Alla Wolf-Tasker's Lake House is undoubtedly one of Australia's most renowned country restaurants. It's a long drive from home for me, but every so often I'll make the effort to have a meal there. My recommendation for a brilliant day out is to start with a good relaxing soak at the nearby Hepburn Springs spas, followed by a late lunch here at the Lake House - which is exactly what my friend and our mums recently did. Call it a girls' day out!
The dining room itself is gorgeous, decked out in lush white and purple fittings and overlooking Lake Daylesford. The occasional kookaburra pays a visit to the white verandah outside. It is pure zen gourmet indulgence...
Lake House's menu changes very regularly, approximately every half-season, to keep absolutely in line with seasonal ingredients. My latest trip last September coincided with the transition from winter into spring, and ingredients such as truffles, pumpkin, asparagus, beets and pear were being showcased in the dishes accordingly. For the meateaters, there was beef, duck, pork and also seafood options.
Our whole party took the the three-course lunch for $99 per person, but diners can also choose a two-course or a multi-course tasting menu option. Whichever you choose, the Lake House has deliberately kept the menu appealing to a wide range of taste buds, from vegetarians to seafood-lovers to those who like the "heavier" meats.
My first course was a "slow 63° egg, soft polenta, mushrooms, curd, smoked mushroom consommé and porcini pangrattata". Call me biased - I love eggs - but this dish was amazing. The silky, quieter flavours of the egg provided the perfect partner to the strong flavours and texture of the other ingredients.
Second course consisted of this contrasting yet curiously complementary duo of a tart of Comté and late season pumpkin, truffle, winter vegetables and picked walnuts, together with an "aromatic grain pilaf". I tackled this task by alternating between the two, which allowed the slightly nutty-tasting pilaf to really highlight the multilayered flavours of the tart dish. Beautifully earthy food.
For dessert, I was treated to a new-age, fine-dining take on the beloved "violet crumble": chocolate, winter violets and honeycomb. This dish was our table's pick of the day, with its cheeky nod to childhood memories and that beautiful, unique violet ice cream - what a pity it was so tiny! I also sampled some of my mum's red wine pear, gingerbread pain perdu and crème cassonade. Again, this was so beautifully done with brilliant flavour interaction, and I felt that the serving size was better than our violet crumble.
Down-to-earth yet innovative food often using unusual ingredients, presented immaculately and served in an elegant and luxurious dining room, I think the Lake House is a must for any fine dining fiends whether you're vegetarian or omnivorous. I do feel that the portion sizes are slightly too small and I left feeling not entirely full despite paying nearly $100 for a three-course meal. However, the quality of my meal and the service were unquestionable, and I applaud the Lake House for managing to fully harness what nature serves up for their kitchen, yet at the same time cater to every kind of diner every season, no exceptions. And although we weren't able to have any wine that day, I do know for a fact the wine list is extensive and well-curated. So go on, make the trek to Daylesford...you won't regret it.
Vegetarian Friendliness: 9/10
Vegetarian Friendliness: 9/10
Price Range: $$$$
The Lake House
King St, Daylesford
(Ph): 5348 3329
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