Thursday, 10 May 2012

A country weekend away in Daylesford

A couple of weeks ago M and I took a much needed break from work and got out of the city for some relaxation. And of course any trip away for us tends to centre around finding the best food.

We took the Thursday/Friday after ANZAC day off work and headed to Daylesford in country Victoria, known for its mineral springs and amazing spas. We stayed in a lovely little villa right on the lake and booked in a massage at Endota – bliss! But this blog is about our food adventures and we certainly had a few!

The General Store – Newham
We decided to make our drive up to Daylesford a bit more interesting and went through Woodend and to a couple of wineries. Being a Thursday there were only two we could find open – Paramoor and Hanging Rock. Both were great and we bought some really interesting wine which I’m sure M will review on here at some point. After a couple of wine tastings we found ourselves ravenous and headed to The General Store on the recommendation of the nice man at Hanging Rock winery. The food certainly didn’t disappoint – it was wholesome and delicious and just what we needed on a cold country day.

M had the Ruben sandwich which was really delicious. Packed full of beautiful pastrami, sauerkraut, cheese and dressing it was toasted and gooey.

I had the homemade baked beans on toast with avocado and goats cheese. They had a great flavor and were devoured very quickly! Perhaps could have done with a smidge more goats cheese on top though – it’s my favourite!

Rubens @ Hepburn Springs
M felt like Pizza so I googled ‘best pizza in Daylesford’, a couple of options came up and we thought we’d give Rubens a go based on some positive reviews. It was a freezing cold night and Rubens was lovely and warm with a nice atmosphere and also pretty full.

Chicken camembert - pesto base, red onion, mushrooms, chicken breast, roasted capsicum, Camembert cheese, sun dried tomato& mozzarella cheese
Rubens - tomato base, red onion, Istra chorizo, hot salami, roasted capsicum, marinated baby bocconcini, basil pesto & mozzarella cheese
We had a Rubens pizza and a Chicken camembert one. The Rubens was definitely our favourite – we’re absolute suckers for any of the Istra products, they’re just beautiful (we also visited the Istra farm door on our last day). The pizza dough was a bit thicker than we’re used to, but I guess you can’t expect all pizzas to be super authentic and even though it wasn't it still tasted good.

The chicken camembert was probably not quite what I’d expected. It didn’t have a tomato base and I found it a little dry and less gooey and flavoursome than the Rubens. It was ok but I probably wouldn’t order it again.

Rubens @ Hepburn on Urbanspoon

Breakfast and Beer
I’d been reading lots of good things about Breakfast and Beer on review websites and my sister went earlier in the year and said it was great. So after our massage M and I sleepily headed there for lunch. The building is lovely and old with lots of character, they had a log fire going in the big fireplace when we arrived and the waitress was really friendly and keen for a chat. 

M had a veggie and tempeh stir fry with a spring onion omelet which was beautiful and fresh. I had the corn fritters with bacon, tomato and avocado salsa and a poached egg. The food was wholesome and homey and the atmosphere great. Would go again next time I’m in Daylesford for sure.

Breakfast & Beer on Urbanspoon

Kazuki’s at the Raglan
We thought we’d try Kazuki’s as it looked really interesting, the food has a distinct Japanese inspiration and the chef Kazuki is well known for his work in other notable restaurants (France Soir and The Lake House). This was definitely the best meal of the weekend. We tried some beautiful local produce and the environment was really different to a Melbourne restaurant – quite calm and low-key and very unpretentious.

We shared a number of small dishes as there was so much I wanted to try!

Oysters three ways – two tempura, one shiso salsa (Japanese herb) and one su-ika (picked squid). I ADORED the tempura oysters and reckon I could have gone for a whole dozen!

Moreton Bay bug dumplings, sake emulsion, ponzu jelly, rainbow chard – I felt the skins on these were a little thick, however the filling had a beautiful flavor.

Taste of Istra – locally made prosciutto, fennel & chilli salami, gherkins – we loved this so much we went to the Istra farm door the next day and bought a GIANT piece of the fennel salami.

Prawns, Asian herbs, semi dried tomato – these were beautiful oily goodness – again could have had a whole plate!

