A little romance at the Lake House

A couple of weekends ago I ducked down to Daylesford. That’s ‘Spa country’ in the Macedon region of Victoria.

I’m not sure if the urge was fueled by the atmospheric ads featuring the skin scrapingly beautiful Isabel Lucas; the lure of seeing my well thumbed copy of Alla Wolf-Tasker’s luminous ‘Lake House’ cookbook come to life, or just a general fascination about ‘spa-ing’.

Spa-ing; def: occasionally involves wearing paper pants. Sometimes wafting about in thermal springs.

Despite some earlier conversational confusion it seems ‘spa-ing’ does not refer to martial arts training.

But I think the above definition fits pretty well in the context of a romantic weekend away.

Though if I really wanted to dial up the mush factor I might also need some side by side massages, aimless wandering around a lake so pretty it would make an illustrator for ‘Wind in the Willows’ blush and some time reading books in front of a fire.

I might also need a few glasses of wine, a soppy movie and a decadent five course meal at one of Australia’s best regional restaurants.

And, of course; someone to share it with.

Who better than your best friend?

No, this isn’t the nauseating bit where I talk about how The Hungry One really is my best friend.

Not to say he isn’t lovely.

But before him, another terrifyingly brilliant and hilarious soul had a claim on the number one spot on my speed dial. Together we’ve survived blackwatch tartan skirts, debating teams and model United Nations conferences. Yes you read that, model United Nations conferences.

I was so in awe of her when we first met that I couldn’t bear to turn up to her house for an agreed meeting empty handed, so I brought a baguette.

Welcome to my very own ‘I carried a watermelon’ moment.

Since then we’ve been through Europe on a bus, conquered ski fields and driven to Canberra together more times than we could probably count.

I can thank her for introducing me to the joys of toasted chicken, avocado, grilled eggplant and swiss cheese on toasted Turkish bread.

I can also thank her for introducing me to The Hungry One.

She’s pretty much the only person in the world I would go camping for.

So this year I thought I’d get in early for her birthday. First we deposit The Hungry One at Melbourne airport for an earlier flight home. Then together we jaunt off to Daylesford.

Here are some of the romantic and gastronomic highlights of our weekend away

The paper, coffee and some eggs with a little conversation.

The Gourmet Larder suited us perfectly. Right on the main street within spitting distance of Daylesford’s swoon-worthy second hand bookstore. It’s perfectly cosy inside on a crisp Autumn morning, there’s Coffee Supreme from NZ, poached eggs with the right amount of ooze and enough room to spread out the paper and tut tut together over the antics of Mr Abbott.


Side by side massages at Daylesford Day Spa

Yes, there were paper pants involved. But afterwards I was so relaxed I felt stoned.


Time on the couch with wine and a movie

Our little cottage, Villa Redfin, was perfectly equipped with not only a bottle of pinot gris chilling in the fridge, but a selection of trashy dvds on offer.


Dinner at The Lake House

It would be almost sacrilegious to go to Daylesford and not dabble at the Lake House.

If grace and gumption took a human form, surely it would be Alla Wolf Tasker – the force of nature behind the Lake House. Ever since I bought her book and spent a long weekend curled up on the couch reading the history of this haven- built when gourmet food in rural Australia was the equivalent of a snot block in the back of a Holden- I’ve been itching to go.

Reading her tweets about ducks gliding on the lake and mushroom foraging on rainy days is enough to make me misty on a crummy work day.

And one of the things I’ve always respected is her ardent advocacy for the issues she holds close; quality produce, fair returns and sustainable solutions.

Cracking food with a conscience? Sign us up now.

Sign us up for house made grissini and olives as plump as baby thighs. For glasses of Tasmanian sparkling at the bar and snaffling the prime seats in the corner of the restaurant, where we’re buffeted by cushions and bathed in candlelight.

All around us couples are busy holding hands across the table. Except for one just opposite who look like they’re bruising from a verbal blue. I can’t stop staring and sending good wishes. With its gutsy paintings and brick fireplace and loose posies of flowers, this room is to lovely to be grumpy in.

Luckily distraction from their troubles come with an Autumnal vegetable tasting plate, where labne, sheep yogurt and zucchini flowers easily sashay between zippy and soulful. Here there are crispy zucchini stems and refreshingly empty petals- no gluttonous ooze and heft of stuffed cheeses here. Just casing and air.

Then there’s a little cup of verdant soup which almost makes us lose our manners, going back with bread, digits and diminishing dignity to get the last scrapings.

A charcuterie plate – all made in house- is as texturally busy as the tableware it comes on. A whole barnyard seems to be having a little party on the plate;there’s blonde as chicken roulade, terrine and rilettes from duck and pork, some in sweet little jars with pickled vegetables as companions.

We’re getting lost in the languid ooze of the place; amid the gentle clatter of cutlery conversation easily steers to the philosophical. Luckily before we get to too bogged by deconstructing the contemporary state of masculinity a mid course of chicken soup with a crisp dipper of flesh on a stick pulls us back. This snuggie for the stomach is a definite conversation silencer.

Then it’s time for the classically romantic main course plate-swap- the patented move of cosy two somes out to dinner.

‘ If I get the duck, and you get the pork, can we share?’ is what we ask each over candlelight. But of course.

A taste of roast pork belly with apple and a side of soft cooked cabbage is as comforting as shared jokes with someone who knew you when your teeth were incased in braces. The pork gently pulls apart, with pureed apple pottering about as a support system. This is comfort on a plate.

Half way through and it’s time for blushing duck breast with faro and a collection of kooky seeds. It’s rich and gagging for a gutsy pinot to play with. Good thing there’s one or two on hand.

At this point I try to send a subtle picture message to The Hungry One of two wine glasses on the table with the message of

‘Hi darling. Missing you, but promise we didn’t do the deg. Will save that to do with you’.

It didn’t send. I think that’s lucky, because he was feeling jealous enough as it was. I’m not sure telling him that ‘We’re not doing the deg’ would have been sufficient compensation.

And while I may be missing The Hungry One and his miraculous ability to help me clean my plate during multi course meals, I’m doing ok in his absence. In this pair of two lasses in black frocks, it’s funny how I’m slowly assuming the traditional male gender role.

I drove us here. I’m tasting the wines. I’m well prepped to do the sneaky ‘put down the credit card’ move while your date is in the bathroom to prevent any awkward haggling when the bill comes.

Yet I can’t make a clean decision on dessert.

Unlike The Hungry One, my heart doesn’t instantly flock to the chocolate. Instead, a ‘light’ tasting plate gets constructed for us. It’s dessert for the ditherers.

There’s a collection of iced fancies, from a boysenberry granita to a triangle of amaretto parfait. There are petals and a poached peach, flavours of rose and a bud of meringue. It’s floral ardor on a platter and a delight to pick from. Yet again we’re sharing happily.

As the night dwindles and mooney looking couples meander back to their rooms we pick our way through petit fours, including spiced sweet popcorn that’s doled out from a centre repository.

It’s a perfect end, to the most romantic of days.

At the end of the night it’s home to a smoldering fire (which I built myself).

And then it’s a perfect night sleep. But on this most romantic of weekends, it’s off to separate beds.


  1. A baguette? That's classic!

    Of course now I'm trying to remember if I've had an "I carried a watermelon" moment…


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