My wife and I recently spent the better part of two days drinking our way around the Hunter Valley and booked ourselves in for two nights at the Hermitage Lodge. We booked the Romantic package, which included a bottle of sparkling wine (champagne, essentially, although you can't call it that in these parts!) and chocolate strawberries on arrival, plus a cooked breakfast on one of the mornings, and a three-course dinner at the excellent and much touted Il Cacciatore Italian restaurant located right on the premises.
The location: the best thing about the Hermitage Lodge is its location, being situated just off McDonalds Road, about 400 metres from the junction with Broke Road. This is really the heart of the Hunter Valley, with award winning wineries and cellar doors located literally a stone's throw from the Lodge. The town of Pokolbin is also a comfortable 10-15 minute drive away. We visited various wineries, such as Tyrrell's Wines, Brokenwood, Lake's Folly, Meerea Park and Thomas Wines, and these wineries were located no further than a 10 minute drive out from the Lodge. This meant that we were able to take in the best of the Hunter before getting slightly more adventurous and exploring the smaller, boutique wineries. The only other "star" winery that was some distance away was McWilliam's Mount Pleasant, located on Marrowbone Road on the other end of Pokolbin. Even then, that was only a comfortable 20 minute drive away.
A word on the breakfast: we were told that our package included one hot breakfast, and for the other day, a cold breakfast would be served. The cold breakfast was somewhat of a DIY-affair as the Lodge had pre-stocked the refrigerator in the room with all the essentials required for the cold breakfast, and all we had to do was to assemble it ourselves in the morning, in our own time. I've read several earlier reviews where some of the guests complained that this arrangement was unsatisfactory for whatever reason, but we didn't find anything wrong with this at all. The cold breakfast was fresh, hearty, tasty and filling. Portions of toast, jam, vegemite, butter, muesli, yoghurt and fresh milk were placed into the refrigerator, and in the dry larder freshly-ground coffee beans, a french press, kettle and toaster were provided, together with a full set of cutlery and crockery. Thereafter, it was a simple matter of setting the plates and cups out and making the coffee and toast - nothing more than you would do at home, anyway.
On the other morning, the hot breakfast (made in the Il Cacciatore kitchen, I was told) was delivered straight to our door at the appointed time. My wife had the "full English" option whilst I went for the blueberry pancakes. The food was absolutely amazing. Additionally, the refrigerator and larder were again stocked with all the cold breakfast items, which meant we had more food than we could finish. We ended up taking the yoghurt and muesli along with us for a mid-day snack.
On the subject of food, we also ought to mention the homely and unassuming Italian restaurant located on the premises. One would notice upon arrival the numerous accolades and gongs won by the restaurant over the years. Without a doubt, every single award is deserved. The food served up at dinner was amazing, to say the least. The restaurant ought to be Michelin rated. The portions were very generous and we left feeling absolutely stuffed. The only downside was the fact that the restaurant did not permit us to take our bottle of sparkling wine in for dinner without paying corkage on the pretext that the sparkling wine constituted "a separate part of the package and should not be used in conjunction with the dining vouchers". Oh well.
The cabin that we were given was simple, spacious and clean, with all the trappings of any reputable establishment. The DIY jacuzzi in the bathroom was a nice touch, and the hot lamps in the toilet were a welcome respite from the winter chill. If you are sensitive to strong smells, however, you might not appreciate the strong, perfumed smells that permeated the entire room. We tried finding the source of it, but could not and ended up concluding that the hand soap dispenser was the one responsible for giving the room its slightly overpoweringly sweet smell. There is nothing wrong with this per se, but it did take me a while to get used to the smell nonetheless.
On the whole, we thoroughly enjoyed our two nights at the Lodge and would recommend it to anyone spending some time in the Hunter.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The award winning Hermitage Lodge is nestled on 25 acres in the heart of the vineyards of the Hunter valley, and is within walking distance of many of the areas popular wineries and tourist attractions. Hermitage Lodge is the home to the Italian Restaurant Il Cacciatore open 7 nights a week. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Hermitage Hotel Pokolbin
- Hermitage Lodge Greater Newcastle/Pokolbin