Yarra Valley goodness – Train Trak

A spare Sunday afternoon, some magnifent Spring sunshine, a new car to take for a drive, and volunteers to try out the passenger seats.  Destination: Yarra Valley.  After a zoom through green vineyard-covered hills, stopping at a few favourites for some tasting including Balgownie Estate (the sparkling Shiraz should not be missed) we pulled up at Train Trak for some lunch. Having not been back there since a 40 degree February day some years back for Grape Grazing, where the ground was brown and dusty and we sat on picnic rugs under the shade of a tree, it was a delightful discovery indeed to step into ZONZO, the restaurant, festooned with paper lanterns and flowers, and to be met with an aroma of wood-fired pizza and other Italian fare.  A quick glass of  Train Trak Sparkling Pinot Chardonnay to wet the whistle, and we moved outside into the sunshine, a vista of vines and daisy-dotted grass laid out before us.

The menu was packed full of Mediterranean goodness, and we wasted no time ordering up a storm of pizzas, including the alla salsiccia (tomato, mozzarella, pork and fennel sausage, spanish onion and rosemary), the con carciofi (tomato, mozzarella, artichoke hearts, proscuitto, rocket, gorgonzola) and the con marscapone (tomato, mozzarella, walnuts, speck and marscapone).  We also ordered a salad of buffalo mozzarella, mini roma tomatoes, basil, and baby spinach.

These pizzas were an absolute delight – light crispy base, fresh produce, just the right amount of cheese and toppings, and we followed up with the tiramisu, which for my money was bang on – and as Paolo Vino always maintains, it’s about the ratio of the marscapone/whipped cream to sponge biscuit and coffee.  Zonzo clearly understands this important point. 




Cutler & Co – Gertrude St, Fitzroy

All hail Andrew McConnell. Just when I thought nothing could top Cumulus with the incredible freekeh salad,  insanely delicious crispy prawns, 10 different types of oyster, (and let’s be honest, what’s not to love about a menu that offers, amongst other delights,  a whole tin of Ortiz anchovies as an entree?),  I had the recent pleasure and privilege of dining at Cutler & Co with some of my favourite dining companions.

The interior is sleek,  tasteful and individual, with an inviting open bar space at the front, and a private dining room option at the back. You can see into the kitchen from various vantage points, the wine list goes on for days, and the staff were professional, friendly, and looked happy to be there. The automatic sliding door which could easily be mistaken for some type of textured glass artwork rather than a portal to the the bathrooms was somewhat of a novelty, but again, tastefully done.

Having despatched an imaginative cocktail which involved maple syrup, we got down to the business of ordering.

We opted for a trio of entrees including a very pretty sashimi-style arrangement with caviar and nasturtium petals, Mandarin duck cooked three ways including a boudin noir (black pudding sounds more appetising in French, n’est ce pas?), and a magnificent salad with carrots and radishes. All delicious, with faultless presentation and offering exciting flavour combinations. For main, the gnocchi was a mouthwatering combination of taleggio, cauliflower and pea salad, and coupled with the beautiful fresh bread (a weakness),  sadly ruined me for any chance of dessert.

C’est la vie, we’ll just have to go back for that.