If you have the cash to splash and you want the best of the best, there is one restaurant you must visit: Lake House, perched on the titular body of water. 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.
For a breakfast of champions, Cliffy's Emporium is very popular with locals, and for good reason. The small café does all the breakfast favourites, often with a vegan twist. Cliffy Hauser's original 1950s general store is now a providore, offering local produce, smallgoods, the region's justly famous mineral water, preserves and specialty groceries.
Opened just before lockdown hit in 2020, Beppe Kitchen and Bar had to find its feet quickly, slinging takeaway housemade wood-fired pizzas to hungry Daylesford residents through a window out the back. Those pizzas are now available in the light-filled multi-zone restaurant, along with housemade pasta and a smattering of other Italian dishes. Local artist Kim Barter has painted portraits of Swiss-Italian migrants to the region, and these adorn the walls throughout the venue. Gluten-free pizza bases are available for those who need them. The venue is packed out most nights, and it's easy to see why.
For a truly stress-busting brunch, follow the smell of lavender to La Trattoria at Lavandula; the café located on a lavender farm where seasonal produce is king. Make sure you tuck into the grazing platter; a feast of cheeses, olives, onion bread and meat.
On a Sunday afternoon, you’ll find young families, couples and friends sinking into cushy fireside chairs at the Daylesford Royal Hotel. The building, built in 1856, has recently been restored to its former glory, and offers a formidable range of locally made wine and beer as well as classic pub meals done very well.
Thirsty? Make sure you stop into Daylesford Cider, which makes traditional and not-so-traditional cider onsite from the onsite heritage apples. Owners Mackie and Clare are serious about cider, and they make numerous drops in both sparkling and still varieties. Many are traditional English ciders made using traditional methods, but there are also a few that are just for fun. Paddles are the most popular way to taste all the ciders on offer at the venue, which is also dog-friendly.
We can’t (and won’t) stop raving about Radio Springs Hotel. Don't resist the pull of sipping whisky in the bric-a-brac-filled dining room, and if you’re here on a Thursday, the kitchen takes a break from serving impressive pub fare and invites a Thai chef to create a feast.
On your way to or from Daylesford, make sure you stop at the very nondescript-looking Great Western Hotel in Ballan. What looks from the outside like a soulless corporate motel is on the inside a groovy 1970s pad straight out of your Mad Men dreams. Every room is different (wood panelling with gold accents, Astroturf floor with jungle-print chairs), and there is a lot of very cool, retro art on the walls. But it's what is on the menu that will really excite: get ready for updated versions of '70s classics like vol-au-vents, prawn cocktail and cob loaf. The prawn cocktail is a particular marvel, an oversized Martini glass filled to the brim with tiny school prawns, with large versions overhanging the glass. Make sure you save room for dessert – no chia-yoghurt nonsense here, but utterly craveable desserts like crepes Suzette and banana split. The cocktail list is of the era, too, with throwbacks like a Fluffy Duck and a Grasshopper on the menu, alongside more modern classics. How many people order the Grasshopper, I asked our server. "Not enough," was the response. "It's the best one!"