Where to dine in the Hunter Valley, NSW – Restaurant Botanica

We love finding places that take care and time to source what they’re using in their kitchens. Like Pork’d in Surry Hills and Zin House in Mudgee, Restaurant Botanica in the Hunter Valley, NSW has developed a seasonal menu that really represents and epitomises the produce of the local region.

Mr & Mrs Romance - Restaurant Botanica - 1 title

It’s so good to see more and more restaurants using locally produced ingredients in their dishes – but Restaurant Botanica have taken things a bit further than the norm.

Connected to Spicers Vineyards Estate Hotel not only by its location, Botanica is quite literally married to the hotel. Executive chef and owner, Mark Stapleton works with his wife Belinda, who owns and runs the hotel. Mark has created the kind of menus that fit perfectly with what Belinda has created in the hotel.

There’s a relaxed, luxe feel to both the hotel and the restaurant. Both offer a boutique, personal service that made us feel incredibly at home and yet still with first class quality. And the Stapletons have worked hard to make everything as much about the Hunter Valley as they can.

Mr & Mrs Romance - Restaurant Botanica - entrance hallMr & Mrs Romance - Restaurant Botanica - dining long shot

Mark is so into using local produce, he’s even grown his own bio dynamic garden out the back of the restaurant. It has an amazing array of veggies, herbs and delicious greenery they use in the recipes.

The result of all this fresh produce that’s been grown with such love is some extraordinary food.

Mark showed us around the garden explaining the things they were growing there and introducing us to the resident pigs they have in the sty next to the garden.

Mr & Mrs Romance - Restaurant Botanica - bio dynamic gardenMr & Mrs Romance - Restaurant Botanica - piggies Mr & Mrs Romance - Restaurant Botanica - Salami

Mark and Belinda were having trouble not getting too attached to these excellent animals, affectionately known as things like Salami and Chop Chop, as these beauties will be used in the restaurant at some point soon I’m afraid to say.

After our foraging session in the garden, Mark showed us how he makes his salsa verde for dinner. He’s been kind enough to share his recipe here:

Mark Stapleton’s salsa verde recipe

– 2 bunches of parsley
– 4 cornichons
– 10 capers
– 2 slices of garlic
– Juice of a lemon
– 6 mint leaves

– Blend/puree or pound in a mortar and pestle until fine, then add 100g olive oil and salt to taste.

– Add 100g of cold boiled potato to thicken.

Mr & Mrs Romance - Restaurant Botanica - Mark Stapleton salsa verdeMr & Mrs Romance - Restaurant Botanica - dinner table

That night we were treated to an excellent dinner here that we shared with Mark and Belinda, and our new favourite family the Scarboroughs, who have been making wine in the Hunter for generations.

The meal was complimented with a tasting of the Scarboroughs’ favourite vintages. We also talked about other cellar doors that they rated in the Hunter and they helped us come up with this list of wineries locals like to visit.

The wine flowed the conversation rallied and the food was excellent – from the pork belly and scallops to the perfect little affogato I had for dessert. I’m pretty sure the flavour, vitality and elegance of the food is owed to the fact that so much of it is grown and harvested not even 5 metres from the kitchen door.

Mr & Mrs Romance - Restaurant Botanica - pork belly Mr & Mrs Romance - Restaurant Botanica - more smoked salmon Mr & Mrs Romance - Restaurant Botanica - beef cheek and scallops

Restaurant Botanica and Spicers Vineyards Estate Hotel, Hunter Valley

Open: Lunch – 12pm-3pm Sat-Sun. Dinner – from 6pm Mon-Sun

555 Hermitage Rd
Pokolbin NSW 2320

W: spicersretreats.com
Fb: @SpicersVineyardsEstate
Ig: @SpicersRetreats
Tw: @SpicersAust

Mr & Mrs Romance - Restaurant Botanica - dessert tart Mr & Mrs Romance - Restaurant Botanica - dessert cake Mr & Mrs Romance - Restaurant Botanica - affogato

What’s your favourite Hunter Valley restaurant? Do you know of a restaurant that loves to use local or homegrown produce? Tell us your tips in the comments!


Mr & Mrs Romance - Restaurant Botanica - Chop Chop

Images by Mrs Romance using an O-MD E-M10 Olympus camera.


  • Reply October 4, 2015

    Lyn - A Hole in my Shoe

    Jim that sounds like my kind of place, I just love it when places go to the effort to source great produce and grow their own local ingredients. The end result is all about the quality of what they start with. I haven’t been to Hunter Valley, but when I do I’d love to visit this place.

    • Reply October 8, 2015

      Mr Romance

      It’s beautiful, Lyn. Really lovely. And the staff and owners are great too. Their food’s just excellent – well worth a drive.

  • […] The Scarborough family makes probably the best Chardonnay in the country, but aside from that, they’re absolutely lovely people. It didn’t take more than five minutes for us to feel like part of the family and they were truly instrumental in our falling in love with the region – as were Belinda and Mark Stapleton. […]

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