If you decide to splash out on Daylesford's ultra fine diner, Lake House, we have two recommendations. Firstly, arrive early. Not that the gracious host won't seat you if you're late, or that anyone will lay the guilt on you for arriving on time. The staff here wear hospitality like a second skin, and you will feel comfortable and perfectly well cared for throughout your visit, no matter what time it is. You should arrive early so you can take a seat in the comfortable Cape Cod-style library bar and enjoy a drink – perhaps a glass of bubbles made especially for the restaurant, whose label sports the art of Allan Wolf-Tasker, husband of culinary tour de force Alla Wolf-Tasker and co-proprietor of Lake House. You should do this because it is pleasant to relax in the sun-drenched room drinking extremely good wine in a comfortable chair and imagine yourself to be Brooke Astor, or Gloria Vanderbilt, or some sort of fabulously rich and glamorous person.
Our second recommendation is that you leave plenty of time. This is not a quick stop for lunch or a bite of dinner, it is a multi-hour masterclass in turning the best ingredients into even better meals. You will need at least three hours to fully experience a meal here, so don't plan anything for afterwards.
And just what is it that takes all that time? Savouring the absolute finest things in life, that's what. The multi-course menu changes all the time, depending on what is in season and what nearby Dairy Flat Farm, owned by the Wolf-Taskers and part of the Lake House mini-empire, is growing at the time. Everything is fresh and treated with the utmost respect, with a vegetable-forward menu that heroes local produce but is the opposite of ascetic. Every course offers a meat and/or fish option in addition to a vegetarian dish. No matter what you choose you are guaranteed premium ingredients, cooked with precision and creativity. Alla Wolf-Tasker is Lake House's culinary director, and she ensures every dish sings with textural contrast and complementary flavours.
On our visit, we opted for the Fraser Island spanner crab served with Dairy Flat Farm's cucumbers, yoghurt and kimizu (egg and vinegar dressing) as a starter. The zing of the dressing and yoghurt provided flavour contrast with the spheres of creamy crab, while the cucumber added the necessary crunch. For the second course, we chose a Lake House standby: beef tartare, served with kimchi (made in-house during lockdown), radishes, cured egg yolk and the very modern addition of puffed beef tendon. Through the magic of gastronomy, the tendon is transformed into an airy, crisp cracker, the perfect vehicle for conveying slippery pearls of beautifully marbled beef into your mouth.
Desserts are just as innovative (the ashed brie on French toast with candied walnuts and honey is a little slice of ooey, gooey, creamy heaven), but don't think you're finished just because you've had four courses of innovative delight. After dessert comes the 'sweet indulgences' course, one-bite housemade sweets that pair perfectly with the St Ali coffee or various teas on offer. On our visit we chose the housemade salted caramel, housemade mini 'Oreo' and housemade elderflower jelly, but there is absolutely nothing stopping you from trying everything on offer. And we're pretty sure that none of the eternally gracious staff would stop you from having seconds, either. So take your time.
*Cassidy Knowlton dined as a guest of Daylesford Macedon Tourism