The Cellar Restaurant, Pokolbin, Jan 21, 2010
Posted by Lisa Hill on January 21, 2010
The plan for today, devised somewhat desultorily at breakfast, was to visit the Gardens at Pokolbin and then lunch at The Cellar Restaurant. Tim, however, became engrossed in Voltaire and his philosophy of science, and I could not put down Wolf Hall until I’d finished it, and the upshot was that we didn’t depart Bellbird Cottage until after one o’clock. Never mind we said we’ll do the gardens after lunch but by the time we reached the restaurant the Subaru was telling us that it was 41 degrees outside and it didn’t seem such a good idea after all.
Not that it mattered much. While I’m sure the Gardens are very pretty, we come to the Hunter to rest, read and restaurant, and to do the occasional tasting before we replenish the Semillon in the cellar The Gardens can wait for another time…
Lunch was excellent. The Cellar Restaurant is a lovely place to dine, and they are doing everything right. The ambience was pleasant on a hot day, with garden beds circumnavigating the dining area and a very encouraging collection of awards on the walls: successive hats from the Sydney Good Food Guide and a string of certificates from assorted Hunter Valley hospitality awards. There’s a massive log fire in the middle of the room which must be very nice in the winter time, tables are well spaced, and there are smart table settings with crisp napery, fine glassware, crockery and cutlery.
Service was excellent. Friendly, efficient, accomplished. Sparkling wines (French Pannier for him, and a very good Tulloch Reserve for me) were on our table in a nanosecond and the young lady was knowledgeable about both. We were a bit tempted by the degustation menu but settled in the end for the fixed price three courses ($52 per person, not including wines) and were not disappointed. There were two options for each of entree, main course and dessert, but we both had the char-grilled baby octopus with Kipfler potatoes, rocket and a pan-fried prosciutto garnish, followed by a scrumptious red snapper (really a nanygai, not a snapper at all) garnished with basil pesto on a bed of ratatouille. Tim had a rather forgettable rose with his, but I made a most agreeable find by choosing the Hungerford Hill pinot noir – which took us to the winery after lunch to order some more.
Once again the service was friendly, efficient, and accomplished. It is such a pleasure to be served by someone prepared to take the time to help you find what you like and yet not pressure you into buying. We ended up with a case of the pinot noir, some lovely semillon and membership of their club – so there will be more nice wines coming to us from Hungerford Hill in the future!