Saturday, April 23, 2011

Margan - Broke, Hunter Valley

Margan was highly recommended to us, so as soon as we confirmed our accommodation I booked in this place for dinner straight away, and what a recommendation this was.  However, it was a shaky start, but by no fault of the restaurant at all.  You see Margan is located in Broke and as we were staying in Pokolbin, the drive during the day is only about a twenty minutes, but at night, well it's another story all together.  Also, having a car with low suspension means well you can't take the straight forward route, where you just drive down Broke Road, as Broke Road two-thirds down, becomes awfully bumpy.  

The only way we were guaranteed a smooth ride was to take alternate roads, as we were staying at the Crowne Plaza, this meant that we had to go up Wine Country Drive, turn left at Palmers Lane, right at McDonalds Road, left into Deasys Road, left at Hermitage Road, right at Broke Road where we were spared the bumpy side of Broke Road, but then had to endure a further good 15 kilometres stretch.  We arrived at Broke where we had to turn right at Wollombi Road and then left at Milbrodale Road.  The last hurdle required us to drive across what appeared as a one laned rickerty bridge, and then on our right was Margan.  If you have ever driven in the Hunter Valley at night, you can imagine what a nightmare this was, as it's so dark and there's not much lighting around.  You have to travel quite frequently with the high beam on to get your sense of direction and drive a lot slower, and some of the roads were down right creepy at this time.  It got to a moment, where at one point I regretted making the booking and not checking my directions.

We made it in one piece and when we got there, the lovely waitress informed us that the usual menu was not available, due to the 'A Little Bit of Italy in Broke' festival being held the next day.  Instead, there was a special Italian themed menu.  At this point, I was wondering if our luck could get any worse.  

Margan offers their dinner menu with the following options of 3 courses for $60, 4 courses for $75 and 5 courses for $90 per person.  Dessert here is also considered a course in itself, this was good as I was itching for dessert, as we didn't have any the night prior.  Unfortunately, most of the desserts did not appeal to Cheesecake Boy, so we decided to go for three savoury courses each instead.  On the  other  hand, the wines here are great value for money, a glass of the Margan Semillon was only $5 per glass and $15 for the whole bottle, it's even cheaper than the cellar door prices.

The bread here is not complimentary, but we are crazy about bread and starving.  The ciabatta was warm and crusty and wonderfully complement with the Flat Ridges premium extra virgin olive oil and barrel aged balsamic vinegar from Acetaia Leonardi in Italy.  I am usually the bread nut between Cheesecake Boy and I, but before I knew it Cheesecake Boy had ate at least half of our serving.

Crusty ciabatta, fresh pressed olive oil and balsamic, $7

Cheesecake Boy's first course of spaghettini with spanner crab chilli, lime and pangattato came out. From first bite our disappointment with there being an Italian menu for that weekend flew out the window.  This dish was truly flavoursome, with the hit of lime and kick of chilli, and the pangattato gave this pasta dish a lovely crunch factor.

Spaghettini with spanner crab chilli, lime and pangattato

It's been a while since I have had gnocchi, so I was truly looking forward to my pumpkin gnocchi with sage and nut butter.  I loved the simplicity of this dish and its the classic combination of sage and nut butter with the soft pillows of gnocchi.

Pumpkin gnocchi with sage and nut butter

I actually wanted the chilli salt fish with squid ink risotto and gremolata as well, but I made Cheesecake Boy order it so that I could have a bit, as sharing is caring.  The chilli salt fish is slightly on the dry side, but has a lovely crust due to the chilli salt.  The squid ink gave the perfectly cooked risotto a lovely saltiness.  The addition of gremolata was a good zesty contrast, against the subtle saltiness of this dish.

Chilli salt fish with squid ink risotto and gremolata

I love eggplant, so always try to order it when I see it on a menu.  My eggplant stack with piquillo peppers, talegio and rocket pesto was delicious.  The creamy soft talegio was heavenly with the crispy edged eggplants and peppers.  The rocket pesto gave the softness of this dish a slight bite.

Eggplant stack with piquillo peppers, talegio and rocket pesto

We are waiting for our mains and our side of chips were served  I figured if I was not going to score dessert, than I better get some chips tonight.  Nicely crisp chips and wonderfully creamy mayonnaise can't do no wrong, as far as I am concerned.

Fries with mayonnaise, $8

Usually if there is beef on the menu, I can guarantee 99.5% of the time Cheesecake Boy will order it. That night was no exception with his Barbera braised beef with truffled white polenta and parsnip chips.  What I loved about this dish in particular was the heavenly sauce with the crisp truffled white polenta.  The outer crispiness and internal softness of the white polenta soaked with the sauce in this dish was pure bliss.

Barbera braised beef with truffled white polenta and parsnip chips

I was tossing between the quail and the pork, the pork won out due to the salsa verde.  The lone baby carrot was cute, but I loved the sprinkling of crackling with each bite of the sweet and tender pork. There wasn't a lot of salsa verde on the plate, but it was enough to complement the sweetness of the sauce in this dish.

Roasted pork shoulder, with baby carrots and salsa verde

Cheesecake Boy had been beaming ear to ear, after each dish and claimed that this has been a perfect meal so far, so he didn't want anything to jinx this dinner.  However, I figured this was the time to ask him to reconsider dessert.  Most of the desserts offered had some type of cheese element in it.  Other options were the pannacotta which Cheesecake Boy was not keen on or gelati.  However, I had the vanilla bean risotto on my mind all night. I've always been fascinated by the dessert risotto concept, since I heard one of the contestants consider it, in one of the MasterChef episodes.  I had never tried, and since the whole meal so far had exceeded expectations, we couldn't go wrong I figured.  I was really hoping so, as I didn't want to put a dent on Cheesecake Boy's perfect meal.

Our vanilla bean risotto with candied fruits and grappa syrup came, and it looked lovely. It was wonderfully creamy and smooth and tasted just like rice pudding, the warmth and sweetness of this dessert was just right.  This dessert was a real revelation for me, as I am not usually keen on rice pudding.  The candied fruits added a nice texture, but I would have been happy without them too.  It was truly comforting and a lovely way to end our meal.

Vanilla bean risotto with candied fruits and grappa syrup

The stress of the dark night drive was absolutely worth it.  I had been tempted to cancel our booking,  as we were so relaxed from our couples massage earlier on, but I'm glad we decided to stick with our reservation.  Cheesecake Boy is smitten with this place, it certainly had been a while since he has felt this way about a restaurant, and I don't blame him.  We would love to come back for one of their usual dinners or their Sunday breakfasts.  The hearty and comforting meals offered in this cosy and intimate environment, was a lovely way to end a perfect day. 

Happy dining, Dumpling Girl.

1238 Milbrodale Road
Broke  NSW  2330
Ph: (02) 6579 1317 

Margan Restaurant on Urbanspoon


Jen said...

Last time I went to the Hunter Valley, we were also recommended Margan by a local but went somewhere else instead. I regret it, it looks so good! Truffled polenta...mmmm. Am definitely bookmarking for next time!

Dumpling Girl said...

Hi Jen, that's a shame as it was the best meal of our trip. Better late than never though :) Just be careful driving to Broke at night.

Tina@foodboozeshoes said...

Low suspension and those roads are just not meant to be...! (from experience too!)

Dumpling Girl and Cheesecake Boy said...

Hi Tina, sorry to hear you had the same bumpy experience. Next time we're definitely taking a 4WD, that way we can tackle the unsealed roads too :)