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Sunday, June 28, 2015

Geoff Jansz Farm Table Restaurant at the Fitzroy Inn, Mittagong

Burnt butter and frangelico parfait at Geoff Jansz Farm Table Restaurant, Mittagong

I grew up with Geoff Jansz on the telly. Didn't we all? What's Cooking at 11am on Channel 9 was a daily ritual during those halcyon days of university. His laugh. His charm. That hair. I still remember the time he looked straight down the barrel of the camera and said "I always get comments about my hair. It's not a wig. Trust me. It's real, " and then pulled at it to prove his hair wasn't going anywhere.

Geoff Jansz at the Campsie Food Festival in 2006
Geoff Jansz at the Campsie Food Festival in 2006

When What's Cooking ended, he moved onto Burke's Backyard, presenting a food segment for ten years until that too, ceased production. Now he's back, off the television and behind the pans at the Geoff Jansz Farm Table restaurant in Mittagong in the Southern Highlands.

Dining room at Geoff Jansz Farm Table Restaurant, Mittagong

Geoff isn't new to the restaurant business. Before his TV gigs he ran two restaurants: the first in Picton, the second one - Aviemore - in Wilton. He closed Aviemore to concentrate on a career in television. Fun fact: Geoff is also a qualified pharmacist, graduating from the University of Sydney in 1984.

Broccolini in the garden behind Geoff Jansz Farm Table Restaurant, Mittagong
The garden behind Geoff Jansz Farm Table

Geoff's farm in the Southern Highlands has been the source of several pickling products that he sells online and at markets and stores around Bowral. The restaurant is the realisation of a long held dream of his to get back into the kitchen. When we bumped into him at the Burrawang Easter Markets a few months ago, his eyes shone as he told us about how much he missed working in a restaurant.

Kale in the kitchen garden behind Geoff Jansz Farm Table Restaurant, Mittagong

The Farm Table opened in May this year with a soft launch, taking over the former restaurant space at the Fitzroy Inn, a hotel retreat and restaurant set-up that reminds me of Biota Dining. Out the back is a kitchen garden complete with citrus orchard [edit: the kitchen gardens are not used or linked to the Farm Table]. The accommodation rooms overlook a sweeping garden complete with pond and a family of ducks that waddle past us as we make our way up to the restaurant.

Dining room at Geoff Jansz Farm Table Restaurant, Mittagong
The dining room at Geoff Jansz Farm Table

The restaurant is large and inviting, splashed with natural light from the skylights above. The rustic charm of exposed sandstone, pockets of moss, raw timber and weathered shutter board windows is elevated with crisp linen and gleaming stemware. There's plenty of space between tables too.

Pickled chillies at Geoff Jansz Farm Table Restaurant, Mittagong
Home grown pickled chillies

The menu yields a choice of five entrees and five mains. The majority of produce is sourced from Geoff's farm. All the meat is obtained from farms that Geoff personally visits, our waiter explains. It only takes a few minutes for us to realise our cheerful waiter is Geoff's son, Harry. There's a strong relationship between Geoff and each of his suppliers, Harry tells us. He takes care to know each farmer from which he is buying product.

Wines by the glass are all an affordable $8 - two whites and two reds from South Australia, Western Australia and New Zealand.

Pork hock terrine at Geoff Jansz Farm Table Restaurant, Mittagong
Pork hock terrine $18
Sweet mustard dressing, butter lettuce and pickles

We kick off with the pork hock terrine, three slices of soft and tender pork chunks set in a wobble of aspic. It's one of my favourite dishes of the day, simple but hearty, served on a salad of greens from the garden and a sweet mustard dressing that we want to lick clean.

Steamed ricotta, parmesan and spinach gnocchi at Geoff Jansz Farm Table Restaurant, Mittagong
Steamed ricotta, parmesan and spinach gnocchi $18
Heirloom tomato sugo and basil oil

The steamed ricotta, parmesan and spinach gnocchi are more like giant steamed dumplings, so delicate and light that a fork slips through them with ease. The heirloom tomato sugo and basil oil make one big Italian flag on the plate.

The Farm Plate at Geoff Jansz Farm Table Restaurant, Mittagong
The Farm Plate $12
Pickles, dips, house cured or Salumi Australia charcuterie

We also spring for the Farm Plate, a selection of pickles, dips and charcuterie. The salamis are tasty but it's the quenelle of carrot that blows our mind, so smooth and nutty and sweet without being cloying. The grated beetroot and the pickled cucumbers are also highlights.

