with the first course being set by the chef and your choice between three dishes for the remaining three courses. Additions, such as a cheese course and wine pairing, are also available.
Expect to see thoughtful, unique dishes like whole Local Lamb, grown in a local olive grove, smoked with olive wood and pits, finished in a confit of extra virgin olive oil, all from the same estate. House-made sweet corn polenta from Morpeth with preserved citrus and black olive jus finish the creation.
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 mousse and served on a bed whipped frozen coconut cloud and local flowers.