I think a lot of my very good friends in life have really come out from the unexpected places (and often online). I don’t seem to strongly connect with work colleagues, or friends of friends and haven’t really stayed in touch with many school or uni friends over the years. You know the usual places you would expect to meet and get to know people.
Instead, from the girl who messaged me on Twitter, because I visited the cafe she works at, who I now see at least once a year when she’s back from London for a meal, to the guys who I spent much of my awkward teenage years playing video games with and travelling to New York with...I find my closest and dearest friends in the most unexpected places.
Take these guys; Adrian, Winston and I obviously met through food blogging, but somehow found we all had a common interest (other than food) that we built a very close knit friendship around. I’ve always said if I can enjoy being in someone’s company for well over 3 hours…we’re really good friends, and these guys have ticked that requirement time and time again over all night or all afternoon tv show marathons.
So it only seemed natural that for the boy’s birthdays in February, we’d have a joint celebration at The Lake House in Daylesford, naturally karaoke-ing up the whole way and back in a mini-road trip together.
Nestled in a quiet corner of Daylesford, The Lake House setting is just stunning. Before going into the restaurant itself, we swanned around on the deck/patio overlooking the lake. It’s a stunning set up with lounge chairs, benches and plenty of greenery and trees.
Going inside the restaurant doesn’t disappoint either, with lush, but bright and comfortable furnishings; like the most beautiful holiday home you’ve ever come across. A lovely mix of this and that, but with a definite distinctive style.
Although I would normally always start a long lunch with a glass of wine, while perusing the cocktails and cocktails, the Lake House’s version of a non-alcoholic iced tea with Earl Grey tea and all things bright and citrus just looked to good to turn down and is the perfect way to start lunch, refreshing, fruity rather than sweet but also full bodied; particularly on this warm and humid summery day we visited on.
Although the tasting menu is on offer for lunch at The Lake House, the boys and I opt instead to go down the ala-carte option, each choosing a dish from the entree, main and dessert sections of the menu (we skip out on the cheese course).
As we ponder over the beautiful ‘place-setting’ plates and whether we actually eat off them or not (we soon discover not), with artwork from the family painted on to each plate, the most gorgeous loaf of sourdough, baked fresh on site daily, with Powlett Hill biodynamic spelt flour, is popped down in front of us.
I can’t stop cooing over how it looks like a dumpling, and we all simply adore the warm, dense yet fluffy crusty bread. I loved the nuttiness in the flavour of the bread, and we all couldn’t resist going back for another wedge of bread each, making sure to generously slather it with butter each time of course!
Our entrees arrived, looking like beautiful pieces of artwork - almost too pretty eat!
I absolutely adored how delicate and light the ‘From Local Waterways’ entree was plated, with Murray cod, trout, smoked eel, yabbies, fennel and watercress, with a bit of fish jelly and crispy fish skin. For a dish with so many proteins and flavours, it all came together beautifully - the eel is soft and light yet fattily delicious, the yabbies compact but brightly sweet, the trout even sweeter, and fresh herbs just brightening up the whole dish. So stunning.
The carpaccio of kingfish, spanner crab, lime, mint, fried jalapeño and green gazpacho, for being another seafood dish has a completely different palate, which I love. It’s much brighter, zestier and lighter in the mouth, whereas the ‘From Local Waterways’ although also light, has a richer, earthier feel to it. I swoon as the tender, cool and immensely sweet spanner crab finds it’s way into my mouth and the crunchy textures throughout are very welcome.
The Sher wagyu breasaola and tartare, with house pickles and a little quail egg takes the richness level to another level, each slice of wagyu gently edged with a sliver of fat and cut so finely it melted into the mouth. Got to love the capers to cut through the richness too.
A bit of red wine and it was on to the mains, I opted for a single dish, whereas the boys couldn’t resist sharing a dish designed for two to share.
My roasted ballotine of free range duck with parfait, coffee roasted carrots, black barley, almonds, carrot top pesto and elderberry was another immaculately presented dish, proving that main dishes can be as pretty and delicate as entrees!
The duck was simply some of the best I’ve had in a long time, so juicy and tender. I’m going to use this description a lot, but it really did just melt in the mouth. The little cigar with parfait wrapped up inside was also gorgeously aromatic and luscious. Although I shared everything on my plate with the boys…that was just the one thing I couldn’t. Hehe.
The boys shared the Flinder’s Islane rump of saltgrass lamb, coucous, currants, eggplant, green beans and dukkah. Although it’s said to be shared between two, you really could feed three people with it quite comfortably! It’s a real spread, with perfectly pink lamb, succulent and juicy, served up with all sorts of sides. It’s the kind of dish you’d expect that culinary whiz in the friendship group to whip up when you go over to theirs for dinner. A dish that looks effortless, but you know it definitely isn’t. I loved the generous strip of fat left on the top of the lamb as well, so much flavour.
The veggies are definitely not an afterthought either, the beans are crunchy and so fresh and the pickles are tart but not overly so.
Anyone who says you never need a side of potatoes is lying (and are not your real friends). The triple cooked Royal Blue potatoes with rosemary and garlic are as promised, golden and crunchy gems. Being the perfect size to pop into your mouth, you absolutely cannot resist going back for more. I dare you to try otherwise.
Somehow after all that, there’s still space for dessert (albeit with an extended digestion break with some lemongrass and ginger tea to help the process along).
We shared ‘The Summer Ramble’ with buttermilk, honey, elderflower, berries, ‘bark’ and basil, a peanut butter, black sesame, caramel and banana dessert and finally a mysterious dish just called ‘The Apple’.
‘The Summer Ramble’ was a last hoorah to the warm summery weather Melbourne had been enjoying, a lovely harmony of textures from fluffy basil cake, creamy honey ice-cream (I think), crunchy honeycomb and juicy blueberries all coming together. It was a party with all sorts. Although a ‘summer’ dish, it was much earthier than I had expected; I particularly enjoyed the plump blueberries here!
The peanut butter, black sesame, caramel and banana dessert was stunning as well, with crunchy sesame praline and totally lush caramelised bananas. I found the peanut butter flavour a little weak, but otherwise totally enjoyed this dish - would have liked more of the bananas though, highlight of the dish for me for sure!
Lastly, our mysterious ‘The Apple’. A white chocolate sphere appeared on our table, sitting on a bed of green apple granita. The shell was so thin, breaking away instantly with not much force, to reveal a delightful mousse inside. I won’t give away much more, but this was my favourite dessert of the three, smooth, elegant, light and unexpected. There was definitely a fun element with this dessert for me.
We finally finished on a little frozen lemon curd wrapped in soft meringue, which is exactly what you want to finish your meal on. A perfectly sweet but vibrantly citrus finish.
The Lake House was easily one of the best meals I’ve had in a while, with so much casual dining in the market at the moment, I had briefly forgotten what fine dining (that’s still more relaxed than pretentious) had to offer, in both creativity, flavours and atmosphere as well. We were well waited on the whole meal, despite our obnoxious photo taking and perhaps slightly too enthusiastic conversations on occasion. I do enjoy a good laugh, what can I say?
Whether you need a restaurant for a special occasion, or even just want an excuse to get a little decked out and get out of town for an afternoon, the Lake House is a perfect destination to spend a good half a day at.
4 King Street