Sunday, 13 July 2008

The Lake House

Last year, my mother turned fifty (and now she’s going to turn homicidal that I’ve mentioned this). Because of life stresses and a little dismay at that milestone, she didn’t want much of a celebration. Her birthday was marked at home, with a roast lamb dinner, as that was – I felt – the least I could do.

This year she decided that fifty-one was a much more interesting date to celebrate, and though the life stresses hadn’t abated, she let me take her somewhere nice for lunch.

As soon as I suggested it, she was utterly sold on going to The Lake House. She had wanted to go somewhere out of Melbourne, and wasn’t particularly interested in Yarra Valley-ing, since we traipse around there quite often.

For a long time, she had wanted to go to Daylesford, and the pretty setting seemed to fulfil her need for some aesthetic nourishment.

I prepared by borrowing a copy of Alla Wolf-Tasker’s book, and quietly appreciated her writing and style.

The Sunday after her birthday, we drove to Daylesford. We arrived nice and early, and the picturesque town was a welcome change from the astonishingly depressing drive out of Melbourne.

I was very much taken by the water feature near the restaurant entrance, and the fragrant quinces set to one side.

Alas, out of embarrassment, I could not bring myself to photograph the food. How do fellow food bloggers manage it? We were however, hugely entertained by the antics of the kookaburras, which some of the more soft-hearted staff were feeding bits of – presumably – pancetta.

As we perused the menu, we were brought house-made bread rolls and butter. Though rather salty, the rolls were very good.

Mama went for the lunch special, which is extremely good value. For her starter, she had the Caesar salad, which featured a rather extraordinary panko-crumbed poached egg. A lover of poached eggs anyway, she raved for weeks afterwards that it was the best poached egg she’d ever had.

For her main course, she had (if I remember rightly) game sausages.

I chose Murray Cod from the a la carte menu, and given that this particular fish is quite scarce, I feel privileged that I’ve had the opportunity to try it. That said, I am not a huge fan of white fish, and this – though beautifully cooked – was no exception. It was, however, accompanied by a cauliflower puree that was so delicious that it has overwritten my memories of ghastly cauliflower cheese such that I am now able to enjoy this vegetable once more.

For dessert, she had the option of a chocolate or a flourless quince cake. Though I do not eat cake, I quite like to at least taste a little of what is on offer. I quietly hoped that she would not go for the chocolate, which would bore me – and so I was gratified that she did indeed choose the quince.

As I say, I do not particularly like sweet food, but the quince cake was extraordinary. Very moist, very delicious, and – rarest of all rare things – accompanied by cream so divine that even I could enjoy it. (I generally hate cream and have to scrape it off.)

After cake, and coffees, we took a walk around the lake, which is indeed very pretty.

Whilst I was not personally blown away by the food – as a pescetarian, I am resigned to having limited choices at restaraunts – service, presentation and execution were all excellent. I also appreciate that the food is selected on the basis of seasonality – a factor that we should all consider paramount. I will reiterate that what I enjoyed the most – the cake – was what I least expected to appreciate. And, importantly, Mama thought it was all wonderful.