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  • Liane Morris

Lovedale Long Lunch Lures Locals for 30-Year Celebrations


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One of the Hunter region’s most iconic and longest-running food and wine events, the Lovedale Long Lunch, is marking its 30th anniversary from 18 to 19 May, and everyone is invited to the celebration!

 

The Lovedale Long Lunch, a unique progressive-style lunch, is a standout event in the Hunter Valley. Over two days, it brings together the region’s top chefs and six of Lovedale’s premier wineries. Guests are treated to a delightful combination of delectable food, exquisite wine, and live music, all enjoyed alfresco amidst the picturesque vineyards.


The six host wineries, restaurants and caterers for the Lovedale Long Lunch 2024are Allandale Winery and Twine Restaurant; Emma's Cottage Vineyard and Esca Bimbadgen Restaurant; Gartelmann Wines and The Deck Café Lovedale; Saltire Estate and Hunter Valley Catering; Sandalyn Estate and Peterson House Restaurant Cuvée; and Tatler Wines and Tatler Tapas.




Matt Dillow, owner and chef of Gartelmann Wines and The Deck Café, Lovedale, has been involved with the Lovedale Long Lunch since 2010. He loves working on the event and the opportunity it gives his staff to showcase what they can do.


“We are thrilled to celebrate our 30th anniversary by hosting a fabulous celebration for our guests, presenting some of the Hunter’s finest food and wine at some of our best boutique wineries. We’ve been doing this since 1994 and have all the facilities and the formula fine-tuned so guests don’t have to worry about a thing except having a great time amongst the vineyards.”


From its humble beginnings in 1994 witha few trestle tables on the lawn, the Lovedale Long Lunch has grown into a highly anticipated event on the region’s food and wine calendar. Drawing over 10,000 people annually, it hasnot only put Lovedale on the map but also established it as a sub-region of the Hunter. This evolution is a testament to the commitment of the Lovedale Long Lunch committee, as Riley Hodgetts, a committee member and Marketing and Events Coordinator at Allandale Winery, one of the event's founding wineries, explains.


“The event has always had the primary objective of showcasing the wonderful food and boutique wineries of the Lovedale area so that visitors will return outside of the event itself to explore our offerings more fully,” said Riley.


Following the pandemic pause, there was a changing of the guard on the committee, and it provided an obvious opportunity to take a hard look at whether or not the event was meeting our objectives and visitor expectations. The result was a rebrand and refresh that we’re all very excited about.


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“Our new brand has a vintage flavour with pops of contemporary colour and is much more visually engaging. It was developed by Sneddon & Co who understood we wanted to honour our past but move forward with renewed focus on our primary objectives. We’ve also listened to our visitors and made changes to improve the overall visitor experience.”

Riley refers to changes that include the shift to a more bespoke, high-quality food and wine experience, with limited tickets and a reduction in the choice of wineries to two out of the six per visit rather than three, cutting travel time and the number of people on the roads trying to get from one place to another.


“We’ve refined the existing concept without losing its heart,” said Riley.


Matt Dillow agrees, saying, “We don’t want the event to be so big that people can’t enjoy it. Our set-up improves every year, and this year, we’ve looked at the speed of service, the smooth running, and the overall visitor experience—ensuring no one has to line up for long periods. It will be more inviting and relaxed, and we’re pumped to be doing it.”


It takes an estimated one hundred people per winery to staff the event and manage all the logistics – that’s around 600 people.


“There’s a lot of infrastructure to set up,” said Riley.



“Road signs, landscaping, marquees, toilets, not to mention the preparation of the bar and restaurant. There are only about three months every year when we don’t have to mention the words ‘Lovedale Long Lunch’; the rest of the year is spent planning and preparation.


“The knock-on effect to the rest of the region is enormous and we’re very conscious of it.


Our neighbours have to put up with a lot of traffic for the week leading up to the event and then the week of pack-down afterwards. But it’s all about making Lovedale succeed, and that includes the businesses that aren’t directly participating in the festival.”


Indeed, accommodation providers, produce suppliers, other cellar doors, and tourism operators all benefit from the weekend's influx of visitors, with an estimated 2,000 people staying for one or more nights.



“One example of how it affects other local businesses is the fact that most of the chefs try to use local produce,” said Matt.


“Binnorie Dairy is literally down the road, and we use at least 120 kilograms of their award-winning cheeses. Multiply that by a likelihood of six for each of our venues, and that’s an enormous impact on just one local business. It feels great to be able to offer that support.


”It's widely agreed that most visitors to the Hunter Valley cellar doors and restaurants are primarily from Sydney and further afield, but this festival bucks that trend quite significantly. About 75% of our festival- goers are local, from the Greater Newcastle, Hunter Valley and Central Coast areas,” said Riley.


“It’s an anomaly that we think stems from the fact that it falls into the events and festivals category. Even though we’re only 35 minutes from Newcastle since the bypass was completed in 2014, and Lovedale is literally the gateway to the Hunter, locals generally don’t think to pop up for the day and enjoy a cellar door visit or lunch at a restaurant unless it’s a special occasion.


“Because it’s close enough for a day trip, people tend to put it off, but an event like this draws people in.”


Tickets are available for either Saturday, Sunday, or both, and you can choose to visit two of the six participating wineries with your group. A continuous shuttle bus will run between venues, or you can organise your own. There are also many other local activities, from horse-riding to hot air ballooning, day spas, or golf, to add to your Long Lunch itinerary.


Tickets are $129 for Saturday and include two main meals, one dessert or cheese plate and one souvenir wine-tasting glass; $79 for Sunday, including one main meal, one dessert or cheese plate and one souvenir wine-tasting glass; and $169 for both days including three main meals, two desserts or cheese plates and one souvenir wine tasting glass, plus booking fee. When booking your tickets, you will have a choice of three start times, either 9.30 am, 10.00 am or 10.30 am, and then you can move on to your next venue between 12 noon and 2 pm.



