I've just watched Julie & Julia. Despite me and The Pom were the only two men in the cinema, we enjoyed the movie immensely. It makes me want to cook boeuf bourguignon, want to go to France and taste all the lovely food, but it also kind of makes me wondering why the hell am I blogging? I seriously don't know why. Julie Powell started her blog with a mission, is to cook Julia Child's 536 recipes, in 365 days. But for my blog, it is just another food blog among the thousands, writing about the same old restaurants I've been to, the food I cooked, and then the casual random thoughts which are totally useless. Why do I even bother? And what's even more disturbing is I actually have over thousand strangers a day out there reading it!?
But whatever I am doing, I must be doing it right if you guys are still reading it. Although I still don't know what I want to get out of it, I guess time will tell. But for now, I'll just cherish every single moment while I still enjoying writing my blog and someone out there still interested in what I have to say. So let's eat! The Pom suggested that we go to the Hunter Valley for lunch -- the James Bond way.
The Pom is a trained pilot for over 20 years. He has no intentions to become a commercial pilot, he just likes to fly around Australia in a small Cessna airplane as part of his training. Lucky for me as I get to follow him sometimes and be his only passenger to wherever he has drafted out on the map the night before. We have flown to Bathurst a day trip, Scone (is a country town in NSW) for Christmas, Bourke for a weekend trip, and this time we are heading over to Hunter Valley for lunch.
No matter how many times I've been flying on the small Cessna plane, it still gives me that adrenalin rush sitting inside literally a tiny box that floats in the air and let the wind carries you. The flight it short one, only 30 mins from Warnervale airport to Cessnock. The view over the vineyard region form the sky is absolutely breathtaking.
The airport at Hunter Valley is perfectly located right behind the information center. But we decided not to venture too far, and walk to Muse restaurant, which is only a few hundred meters away inside the magnificent Hungerford Hill vineyard. This elegant fine dining restaurant offers a casual modern Australian cuisine lunch menu and complemented by a collection of prestige Australian wines.
The open plan restaurant has a great view of the winery and a big fountain. Unfortunately it is still too early for the new season of grapes, the vines are still bare with no leaves. Since the Pom is the designated pilot, so he just orders a Diet Coke to drink, while I opt for 2005 Hungerford Regional Series - Hunter Valley Shiraz to go with my meal.
We order some sourdough bread for starter. The sourdough is still soft and warm in hand, comes with a trio of dips including roasted garlic, olive oil with caramelised balsamic reduction and Himalayan pink salt. The roasted garlic is sweet and mellow (no more garlic breath), beautifully spread on the sourdough like a pate. The balsamic is reduced to a thick sweet vinegary caramel which The Pom absolutely loves. He even asked the waitress how they did it and decides to make his own balsamic reduction at home.
For main, The Pom goes for the oven baked market fish, and the fish of the day is snapper. The snapper has been pan fried to a beautiful layer of golden brown crispy skin then baked in the oven. It is served with steamed broccolini on a soya and sesame dressing. The fish has a beautiful smokey flavour but I found it overcooked and the flesh is little tacky on the teeth.
As for me, I simply can't go past the crispy skin confit duck leg on the menu. The duck confit is served on a bed of black lentils cooked in red wine, with a few smoked specks hidden within. Despite its beautiful presentation, the duck leg confit doesn't really have a crispy skin as promised, and the meat is also a little dry and stringy. It has a great flavour nonetheless. First time I've had black lentils, and they are firmer than the green lentils which takes some effort to chew them. I wish there are some jus on the plate as dry meat and gritty lentils makes swallowing a chore.
We decided to have desserts to compensate the let down from the mains. The pom had his eyes on the natural yoghurt panna cotta which looks absolutely stunning like a work of art on the plate. We are like school girls ooh-and-ahh-ing at the pulled sugar twirl. The panna cotta is smooth and lusciously creamy with a rich vanilla flavour, although it is not as bouncy as I'd have hoped for. It is nicely balanced with the sweet crunchy pear and soft citrusy raspberries.
The chocolate oozes out like the hot molten lava, the decadent warm chocolate fondant is definitely the highlight of the meal, hands down. The chocolate fondant is made to order, hence be ready for a 15 minutes wait as indicated on the menu. Oh boy, it is absolutely worth the wait and I swear I've gone to heaven and back. It is baked to perfection with a chocolate wall just thick enough to hold the chocolate liquid inside, that's how I like it.
The chocolate fondant is served with fresh berries on rum and raisin syrup which gives it a nice boozy kick. There is also a scoop of velvety smooth brown butter ice cream with just enough sweetness without overpowering it.
As we are about to leave the restaurant, a helicopter is hovering above us, slowly descending and landed on the grassy patch right in front of the restaurant. Talk about arriving in style. Sadly it is not for us, but another couple next table. We slowly waddle out of the restaurant with full stomach and walk back to the airport for a flight return home.
How many people can say that they have the privilege to fly out to Hunter Valley for a meal and back on a normal weekday? I think I can get used to this.
Muse Restaurant and Cafe 1 Broke Road
Pokolbin 2320 NSW
P:02 4998 6777
Muse Café 7 days 10am-5pm
Muse Restaurant Wed - Sat 6-10pm