As the knife cuts into the pie covered with mini mashed potato domes, it cracks open the crusty pastry wall, inside is a deep well that is filled with juicy shredded lamb meat in dark rich sauce.
“Would you like to take a picture of this?” The Queen asks me as she puts down her knife and fork to let me capture the perfect shot. Well, you bet I do — “Click!”
Without this particular image, I probably wouldn’t have remembered this particularly meal I’ve had with The Queen E and The Pom in Hunter Valley many moons ago. As I am writing this post, it definitely has me salivating and I can almost taste it on the tip of my tongue again.
The Pom and I had a discussion the other day, the question was what makes a meal memorable? The Pom does believe that usually a meal you can never forget is either an extremely fancy fine dining experience or a particular bad meal that ruins the whole night and you are scarred for life. I tend to agree with him but then sometimes, a memorable meal can easily be a hearty meal that neither fancy or bad that I absolutely enjoyed in the perfect setting, with the perfect dining companion. Having said that, it doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, it can be one of the most memorable meals that I simply want to relive that moment all over again.
The Queen E is visiting from England and this is her second time in Australia. This time, we thought we will bring her to the Hunter Valley for some wine and dine and Keith Tulloch winery seems to have the perfect setting for a jolly good lunch. We are welcomed with vivid blue sky, alfresco dining on the patio overlooking the neatly trimmed courtyard with the French provincial inspired winery and cellar door sets the background, is simply picture perfect.
Muse Kitchen is the latest venture for husband and wife team Troy and Megan Rhoades-Brown of one-hatted Muse Restaurant at Hungerford Hill. Opened in October 2011, Muse Kitchen offers a more relaxing, casual dining experience with an European inspired menu that focuses on seasonal local produce. If you follow Troy’s twitter, you will see he spends just as much time harvesting from their own vegie garden as in the kitchen.
Before we get to the food, the wine here is worth a mention on its own. With over 15 years experience in wine making, Keith Tulloch is one of the pioneers in the Hunter Valley and this winery has also awarded a 5-star rating by James Halliday for being ‘an outstanding winery capable of producing wines of the highest calibre’. The Kester Shiraz range especially, is worth a try.
My love for smooth duck liver parfait determined the entree to share among the three of us. The potted duck liver pate is sealed with a lid of blackberry jelly instead of clarified butter, it is an ingenious touch that each smear on the toasted bread is a balance ratio of sweet blackberry jelly and the smooth liver paste, tiny cornichons served on the side to clean the palate from the rich parfait.
Queen E has the lamb shank pie with the most beautiful presentation on the plate, totally not what we’ve expected with a shepherd pie picturing in my head. Domes of mashed potato are piped on top of the pie looks like mini onions sprouting, bursting out of the pastry shell. The pie is served with sauteed mushrooms, brussels sprouts and dutch baby carrots meticulously arranged around the plate.
The Pom and I decided to go with the slow cooked roulade of pork ‘for two’ for $62.00 from the special menu. We’ve been warned beforehand that the dish will take a little longer to prepare, it eventually arrives at our table possibly 10 minutes after Queen E half way through her lamb shank pie.
Serves on a long wooden board, a cascade of pork shoulder slices are served alongside with braised prunes, hazelnut and watercress salad, a saucer of sweet green apple jam and also braised red cabbage in a separate bowl.
The pork isn’t really a roulade, it is simply thin slices of pork shoulder than has been roasted for hours until meltingly tender. Despite the pork is juicy and tender, I found all the side components have much stronger flavours and sadly the pork itself has become the unsung hero. They are not kidding this dish is meant to be shared, even between the two of us, we struggle to finish the dish without feeling sorry for ourselves.
Dessert menu has a small selection of sweet treats. Queen E is well satisfied with her pie and decides to just have a mandarin and coconut macaron with a cup of English tea.
I opt for the vanilla and cinnamon panna cotta, the forever bouncy jelly is creamy and smooth with a nice balance of sweetness and cinnamon flavour. The poached prunes in warm brandy is a delightful winter warmer, whereas the gingerbread crumbs add texture. This dessert is an absolutely joyful dish that simply reminds me of Christmas.
But it is The Pom’s hazelnut, salted caramel and chocolate ganache tart steals the show. Underneath the shiny shield of chocolate ganache is a gooey layer of salted caramel that is deliciously addictive. It is also onto a winning combo of pistachio praline, and a scoop of malt ice cream. Look, there are a few wedges of fresh fig and one raspberry which makes this dish good for you right? NEVER!
Muse Kitchen at Keith Tulloch Winery Lot 17 Hermitage Road, Pokolbin P: 02 4998 7899
Opening Hours: Lunch: Wednesday - Sunday: 12noon - 3pm Available for private dinner functions by request