The Lakehouse in Daylesford is consistently voted one of the top luxury hotels
in regional Victoria. The attached restaurant also has a long list of accolades
in its own right, often taking out the Good Food Guide's country restaurant of
the year, complete with two chef's hats. And it deserves the praise it gets.
This was the first time that Sarah and I had been here for dinner after several
lunches in Daylesford for various celebrations over the years, all of which have
been outstanding. Dinner on a Saturday night at The Lakehouse will set you back
$95 for a mandatory three courses, but you get your choice from the full menu.
It seemed odd, but they at least let us know about this when we booked, and I
understand why they would do it when I assume they consistently book out.
The dining space is fairly large, spanning a few levels, with large windows
on all sides giving the room a lot of light and space (at least during the
day). I'm not sure that the Lakehouse hasn't made the best use of its
location because you can't actually see much from the restaurant, but to be
fair it's the luxury suites that get all the best views of the lake. They make
up for a lack of a view mostly through the artwork of Allen Wolf-Tasker (husband
of Alla, the driving force behind The Lakehouse).
The menu focuses strongly on seasonal produce sourced from the region, with the
wine list also reflecting an emphasis on the local area. We had actually visited
Eastern Peake winery earlier in the day and had been informed by the winemaker
that The Lakehouse wine list included a bottle of his 1997 Pinot Noir and he
recommended it highly. After a bottle of Giaconda Chardonnay over entrees, we
splurged the $145 for the Eastern Peake '97, you only live once.
After an amuse bouche of local olives and salmon came a very meaty entree. I had
decided that the evening's charcuterie plate was in order. And boy was I glad I
had. "Nose to Tail pork" consisted of pork rillettes; terrine with apple chutney;
black pudding and crispy pigs ear salad; trotter gallette, celeriac remoulade,
sauce gribiche, and picked winter vegetables. Everything on this plate was bursting
with flavour, the accompanying textures sublime. Why have pork one way when you can
have it five?
Main (naturally paired with the Pinot) was duck in two parts. First arrived the
tiniest cassoulet I'd ever seen. When I cooked a cassoulet it was enough to feed
about 10 people. Three times a day. For a week. This, by contrast, was a simple
morsel of duck served in a miniature soup terrine. The second part was a perfectly
cooked roast duck breast with sauce 'Arabe' with winter veggies. Delicious, but more interesting
was the venison with chocolate chilli jus and game parfait 'cigar' which Sarah ordered, the
venison very slightly overdone, but the chocolate chilli sauce a perfect match for the game.
Dessert was an equally rich experience, and we were all very happy with our respective choices.
Unfortunately as the evening wore on the service, which was initially excellent, had started
to slip. This may have been due to Alla Wolf-Tasker herself dining in the room
that evening with a group of 10 or so others, we believe that table was getting the bulk
of the attention of the wait staff*. It's a shame that this left us slightly grumpy by the
time we got the bill and left, from previous visits we think the restaurant deserves better.
Service issues aside, the Lakehouse was as hard to fault this time as it has been
previously. Everything they do, they do well. I'd imagine this will continue to be
one of regional Victoria's top restaurants for many years to come.
EDIT As comments pan out below, this was a case of mistaken identity. Alla was not in-fact dining in the restaurant this evening.
Giaconda Chardonnay, 97 Eastern Peake Pinot Noir