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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!