Restaurant Botanica in full bloom at the verdant heart of the Hunter Valley
Traditional classics, ample portions, down to earth ingredients, sprinkles of invention and warm, generous personalities in the kitchen – this is comfort food at its most exciting.
Cosy up and enjoy the finest of fare as Restaurant Botanica explores the rich themes of a simple, robust French Bistro and combines it with the contemporary tastes and techniques of modern Australian cuisine. And not to forget, a dollop of English tradition.
A recognised destination for visitors and a dependable favourite of locals, Botanica is the home of approachable, relaxed, good home cooking that surpasses all expectations. Regulars on the menu include familiar favourites such as coq a vin, beef stroganoff, roasted lamb breast, and steak au poivre. White bean cassoulets, briskets, tartares, soups, sponges and crumbles all help to further define the style and philosophy of the menu. Playful dishes such as sourdough ice cream with vegemite caramel, the inventive ‘snickers’ desert and the famous lobster rolls provide a welcome twist.
Chef Chris Rhoney brings a relaxed and spirited approach to his kitchen, while his background in European establishments and pastries determines a careful attention to detail. Rhoney’s close relationship with local suppliers ensures only fresh and sustainable produce is procured, and his interest in native ingredients sees local specialities such as currants, bush tomatoes, finger limes, fejoas and guava regularly making an appearance.
As would be expected of such an establishment, the wine list is educated and extensive. Guests are invited to explore the best of the region, and the team is always ready to impart their exceptional wine knowledge and to help pair the dishes with the Hunter’s iconic wines.
Head chef Chris Rhoney hails from Lancashire in the UK, and one of his first chef roles was with Andrew Simmonds as pastry junior sous from 2009 to 2012, at the Michelin-starred Danesfield House Hotel & Spa in the UK.
Rhoney’s move to Australia in 2014 began with three amazing years at Alla Wolf-Tasker’s iconic Lakehouse Restaurant in Daylesford, where he started as chef de partie, but was given the opportunity to develop his skills and creativity in the pastry department and gained the position of sous chef and head pastry chef.
Compared to the culture of UK fine-dining restaurants, Rhoney finds Australian restaurant kitchens far more collegial with less attitude, but with no less hard work or dedication to the cause.
Describing the Restaurant Botanica attitude, Rhoney says, “When developing new dishes and menus, we work as a team – both kitchen and front of house. Our peoples’ ideas and feedback are invaluable, and with collaboration comes ownership and a powerful sense of pride. This is quite strange to me sometimes. In the past, I have experienced quite a lot of friction between the two departments, especially in English kitchens.”