All images credit the Lake House
For the epicurean, nirvana is the delectable meal that surprises the senses with sight, smell, sound and ultimately the mouth as we slowly savor each morsel. The masters of the culinary world, who can create such a meal, have become this generation’s mortal gods; revered for their ability to find new ways to please the most discriminating palate. Today’s culinary trailblazers have become rock stars with names like Marco Pierre White, Heston Blumenthal, Alain Ducasse, or, when they were with us, Joël Robuchon and the irreverent food traveler, Anthony Bordain. Down under is a land of incredible culinary talents in their own right with their clutch of rock star-level culinary geniuses. One of their most revered masters has been at the helm of the Australian haute culinary scene delighting palates for over 35 years. She is Chef Alla Wolf-Tasker who welcomes guests to her icon of the Australian gastronomy and boutique hotel, The Lake House Daylesford.
The Lake House is located in the charming Victorian era town of Daylesford and about an hour and a half’s drive from Melbourne. The quaint town has maintained its gold rush period architecture and is replete with art galleries, antique shops, cafés and pubs, and tony boutiques. The greater Daylesford area is renowned for its mineral springs which have been a place of healing for over 100 years. Its crown jewel is the pristine Daylesford Lake surrounded by parks, walking trails, and gorgeous scenery.
The Michelin Guide, at its foundation, is about identifying restaurants worthy of travel and answers the question, what dining experience is worthy of a weekend road trip. Although the Michelin Guide does not exist in Australia, the level of cuisine certainly does. For Melbournians, one name that would rise to the top of that list of road trip worthy restaurants would be the Lake House. The lakeside setting, boutique hotel, and dining experience are akin to a dream where Martha Stewart invited you to her house in the Hamptons a dinner party and stay over the weekend. But this is a real-life experience where Chef Alla Wolf-Tasker hosts guests to come for the weekend, eat well, sleep well, and enjoy the natural beauty of the lake.
Over the years as visitors would make the oh so worthy 90-minute trek from Melbourne, so Chef Alla Wolf-Tasker and her artist husband Allan decided to build a boutique hotel where guests could stay over. The 35 tony accommodations have been painstakingly created to match the Michelin level of the cuisine with a perfectionists eye for the details in the décor, finest craftsmanship as well as the endearing warm service from the staff.
The Lake House sits on six acres of lakeshore land with meticulously kept country gardens, flowerbeds bursting with color and fragrance, babbling brooks and outdoor sculptures by renowned local artists. The Lake House is also ideal for bird lovers with the ubiquitous birdsong and sightings of kookaburra, rosellas, parrots, and kingfishers. The backdrop is Lake Daylesford and around the property are wide open terraces and patios with inviting lounge chairs to appreciate its beauty through panoramic vistas.
Visionaries are people who see opportunities when others do not. 50 years ago, a Russian immigrant family from Melbourne, with a precocious young daughter, would vacation at Daylesford Lake. After years working at the top Michelin star restaurants in Europe, that girl, now a woman came back to the place where she vacationed as a youth and saw that she could make a refuge of world-class dining where Melbournians would trek there to dine; if the culinary experience was worth the trip. Well that vision came to pass and, as a result, the Lake House has become renowned as one of the top dining experiences in Australia.
For over 30 years, The Lake House has been Melbourne’s gastronomic getaway and with good reason. Its well-deserved reputation has been built, plate by plate, with world-class cuisine by chef and now culinary director Alla Wolf-Tasker. Every day the Lake House presents a celebration of haute Australian cuisine with hordes of loyal foodie fans and a bevy of awards and accolades to boot.
Dining at the Lake House is infinitesimally more than a meal for mere sustenance. It is an evening that typically begins with an apertivo in the library with other guests or on the terrace adjacent to the restaurant overlooking the lake. The restaurant is light and airy with a razor-sharp team of waiters who are more like culinary concierges able to walk guests through the finest details of the menu. The sommelier is adept as well and able to perfectly pair the wines from the 13,000 references in their extensive wine cellar.
