Another really nice lunch in the Hunter Valley. Whilst visiting Lovedale (one suburb over from Pokolbin) to try some wines and olives we decided to drop by Leaves and Fishes for lunch.
The restaurant was so nice, it felt very much like a tropical island shanty, with bamboo curtains and water running down the open sides. The sitting area sat out on the water and all three sides were completely open. The view was of a beautiful lake surrounded by trees and was fantastic, inside and out.
The food was just as amazing as the view and atmosphere. The menu was heavily Asian inspired, with influences and ingredients from many South East Asian countries.
First up, we received complimentary Thai fish cakes with sweet, pickled cucumber. This was really nice and soft with a strong fish sauce taste. It came with a refreshing and crunchy Asian salsa like salad. It was a really nice way to start our lunch and set up our palettes to this interesting Asian inspired menu.
For entree, we started with the seared scallops, on betal leaves with coconut and salmon pearls. This was my favourite dish at Leaves and Fishes. The scallops were perfectly cooked, soft and full of flavour. The betel leaves were perfect for wrapping and the salmon pearls gave it an extra kick of flavour, I think there were crispy shallots as well which gave the dish some lovely crunch.
Our second entree was the tempura soft shell mud crab with spicy chili tomato sauce. This was amazing, and a little different to the Japanese style one we get back in Sydney, Melbourne etc. I guess its more of a Western interpretation. The main difference was the coating of the crab, it was really light and thin compared to most soft shell crabs I’ve had and wasn’t overly oily (which I find can really kill soft shell crab for me). The outside was crispy, whilst the crab inside remained super soft. The slight sourness of the tomato really help balance out the deep fried crab, such a great way to combine Asian ideas with Western concepts.
We started our mains with a pulled pork and prawn egg net with asian herb salad and cucumber relish. This was nice (not as good as the scallops and betel leaves) but still awesome. The pulled pork was flavoursome and super soft, the prawns were fresh and bitey. The egg and cucumber really helped bring it all together. Unfortunately, there were also a lot of bean sprouts and I’m not a massive fan of bean sprouts generally, so I had to remove the majority of those to the side. Wish the description said there would be bean sprouts, I might have gone with something else.
Our second main was the braised beef rib with black bean sauce, snake beans and pickled mustard. This was fantastic, the meat was super tender, and pretty much fell apart without too much effort. The meat was covered in a black bean sauce that was incredible, similar flavour to most black bean sauces that I’m sure you’re all used to, but somehow so much better than it has any right to be. The deep fried vermicelli noodles were also a really nice addition. Visually, it made the dish really pretty and also gave it a slight crunchiness which helped break up the softness of the meat.
We finished off with a poached pineapple, lime sorbet, coconut tapioca and red shiso, this was really nice and rich. The coconut tapioca was creamy and delicious, the slight sourness from the pineapple helped to balance the whole dish. The lime sorbet also gave it a refreshing note. Really nice dish to finish up on, nice and rich but well balanced.
Leaves and Fishes’ pricing works on a two course minimum for $68. (Any combination of starters, entrees, mains or desserts). However, ours cost a little more since we wanted to add dessert ($15). They didn’t have any prices on their menu for entrees and mains but the rest did.
Overall, our lunch at Leaves and Fishes was such a great experience. The restaurant was so pretty and the food was really interesting and tasty too.
Check out some of our other food adventures from the Hunter Valley: