BLAXLANDS ESTATE - HUNTER VALLEY, NSW

Blaxlands Inn
2198 Broke Rd
Pokolbin, Hunter Valley, NSW

Blaxlands Inn is clearly a pretty place in a lovely location. What's not to like about the Hunter Valley and this place is right smack bang in the middle of everything.

First things first, Blaxlands Inn  has had some mixed reviews. We were actually reading them while we were there - and it made us a bit nervous.

Price was said to be high - but it is the Hunter Valley people, and if you're not used to the area then it can really surprise you. True there were some pricier dishes on the menu but there were also some reasonably affordable ones too - and we were only after something light.

Next was food quality and serving sizes - well for us both were fine. Again true - the food arrived within and instant of ordering and we had very basic dishes - but it was fine and a decent size. Service was attentive as well.



















Anyway, Mlady had a basic salad and a coffee - we weren't overly hungry and this was sufficient.





















Sir had a Caesar Salad and a coffee. Again the serving size was decent and even tough it perhaps wasn't presented as well as it could have been, it tasted fine.




















Blaxlands Estate is a pleasant place. The rustic building has a lot of charm with plenty of stone and timber and a bygone age appearance.

It's perhaps hard to comment on the food much, as we really didn't have a full meal.

While we ordered fairly basic dishes, what we got was what we expected.

The food itself was decent with good serving sizes.









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ELEMENTS RESTAURANT (INSIDE MERCURE RESORT HUNTER VALLEY GARDENS) - HUNTER VALLEY NSW

Elements Restaurant
(Inside The Mercure Resort Hunter Valley Gardens)
2090 Broke Rd
Pokolbin, Hunter Valley NSW

Elements is the new restaurant inside the elegant and picturesque Mercure Resort Hunter Valley Gardens.

It offers a French/Australian fusion menu put together by Executive Chef Jean Marc Pollet.

The menu draws on both seasonal offerings and local produce and much of the local produce comes from his own gardens on his 5 acre farm.

The restaurant is lovely inside - simple and elegant. Outside are absolutely lovely views overlooking the manicured gardens, a stunning fountain bubbling away further down the lawn and a spectacular large fire pit on the verandah crackling right in front of the windows.



We started with some lovely fresh house baked bread.

There are two choices as well, mixed herb bread or garlic bread - so we chose one of each to sample both and they were certainly nice.

We also had a serving of olives, balsamic glaze and virgin olive oil to nibble on as a nice appetiser to get us in the mood for food. It was so pleasant!


As we were in the Hunter Valley it certainly seemed only right to choose a local wine to have with our dinner. There were plenty to choose from on the wine list but we ended up deciding on a 2011 Scarborough Pinot Noir which was delightful. Our table water was nicely served chilled in a Cointreau bottle. 


For starters Mlady chose the Canadian seared scallops and blue swimmer crab tortellini and tomato salsa with Woodland first pressed Hunter olive oil.

It was a great pairing with the plump juicy scallops attractively presented alternating with fluffy tortellini filled with blue swimmer crab.

Down the side of the plate was a line of tomato salsa that not only looked great but added further flavour to the dish.

The scallops looked beautiful topped with red caviar beads that also tumbled off the sides onto the plate.

The tortellini was also a winner - either of these would probably have been enough as a starter on their own with the salsa.
Sir had the beautifully plated snapper souffle with New Zealand scampi, fennel foam and crustacean oil.

It was artistically presented with the scampi piled high on the souffle.

The dish was one of delicate and very subtle flavours with each combining nicely with the others while not dominating the dish. The scampi and souffle were nicely cooked too.


For her main course Mlady chose the traditional French coq au vin.

The dish was made from slow cooked corn fed chicken with Hunter Shiraz, tarragon, mushroom and onion.

It arrived quaintly presented in a lovely cast iron pan and it was a substantial serving of a rich dish with nice bold flavours. Mlady really enjoyed this. 

