A 90-minute drive from Melbourne, Daylesford, located on land traditionally owned by the Dja Dja Wurrung people of the great Kulin Nation, has been a spa town since the 1880s and became popular in the 1970s with the LGBTQ+ community, propelling its current status. as the “gay capital” of the country. Between the lush surroundings, mineral springs, farm-to-table restaurants, galleries, gastropubs, designer and antique shops, weekend markets and more, there’s plenty to enjoy. attraction in this picturesque town located in the foothills of the Great Diving Range. Such a place is house by the lake—a hotel, restaurant, and spa located on the shore of Lake Daylesford—where luxury is balanced with a laid-back energy that pervades the six-acre property, creating a tranquil oasis.
The family hideaway began over 30 years ago, when award-winning chef Alla Wolf-Tasker and her artist husband Allan decided to open a foodie destination where guests could spend the night – an epicurean retreat. The daughter of Russian immigrants who arrived in Australia in 1948, Alla was drawn to cooking and had an affinity for the region. But before creating the Daylesford sanctuary, her daughter Larissa Wolf-Tasker (brand manager at Lake House) tells us, Alla made “a kind of culinary pilgrimage” that was particularly crucial in the French countryside where the inherited bond between restaurants and farmers was crucial.
Alla returned to Melbourne and wanted to recreate some of the experiences she had had in Europe. She and Allan found the land for sale in Daylesford and decided to build a restaurant. “They built over a period of four or five years, when I was born, building weekends. My father built the building and brought in some friends to help out. It was the 70s so… nobody needed a license. It was truly a collaborative effort between them and their friends. My mother and grandmother planted what was a very large orchard at the time, and just about every tree on the property. While the dream seemed lofty to some, the Wolf-Taskers were pragmatic. “They decided to give it a shot as a restaurant,” Larissa tells us. “And if that didn’t work out, it would make a really nice house.”
While locals weren’t immediately charmed (“No one could understand why you’d want to open a fancy restaurant in Daylesford,” laughs Larissa), Lake House has flourished and grown over time. What started in 1984 as a restaurant with a few rooms is now a lush property with 34 rooms, a treetop spa, tennis court, and solar-heated infinity pool.
Just recently, Lake House opened a new property, Dairy farm, which sits in the middle of the 38-acre sustainable farm. Much of the Lake House Restaurant’s ingredients come from here, thanks to the fertile, volcanic soil. “Before, there were large-scale, single-crop farming systems – like carrots or potatoes or that sort of thing – not what we have now, which is this crazy plethora of small sustainable businesses that focus on organic farming or biodynamics or root vegetables or edible herbs and flowers,” says Larissa.
While the Lake House team relies on local growers, they purchased the farm to supplement what existing partners could not provide. “Everything is based on a regenerative agricultural approach,” she tells us. “So as little intervention as possible with the soil, and obviously no sprays and pesticides and things like that. It’s quite laborious, but ultimately the focus is around the nutritional value of the food. So these are small quantities of truly exceptional products, rather than huge quantities of products with no flavor or nutritional value. »
Dairy Flat Farm also owns the lodge, where up to 12 people can relax in the hot tub overlooking the vineyard (where the Chardonnay and Pinot vines are revitalized), stroll through the vegetable gardens, sit at inside ornamental hedges, stroll through orchards or be awakened by the smell of freshly baked bread, thanks to the bakery location under the six-bedroom house. They are also welcome to use the lodge’s electric bicycles, fishing rods, binoculars, telescope and various games.
The front door offers direct access to the open plan kitchen and living room with wood-burning fireplace, and to the left is a cozy library decorated in rich colors and opulent textiles. All six bedrooms are bright and spacious, with king-size beds and en-suites. Thanks to the large windows in each room, guests can see kangaroos, wallabies, or even wombats at dusk or dawn.
The flagship is just a 10-minute drive from the farm, and both properties benefit from the paddock-to-plate philosophy. From edible flowers to freshly picked tomatoes, honey and basil, Dairy Flat Farm is evident in every dish served at the lodge and hotel. Also on the menu is slow-fermented sourdough baked at the lodge, and everything from Murray cod to yabbies, pork and more. There’s an eight-course tasting menu, omnivorous or vegetarian, both with a focus on vegetables. As Alla tells us, “It’s not vegan, but we call it ‘Vegetable Art’.”
While the food and decor are opulent and detail-oriented, Lake House doesn’t feel like a museum. Before dinner, many guests sip cocktails and lounge, chatting in the lounge-style space that’s attached to the reception and restaurant. The open space generates a friendly and relaxed atmosphere. The mission is to feel both very special and comfortable. As Larissa explains, “It’s an extension of our home.”
Images courtesy of Lake House Daylesford