Halls Rd, Pokolbin
Hunter Valley (map)
02 4998 7330
Two weekends ago my entire Aussie family spent three days of opulent bliss up in the Hunter Valley to celebrate the wedding of my Sydney-based uncle. The bride and groom put all of us up, from both extended families - booking out every room at the insanely luxurious Tower Lodge.
As well as being the location of our accommodation, Tower Lodge doubled as the venue for the twilight wedding ceremony and the reception. It looked sublime.
On the Friday afternoon, most of the men went off to play golf and we women went to a nearby day spa to get massages and facials and pedicures. The next morning (the day of the wedding), all of the family women had their hair and make-up done by professional artistes. When my little sister Birdie heard we'd be treated to all this, she looked me in the eye and said very seriously, "this wedding is like the best thing that's ever happened to our family". :)
Each of the rooms had a different theme. Birdie and I were in what I dubbed the Tally Ho Pip Pip Hunting Room - I got quite a fright one morning to wake up and find that green marble stag (or is it an elk?) looming directly over me!
Clockise, from top left: Mum and Dad were in the Oriental Room, which was full of gorgeous antiques; the bride and groom were married in the central courtyard; the Bridal Suite featured a 300-year-old hand carved Rajasthani bed; we had breakfast each morning in the Blue Room.
On the Friday night the bride's parents very generously shouted all sixty wedding guests a lavish dinner at Roberts, the nearby restaurant where we dined last time I came to the Hunter Valley.
Before the dinner, the bride and groom's families came together in the Tower Lodge main hall for a traditional Indian ceremony conducted by the bride's father to celebrate the union of our two families. One by one, a member of the bride's family would embrace a member of our family, accept us and welcome us into their family and then present a gift to the recipient. We were all terribly moved to be so welcomed into the bride's family, and filled with happiness for my uncle. :)
One of my "new cousins" was able to shed some further light on the ceremony for me:
The ceremony is called Milni. Found a small bit on it which describes it quite well, I've pasted it below:
When the groom's party reaches the wedding venue, milni ceremony is performed. The bride's close relatives give a warm welcome to the groom and his relatives with flower garlands. Rose water is sprinkled on them. In the milni ceremony, the girl's relatives give a welcome to the groom's close relatives. It is done in the descending order, beginning from the elder most. Cash and clothes are gifted."
Obviously ours was modified, was still a fun intro though I think.
In true cross-cultural tradition, India met Scotland. Whilst my mother's family is Italian my dad's side of the family is originally Scottish, and the groom donned a kilt for the wedding ceremony - so did Dad and uncle J! The wedding kilt is partially visible there on the left.
And now to the food! I'm afraid I was having too much fun to properly analyse what we ate, but both the Roberts dinner and the wedding reception were excellent. On the Friday night one of the hors d'oeuvres was gravlax with juicy balls of salmon roe, and at the reception I yummed up a few of these puff pastry beauties containing very fresh kingfish.
Another wonderful hors d'oeuvre were the shots of black truffle and potato soup. I confess I did have seconds... :)
A selection of the dishes (clockwise, from top left): ballotine of wood-smoked local quail with lightly poached pear, gorgonzola and radish shoots; fresh fettuccine with king brown mushrooms, sage leaves and garlic butter; marinated wood pigeon breast served pink, confit leg, sticky prune paste and baked pear tart; and grilled loin of Western Australian lamb with baby fennel, baked eggplant and chilli salsa.
My favourite of the desserts was the passionfruit mousse, served with hot brioche and pearl sugar. Many thanks to Spanna, for providing me with her images of the mousse and the kingfish pastries. Span, your camera takes sensational pictures and I'm dying of jealousy... :)
The reception kicked on into the night, although many of the non-family wedding guests who were staying in nearby accommodation and the family oldies headed off to bed once the live music finished. But then Birdie figured out how to plug her iPod into the speakers and so most of we under-30 youngsters from the two families kept dancing in the Tower Lodge hall until after 2:30am... as you can imagine, grape grazing around Hunter Valley wineries the following morning was a bit of a struggle at first...
Such a fun weekend!