Sir went for the meatier fillet mignon - a favourite of his.

It was Hunter signature select beef, cross breed, pasture fed 250gm eye fillet that was wrapped with bacon and then topped with baked mushrooms

It was a nice piece of meat which had great textures and it was very tender and nicely cooked to order - medium rare.

For dessert Sir had another favourite, crepe Suzette. The crepes came with a blood orange sorbet and he thoroughly enjoyed them. Mlady of course chose the warm chocolate fondant, hazelnut praline and vanilla bean ice cream. It smelled delish and tasted great with good combinations that ticked all the boxes. 

Mlady sipped a lovely Moorebank Muscat Liqueur while Sir had a great 2013 Hunter Valley McLeish Estate Jessica's Botrytis Semillon.

Elements Restaurant is a sophisticated dining experience. The fusion of French classics and local Australian choices and produce works well. It's a lovely place with great service and the lovely food of Jean Marc Pollet to match.

Sir and Mlady dined as guests of Elements Restaurant and the Mercure Resort Hunter Valley Gardens. Thanks to Eliza, Kimberly and Cassie for looking after us. Special thanks to David Lowe for arranging our visit. 
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A WEEKEND IN ..... CROWNE PLAZA HUNTER VALLEY

A Weekend In ..... Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley
430 Wine Country Drive,
Lovedale, Hunter Valley, NSW

It's hard to know where to start with this lovely place. The minute you leave the main road and weave your way through the manicured golf course and beautiful gardens towards the main building it seems like you're in another world - and a very pleasant world at that!

This place is more than just a place to stay - a lot more than that in fact! It has so much there - luxury accommodation, golf course, sprawling pool, function rooms, volleyball court, several bars and their own brewery even, and of course lovely food in several spots.

Then there's the wineries of the beautiful Hunter Valley right there on your doorstep to wander around by day - sheer bliss!



The Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley is worth looking around, just to admire.

They seem to have everything here, from giant chess and chequer boards in a lovely outdoor seating area through to comfy lounge areas inside to sip a drink and relax.

They also have a day spa downstairs and if you're looking for something a bit more adventurous there's helicopter rides and segway tours available right there.


Of course the quality of the rooms are important where ever you go - and you wont be disappointed here!

Ours was spectacular with plenty of space, light and comfort.

With its own lounge room, dining table and the benefits of a spa bath in the massive bathroom it was almost a pity to leave it to explore!











And lets not forget the view right outside our balcony door.

The grounds here are manicured and simply beautiful.

The lush green lawns are kept so well and there's so much space here - it just seems to stretch into the distance in every direction. Its certainly worth spending a little time exploring - we did.










There's just so much to do here - a weekend is almost a teaser! After exploring the grounds we decided to pop in to the Lovedale Bar and Restaurant for some refreshments - a drink to be more specific!

As they also have the Lovedale Brewery and Distillery next door it seems only right to have one of their drops!

We sat at a table on high bar stools and looked out over the lagoon-like pool and forgot the day to day issues we all have. It's amazing how quickly you can relax when you're in the right place.

Then we felt energised and decided to have a game of table tennis on one of the tables available.

If you prefer pool that's there as well.





As food lovers, a visit to Redsalt, the signature Crowne Plaza restaurant, was a must.

Redsalt is probably best described as fine dining quality in a slightly more relaxed environment. You still get the same quality of service you'd expect but as you'd expect in a holiday setting the overly formal edge isn't there. They have a great reputation for their food and we were keen to sample it!






In an almost unheard of decision I actually chose a vegetarian entree! Yes - it's true.

The caramelised leek and goats cheese tart just sounded so good on the menu.

It came topped with watercress and soft herb salad and a lovely drizzle of balsamic around the pastry tart. The pastry was beautiful - which is always the first test - and the filling lived up to my hopes as well.
Mlady went for the elegant salad of spanner crab.

