The Lake House is a hotel which is located in regional Victoria within Daylesford, a town renowned for its natural mineral springs, pristine lakes, wineries, and, most importantly, foodie culture.
The hotel’s restaurant is highly acclaimed. In Australia “chef’s hats” are awarded to restaurants by the The Age Good Food Guide, and they’re kind of a big deal. The Lake House restaurant boasts two chef’s hats.
Frankly, I’ve wondered what precisely makes a restaurant deserving of a “chef’s hat” award because I have found many “chef’s hat” restaurants to be pretty ordinary. The Lake House restaurant, however, fully deserves to be put on a pedestal. Its food is delicious, creative, well thought-out, fresh, and, locally sourced. The restaurant’s sommelier knows what he or she is doing, and the wine paired with each dish elevated the experience.
The food at the Lake House restaurant tells a story about local farms and produce; getting full is only the end of that incredibly delicious and entertaining story.
We recently enjoyed the Lake House restaurant’s 8 course tasting menu (or “degustation”, for the fancy pants). The cost was $165 per person, plus $85 for paired wine with each course.
The first course was what the menu described as a kangaroo “sausage roll”, but it tasted more like a spring roll with its thin and flaky crispy pastry which encased the tender gamy kangaroo meat. The mountain pepper gave the course a nice spicy kick and “heat”, and the apple jelly cut through its heavier gamy and spicy flavours. Kangaroo never tasted so bloody good.
The second course was scallop from Port Phillip Bay, which is a bay in Victoria (Australia) which I was born near and which I have lived alongside all my life. The scallops were served uncooked as sashimi with charred onion, mojama and dashi. Then, a pork broth was poured over the scallop (see below video). The pork broth was salty and bursting with flavour. I literally wiped my plate clean with the bread that was provided. Nonno would be proud.
The third course was creatively crafted tempura made with Lake’s Entrance bugs. My Dad took me fishing at Lake’s Entrance when I was a kid and I caught a snapper which my grandma later cooked that evening. No bugs found their way onto the end of my fishing line, but I finally got to taste Lake’s Entrance bugs a couple of decades later at the Lake House. This course followed on from the Japanese style of the second course. The bug meat, which reminds me of a cross between lobster and crab, was coated in a fluffy tempura batter that crunched with each bite. Sensational.
The fourth course was Smoked Skipton Eel. So deliciously smoky, this dish made me crave a peated single malt. The beetroot and mustard creme fraiche on the plate seemed to work like great palate cleansers, and they helped to tame the big smoky eel flavours. I have to say that the Lake House made great tasting eel – it was really fresh and clean, without the overpowering fishy eel skin taste I got in some unagi (eel) dishes at a selection of Japanese restaurants. I’ve had home-made eel after catching it fresh from a river, and it was almost inedible. I think the way eel is prepared either makes or breaks it, and the Lake House did a stellar job preparing this eel. They nailed it!
The fifth course was Milking Yard Farm Chicken (not pictured). It was probably my least favourite course in the entire tasting menu because the cut of chicken had all those chewy bits of (presumably) gristle that I had to somehow figure out how to spit into my napkin without anyone seeing. I still ate it, though – it was tasty chicken.
The sixth course was Gippsland Pure Rose Veal. The veal was lean and firm, and all the flavours on the plate worked impeccably well together; who knew bread and butter pudding would go so well with veal?? It seemed a tad dry and it wasn’t the most succulent veal I’ve ever had, but I still cleaned the plate.
Next was the “intermission” – roasted mashmallows on a stick with some kind of lemon citrus frozen curd or yogurt. It was served with a fresh plant of rosemary, which I wasn’t sure you were supposed to eat but I ate some of the rosemary leaves anyway. Presumably this would be course seven, but I’m not sure it should really be counted as a “course”.
Finally, course eight was dessert! It was fresh, light, and not too rich; perfect after such a big meal. We skipped coffee and tea, and were ready to roll out of the place.
Overall, The Lake House restaurant’s tasting menu was an enjoyable four hour immersion into the glorious world of local produce and wine from around the globe. It may have lasted several hours, but it felt like 30 minutes – as the old adage goes, time flies when you’re having fun! After dinner we were full, happy and a little drunk. We stumbled back to the Lake House’s Sutton Suite and then snuggled up under an Alpaca throw blanket during an unusually cold “summer” night.
I think we’ll be spending every anniversary at the Lake House from now on…