To Do & Dine at Hunter Valley [Part 1]

Saturday CYPRESS LAKES GOLF & COUNTRY CLUB  Our accommodation for our weekend getaway was at Cypress Lakes Resort by Oaks Hotels and...

Saturday

CYPRESS LAKES GOLF & COUNTRY CLUB 

Our accommodation for our weekend getaway was at Cypress Lakes Resort by Oaks Hotels and Resorts. This whole area gives off the most relaxing and calming atmosphere. The serenity of the estate and the surrounding scenery is absolutely beautiful. 


We booked a two-storey villa and it felt so homey, I already knew I would miss it the moment we leave. 
Address: Cnr McDonalds & Thompsons Rd, Pokolbin, NSW 2320
Website: http://www.cypresslakes.com.au/cms/

HUNTER WINE COUNTRY MARKETS 

Our first stop was a quaint market situated right outside De Bortoli Wines and overlooks rows of paddocks and vineyards.
This is a great place to support the local community and obtain homemade produce such as jams and dips. After browsing, we popped into De Bortoli and tasted a few different wines. Since I'm an absolute sucker for Moscato, we ended up getting a box of about 6 bottles since our server was a fairly good salesman. 
Address: 532 Wine Country Drive, Pokolbin NSW 2320
Opening hours: 9am to 3pm - Every Saturday

AMANDA'S ON THE EDGE | 4.2/5 stars

Upon arriving at Hunter Valley, the first thing you should note is that making reservations (at least a day in advance) at highly rated restaurants are a necessity. Some restaurants require a few days notice, especially on weekends. However we managed to get a 2pm slot at Amanda's on the Edge. It was over an hour wait but we absorbed nature's beauty and explored the surrounding sights and shops.
At Amanda's, request for a table outside under the homey veranda for an experience that allows you to immerse yourself in the serenity of the luscious paddocks amidst the Windsor's Edge Vineyard. Adopting a modern Australian cuisine, Amanda's menu features fine and fresh local produce at premium quality. 
For entrées, we ordered seared scallops with cauliflower puree ($23.50) garnished w/gruyére crisps. The scallops were simple yet exceptional and so fresh. For those who are not a fan of cheese, the gruyere crisps are not intimidating. The crisp and the taste of the cheese is so light and adds a slight buttery crunch to the dish. The second entrée (bottom) was the crab and snapper filled ravioli ($22.50) w/champagne butter sauce. The portion was relatively small as there were about 3-4 pieces of ravioli and I couldn't taste much of the filling. The best part of the dish was the sauce - it would go perfectly with any dish!


Three time cooked duck maryland ($38.50) on sauté broccolini & shallot with plum & golden kipfler potatoes. The meat really soaked in the flavours of the sauce, and the lightly salted potatoes paired so well with the sauce.  

Macadamian crusted ocean trout ($38) - w/aioli, baked chat potatoes & asparagus. I loved everything about this dish. The fish was lightly pan fried so there was hardly any oil lingering on the plate (which I'm all about). And the aioli sauce complimented the fish perfectly.

Lamb rack ($39.50) on a spinach & feta cheese filo pastry with a roasted tomato & capsicum sauce. This was the most tender meat out of the three, where the meat could be sliced off the bone easily. The filo pastry topped it all off, the crunch from the pastry and the moist interior of the feta cheese blended together nicely. 

Beef eye fillet ($39.50) - Angus grainge 250g with gruyére cheese, thyme & potato galette, Paris butter & roasted shallot. The beef did not have the 'melt in your mouth' texture even though it was medium rare, so if it was 30% more tender it would've been perfect. 

Address: 1039 McDonalds Rd, Pokolbin NSW 2320
Opening hours: 12 to 3pm, 5:30pm - 12am - Fri to Mon / 6pm to 12 am - Tue to Thurs

IL CACCIATORE | 4/5 stars

To be completely honest, Il Cacciatore was the last alternative for dinner that night. As it was a Saturday, the 4 initial restaurants (e.g. Restaurant Botanica, Muse Kitchen) I called were fully booked for the whole weekend. However, we personally thought that the food here was better than Amanda's. Tucked away in the Hermitage Lodge estate, Il Cacciatore touches on Northern Italian cuisine and provides a very homey and relaxed environment. 
Antipasto for two ($30) - prosciutto, mortadella & salami, grilled vegetables, Hunter olives, caramelised onion hummus, salad greens and grilled flatbread. This antipasto board was perfect for the four of us as it had a combination of veggies, carbs, and meats to keep us satisfied till our mains arrived. 

Top: Duck, ricotta & cherry tortellini ($34) - w/duck broth & parmesan crisp. I loved everything about this dish, right down to the broth, making sure I didn't leave a single drop.
Left: Barramundi ($?) - all I remembered about this dish was that the fish was cooked well but the sauce that was drizzled over lacked some flavour.  
Right: Seafood linguine ($?) - prawns, mussels, squid, and clams on a bed of asparagus and tomato-fennel broth. This seafood combination was done very well - so fresh and flavourful! I would've preferred if the linguine was cooked a little longer but I guess the Italians love their pasta al dante.

Pear, macadamia & ginger crumble ($15) - served with creme anglaise and vanilla bean gelato. The best part for me was the crumble, hands down. It pretty much tasted like warm and buttery shortbread smashed and toasted. 

Affogato ($18) - white chocolate gelato, hot espresso, house-made biscotti and Frangelico liqueur. I highly recommend this - the concept is so simple but the flavours do not overpower each other. I thought the liqueur or coffee would diminish the sweetness of the dessert but they both were not too strong which was perfect.

Address: 609 McDonalds Rd, Pokolbin NSW 2320
Opening hours: 6pm to 10pm - Mon to Sun

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