Smoked Tuki trout croquette, Istra pancetta, beetroot, horseradish – this was really delicate in flavor and I especially liked the crispy pancetta served with it.

Wombat Forest Organics potato croquette – loved this one, nothing beats crispy potato.

Tofu, Asian vegetable stir-fry, yuzu & soy – a lovely fresh way to finish the meal – a distinct Japanese twist and beautiful fresh greens.

Potato roasted in duck fat, confit garlic – we were pretty full at this point so probably could have done without these, but I can never pass something on the menu roasted in duck fat.

Kazuki's on Urbanspoon

Wombat Hill café
What can I say, love love loved this place! We headed here for brekkie and after short stroll through the botanical gardens came to the Wombat Hill café. It’s so nicely done inside with tantalizing displays of cakes and biscuits. 

We sat outside (they had gas heaters) and neither of us could go past the corn fritters with chilli relish, sour cream, rocket and crispy bacon. They were absolutely delicious! If this café were in Melbourne it’d be one of the ones overrun with young foodies and a line out the door!

Wombat Hill House on Urbanspoon

On our last night we wanted to go out for a nice dinner, after being too late to book a table at Mercato we ended up at Sault. The venue is certainly stunning – amazing view of the countryside and beautiful restaurant space. Unfortunately we didn’t enjoy the meal quite as much as we were hoping. Firstly, we’d come rugged up as it was a cold cold night and no one offered to take our coats (a major bugbear of mine), we ended up hanging them on the backs of our chairs. Overall the wait staff weren’t particularly helpful or knowledgeable, a theoretically nice little touch of an amuse-bouche came prior to our meals - however the waiter had forgotten what it was! He eventually remembered it was smashed chickpeas with mushrooms on a pumpkin puree, but to be honest it was nothing special.

For entrée I ordered the Tortellini of scallop and smoked Tuki trout, capers, micro herbs and lemon beurre blanc. M ordered the soup of the day which was pumpkin. The food was fine, however definitely not amazing. I felt the tortellini needed some sauce, the filling was tasty though. 

For mains I ordered the fish of the day which was a barramundi – again, it was good but not amazing. The skin on the fish could have been much crispier, instead it was kind of chewy so I ended up removing it. M ordered the Hopkins River eye fillet with house-cut chips and sauce béarnaise – he felt the meat was a bit chewy and his potatoes lacked flavor. We ordered a side of potato salad too, as we’re so used to Melbourne dining where sides are needed to supplement the dish. However we barely touched the potato salad as the meals were so large. Not a criticism at all, however I’d probably prefer smaller meals of high quality rather than big pub-like meals.

Sault’s a beautiful venue and I could imagine sitting on the deck on a sunny afternoon with a glass of wine and platter of some sort. However on this occasion I felt the food fell short.

Sault on Urbanspoon

The Gourmet Larder
We finished our little holiday with a trip to Gourmet Larder on the main street for breakfast. I’d been really excited about eating here as my sister had really enjoyed it and I’d walked past and spied someone eating delicious looking eggs on toast through the window earlier in the weekend.

I ordered poached eggs on toast with bacon and relish and M had the baked beans. Unfortunately I was severely disappointed – we eat brekkie out a lot and it’s not difficult to get it right. My plate had all the ingredients to be great – nice eggs, relish, bacon and artisan bread. But unfortunately my eggs were over cooked and no longer runny (devastating), my bacon was under cooked without a hint of crispiness and the toast was cut so thick I struggled to cut through it, probably could have done with a steak knife. I ended up cutting all the crusts off the bread so I had a slightly better chance of hacking through it – I noticed an elderly lady a couple of tables down doing the same thing! However, the relish was the best thing on the plate, and probably the best relish I’ve ever had – a shame I couldn’t enjoy it properly.

M had similarly thick bread with his baked beans however I think they softened it a bit and made it easier to cut. I tried the beans, they were ok but lacked any kind of rich smoky flavor.

Larder on Urbanspoon

So, overall a great weekend away, only a couple of average meals and definitely some great discoveries for our next trip to Daylesford!

Kate eat-drink-dream

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