It arrived beautifully presented on an elongated slate tile dotted with heirloom tomato, avocado puree and verjus.

This was a more delicate starter than my more substantial one - and it also tasted just as good as it looked.


I fancied something hearty for my main course so grabbed the 500gm dry aged T bone. Dry ageing isn't that common these days and it's nice to see some places still use this more traditional method. In this case, the fact that the meat was 120 day grain fed Certified Angus with a marble score of 2+ didn't hurt either! It was a lovely piece of meat with full flavours that was cooked medium rare as ordered. The hefty potato dauphinoise was lovely as well.



Mlady went again for something a bit lighter - although still substantial. The handmade linguine with basil pesto, zucchini, sun dried tomatoes, rocket and grana padano appealed to her inner vegetarian. It actually turned out to be very filling with plenty of tangy flavours that worked well together.

A decent sized green leaf salad with herbs and dijon mustard vinaigrette went well with both main courses.



It was hard to concentrate on the food at times when we also had the opportunity to gaze out over the pool/lagoon. As the sun set the pool lights came on and it looked even more spectacular.







Mlady, being a chocoholic from way back, unsurprisingly chose the dark chocolate fondant for dessert.

It was rich, gooey and decadently delicious and came with maraschino cherries and vanilla cocoa nib gelato.

If you want a rich dessert to finish your meal - and many of us do - then this is for you.

I was in the mood for something a bit tangy and the caramelised lemon tart sounded like it would achieve this for me.
It was described as also having textures of raspberry, which confused me a bit until it arrived.

This turned out to be a great mix of different raspberry treats across the plate that went nicely with the lemon tart but were also just as nice on their own.










Breakfast the next morning was again in
Redsalt - gazing out again over the pool. It's busy here at breakfast, really busy, yet everything seems to move seamlessly. They have plenty of staff on board which clearly helps a lot. Whilst it's a buffet you can also order for a list of cooked options and the eggs Benedict was always going to be my choice. The two perfectly cooked eggs on smoked salmon and muffin halves were absolutely delicious!


If you prefer to simply visit (and revisit) the buffet selection you won't be disappointed either. There's a huge selection of both hot and cold food ranging from fruits, cereals, nuts and seeds, juices, pastries, breads and of course all the cooked foods you would expect here.

They also have a dedicated coffee station with its own barista - because we all know how important a good coffee is to start the day.



















Of course once you decide to venture outside the luxurious surroundings of the Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley you're in, well, the beautiful Hunter Valley. Now it's time to sample wines, olives, chocolates, cheeses and other goodies - and it's all virtually at your doorstep. Around every corner there's another great place to drop in on - don't be shy. We love this place - and clearly many others do too. As it's so close to Sydney its great for a weekend or a fully blown holiday!




It's just so pretty in the Hunter Valley, and staying at the Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley was an added luxury that made it so much more than just a weekend away!

It's another world that is really worth experiencing. The room was great and the food was delicious but the most impressive thing is simply the grandeur of the place. Simply amazing. Once tried, you'll be back!



Sir and Mlady were guests of the Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley. Special thanks to all the lovely people there that looked after us so well - it was impressive. Thanks also to Lea Nguyen of Pulse Communications for arranging our visit so professionally.


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Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley on Urbanspoon

Lovedale Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

HUNTER VALLEY COOKIES - POKOLBIN, HUNTER VALLEY NSW

Hunter Valley Cookies
Hunter Valley Gardens Village
2090 Broke Rd,
Pokolbin, Hunter Valley NSW

Around ten years ago Sheryl Machain and her sister decided to recreate and sell the type of hand made home made biscuits they grew up with.

That has now become Hunter Valley Cookies, now with her husband Fred and daughter Hayley. They bake 25 varieties seasonally but there are 12 favourites baked every week.

These are seriously good cookies as well. Big, chunky, real ingredients and good solid flavours. It's what we all want in a cookie!

