Weekend Away in the Hunter Valley

Back in September, I went with a group of eight friends to the Hunter Valley for a thirtieth birthday celebration. It was an absolutely decadent weekend of eating, drinking, and games – pretty much what the doctor prescribed for a lazy and soul-rejuvenating weekend.


We all arrived by late afternoon on the Friday, and settled into our beautiful holiday house, rented through Airbnb. It really was the perfect house for our group, especially when the others generously let K and I claim the master bedroom with the ensuite bathroom! With two lounge rooms, an enclosed verandah, a galley kitchen, and four bedrooms, it meant that we could break into separate groups when needed – some playing games in the main lounge, others reading quietly in the smaller lounge room next to the roaring fireplace, and others yet again smoking a birthday shisha out in the verandah.

Dinner on Friday night was at Bistro Molinesread my full review.


The Saturday was spent out wine-tasting around the beautiful Hunter region. As I’m still strictly not drinking alcohol, I and another friend took responsibility for the majority of the driving. This proved to be a wise choice, as our compatriots spent over an hour and a half at each of our stops, possibly imbibing more alcohol than wise!


Piggs Peake Winery was one of our first stops, and proved extremely popular with my friends. Most walked away with a few bottles up their sleeve, and they particularly enjoyed the opportunity to taste some wine straight out of the barrel right at the end of their tasting. This tasting stretched well into my usual lunch hour, and I think my friends could tell that I was getting hangry – it was time to leave for lunch!


Lunch was spent down the road at Muse Kitchen, where we settled in for a lazy late lunch in the sun. Read my full review.


But we also stopped into the Cocoa Nib pop up chocolate shop in the same winery, to buy some delicious sweets. I walked away with this block of Turkish Delight and Pistachio, which was the perfect combination of crunchy nuts and soft jellied Turkish Delight. I also enjoyed the Rocky Road as well.


After an extremely late Saturday night nibbling on a delicious antipasto and cheese platter purchased from the deli in Tempus Two, we woke up for a late breakfast and wine tasting at Gartelmann Wines in Lovedale before relaxing on their lawn with a game of Finnish Finska. We finished our stay in the Hunter by dropping into Sabor in the Hunter (read full review) for a dessert lunch.

All in all, a most delightful weekend away with friends!

Review: Sabor in the Hunter, Lovedale, Hunter Valley

We finished our recent stay with friends in the Hunter Valley with a final meal at Sabor in the Hunter, a dessert cafe. It’s located a little bit outside of the usual wine tour trail in Lovedale, and unlike many of the other restaurants and cafes in the area, isn’t attached to a winery. It’s an establishment that truly stands alone on its own merits. The main downside is that all seating at the cafe is outside, which can be challenging on warmer days with the sun beating down on you.

Sparkling Jaffa, $3.50
Sparkling Jaffa, $3.50

I ordered a cool drink to start, as it did turn out to be quite a warm day when we went. The Sparkling Jaffa caught my eye as soon as I saw it, as I love the combination of chocolate and orange. I have to admit that I wasn’t sure what to expect – how would they make a sparkling soda out of chocolate? I was very pleasantly surprised when this sparkling orange soda came out – it tasted initially of fresh citrusy orange, but had a lingering creamy chocolate aftertaste. I don’t know how they did it, but it worked!

Flat White, $4
Flat White, $4

Other drinks ordered included a smooth and milky Flat White in a cute mug designed to wrap your hands around ergonomically.

Fresh scones with jam and cream, $6.50
Fresh scones with jam and cream, $6.50

K and I shared some Fresh Scones as we hadn’t had lunch yet and needed something a bit more filling than just dessert. The scones were light and fluffy having clearly been freshly baked that day. The sweet jam on top was just delightful.

Sabor's Tasting Plate (Flourless Chocolate Cake with a Mini Macaron, Salted Caramel Mousse with Sticky Date Pudding, Dark & White salted burnt caramel Portuguese Mousse, Coffee  & Walnut Slice and a Jaffa chocolate mousse with chocolate ganache & Orange cube), $25
Sabor’s Tasting Plate (Flourless Chocolate Cake with a Mini Macaron, Salted Caramel Mousse with
Sticky Date Pudding, Dark & White salted burnt caramel Portuguese Mousse, Coffee
& Walnut Slice and a Jaffa chocolate mousse with chocolate ganache & Orange cube), $25

We went on to try Sabor’s Tasting Plate, a sampler of their best chocolate-based desserts. It looks very impressive, and slightly daunting for two people right? I’m proud to say that we managed to finish the platter off between the two of us, tasting a mouthful of each and then splitting it by preference. K prefers coffee so he got most of the Coffee & Walnut Slice, and I can never walk past anything with salted caramel in it, so I claimed the mousse as my own! With five decent-sized mini desserts offered on the platter, $25 is really a very good price for what you get.

