18 restaurants in the Hunter Valley you must try
You’ll never go hungry in the Hunter Valley. From fine-dining hatted restaurants to buzzy lunch spots and breakfast with a side of bubbles, there’s a meal for every mood.
Breakfast spots & casual eats
It’s something of a Hunter Valley tradition to start the day with bubbles at Restaurant Cuvee. Serving breakfast, brunch and lunch, the modern Australian menu features local specialties like cheese from Hunter Belle, seafood from Port Stephens and honey from Denman. On a sunny day, get a table in the leafy courtyard and settle in for the perfect Wine Country morning.
From the same team behind award-winning EXP. restaurant, Fawk Foods takes traditional cafe fare to the next level. Start the day off on a sweet note with oven-baked buttermilk pancakes or refuel for lunch with a 12-hour braised beef cheek toasted sandwich with salsa verde. There’s also housemade cakes, brownies, sourdough and crumpets to take home.
As the name suggests, the best thing about this cafe and restaurant is the huge outdoor deck that looks over a dam and surrounding bushland. The breakfast menu has all the classics (including a ‘hangover roll’ if you’ve overdone the wine tasting), while lunch and dinner are tapas style.
Part of the pretty Peppers Creek Village, Cafe Enzo has been serving hungry valley visitors for more than 25 years. The sunny, Tuscan-inspired courtyard – complete with Italianate fountain – is the perfect place to linger over coffee, breakfast or lunch.
Chic & delicious
A classic European-style bistro set inside a postcard-perfect Hamptons-inspired cottage, this is one-hat dining that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Chef Josh Gregory creates a seasonal, produce-driven menu that is designed to evoke memories of your grandmother’s cooking – spiced with flavour, heart and passion.
Fresh, smart and simple is the motto at Leaves and Fishes. Surrounded by a lush, leafy garden and serving a casual Asian-style menu, you could be forgiven for thinking you’re in Lombok rather than Lovedale. Take a seat in the restaurant or find a quiet perch in the grounds to tuck into Singapore chilli soft shell crab, Szechuan spiced chicken wings, or pineapple and cashew salad.
Chef and owner Brian Duncan spent much of his career at Michelin-starred restaurants. He’s now creating a relaxed, elegant menu at Hunters Quarter, featuring exquisitely plated dishes like scallop with edamame beans and kiss peppers, or mahogany spiced duck with spiced carrot and caramelised pear. With a glass-walled dining room and an outdoor terrace overlooking the vines, the views outside are almost as pretty as those on the plate.
According to local legend, Yellow Billy was a gentleman bushranger who roamed the villages of the Hunter Valley in the 1860s. His way of life is the inspiration behind this eponymous restaurant, where chefs will forage for fresh ingredients and most dishes are cooked directly over the fire. Expect things like pit-fired lamb shoulder, grilled whole Murray cod, pulled pork with barbecue pepper glaze, or fire-grilled flank steak.
Restaurant Kawul / Calais Estate
The name Kawul comes from the local Wonnarua name for the wedge tailed eagle and the menu takes similar inspiration from native cuisine. Expect dishes like lemon myrtle cauliflower bites, bush salt and pepper calamari, and creamy wild mushroom and garlic ragout. Aboriginal artworks from local artists line the walls inside or choose a table on the verandah for stunning views over the property.
Amanda Patton always dreamed of owning a restaurant that felt like a country home and that’s exactly what Amanda’s on the Edge has achieved. Different dining spaces are spread throughout a sprawling weatherboard house, with views over the garden and vineyard, and a wood fire in winter. The menu has European and Asian influences, and is paired with wines from the surrounding wineries.
Wine & fine dine
Margan / Margan Wines
A pioneer of the ‘farm to fork’ movement, one-hat Margan has been crafting their menu around what they can grow, pick or produce on the estate for more than 15 years. That means free-range chickens, pasture-raised lambs, honey from beehives, and fresh vegetables, fruit and herbs from the kitchen garden and orchard. The five-course set menu changes weekly and there are excellent vegetarian, plant-based and pescetarian options all year round.
A little slice of Provence on a Hunter hillside, Bistro Molines serves up a traditional European/French menu in a pretty, paved courtyard overlooking the vines. Chef Robert Molines and wife Sally have been cooking in the Hunter Valley since 1973, and his rustic Provençal dishes have never gone out of style. The service at Bistro Molines is also legendary, so expect a flawless meal from start to finish.
The only restaurant in the Hunter Valley to have been awarded two chef’s hats, Muse Restaurant is the effortlessly stylish older sibling of Muse Kitchen. Technique, quality and innovation are key, making for true special occasion dining. The five-course contemporary Australian menu changes frequently, but always highlights the best Hunter produce.
One of the few fine dining restaurants in the Hunter Valley that’s not on a vineyard, EXP. is part of the tiny row of shops that make up Pokolbin village. That means the focus is all on the plate as part of a dining experience that’s entertaining and interactive as it is delicious. The tasting menu has more than a dozen courses, ranging from perfect single bites to more substantial mains. Get a set at the kitchen counter to watch the chefs in action.
At the stylish éRemo, they know not to mess with the classics. Fried zucchini flowers stuffed with ricotta, buffalo mozzarella with autumn tomatoes, potato gnocchi with gorgonzola, and tiramisu all feature on the menu of this contemporary Italian restaurant, set within Spicers Guesthouse hotel. If you can’t decide what to order, choose the Avido menu and let the chefs feed you with their favourites.
Another hatted high-achiever from the Spicers family, Restaurant Botanica is part of Spicers Vineyards Estate. Promising comfort food that’s both warm and exciting, it serves a French bistro-style menu with splashes of English charm and Australian technique. Coq a vin, white bean cassoulet and chicken ballotine sit alongside quirky dishes like sourdough ice cream with Vegemite caramel.
Esca is a Hunter Valley institution, but after a recent revamp of both the interiors and the menu, it’s feeling decidedly fresh. The menu is divided into four sections – from the garden, from the sea, from the land, and cheese and dessert – and you can pick and choose to build your perfect three-, four- or five-course meal. Esca also has one of the best views in the valley, perched on a hilltop overlooking rolling vines.
In mid-2022, famed hotel Tower Lodge underwent a $6 million revamp, with part of the spend going towards a new restaurant – Sebastian. The name comes from the Spanish city of San Sebastian, the home of Basque cuisine and Europe’s highest concentration of Michelin-starred restaurant. The chefs present the meals at the table, taking time to explain their intricacies and creating a connection between the guests and their creations.