We used to travel to the Hunter Valley rather frequently but have spent less time there in recent years. We were overdue for a visit and as it’s only an hour from Dylan’s mum’s place we decided the Hunter would be the perfect place to celebrate her birthday. A friend mentioned Emerson’s Cafe & Restaurant as a nice spot for lunch, so we booked it in.
Emerson’s Cafe & Restaurant is Emerson and Samantha Rodriguez’s restaurant located in Lovedale (the restaurant used to be called Emerson’s at Pokolbin though it was renamed when they relocated to Adina Vineyard). Lovedale is situated to the west of Pokolbin in the Hunter Valley, approximately a two hour drive from Sydney.
With a modern Australian menu Emerson’s has a number of small plates for sharing before moving on to the larger dishes, most of which are available as small or large (depending on how hungry you are or if you’re sharing a few dishes). A chef’s banquet menu is also available but as we were dining with light eaters we decided to stick with a la carte.
Baguette and assorted dips ($7.00).
Warm baguette accompanied by olive oil and balsamic, dukkah and mixed olives was the first of the starters to arrive. Dylan’s sister was rather pleased at the sight of the dukkah – she’s a big fan. Although dukkah recipes vary greatly in essence it is a myriad of nuts and spices pounded to just the right level. All we needed was a chunk of bread dunked in olive oil and smothered in dukkah. The plump, meaty olives saw me going back time and again for more. Oh and that caramelised balsamic, made by Adina Vineyard & Olive Grove, was so good we had to head over to the cellar door after lunch to buy some.
Crisp peppered squid with lemon aioli ($17.00).
We couldn’t go past the crisp peppered squid. Served with lemon aioli and a lemon wedge it arrived looking mighty fine, a tangled pile of lightly golden pieces of squid. Piping hot, suitably crisp, tender and giving – just the way it should be. Lightly floured and seasoned well this was a great example of a dish that can so often be overdone. A dollop of fresh, zingy lemon aioli (light on the garlic side) was all it needed.
Zucchini fritters with cumin yoghurt ($14.00).
Served in a mini frying basket the zucchini fritters looked a treat. Crisp outer gave way to a nicely seasoned super soft and fluffy filling. Hints of coriander, cumin and chilli made for moreish little fritters while cumin yoghurt was the perfect dipping sauce. Needless to say they disappeared in no time at all. We loved them so much we asked Emerson if he’d share his recipe with us.
Ham hock and pork terrine with piccalilli vegetables and sourdough bread (Complimentary).
We hadn’t ordered the terrine but to our surprise Emerson sent it out for us to try. Naturally I avoided the piccalilli vegetables and left those to the pickle fiends while I focused on the terrine. A nicely seasoned terrine of lightly smoked ham hock and pork. The inclusion of nuts added an offbeat texture to the stellar terrine.
Oven baked free range chicken supreme, potato cream with cep mushroom sauce ($32.00).
I was on my own with the mains. Everyone wanted steak. I had to be different. Chicken is one of my favourite proteins and the sound of a hearty combination of potato and mushroom meant it was a pretty easy choice for me. Served as a supreme with the wing bone still attached, the chicken looked sensational. The good news is it also tasted great; oven baked and extremely juicy. The bed of crisp, fluffy potatoes and meaty mushrooms complemented the chicken well, the perfect meal for a windy autumn day.
Black Angus sirloin, cafe de paris butter with house cut chips and fresh salad ($35.00 for large).
I must admit the sirloin also looked rather impressive and a larger serving than expected. There was a little confusion over how everyone wanted their steaks cooked and after tucking in to a medium steak Dylan had to swap with his sister who had received his medium-rare. House cut chips were nicely salted, with a good mix of crispy and fluffy they were the ideal sponge to mop up the sauce – a robust cafe de paris (think butter, anchovies, mustard and herbs).
Chocolate delice, doughnut, crumble and house made chocolate ice cream (Complimentary).
Coming back from the bathroom I was surprised to see dessert already on the table when we hadn’t yet ordered. Knowing it was Monika’s birthday Emerson decided to surprise us with a couple of chocolate and a couple of strawberry desserts to share. I was going to order the chocolate dessert so I was quite happy to see it on the table. An artfully arranged plate dedicated to all things chocolate – a delicate and creamy chocolate delice, silky smooth house made chocolate ice cream and chocolate crumble for crunch. Hiding behind the chocolate wafer was a little doughnut that was a little lacking and didn’t seem to fit.
Strawberry creme with strawberry textures (Complimentary).
Swapping desserts at the halfway mark (reluctantly giving up my delicious chocolate) it was on to the strawberry. Presented to one side of a large plate it was a rather fanciful dessert. An ode to the strawberry with lush strawberry creme, strawberry meringue, fresh strawberry and a strawberry gel. The description was correct with lots of strawberry textures at play but my heart was with the chocolate this time around.
Finishing on a piccolo before heading on our way (and a milkshake for Dylan’s sister… that I may have tasted and absolutely adored!) I was rather full. All in all our meal at Emerson’s was a good one. The entrees were all outstanding and my chicken a superb main. Emerson’s is a great place to stop off for a bite to eat in between all that wine tasting.
Emerson’s Cafe & Restaurant
492 Lovedale Road
Lovedale NSW 2325
(02) 4930 7029
Emerson’s Cafe & Restaurant Website