The Hunter Valley Cookies shop is also home of the Weird and Wacky Cookie Jar Museum, a private collection of over 60 old and rare cookie jars.

The Full Monty is one of the most popular biscuits made at Hunter Valley Cookies.

We tried a bag of these and it was very easy to see why they disappear so quickly every day. They were delicious!

Two thick but light biscuits encasing a rich sweet creamy filling - such a great combination and probably my favourite!

The Mochacino Creme is another really popular biscuit.

Its basically a darker version of The Full Monty - with a shot of coffee in each biscuit and chocolate and coconut in there as well.

These were Mlady's favourites - but anything with the word chocolate in it has a bit of a head start with her anyway!

We were lucky enough to try four varieties of Hunter Valley Cookies. We had The Full Monty, Mochacino Cream, Sticky Date and Ginger and last but not least Macadamia White Chocolate. They were all great cookies - big, full flavoured and so hard to stop at just one!








Hayley Machain at work hand making the cookies
Hunter Valley Cookies are available in the Hunter Valley of course - but also much more widely as well. In fact 90% of their sales are from locations other than their shop - so the word is spreading about how good they are. These are seriously good cookies!

Sir and Mlady were given cookies to try by Hunter Valley Cookies. Special thanks to Hayley Machain for arranging our visit. Thanks to Sheryl and Hayley for chatting with us on our visit.






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OSCARS - HUNTER VALLEY, NSW

Oscars
Broke Rd
Hunter Valley Gardens Shop 15
Pokolbin Hunter Valley

Oscars is pleasant. It's what you would describe as nice, solid, reliable. It looks nice and has both indoor and outside seating. The outside seating looks nicer but on a cold day its not really an option without heating. The food was nice and the prices were fair for the Hunter Valley.

The obligatory star logo of Oscars is hidden on the top of our coffee - certainly couldn't miss it but I admire their flair. The coffee was decent too - as an added bonus!
If you're hungry you can always head for the bacon, eggs and grilled tomato on toast. The eggs were nicely done and there was a decent sized serving of bacon as well. I think it was about $16.00.
I have to confess to liking a good bacon and egg roll. This one comes with BBQ sauce for $8.50. The bun was fresh, the egg was nicely done and the bacon was crispy.
The raisin toast (possibly only just classified as toast) was a little under-done - more like warm bread.
Oscars emphasises their star logo in most things - including of course their card. The place may benefit from a bit more movie memorabilia around to further link in to the movie/Oscar theme.
Inside its nice without being over the top.
The outside area is very pleasant - but not on a cold morning I suspect. On a nice day it would be a great place to sit, sip a coffee and watch the world go by.
When you only want just one bottle - this is the one!

Oscars is a pleasant place for a meal.

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INFUZION RESTAURANT - HUNTER VALLEY NSW

Infuzion Restaurant
(inside Sebel Kirkton Park)
Broke Rd
Pokolbin, Hunter Valley

Yes I know that hotel restaurants are always ok - but often just ok. This one was better than that though. The food was well prepared, good quantities and the presentation was excellent. The service was solid too. It was a pleasant find.

Main one was the papardelle. It appeared smaller than it actually was. The ingredients were extremely fresh - lifting the dish from good to very good.
The 200 gm black Angus looked smallish on the menu but appeared larger than this in real life. The accompanying jus was also well prepared too. Another good menu item.
M'lady is a fan of crispy skinned salmon and said this was a good one. The met underneath was still tender and juicy while the skin was crispy and succulent. The combinations all went well together too.
We decided on a classic Hunter wine - the 2009 McWilliams Mt Pleasant Philip Hermitage which was about $46.00. Its a tried and proven drop.

