A gem’s in the cupboard

Larder
57a Vincent Street Daylesford

We had ventured past the bustling eatery the day before. With people looking out at us seated by the window, sipping coffees and eating delicious-looking meals, it was the kind of place that you wanted to be in, and be a part of. There was an instant attracting vibe.

So when we happened past Larder once again on our way out of Daylesford/Hepburn Springs on Day 3 of our getaway, looking for a place to munch before we took to the road, although everything looked great, we were hesitant. Inside it looked tightly packed, and I didn’t know if it would be too crowded for the three of us, one of us being a recently turned over-confident, super-animated and vocal girl (and I’m not talking about me). I waited outside while Hubbie ventured in to suss out the sitchy.

We had been soooo undecided ‘til that point. Where to eat, how baby girl would be in the surrounds… we were tired, the car was packed, it was too cold. Blah blah blah. I looked through the window and saw Hubbie motion for us to come in. Here it goes, I thought.

As soon as we were brought to our tables and seated, I immediately started to feel at ease. A female waitress, or more a manager-type as she seemed to be working the room and looking after the barristers and orders up front, tended to us, as did our male waiter, who took all of our orders. HE. WAS. AWESOME. With all the whinge whinge whinge and hesitation that had been going on between us outside (and that WASN’T from baby girl) it was amazing how the energy from the female manager (we’ll call her), and our male waiter, flipped our hesitant vibe to a 180 pumped ‘this is going to be incredible’ one. Honestly, the service was impeccable from the moment we walked in. And maybe that was because we had been so ‘blah,’ that we felt the difference so majorly. Our waiter joked with us and enthusiastically took our orders, even saying I was a deer in headlights after I couldn’t work out what he was spelling out to me, until he said “toybox?” and we just laughed. He hadn’t wanted baby girl getting hyped up before our approval. Over the toybox came, with an assortment of little toys and books. Awesome idea. There was a bit of water running down some of them (some kid threw their drink in?) but it was still, great. Kept baby girl occupied for a bit.

With assistance from our waiter, Hubbie got this interesting looking beer while I soaked in the surrounds.

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And wow, what surrounds they were. I loved it. The atmosphere was cosy, with that Brunswick-hipster vibe, but without the pretentiousness you get with some, replaced with a genuine warmth and friendliness. I loved the décor. It was an urban eclectic mix, with the coffee/register section up front boarded up by a multi-coloured picket fence, and individual lightbulbs ran down from the ceiling and hung fairly low over each individual table.

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Behind us was a mini-larder area up on the wall, with a smorgasbord of local produce like teas, including some other little pots and things to buy. The room had a mix of small private tables and communal tables, with one communal table in the far corner of the room raised higher up so people were sitting on bar stools. One of the middle communal tables had barrel-like light fixtures hung above them, and just in general, the structure and levelling of the room, along with the amount of detail so intricate in every corner, made it so interesting to feast your eyes upon, and it was only a small room at that. It was popping. I loved it.

I was really digging this place. The staff were amazing, the atmos was perfect, and I could just sit and absorb my surroundings all day. If I could just pick it up and take it home and have it be my local, I totally would.

Having said all that, even with our excitement at realising that hey, this is going to be our best restaurant experience yet, on our way out of Daylesford, and we hadn’t even had the food yet (but Hubbie had heard our waiter tell some diners that all their food was fresh) it didn’t mean that it WAS going to be a perfect experience. Because of baby girl. Our beautiful, darling baby girl, was just playing up, and wasn’t being helpful at all. It was driving me slightly insane. When our meals came we were relieved that finally there was food in front of her, but if anything she decided to play up even more. I was going to explode. We managed to somehow feed her, and ourselves, on the following:

Baby girl’s Ham and Cheese on Toast

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My Baked Semolina Gnocchi, wrapped in prosciutto with tomato sugo, pecorino, crispy garlic and sage

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Hubbie’s The Roast Beef Sandwich, with house roasted ‘Kyneton Beef’ rump, shredded lettuce with minted chevre, and tomato chutney

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Baby girl, though she ate it sooo slowly because upsetting Mum was much more fun, seemed to enjoy her toastie, but hey she loves all bread. Hubbie and I taste-tasted the end bits and it was really yum, the ham seemed of good quality.

Hubbie enjoyed his steak sandwich, and I didn’t hear much from his hungry munching until it was his turn to feed baby girl and I got a chance to eat.

