A labour of love brings great wine and food to Morpeth

Boydell’s restaurant and cellar door is an experience not to be missed.

When Jane and Daniel Maroulis purchased their farm and vineyard in 2015 on the banks of the beautiful Allyn River just outside the village of East Gresford, they wrote themselves into the next chapter of the Boydell history. Arguably the site of the first vineyard planted in New South Wales, the farm was settled back in 1826 by Charles Boydell, a 640-acre parcel of land which he named Camyr Allen. In 1833 he planted 1.5 acres of vines, including both white and red varietals. While he ended up focusing on other crops, his place in winemaking history was cemented. Over 180 years later, the Boydell’s label was born when Jane and Dan launched their boutique winery and award-winning range from the grapes grown on the property and named it after its original inhabitant.

While East Gresford is a beautiful part of the world, they decided to situate their cellar door more centrally in historic Morpeth. Best of all, they have coupled it with a restaurant to showcase the best of local produce, paired perfectly with their range of wines. After searching for a suitable venue, they discovered the ideal setting. A classic slab hut built in the 1850s, which they’ve lovingly refurbished and extended to create a rustic, cosy dining room, wine tasting space and al fresco courtyard.

It’s completely in line with the historic vintage of its surrounds in Morpeth, as well as a nod to the era of Charles Boydell himself. Merging days gone by with their modern approach, Jane and Dan have placed head chef Sheldon Black at the helm, bringing with him a global resume from kitchens in Canada, the United Kingdom and now Australia.

Spoilt for choice

The menu showcases the best of seasonal ingredients, and the best from the Hunter and the farms surrounding Morpeth. Dishes are simple and classic, allowing the ingredients to speak for themselves.

A lovely place to begin is with some Sydney rock oysters and a mignonette of finely diced green apple, cucumber, eschallots and the softly sweet Miss Harriet sparkling rosé. The molluscs are minerally and briny with enough sweetness from the wine for balance. Citrus-cured hiramasa kingfish is light but packed full of flavour with pickled grapes and tangy radish.

For a warmer starter, try the crispy-skinned pork belly, partnered by a swirl of creamy cauliflower puree and glistening blackberry glaze. Rich and rewarding. All dishes on the menu come with a wine pairing suggestion, but if you just want to go with the flow, standouts worth trying include the sparkling verdelho, a 2019 Reserve chardonnay and the 2017 Estate merlot. When matched with any of the range from Boydell’s cellar, every course is bound to be a memorable one.

Mains are hearty and tie-in beautifully with the country setting. The Alexander Downs porter house steak with roasted Morpeth potatoes and a shiraz reduction will warm you through and through. A smoked beef brisket with braised cabbage, onion, bacon and bourbon sauce is similarly comforting for cold nights and the most tender, fall-apart-on-your-fork experience you’ll ever encounter.

For a bit more bite, a crispy duck leg is served with an Asian salad, nam jim and tender local plums. Be sure not to overlook the sides: crunchy on the outside, fluffy on the inside roasted Morpeth potatoes with confit garlic and rosemary are just heavenly. If you’ve any room for dessert, take your pick between a lavender pannacotta with plump Earl Grey soaked sultanas or the decadent Bailey’s parfait with coffee mousse and chocolate cake chunks.

There are beers and cocktails to choose from if you’d prefer, but really, the main event here is the wonderful range of local wines – you may even decide to leave with a few to enjoy at home. Service is knowledgable, attentive and friendly and with the venue open for breakfast, lunch and dinner you can enjoy a fantastic meal and delicious wine (or two) all day.

2 Green Street, Morpeth. Regular opening hours Wednesday to Sunday, 8am to 11pm.

Story by Judith Whitfield, photography courtesy of Dominique Cherry