A trip to Mudgee is simply not complete without The Zin House in sight. Kim Currie’s acclaimed, hatted country restaurant has been embraced by locals and visitors alike since it opened in 2014, rapidly building a glowing reputation for the kitchen’s unwavering dedication to seasonal, local produce, many of which is hand-picked from the surrounding garden and skillfully crafted according to set menus. Much of this produce is picked from the 1000 acre organic and biodynamic Tinja farm property, included in the sweeping view from this charming house on the hill; a view which also includes the Zinfadel vineyard (after which the restaurant is named) and the nearby Lowe Wines.
Kim and her team have direct access to a range of produce trees that grow everything from mulberries and figs to strawberries and lemons, along with blood oranges, feijoas, various herbs and vegetables, stone fruits, rhubarbs and more. The restaurant even has a few beehives for honey and many laying hens.
Currie’s simple approach to food, and focus on showcasing the Mudgee region, letting the produce speak for itself, is admirable, sticking closely to the paddock-to-plate aesthetic which is refining Australia’s dining scene as a whole. The interior helps this along greatly, immediately warm and welcoming, designed with a balance of rustic charm and modern simplicity. Currie’s kitchen is spacious and features an island next to the main entrance, coloured with all sorts of produce from fresh breads and vegetables to large, bright red chilli peppers. It’s quite a spectacle in itself, and the sigh of piles upon piles of fresh produce is a nice precursor to one of the best country-side lunch experiences you are likely to find in not just Mudgee, but all of New South Wales.
Even the set menu itself is charming, with the left-hand side listing the weekly produce from the farm that is used, as well as what produce is from their “friends and neighbours”. The right-hand side lists all the courses to be expected during the long lunch.
The big, spacious tables are designed with families or large groups in mind, as are the dishes: spreads of farm produce that on my visit contained potato, rosemary, and onion bread, house-made herb butter, marinated alto olives, fresh dukkah made with Mudgee hazelnuts and thyme, buttermilk poached radishes, pickled beetroot with native blood lime and red wine, and cavalo nero pesto with kale. Alongside these, my party had a charcuterie platter with pork & chicken terrine, pork rilette, and thinly sliced prosciutto. There’s also some tempura with just-picked zinfandel leaf, adding to the prominent earthy taste that lay across the table.
David Lowe from Lowe wines is Kim’s partner, so there’s a steady supply of award-winning wines straight from the cellar here, clean and crisp to pair up with the freshness. All the simple rustic flavours on the table provided a great range, the rilette, the beetroot, and the dukkah especially vital with the soft, thin bread and clean glass of white.
After the starters were swiftly cleaned up by those at my table, the next course was set in front of us, instantly soliciting “oohs” and “ahhs”; it was a beautiful Three Cheese Ravioli – house made of course – with garlic, sage, and chilli mushrooms. Inside the silky, soft pasta was a creamy mix of fetta and parmesan, while some goats curd sat atop the whole thing. The flavours were sharp, the texture of the pasta was fine, and once again, the wine was helping tie it all together, consistent with the starters in the pleasant cleanliness that characterises The Zin House.
Spice Marinated Lamb Rump came next, with new season potatoes, duck egg aioli, rye corn, and greens. The lamb came from a local butcher, prepared so it was soft and tender, taking on that light seasoning and playing well with the array of flavours that sat atop these thick, juicy pieces of meat. This was a summer comfort dish through and through, bringing a unique flavour with the aioli made from fresh duck eggs.
To start the tail-end of the set menu we had a platter with cheese from Linsdale farm Jannei and local superstars High Valley with black sesame lavoshe and spiced cherries. One thing you should always remember on a trip to Mudgee is how singular the local cherries are; freshly picked with a subtle sweetness. The cheeses are fantastic, but it’s the final dessert of Neapolitan Ice-Cream that had everyone enamoured.
After a long, soulful lunch it’s quite a sight to see a massive cut of hand-made ice cream placed in front of you, colourful and sitting right alongside two large meringues and local cherries with some fresh strawberries. The strips are classic strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate, each distinctive and sharp, not overly rich and playing back into the aesthetic of clean, simple, and delicious.
Mudgee’s famous Spencer Cocoa provide the chocolate, and it’s serve as a chocolate and red wine slice alongside selections of tea. It’s the perfect end to a country-side long lunch, eating and sipping while looking out of those beautiful glass doors and seeing nothing but the wide-open hillside.
It’s hard to leave this place, and you never feel like your rushed out of this idyllic atmosphere, but just as tempting is the five-star cellar door experience just next door at Lowe Wines, where it’s easy to spend another couple of hours, making for an ideal day of Mudgee’s Tinja Lane.
Don’t forget their little retail shop out back either, where you can find all types of produce, as well as memorabilia like a huge hand towel with an adorable illustration mapping out the entire property.
The Zin House costs $85pp for a six-course set menu; with an option wine matched flight for $38. For dinner or Friday/Monday lunch there is also the option of a five-course set menu for $75pp with an optional $35 wine matched flight.
The Zin House
Address: Tinja Ln, Eurunderee NSW 2850 (approx 7km of Mudgee town centre)
Contact: (02) 6372 1660 or [email protected]
Hours: lunch Friday-Monday from 12pm; dinner Friday-Saturday from 6pm