What Chef Alla Wolf-Tasker has learned over the years is to begin the meal with a good foundation. And for her that is the ingredients that she uses. She painstakingly chooses each ingredient, not only for the taste, but for its provenance carefully choosing the small local organic producers that she works with. Her suppliers provide rare breed pork, grass fed beef, freshwater fish, indigenous meats, fowl, and daily delivery of just-farm-picked vegetables; many of which she grows on her own a 38-acre sustainable farm, orchard and olive grove.
Many guests will dine a la carte from the menu which changes twice per year to reflect the changes in season and fresh ingredients available. For an immersive gastronomic excursion, the eight-course degustation menu is a must. Over the course of the evening the carefully conceived menu, with both omnivore and vegetarian options, ebbs, flows and crescendos with each serving. The presentation is nothing less than edible art and ready for the pages of Alla Wolf-Tasker next gourmet coffee table cookbook. The artistic and innovative meal is an exploration into the best of Australian cuisine to long be remembered after the final fork has been placed on the plate.
For the epicurean, there’s nothing better than haute cuisine paired with fine wines in a beautiful setting. The same goes for the discerning traveler in search of an ideal weekend getaway. The Lake House is the quintessential country house where guests feel like an old friend instead of just another room key. Each detail of the décor, the polished service, the experiences are carefully chosen just as Alla Wolf-Tasker picks her ingredients for her next haute culinary creation. From the beautiful fresh cut flowers, the coffee table books in the library, or the choice of bespoke toiletries in the guest room, nothing is happenstance; the most minute of details are carefully considered and chosen with the most discriminating guest in mind.
Around the property, guest will vacillate between taking in the beauty of the outdoors with the treasures to be found within. The art collection is magnificent from the gorgeous paintings and sculptures to the curios and objects d’ art requiring one to stop and admire. Elsewhere there is an inviting infinity-edge pool overlooking made for languishing in the warmer months as well tennis court to work off some of those recently added calories.
The accommodations are divine in every way as well with a Marth Stewart-Esque décor, colorful print fabrics, original artworks, bespoke ceramic accents, and fine furnishings. Bathrooms are lavish as well, awash with marble, heated floors, and a deep soaking tub. Accommodations are all spacious yet vary in size from studio suites to retreat with several bedrooms, fireplace, a European garden with sunken hot tub and private entrance.
The Lakeside Suites are an excellent choice for romantic couples with spacious interiors, dining table for two, and a double spa bath. The suite is flooded with natural light from the sliding glass door. Beyond is the wide-open furnished veranda with views of the lake. The lake is mesmerizing any time of day and in any season with an eerie mist in the morning or, as the sun rises and sets, shining color-chrome bursts of oranges, reds, and purples.
The Lake House is designed to be the ultimate countryside pampering retreat. The state-of-the-art Salus Spa provides hotel guests with a wide range of European treatments by their well-trained therapists. Facilities include nine treatment rooms, steam rooms, a Hydro storm shower and an indulgent relaxation room. For the next level of pampering, guests lavish in one of their two private treehouse huts with a deep-soaking Swedish tub filled with skin-nourishing mineral water sourced from the nearby springs.
Just beyond your room is Lake Daylesford, offering tree lined walking tracks where you can walk for a few minutes or take hours long treks in the nearby Wombat State Forest. There are plenty of unique areas to visit as well including the mineral springs for which the area is known, or you can take a kayak or canoe to paddle around the lake. All around is a natural setting of vibrant wildflowers, all types of fowl with gaggles of geese to quacking ducks. The lake and its surroundings are a bird watcher’s paradise with cooing kookaburras, corellas, cockatoos and many other indigenous species.
A short distance away is the gold rush era old town of Daylesford with the turn of the century gothic churches, plenty of shops and boutiques, and galleries and artist studios to explore. Worthly of your visit is the historic Wombat Hill Botanical Gardens to appreciate the exotic as well as the indigenous heritage-listed trees and bed after bed of beautiful fragrant flowers. After you’ve built up your appetite strolling around the gardens, stop by the Wombat Hill House which is a chic coffee house and eatery with delicious homemade specialties and fresh and hearty casual dishes. The meals are scrumptious, partly because this is the sister restaurant and under the management of the Lake House.
The story of the Lake House is the story of Australia itself. An ingenuitive immigrant comes to its shores, puts down roots and adds to the fabric of the country with her talents and gifts. It’s a beautiful story and a place to experience it in person is at the Lake House Daylesford.