Continuing our early trend of showing up at fancy restaurants with little to no notice and certainly without making a reservation, my friends and I showed up at Muse Kitchen for a late lunch on our second day in the Hunter Valley. At 2pm, the main lunch crowd was just beginning to leave, but it was about half an hour before the staff could cobble together two tables of four for our group.
The wait wasn’t an issue though – located on the beautiful manicured grounds of Keith Tulloch Winery, the surrounds of Muse Kitchen is enough to keep you occupied while you wait for your table. While some of us wandered upstairs to do the wine tasting while we waited, I stayed downstairs and browsed through the artisan chocolate stall run by Cocoa Nib Chocolates…and I may have bought a few sneaky treats!
We were lucky enough to get two tables outside for lunch, so we could enjoy the beautiful weather. With blue skies above us and the sun shining bright, we got our daily dose of Vitamin D in a beautiful setting.
Our table started off with a simple antipasto sharing platter – we were all hungry, and needed an appetiser that would arrive quickly and satiate our hunger while we waited for our mains! I was a big fan of the slightly vinegary pickled white anchovies, while others loved the different varieties of Australian salami on the platter. I also liked the little cornichons as well, and sneakily took more than my fair share!
Our friend T ordered the Slow Cooked Berkshire Pork, a melt-in-your-mouth sweet cooked pork that went very well with the apple sauce and even better with the ‘bitey’ celeriac and mustard remoulade.
K and our friend N opted for the confit duck leg, which proved to be as crispy as advertised. The meat was still tender and juicy as well, which is often hard to achieve with duck! The ‘salad’ that the duck rested on was a hit as well – crushed and crumbled hazelnuts mixed with baby watercress and chunks of tart blood orange went well with the sweet beetroot puree.
In the mood for something a little more downmarket and cheap and cheerful, I went for the beef and blue cheese burger – because honestly, how can you go past anything on a menu if it has blue cheese in it?! Unfortunately this didn’t quite hit the spot as the ratio of the burger wasn’t quite right – there was much too blue cheese for the size of the beef patty which left you with an overwhelmingly fragrant and sharp lingering aftertaste in your mouth. On the plus side though, the fries were super crunchy and went really well with the creamy aioli.
Onto dessert, and I opted for the chocolate & banana dish…and boy, did I love my choice when it came out! The thin dome of chocolate was picture-perfect, and once you cracked the top and mixed the chocolate in with the caramelised pecans, sweet banana, puffed rice, dates, and herbs, it made for a strangely satisfying dessert. Simply dreamy, especially towards the end as the vanilla ice-cream slowly melted and integrated with the rest of the dish.
Other desserts ordered on our table were the chocolate mousse, coconut cloud and the trifle.
The highlight of the chocolate mousse for me was definitely the salted peanut caramel, though others liked the complexity of flavours afforded by the coffee on top.
K’s light as a feather Coconut Cloud was similar to a Asian shaved ice style of dessert. The ‘cloud’ was light and refreshing, but made bolder and more memorable with the strong sweet roasted pineapple slices.
The deconstructed trifle was interesting, but probably not one that I, or our friend, would order again.
Overall, Muse Kitchen offers a satisfying dining experience in the Hunter Valley, but one that comes with a hefty price tag. $25 for a burger is quite steep, and a $40 pork main even more so, especially considering that this was a lunch menu rather than a dinner menu. I don’t think I’ll rush back the next time I’m in the Hunter Valley, as I’m sure I could find similarly enjoyable dining options that offer a more reasonable bill at the end of the meal.