Although I ate mine rushed, I loved the gnocchi in the sugo. It was so good, and it definitely tasted fresh. Here was the sauce that Boathouse had missed the day before! The large gnocchi pieces were swimming in the delicious sugo, and I lapped it up, with the bits of garlic and sage that were there too. So enjoyable, yes yes yes.

It was getting hard with her at one stage, and she just kept on whining. Whining, whinging, yelling. OMG. Seriously. And you know what happened next? The manager came up kindly, asked baby girl what was wrong, and then handed her a little notepad that was kept up the front counter, and one of her pens to doodle on.

OMG.

She was so kind, and not at all upset with her, or us, even though baby girl’s cries were ruining the lovely atmosphere. We said thank you, and through our frustration started to calm down a bit, as baby girl started doodling, while she kept eating, bit by bit.

It was only then, when baby girl was kept busy by pen and notepad, that we realised how noisy her cries had made the place. It was suddenly so peaceful. My God. Our ears were happy again, and so were the other diners too.

She had calmed down again, so we decided to push our luck and rather than get a takeaway, order some drink-in coffees. For baby girl too, though I told her she didn’t deserve it.

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Once again, Hubbie didn’t need a sugar in his latte. As he says “that’s proof of a really good coffee.”
I added one to mine because I just had to, but together we agreed that it was a really great bean. Smooth, yet strong. Baby girl’s babycino kept her busy only for so long, and then we had to leave. Our selfish time was over, and it was time to bid adieu and say farewell to Daylesford and Hepburn Springs (and with that experience we were sure they were all too pleased to see the back of us, though no one said it :))

Food: 9/10. When we heard fresh, and knowing that so many of those places source locally, well I just get so happy and super-excited. Presentation was great too.

Coffee: 9/10.

Ambience: Perfect. Relaxed, inspired and eclectic, urban edge. I’d love to go there with my laptop and write a whole book. I could do it easily as well, with the quality of their food and coffee urging me on.

Staff: 10/10. I don’t normally rate the staff, but the amount of sincerity, humour, genuine willingness to help and please, patience and fun that they showed us, they deserve a 10/10 rating. Hubbie had said the manager had welcomed him with ease when he had asked for an availability, and our male waiter, he was a hoot. What a great combination we had. We loved them.

People: We had a family come to sit beside us (where I could point out the well-behaved girl to baby girl and tell her to be more like that!) couples and small groups of people around us, even a lone diner, an elderly man sitting near us who seemed to be getting much amusement from baby girl’s antics. Glad to entertain peeps. A big mix of locals who have discovered this gem of a place.

Price: $77, but that included a tin of tea from the Slow Tea Company. It really would have come in at about $60, and for 2 and a half main meals and 2 and a half coffees, for the quality of everything we received, that was impressive. Much better value for money than the Boathouse, and the staff at the Lake can learn a bit about service from the Larder folk too.

Advice: We went for lunch on a Wednesday and were fortunate to get in just as a couple of guys were leaving. For busy times and weekends, maybe you might need to book, but I actually don’t know if they take them. I’d say yes, judging from the notepad manager gave baby girl. 🙂 No other advice, just go and enjoy this place, and if you’re a local to that area, well what are you waiting for/you bloody lucky son of a beep!

In a nutshell: None of this ‘yeah, if back in the area, we will probably go back’ half-hearted crap that I admit I kinda do at times with other reviews. When we go back, WE ARE GOING THERE FOR BREAKFAST. AND LUNCH. It is happening. We need to try ALL the larder in their cupboards, not just some 😉 I love the food, I love the coffee, I love the staff. I love it. Just go there already, just do it.

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Don’t tell me, this is Paradise

I saw this place from across the road on Day 2 of our Hepburn Springs/Daylesford getaway. I think in particular it was the words, ’13 room bookstore’ printed somewhere near the building that got my reading juices bubbling. Hubbie, baby girl and I headed in.

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I tell you, within minutes, I just turned this corner to my left and all of a sudden found myself staring at a section of books devoted to writing. Like seriously. I couldn’t believe my luck at having stumbled upon this, accidentally and with no purpose to, and when Hubbie came and found me 5 minutes later I was like “I have to buy these two.”

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After that, we started to really explore.

