Monday, November 21, 2011

The Lake House


For a special occasion dinner in Daylesford, it had to be The Lake House.

Lake House
King Street
Daylesford 3460
Ph: (03) 5348 3329

So, you may have seen that Alla Wolf-Tasker herself commented on my post about Wombat Hill House. Cool, huh?  I think it's pretty great that someone so long-standing in the industry is still interested in and keeps up with what's being said about her work - so assuming that she does read this post: HI ALLA!

I was delighted to be seated right next to a window, with a nice view of the trees.  Not only was it a lovely spot, but it was great for taking pictures of the food!  I never use flash photography for food pictures in restaurants - I think that taking one or two flash photos of the people you're with is acceptable, repeated flash photographs of all the dishes throughout the evening is not - so I always think of it s a bonus when there's a lot of natural light.  We were there for a few hours, and you'll also see that my pictures get darker as the night went on.

The staff were also very nice - it seems that Lake House and Wombat Hill House share some staff, and two of them recognised us from our visit to Wombat Hill House and said hi!

I started with a refreshing bitters lime and soda, and I loved the attention to detail - how cute is the 3-citrus garnish?
Bitters Lime and Soda
We also had local mineral water throughout the evening.  (As I was driving, I just had one glass of champagne to start with, even though the "matching wines" option was very tempting!)
Sparkling mineral water
We were told that you could have a full degustation menu (a vegetarian option was also available), or the option of three courses from their fixed price menu ($105), with an optional cheese course for an $18 supplement.  The vegetarian degustation menu actually looked amazing, and was well priced (approximately $130 from memory), but being big meat eaters, we weren't sure if it would be filling enough, so went for the fixed price menu.  Between us we ordered one three-course, and one four-course option, and shared the cheese course.

First, we were brought a little amuse bouche of nori crisps with bonito aioli.  The crisps were airy and well, crispy, rather like a prawn cracker, and the aioli was creamy with a pleasantly fishy taste. Sandra, however, doesn't like seafood, so I got to have this all to myself - muahaha!
Nori crisps with bonito aioli

We also got bread, which tasted just as good as it looked and, importantly, came with soft butter.  Apart from the white bread that you can see in the picture, there was a brown bread which I thought was wholemeal, but turned out to be mushroom bread!
Bread and butter

Now, first courses.  Sandra had the white asparagus dish, a beautiful composition of different shades of white.    I always think of white asparagus as such a treat!
White asparagus, 64oC egg, potato remoulade, Parmigiano Reggino, white asparagus veloute, parmesan foam

The egg was cooked perfectly: soft and oozy.

It also came with a delicious white asparagus veloute. It was so delicious, in fact, that Sandra said she'd have been happy with a big bowl of this veloute as her meal in its entirety.  Big praise coming from a girl who hails from the asparagus capital of Germany!
White asparagus veloute, parmesan foam
For my starter, I had a wonderful mackerel sashimi with tender pieces of octopus and a smoky paprika tuile.
Sashimi mackerel, slow cooked octopus, orange & fennel seed vinaigrette, fennel aioli, smoky paprika tuile
I loved this dish! It had such delicate, fresh flavours and a nice contrast in textures - a real pleasure to eat.

And now we move on to the mains...

Sandra had wanted to order the "Pastured beef - seared Black Angus Yearling, slow braised shin, sweetbreads, white polenta, parsley, capers", and asked if the meat could be cooked "very well done".  Our waitress explained to us that that particular cut of meat would shrink quite a bit, and suggested that we order something from their "Simpler Fare" menu, which would suit being cooked all the way through - fillet steak with asparagus, red wine jus and tarragon potatoes (see below), which Sandra was happy with.

From the "Simpler Fare" menu: Fillet steak with asparagus and red wine jus

I chose the spring poussin: I just couldn't say no to the combination of "white asparagus, morels, foie gras".
Spring Poussin - breast, ballotine, pancetta, garlic custard, white asparagus, morels, foie gras
The meals came with a gorgeous mixed-leaf salad and buttery tarragon potatoes.
Green salad, Tarragon potatoes

I mentioned above that Sandra requested her steak to be cooked "very well done" - unfortunately it came out closer to medium rare, and was still very pink and juicy in the middle. (It would have been great for me, but, of course, it wasn't my steak).  It was so rare that she couldn't eat it, so we actually sent it back.  The waitstaff were very nice about it, and offered to take my meal and the sides back as well, so that we could both eat together.  Really considerate!

We were happy to wait, and fifteen minutes later our meals were brought out again.  However, the steak was still not cooked well done!  As you can see below, even after being sent back once, it was still pink in the middle.


