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Roberts, Hunter Valley

I’m going to start crafting reviews again with Avery simple premise: brutal honesty.

Dining out in Australia is expensive. The service is universally poor to average. And generally the attention to detail missing. I’m not talking about your run of the mill local diner here. I’m talking about places with $20 starters, $35-40 mains and wine lists with extreme inflation and little elasticity. I’m talking about $120 to $150 min per person.

It’s also critical I think to rate relative to other establishments in its class and the overall service promise. In short, you should be getting what you are paying for an then some.

Roberts is in the Hunter Valley – it’s the opposite of the modernist dining scene and one such place. More River cottage with a modern menu. It’s quick to market itself as the high-end of the high-end. The food is good. Not great. Just good. And with flaws.

My ocean sea trout was full of bones. A Pea Velouté lacked enough soup or seasoning. The soufflé was clearly pre-made and dry as a bone – the chocolate burnt. The macaroons equally stale.

Service errors abounded. No sparkling water – they’d sold out. What? They had three Sav Blancs on the menu – the most economical of which was sold out at $50 a bottle leaving its two neighbors at $80 and $105. I don’t mind tap water, but filter it. Don’t forget the vegetables due with the mains. Or the post dinner tea. Bring a spoon with Velouté.

They kindly offered complimentary deserts to make up for a messy meal service and the lost veges — but barely got that right. 

Basic stuff. Such expectation is created by the restauranteur. It’s time the people delivering the service and cooking the food closed the gap.

Earlier in the day we enjoyed lunch at The Verandah – enjoyable tapas and creative cooking. Great stopping-off point if you are out and about in the Valley.

Cafe Enzo proved great for breakfast. Terrific breakfast board and creative twists – cheeses and pesto, for instance. Campos coffee – Yum. Good service. What’s not to like. $130 for four was a bit steep but we did get lots and it was well presented.

Roberts: Fine Dining: 2.5 out of 5

The Verandah: Brasserie: 3.5 out of 5

Cafe Enzo: Cafe: 4 out of 5

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