Set in an old Georgian building on the main strip in Daylesford, Paradise Bookshop has 13+ rooms with every single genre, theme and medium you can think of. New and second hand books collide in this majestic treat, and fireplaces are stoked so that you can stay somewhat warm in the musty old building. Temperature isn’t a factor though. These books and all the varieties, will keep you hot in excited combustion.

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There was even a section devoted to children, including a little toybox that baby girl picked a paddle-stick toy-like thing from, and happily brought it with her all over the building as we went through all nooks and crannies, until we found out at the counter that no, it was not for sale. Great idea to keep the kiddies busy though.

There was a music section with second-hand music sheets and books which kept Hubbie involved for a while, while I discovered there were all kinds of subjects to be explored: philosophy, biography, Australiana, along with old vintage Women’s Day magazines and very old, old DVD sets (did anyone know there was a Sex and The City collection in blue? So retro!) Comic book lovers would love the Comic collection room, and if I were more of a nerd I may have even invested in a copy to hope it paid me dividends in the future. I’m sure you’ve heard of those stories.

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All in all we probably spent about half an hour there and only left because baby girl needed a nappy change. The man up the counter was lovely, and I was left reeling at the volume of books still to be discovered.

Luckily for me, one of the second-hand music books Hubbie had been reading had been on his mind the rest of the day, so we returned to Paradise Bookstore on our way out of Daylesford town the following day so he could purchase it. I was sooo excited by this fact, despite Hubbie jokingly stating that he was allowed back in with baby girl while I was designated to waiting in the car. Boo. Prankster. Still, as we walked back in, me beaming like Charlie in the Willy Wonka factory, Hubbie’s words revolving in my head and my resolve to not ‘actively look for books,’ I somehow again, just walked straight, and saw before me, the cooking section.

For months now, since my love affair with Lebanese food began after watching that Food Safari show on the cuisine, subsequently followed by that amazing experience at Bayte, I have been looking for a Lebanese cookbook. I haven’t been going out specifically to find one, but everytime I near the book section of a major chain, or go by a QBD or Dymocks, I tell baby girl “Mummy has to look for something honey,” and push the trolley by the cooking section, idling to see if any Lebanese keywords pop out at me. Only commercial and recently released titles stare back at me, no retailer wide and diverse enough to stock a cookbook as specific yet still very current and popular as the one which I’m after.

You know where this is headed right?

As soon as I saw the section, and my memory went “Lebanese!” I saw this staring back at me on the middle shelf.

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Yep. So I bought it. This Paradise bookstore and I are a match made in heaven. It kept giving me what I wanted, and I barely had to crane my head around to find it.

A book lovers/readers/writers paradise: that can be sure. I told Hubbie as we exited that if we lived nearby, I would be buying a book a week from there.

Do yourself a favour and head on down there. Rug up and give yourself some hours to spare, you won’t be disappointed.

Paradise Bookshop is located at 46 Vincent Street Daylesford.

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(I also told Hubbie if I could I would buy shares in the place… I mean who wouldn’t want a building full of books with images of cats in every corner? Hrmph).

Boathouse Baked Eggs

Boathouse
2 Leggatt Street Daylesford

I saw the all-day breakfast menu conveniently placed at the front desk when I had checked in at Dayget on Day 1 of our Hepburn Springs/Daylesford getaway, so understandably I immediately approached Hubbie with “we’re breakfast-ing at the Boathouse tomorrow morning.”

Located on the cusp of Lake Daylesford, the location is amazing. The Boathouse is perched on the entry to the parkland and circular track surrounding the lake, with tall trees enclosing the perimeter of the lake. It was looming, but very pretty. Unfortunately the weather was not. It was kind of to be expected, I mean, it was June, in Victoria. It was grey and drizzly as we walked by the wet playground and passed the dedicated gardeners pruning out in the front yard of the restaurant, to escape to the warm comforts inside.

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We were led out to the main room at the back of the restaurant, with windows all around showcasing the huge trees opposite the lake. The room and décor… wow. I was impressed. Huge barrel-like light fixtures hung from overhead, exposed beams were on display on the ceiling, and the tables and chairs were modern with a great pattern on the material in the booths that ran along the side walls. It had a great lakeside/sailing vibe.

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We couldn’t wait for our coffees, so we ordered them first.

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My cappuccino, with an upside down apple design me thinks.

We both agreed, that they were great, nice and smooth. Hubbie didn’t even add a sugar to his latte, a clear indicator of the taste of the coffee bean. He was impressed.

