Expect friendly food cooked with sophistication at Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley’s signature restaurant
Two hours north of Sydney, the Hunter Valley’s Lovedale is a community well known for its produce and wineries (among them Wandin Valley Estate). It’s also the home of the Lovedale Long Lunch, where the region’s leading chefs and winemakers come together and work together once a year, sharing a table and freezer space. And it’s in Lovedale you’ll find the Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley, home to Redsalt – a restaurant showcasing the best of local produce all year round.
Redsalt’s menu is under the direction of executive chef James Ashton, taking his lead from the seasons and sourcing local ingredients. Free-range poultry hails from a farm across in Thirlmere, while leaves of red elk, rocket and spinach come, we’re told, “from Gloria” – a grower whose property you pass on the way in.
Among the starters, go for fois gras parfait, spread, country-style, across the sweet and soft brioche, which is baked in-house. Prawns grilled à la grecque come stacked over a cocktail sauce in the American Floridian style – a tomato base with horseradish, tarragon and a touch of mayo. Shrimp share the plate with softly charred cos lettuce that gives the dish smokiness, while pickled watermelon rind teases out the sweetness of the sauce.
Mains are built around a grill concept, with a feature dish by Ross Lusted from much-awarded Sydney restaurant the Bridge Room – a grilled Wagyu loin with spinach butter, bone marrow, heirloom carrots, dried morels and a stick veal jus. But today, it’s the dry-aged rib eye on the bone Ashton recommends for us. A “very special cut”, its texture changes the closer you get to the bone. Served with Gloria’s rocket and blistered cherry tomatoes and a traditional creamy Béarnaise sauce, it’s pure country comfort.
Also on the grill menu is corn-fed chicken supreme on butternut squash puree and honey roast bay celeriac – sweetness that balances out when paired with the soft local chardonnay (thanks Brokenwood) that is equally as buttery.
The wine list – bolstered with Lovedale Lager and Centennial Ale from the onsite Lovedale Brewery – showcases local drops. Smooth and heavier than you’d expect, the Cockfighter’s Ghost Semillon could be easily mistaken for a chardonnay. Of the reds, be sure to sample the Ballabourneen ‘The Three Amigos’ Cabernet Petit Verdot Merlot (2011). Velvety with an oak finish, this blend has subtle overtones of tomato leaf.
Classic treats on the dessert list include a lemon tart, panna cotta and apple crumble. We go for the chocolate and hazelnut pavé with dulce de leche macarons, which we deploy for scooping up those hazelnut and chocolate crumbs.
The expansive, tranquil Crowne sprawls across an 18-hole golf course, free-standing villas, conference centre and hotel. Redsalt, found at the end of the broad lobby, is spacious, with high ceilings and white-tablecloth tables set well apart from one another and big windows. A meal here, with the outlook of the grand piano-shaped pool and the light fading behind palm trees, beautifully rounds out a day in a rural paradise.
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Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley
430 Wine Country Dr