Muse Restaurant, two hats atop the Hunter Valley dining scene.
Location: Hungerford Hill Wines
Broke Rd, Pokolbin, NSW, Australia
Chef: Troy Rhoades-Brown
Running late is never fun, especially when you may have guests waiting for you at the restaurant that you chose for dinner. Our guests were on time and enjoyed a glass of champagne while they waited. We are met on arrival by a staff member who directs us to our table and waiting guests, luckily good friends. “Its quite dark in here” – Pookie muses to himself as arrives at the assigned table. Dark in a restaurant can be a good thing, lending the feeling of closeness to those near yet isolation from the diners at other tables. Darkness can also serve to both add to and detract from the experience of the food; less visual excitement but also less prejudice toward the taste. We take our seats, our menus await us.
Service is crisp, we order old world chardonnay to start and each choose our mains. The similarity of ingredients to those we had for lunch raises Pookie’s eyebrow. Sourcing local seasonal ingredients is all the rage. The sommelier approaches just to note that he has recognised our guest and apologises for not coming sooner to the table. He promises to return shortly and discuss the wine list. Amuse bouche arrive scattered across a share plate. One would be forgiven for seeing the macaroons and thinking a sweet had arrived. Our appetites are aroused by the titillation that only one bite can bring.
Pookie has selected beet with goats cheese. It arrives, white fresh goats curd unctuously half covering a dark dome of deepest purple beet. They weren’t kidding about the beet. It is firm but parts easily to the blade. The counterpoint of sweet earthy beet to creamy tartness of the cheese is very well balanced. It over powers the white so Pookie abstains whilst finishing of the dish. It is refreshing to witness the humble beet become the centre of a dish. The table enjoys the show of sprinkling white snow across the kingfish sashimi at the table. Our guest enjoys the sashimi, it works well with the white.
A sorbet arrives to clear the palate, and then the main is served. Pookie’s partridge is served rolled with . Fresh white beans offer a semi-crunchy texture to the firmness of the roll. The toffee puree is a welcome sweetness on the plate. Our guest venison is a little over done, thus dry, which is a shame. It must always be a struggle serving venison given how very rare it must be served to keep it truly tender and moist against the nature of most diner’s preference. Mookie’s chicken and egg is a surprise with the egg being yolk only served raw on puffed grains. The dish is pretty and the textures contrast being dry breast, crunch puffed grains, and vicous fluid yolk are a highlight.
The sommelier visits now that the rush of dinner service is beginning to ebb. A discussion of wines on offer and his origins ensues. Fancying a dessert, Pookie requests the sommelier select a matching dessert wine. Within moments the Muse Coconut arrives and it doesn’t disappoint. The choice of wine matches well with its notes of scorched toffee and marmalade. The rich creaminess of the coconut is a lovely lasting close to the meal.
Service, setting and food were as you would expect for its 2 hats. Perhaps a little more light on the table to assist the diner in their visual appreciation of the supreme effort the chef and staff put into the presentation of the dishes. Lunch will be the choice for Mookie’s next visit.