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An Edible Guide to Daylesford, Victoria

Submitted by Adrian on May 1, 2011 – 11:35 am20 Comments

The last time I visited Daylesford during my taste bud travels, I had the absolute PORKIN pleasure of dining at The Lake House and eating myself to literally close to death at The Chocolate Mill. When you come to Daylesford, a visit to the Lake House is a must do. Check out their Express Lunch menu which is great value. This time round though, my addiction to food became more apparent when I had literally persuaded my friends to dine at the same restaurant 3 times over the two days. Keep reading, and you’ll see why. Hopefully, my reasons were valid despite being somewhat crazy! But to my credit, it was my birthday trip so…yeah.

Fist off the rank was some needed R & R. After year of sweat and toil not too mention the many challenging and stressful times, we headed to the historic Hepburn Mineral Spas. I seriously think this place is the ill nana.

R & R babay!

Hepburn Mineral Spas

There are two types of entry- general admission to the Bathhouse or or what I refer to as deluxe (The Sanctuary) which gives you access to spa couches, salt therapy pools amongst other indulgent things of that nature. I’ve tried their deluxe packagebut the Bathhouse is still an amazing way to experience the soothing mineral waters. With nature as the main show seen through the floor to ceiling windows and meditation music playing in the background –  you seriously can kick that tension to the curb like Beckham.

By the time our hands and feet had formed crinkles that resembled the shape of cathedrals, it was time to check in to our accommodation but not before we too a lovely stroll around the fertile gardens that surround the joint. Hepburn Mineral Spa is just 3 kilometres from Daylesford.

Hepburn Mineral Spa gardens

Hepburn Mineral Spa gardens

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Hepburn Mineral Spa exterior

Where to sleep?

I chose Double Nut Chalets as I decided to bring along Cookie (my Beale) and Creamy the cat, so being pet friendly was a number one priority.  But what I liked most about the chalet was its close proximity to the main shops, it has that cosy country style fit out with a totally cute and kitschy design and of course the cherry on the top- a double spa bath homeboy! My jaw dropped to the floor. Surprisingly though, I did manage to shortlist quite a number of pet friendly holiday houses which was great to see. Most of my friends now own a pet.

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Double Nut Chalets

Double Nut Chalets gadrens

Double Nut Chalets gadrens

Inside Double Nut Chalets

Inside Double Nut Chalets

Double Nut Chalets Bridge

Here comes the food…

Planning dinner was too easy. Perfect Drop is conveniently located right next door to Double Nut Chalets, so we arrived within 2 minutes. The other added bonus being so close was that there was no need to drive which meant we got to drink like sailors! The cottage turned restaurant is fitted with all the trimmings that make a happy home – a fireplace, wooden floors and homestyle hospitality. I really felt like like I was treated like a welcomed guest in someone’s cosy home.

Details: 5 Howe Street Daylesford Phone: (03) 5348 3373

Perfect Drop Daylesford interior

Perfect Drop Daylesford interior

It’s interesting to note that the menu changes almost weekly.

The main concept is fresh and where possible, organic produce- so all items depend on what Chef Andrew Dennis can source locally. Does anyone else think that this is so abso-freakin-lutely incredible?! It certainly keeps the front of house staff on their toes having to describe a menu that is so ever changing. But of course, for us patrons, it keeps us begging for more.

watermelon and rose granita

watermelon and rose granita

The Watermelon Rose Granita made fresh, was so refreshing. It tasted like a chilled Turkish delight and served as a much needed cooler to the summers day.

Anchovies with quail egg at Perfect Drop

Anchovies with quail egg at Perfect Drop

White anchovies, boiled quail egg on toast, micro herbs- this was a god send and reminds me of  delicious canapes at cocktail parties that you just want for yourself. I’m not a huge fan of anchovies, but considering the amazing ones I’ve had in Daylesford so far (Lake House), I had faith that this dish would knock out the buds (taste buds) in me. And that it did. I’ve never had quail egg done easy before- I’d usually hard boil these. I happily watched as the yolk glazed the crisp bread and fresh anchovy. You could really taste the freshness and absolute quality in the dish and was a refreshing touch with the sprig of herbs. I quite like the fact they are surrounded by an abundance of local produce literally just down the road.