Housemade milk buns at Geoff Jansz Farm Table Restaurant, Mittagong
Complimentary house made milk buns

House made milk buns are perfect pillows of springy softness. They're sweet enough that butter isn't necessary, but we slather it on greedily anyway.

Cotechino sausage at Geoff Jansz Farm Table Restaurant, Mittagong
Rich and flavoursome cotechino sausage $38

Cotechino is an Italian sausage that combines pork meat with pork skin and spices. It's made by Geoff himself, something that Harry wasn't even aware of until we ask him to check. After initially telling us the sausage comes from a local supplier, Harry comes back from the kitchen and confesses that "Dad made it", a newly acquired skill after a recent trip to Italy.

The sausage is lush and succulent, complemented by a side serve of cauliflower cooked with anchovies and raisins that adds a Middle Eastern riff.

Slow cooked Moroccona lamb at Geoff Jansz Farm Table Restaurant, Mittagong
Slow cooked Moroccan lamb with raisin, onion and tomato relish $38

The Moroccan lamb is another dish borne from an overseas trip. "We went to Morocco together," says Harry, "and we're still working on the flavours of this dish." They needn't worry. It's a masterful blend of aromatic spices, with a deboned lamb shank that falls apart with a nudge of a fork. The accompanying couscous is almost tasty enough to eat on its own, each grain fluffy and separate, and bright yellow in hue.

Duo of beef dry aged Hunter Valley striploin and Cowra eye fillet at Geoff Jansz Farm Table Restaurant, Mittagong
Duo of beef - dry aged Hunter Valley striploin and Cowra eye fillet $42
with wilted rocket and garlic and red wine reduction

The duo of beef is the most expensive main but all is forgiven once you hit the Cowra eye fillet. The prized medallion is as soft as butter. The dry aged Hunter Valley striploin has a satisfying chew but it's the Madeira sauce that I'd happily drown in, a glossy demi-glace that hugs every tastebud.

Burnt butter and frangelico parfait at Geoff Jansz Farm Table Restaurant, Mittagong
Burnt hazelnut and Frangelico parfait $18
on a toffee, apple and date soil 

We're torn over the choice of four desserts, eventually passing up the spiced quince galette and the fruits in blueberry and Cointreau syrup for the burnt hazelnut and Frangelico parfait. It's a visually striking dish, especially with the shards of toffee that sparkle like diamonds against the apple and date soil.

The two fat wedges of parfait are rich and creamy, studded with bits of hazelnut praline and only a faint whiff of Frangelico. Together it eats a little bit too sweet - the parfait with the caramel sauce, date soil and toffee - but the parfait on its own is an easy crowd pleaser.

Gingered oranges and rich flourless chocolate cake at Geoff Jansz Farm Table Restaurant, Mittagong
Gingered oranges with cardamom anglaise and rich flourless chocolate cake $18

And in the name of research we have the rich flourless chocolate cake too. The slightly undercooked fudgy consistency is offset by the warm spiciness of the cardamom anglaise and the citrus zing of gingered orange segments.

There's no handshake tour of the dining room by Geoff today, but we do spot him in the kitchen, a rare reassurance that the chef's name on the door is the same person cooking your meal. I reckon Geoff wouldn't want it any other way.

The Fitzroy Inn in Mittagong

Geoff Jansz Farm Table at the Fitzroy Inn
1 Ferguson Crescent, Mittagong
Tel: +61 (02) 4858 0770

Opening hours
Lunch Saturday and Sunday from 12pm
Dinner Thursday to Saturday from 6.30pm

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Southern Highlands - Bernie's Diner, Moss Vale
Southern Highlands - Biota Dining, Bowral

Southern Highlands - Brigadoon at Bundanoon
Southern Highlands - Mittagong tunnel mushroom tour
Southern Highlands - Mushroom picking at Belanglo State Forest
18 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 6/28/2015 02:13:00 am


  • At 6/28/2015 8:31 am, Anonymous John | heneedsfood said…

    Um, and his sparkling eyes! I don't think I ever noticed his hair until now. Lol. Great to see that Geoff is still in the restaurant biz, cooking up some mighty fine fare. Everything looks great!

  • At 6/28/2015 9:08 am, Anonymous Hotly Spiced said…

    I've just been there! Isn't Geoff lovely. I didn't know he went to Sydney Uni and became a pharmacist! We stayed at the Fitzroy Inn about a month ago and had no idea Geoff had started the restaurant. We walked through with our suitcases and a man said, 'Can I help you with your bags?' And I looked at him and thought, 'That sure looks like Geoff Jansz'. And it was. He had just finished the Sunday lunch service. Unfortunately we weren't able to dine at Farm Table because it's not open on Sunday nights or Mondays but Geoff gave us a tour of the place including the cellar below. I do hope to get back there soon to enjoy the restaurant xx

  • At 6/28/2015 12:00 pm, Anonymous ChopinandMysaucepan said…

    Dear Helen,

    I did wonder what happened to Geoff and it's nice to know he's still involved with food in the heart of the Southern Highlands.