By this stage, the asparagus and jus had gone a bit cold (my meal, luckily, was still warm), and we didn't want to kick up a fuss, so we didn't send it back again.  It was just cooked enough that Sandra could eat it, but she didn't really enjoy it.  We didn't quite understand why it wouldn't be cooked through, especially when our waitress had explained the menu and offered a meal that would suit being cooked this way, and that they'd taken the trouble to take both of our meals back when we'd first told them it wasn't cooked enough for her liking.

I don't mean to go on about the steak when there were so many positive aspects to the meal, but steak, like coffee or poached eggs, really is a dealbreaker: if it's not prepared exactly the way you like it, it's a real disappointment.  And if you're paying those prices for your dinner, you expect your steak cooked the way you request!

On a more positive note, I greatly enjoyed my main course.  I loved the poussin itself, with its tender and juicy meat and crisp skin, as well as the little morsels of morels and tender-crisp asparagus.  (I see now it was a rather asparagus-heavy meal, but I think that's a Very Good Thing.)

And check out this awesome block of foie gras that came with my meal!  What decadence!  Even I, eater-extraordinaire, could only manage half of the foie gras.
Come to Mamma...
A short break, and then it was time for our cheese course.

Cheese platter - goats cheese, cheddar
You get 50 grams of cheese in total, and can choose one or two cheeses from a selection of four.  We got a lovely goats cheese, and a rather mild cheddar. (Unfortunately I can't remember the names of either cheese - I believe the goats cheese was called "Bridget's Well", but have been unable to confirm this through extensive internet searches.  Does this name sound familiar to anyone? And more importantly, can you tell me where I can buy it?)  The cheese came with some muscatel grapes, lavosh, and some lightly toasted slices of fruit bread.  I love dried fruit and rich spices with cheese, and this bread was a fantastic accompaniment!  We were both quite full by this time, so I'm glad we'd decided to share the cheese course.

Our pre-dessert was an apple panna cotta with apple and vanilla jelly.

Pre-Dessert: Apple panna cotta with apple and vanilla jelly 
Apples?  Vanilla?  Panna Cotta?  All of Sandra's dessert favourites in one little glass!  I felt bad that she hadn't liked her steak, so I only had a tiny taste and let her have the rest.  I was impressed with the purity of the apple flavour that came through, and the smooth and creamy texture.  Interestingly, both panna cottas actually tasted quite different.  One had a very strong apple flavour, whilst the other had a more pronounced vanilla taste.  Both were delicious, but it was interesting to note the difference - clearly they must be made by hand in individual batches!

And if there's a "pre-dessert", that means there must be a dessert!  I had the "Assorted chocolate textures, early violets".  This included a quenelle of chocolate sorbet, squares of chocolate bread and butter pudding, white chocolate jelly, chocolate mousse, shatteringly crisp shards of chocolate tuille, and a violet granita.

Assorted chocolate textures, early violets
I enjoyed all the chocolate elements in this dish, especially the luscious chocolate sorbet and the unexpected white chocolate jelly. I'm not the hugest fan of violets (or floral flavours in general), so I didn't love the fact that the granita melted across the plate and combined with the other flavours - but if you do like violets and chocolate, then this dish is for you!

Sandra went for the selection of ice-creams and sorbets.

Seasonal ice-creams, sorbets, embellishments
Our waitress had told us the flavour selection would be peach, mango and raspberry, but what actually came out was coconut, mango and raspberry.  Sandra does like coconut though, so it was all good!  Like the panna cotta above, the sorbets were impressive in their smoothness and purity of flavour.

We finished up the meal with some coffee and "Sweet Indulgences".
Cafe latte

Sweet Indulgences hand made at Lake House
The sweet indulgences consisted of Austrian shortbread, fudge, a little jelly, a pistachio cakelet and (the standout, for me) spicy caramel popcorn.  Luckily there was only a small amount of the popcorn on the plate - in other circumstances I could have easily scoffed huge quantities of it!  I believe it was cayenne pepper on the popcorn, which gave it an addictive spicy kick.

The meal cost approximately $250 for two, which I think was quite well priced considering the level of service and the quality of the produce used.  Our only gripe was with the steak, and if not for that, it would have been an ideal dining experience.  I would definitely like to visit again one day.

6 comments:

Nicole Gamble said...

I think, now, I have to go there! To see for myself!

Nic@diningwithastud said...

What an amazing meal! I have heard its fab

Georgia said...

Great timing with your post, Sarah - the Lake House is my all time favourite Victorian restaurant and my partner and I are soon to be married there. As such, I was very excited to read your review! Pity about your steak experience...I'm yet to see staff there put a foot wrong and hold it up with Noma (yes, honestly!) as one of the best restaurants in the world.

Sarah said...

@Georgia - Congratulations on your upcoming nuptials! High praise indeed!

Georgia said...

Thanks, Sarah - for us it was all about good food, good wine and good people - the Lake House fit the bill perfectly! :)

jean said...

A super thick eye fillet doesn't seem ideal for cooking through . . .