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Wednesday 3 January 2018

Three decades of gourmet excellence

Three decades ago, Daylesford was an unremarkable country town in regional Victoria, probably best known for producing high-quality potatoes.

Now Daylesford and next-door Hepburn Springs are alive with top-notch restaurants, vibrant country pubs, massage retreats, wine bars and up-market accommodation.

Daylesford's emergence on Australia's gourmet radar is largely thanks to Alla Wolf-Tasker and her artist husband Allan.

The couple stumbled upon a piece of unused, gorse-infested land on the fringes of then down-at-heel Daylesford, overlooking a lake, and saw immense potential despite it being strewn with rubbish and rusted car parts.

That overgrown land emerged as The Lake House, one of Australia's first “country chic” hotels. Wolf-Tasker quickly built a reputation as a formidable cook and promoter of rural produce, championing local seasonal cuisine long before it became a mantra for the industry.

Today, The Lake House remains at the pinnacle of regional destination dining – and has 33 beautiful rooms and suites in either a waterfront or garden lodge setting. Six acres of country gardens extend down to the waters of Lake Daylesford and provide guests with immediate access to the lake shore and the Wombat State Forest beyond.

On-site guests can enjoy a spa treatment, perhaps a game of tennis followed by tea and refreshments in the tennis pavilion, a glass of wine by the fire in the Argyle Library Bar or a multiple-course dinner overlooking the lake.

It is a spot where art and joie de vivre combine and guests are invited to "indulge, relax and cocoon".

It's all very chilled, and classy. On my most recent visit, a couple of months ago, there had been changes (Lake House is ever evolving) but the star quality that has won so many global awards remains.

The Lake House's team of young chefs change menus with the availability of new seasonal produce.

Much of the produce is local, some organic – almost all delicious. 

And the wine list is, as you'd expect, world class with several older vintages on offer.

Prices for two people including one night's accommodation, full breakfast and a three-course a la carte dinner start from $624 in a Lodge Studio.

The Lake House is at 4 King St, Daylesford. (03) 5348 3329.

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