4 King Street
Daylesford VIC 3460
+61 3 5348 3329
Every now and then, Adam and I like to get out of Melbourne for the day. We both love our proud city but I must say that, as a city-worker, seeing trams every 30 seconds and walking down Swanston Street does get old. In the past, Adam used to HATE driving due to sheer CBFness and his less than stellar navigation skills. He’d try and get a lift from his dad, or he’d PT it in; driving was a last resort. Now that he works a job that requires a LOT of (manual) driving, he loves it. Okay, so his sense of direction still sucks but at least he now has both a GPS AND a girlfriend in the passenger seat who, despite not holding a driver’s licence, is a pro at directions and has a voice that’s sexier than TomTom’s Kiwi Kevin.
Several public holidays ago (we’re talking somewhere in January), Adam decided that it would be a nice day to drive out of Melbourne. He didn’t care where we were going, as long as it was out of the 30XX and 31XX postal boundaries. Naturally, as the one who holds the pants in this relationship, I said that we were going to Lake House which was open on most public holidays and so off we went, up the Calder as directed by Kiwi Kevin. In my opinion, taking the Western Hwy would have been slightly quicker but who was I to argue with the all-knowing TomTom?
An hour and a half later, we arrived at Daylesford, a town north-west of Melbourne that is famous for its natural springs mineral spas, restaurants and laid back vibe. After exploring some of the little shops on Vincent Street and checking out an antique bazaar, we drove to Lake Daylesford and realised that we were a tad too early for our 12pm lunch booking.
The award-winning, two-hatted restaurant called Lake House (jeez, who would have thought?!) also doubles up as a cozy hotel and spa. Its tranquil location by the water and away from the noise makes it the ideal destination for those who just want to get away from it all. And even better, you get the added bonus of having an acclaimed restaurant and spas only minutes from your front door.
More ducks than our Ashes team? Probably not.
Adam then started chasing the ducks away just as I got close to them, meaning that he’s not a very nice person. It also meant that he was hungry and restless so I took it as a cue to leave the lake and walk back up to the restaurant. It was empty when we reached the reception of the hotel/spa/restaurant so I took in a moment to admire all the painting that were done by Alla Wolf-Tasker (executive chef)’s artist husband, Allan. My favourite one was ‘Rousseau’s Sleeping Chef‘ which obviously took cues from French Impressionist Henri Rousseau. It highlights Alla’s devotion to her craft, illustrating the chef sleeping and dreaming about cooking. A poodle instead of a dalmatian would have made it ten times more awesome though, tee-hee!
I didn’t do it.
Finally, someone came out of the shadows and when we told them that we had arrived for lunch, we were led to the steps on our right and into the airy dining room that captured the light that reflected off the glistening waters of Lake Daylesford.
We we led to a table right next to the window, where we had perfect viewing of the lake.
Well, okay, Adam did. I, being the bossy one, called shotgun on the cushy banquette with its 10 billion cushions and its back facing the window so instead of being able to see the lake, I was facing the restaurant it all its purple glory. Go the Storm.
Lunchers at Lake House are asked to choose two courses from the menu, for $70 or three courses for $88. If you want to go all out, however, the 8-course degustation is available for $130. Adam chose the two-course option, while I went for the three-course option (intending to share the dessert with Adam). If I had known that the scrumptious tray of chocolate fudge and caramel corn in the middle of the dining room were for diners who chose the degustation option, I would have gone with THAT instead.
Slices of rye and hot crusty white bread rolls with lots of butter and pink sea salt. Mmmm.
Ferris Bueller Ohhh YEAAAAAAHHHHHH…
We shared some crunchy grissini which were coated in local extra virgin olive oil, and rosemary and accompanied by olives. All from Kyneton, which is about half an hour’s drive away from Daylesford. In fact, everything that lands on your plate is either grown or made in Daylesford, or are sourced from nearby towns and farms. No blueberries from New Zealand here! (*cough* Costco *cough*).
We had a glass of red each: Adam, the Lake House Shiraz ($12) which was supplied by Sutton Grange in Bendigo while I got a glass of isole e Olena Chianti Classino from Tuscany ($18) to go with my lamb main.
