When we heard a country hotel called the Willow Tree Inn had the best pub steak in NSW, we couldn’t resist booking a table and putting it to test.
The pub is located between Scone and Tamworth. Its restaurant, Graze, has been named Best Country Restaurant and Best Steak Venue by the Australian Hotels Association several times and boasts loyal customers that travel from all over NSW to dine there.
All the beef served at Graze is pasture fed and grain finished, with the restaurant featuring its own in-house dry-aging room, which has a viewing window so customers can see the specialised process.
We arrived as a magnificent sunset blazed across the sky. The restaurant was buzzing with a mix of locals and out-of-towners – around 50 diners all up – despite it being a Wednesday night in a village with a population of just 300.
We started our dinner with an amuse bouche of spiced sweet potato soup and a glass of Geoff Merrill rose while we perused the menu.
Mindful of leaving room for the famed steaks, we skipped entrees and went straight to mains, which were superb – we both ordered the New York striploin, one with pepper sauce and a potato in its jacket, one with cafe de paris butter and mash.
The steaks were mouthwateringly tender and expertly grilled, with just the right amount of char. The side of Graze Chopped Salad – red cabbage, fennel apple salad with a mustard dressing & Chinese spiced walnut praline – was also fabulous.
We matched our meal with Argento ‘Esquinas de Argento’ Malbec 2018, which was a smooth, full-bodied drop. The wine’s juicy flavours of plum jam and sweet cherry, with a touch of chocolate and cinnamon from oak ageing, married perfectly with our steaks.
For dessert we shared a Steamed Treacle Pudding with raspberry jam sauce & vanilla ice cream.
Relaxed and replete after our meal, we decided to stay the night at Willow Tree Inn and checked into one of the rooms in the “Pub Cottage” – King Room 11.
The Pub Cottage is next door to the hotel on the New England Highway. Our room was opulently decorated, well-appointed and had definite “wow” factor. The windows aren’t double glazed, so it was a little noisy when trucks rumbled past, but it didn’t stop us getting a good night’s sleep.
As for our striploins , we can’t vouch for Graze having the best pub steak in NSW, as we’re still on our carnivorous tasting journey, but they were definitely the best The Thirsty Travellers have tasted for many years.