Fresh new style for an award winning favourite
Did you know that right here in Pokolbin we have the three-time award winner of Australia’s Best National Restaurant in a Winery? Yes, through to 2019 the Hunter Valley, via Esca, Bimbadgen took out the honors three years running. And to keep them at the top of their game, during COVID, Esca took the opportunity to close their much loved restaurant and give it some love back, with a renovation. So after completing their refurb late last year, we thought it was time to pay them a little visit and report back!
If you haven’t been to Esca before you may at least recognise the iconic Bimbadgen building with the bell tower that makes up part of their wine label. And it is the building that you spy on top of the hill as you make your way up the long paved driveway. At the top you are rewarded with the full view of this beautiful building and the surroundings.
Straight away as you enter the restaurant you can see they have taken full advantage of that hilltop view. The restaurant has vast glass windows that open up in fine weather to invite the outside in. And whether you are inside or on the balcony, you won’t miss out on the view.
There is a real sense of calm with the choice of colours and the simplicity of the decor. The style of the restaurant seems to complement the spectacular views. The pale green walls blend in with the greenery of the surrounding hills and vineyards.
And it’s not just the interiors that have had a revamp, it’s the approach to dining.
The team wanted to create something a little different. A restaurant that wasn’t fine dining but was still a special experience in a relaxed and beautiful location with great service. They wanted it to be simply perfect.
This approach to simplicity and relaxation is reflected even in the choice of table setting. No longer will you see four sets of cutlery on the table but a simple single setting that gives diners the space to “lean in” and have a conversation.
Executive Chef Nick Samaras worked with the team on a refresh of the menu as well which is now one that allows guests the flexibility to choose their own adventure. There is a choice of three, four or five meals in a set menu, divided by type of food such as “From the Sea” or “From the Paddock”. The size of the meals is slightly bigger than an entrée, so you can choose three of whatever your heart desires without being limited to choosing the traditional one entrée, one main and one dessert. If it is a dessert kind of day, then who is to judge if you just choose three desserts? Do it your way!
The menu showcases what is in season and available at the time, so it is tweaked regularly, often every 4 weeks. It keeps things interesting for those who want to visit a few times a year … or more. Currently guest favourites include the pea and Pecorino baked custard with a salad of witlof, caramelised walnut and honey from the on site beehives and the braised Okinawan pork belly with daikon and wasabi.
The wine list is another slightly different approach to the norm and unashamedly Hunter Valley focused. There is, of course, the opportunity to have a glass of Bimbadgen wine but there is quite the selection of other Hunter Valley wines available as well. Plus, there is a Friends of the Hunter Valley section which features wines from other areas that have a connection with the Hunter. Such as iconic Yarra Valley winery where the last winemaker from Bimbadgen is now chief winemaker. A nice way to add a personal touch to a wine list.
So if you’re after a relaxed style of refined dining with a beautiful view...and maybe the excuse to visit their newly renovated cellar door at the same time, then head on over and check out the fresh new Esca at Bimbadgen.