Our journey began at the Hunter Valley Cooperage, a beautiful B&B run by Gay and Warren Cooper. Nestled deep within the Kelman vineyard, on a winding gravel path, it is a large sandstone house guarded by giant chess pieces.
These ricotta pancakes (with banana and honeycomb butter) were far fluffier than their ancestors at Bill Granger’s Sydney cafes. In fact, if there were such a thing as a Pancake Forecast, this dish would be Cloudy with a Chance of Honeycomb Rain. The pancakes tasted like whipped clouds on a plate.
The Hunter Valley Gardens are a must-see, especially for nursery rhyme lovers, due to the presence of Alice in Wonderland, Little Miss Muppet and even Jack and Jill rolling down a grassy hill.
Now, if there’s one place that you must try in the valley, it’s Simply D’Vine. As you may have divined from its name (sorry, I couldn’t resist), the cafe is attached to a thriving nursery. If you weave your way between the fountains, terracotta pots and water features, you will find a small tranquil oasis at the back fence. There, on wobbly white chairs, sipping coffee out of mismatched mugs, I had the best French toast I have ever had.
And now for the big guns – Emerson’s at Polkobin. I had heard a lot of good things, and when we got a last-minute booking at 8pm, it did not disappoint.
Butternut pumpkin terrine, salt roasted baby beetroot, fried binnorie labna with lemon and sage crumbs. Incredible. The perfect combination of textures, crunchy and chewy, hard and soft, salty and sweet. An amazing entree.
Unfortunately, the name of this dish eludes me, and the dessert menu has since changed, leaving me speechless to inform you of its ingredients. However, I do recall notes of meringue, caramel and honeycomb, and the presentation itself shows you that craftmanship was involved in the making of this dish.
Again, the name eludes me. But if I was a dessert forecaster, I would say that it was Fudgy with a Chance of Brownie Cubes and Chocolate Rain, which would require a spoon and fork for protection!