Whenever I think about a trip to the Hunter Valley I get as excited about the food as the wine. The wineries are known globally for their iconic Semillon, and the region has Shiraz vines over 100 years old. At the same time foodies are very well catered for – with talented Hunter Valley chefs combining local produce with stunning scenery to create truly memorable feasts.
Here I’m covering one of my most memorable winery lunches – at Emerson’s Cafe & Restaurant in Lovedale.
Emerson’s is located on Lovedale Road and sits alongside the Adina winery. The restaurant is surrounded by acres of vineyards and an impressive olive grove. The indoor tables offer scenic views through the large glass windows and outside, on the verandah, you can enjoy the uninterrupted vineyard landscape.
Emerson Rodriguez, the Owner/Head Chef, relocated to the Lovedale site after three years running the successful Emerson’s at Pokolbin restaurant. Before that Emerson was the Executive Chef of Peppers Hunter Valley. So clearly you’re in experienced hands.
Emerson’s menu is seasonal and showcases locally sourced fresh produce. Emerson himself takes great pride in respecting his ingredients and aims to create the shortest possible trip from paddock to plate. This same philosophy is true for many of the restaurants in the region. So what makes Emerson’s really stand out from other Hunter Valley fine dining restaurants?
Based on my visit here are three factors that make Emerson’s unique (in other words three things that will tempt me back the next time I’m in the Hunter Valley):
- Price point: The Hunter Valley might be known for its fine dining award-winning restaurants but it’s also, at least in my mind, the home of the $45 main course. In most instances the cost is worth it given the ‘experience’ factor but it’s always a bonus if the food is more affordable. This is where Emerson’s comes in – enjoy a weekend breakfast for $20, an eight-course degustation for $98 or one of their specials (like $55 for three courses on Sunday nights).
- Relaxed & friendly staff: It’s rare to walk out of a restaurant knowing the names of the wait staff, unless perhaps you are dining at Emerson’s. From the moment we walked through the door the staff were relaxed, happy and passionate. Wanda and Frances, the wait staff, talked us through their backgrounds and passion for Emerson’s cooking, and Emerson’s wife Sam explained each course in detail. I imagine they have loyal customers, both visitors and locals, for whom a meal at Emerson’s is a regular treat.
- Generous portion sizes: Based on my meal and also that of fellow diners at the time I’d say the portion sizes at Emerson’s are generous, and you really will walk away comfortably full.
As I mentioned the price point at Emerson’s is a pleasant surprise – the degustation costs $98 per person for food or $140 per person with wines. The wines are all perfectly matched to each course and there is a good mix of different varietals. Here’s the Summer degustation lunch I enjoyed……
My highlight? I’d say the barramundi was the surprise dish – the fish is saltwater rather than farmed and goes perfectly with the turnips, leeks and mushrooms. The dish is a great example of taking simple produce to create something extraordinary. And I must mention the amuse bouche of potato & parmesan foam with dehydrated beef with truffle oil – an inventive and memorable start to a lovely lunch.
Tempted? The good news is Emerson’s is open for lunch, dinner and even weekend breakfasts. So if you don’t want to interupt a day of wine tasting with a long lazy lunch at Emerson’s then visit for dinner or breakfast. Just be sure to make a reservation in advance – because when the cellar doors are busy pouring Semillon for wine lovers you can be sure that Emerson’s is just as busy looking after discerning visitors and locals.
- 492 Lovedale Road, Lovedale NSW 2325
- Phone: 02 4930 7029
- Open: breakfast Sat & Sun 8am to 11am, lunch Wed – Sun 11am to 3pm, dinner Thurs – Sun 6pm to 10pm
- Twitter: @eatatemersons
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