LIZ LOVE | LOCAVORE DINING | REVIEW

FRESH: The Kirkton Sebel Hotel, home of Locavore Dining, was renovated in 2016. The food offering has also been updated.
FRESH: The Kirkton Sebel Hotel, home of Locavore Dining, was renovated in 2016. The food offering has also been updated.

“A Locavore is a person interested in eating food that is locally produced, not moved long distances to market. One common – but not universal – definition of ‘local’ is food that is grown within 100 miles of its point of purchase or consumption.”

So reads the blurb on Locavore Dining’s home page. And its logo reads “Farm, forage, graze”. It will be interesting to see whether the name lives up to the definition at this Hunter resort.

A quick read of the menu and a discussion with the waiter is encouraging but when we discover the fish of the day is farmed barramundi from far north Queensland I am a little disappointed. Won’t be ordering that. This was partly assuaged later when the platter of complimentary vegetables featured a selection of zucchini, capsicum, red onion, pumpkin and broccoli from the hotel’s extensive garden.

The service is polished and unobtrusive, as you would expect. No sooner are we seated than the menus appear, and the water is poured. Crusty bread rolls arrive. I’m liking this place.

“Beetroot salad, textures of beetroot with walnut and labna” appeals but I can’t go past a twist on the perennial scallops, pork and cauliflower combo: pan-seared scallops, cauliflower puree, asparagus, pea dust and crispy prosciutto.

Three golden, just-seared scallops lurk beneath a fine slice of crunchy prosciutto; the senses are bombarded. Grassy, al dente asparagus, earthy, creamy cauliflower puree in dollops around the plate and another umami hit with small sheets of crisp nori.

The gnocchi aren’t the usual potato kind, rather gnocchi alla Romana, or semolina corn gnocchi which is baked rather than boiled. This plate is a symphony of corn; three small discs of gnocchi, corn custard, charred corn kernels and saffron popcorn.

Cassoulet is not really a summer dish, but this is a modified version. The confit duck leg falls off the bone; the white bean, pork sausage and speck play a supporting role in this well-balanced dish.

Roasted lamb loin is a lighter choice. Don’t expect a huge serving of meat, but it’s plenty for me and comes with creamy carrot puree, a well-flavoured jus, glazed baby zucchini and minted peas.

I have already mentioned the much-appreciated vegetable platter. It’s just a shame that it comes with aggressive Asian flavours that clash with the other mains.

Next, dessert. Why not?

The brulée is all you expect: fine, shattery burnt sugar crust and a creamy custard, fragrant with lemongrass and kaffir lime leaf. It’s just a lot larger than expected.

Dark chocolate fondant with honeycomb, choc soil, sweet potato crisps and vanilla ice-cream tempts but I need something light and fruity. Pineapple carpaccio, lime sugar, coconut sorbet and burnt white chocolate crumb fits the bill – tangy-sweet, shaved pineapple twisted into a log sits next to a scoop of refreshing coconut sorbet. The plate is dotted with lime sugar syrup and a sprinkling of crumb. Perfect.

And does the meal step up to the Locavore plate?

Yes, mainly, apart from the fish.

QUICK BITE

  • What: Locavore Dining, Kirkton Park; 336 Oakey Creek Road, Pokolbin; 4998 7680
  • Chef: Jason Martin
  • Wines: Mainly local with First Creek wines chosen to complement the food.
  • Hours: 6pm to 9.30pm, seven days a week.
  • Vegetarian: Two entrees, one main
  • Bottom line: 1 course $45, 2 courses $65, 3 courses $75; 5 course tasting menu $100
  • Wheelchair access: Excellent
  • Do try: Scallops, cauliflower puree, asparagus, pea dust and crispy prosciutto.