AS executive chef Sean Townsend of The Mighty Hunter says, begrudgingly, but with a wry smiile, "I've learned from that. I'll take that on the chin and put the bloody pie back on."
The pie is one of the biggest sellers on the menu at The Mighty Hunter, formerly Potters Hotel, just off Wine Country Drive, in Nulkaba. According to locals, it was one thing to change the name of this iconic watering hole at the gateway to Hunter Valley wine country, but it was a bridge too far to even consider taking the pie off the menu.
Made from chunks of fresh, local beef and field mushrooms, topped with a jus made from two of FogHorn Brewery's most popular beers (Hunter Kolsch and Newy Pale Ale), the pie is one of the biggest sellers off the menu.
"The meat's cooked slowly for 12 hours in beer, so it's super tender and really saucy when it comes out next to a simple side of potato puree and green beans," Townsend says.
Townsend is a highly credentialed and experienced chef. Before becoming executive chef of The Mighty Hunter, he worked at Muse Restaurant when it first received its two hats from the Good Food Guide Awards. He then worked as head chef at sister restaurant, Muse Kitchen, and was head chef of The Prince of Merewether for a little while, as well. In 2020, The Mighty Hunter convinced Sean to move back to Wine Country, and help lead their own refurbishment; transitioning, as they have, from a tired, dark and cloistered old pub to a bright, airy and light place to eat, drink and be merry with friends and family, locals and tourists alike.
"There's been a real positive change of mentality to how this place is run," says FogHorn Hunter Head Brewer, Keith Grice, a man more familiar than many with the old Potters brand. "There's a lot more focus on the beer over this side of the venue, which never used to be the case. Now, beer is an essential part of the offering for people when they visit, aside from just being a nice place to have a meal and relax," he adds.
The pie is definitely back on the menu, and so too is the lasagne - made from beef and ricotta, served with a crunchy side of warm garlic bread. The house roast pork abides - featuring cherry-wood smoked and roasted pork, crunchy potatoes, green beans and the requisite apple sauce. And, oh boy, there's a juicy cheeseburger on the counter menu too, plus steak frites, and a classic yet refined crumbed chicken schnitzel served with house salad, chips and gravy.
"We get a lot more families and locals coming in for lunch and dinner throughout the week, then more foodies and tourists over the weekend," Townsend says. "We're trying to be as user friendly and approachable as possible by keeping on the pub classics, while getting more adventurous with our entrée and mains offering."
Indeed. The kingfish sashimi and smoked salmon rillette from the grazing menu is a brilliant way to begin a meal at The Mighty Hunter. Pair the pair with a schooner each of Hunter Klsch or Summer Ale to really dial in the refreshment factor. Follow entrée with mains (obviously) consisting of either the Tasmanian salmon - cooked just pink inside and served alongside fresh asparagus, burnt butter, parsley and tomatoes - or the hearty lamb shoulder - slow cooked for 8 hours set amongst roast potatoes, green steamed veggies, and fried flat bread for sopping up all the sauce. Yes.
Oh, and I would also highly recommend the 350g grass-fed rib-eye, cooked perfect as requested (I've eaten three already, and they were spot on each time), served with red wine jus, crispy green beans, and a warm potato gratin on the side.
The Mighty is a spacious place perfect for family meals and larger gatherings. Kids can fill their boots and run amok in between the brightly coloured umbrellas stood tall upon the green grass out front. Enjoy a glass of fine Hunter wine or a cocktail (or two - why not?). Otherwise wheel your way through a FogHorn beer tasting paddle, next door, and try to find the best beer to pair perfectly with your forthcoming food.
My advice? Get the pie with a schooner of FogHorn Sligo Stout. Happy days...