Flourless chocolate cake in the tasting platter
Flourless chocolate cake in the tasting platter

The Flourless Chocolate Cake was a favourite for both of us though, so I had to split it evenly with K despite the fact that I could have eaten it all! While it was still very much a sweet treat, it wasn’t overly sticky and sickeningly sugary.

Now quickly, just a few of the other desserts ordered around the table. I tried a spoonful of most, and concluded that most, if not all, desserts at Sabor in the Hunter really hit the ‘sweet’ spot of being a sweet sugary dessert treat that doesn’t sit too heavily in your stomach afterwards.

Biku Banoffee, $14
Biku Banoffee, $14

Everyone loved the way the Biku Banoffee pie had been deconstructed and was presented like a trifle.


The toasted Passionfruit Meringue isn’t on the menu but my friend B picked it as soon as she saw it in the display cabinet in the shop. It proved to be extremely light, melting on your tongue as soon as you took a spoonful.

Blueberry & Ricotta Crumble Cheesecake, $14
Blueberry & Ricotta Crumble Cheesecake, $14

The crumble on the Blueberry & Ricotta Crumble Cheesecake provided a good textural point of difference to the creamy cheesecake.

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta, $11
Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta, $11

The simple Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta was really enhanced by the concentrated strawberry syrup and fresh strawberries on the side.

Red Velvet & Winter Lime Cheesecake, $14
Red Velvet & Winter Lime Cheesecake, $14

This Red Velvet & Winter Lime Cheesecake was a favourite for those of us in the group who like to take photos of food, and we held everyone up as we tried to manouevre ourselves into the best possible position to take a shot of the beautiful presentation of this dessert.

Double Chocolate & Caramel Wave, $14
Double Chocolate & Caramel Wave, $14

Coated in a sticky caramel sauce, the Double Chocolate & Caramel Wave was probably the sweetest dish of the those ordered, explaining why our friend R was the only one to leave any dessert on his plate by the time we left.

Overall, I really enjoyed our visit to Sabor in the Hunter – it’s a little bit different to what you would normally classify as a traditional “Hunter Valley” activity, and really makes a nice change from the usual winery tours and tastings, especially for someone like me who wasn’t drinking. I would definitely visit Sabor again the next time I’m in the area.

Sabor in the Hunter Dessert Bar on Urbanspoon

Review: Muse Kitchen, Pokolbin, Hunter Valley

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.

Selection of Australian Salami, white anchovy, Binnorie marinated feta,  toasted bread, 22.00
Selection of Australian Salami, white anchovy, Binnorie marinated feta, toasted bread, 22.00

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!

Slow cooked Berkshire Pork with celeriac and mustard remoulade, caramelised apple puree, $38
Slow cooked Berkshire Pork with celeriac and mustard remoulade, caramelised apple puree, $38

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.

Crispy skin confit duck leg, salt baked beetroot puree, blood orange, hazelnut and watercress salad, $36
Crispy skin confit duck leg, salt baked beetroot puree, blood orange, hazelnut and watercress salad, $36

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.

Beef, Garlic and Blue Cheese Burger with caramelised onion, gherkin, french fries, aioli, 25.00
Beef, Garlic and Blue Cheese Burger with caramelised onion, gherkin, french fries, aioli, 25.00

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.

Chocolate, Banana, Caramelised Pecan,  vanilla ice cream, puffed rice, date, 14.00
Chocolate, Banana, Caramelised Pecan, vanilla ice cream, puffed rice, date, 14.00

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.

Chocolate Mousse, Milk Sorbet, nougat, salted peanut caramel, coffee, 14.00
Chocolate Mousse, Milk Sorbet, nougat, salted peanut caramel, coffee, 14.00

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.

Coconut Cloud,  roasted pineapple, mint, 14.00
Coconut Cloud, roasted pineapple, mint, 14.00

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.

Trifle with poached pear, verjuice jelly, warm doughnut, custard, 14.00
Trifle with poached pear, verjuice jelly, warm doughnut, custard, 14.00

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.

Muse Kitchen on Urbanspoon