 Check out this dessert - called chocolate symphony! Not only was it a great assortment of chocolate themed goodies but the hard chocolate music notes on the plate added so much charm and flair. As Mlady cant resist chocolate this was always going to be her choice.
I love a brulee (as does Mlady) so the lime brulee was always going to be my choice. The presentation was again well done and the flavours excellent.
The sticky date pudding with toffee was again appealing and delicious. They have a certain style here that has a bot of wow to it.
We finished the night with a bottle of botrytis to accompany our desserts. At $50.00 for the bottle it was very pleasant and a nice way to finish a nice meal.

Infuzion is a surprisingly good restaurant. The food quality, and quantity is very good, the presentation excellent and the service good as well. The decor is pleasant. Its worth finding!

The entrance floor - impressive
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WANDIN WINE BAR & DINER - ROTHBURY, HUNTER VALLEY, NSW

Wandin Wine Bar and Diner12 Wilderness Rd
Rothbury, Hunter Valley NSW
We were tasting some wines literally next door and this place was recommended to us. After taking a look at the menu we decided to give it a go - and we were glad we did. The food was very nice, the service fair and the decor and outlook very pleasant.
We started with the smoked salmon and crab rolls with sour cream dressing. They were very tasty. The salmon and crab combined well and the dressing lifted it all again with a tangy hit from squeezed lemon an ideal accompaniment. This comes in a serving of four for $18.00. We'd certainly have these again.
We then moved on to the crispy tortilla's with guacamole, salsa and sour cream. This was delicious. The tortilla's were so crisp and covered with a lovely spicy powder - we could have eaten these all day. The salsa was fresh and light, the bean and beef combo tasty and the guacamole tangy and delicious. This was only $16.00 - excellent value for the quantity and quality.




We finished with the salted baby squid with fresh lemon. The lovely crisp outer went well with the tender squid it coated. The combination was tasty and there was a decent sized serving. At $18.00 it was decent value.

We agreed that Wandin Wine Bar and Diner was excellent for food quality. The service was a little slow at times but possibly they were short staffed that day. It has a lovely view and is worth visiting.




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MUSE RESTAURANT & CAFE - HUNTER VALLEY NSW

Muse Restaurant & Cafe
1 Broke Rd
Pokolbin, Hunter Valley

This place has amazing appeal. The minute you arrive there you can see it, when you walk in the door you feel it and once you sit down you experience it. Its oozes style. The bonus is its a cafe as well as a restaurant too.
Again we were hunting for caffeine after visiting a few nearby wineries and dropped in here. The coffee was great but the ambiance was superb. We made a decision to eat here next time we visit the Hunter. They have a cafe menu and a cafe section - which to be honest is just as nice as the restaurant part.
From the outside Muse looks spectacular. Its sits in part of the futuristic Hungerford Hill Cellar Door which has amazing appeal.

Love a good fireplace
The cafe part also has this lovely fireplace - which also goes through into the restaurant behind it.

The Restaurant
This is the restaurant. It has high ceilings and well spaced out tables. It is light and spacious.

The elegant front door


 Muse Restaurant and Cafe is impressive to look at. As a cafe it was great. I'm sure its even better in the restaurant section - we'll find out next time!

Fancy a wine?



Artwork viewed from the cafe.



















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BLISS CAFE - POKOLBIN, HUNTER VALLEY NSW

Bliss Cafe Pokolbin
Broke Rd
Hunter Valley Gardens Village
Pokolbin Hunter Valley

Bliss is a nice place with a range of food and drinks. They probably get quite a few people through as they are well located in the shopping precinct of Hunter Valley Gardens right next door to the British Lolly Shop.






The coffee was surprisingly good. Very nice flavours and good aroma. We desperately needed them anyway so that may have helped a bit too. They disappeared quickly and we were content.

It has a pleasant ambiance. You can sit inside where most of the seating is located or if you want there a just a few outside seats - we chose one of these. We had a great view of the toy soldier outside the next shop and it was nice sitting in the sun on a pleasant afternoon.

Bliss is pleasant and worth a visit.









The very large toy soldier



It was pleasant outside


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