If a Hunter Valley local invites you to a long lunch, it’s generally recommended that you not have any plans for the rest of the day or the next, as you’re going to experience the hospitality that the Hunter Valley is known for. It’s best that you pack some Panadol too…
There were no headaches getting to the Hunter Valley, a cruisy two hour drive north of Sydney. We arrived at our accommodation for the weekend the Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley in the heart of Lovedale. The rather imposing grand entrance to the hotel, replete with circular driveway and sculpted gardens gives way to a far more relaxed warm environment inside.
After checking in, we joined our companions in the Vista Lounge which despite its location in the lobby of the hotel, was a pleasant place to enjoy a glass of wine or two with a freestanding stone wall, gas fires and modern low slung furniture giving the lounge a modern bar vibe.
Before retiring for the night I eased myself into the corner of one of the couches and slowly sipped on a glass of Scarborough Yellow Label Chardonnay, pondering the weekend ahead. There is so much to see and do in the Hunter, so I wanted to use the few hours of free time in my itinerary the next day very wisely.
This naturally required further thought so I ordered some Pyrenees Lamb Cutlets with Chimmichurri which was a perfect foil for a glass of Keith Tulloch Shiraz Viogner before heading off to bed.
The next morning I took a stroll around some of the hotel’s facilities. The resort sports an 18 hole golf course, swimming pool, day spa along with a range of sporting activities on its expansive grounds but the addition of a brewery later this year (Sydney’s Schwarz Brewery) should continue the resort’s ascension on the Hunter Valley’s culinary map.
I met with the Hotel’s executive chef Gavin Robertson who spoke animatedly about his plan for a new menu at the grill restaurant that will accompany the brewery and how each dish will incorporate different beer as an ingredient.
Gavin is also the chef responsible for creating the dishes to be served at Sandalyn Wilderness Estate, one of the 6 wineries participating in this year’s Lovedale Long Lunch. Each year for the last 19 years, the Lovedale region of the Hunter Valley has hosted a Long Lunch that in true Hunter style, lasts a whole weekend. The Lovedale Long Lunch held on May the 18th and 19th this year will be the 20th and no doubt the biggest yet.
Sandalyn Wilderness Estate will be serving two mains and two desserts from the Crowne Plaza’s Red Salt Restaurant at the long lunch. A Seared Atlantic salmon with Thai noodle salad and chilli lime reduction along with char-grilled white Pyrenées lamb cutlets with ratatouille and Boulangère potatoes with caramelised balsamic onions. I sampled both dishes and they were complemented well by the wines from Sandalyn Estate, a toasty chardonnay and an aged Shiraz with a slight medicinal edge.
The next day I hit the Hotel’s Tea Tree Spa for a relaxing 50 minute Swedish Massage. Relaxation is a core part of the Hunter Valley experience, whether it be with a glass of wine in hand or whether the hands of a masseuse are melting away your aches and pains. What can also be assured of is that the hospitality will be second to none.
Jeremy Bowell stayed and dined at Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley as a guest of the hotel.
Lovedale Long Lunch
The Lovedale Long Lunch takes place on the 18th & 19th May 2013. For tickets and further information visit the Lovedale Long Lunch website.
Rooms are available at the Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley beginning at $315 per night