However on arrival of our coffees, the waitress, though she seemed nice, didn’t stick around to get our breakfast orders. Maybe she was busy, maybe she wasn’t. Either way, people are hungry when they come in the morning, and they shouldn’t be left waiting too long. Even more so when they have a hungry toddler with them.

Another waitress soon came and took our orders. It became apparent very early on that she was nothing like the pleasing and warm waitress we’d had the previous night at Rubens. She was ok. Just not so happy.

Baby girl’s meal arrived earlier, and we grazed on her crusts as we hungrily awaited ours. She had Stella’s Sourdough Toast with butter, and in the rush to get her eating and keep her from running rampant around the place, I completely forgot to take a photo until half the plate was gone and there were little pieces of toddler-eating-sized bread scattered on the now half-empty plate, so I decided best not to take one. But, it was just two thick pieces of toasted bread, buttered, nothing you photo-food buffs will lose sleep over.

When our meals finally came, they looked yummo:

Farmers Skillet

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Swiss Skillet

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They both looked splendid. And they tasted as good as they looked too. Hubbie’s Farmers Skillet had chorizo, potato and herbs all combined together by cheese and egg, and though he enjoyed it he was missing out on his most important side, tomato sauce. I had to agree with him, that with his, as with mine, there should have been some tomato sauce, something wet and runny. The taste was still amazing, and Hubbie was happy after he got his little side dish, and I still ate my Swiss Skillet happily. Consisting also of potato, with the additions of swiss, feta, mint, and egg, there was a strong salty flavour from the cheese, which the potatoes and egg then balanced out. I enjoyed mine, but couldn’t help taking a leaf from Hubbie’s book, as I kept thinking back to the baked eggs I had back at Little Henri’s. They were saucy goodness. You know a dish is worth going back to when you keep thinking of it, again and again.

We had our meals, finished our coffees and quickly left. We had wonderful surroundings though it was a very grey day, but baby girl had decided our Hepburn/Daylesford getaway was the place she was going to turn up the cheek factor… so off we went to run amuck in another establishment.

Food: 8/10, even without any saucy additions. The rest of the menu looked really interesting, and I nearly swooned when I saw a lady buttering scones on a nearby table.

Coffee: 8.5/10. Smooth, pleasing.

Ambience: Casual and laid back dining by the water. On the quiet side being brekkie time, which made us a tad anxious with baby girl. Refined air brought on by the locals and the staff, though on second thought I revoke the word ‘refined’ for the staff and exchange it with ‘indifferent.’

Staff: See above. Lacking in warmth, which is a shame as a little bit of extra love makes a restaurant that much more revered when the service is brought to you with a smile. One of the waitress’ did smile upon our exit… because baby girl was blowing kisses at her. When you’re paying, you kind of expect them to be the first to blow kisses, if we’re gonna be blowing kisses, right? 😉

People: A few locals on that Tuesday morning. 3 women catching up over gossip, a Mother and her son, an older couple, 2 young girls, and a group of older crew were our other diners that morning. A real mix and meeting ground for all sorts, everyone loves to be by the water.

Price: Our total was $50.50. I think, even with baby girl’s $7-ish meal price, that this was a bit on the steep side for breakfast. We’re talking two meals, one kids meal and two coffees. Still enjoyed it though.

Advice: Try to make it there on a sunny day and sit by the window if opportunity allows. The views are so peaceful. Follow that with a nice walk around the lake and you have yourself a beautiful afternoon. Even if you go on a not-so-nice day, you’ll revel in being in the warmth and beautiful surroundings and away from the cold.
Second tip: If you call out for the ducks out front, they will come for you. Watch out.

In a nutshell: I would go back, and I would hope the staff had improved their attitudes by then. Fortunately for them, the menu options, surroundings and location will keep locals and tourists coming back again and again.

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Rubens stays warm

Rubens
70 Main Road Hepburn Springs

On the first day of our Hepburn Springs/Daylesford Wintry getaway, the name Rubens came recommended twice. This was both impressive, and yet not so. In a more area secluded area such as this, it can be expected that there may be not so many places to dine out at, making the same restaurant options pop up more than once. However on the flipside, we soon discovered that the countryside location actually had a decent abundance of eateries to accommodate for the constant influx of tourists wanting to spa away.

The man at the Dayget office mentioned the above when I first went to check in, and then the mobile masseuse lady who came for my massage also recommended it. Still, we drove into Daylesford town, and after finding not much open on a Monday night, decided to then Ruben it.