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At Allandale Winery, the owners and chefs of Twine Restaurant, Daniel and Meagan Teggins, are providing a choice of mains between the Rock Lobster and King Prawn ravioli with heirloom tomatoes, Allandale Semillon garlic butter sauce topped with shaved pecorino cheese with a wine match of Allandale Aged Semillon or the slow roasted pork belly with crackle puff, poached pink lady apple, garlic butter roast chats and red wine jus with wine match of Allandale Dry Rosé. There’s a vegan option of Panang Curry with a rich sauce, silken tofu, garden-fresh vegetables and fragrant Jasmine rice with a wine match of Allandale Lombardo. The dessert option is a Gin & Tonic cheesecake with meringue crumb, citrus swirl, and a wine match of Allandale Sparkling Gewürztraminer. The cheese plate is Lovedale’s very own Binnorie Dairy top-selling brie and smoked King Island cheddar with house-made pickle and crackers with a wine match of Allandale Chardonnay. Live music will be by Kaleidoscope Dream.


Emma’s Cottage and Head Chef of Esca Bimbadgen Restaurant, Keira Madely, will be dishing up mains of roast chicken thigh with cous cous, chickpeas, preserved lemon and smoked pepper with a wine match of Alter Wines Chardonnay or the Master Stock braised pork neck with pickled slaw, chilli jam, crispy onions and coriander with wine match of Alter Wines Shiraz Pinot. Her vegetarian option is roasted cauliflower with cous cous, chickpeas, preserved lemon and smoked pepper with a wine match of Alter Wines Semillon. For dessert, there’s baked cheesecake with salted caramel, macadamia, and strawberry compote washed down with a wine match of Alter Wines Sparkling Blanc. The cheese platter comprises a triple cream brie with quince, smoked almonds and lavosh with wine match of Alter Wines Late Harvest Semillon. Enjoy this spread listening to live music by Anna Weatherup and her Full Band.


With his famous magpie mascot running around, chef and owner of Gartelmann Wines and The Deck Cafe Lovedale, Matt Dillow,is serving up saffron and preserved lemon arancini with snapper, prawns, baby calamari, tomatoes and zucchini ribbons with a wine match of Gartelmann’s Semillon or a Spanish pulled pork, spiced chorizo and white bean cassoulet with honey and cumin yoghurt with wine match of Gartelmann Shiraz. His vegan option is a spiced white bean cassoulet, grilled Mediterranean vegetables, honey and cumin yoghurt. For dessert, you can enjoy chocolate, muscat and almond fudge cake, berry coulis, and vanilla mascarpone, and the cheese platter will consist of brie, cheddar and blue cheese with crackers, rhubarb compote, fig date and walnut roll. Local musos Tre Soul Band and Kazzie Trio Band will be playing non-stop.

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At Saltire Estate, Head Chef of Hunter Valley Catering Nick Vivian will be platingup salmon fillet with crab and pea risotto croquette, tomato salsa, lemon saffron aioli, and parmesan crumble with wine matches of Saltire Vermentino or Saltire Sauvignon Blanc or you might prefer the southern fried chicken on buttermilk waffle, mash potato, maple gravy, liquid cheese and coleslaw with a wine match of Saltire Organic Shiraz. Nick’s vegetarian option is a ratatouille tart with beetroot and white bean skordillia, grilled halloumi and dukkha complemented by a wine match of Saltire Organic Rosé. His dessert is cinnamon churros with chocolate and salty caramel sauce dippers with a wine match of Moscato, and his cheese platter is the Hunter Valley cheese plate with Binnorie triple cream brie, home-made fig and balsamic jam, water crackers with wine match of Prosecco. Soundabout and DJ Whispa will provide live music.


Over at Sandalyn, Chad Pridue, Head Chef of Peterson House Restaurant Cuvée, will be dishing up housemade lamb massaman, pie with buttery mashed potato paired with Savannah Estate Cabernet Sauvignon or a barramundi fillet on a fine-cut ratatouille and baby rocket with the recommended wine Peterson’s Cuvée Chardonnay. The vegetarian option is pumpkin penne pasta with local honey and macadamias washed down with Peterson House Sparkling Prosecco Rosé. The dessert is house-made doughnuts, Nutella, and strawberries with Peterson House Sparkling Pink Blush. The cheese plate is warm briewith balsamic roasted tomatoes, house-made dukkah, and crackers, served with the recommended wine, Peterson’s Wines Botrytis Semillon or Shiraz. Live music is by Phonic.


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Last, but by no means least, is Katy Carruthers, Chef at Tatler Tapas at Tatler Wines, who will be serving mains that include Greek Saganaki prawns in a rich tomato salsa sprinkled with Feta on a bed of rice with recommended wine match of Tatler Semillon or slow-cooked, grass-fed, beef cheeks with red wine jus and mashed potato on a bed of fresh baby spinach with wine match of Tatler Shiraz. Her vegetarian option is a lentil, chickpea and vegetable chilli, with cheese and guacamole served on corn chips with wine match of Tatler Pinot Gris. Dessert is a classic sticky date pudding in butterscotch sauce with double cream matched with Tatler Frizzante Semillon, and her cheese plate is brie and cheddar with apricots, almonds, crackers and relish paired with Tatler Shiraz. Live music will be by Hornet and The Years.


With mouthwatering menus and a range of wines from award-winning wineries on offer, why not join in the 30th birthday celebrations for this signature Hunter tradition of high- quality regional food, wine, and hospitality in a stunning vineyard setting? All the details can be found at www.lovedalelonglunch.com.au, but hurry—tickets are selling fast.



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