When The Thirsty Travellers heard a country hotel called the Willow Tree Inn had the best steak in NSW, we couldn’t resist booking a table and putting it to test.
The pub is located between Scone and Tamworth, which made it the perfect stop after a spending a gorgeous day traversing Waterfall Way. Its restaurant, Graze, has been named Best Country Restaurant and Best Steak Venue by the Australian Hotels Association several times and is a favourite with our Newcastle friends. It boasts loyal customers that travel from all over NSW to dine there.
The Willow Tree Inn is owned by Charles and Cheryl Hanna, who acquired the historic property in 2009. The purchase followed the couple buying Colly Creek Pastoral Company, a 6000 acre Black Angus cattle property, also at Willow Tree, four years earlier.
Together the couple have rebuilt the circa 1913 pub from the floorboards up. The end result includes cosy bar areas, a bistro, Graze and 16 beautiful boutique rooms and suites.
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 were eager to start our dinner with oysters, but they were sadly sold out. So we sipped on 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 decided to skip entrees and go 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 lovely “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.
The next morning we popped across the road for coffee at The Plains Pantry, which is an upmarket treat to find in such a small country town.
Our only criticism of our night’s stay would be that the wi-fi doesn’t extend to the cottage from the pub and neither Telstra or Optus offer good mobile coverage in the town. The Plains Pantry doesn’t have wi-fi either, which curtailed our visit, as we were both eager to check our emails.
As for our steaks, we can’t vouch for Graze having the best ones in NSW, as we’re still on our carnivorous tasting journey, but they were definitely the best we’ve had for many years.