Funnily enough the B&B owners say it is better than the Lake House too. It's not better because it outranks in food; it's more about the overall experience but I'll get onto that as we progress.
Once again we were slightly early for our table and expected to wait in the bar but we were shown to our window table instead.
Our waitress was lovely; very personable and friendly. She recognised as being from teh North of England and it turns out she is from Manchester but has been in Australia for ten years now and has no trace of UK accent any more.
The one blip in the service is we asked to speak to a sommelier for some wine guidance to go with the degustation menu and no one appeared or wanted to speak to us so we made our own choice and told our waitress who apologised profusely but it as hardly her fault. Anyway our choice of wine was out of stock so she returned with a different bottle that was more expensive but sold to us at the lower price so all was good with the world. It was a bit strange to replace what we ordered, a riesling with a chardonnay but admittedly the chardonnay did go very well with the first few courses.
Next up was seared fillet of ‘Tuki’ trout on a fennel and leek risotto with sautéed spinach and a beurre noisette. I don't like fennel but this was good. Really good piece of fish with a light and tasty risotto. Very similar to the food at our favourite restaurant back home, Artisan. In fact as the courses came in, that familiarity resonated so perhaps this association explains why Mercato is our favourite in Daylesford.
One of my favourite dishes followed the pork; seared quail on a warm salad of ‘Istra’ bacon lardons, shallots, chestnuts, endive and finished with a raspberry vinegar jus. We were given little finger bowls so a sure sign to get stuck in with our hands. The quail was just so tasty and gnawing all the meat off those little bones was a delight. The sharpness of the raspberry vinegar made the whole dish taste a lot less rich and filling.
Seared fillet of kangaroo with sautéed cavolo nero, roasted parsnip, cocotte potatoes and a red wine ju reminded us of the gamey taste of meats in South Africa. We've had kangaroo whilst in Australia but this dish was far superior. The meat was tender and soft and as a non parsnip eater I managed two bits as the sweetness of the root vegetable was a nice complementary flavour.
The final meat course was roasted loin of central highlands venison of truffle infused polenta and wilted rocket. Again meat of an excellent quality with some good flavoursome accompaniments - a classic combination that never goes out of fashion.
Dessert was probably the course that wasn't as great as the others. Passable but not wonderful.
We loved the vibe of Mercato; cosy and like someone's living room much like Artisan back home but on a much bigger scale. We loved the service there; friendly and efficient with smiles a plenty and the food was the type of food we enjoy. Good quality ingredients cooked well with respect and love.