Monday, January 18, 2010

Restaurant Botanica

Apologies for my really late post on my Hunter Valley trip (i've been super busy with work & studies and personal life that my blog is suffering). And i also have posts to do on my NZ trip!

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After a day of browsing the hunter Valley, going on a half day wine tasting tour, and a quick nanna nap we headed off to our dinner destination - Restaurant Botanica.

I had searched up a few Restaurants close to our hotel (we stayed at the grand mecure it was lovely!) and printed out menu's so we could decide where we wanted to eat. After all, we werent going to the hunter all the time, so choosing a good restaurant would prevent us from feeling like we wasted a trip up.

The reason we chose this restaurant is because their menu sounded more vegetarian friendly & also catered for my boyfriend the Carnivore.

The sun was setting, it was a nice balmy night with a soft cool breeze, and we were really looking forward to eating dinner together. At this point i was thinking i wouldn't want to be anywhere else in the world, as it felt like we were on a romantic getaway with just the two of us :O)

The restaurant was empty when we arrived, but within 20 minutes of being seated another 2-3 tables were filled. The decor is modern, with many softly dimmed lights on the ceiling, and with lots of room in between tables (is this a Hunter thing?? it was almost as if we were on our own because the next table beside us was atleast 3-4 mtrs away)

There were two options on the menu to take. Two courses $55, and Three courses $65. We chose one each, so that we could both have dessert, and share 2 mains & an entree.

Complimentary starter bread
with olive oil and red vinegar dip

We started off with some beautiful freshly baked bread (still very warm) that was kept in a basket on a table in the middle of the restaurant. Served with this was a dash of dark vinegar in a bowl of olive oil. I do prefer butter with my bread rather then olive oil actually, but despite the bit of mess involved with dipping bread into oil- i really liked the contrast in the vinegar and the olive oil - and it was fun trying to get both on my bread pieces.

Michele Chiarlo Nivole Moscato D'Asti 2006 $60

When given a wine list i straight away searched for a muscato (my favourite wine with or without food). I found one bottle i was interested in, and despite it being on the 'dessert' wine list, it didn't bother me to drink it with my meal, and i'd rather be drinking something that i like, then something i dont like (most red and white wines!).

The wine had its sweetness, but it was also light and lively as well. Being only a 375ml bottle, we both only had about a glass & a half, but this muscato is the NICEST muscato i've ever had, & the waitress said it was imported directly from Italy (does anyone else know where i can get this? I've googled and found nothing!)

Tasting notes from the wine cask blog :

Sweet citrus nose with dense bubbles and fizz upon pouring

Smooth and dense on the palate

More sweet citrus on the finish with a beam of honey and cream

Complimentary stuffed Zucchini Flower

I'm not sure of the name of this dish, but the zucchini flower was stuffed with a mixture of scallop and prawn meat, served on a dollop of aoli sauce. I picked out the meat and just ate the flower, and it was extremely juicy (they are comprised largely of water).

You might be thinking how wierd is it eating a flower - but these lush flowers are popular In Italy. The egg yolk coloured flower is also used in soups of fillings for quesadillas in Mexico & central America.

Char grilled asparagus, soft polenta,
mushrooms & goat's curd

We shares this entree, and i have to say that everything was literally melt-in-your-mouth delicious! You can tell that they used the freshest produce, and the chef was a true artist with the way he plated this up. The goats curd had a most creamy finish, & the asparagus was so fresh, it tasted like it was just blanched in hot water quickly and then placed onto the plate. The asparagus and fresh greens on top was a delicate contrast to the polenta and goats curd.

Loin of lamb, sautéed kipflers, broad beans
and beetroot with mint pesto

I'm not sure what Richard had, but it looks more like "Fennel pepper crusted pork cutlet, ragout of tomato, basil and eggplant" after i had emailed them for a copy of their menu. I recall him describing the meat as extremely tender and juice, one of the nicest cut of meats he'd had.

hand cut linguini tossed with prawns,
fennel & spinach

I chose this for my main as there wasn't anything else really vego-friendly. The prawns were in a generous serving, and were quite large- i picked them out and over to Richard's plate. The linguine was al dente, and was simply tossed around with fennel, spinach, cherry tomatoes with a hint of lemon juice. A very filling dish, but at this point i was still eager to see how nice our desserts would be.

warm ginger & cinnamon pudding,
vanilla bean icecream, almond & pistachio nougat

The contrast in hot and cold, soft and crunchy made this dish very interesting to eat, with every spoon of warm pudding i had, was followed by a spoon of the icecream, and then a piece of the nougat.

spanish donuts, chocolate sauce & coffee icecream

Again here they have used the concept of crunchy & soft, hot and cold. The churros were still warm, after being dipped into the hot chocolate sauce, eaten, then having a spoon of coffee icecream, my mouth really enjoyed the party of food!

Both desserts were gorgeous, and it was a very hard decision at first to choose because they were competing with these..

Strawberry tartlet, vanilla bean ice cream

Mango parfait with poached raspberries, pineapple sorbet and passionfruit

Liquor affogato ~ vanilla bean ice cream, frangelico sip, espresso shot, cinnamon cookies

The service here was impeccable, the staff were very friendly and helpful, always with a smile on their faces.

After our dessert, and as the restaurant had quite a few more diners, we went up to the register to pay so we could go home & watch some true blood haha :)

Being the first and last dinner of our hunter trip (we were only there for one night), i was amazed at the quality of the food, and the diversity of produce on offer for our meals. The desserts were nothing too fancy, but as simple as they were, i enjoyed them nonetheless. I would highly recommend this restaurant if you were ever visiting the hunter, and I'm sure this will not be my last visit. This has set a bench mark for dinner dining in the Hunter, and i'm positive that other places serving dinner will be just as good, if not- then even better.


Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

The zucchini flower is a generous amuse bouche! :) What was the lamb like? That serve looks enormous!

joey@FoodiePop said...

Yeah, the stuffed zucchini flower as a complimentary amuse bouche? Ace! A shame you couldn't eat the stuffing though. Love Spanish donuts too. Yum.

missklicious said...

That's one delicious looking meal. The pudding looks extra good!

Maria@TheGourmetChallenge said...

oh all those dishes look so delicious, good choices!! By far the best, for me, would have to be the desserts...they look so good!

Trissa said...

Thanks Betty for the update on this restaurant - sounds like a great place - to go to. I love the idea of a hot and cold dessert - those churros look yummy.

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A Mouthful of Fabs said...

i absolutely love moscato!!! maybe i should do what u do and order dessert wine with my always hesitant to do that even tho i love dessert wines.

Richard said...

mmm this brings back fond memories babe :) I love the photos! They're so awesome in the way that they show your awesome photo taking skills :D