Watermelon and Fetta Salad at Perfect Drop

Watermelon and Fetta Salad at Perfect Drop

Watermelon and Fetta Salad – a perfect way to refresh the palate throughout the meal and a cool quencher to douse the summer heat. I might actually add fetta and watermelon to my summer salads because it went together so well. Heck, I’ll be infusing watermelon into everything this summer- think vodka cocktails my friends. Vodka.

Saganaki, grilled asparagus, medjool date, herb salad and lemon- another winner. TIP: the key with Saganaki is to eat it right away before it becomes chewy for those who don’t know.

Cinnamon and sugar cured grilled duck breast. It came with a zesty combination of roasted nectarines, cabbage, walnut and blood orange salad. I bet you’re thinking if I had chosen this dish because it’s cured with Cinnamon and sugar. To answer that burning question…yes I did. You know me, I have an extreme sweet tooth and go weak for main dishes that combine sweet, sour and salty. Plus I had Homer moments thinking of doughnuts. I’d even go to the lengths of adding sugar to my Curry Laksa if that gives you an idea. The duck was free range and sourced from Spa Venison nearby.

Cinnamon and sugar cured duck

Cinnamon and sugar cured duck

The fat duck was cooked on point, nicely pick, tender and had that crispy skin we all die for. It was like that perfect Wagyu steak- so tender it just melts in your mouth.

Being true to its current season, the accompanying roasted nectarines introduced this dish to summer  ensuring each piece is as deliciously juicy.

Perfect Drop Daylesford

Today, the fish of the day was a King Salmon. Beautifully seared with a slight tinge of rareness and that delicate crisp skin accompanying a sweet late harvest Harcourt Riesling. The tomato and herb salad looked like freakin bling and came with crunchy bits of baked pita bread that made the dish so enjoyable to eat as I scooped up all the tanginess and wonderful juiciness that accompanied each bite. I was going back and forth between the steak and the fish. Very typical of me.

harcourt riesling

Porterhouse Steak (locally sourced from Stony Rises in Smeaton) – unfortunately, my friends banned me from using my camera on the 3rd visit so I don’t have an image of this beautifully done steak.  Damn them…Anyways, it came perfectly medium rare and sliced up ready for sharing. I loved the charred exterior. Eating this steak reminded me of that infamous scene in the Matrix which always seems to stir the carnivore in me.

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“You know, I know this steak doesn’t exist. I know that when I put it in my mouth, the Matrix is telling my brain that it is juicy and delicious. After nine years, you know what I realize” Ignorance is bliss. Matrix

Perfect Drop Exterior

Perfect Drop Exterior

Going by the above, I hope that you can understand why I went back 3 times! It was also a pleasure meeting Owner Devon Taylor. The staff were friendly and knew the menu items and the ingredients used back to front not too mention a perfect recommendation of the amazing Harcourt Riesling.

I wonder if they have a loyalty card?

Perfect Drop? Do it.

Details: 5 Howe Street Daylesford Phone: (03) 5348 3373

More Food

Another gastronomic delight you should definitely try is the uber gastro pub, Farmers Arms.

Details: 1 East Street, Daylesford 3460 Phone: 03 5348 2091

Top three picks here are:

1. Confit Western Plains pork neck. It comes with with three mustard crusts, parsnip puree, red wine braised cabbage  and pacdon blood sausage

2. Angus fillet mignon on herb roasted field mushroom, spinach, double whipped mash and a Périgueux sauce

3. To end the meal with a killer but not so heavy dessert, you can’t go past their Coconut Pannacotta. It comes with a poached pineapple infused with vanilla  and if that weren’t enough, coconut & lime granita. Help!

