Luxury & design at Lake House Daylesford
Leading luxury travel and food writer Mary Pratt, founder of The Caviar Spoon, visited The Lake House Daylesford, a luxury boutique hotel just 90 minutes outside of Melbourne.
The area of Daylesford kept popping up time and time again when I mentioned that I’d be spending some time in Melbourne. It turned out to be a non-compromise stopover so I was extra delighted when I was introduced to the Wolf-Tasker family of the renowned Lake House in the exquisite resort town of Daylesford.
Wouldn’t you fancy having a fine glass of Claret whilst soaking in a hot tub in a peaceful locale, far removed from the urban grind?
The Story & The Brand
After I landed in Melbourne, I immediately headed out to the Lake House. Daylesford seems like a zillion miles away from the hustle and bustle of Melbourne but it’s really only 90 minutes by car.
The beautiful Lake House is owned by renowned Chef Alla Wolf-Tasker and equally credible artist husband Allan Wolf-Tasker and run by brand genius daughter Larissa Wolf-Tasker. The luxury retreat is known for food, wine, and wellness, plus some jolly lovely spa-ing and is truly the ideal venue to escape from city life and get back to nature.
(PS—Master Chef Australia fans might remember the heart racing, palm sweating challenge that took place here.)
The Lake House was born out of love in the early 70’s. At the time, Russian-rooted Alla was a huge chef roaming around the Michelin restaurant scene while Allan was an art teacher. Daylesford is actually drenched in Russian heritage but that didn’t stop Alla’s mother from weeping at the idea of the couple buying a plot of land in the sleepy town! But the couple went ahead with it anyway, the mother’s tears dried, and over the next 5 years, Alla and Allan travelled back and forth from Melbourne over the weekends to work on their pet project.
As soon as money came in, it was spent on this or that but it eventually resulted in a 40-seat restaurant that was only open on Fridays and Saturdays with Alla in the kitchen and Allan working the front of the house armed with a mean bow tie.
It then evolved to the retreat it is today with the added accommodations. The Lake House Daylesford is a place for making magical memories. It’s a place to unwind and relax and take a step back from it all. It touts an impressive list of accolades and awards, including a shared prize with Perth’s Rockpool Bar & Grill for wine list of the year in 2014. With over 13,000 cellar wines in total…well, it’s no surprise!
Getting There & First Impressions
We were slightly surprised that, instead of the long, sweeping driveway that we had envisioned for the mythical Lake House, it was just the opposite upon arrival. But this disappointment (if it could even be called that) was short-lived.
When we entered the reception area, it felt like we were being welcomed into a cosy, Hamptons-esque modern country home. This stylish design vibe reverberated throughout from the Argyle Library Bar right through to the stairs leading down to the restaurant. The design here softly and subtly whispers that this is a true, high-end boutique-style hotel.
Staff & Service
Overall, the staff here were super friendly and professional although we noticed a slight disjoint with the evening restaurant staff. With 110 members and being based outside the city, we imagine that it could be a challenge to attract and retain talent but to ensure that the Lake House standards remain consistent, it wouldn’t hurt to have the restaurant staff brush up on a few things. That being said, by no means did it spoil our stay!
Where You’ll Sleep
There are 33 rooms and suites scattered around the property and lake, all lovingly designed and decorated. Starting with Lodge Studios, you can work your way up the chain, through the Waterfront Suites up to The Retreat, which is basically your own private country house within the Lake House property. We were escorted to our standalone Waterfront Suite, which overlooked the misty and mysterious Lake Daylesford.
Our suite was fabulously decorated—complete interior heaven! Larissa Wolf-Tasker has utterly nailed the entire interior branding of the Lake House, from the public areas to the rooms and suites. You won’t find any generic hotel linens or decor here. Instead, each room is uniquely decorated with posh pieces of furniture, lush upholstery, and thoughtfully selected curios.
As we wandered around, you could see just how much TLC has gone into making the Lake House what it is. All the trees scattered around the property were planted by Alla and Larissa when she was a child and the current gardener is actually formerly of the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne.
We were also invited to tour the Retreats—two salubrious villas of the absolute highest quality with private entrances, butler service, fire pits for toasting marshmallows, and even private spa treatment rooms! Unsurprisingly, the design of these villas is absolutely breathtaking. Some rather well-known celebs have spent time here and if the purse strings can handle it, you won’t regret spending a weekend here with a loved one. Plus it just oozes honeymoon heaven! (Take note, couples!)
While on the way to our suite, we passed by Allan’s fabulous art studio and couldn’t resist taking a peek. The studio was wall-to-wall with easels, paints, and an incredible “Wolf in the Kitchen” work. I imagined this to be the ideal man cave where work, fun, and a few cheeky glasses of wine collide together.
And speaking of artwork, it’s not just Allan’s paintings that you’ll find on the property. The Wolf-Taskers are very supportive of local artists and all throughout the grounds you’ll come across art pieces such as Miriam Porter’s Magpies and Anthony Vanderzweep’s bronze hare.
Where To Eat
All of our meals were based in the main restaurant. We discovered that it’s at full capacity most weekends and pulls in a crowd that represents the more well-heeled members of society. Overlooking the lake, the impressive floral centrepiece greets you before you sit down for your meal. With Alla as the Culinary Director and Head Chef David Green, you can expect both the à la carte and tasting menus to be phenomenally palate-pleasing.
Our lunch consisted of dishes like the delectable tuna sashimi and tartare with nori, mojama, wasabi, soy, and quail egg, which was carefully paired with a gorgeous glass of wine handpicked by the sommelier.
While we dined, I looked around the restaurant and could see that it’s a place locals hold in high regard. A real foodie’s delight that serves up exquisite food for both lunch and dinner and transforms beautifully from day to evening. If you do plan on having dinner there, then keep in mind that a visit to the Library Bar is a must for pre-dinner cocktails! (The mixologist did an awesome job with ours!)
Also, remember that award-winning wine cellar we mentioned earlier? Well, you can always book it out (it seats up to 16 people) and have a private feast with friends and family, surrounded by bottles and bottles of vino—it’s an adult’s version of a child in a candy shop!
Where To Unwind
The Salus Spa was an addition to the property and truth be told, it was the only part of the whole place that seemed to lack that “Lake House” edge, instead appearing tired and slightly out of date. But turning a negative into a positive, the therapist who performed my Salus Signature Bliss treatment was utterly delightful. In fact, it was probably one of the most thorough consultations I have ever had. Keeping in mind that I review places from The Mandarins to the Viceroys, it really is an accolade in its own right and I can just imagine how incredible it would be with a touch of TLC and interior love.
It’s screaming to be a girls’ pamper weekend getaway but you know with us girls, we want to have the perfect surroundings with the treatments!
Weddings & Events
This is most certainly the place to have a wedding if you want to forego the traditional church affair! It’s actually a huge part of the Lake House’s business portfolio and with good reason.
Armed with a full wedding and events team (including the most awesome in-house florist who’s been with the family for 22 years), they’ll help you with every aspect of the day and make sure that all of those niggling details are taken care of whilst the bride quaffs a glass of bubbles in the bridal suite (as she should on the big day!).
All in all, this was the perfect 24-hour retreat before heading back to Melbourne CBD and if we had been able to plan differently, would have allotted a full 48 hours to stay and explore all that Daylesford has to offer!
Maybe (no, DEFINITELY) next time.
King Street, Daylesford, 3460