Margan, a little bit of Tuscany in the Hunter Valley
Location: 1238 Milbrodale Road, Broke, Australia
Chef: Michael Robinson
Once a kitchen serving more homely style food creations this establishment has come a long way under the influence of chef Michael Robinson. Now considered one of the ideal examples of winery restaurants and also a pin-up for sustainable locally sourced cuisine, Pookie must admit to have been looking forward to once more partaking of the broke-come-tuscan venue. The heat is bearable, so on being offered a choice of terrace or inside dining we choose the terrace. The waitress notes our hesitation and comforts our concern with a friendly, you are welcome to move inside if the heat gets too much for you – lovely.
We stroll out to onto the terrace, the dry heat washes over us as we are seated. Pookie looks out to see the olive trees now resemble the younger ones seen when last in Italy. Has it been so long? Beautiful pink “naked ladies” are blooming to the right. A house sparkling is served complimentary but Pookie is already thinking aged Semillon with its crisp and fresh citrus flintiness. Olives and crostini are served to nibble on whilst we await our guests and peruse the menu.
Style – it really does feel akin to daytime dining in our last Tuscan adventure. The heat, something usually despised is welcomed as we look out over the very large restaurant garden. Our guests arrive and I hand the wine list to one of Australia’s best sommeliers for his consideration. His choice – Thomas aged Semillon. The menu has changed format. Degustation now appears and a choice of 2 or 3 course from a selection of 4 smalls, 4 mains and 4 desserts. Once more the influence of a fine dining chef shining through.
We order, it is getting hotter. The wine arrives with an amuse bouche – curd with grilled peppers. The curd is delicious. The peppers are a bit mushy but taste nice if one doesn’t mind that texture. The wine clears the curd from the palate instantly. Such a good choice on a hot day. The heat is starting to bother our guests, we ask to move inside. The waitress says I will just check for a table then returns to advise that only the barrel room will be available. Pookie looks to our guests? They nod and we proceed into the barrel room. The coolness hit with welcome relief. We forgive the staff for the unset table, this was our poor decision that they are doing their best to accommodate both politely and professionally. Our entree’s arrive. Pookie loves figs and the one in his entree do not disappoint – plump and fresh. The honeycombs works well with the chevre, the toasted hazelnut offering a little crunch to give the dish some texture. The white once again works well to clear the palate.
We peruse the menu for a Cabernet to match the squab, lamb and perhaps even the beef that we have collectively ordered for mains. The waiter hears and queries if he can assist. We mention we are looking for Bordeaux’s and he immediately notes the ones on the list, i defer as they are a little on the young side. He mentioned if we want something special there are a few that aren’t on the list. We smile at each other, “yes let try one of those”. The waiter defers and says he will need to fetch the lady with the key. She returns a few minutes later to apologise that only the wines on the wine list are available “Andrew would kill me if I took one of his wines”. Disappointed at having had our expectations set and then dashed we return to the wine list and choose a 2005 Pommerol that we had last time we visited Margan.
The mains arrive, the squab looks “a little gruesome” with its claw still attached comments our guest. I grin and ask if the black pudding is good – its very nice indeed. The Wagyu (an abused term) is well presented and cooked and the wine and its jus mix and blend silkily in the mouth. Splendid. The sides (both of which we ordered instantly on hearing them from the waitress) are excellent. The beans fresh and slightly crunchy sweet – good texture. The iceberg lettuce with a blue cheese sauce is so substantially better that the one we had when last in New York. The chef’s restraint shines through in the fresh, crisp and creamy dish.