Award-winning dining in the Hunter Valley
For a truly exquisite one-of-a-kind dining experience, you must book a table at Muse Restaurant in the Hunter Valley.
One of Pokolbin’s best restaurants, Muse Restaurant, offers a unique and award-winning dining experience in the heart of Wine Country on Broke Road right next door to the equally impressive, Hungerford Hill Winery.
The brainchild of the ever-so-humble kitchen mastermind, Troy Rhoades-Brown, this iconic dining institution has been the go-to for special occasions for both locals and visitors alike since its inception in 2009.
Having had to weather the covid world just like us all, Muse Restaurant has emerged tightening their sophisticated dining offering and a strong, connected, and dedicated kitchen and service team, with creating that truly exquisite dining experience still at their core.
Catching up with Troy, we hear all about how the business made the most of the pandemic, how the team has come out stronger, whispers of a new addition soon to launch, and how Muse Restaurant plans to continue its dining legacy in the Hunter Valley for years to come.
Taking covid lockdowns as a time to reflect on the business offering, Troy decided to pair back and simplify the restaurant offering by now only servicing dinners, five nights per week, from Tuesday to Saturday.
“What we found we were doing, we would be booked out Friday nights, having to back up for a Saturday lunch, going straight into a Saturday night then backing up again for a Sunday lunch. We were really trying to be there when we thought the guests were there in the Valley. But really, we just needed to step back and get that confidence of deciding what we really wanted to do as a business. Which was, to have a bit more balance.”
Deciding to shift their perspective and focus on finding a balance to both run a successful business and allow staff to have a strong work/life; something which has been almost unheard of in the hospitality industry for years.
“We don’t want to be a restaurant for everyone, we’ve pigeon-holed ourselves to really be that special occasion restaurant. So, we stepped back, made some changes, and really champion that special occasion experience.
“We’ve really decided to just focus on dinner. To be that place to come together to celebrate the anniversary, the big birthday, and we will continue to critique that and do that as best as we can, which is exactly what we do.”
The spectacular building sets the scene for what becomes a food journey to remember. Step inside and be greeted at the foyer before being transported into a foodie-haven unlike any other as you take your seat.
Take in the high ceilings, exposed wooden beams, huge fireplace, glass surroundings, and the open-styled kitchen. The interior perfectly matches the overall Muse Restaurant experience, giving you the opportunity to take it all in.
With Chef and owner Troy at the helm, having spent much of his younger years devoted to training under the best chefs in the industry, following a short stint at The Ledbury in London under the Brett Graham scholarship, Troy returned to the Hunter Valley where Muse Restaurant soon started to take shape.
A whopping 13 years on and the restaurant has become one of the biggest names in the area’s dining scene having earnt itself Good Food Guide’s Two Chef Hats every year from 2015 to the present, and Good Food Guide’s One Chef Hat over the prior years from 2011 to 2014.
Troy’s philosophy and passion for food, treating each and every piece of produce with care and knowledge to bring out the best in each ingredient, has continued to put Muse Restaurant on the radar of keen foodies and unique experience finders.
“At Muse, we are very passionate about sourcing the best produce. Locally, when possible, it’s these producers and suppliers that have the same attention to detail and love for their work as our chefs in the Kitchen.”
Whilst produce-driven, locally sourced restaurants seem to be quite the buzz lately, Troy is big on not only promoting and working with local suppliers but building relationships with suppliers further afar that are producing the absolute best in their field.
“We are trying to create an experience that champions local produce, but we don’t hold ourselves to only using produce within a 25km radius. We shine a spotlight on the Hunter Valley, and I try to use as much as I can out of my garden from home, but we don’t say I’m not going to get something from Port Macquarie just because it’s out of the Hunter region. If it’s amazing, we’re absolutely going to get it.”
MENU HIGHLIGHT – Muse Coconut
This particular dish is a must to be taste-tested to truly understand its greatness. The coconut ‘husk’ is made of dark chocolate, sitting on a bed of raw shaved coconut. Inside, you’ll experience a coconut cloud mousse, filled with coconut water and vanilla bean.
Not only Troy but his team of chefs are also known for their interest in gardening. From planting, running, and maintaining their own home vegetable patches, means the rotating menu will also be home to a number of heirloom vegetables, edible flowers, herbs, and more right from their very own backyards.
“Our vegetable garden is really productive, and the orchard is relatively productive, but I want to continue leveling it up… I love gardening, and I want to keep exploring it, so I am actually looking at building a glasshouse this year and redoing the vegetable garden again.”
One point that always seems to keep me amazed when I dine at Muse Restaurant is how incredibly calm the entire team are, especially in the kitchen. Which is an absolute testament to Troy and his natural calm and yet focussed spirit.
“Our kitchen is a calm environment. It should be nurturing where you have a team that loves and respect one another and wants to work together for the right reasons. To impress the guests and to do something at a certain level.
“It needs to be a little bit of good cop, bad cop, and there needs to be that accountability for people. But, as I said, there are enough stresses in running a restaurant, there are enough stresses in life, so why apply extra stress?”
For those that have dined at Muse Restaurant recently, you may have had the opportunity to have a pre or post-dinner drink in their bar lounge. Yes, you read that right, Muse Restaurant has its own separate bar lounge space.
Having utilised the space for pre and post-dinner drinks to help aid covid restrictions, Troy hopes to move forward in creating a new offering in the space where guests can book for drinks and light food offerings, but still have that same exquisite Muse Restaurant experience. Watch this space for when the space is launched...
“When you come to the Hunter Valley you want to try say three different restaurants, but people are finding it’s hard to fit in two big meals in one day. You might be a food and wine-educated person who loves dining and respects great service and a good wine list, but it’s very hard to find somewhere you can go for dinner on a bit more casual level.
“This area here has the opportunity for that. To come and have some beautiful little Muse-style snacks, have access to a full wine list by a sommelier, a great cocktail made with a really bespoke list, and still be able to try the Muse Coconut.”
Whether you consider yourself a bit of a foodie, someone who loves seeking out chefs who take their food, flavours, and service to another level, then it’s no doubt that Muse Restaurant has more than likely popped up on your radar.
It might be a romantic night out you’re searching for, somewhere to celebrate a special occasion, or just exploring a new foodie adventure, a dining experience at Muse Restaurant is unlike any other.