The Sebel Kirkton Park was one of the first upmarket guest houses to be established in the Hunter Valley – it’s been around since 1988 so is quite the Grand Dame by Hunter standards. It’s long been on my wish list but, surprisingly, it’s taken me all this time to get around to staying there.
In some ways, it’s been left behind by other more luxurious venues, and indeed, it will undergo a makeover later this year when it is rebranded under the Accor collection of MGallery Hotels. In the meantime, I think there’ll always be room for a place with a bit of old-fashioned country manor charm.
I’m told that the impressive ceiling in the entry foyer will stay after the renovations; I certainly hope so. There’s a lovely welcoming feel as you arrive at the hotel after driving down the winding country roads.
You could be forgiven for thinking that you’re in the middle of nowhere, yet it really is in the heart of Pokolbin, just minutes away from the most popular Hunter Valley attractions and wineries.
The low-slung colonial-style buildings are set in beautifully manicured grounds with sweeping views over the surrounding countryside. Restaurant supervisor Curtis Mitchell (left) and sous chef Isaac Mordue took us on a tour of the flourishing kitchen garden, which has cauliflower, zucchini, silverbeet, corn, strawberries, radishes and various herbs growing.
Technically the garden is organic although it isn’t certified as such. Mitchell says they’ve been spraying with apple cider vinegar: “The pumpkins went ballistic.”
The restaurant uses as much of its own produce as possible and is gradually moving towards a paddock to plate menu.
All the vegetable scraps go to their four pigs, the eggs from their 30 chickens are used on “canapés and in our finer work”, the dam is stocked with yabbies and they are looking at introducing beehives.
For guests visiting during Wine & Food Month in June, the hotel has designed picnic hampers complete with a thermos of mulled wine, a selection of cured meats, baguettes, Hunter Valley cheeses, antipasto vegetables and marinated olives. We had a preview of these delicious offerings and can highly recommend picking up a basket and finding a secluded picnic spot to enjoy this treat.
On June 20, Kirkton Park is hosting a Murder Mystery night in which guests will be encouraged to dress up. The evening will start at the pig pen – spooky! – and continue through the grounds to the manor house for dinner. There’ll be martinis to help you on your way as you try to solve the murder mystery.
The hotel is popular as a conference venue and with its beautifully appointed rooms and picturesque grounds, is also not surprisingly a popular wedding venue. It has an indoor pool, spa, sauna, fitness centre, tennis and basketball courts, but if all that sounds like hard work, you could just as easily spend your time strolling in the beautiful grounds.
The Sebel Kirkton Park Hunter Valley
336 Oakey Road
Pokolbin NSW Australia
+61 2 4998 7680