Only 90km east of Melbourne is the stunning Yarra Valley. I have always considered myself lucky as this magnificent wine growing region is very close to my doorstep and I visit it often.
Beautiful scenery, rolling green hills, gorgeous vineyards, magnificent produce, fine-dining restaurants, and luxurious accommodation are all in abundance. Not surprisingly, the Yarra Valley attracts visitors from around the country for day trips and weekend getaways. I am reliably told that busloads of tourists also come from overseas to visit this stunning wine region.
The restaurant at Zonzo Estate, in Yarra Glen, is high on the popularity list for both locals and visitors.
In the past 12 months, I have visited Zonzo a handful of times and on each occasion have sat in tranquillity and gazed over the vines, as I delighted in their food and savoured their wine.
Today, my visit to Zonzo was not as peaceful or satisfying as in the past.
Let me back-track a little. I had made a reservation a few weeks ago, but unfortunately, due to family circumstances I had to cancel. Even though I phoned weeks ahead of the intended date, the $100 deposit was non-refundable, but at least it was transferrable. The reservation was for 13 people and trying to get all 13 together in one place again was going to be tricky so I opted to transfer the reservation to a later date for two people.
Two days before our re-scheduled lunch a friend of ours agreed to come with us. No problem, I would just phone up and change our reservation from two people to three. After calling on Friday at 6pm(ish) and a couple of times during Saturday, my efforts to change this reservation remained fruitless.
According to the recorded message, bookings can be made via phone between the hours of 9-5 on Monday to Friday. There was no facility to leave a message and no way of contacting them other than email.
On arrival at Zonzo Estate we were shown to seats that MIGHT be ours, but were told “just wait here and I will check with the boss”. We didn’t waste time taking our seats, particularly as this was an indoor table and I had requested outdoor seating. The waitress came back and took us to another table – a long, share table where we were given two side end seats and one extra chair at the end.
Fair enough I guess, I had changed our reservation, and maybe there was no room for us outside, but through the course of our lunch I noticed that there were always seats available in the area I had originally booked.
Time to let all that slide, sit back, enjoy a nice glass of wine and delicious lunch and have a wonderful Zonzo experience.
I found the wait staff to be business like. They took orders and delivered food and beverage well, but there was no personality, and no offer to explain anything on the menu. They did their job, nothing more, nothing less.
The food we ordered was good, but not outstanding or memorable.
The Pizza Con Sopressa ($24), ordered by our tag-along dining partner, had a good covering of salami but it was not hot salami as stated on the menu. Roast capsicum, also listed on the menu was non-existent but there was an abundance of olives.
My husband ordered the Ravioli Con Granchio ($32) and it was nice, really nice in fact. Lovely, delicate flavoured spanner crab sealed in pasta rounds with ample buttery, lemon and thyme sauce. There is always a very fine line when it comes to ‘al dente’ cooked pasta, but for my palate, this dish could have done with another 30 seconds of cooking.
I had Calzone Con Proscuitto ($25). WOW, what a plateful! Italian folded pastry filled with prosciutto crudo, mozzarella, baby spinach and mini Roma tomatoes served with a mountain of rocket.
From the first taste of this gigantic calzone I was blown away with the rich flavours, but every third or fourth mouthful was disappointing. I think this must have been around the Roma tomatoes that were watery and tasteless and therefore affecting the rest of the ingredients.
My dining partners each washed their meals down with a bottle of Zonzo Estate Lager ($9), while I had a glass of refreshing Zonzo Estate Prosecco ($12).
I was the only member of our party that ordered a dessert and while I was already quite full, the sound of a chocolate and almond torte topped with raspberry coulis was too much for me to turn down.
The Torta al Cioccolato e Mandorla ($14) was exciting to look at, however, looks can be deceiving and in this case, it proved true.
The cake was light and moist, and the raspberry coulis had the perfect balance of sweetness and tang, but the chocolate was almost overpowered by ground almonds. While it’s not always served with a torte, some cream or vanilla ice cream might have brought out the chocolatey flavour more.
A lesson learnt, after other delicious desserts I have enjoyed at Zonzo in the past, the Torta al Cioccolato e Mandorla is one I won’t order again.
I love Zonzo Estate’s décor, the rustic timber, the high-pitched ceiling, the wall of windows overlooking the stunning vineyards but going on a weekend is something I am unlikely to do again. The noise was deafening! I am also not a fan of share tables, unless you are part of a huge group taking up the entire table. I noticed, the table where we were seated, seemed to be a bit too wide, with couples half standing as they leaned over to hear each other speak.
I also found that for a restaurant seating more than 200 people at one time, plus people seated in the outdoor area, and two other rooms (that may have other facilities), the toilet situation was seriously lacking. There were two female toilets to cater for lots of women, and to be honest, they weren’t in the best condition either. I understand that there can’t be someone maintaining the toilets the whole time but by midday, when food service started at 11.30am, these toilets left quite a lot to be desired. Then again, there’s no accounting for some of the people using them.
Zonzo Estate is very popular with weekend diners, travellers and for weddings, but for me, on this occasion, it didn’t quite hit the mark.
Phone – (03) 9730 2500
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org