Sunday, October 13, 2013
For quite some time now we've been spoiled in Newcastle with fabulous dining options. Choosing somewhere to eat is tough, and I'm a tough audience. See, when I go out to dinner I want it all. Obviously I want great food: I want something new, something familiar, or something that's cooked in such a way that it brings out all the wows. I also want friendly, fabulous service. I want to be greeted with a smile by staff who make the dinner an even more pleasurable experience. Finally, I want ambiance. I want to take delight in my surroundings.
County Dining takes out the trifecta in exceeding my expectations.
This gorgeous new restaurant is the love child of Heather Moore and Jamie Ryan. And it's a beauty. Set in the historic town of Morpeth, in the old Arnott's Sourdough building, this restaurant welcomes you with open arms from the moment you walk through the historic doors.
The wide veranda completely spans the street and is the ideal setting for a dinner or a long lunch. Details have been minutely attended to. Everything from the chairs, to the napery to the cutlery is something special. You feel like you're about to experience something really special from the moment you approach your table.
The cocktail list is impressive, and overseen by the dashingly bearded Chris Woodger while the wine list by Amanda Cooper is both exciting and comforting.
And the food? Oh my, the food...
I was lucky enough to attend a preview evening, where we were treated to a range of options on the menu. Lucky - as I couldn't have chosen. I wanted EVERYTHING.
This. This was sublime. Venison tartare with a slow cooked egg, hollandaise and crispy pangritata. Oh my word. There is nothing like a well-prepared tartare to really make the most of venison. It's a meat that's delicious served rare - and divine served raw.
The most exciting thing about County Dining is there philosophy of using local, sustainable produce. See this dish above? It uses what is undoubtedly Morpeth's best product - potkin. Sure, it looks like a pumpkin, but it's not. It's the most incredibly delicious pumpkin you ever will eat - especially here at County Dining when it's served with smoked beetroot, hazelnuts and a goat's milk foam.
I thought I'd tried it all when it came to mash. Until I tried mash with bone marrow. Hello heaven! And served in old school enamel baking dishes - just like my nana had. Swoon.
Meals are meant for sharing at County Dining. Check out this incredible dish of duck, mandarin, cabbage and radish served in a massive cast iron enamelled pot. So pretty. So many flavours. So much to love. And to share. What a great concept.
This was probably my favourite thing of the night - an homage to the history of the Historic Arnott Bakehouse is this - the Iced Vovo. Can you believe it? I can't describe the magnificence, you'll just have to trust me that this is probably the best dessert I've ever had (and boy, have I had a few awesome desserts in my life). Every flavour and texture on that plate was designed to tickle tastebuds, take them for a dance, snog them, then tuck them up into bed.
Here's that balcony. Isn't it magnificent? What a spot for the newest gem in the Hunter's culinary scene.
And this is the restaurant at night. Have you seen anything prettier? Check out the website for opening hours, menu and more behind their philosophy. And make a trip to Morpeth. I'll be going again. And again. And probably another time.