  • At 6/28/2015 8:53 pm, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    that gnocchi sounds so amazingly light and fluffy!

  • At 6/29/2015 8:33 am, Anonymous Racy_staci said…

    Oh yes! Those sparkling eyes that make you go weak at the knees.

    The parfait was divine!

  • At 6/29/2015 10:30 am, Anonymous Olivia @ mademoiselleinsydney said…

    Oh my! I didn't grow up knowing Geoff... but - and that's for the name of research too - I'd happily dig into that flourless chocolate cake :-)

  • At 6/29/2015 3:21 pm, Blogger Unknown said…

    That beef looks so good.. it's making me salivate. Cardamom is one of my favourite spices.. when it's utilised in dessert it's just brilliant. Love the look of the flourless chocolate cake!!

  • At 6/29/2015 8:37 pm, Blogger R said…

    Dear Helen,

    I am so pleased that you posted this today. Recently, I saw Geoff Jansz running at stall at Eveleigh Markets, and knowing that he had been based in The Southern Highlands, it was great to see him there on the hot plate and busy, but I had wondered what he'd been up to.

    Where does the man get his energy and sparkle, though? Amazing.

    Your post (especially the mention of the port terrine) is amazing and as much as I'd like to haul the family off there next week, I think my kids demonstrated today that they are not up to it!

    A lovely post Helen, and I chuckled when I read the 'fun fact'.

  • At 6/30/2015 4:24 am, Anonymous Monique@The Urban Mum said…

    It has been too long in between my visits to the Southern Highlands, I always feel so refreshed after a drive down there - lovely to get into the 'country' for a while. Geoff's restaurant seems a very good reason indeed to make the drive...love cardamom too...delish x

  • At 6/30/2015 3:37 pm, Anonymous Tania@ Kitchen Stories said…

    I love the way you write Helen. What a great thing for Mittagong that he is there. I had to laugh that Charlie from Hotly Spiced bumped into him on the way through Mittagong. LOL. the food looks good

  • At 6/30/2015 3:53 pm, Anonymous Amanda @lambsearsandhoney said…

    I'm so glad that you went the extra mile and had the chocolate cake, Helen. IMHO there's nothing like thorough research. Or chocolate cake.

  • At 6/30/2015 4:16 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    yes! Used to love watching his cooking show. Glad to see he's back where he belongs -dishing out amazing food. That gnocchi has my name on it. Reckon a weekend away in Mittagong is on the cards :)

  • At 6/30/2015 10:13 pm, Blogger Von said…

    I've been to quite a few of the suburbs that are nearish to Mittagong (for food of course) but have never been to Mittagong itself! Guess I've got a reason to visit now haha....the food looks so good- especially the burnt hazelnut and Frangelico parfait!

  • At 7/01/2015 9:55 am, Anonymous Brian @ Brian Tam Food said…

    Geoff Jansz! I haven't heard that name in years... great to see he's still working with food. The food looks rustic and hearty.

  • At 7/01/2015 1:21 pm, Anonymous Dee @ The Casual Food Blogger said…

    Wow Geoff Jansz hasn't been around in a while! He used to be a favourite with my family because of his Sri Lankan background. Good to see he is back in the foodie world!

  • At 7/04/2015 10:37 pm, Anonymous Sara | Belly Rumbles said…

    Sounds like the perfect day trip from Sydney.

  • At 7/05/2015 10:45 am, Anonymous Cindy (a foodie's joy) said…

    I remember Geoff from way back when! Used to love watching his cooking segments on TV. The food certainly looks good!

  • At 7/13/2015 11:30 pm, Blogger Pax said…

    Geoff, we enjoyed a wonderful lunch at your Farm Table at the Fitzroy Inn last Sunday. Brought back fond memories of Aviemore. You and your team certainly excelled - the food, the service surpassed our expectations. You are a super chef Geoff. The ambience and the great setting is a bonus. Please thank Harry too - he is so delightful, relaxed and attentive. Everything our table of 5 ordered was superb: the Moroccan lamb, the duo of beef, the sausage, the terrine, the parfait to name a few. We will certainly be back with more friends very soon.


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