Dalwood Estate secures Chris Thornton for long weekend lunches

STAR POWER: Restaurant Mason’s Chris Thornton is hosting a series of lunches at Dalwood Estate on June 9 and 10. Picture: Jerome Treize

Chris Thornton was given a blank canvas from Dalwood Estate when it came to designing a menu for its June long weekend lunches.

The owner and chef at Restaurant Mason started painting a picture based on what he would like the eat: a menu that was “”enjoyable, approachable and not too heavy”, he told Food & Wine.

“It also had to be something we could produce off-siteat a high volume without losing any quality,” he explained.

“Then when I looked at the final menu I realised it contained dishes that I have eaten and thoroughly enjoyed over the past 18 or so years. Dishes that had stuck in my mind for whatever reason. The leek and gruyere tart, for example, was a dish made by Peter Bryant at Restaurant II. It’s still one of my favourite entrees to eat. It’s just delicious.”

One of the two mains on the menu was inspired by chef Ben Sales and the confit duck with braised witlof, spinach and white beetroot he plated up for Thornton at Majors Lane near Lovedale.

“As for my favourite dessert of all time, it’s the date and vanilla tart with orange and cardamon ice-cream I had while at The Ledbury. That made it on to my menu too.”

Thornton has been working with Angelic Events to promote Dalwood Estate, including cooking at its official launch a few months back. He hopes to set up a more permanent catering kitchen at the property, having already secured two full-time catering contracts in the Hunter Valley in recent years.

Dalwood Estateclosed in 2014 and has reopened in its 190thyearthanks to an intensive revival project from Iris Capital.There is a function centre on site as well as a cellar door, restaurant, walking trails and public barbecueareas on the banks of the Hunter River.

The winery has reopened andthe 2018 vintage will be released this year. It is thought to be ’s oldest winery and the first to establish a commercial shiraz vineyard. It also produces chardonnay and semillon.

Thornton, a previous winner of the Brett Graham Scholarship whose Newcastle restaurant has held on to its Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide hat since 2011, reckons Newcastle’s food sceneis on the brink of “another big explosion”.

“It happened about three years ago, our third year at the restaurant. Newcastlewas pumping: you had us, Bacchus, Restaurant II and Subo,” Thornton explained. “It had a good buzz about it and I think it’sgoing to go bang again.”

On a personal level, Thorntonis as enthusiastic about cooking as he was when he stepped into his first commercial kitchen.

“I have so much fun in this industry. A lot of chefs and customers think it’s best to go to Sydney or Melbourne, not realising that some of thebest food and places to work in are actually right here in the Hunter. There’s a reason why I have a restaurant here and a reason why I will always have a restaurant here.”

Head to Dalwood Estate on June 9 or 10 for athree-hour, wine-matched lunch.Tickets are $150 per person and can be booked by phoning0448 106 537 or emailing [email protected]苏州夜总会招聘.au.The new, monthly Dalwood Markets will be launched on June 10, 10am to 3pm.

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