Lamb is our national dish
The only thing more important to chef Troy Rhoades-Brown than the quality of lamb that goes into the mouths of his diners are the words that come out at the end of the meal.
“We want people to say it’s the best lamb they’ve ever tasted,” he said.
It’s a comment the young restaurateur said he heard at least three or four times a week at his Pokolbin eateries Muse Restaurant and Cafe at Hungerford Hill Winery and Muse Kitchen at Keith Tulloch Winery.
Mr Rhoades-Brown sources all lamb used in his restaurants – known as Muse Dining – from Armidale lamb supplier Milly Hill Lamb.
He said the choice to use the premium branded lamb from the award-winning supplier was easy.
“(Milly Hill owner Peter Strelitz) came in and dropped off a box of samples one day,” Mr Rhoades-Brown said.
“It sat there for a while until I got around to cooking it and when I did, my first thought was ‘wow’.
“It was so good, I didn’t have much choice but to use it.”
He praised the meat’s consistent quality.
“(The point of difference is) the flavour which is a direct result of how it’s reared and processed,” Mr Rhoades-Brown said.
“It’s got a higher level of intramuscular fat.
“It has a higher marble score and it just breaks down beautifully.”
Muse Restaurant and Cafe currently has one lamb dish on its menu – slow-cooked Milly Hill Lamb rump with Jerusalem artichoke, watercress, broad beans and jus – while at Muse Kitchen, diners can order orecchiette pasta with Milly Hill Lamb sausage, eggplant, cherry tomatoes, broad beans, lemon and binnorie goat’s cheese.
The dishes have been a hit with diners.
“Milly Hill Lamb doesn’t go through too many hands so it’s very fresh and consistently good,” Mr Rhoades-Brown said.
“It sells itself and it creates a real buzz.”
Situated in the foodie’s paradise of the Hunter Valley, Mr Rhoades-Brown is spoilt for choice when it comes to sourcing quality produce to use in his creations.
“I do like to source locally when it’s possible, but it’s important to only source locally if the product you’re getting is the best,” he said.
“We don’t want to pigeonhole ourselves as a restaurant that uses only food from its own vegie patch.”
He said his food philosophy was simple – top quality ingredients with a focus on providing a “whole dining experience”.
“We’re not here to just serve people dinner,” he said.
“There’s so much more available than that.”
Mr Rhoades-Brown and his wife Megan began operations at the iconic Hungerford Hill Winery three years ago at the age of 23.
“We have a strong focus on service; we employ someone to host up the front, we serve petit fours,” he said.
The family-run restaurants have attracted attention for their reputation for quality – Muse Dining was awarded the status of a one-hat restaurant in The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide in 2011 and again this year.
Mr Rhoades-Brown has also picked up gongs in the NSW Restaurant and Catering Awards, taking out best contemporary formal Australian restaurant for three consecutive years to 2012 as well as restaurant of the year for regional NSW in 2010 and being this year’s restaurant of the year for the Hunter region.