Adam’s entrée: smoked Skipton eel in pancetta, shallot confit, beetroot remoulade, mustard crème fraiche. Adam loves his unagi so his choice of entrée was a bit of a no brainer. Despite being a bigger foodie than he is, I must say that I’m not a big fan of eel. I practically squirm every time I bite into a spoonful of rice and teriyaki-glazed unagi, not because eels are such horrid-looking creatures (though I suppose they have NOTHING on lampreys) but because I had the slimy film of fat that’s sandwiched in between the meat and the crispy skin. Plus, its naturally sweet flesh doesn’t really do it for me. But this dish! Oh man, this dish I LOVED. The flesh was sweet, but not terribly so thanks to the smoke and the pancetta that was wrapped around it like a sheet of nori wrapped around a sushi roll. The sweet yet earthy flavours of the heirloom beetroot complimented the smoky eel meat and edible flowers made the dish look more the prettier.
My entrée: Quail tempura, wasabi mayonnaise, baked egg custard, shiitakes. This dish just screamed out, ‘Brendan McQueen!’ and given how much I enjoyed Matteo’s Bento Box lunch last year, I knew I had to order this entrée. And thank goodness I did. Two perfect rolls of quail meat were wrapped lightly-battered nori sheets, cooked tempura-style. Each roll was an amazing textural firework of crunch and succulence, punctuated by sweetness and gaminess. Little blobs of wasabi mayonnaise with the slightest hint of fresh horseradish provided some lovely creaminess when needed. And when it was all over, there was a tiny cup of baked egg custard (chawanmushi) that held the silkiest chawanmushi I had ever tasted, and it was topped with a simple yet aromatic mixture of shiitake mushrooms and star anise.
Adam’s main: poached grass-fed Angus fillet, silverside, smoked tongue, oxtail dumpling, pickles, marrow brioche, salsa verde, anchovy aioli. In the background, you can see the creamy and salty anchovy aioli, a beef consomme and a lovely, buttery sweet brioche that’s filled with a gorgeous marrow paste.
Here’s a better photo of the main dish. Adam loves his beef so he gleefully attacked his plate with gay abandon when he saw that there were many different cuts of beef all served on the one plate. Adam couldn’t decide whether he liked the juicy piece of Angus fillet, or the thicker piece of silverside that was full of flavour or the delicately piquant smoked tongue.
Me? I liked the oxtail dumplings which were filled with soft shreds of tail. How’s that for oxtail dumpling pr0n featuring salsa verde! (hands up if you think Salsa Verde could be a legit pr0n star’s name?)
My main: Summer lamb Provencale – roast loin, crisp breast, sweet peppers, heirloom tomatoes, eggplant and rosemary. Sam Kekovich tells us to eat lamb and well, there’s no arguing with that fella. Like the other dishes we ate, this one conveyed the message that all the produce in the region was top-notch. The lamb (both the loin and the breast) were perfectly cooked and was teamed up with the freshest vegies that were reduced to beautifully, soft and squishy – and almost pureed – forms of themselves, including a Jenga-like potato finger that was not quite soft as mashed potato but getting there. The milk foam didn’t really do much for my tastebuds but it made the plate look prettier anyway.
This is why I can never be a vegetarian.
Dessert: amaretto parfait, apricot clafoutis, sorbet, quinoa, curry. I asked the waiter if I could have the famous ‘Gaytime Dessert’, only to be told that they weren’t doing it today. I was disappointed because I had heard a LOT about this supposedly legendary dessert which may have been the result of head chef David Green tapping into his diners’ yearn for all things old skool or a nod to Daylesford vibrant and mellow gay population, or both. The waiter DID tell me that that there was a SIMILAR dessert on the menu, the amaretto parfait which came with an apricot clafoutis instead of one giant parfait covered with almond pralines. Fine with me. I thought the Gaytime Lite was pretty good – it achieved the right combination of tartness, sourness and sweetness with only the slightest hint of curry showing up in the apricot sauce. I thought the random sprinkles of quinoa was an odd addition and would have preferred pralines instead though.
And that was Lake House. We were extremely full after our meal, so much so that I probably wouldn’t be able to fit a chocolate fudge in my mouth. As we went for another stroll around the lake to burn off those calories, the two of us could not stop talking about the meal. And how fantastic it was. And how it was worth the money. And how it was worth the drive. And how it was worth being stuck in the car with Kevin the Kiwi (and in Adam’s case, also a whiny Libby) for 1.5 hours both ways. And how it was worth being stuck on a table next to a bunch of brats from Jakarta who kept complaining about how ‘small’ the portions (uh, they weren’t?). And how attentive, friendly and knowledgeable our waiter was – it was a shame we didn’t get his name. Best country-diner for a number of consecutive years? I can see why. Although you will not find a hunky Keanu Reeves in this Lake House, you will find some of the best food in the state if not the country. And lots of ducks.