In the Hunter Valley two hours north of Sydney, are a couple of luxury Spicers Retreats. Maeve O'Meara has come here in search of delicious food experiences and to meet the people behind them.

1 Sep 2020 - 4:12 PM  UPDATED 1 Feb 2022 - 12:57 PM

At Spicers Vineyards Estate, Maeve O'Meara meets Chris Rhoney, the head chef of its hatted restaurant, Botanica.  

Botanica by name, botanica by nature, the chef describes how the restaurant provides in abundance. As guests enjoy views of the vines they can sample the freshest local ingredients, many from Spicers’ own kitchen garden. 

The team have made the most of this garden of plenty. The chefs and gardeners plan the planting together, providing food for the restaurant, whatever the season. In the process, they’ve given guests a place to enjoy as they wander the grounds.  Including the chance to feed the resident pet, Crackles the pig. 

Rhoney started out as a chef in Lancashire in the UK. Arriving in Australia in 2014, he comes to Spicers after three years at the acclaimed Lakehouse Restaurant in Daylesford.

Botanica’s style is modern Australian with a French bistro feel, similar to River Cottage. Rhoney is proud of their one hatted status, but more than that he wants the experience to be accessible. For his food to bring people back again and again. Not just for those special occasions. 

From the roasted wild mushroom gnocchi with local feta from Binnorie to the chef’s clever twist on the Anzac biscuit – there’s a parade of delicious dishes for Maeve to try. Combine with the Spicers Retreats' backdrop and it's looking like pure indulgence.


About Spicers Retreats 

Italian, Modern Australian, French, Thai and other Asian cuisines are just a few of the cooking styles that inspire the mouth-watering dishes created by Spicers’ multi-hatted chefs. And the food is just one of the reasons to visit these incredible retreats.

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