When Marcos & Missy made plans to visit from NYC we decided a trip to the Hunter was required. Our group hired a luxurious architect-designed house and left Sydney for the weekend. We decided it would be best to have lunch out and about during our day touring the wineries, and Muse Kitchen seemed the best fit for our group of 10 adults of varying appetites and a 10 month old.
Muse Kitchen, located in the courtyard of Keith Tulloch Winery, is Troy Rhoades-Brown’s more casual restaurant in the Hunter Valley, with Muse at Hungerford Hill Winery his fine diner. Troy sources produce as locally as possible, supporting those who are as passionate about produce as he is. The menu is seasonal and driven by what is available – it’s short and to the point. You’ll find half a dozen appetisers, a few entrees and a few mains to choose from (plus dessert and cheese of course).
The restaurant makes you feel like you’re in a friend’s country style kitchen. It’s warm and welcoming with wooden floorboards, stunning white washed dining tables and chairs and a huge clock on the wall. It’s shabby chic and I love it.
Organic Ciabatta served warm, caramelised onion, aged balsamic ($12.00).
A few serves of ciabatta were ordered for everyone to nibble on while the rest of our meal was being prepared. The chunky ciabatta was served warm, on a board with a mini copper pot of luscious caramelised onion and the usual dipping condiments of olive oil and an aged balsamic which Dylan felt was the biggest flavoured balsamic he’s ever had. Not your ordinary bread fare.
Fraser Isle Spanner Crab Orecchiette Pasta, lemon, garlic, parsley ($22.00).
Most of our dining companions opted to order a main only. But for a few of us at the indulgent end of the table we were ordering entrees and mains while already sussing out the dessert menu! For once it was an easy choice for me, the crab orecchiette being right up my alley. A jumble of beautifully sweet spanner crab and silky, al dente orecchiette made for a delightful starter. Slithers of radish and a scattering of peas complemented the bountiful seafood dish nicely.
Pan Fried North Queensland Prawns, Andrew Thomas verjuice butter, tarragon, fennel ($22.00).
Dylan chose prawns to begin, and I was quite pleased he did as I’d convinced him to go halves in our entrees. Magnificently cooked the king prawns were the hero of this dish, allowed to shine in all their sweet, juicy glory. Simply pan fried and doused in a gorgeous verjuice (from Andrew Thomas’ winery just down the road) butter sauce, with that unique zinginess only tarragon can bring. The only thing missing was more of that ciabatta to mop up all of the delicious juices.
Roasted Corn Fed Chicken Breast, quinoa, raisins, pumpkin, honey, jus ($36.00).
I absolutely adore chicken but find restaurants often don’t have it on their menus, favouring duck and other poultry instead. But there is something about chicken that I just love. This dish is a prime example why. Succulent chicken that tasted like real chicken. Crisp skin, buttery pumpkin puree, sweet raisins and nutty quinoa added varying textures and flavours, accentuating the stunning chicken. Marcos also had this dish and exclaimed it was the best chicken he’d ever eaten in his entire life.
Roasted Rump and Braised Neck of Lamb, potato puree, horseradish ($38.00).
Dylan’s main was completely different to mine and gorgeous in its own right. The lamb had an incredible depth of flavour with both roasted rump and braised neck of lamb on the plate which juxtaposed each other immensely – the braised neck with its sheer intensity and the rump with its pure, lean offering. Shavings of horseradish were adored yet simply not enough to go head to head with the strong lamb. Both the greenery and mash were fitting in a dish where lamb was so dominant. A remarkable dish.
Caramelised Brussels Sprouts, marinated feta, mint, seeded mustard ($12.00).
Marcos has his eye on the brussels and I was never going to argue. I was that child who LOVED brussels. Yes, that child who ate each leaf one by one to savour them! Here they were caramelised and crisp, paired with creamy feta, a mild chilli sauce and a few fresh sprout and mint leaves. These would convert every single other child out there who hated brussels growing up!
Young Mixed Leaves, white wine vinaigrette ($8.00).
Side salads are a must for Dylan and so it was the mixed leaves with a vinaigrette dressing made its way to our table. Not simply ‘young mixed leaves’ but with slices of pickles, radish and a scattering of pomegranate seeds to keep things interesting. Though high on Dylan’s ordering agenda let’s just say the brussels stole the show and the salad hardly got a look in.
Chocolate, Banana, Caramelised Pecan, vanilla ice cream, puffed rice, date ($14.00).
When it came to desserts I just had to go for the banana, I’m still in my banana dessert obsession phase. But before I dug in I had a mouthful of Jason’s trifle. Oh my goodness the little doughnut was full of cinnamon sugar goodness. I had a little food envy on this one and I hadn’t even started mine.
Luckily my dessert was just as good. Banana and pecans are a classic combination and this was no exception. Caramelised pecans, ripe banana and puffed rice for texture. A sphere of chocolate hid creamy vanilla ice cream while hints of mint were a nice touch. A pleasant way to end a wonderful meal.
Muse Kitchen is my kind of lunch destination. The setting is beautiful and the food incredibly tasty, well portioned and value for money. Plus of course you’re in the Hunter and it’s a rather stunning place in itself.
Keith Tulloch Winery
Corner Hermitage and Deasys Roads
Pokolbin NSW 2320
(02) 4998 7899
Muse Kitchen Website