The Mount View from our table at the restaurant.
Picture speaks a thousand words, and you wonder where this wine region got its name from. Mount View is only 20 minutes south of Pokolbin, it is a wine region in Hunter Valley that is less frequented by visitors, including myself. This is actually my first visit to Mount View and I think I have fallen in love with Hunter Valley all over again. Seriously, with a view like this, I don't think I need to put much effort to convince you to come and discover Hunter Valley yourself.
Follow the windy road up the hill and down the gravel tracks, you'll find boutique cellar doors and award winning restaurants are dotted along the beautiful Brokenback Range. Tonight, we have a table booked at Bistro Molines, one of the most well-acclaimed restaurants in the valley, which has been awarded one chefs hat on SMH good food guide 2012, the third year in a row.
Located in Tallavera Grove winery, Bistro Molines is one of two restaurants established by Hunter Valley pioneer Robert Molines and his wife Sally Molines. The other restaurant is Briar Grillade not far on the other side side of the hill at Briar Ridge. Robert has been cooking in the region over three decades and responsible for bringing French cooking to the region. At Molines, you will expect rustic yet sophisticated French cuisine, nothing over the top, just simple but done well comfort food.
The parisian decor is a blend of both old and new, rustic but chic, it is welcoming and instantly feel at home. The open-spaced design makes the restaurant twice as large, white linen tables are gradually flowing out to the verandah with an unobstructed view of the cascading vineyards on the hill slopes (1st pic above). We are seated outside on the verandah as the sun slowly setting into the horizon, leaving a soft pink hue carpeted the whole valley, it is truly magical.
Wine country and Gougères goes hand in hand. Served as aperitifs, these little golden Gruyere cheese puffs are a specialty from Burgundy (France), traditionally they are baked in oven but these gourgeres at Molines seems to have been deep fried with a crusty blistered shell and a soft cheesy center, is a whole new level of one-bite satisfaction.
The menu is extensive and is very French, with entrees from $20.00 and mains from $38.00. Two local Hunter Valley wines had been selected to accompany our meal this evening. I do have a soft spot for Brokenwood wines, and 2011 semillon will go well with our entrees whilst the spiced Pepper Tree shiraz is another favourite of mine, pairing with the heavier meaty mains.
The baked figs with Gorgonzola wrapped in prosciutto is a beautiful light entree to kick start our meal this evening. Each parcel of crispy prosciutto with soft juicy fig and sharp salty gorgonzola blue cheese inside is simply a combination made in heaven, accompanied by juicy cherry tomatoes and soft quail egg.
I love the presentation of the roasted quail with nectarines. A whole quail is deboned and flattened, it is cooked to perfection, it is roasted to a golden crispness while the meat inside is still pink and juicy, the gameyness of the meat goes so well with the sweet nectarines, served with a simply salad of roasted hazelnuts and rockets. The best bit is to pick up the bone with my fingers and start nibbling on the crispy wings.
The selection on mains is astounding as we both struggled to make decision. Eventually, The Pom settles with the classic Fillet Mignon. A hunk of eye fillet is wrapped in bacon strip, cooked to a perfect tender medium rare, doused with a rich but sharp Bearnaise sauce, but the highlight is the red wine jus for me, it has the viscosity and glossiness of motor oil, it is thick, rich and intense. The meat is served with one of my favourite French classics, the creamy gratin dauphinois never fails to please.
The portion size of my rack of lamb is ginormous, it is a dish fit for a king. Despite I asked for medium rare, the lamb is a little bit undercooked and raw on certain parts, as I am having trouble cutting into the lamb with my table knife, a steak knife would be a better weapon of choice. Nevertheless, the petit ratatouille provencale of braised vegetables is comforting, almost as good as the one in the Pixar movie.
We can't help ourselves and order a side of pomme frites to go with our meal as well. I do love my chips crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, but these bistro-style soft frites is more rustic without the crispy outer layer but taste just as good.
A meal is not complete without the desserts. More of a Italian classic than a French one, the vanilla panna cotta is silky smooth and creamy, served with grilled sweet peach wedges and golden sprinkles of almond pralines. We are pretty much half drunk by now, and any small little thing that we find amusing will send us into a giggling frenzy, the French words 'langue de chat' for instant, guessing what it really means had us in hysterical fit of laughter. The wafer thin cat's tongue biscuit I'm sure is not that funny, but a delicious one.
This next dessert is from the Specials menu and it makes many heads turn as it arrives at the table. The mille feuille is constructed with chocolate orange mousse that is so rich, almost like ganache, and in between is layers of crunchy sweet sable that shatters into buttery shower on the plate. Citrus liqueur soaked orange wedges and mascarpone add balance to the sweetness of the chocolate and also gives the dessert a friendly boozy heat. The perfect dessert to conclude our meal this evening.
Robert Molines isn't in the kitchen that night, I presume he only works day shifts, actually I am not even sure whether he still works behind the kitchen these days. I have a quick chat with the head chef who looked after us this evening. He's been working at Molines for over 3 years and seems to be comfortably setting in. "Working every day here with a view like this, can't complain," he adds. I concur.
[A table for two visited Hunter Valley as the Ambassador Blogger for Hunter Valley Tourism]
Bistro Molines Tellavera Grove
749 Mount View Road
Mt View NSW 2325
P: 02 4990 9553