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A destination winery restaurant worth a road trip up to the Hunter.
From the hand-built furniture to the beef cheek with beetroot and black sesame to the extensive wine list, EXP Restaurant in the Hunter Valley, is about all things unique, local and carefully handcrafted. You'll find it tucked away in Oakvale, a family-owned and run winery in Pokolbin with a focus on drops made with minimal intervention.
Head chef Frank Fawkner is a local. He started out at Mount Broke Wines, before training at Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley, then moving to London, where he became sous chef at Tom Aikens's Tom's Kitchen. On returning, he joined the team at the two-hatted Muse Restaurant.
To sample as many of Fawkner's creations as possible, settle in for a tasting ($100). The current six-course menu offers Hiramasa kingfish with cauliflower and tiger's milk, and Bangalow pork neck with smoked celeriac and mushroom. For dessert, there's myrtle gum with wattleseed, chocolate and caramel, among other delights. Add matching wines for $70. Most of the drops on the list come from nearby, with Oakvale getting a good look in, as well as Tyrell's, Margan, Keith Tulloch and Tinklers.
Fawkner worked with a bunch of other creatives to give EXP. its handcrafted yet sleek interior. Expect to be immersed in woodwork by Mark Aylward, crockery by Helen Stronach and sculptures by Bloodwood Botanica.
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