Being Melbourne newbies, we thought we should hit the road and start exploring all the cool stuff not too far from the city. So what better place to start than with the foodie trail through the Daylesford Macedon Ranges?
We jumped in our HR-V and hit the road on a very cold and frosty Saturday morning. We first headed for the tiny, historic town of Creswick, which is about an hour-and-a-half’s drive north-west from Melbourne. Its origins lie in gold mining and it is packed full of attractions, like the Creswick Woollen Mills and, if golf is your thing, the championship 18-hole golf course at the Novotel Forest Resort.
Smack-bang in the middle of Creswick’s one-street town, is the most delightfully cosy, authentic French patisserie; Le Péché Gourmand – so out of place, yet so, so perfect. We stocked up on a few treats to share, like the classic Citron Tart. Needless to say, I would drive all the way to Creswick just to eat here again. It’s almost like Paris is only an hour’s drive away… almost.
Next it was time to don our Blundstones and get our hands dirty at the Tuki Trout Farm for a true farm-to-plate experience. It’s here where you catch your own trout and then have it cleaned, de-boned, cooked and served up to you in the most scrumptious meal ever, beside a cosy fire, with a glass of local wine if you wish.
Now, don’t get me wrong, fishing isn’t exactly my cup of tea, but here all the icky stuff is done for you (your hooks are threaded with corn, rather than worms) and you also don’t need the patience required for ocean fishing. Well, that’s the theory anyway. We were told we should each have caught a fish in five minutes. It took us 45…Anyway, it was well worth the wait. The lovely staff served us up a feast of fresh trout, baked in alfoil over a fire, a fresh salad made with locally-grown produce and potatoes that rivalled my Yiayia’s Greek spuds (don’t tell her I said that!).
By now we were feeling pretty full, so thought we’d better check into our digs for the night, change into our stretchy pants and have a nanna nap before the next meal.
Our hotel, iconic institution, Frangos & Frangos, is in Daylesford, just a 30 minute drive from Tuki and a much more happening place than Creswick. It’s full of country pubs, great antique stores and quaint homewares shops. I cannot recommend Frangos & Frangos highly enough! Its 12 rooms, are each a completely different design with pure opulence and luxurious comfort in mind. I’ve been told one room even has a round bed! We arrived to a warm spa bath and champagne and realised it was going to be pretty hard to leave to make our dinner reservation..
Nonetheless, we made it to hatted restaurant, The Argus Dining Room in Hepburn Springs, just a ten-minute drive from the hotel. We were greeted by a dimly-lit, romantic restaurant with white tablecloths and fancy silverware. The Maitre D’ showed us to our table – right by a toasty fire – nothing better on a chilly winter’s night. We opted for the five-course degustation (like we hadn’t had enough food already!) washed down with a bottle of country Victorian wine.
The food at The Argus is modern Australian cuisine with much of the produce sourced locally – they have a veggie garden on site and the meat comes from a nearby farm. There are dishes of fish, duck, chicken, pork, lamb and beef. I am so glad we chose the degustation because the Wagyu Beef dish – something I would not have ordered otherwise – was the best beef I have EVER eaten in my life! I can also highly recommend the sashimi and the caramelised banana dessert *Licks lips*.
With our tastebuds alive and our judgement clouded by red wine, we wanted to kick on after dinner. Now, in a country town like Daylesford, there aren’t too many night spots you can go dressed like you’ve come from one of the best restaurants in the country. BUT, trust me to always find one! Enter; The Perfect Drop. It’s the cutest little place, set in an old, Victorian home, with timber floorboards and old-school leather couches. We managed to get the managers to stay open a little longer for us. They serve dinner here too and have live music, so it would be a great spot for a birthday or hens/bachelor party.
After a great night’s sleep, it was time for more food. Breakfast. Frangos & Frangos gives you two options; Café Koukla or Jimmy’s Bar and Dining Room. We chose to go to Café Koukla, which is a very funky, Melbourne-style eatery which serves up fantastic coffee and hearty meals. Definitely try Jim’s Greek Omelette – it’s served in a huge frypan, on a stand and is TO. DIE. FOR.
We next headed on a must-do tour of the Convent Gallery. There is so much more to this place than just art – the building is beautiful and it has an incredibly rich history. If you can swing it, ask if the Manager, Liam, can take you on a tour – he’s incredibly passionate about the Convent’s owner and how she managed to buy the place (it’s an interesting tale) and will be able to share with you a few secrets about the place.
The Convent also served up some delicious warm scones for us (a girl’s gotta have morning tea, right?) before we headed on our way to lunch. More food, glorious food.
For our final food stop of the weekend, we found ourselves at The Boathouse, sitting right on the picturesque Lake Daylesford. Like all our other food stops on this trip, food at The Boathouse is all about fresh, regional produce. It was fantastic! Try the Lamb Kofta or the Southern Fried Chicken and definitely pick a dessert from the fridge on your way out, for the road, you know.
If you’re anything like us and don’t feel like you can sit straight in a car for an hour on such a full stomach, there’s a beautiful walking track which takes you right around the lake in about 25 minutes.
Sophia Lazarides is a journalist and public relations professional based in London. She is on a mission to live a stylish life.