Review | West is the way for refined dining

ELEGANT ADDRESS: The Cottage, in Scone, is now home to some fine cuisine.

ELEGANT ADDRESS: The Cottage, in Scone, is now home to some fine cuisine.

The Hunter’s top restaurants in pictures.

Like a picture-perfect postcard from the pages of Country Life magazine, The Cottage is horse country's culinary crown jewel in the Upper Hunter.

In Kelly Street, Scone, The Cottage makes its home in a grand old dame; once a hospital, a guest-house, and headquarters for the Pastoral Lands Board. Now, the refurbished 'cottage' is full of country comfort charm, and outstanding local cuisine.

The day’s heat lingers, despite the going down of the sun, which lights up the ranges to the west with a fiery purplish glow. An escape to the cool, air-conditioned interior of The Cottage is a welcome reprieve. Inside, the space is divided into three dining areas, two of which are being used this particular evening, plus the courtyard, which hosts a small function of mid-week merrymakers. Wide, dark timber floorboards line each dining room set with spacious tables and comfy chairs. Some rooms are decorated with grand pastoral pictures or gold-framed mirrors with exposed brick and soft-toned painted walls. All dining spaces feature high white ceilings pockmarked with dimly lit down-lights. It feels elegant, modest and relaxing.

Chef Colin Selwood excels behind The Cottage pass, charring great hunks of beef to perfection. From the purpose built dry-ageing room out the back, the beef is served in conjunction with a refined selection of other dishes, such as venison and pistachio terrine, ricotta-filled zucchini flowers, and nose to tail lamb, which expresses Selwood's New Zealand farmland upbringing while showcasing his classic French training.

DUCK: Dressed to perfection.

DUCK: Dressed to perfection.

The wait staff are very friendly, speedy and professional. We're greeted as soon as we arrive, shown to our table and handed the menu. Drinks are ordered then, after much deliberation, we order a plate of zucchini flowers and chicken liver parfait to start, followed by one kilogram of dry aged rib-eye to share, washed down by a pint of New England ale and a bottle of Margaret River cabernet sauvignon. 

The drinks list features drops from near and far, including many of the Lower Hunter's world-class wines, plus a great range of beers, classic cocktails, softer drinks, tea and coffee.

RIB-EYE: Outstanding taste.

RIB-EYE: Outstanding taste.

A small serve of crusty bread and garlic butter sets our digestive muscles moving and flexing in preparation for the rib-eye. Then the first dish arrives: two zucchini flowers stuffed with ricotta, which wade in a shallow pool of passata. The sauce is rich, red and sweet. The zucchini stems are crunchy, green and fresh. The flowers themselves are delicate, crispy and gooey as warm ricotta oozes out of the bloom and into our mouths. Textually, the dish is impressive, and the flowers are downright delicious. However, the sauce, as tasty as it was, was a little misdirected, flavour-wise. I felt that a livelier sauce would have been more more complementary. On to the chicken liver parfait, and we're treated to a sumptuous rendering of this classic French hors d'oeuvre. Rich, meaty, and only a little sweet, the parfait is delivered via the shattering crunch of toasted bread that's immediately soothed by its smooth, creamy texture. A tart, vinegar soaked morsel of cornichon acts as a reset button between mouthfuls.

The steak is outstanding.  A crispy, caramelised char skirts the protein edges of the cut, adding a perception of piquant sweetness to the pink and juicy meat inside. Accompanying porcini butter, and horseradish sauces soak into the cooked flesh and burst with the flavours of earth and fire. A side of hand-cut chips seasoned with pepper are inconceivably tasty.

Physically, there is no room for dessert, but the mind is a powerful thing. We share a dark chocolate and sour cherry mousse choc dome that is littered with blueberries, a halved strawberry and meringue shards, all dusted with cocoa. It looks and tastes delicious.

From the sunset to the steak and beyond, The Cottage is one of the region's most beautiful restaurants to experience food and drink in all its finery. Go west!

QUICK BITE

  • What: The Cottage
  • Where: 196 Kelly St, Scone
  • Chef: Colin Selwood
  • Drinks: Local beers on tap, good wine list, soft drinks, etc.
  • Hours: Lunch: Thurs-Sat/Dinner: Tues-Sat
  • Vegetarian: Yes
  • Bottom Line:$150 for two, incl. drinks
  • Wheelchair Access: Yes
  • Do Try: The 1kg rib eye
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