Where To Eat In The Hunter Valley—Esca Bimbadgen

Anyone who has asked for a restaurant recommendation in the Hunter Valley will have heard the same response: ‘Esca. You have to go to Esca.’ But does Bimbadgen’s awarded eatery deserve all this attention?

Where to eat in the Hunter Valley - Esca Bimbadgen

Just past the stairs down to the silver rows of Bimbadgen’s wine tanks and gantries, we’re welcomed at the door to Esca by a smiling maître d’.

The restaurant’s busy tonight.

From young, dressed-up couples on a date to old friends in flip-flops relaxing over a meal and a bottle from Bimbadgen’s cellar door, the spectrum of diners adds to the ambience.

Light floods in through the windows lining two sides of the restaurant, but not for long. As the late sun sets and Blue Hour sets in, the twinkle of golden lights on each table bring more romance to the atmosphere.

Check out our quick video of our Signature Experience:

Our table looks out through the glass wall to the wide balcony, where more diners are enjoying the afternoon air and their front-seat views over the vineyards out to the distant mountains.

In the courtyard below, the wood-fired pizza oven has fired up, the soft sounds of music and casual diners trickling up to us.

Where to eat in the Hunter Valley - Esca BimbadgenBlue Hour at Esca Bimbadgen

Esca Bimbadgen—fine-dining in the Hunter Valley

Esca’s a la carte option is a three-course-minimum situation, where you can choose from the different dishes in vegetable, seafood and meat sections (as well as a dessert and cheese menu).

You can then add drinks to your meal as and when. In fact, estate wine is at the same price as the cellar door on the ground floor, which is refreshing especially for a restaurant of this calibre.

The other dining alternative, the one we’re here for, is the Esca Signature Experience.

Where to eat in the Hunter Valley - Esca Bimbadgen - menu

Esca Bimbadgen’s Signature Experience

Designed in collaboration by Esca’s Head Chef Keira Madeley and Bimbadgen’s Head Winemaker Richard Done, the Signature Experience is a five-course dinner matched with six wines.

Things kick off with a glass of Bimbadgen’s Sparkling Cuvee served with slabs of pillowy focaccia and rich house-made butter. There’s also a little pot of pink salt, though the colour comes from infusion of Bimbadgen Shiraz rather than any trace minerals.

We’d be happy enough if there were just five courses of this, but instead the first course arrives.

Woodfired peaches with duetto—a blend of mascarpone and gorgonzola cheese from Binnorie Dairy in the Hunter. This light yet satisfying dish pairs perfectly with a similarly light and fruity Vermentino from Bimbadgen’s new Grower’s Range.

Where to eat in the Hunter Valley - Esca Bimbadgen - dishes of Signature ExperienceWhere to eat in the Hunter Valley - Esca Bimbadgen - McDonalds Road Chardonnay

From here, it’s a delicious flurry of food. Salmon gravlax with sauce gribiche, confit chicken with a spiced sauce and roasted chickpeas, and veal tenderloin, cooked rare, on a bed of delightfully chewy pearl couscous.

Glasses of Bimbadgen’s Chardonnay, Semillon and Shiraz Viognier bring further depth to the food. And each dish reciprocates, developing each wine beyond its glass.

We finish with a glass of Bimbadgen’s Late Harvest Semillon—a dessert wine for sure, but its residual sugar, far from being too sweet, is tempered by the grapes’ natural acidity. A real flex from Richard!

With this wine comes a shallow bowl of summer stone fruits and browned butter on creamy yoghurt which is in turn floated on a delicate mint emulsion.

Where to eat in the Hunter Valley - Esca Bimbadgen - Shiraz Viognier Where to eat in the Hunter Valley - Esca Bimbadgen

It’s an elegant end to the meal, and although we’ve had so much food and drink, we leave feeling sated rather than stuffed. Such is the skill of the open kitchen, who we’re able to than as we leave.

Esca Bimbadgen, Pokolbin, Hunter Valley

Open: Lunch—Wed-Sat from 12pm, Dinner—Fri and Sat from 6pm

Pretty much all wineries offer food these days. From an easy-going cheese board to go with your tasting to the full bells-and-whistles of a hatted fine-diner that stands apart from the winery.

Esca always seems to have at least one eye on the wine at all times. With all the dishes here, you get the impression that they’re designed with the vineyards in mind.

And this is what makes Esca. It’s a symbiosis with the winery that creates a wonderful depth to your experience at Bimbadgen.

Where to eat in the Hunter Valley - Esca Bimbadgen - Jim & Christina

We dined as media guests of Bimbadgen, but our experiences and opinions remain our own.

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