330 Nimbo Rd Killimicat, NSW 2720
|Opening hours||Dinner Wed-Sun from 6pm; lunch Sat-Sun from noon|
|Prices||Expensive (mains over $40)|
|Payments||eftpos, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||02 6944 9099|
It turns out there IS a track winding back to an old-fashioned shack along the road to Gundagai. If you're on Brungle Road coming in to Gundagai from Tumut, turn left at the Nimbo Road letterboxes, then cross four cattlepits, drive around a very big tree, and wait for the slow-moving cattle to get off the road (twice), you will arrive at a rather charming two-storey fly-fishing lodge overlooking the fork of the Tumut River and Nimbo Creek.
OK, it's not old-fashioned, and the only shacks are six extremely well-appointed cabins in which to stay overnight, but let's not spoil the story.
Owners Josh and Sophie Walsh and Alex and Tom Heggaton took over Nimbo Fork Lodge in 2017. In a move right for the times, they turned up the luxury dial, and invited the ever-expanding Three Blue Ducks group to dinner.
It's the seventh feather in the cap of the Duckies, adding to venues in Bronte, Rosebery, The Farm and Oma in Byron Bay, URBNSURF in Melbourne, and the W Hotel in Brisbane. Mark LaBrooy – the Duck most likely to go fishing and actually catch something – hand-picked his Bronte chef, French-born Edmee Driez, as head chef.
While the food follows the Ducks' ethos of simple technique, local produce and zero pretension, Driez, with chef Joe Spencer, upgrades it with greater precision and balance.
She's also capable of baking (beautiful) bread, churning butter, and preserving and pickling vegetables in order to make her country larder more self-sufficient.
The fish of the day is rainbow trout (duh), fresh from the Snowy Mountain Trout Farm on the Tumut River. Lightly smoked, it makes a pretty starter with dill, creme fraiche and crispbread ($24).
But the dish with a real sense of place is the main course of plate-sized trout ($44). Butterflied and grilled, and smothered in a panful of capers, butter and dill in the meuniere style, its delicate flesh is elevated by meticulous boning and careful cooking.
Going beyond trout, there's pig, in a crumbed and deep-fried baton of rough-textured pork terrine ($22). It's a great combo – crunchy panko crumbs and rich pork with a spoonful of gribiche, with its capers and herbs, and a fresh salad of parsley, pickled red onion and preserved lemon. Who needs trout? This is what I want to catch on a fishing holiday.
Murray cod ($29), another great Australian farmed fish, is lightly seared, floating in a creamy saffron sauce studded with wilted stinging nettles, with a puffy hat of crisp skin. It's listed as a starter, but would make a better main course.
Lamb is sourced from the Riverina and nicely fattened up for sale. A big-boned four-chop rack ($45) makes a no-nonsense, I'm-in-the-country-now feast of nicely cooked, well-marbled meat with a pile of pearl barley tabbouleh and a pool of smoked potato aioli.
Luckily, this is the sort of place where nobody blinks twice when your wife picks up the bones and rips off the remaining meat with her teeth.
The chef's take on an Eton mess is a moreish get-together of crunchy sea-salt meringue, lemon curd, chantilly cream and berries ($16). It's simple, bright and fresh, the salt in the meringue balancing the sugar.
With its soaring slate fireplace, walls hung with vintage fishing memorabilia and verandah with river views, the dining room is exactly the type of room you'd like to find yourself in at the end of a long drive.
Manager Lucy Young is a natural host, and the atmosphere is more buzzy ski lodge than hushed hotel dining room, although I could live without Michael Jackson on the '70s playlist.
Nimbo Fork Lodge is a great package that brings luxury to what we love about the country, and Driez is a new regional star. I'll be back for the trout, the lamb, and the kangaroo (not on the menu, on the drive in). This is like eating in ... where? Dobrovo, Slovenia? The Dordogne, France? No, wait. Gundagai, Australia.
Vegetarian Several choices, from harissa-roasted cauliflower to potato gnocchi.
Drinks Classic cocktails, half a dozen craft beers, and a usable list of natural, low-intervention Victorian and NSW wines from group sommelier Mem Hemmings.
Cost About $160 for two, plus drinks
Pro tip Keep an eye out for kangaroos on the way in and out.