When the proprietors of the Hunter Valley’s And the Winner is Oscars purchased the café in 2011, they had a really good vision for the café and its potential. Many would call it foresight.
Fast forward almost eight years, and the café is a thriving ‘hub’ in the middle of Hunter Valley Gardens Shopping Village – a favourite meeting spot for locals and a place to rest and revive for weary (and hungry!) visitors. More affectionately known simply as Oscars, the café is a family run business. Owners and husband and wife team, Gerald and Josie Morillo, are also the friendly faces that greet diners on a daily basis.
“We are very hands-on and run most of the business ourselves,” says Josie.
“But we also have a great, loyal team who have become like a family to us. Without them, a lot of what we do wouldn’t be possible.”
For Josie and Gerald, their love for food and hospitality is in their blood.
“We extend our family dining experience with our customers and welcome them with open arms. It really is motivating when we are able to put a smile on their faces. It’s not only priceless but very rewarding,” says Gerald.
“We offer something quite unique to the Valley. What started out as a chicken shop has evolved into a modern café and dining experience. We cater to large groups and families and offer our menu to dine in or take away. Its fast, fresh and delicious. We also were the first café to introduce local speciality coffee in Pokolbin and continue to do so.”
Josie says that one of the things she loves most about Oscars is its location.
“We are located in the Hunter Valley Gardens Shopping Village, which is a really popular destination for visitors. The change of season makes our location quite beautiful, and it can be totally different from one day to the next. We have lovely Ornamental Pear Trees, which shade the area beautifully in summer – making the huge alfresco deck a great place to dine.
“They transform from a deep green to a burnt orange leaf in autumn before shedding their leaves, then they produce a beautiful pink flower in spring and becomes full shade again by the end of the year. It really is a magical outlook,” she said.
But it’s not just the outlook that draws crowds; the hearty, wholesome, home-cooked style of food is something to write home about as well, with the most popular item on the menu the house-burgers – full of flavour and the portions are large, so diners never leave hungry.
“My favourite dish on the menu has to be our beer battered barramundi,” says Josie.
“It’s a classic. And you can’t really go past a good fish and chips. Our signature dish is probably our roasted BBQ chicken with Lebanese garlic dip, chips and salad, which are made fresh daily. We serve these individually or for the whole family.”
“There are many options for the kids, large groups, tours and even the people with dietary requirements – Gluten-Free, Dairy-free, and Vegan/Vegetarian,” she adds. Never a couple to sit still for long, the couple are constantly reinventing the menu and tweaking the dining experience.
“We have had a makeover recently and this, coupled with our new menu, has resulted in some exciting things in store. We have a modern contemporary feel and are surrounded by some
of the best views in the Hunter Valley.”
“I still pinch myself with all the changes we have made over the years as there is still so much we want to do and then I look how far we have come and am so incredibly proud,” says Josie.
Of course, so much energy needs fuel and what better way to fuel a busy café owner than a great cup of coffee.
“My perfect cup of coffee has to be an espresso – full-bodied, fruity, smooth and leaves you wanting more!” says Josie.