We were able to be seated near the front entrance door, with a high chair for baby girl in the passageway, or outside in the alfresco area. At first we opted for inside fearing the freezing temperatures that had all of a sudden appeared on the first day of Winter (even Melbourne usually waits a couple of weeks before really freezing us), but after Hubbie checked it out he discovered that the alfresco area was completely enclosed, and had some of those outdoor heaters warming the area. Deciding on the extra space, we went out. The staff were very accommodating with our change of mind considering we hadn’t booked on a night they already had a few functions and they had already arranged our table.

Ruben’s had been flagged as an Italian-style restaurant, and like the Dayget man had said there were several pages of menu to leaf through. The interior was fairly standard, and in the alfresco there were probably about a dozen or so tables.

I decided I wanted a bottle of red. So I got this:

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Sandy Farm 2013 Cabernet Merlot

And was very happy indeed. 🙂

Perusing the kid’s menu, I was very pleased to see this option

Vegetables with chips

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So I got it for baby girl. It was refreshing to see something other than your usual chips and nuggets, or spaghetti bolognaise options that you see in so many other places. I wanted something fairly healthy for her, and despite the vegies being drizzled with a olive oil dressing and some other flavour, it was still pretty healthy and had baby girl eating a fair decent portion of it all. I was rapt. We taste-tested too and it was yummy indeed. She got her meal earlier as requested, which helped our cause once again. Tick.

We had the same style of vegies that baby girl had had aside our mains that we ordered.

Tasmanian Salmon Steak- oven baked, with fried Kipfler, sweet potato, and seasoned vegetables for me

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Eye Fillet Steak- char grilled and served with a pepper sauce for Hubbie

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Both were very healthy, comforting and satisfying meals. Hubbie had requested medium for his steak, and it was a deep to light pink all the way through. The way it was cooked, for him was a pass. As he ate it he grew more approving. It would have taken longer for it to be cooked medium to well, yet his steak was still to his liking. I even tasted it and thought it was great, until the pepper sauce hit the back of my throat and sent me on a coughing fit en route to the end. My God, this Winter cough won’t give up. Anyway, it was great.

My salmon was lovely, healthy, and fried all the way through how I like it. We had all had healthy and satisfying meals, which were tasty but simple.

To end it I decided on this:

Affogato

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Which we all ended up sharing. Baby girl had some ice cream, Hubbie had some coffee and I had a bit of both mixed together. 🙂 It was good, but the coffee was very strong. At least if it was going to keep me up, it was going to keep Hubbie up with me 😉

Food: 7.5/10. Simple but hearty. A fairly standard menu, options wise, yet there were a lot of them, so that was good.

Coffee: 7/10. Strong. I wonder how their cappuccinos are like?

Ambience: On the quiet side, especially outside. This made us slightly nervous, with a hungry girl needing to eat beside us, but thank goodness she behaved. This once. Inside it was more rambunctious with a few big groups, and as the night wore on it the volume also increased inside the alfresco. It was warm and inviting, made additionally so by the heaters against the wall!

Staff: The staff were really good, in particular our waitress was amazing and very accommodating to our needs. She was attentive, warm, helpful and genuine. Her service was impeccable, we were very impressed. She also helped me out with the wine. 😉

People: Couples, and groups of people. 25+ up? We were concerned with an older couple beside us who were especially quiet over their meal, hoping baby girl’s possible antics wouldn’t totally piss them off, however she didn’t get vocal while they were there, and then when they left another couple of the same age bracket came in their place who actually acknowledged baby girl with a few smiles, so we breathed a sigh of relief.

Price: It was $130.50 all up, but that also included a bottle of red that came in at $38, so our grand total was a bit more than usual. With our mains averaging at about the $30 mark, baby girl’s meal at $12 (all kids meals are $12) and a couple of drinks, and the affogato, it was about on the mark.

Advice: If going over the weekend, perhaps book. Yes there were a few functions surprisingly on the Monday night we went, but you should be safe just rocking up during the week. If it’s cold out, don’t worry about seating in the alfresco, as it’s still warm.

In a nutshell: A cosy and inviting place that we would be happy to return to on a trip back to the Hepburn area. Happy staff and a vast menu make this an enjoyable place to dine at, and with the healthier kids option, I can see why this was recommended to me not once, but twice.

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