MELBOURNE | One of the many luxuries that Victorians have available to them is an abundance of wineries within a reasonable driving distance of the city. Good food is an important as good wine when touring the wine country and this is where Zonzo Estate comes in, offering Italian food in a vineyard setting, as well as operating as a function space/wedding reception venue. We were recently invited to come and sample their menu and we were very keen to head out and see what they have to offer.
Located on the main road between Yarra Glen and Healesville, about an hour’s drive to the east of Melbourne, Zonzo Estate is located right in the heart of the Yarra Valley near well known wineries such as Yering Station, Domaine Chandon and Tarrawarra Estate and is in fact co-located with Train Trak Winery. Upon arriving you are greeted by the usual tree-lined entryway, the Zonzo logo and a surprisingly rare practical consideration – separate entry and exit driveways which were most welcome as on the day we visited there was a lot of car traffic passing through.
Not surprisingly Zonzo Estate is a very picturesque place to visit which was evident from the moment we stepped out of the car and were greeted with a view of rolling fields and mountains in the distance. This no doubt has contributed to the venue winning the Restaruant Reception category at the Australian Bridal Industry Academy Awards for the last five years running.
The dining room at Zonzo Estate is set up in a large hall-like room with floor to ceiling windows which let in plenty of natural light and allow diners inside to enjoy the view of the vineyard.
Outside the main restaurant area is a large semi-sheltered outdoor dining space with long shared benches which allow patrons to eat in the sun with full view of the surrounding landscape. The large open grassed area also serves as the site for wedding ceremonies allowing a seamless transition between ceremony and reception which is a must – there is nothing worse than a long gap and/or transit between the two parts of a wedding!
Inside is a large dining space with tables for both large and small groups – on the day that we visited the restaurant was fully booked out and it sounded like this was not unusual so we would recommend that anyone planning to have lunch at Zonzo Estate book in advance. The interior is a combination of soft coloured wood on the walls and dark metal girders and ceiling creating a warm feel that is consistent with the country surrounds. Table settings are classy and simple with the dark wooden chairs contrasting nicely against the light coloured tables. The customised napkins and wine glasses being a nice touch to complete the feel of the venue.
As you would expect, the drinks list focusses on wine and in particular wines from the region. Zonzo Estate’s own wines are on the way but there are a number of wines available from the adjacent Train Trak Winery and you can also visit the cellar door (which is right next door to the restaurant) to do a tasting either before or after your meal. On this occasion we tried the Pinot Noir and the Chardonnay which were both excellent.
The food menu at Zonzo estate offers a full range of traditional Italian food, including pasta, grilled meat, calzones as well as both tomato-base and oil-base wood-fired pizzas which are their speciality. There are also a range of dessert calzones available and classic Italian desserts such as tiramisu, pannacotta and affogato.
Our first entree was the arancini which were filled with mozzarella and came as a serve of six. One thing about arancini is that arborio rice doesn’t bring a lot of flavour to the table so either the coating or the filling needs to plug the gap. Unfortunately the coating was a fairly standard breadcrumb and mozzarella which does not deliver much in terms of a flavour so the arancini were quite bland – we would also suggest reducing the serving size as this dish would have been too much for two people if we had consumed the whole plate.
Gamberi Piccanti ($15.00)
Next up were the tiger prawns marinated in chilli, garlic and parsley which a simple dish made up of classic flavours. Pleasingly, this dish was full of flavour, the balance between the flavours was perfect and there are just the right amount of chilli – this was one of the highlights of our meal.
Carciofi Fritti ($13.00)
Following the prawns were the artichoke hearts, coated in a mix of breadcrumbs and rosemary and then fried. This was a somewhat confusing dish for us as it combined two ingredients (artichoke and rosemary) with quite noticeable but also very much offsetting flavours which almost neutralised each other. The net result was a dish that tasted fine but didn’t really showcase the best of either ingredient.
Antipasto Misto ($25.00 to serve two, $40.00 to serve five)
Ever present on Italian menus and always pleasing to the eye is the antipasto plate which in this case consisted of cured meats, eggplant, zucchini, artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes and olives. The quality of the local produce was really evident and everything tasted really fresh – we really enjoyed this dish.
Our last entree was the flatbread with olives, gorgonzola and herbs which was served pizza-style. Despite the fact that I don’t even like olives this dish was amazing and our favourite of the meal, the flatbread base was crisp to perfection, the gorgonzola provided the core the flavour and there was just the right amount of herbs to offset the richness of the cheese. This is a must-have for anyone who heads out to Zonzo Estate for a meal.
Pizza Con Pancetta (all pizzas are $24.00)
For the main course we had to start with the house specialty, the wood fired pizza and on the day we visited we were served the tomato-base pancetta pizza which was done with sauteed mushrooms. After experiencing the flatbread, which we assume is done on the same base as the pizzas, we had high expectations for the pizza but alas the pizza was a letdown for a couple of reasons. Firstly the base was quite soggy and perhaps it needed a bit more time in the oven. More importantly, the tomato base was quite sweet which was offputting and took away from the overall taste of the pizza and we suspect this might have been due to the presence of residual sauce/liquid from the sauteing process.
Gnocchi Al Burro E Salvia ($24.00)
To finish our meal we had the handmade gnocchi with burnt butter and sage. This was a great way to finish off our meal after the slight disappointment of the pizza, the gnocchi itself was excellent (you can always tell when it is house-made) and the sage and butter flavours were very balanced and the dish had a good degree of richness without being overly oily.
Overall we left Zonzo Estate with mixed impressions, while the space was great and the view amazing, the food was a bit hit and miss. This said, we did find some dishes that we really enjoyed and given that flatbread was amazing the our experience with the pizza may have been a one off. We would definitely consider visiting Zonzo Estate the next time we are in the area and we think that anyone who is touring the wineries in the Yarra Valley add it to the list of potential lunch or dinner options.
957 Healesville-Yarra Glen Road
Wed – Thu: 12:00 to 3:00pm
Fri – Sun: 12:00 to 8:30pm