Restaurant Botanica in full bloom at the verdant heart of the Hunter Valley
Restaurant Botanica, hidden among grapevines and gumtrees outside of Pokolbin at Spicers Vineyards Estate, has been refining its style under head chef Chris Rhoney, broadening the appeal of the five-star retreat’s Restaurant Botanica to casual diners seeking cuisine with impeccable provenance and a superb regional wine list.
Spicers’ signature emphasis on locally sourced produce and naturally sustainable practices is in full flight under Rhoney, who took up the mantle of head chef in March 2020 after a year-long spell as senior sous chef at Mitchelton Wines in Nagambie, Victoria.
The restaurant has been awarded One Chef Hat in the Australian Good Food Guide in 2019, 2020 and 2021 and two glasses in the 2020 Australian Wine List of the Year Awards.
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.”