I have a specific house fantasy. For one part of my life I want to live in a slab brick house covered in plants and greenery and I want to dish out lovely food to people or afternoon tea and live a simple but exciting life. And in place of this fantasy ever happening I have to content myself with visiting similar establishments and taking notes about how they decorate and do things. You know, just in case my fantasy does become a reality. I wouldn't like to be _unprepared _;)
It was a sunny Sunday afternoon when we visited Roberts in the Hunter Valley just two hours away from Sydney. We had just checked out of our luxurious home away from home at Tower Lodge and were here for lunch. Both properties are owned by the same people. When we drive up to the grounds I gasp "Ooh this is where we drive past with Teena and Gina the last time we came to the Hunter Valley!" It was the place that years ago we swore we'd come back to to eat it or at least explore as it's just like my fantasy house come to life. I open the door and coo at the front rooms-there's no need to rush to the restaurant that sits at the back of the cottage when there's so much to explore in the front rooms including a private room with a table set for two.
We were late, of course, and we had no excuse although I'm sure that it's one that is often proferred up to people. "Sorry we were busy traipsing around the Hunter Valley and tasting wine" seems like a logical but effete excuse. We're greeted by one staff member who seats us in the large farmhouse style room. Throughout the day service ranges here from friendly to slightly chilly depending on the staff member. We're handed the enormous A3 sized menus and we choose wisely. After all we had only had breakfast a few hours before.
The amuse bouche is a fresh cucumber slice with mussel salad, yabby and fig and comes together to become a refreshing starter.
Smallgoods Tasting Plate $26
We resisted the idea of the sashimi plate as we're not very close to the ocean here instead we go for Winter hearty dishes. We figured the tasting plate would offer us a range of tastes and when we ask if the sausages are made in house we get an off hand "As far as I know" from the waitress who saunters off without any move to check with anyone else. The chorizo, brawn, cured pork and roast chicken and herb roulade are all excellent and they come with some thin radish slices, a candied sweet chutney and some cornichons and some thinly sliced ciabatta bread drizzled in oil and sprinkled with salt. The only item we didn't go for was the duck liver pate which was quite metallic and a bit bitter in taste.
Parmesan crumbed lamb brains $25
The parmesan crumbed lamb brains come with a crunchy fine parmesan crust but the brains themselves aren't quite as creamy as I've had them at other places where they were incredibly soft and creamy. They were good but just didn't have that soft, spongey consistency. They come paired with a celeriac puree, white asparagus spears and baby cress.
Confit of Berkshire Pork Belly $42
The confit of Berkshire Pork belly comes out as a neat rectangle with a nicely bubbled crackling. Any reservations I may have had about the entrees are quickly extinguished with the mains (and desserts to come). The pork belly is perfectly cooked, crisp on the top and soft and gelatinous in the meat. And the accompaniments are a doozy (and what persuaded me to order them). There's a buttery, crispy quince and macadamia mille feuille which is the perfect crunchy, sweet and flakey foil for the pork and a daub of cauliflower cream which provides creaminess. And it's about now that we regret eating so much for breakfast as we couldn't finish it. I whisper to Mr NQN "You know at 7:30 tonight I'm going to want to eat that pork between two thin slices of sourdough. Do you think I should have brought a zip lock bag?".
Black Angus reserved Beef tenderloin 180G $46
The black angus beef is tender as tender could be. It is served with some bone marrow which excites me but the bone marrow has cooled a bit too quickly and has turned firm and again doesn't have that soft, gelatinous property that makes me go weak at the knees. It is served with trompette mushrooms and a delectably light, airy and eggy leek flan slice and a Bordelaise sauce. And again we almost sobbed at not being able to finish this (well I did).
And who should arrive but our lovely waiter from last night at Nine who brings us the Hunter Valley Wine Country booklet as promised.
Crème Fraiche cake, lemon curd, vanilla bean cream, blackberry jam ice cream $17
We chose the desserts based on the sound of the ice creams as I liked the sound of a blackberry jam ice cream. The creme fraiche cake is a surprise indeed, it is a moist sponge cake with a layer of vanilla creme fraiche custard in the centre and it is then covered with meringue and then lightly torched. To complete the picture of prettiness is the meringue swirls dusted in what seems to be a dehydrated berry dust and there two dots of vanilla bean cream and the blackberry jam ice cream which actually tastes exactly like it sounds, a vanilla ice cream with swirls of blackberry jam through it. Sublime.
Toasted almond creme brulee, fig, Turkish delight ice cream $17
The brulee was a very generous size served in the bowl of a soup bowl and has a smooth nutty flavour in the custard and a good crunchy toffee crust. It is paired with diced sweet fresh fig and the rose flavoured Turkish Delight ice cream with real pieces of Turkish Delight inside sits atop a slice of fresh fig.
The petit fours are a butter truffle which has a thin chocolate coating and a gush of smooth buttery chocolate ganache filling as a hazelnut financier.
It is with some reluctance that we drag our heels to leave but we must depart to get back to the Big Smoke but not before I take some time exploring the front rooms and take a seat in one of the chairs wondering whether my life in a slab cottage might ever eventuate.
So tell me Dear Reader, what is your dream house like?
NQN and Mr NQN dined as guests of Roberts
Halls Road, Pokolbin, Hunter Valley, NSW
Tel: +61 (02) 4998 7330
Lunch Saturday & Sunday
Dinner 7 days a week