Activities

It was a humid day, so adventure sports weren’t high on the agenda. Driving around town, we spotted a sign that read Daylesford Mini Golf so we pulled in. The friendly staff will take you through the 18 hole course. The theme was clearly anything that related to the phrase “Aussie Aussie Aussie…OI OI OI!” Another giveaway was an all Australian soundtrack blaring some good old Johnny Farnham “You’re the voice, try and understand it, make the noise and make it clear, oh, woah” Classic.

Playing golf may not have burnt off all the food we’ve been eating, but hey, that’s what holidays are for right?

Views from Daylesford Mini Golf

Views from Daylesford Mini Golf

Daylesford Mini Golf

Daylesford Mini Golf

As you can see from the photos, each hole was fitted out with Aussie themed designs from a backyard barby to the AFL.  Surprisingly, some of the holes were really challenging especially the snowfields hole. Dang!

I was sunburnt by the time I finally made it through to the next hole. My friends and I had a great time laughing at each other hit some doozies and would definitely return, even if only for the cappa with the fake AFL players!

Frogs at Daylesford Mini Golf

Frogs at Daylesford Mini Golf

Daylesford Mini Golf

Daylesford Mini Golf

Lavendula Lavender Farm

Tempted by the sounds of Lavender infused ice cream or just Lavender infused anything, you guess where we went next…

As soon as you drive in, you’re hit with a smack of aroma from the fields of purple haze that seems to rid your stinky friends of any body odor. Boom! I’m such a great friend. Entry costs $3.50. I love it when I visit tourist spots where they still use an oldskool entry point of a table outside and a bucket full of change as their administration system.

Lavendula Lavender Farm Daylesford

Lavendula Lavender Farm Daylesford

Lavendula Lavender Farm Daylesford

Lavendula Lavender Farm Daylesford

Lavendula Lavender Farm Daylesford

Lavendula Lavender Farm Daylesford

Did I mention that I only twittered once throughout the trip? We are so technology fried these days that our focus is being slowly diminished. It was so relaxing and liberating to be without technology for a few days.

Lunch time

We were tempted to hit up Lake House again for an express lunch, but we came upon a place that looked very country and were definitely allured by this fact. We are such city folk huh?

Cliffy’s Emporium

Details: 30 Raglan Street, Daylesford 3460 Phone: 03 5348 3279

situated off the Midland Highway next to a florist, also serves as a produce store selling anything from cheeses, local jams, homemade cakes, cured meats etc..you name it. The second half of the store is a cosy dimly lit café. The uniquely presented menu is written on lunch bags and pegged on a stand. Like Perfect Drop, their menu is also seasonal depending on what produce is available.

Cliffy's Emporium Daylesford

Cliffy's Emporium Daylesford

The Charcuterie board showcased the great local produce and cured meats on offer from hot salami to Dagmar’s pickles. The Bruschetta was the best in show which came mounted with smoked trout and goats curd.

Drinks ordered: Hepburn Blood Orange and a glass of chocolate clad milkshake.

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Cliffy's Emporium Daylesford menu

Inside Cliffy's Emporium

Inside Cliffy's Emporium

Cliffy's Emporium

Cliffy's Emporium

Cap Off

What’s great about holidaying in charming Daylesford aka Spa Country is that no matter what season it is, there are so many things to do. In winter you can relax in the hot mineral springs, dine out in amongst produce driven restaurants or explore the many art galleries. In summer you can visit the local wineries, go quad biking, fishing and but make sure you pay a visit to the 5 million year old  Trentham Waterfalls.

Daylesford is located just over an hour from Melbourne. For directions and information on travel, click here and here.

Trentham Falls

Trentham Falls

Trentham Falls

Trentham Falls

Daylesford? Hells yes. Have you been yet?

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Keep eating,

Adrian

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