The Food is Smokin’ in Branxton
BY JESSICA ROUSE
Wherever you live in the Hunter Valley, we all have our local pub that is our go-to any day of the week.
If The Royal Federal Hotel (RFH) is your local, well you’re very lucky. If it’s not, it should be.
The RFH was established in 1899 in Branxton, a town that became known as the birthplace of Australian wine.
In 1827 George Wyndham planted the first vines in Australia at Branxton and a year later he established Dalwood Vineyards.
The RFH has changed from just being the bar downstairs to in recent years what’s called The Feddy Kitchen and Smokehouse.
Feddy Kitchen specialises in smoked meats and the kitchen makes all of their sauces from scratch including Whiskey BBQ, Honey BBQ, Chili BBQ, Bloody Mary BBQ and Peri Peri Mayo. They are all as delicious as they sound.
The menu is centred around those meats and sauces with the option to build your own BBQ board. There’s smoked brisket, pulled pork, chicken wings, jalapeno and cheddar sausages with sides including sweet potato fries or crispy chips, vegetables, slaw, mash potato and all of the sauces are yours for the picking as well.
If the smoked side of things doesn’t tickle your fancy there’s the delicious pub menu with all of the classics and plenty for your ankle biters (the kids).
I couldn’t go to Feddy Kitchen and Smokehouse and not try their specialty so I made my own BBQ board with the smoked brisket covered in whiskey BBQ sauce, sweet potato fries and vegetables. The brisket melted in my mouth, it was without a doubt the best sauce I’ve ever had.
When I go to the pub I’m strictly a veggies and chips girl and I will judge a kitchen on how they cook the vegetables. Well, I can happily report that the veggies at the RFH were fresh, steamed perfectly and delicious.
What I had for dinner is Cass Shoulders, the Bistro Manager’s favourite too. Cass has worked at the RFH for 15 years and said the fantastic menu as well as the smoked meat and sauces is a credit to them and to their Head Chef.
“Dean our Head Chef played a massive part in getting all of that happening with his recipes and everything like that, we wouldn’t have them without him! He’s played a massive part in the sauces, the smoked meat too,” she said.
The pub has recently started bottling, labelling and selling its sauces to sell to customers which have proven to be very popular.
The history of the building is in every part of the pub through photos on the walls and an original fireplace in the library.
The fireplace sits in one corner of the library opposite a wall that is stacked with books. Locals and visitors come in and put books on the shelf and take others off in a book swap system and each one that gets on the shelf is stamped.
Cass said she was shocked when someone in Victoria rang who had a book that had been sitting on the shelf at the RFH!
The staff are all wonderful and welcoming. You know they care about the service they give from the little things they do. Always checking in, clearing away plates quickly and that extended to the bar as well.
I ordered my favourite Two Rivers Cabernet Sauvignon and the bar staff poured it into the glass through a little funnel that aerates the wine and brings out its flavour – I’ve never had anyone do that for me at a pub.
“We want it to be fresh, we want people to taste our difference,” said Cass.
Cass said the staff are one big family. Michael and Rhonda are the owners and Dave Anderson manages the whole pub. Cass manages upstairs while Robyn is downstairs with Dean running the kitchen as the Head Chef.
“I think if you’ve got a work environment where everyone is friendly and everyone’s happy they all want to come to work.”
“It’s a very bubbly, bouncy place and everyone bounces off each other.”
The RFH has a quote above the bar which couldn’t be more true, “people who love to eat are always the best people” and that’s what you’ll find at the RFH.
Make sure you go check out Branxton’s local, and give their Facebook page a like too so you can see the daily specials, upcoming live music and details on the RFH Smoke Off 2023 which Cass promises will be bigger and better than ever before.