Food, wine, music and olive groves all set to a banquet table between the trees. It’s as European as fast driving and slow soccer, but with the finesse of a top Hunter Valley winery and the spirit of a festival. This is the Continent on our shores.
Whispering Brook – the sobriquet of the quiet waterway that runs round the estate – is one of those rare places that blends culture and nuance so cleverly it’s easy to forget exactly where you are.
And it’s all underpinned by a sense of understated quality.
We approach the somewhat whimsical somewhat refined cellar door – a beautiful broad timber homestead – down a wide driveway between the grape vines.
Behind the cellar door, the lawn opens out and a proffered glass of bright Provencal style rosé encourages us to stroll down to the olive groves beyond.
It’s astounding that only a few yards from the gathering lunch crowd, the olive trees and views across the Hunter provide such serenity.
A serenity that’s broken by a sudden crack; it’s the winery’s dog, Brook – a beautiful Roadsend Australian Shepherd. She’s foraging for fallen olives, crunching the pits like they’re peanuts.
We follow Brook back towards party while she ignores our entreaties to both fuss her and save her dentist bill.
Whispering Brook Olive Long Table Lunch
From the lawn, where canapés are being served (rich wagyu tartare on peanut praline sourdough and housemade crumpets topped with smoked salmon roe, local honey and sour cream), we find our seats at the lunch table.
And what a table it is.
Between rows of tall olive trees, the table runs for some 50 metres, a white ribbon laid down between the blue-green leaves of the grove.
This beautiful bucolic al fresco scene somehow creates a conflicting concept of low-key grandeur and what – under normal circumstances – would feel like ostentation.
Perhaps this is what makes Whispering Brook’s iconic luncheon feel so European. So often, the way things are in Europe and the lifestyle that’s lived should feel pretentious or over the top. But from the context and in the spirit of how it’s done – with heart, candour and generosity – it just feels right.
Soon, we’re all seated and that European vibe amps up further.
Olive oil, freshly pressed from this year’s harvest, adds a touch of gold to crusty bread, and slabs of yellow cultured butter topped with pepperberry and sea salt are scooped out and plied to the same sumptuous sourdough.
Plates arrive of hiramasa kingfish with a macadamia satay, broccolini and lemon myrtle to remind us we’re still in Australia. Meanwhile our glasses, charged with Whispering Brook’s Arinto and Touriga Nacional, take us to Portugal and back to Europe once again.
As the courses come out, lunch chatter and clinking glasses all but drown out the troubadour’s guitar. The branches of the olive grove above us embrace the long table leaving the sun to glitter down on the white cloth and sparkle off the wine glasses.
It’s all we can do to farewell our hosts in English as we leave this culinary odyssey of a Euro-stralian luncheon.
Arrivederci, Whispering Brook. Au revoir. Até logo. We’ll see you again soon!
It’s a once-a-year thing
Whispering Brook have been running this wonderful lunch every year for quite some time. But it happens to coincide with the first weekend of the Hunter Valley Wine and Food Festival, which is an amazing event you should definitely check out.
To book your place at the Whispering Brook Olive Long Table Luncheon, it’s a good idea to first join their membership programme.
Apart from anything else (new wine releases, news on olive seasons and hopefully more pictures of their good girl Brook), you get first notification of tickets to the lunch and special member rates.
We’ll see you there – the first Saturday of June.