We were early for our table and would have been happy to sit at the bar for a drink but a warm and friendly hostess was happy to show us to our table. The good service started from the moment we set foot in the place to the moment we left.
We started with a scallop with black bean and spiced carrot as our amuse bouche. The salty tang of the black beans was good with the sweet scallop and then a cinammony puree was the final soft note.
The next dish was a crab and pickled green tomato crostin with a smoked tomato broth. The crostini was fine but not memorable but the tomato broth was very unusual. The smokiness is trapped in the little shot glass and as soon as the lid is removed this tobacco like fragrance comes out immediately and hits the nose. The broth is sweet and like pure tomato water but no pulp. It's light and refreshing with an intense deep tomato flavour. The broth itself is very memorable and one of the highlights of the degustation.
Quail was up next and I love quail; quail tempura beneath the ribbon salad and shiitake chawan mushi with a blob of wasabi mayo. Once again, when I read the description the wasabi mayo didn't appeal but it was a real flavour enhancer. The tempura was moist and tasty and so meaty. The batter was very thin and almost indistinguishable so not really very tempura like. At the time I loved it but I was spoilt by another quail dish later in the weekend that was on the bone and I think I prefer quail on the bone. The chawan mushi (savoury egg custard) with the chewy shiitake mushrooms was a delight though; all soft and savoury with a Chinese mushroom hit. Great flavour combo.
Soon cheered up by the next course though; pastured beef, roast fillet, poached tongue, silverside and oxtail agnolotti. The beef fillet was cooked really well and topped with some crispy breadcrumbs that didn't go soggy with moisture and juiciness of the meat which was great. The silverside was like a non salty bacon lardon and the shaved tongue was a little too much like tongue for my liking but Steve really enjoyed it. The little agnolotti (ravioli) went well with the little green (parsley I think) salsa verde which provided a little lift to the rich flavours of the dish. Along with the beef came a small cup of bouillon and a brioche bun with buttered marrow. The bouillon was delicious - all meaty and dark and the brioche bun very rich and decadent oozing with meaty grease but very tasty.
The sommelier at Lake House is worthy of a mention as he was professional, friendly and very good. He helped us decide on the two bottles of wine we had and poured me a hefty measure of a sherry to go with my dessert. It was a very dark sherry and resembled balsamic vinegar and after swilling it round the glass, it demonstrated some hefty "legs". I asked him how alcoholic it was and he just smiled a wry smile and said "strong" and boy was it! It didn't taste that strong - like Christmas cake in a glass - but one deep whiff of it makes the eyes water! I stand testament to that.
Petit fours consisted of some Turkish delight, spiced toffee popcorn, salted chocolate truffle, shortbread and a choc mint macaron and in spite of everything we'd eaten, we managed to polish these off too!
We had a lovely evening at the Lake House. There was no mind blowing dish but certainly some memorable flavour combos. The dishes were light enough that after so many courses we didn't feel uncomfortably bloated. In addition we felt that the service was excellent. All the wait staff were attentive and friendly which made for a very pleasant evening. The sommelier even came to us as we were enjoying tea and petit fours to say thahe was finishing up for the evening and wanted to wish us well and an enjoyable weekend.
Having spent the weekend in Daylesford, we learnt that many locals don't like the Lake House and that there are people who have dined there that find it arrogant and over priced. We think that the mark up on some of the wines is high and we don't deny the food is pricey but it's not a rip off and I think the good service accounts for that too.
We've been to one other two hat restaurant, Ezard and think that it is superior to the Lake House but the Lake House does deserve recognition for a good atmosphere, attentive service, strong food dishes with an element of innovation thrown in too and if that recognition comes in the form of two hats then I'm not going to argue against it.