Top Table: Casaurina, Hunter Valley, Australia
Hermitage Road, 2320 Pokolbin, NSW (00 61 2 4998 7888)
The view through the picture window was a maze of vineyards; the blue hills on the horizon were grooved with vines.
"Would you like cocktails, champagne, a glass of wine, can I take your jacket, a drink in the lounge before dinner, some canapes?" Our waitress was attentive, and more cheerful than she would have been in, say, Bordeaux.
At dinner there was a plethora of little black dresses with pearls. There aren't many places you can wear diamonds and high-heels in Aussie farming country.
Casaurina is a farmhouse, dining room which is simple and small, with plenty of space between tables.
We walked to the door amid a sea of vineyards. After dinner we walked back to our car, watching shooting stars above us surrounded by vines painted pale by the moonlight.
Casaurina's specialities are flambes, prepared at your table by the chef. The carte offers you steak ("made with Hunter beef") and seafood from the Pacific.
We drank gruff, leathery Lindeman's Steven Shiraz, though we were tempted to sneak a bottle of Tamburlaine Cabernet in under the table.
Oh yeah, and the food
Inside my steak was milky, outside a hint of seared grape flavour combined beautifully with coriander and zest. Sam's jambalaya had lobster and giant prawns. It tasted like an alcoholic seaside barbecue, all supple white flesh laced with lime, plus a dash of char-grilled spice.
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