Il Tridente Maserarti Australia

Lady of the Lake

Lake House in Daylesford has long been one of the standard bearers for exceptional regional dining in Victoria.

Lady of the Lake

Lake House in Daylesford has long been one of the standard bearers for exceptional regional dining in Victoria. With superb accommodation including the new luxurious Retreat and beautiful setting in one of Victoria’s prettiest towns, it is the perfect destination for a winter getaway. Il Tridente gets behind the wheel of the GranTurismo S to experience some serious R&R.

Words - Russell Williamson

Thirty years ago, dining in regional Victoria was likely to consist of steak and chips over the counter at the local pub or some generic Chinese served up in a kitsch rendition of a Hong Kong eatery. Not exactly what you would call adventurous or sophisticated and by and large the concept of fine dining and gourmet cuisine ceased to exist once you went beyond the city limits of Melbourne

But in 1984, Alla & Allan Wolf-Tasker opened up a 40-seat weekend only restaurant in Daylesford – about 100km northwest of Melbourne – and set about changing the face of regional dining. The restaurant was the culmination of three-years of weekend building that transformed a blackberry infested former mine site into a cosy country house overlooking Daylesford Lake. But while the scenic outlook was no doubt appealing to the growing number of diners, it was the philosophy of the kitchen headed by Alla Wolf-Tasker that was to prove groundbreaking as she worked to convince the many quality local food producers to supply speciality produce directly to the restaurant. And it is the philosophy of taking the best local produce to create distinctly seasonal and regional menus that is the core of all the successful Victorian country restaurants from Stefano’s in Mildura to The Royal Mail at the foot of the Grampians in Dunkeld or Simone’s Restaurant in Bright.

But it was Alla Wolf-Tasker’s pioneering efforts, such as her assisting in the establishment of a local food group called Daylesford Macedon Produce in the early 1990’s and her suburb sensitivity to the natural environment that put Daylesford on the culinary map and garnered Lake House international acclaim.

With the fine dining reputation of Lake House growing, Daylesford was again a destination for the well-heeled, as it had been during the early part of the 20th century, when Melbourne’s elite travelled to many guesthouses to take to the mineral waters of the nearby Hepburn Springs in the heart of Victoria’s premier spa region.

The town had its origins in the 1850’s gold rush and maintained its appeal for rest and relaxation through the 1920’s but as the Great Depression of the 1930’s bit hard, the luxury spa weekends in the picturesque Daylesford became a thing of the past. And so Daylesford largely disappeared from Melbourne’s consciousness until the late 1970’s when artists, alternative therapists and those seeking a respite from the city started to transform the town. It was in this atmosphere of creativity and a reconnection with the land that Lake House grew and while the restaurant is central to its attraction, the small boutique hotel that has grown over the years offers a distinctly upmarket appeal with a definitive heart and soul.

In particular, the latest addition, The Retreat, offers guests a luxury home away from home where the butler service is on tap and the restaurant chefs are happy to drop by and prepare a gourmet dinner for friends and family. Set within 2.5 hectares of country gardens, that offer direct access to the lake shore, the hotel offers 33 sumptuous rooms and suites that are all decorated with original works by Allan Wolf-Tasker, a successful accomplished artist who is happy to welcome guests to his onsite studio. But it is the Retreat with its two bedrooms each with ensuite, fireside lounge areas and a private outdoor spa that is the jewel in the Lake House crown and helped garner it a listing in this year’s 101 Best Hotels in the World from the UK’s prestigious Tatler Travel Guide. And that is just one of the awards that Lake House has added to its list this year that range from the ASPA to Two Chefs Hats from the Age Good Food Guide.

Guests staying in the secluded Retreat can also take advantage of all of the hotel facilities. You might, for instance, like a hit of tennis, a game of billiards in the lounge or one of the many pampering treatments on offer from the onsite luxurious Salus Spa. And there is of course the dining experience in the restaurant that attracts guests from across the globe. The menu is contemporary Australian that draws inspiration from all over the world including Alla’s homeland of Russia and her original training ground in France. With most of the ingredients sourced locally, including those from the five farms that supply organic and bio-dynamic produce, it’s a dining experience that few country restaurants can better.

Matched to the fine food is a wine list that features roughly 700 labels drawn from a 10,000 bottle lined cellar highlighting the best of the surrounding wine regions – Heathcote, Macedon and Sunbury, Ballarat and the Pyrenees – alongside some of the world’s most renowned labels. Being little more than an hour’s drive from Melbourne, Lake House is easily accessible via largely freeway driving but with a car like the Maserati GranTurismo S, the more scenic route via Woodend and Trentham that winds through the Wombat State Forest might offer more appeal. With a powerful 4.7 litre V8 offering torque on tap and skyhook suspension delivering superb handling, there is nothing quite like a quick blast along the twisting tarmac to awaken the senses and leave the stress of the working week behind. With Lake House as your base in Daylesford, there is plenty in the pretty little town to explore with its reinvigoration in the 1970’s having drawn a multitude of artists whose original works now occupy the towns many galleries.

Nearby there are also the original mineral springs at Hepburn where the bathhouse has recently undergone a major refurbishment or there are plenty of walking trails through the surrounding Wombat State forest. Or you can simply take stroll around Daylesford Lake before retiring to a comfy sofa with a good book in front of a roaring log fire in the lounge of Lake House.

For more than anything, the essence of any short break in Daylesford is about rest and relaxation and enjoying it in the sumptuous surrounds of Lake House, is about as rejuvenating as it can get.

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Il Tridente Maserarti Australia 2012