When visiting the Hunter Valley, Roberts Circa 1876 is a restaurant you simply must visit. The restaurant is set in the heart of the Hunter Valley on the Peppers Convent Estate. We had the pleasure of staying at Peppers Convent so it was an easy stroll to this prestigious restaurant for our evening dinner reservation.
Roberts Circa 1876 is one of the Hunter Valley’s most iconic restaurants. The building is located on the site of the original historic cottage. The front of the restaurant has kept the facade of the cottage and inside it features rooms which have been restored and decorated in period style.
The cottage is so charming, the rooms allow a glance back in history as you walk through to the restaurant. You get the impression from these little time capsules, (rooms), that life was harder then. Looking at the furnishing I would also guess it was harder on the bottom also! The furnishing were not nearly as comfortable as now.
Nevertheless I wanted to soak up some of the period atmosphere and enjoy a cocktail or two in this historic cottage sitting room. A fire had been lit in the open fireplace so we made ourselves at home. The found an old battle weary side table that I thought would make the perfect contrasting backdrop for the fresh modern cocktails. Our bartender for the evening was Nick Schroor. Nick is an experienced mixologist, he’s designed a range of locally inspired cocktails which use fresh Hunter Valley produce with local wine and spirits.
The Mojito has been my spring cocktail of choice lately, so I thought I would try the Persimmon and Grapefruit Mojito.
I found this beautiful drink so girly pretty! I loved how it was decorated with miniature Pansies and Nasturtium. Before I had a sip I took a breathe in, the aroma was like brushing past mint in the garden. So fresh and clean!
The first mouthful was heavenly, delicious mint, lime and white rum! It was quite tart, with all the citrus flavours, this is just how I like my mojitos. Such a refreshing drink, but boy did it pack a punch for something that looked so dainty and innocent.
Mr GG had left the cocktail selection in Nicks capable hands. Nick returned with a white sangria. The White Sangria was a gorgeous ombre pink creation. The pinker hues were at the bottom of the glass and the colour dissipated to a light baby pink at the top where miniature flowers floated. The Sangria was fruity and sweet and was made with a Hunter Valley Semillon from the Thomas Wines Estate called 6 Degrees. The Semillon balanced the sweet fruit flavours in the sangria with crisp citrus notes.
After a relaxed start to the meal it was time to go through to our table.
The restaurant itself is a connected addition to the original dwelling. As we walked through the cottage we noticed a wooden crate of pumpkins which had been harvested from the garden plot at the front of the restaurant. Its easy to see that Executive chef George Francisco is enthusiastic about fresh, local and seasonal produce.
Once guests exit the little cottage they find themselves in a large dining room with an over sized fireplace as the focal point. Here everything is generous in size and comfort. The restaurant is warm, and the ambiance is cosy and opulent. Roberts Circa 1876 celebrates a fine dining style of food and atmosphere. Staff are attentive and knowledgeable, and the food is presented meticulously.
To cleanse our palate we start with a Garden Tonic. The shot glasses were filled with a nutrient rich juice from the organic kitchen garden. The waiter explained the juice contained carrot, celery, fennel frond and pear. The tonic smelled so healthy. I tried mine and surprisingly it was more like a liquid carrot cake than a regular juice.
I said to Mr GG,
“If healthy always tasted this good I could probably make the change!”
He gave me a look which told me he doubted it…
My healthy change was short lived. The waiter brought our drinks and it was all over. Brett had ordered the Hunter Beer Company’s Hunter Lager. The Hunter Lager is a hand crafted European style pilsner. It’s brewed with a combination of malt and hops which gives a flavour that works well with food.
Hubby loves his fresh cooked bread prior to a meal, so much so that I have resigned myself to a life without dinner rolls. Roberts restaurant served rolls with a thin crisp exterior that were light and airy on the inside. The bread was served with a whipped light butter. Needless to say I was not allowed mine, it was confiscated by the man!
The entrees arrived and they were beautiful! Both so delicate and artistically presented.
Hubby was having the Charred Garam Masala Scented Foie Gras which was served with a cinnamon lemon jam, snow pea shoots, rose petals and a spiced jus. When I tried the Foie Gras I was amazed at the texture. It was so delicate and light, almost mousse like on the inside, with a lovely spiced charred flavour on the outside. We were both so impressed with this dish.
Although I loved the Foie Gras entree I was pleased I had ordered the Crisp Pork Belly. It was served with a crispy, salty, wafer thin potato tuilles, balsamic reduction, homemade apple sauce and elke greens with black salt and lavender. The pork crackling was almost too good to share, and the meat just melted in my mouth. It was almost a foodgasm moment.
Judging from how much hubby had ohhed and ahhed over the Foie Gras I wondered if anything could compete with the Foie Gras. I shouldn’t have been concerned. Mr GG had ordered the parcel of Ocean Trout and Kingfish with celeriac puree. The dish was served with lovely balls of ocean trout roe and crispy jamon crumble. The chef had used the method of fusing two different proteins with a binding enzyme to created a visually stunning dish. The flavours worked wonderfully together and the fish was cooked lightly so it remained moist and delicious.
After sampling hubby’s fish dish I was wondering if I would have “ordering envy”. I need not have been concerned. The grilled aged Rangers Valley Rib Eye was a thing of beauty. Cooked absolutely perfectly with a seared smoky exterior and delicious pink meat throughout. It was presented with a light garden salad, dots of creamy smooth potato purée, Béarnaise Sauce & Jus.
The sides arrived at the table. I would’ve been happy devour these vegetable dishes every day of the week. The chefs certainly know how to make ordinary vegetables extraordinary. The baked honey pumpkin was sweet and homely with crunchy oven roasted nuts. The nuts had a sweet toffee glaze which gave more crunch and flavour to the pumpkin. The dish was given a green lift with fresh herbs.
The pumpkin was sweet and crunch and the Arancini style balls were crisp and creamy. The exterior of these temptresses was a crispy, crunchy deep fried crust. In the middle the balls were smooth, soft little pillows of potato.
With our amazing dining experience drawing to an end we found there was only room for a shared dessert. Given all the dessert options looked so delicious we left the choice up to our waiter. He returned with this gorgeous Vanilla Bean Pannacotta, and set it on the table between us. The pannacotta was served with fresh pomegranate, a pomegranate molasses and sweet lavender honey. It was so good! The pannacotta was incredibly creamy and just barely holding it’s shape.
Perhaps we are a little childish but given that the dessert had a black, vanilla bean seed tip, we gave it the “wobble” test. Yes is did wobble with the same motion as a ladies breast. We had to declare it the perfect pannacotta.
…and so our evening of fine dining came to an end.
So I have left the best to last in of Hunter Valley series dear readers. If you are visiting the Hunter Valley I would absolutely recommend a meal at Robert Circa 1876. It really is the perfect romantic, fine dining experience.
Roberts Circa 187664 Halls Road
Pokolbin, New South Wales, 2320
(02) 4998 4998