Lovedale in the Hunter Valley wine region is like a breath of fresh air after the tourist mecca of Pokolbin, feeling far removed from the wine tasting tour buses and the usual crowds. The inviting Gartelmann Winery cellar door shares fine views with The Deck Cafe that’s perched on the edge of a picturesque billabong. The setting is enough to draw the crowds, and that it does. We arrive at mid morning on a Sunday without a reservation, and boy don’t we know it. Although there are some free tables, we’re told that there’s nothing available so we opt, even after the waitress tells us she will not be drying them for us, for the wet lounge chairs in the open. To be honest, in general the service is appalling, and one particular waitress needs an attitude adjustment. When we eventually receive our scones, the nicer waitress seems surprised that we are sitting on the wet furniture and ushers us back on to the deck to an empty table, saying that they’ve had a cancellation. We notice many cancellations, and I don’t understand why diners, if they agree to be quick (like us), can’t take a reserved table until the customers arrive. Surely this is a win-win situation for both customer and cafe owner? If you manage to avoid the surly waitress it’s a lovely spot. Peruse the oil, jam and chutney for sale from Matt’s Produce collection, and sample the rich summer berry and vanilla scented jam that’s served with the scones. The scones are perhaps another drawcard as they are well-sized, fresh, fluffy and hard to fault. The chilled and firm Chantilly cream is exquisite with more than a hint of vanilla, and is a real stand out. The servings of the jam and cream are far too small for the size of the scones, so we flag down a friendly waitress and request some more with no issues or surcharge.
Tea: An interesting selection of loose-leaf and tea bag tea served in a Japanese iron teapot.
Overall: A sensational location by the billabong, but shame about the surly service.