March 31st, 2023Laid-back dining at the Daylesford Hotel
MY dining companion (Paddy H) and I are ravenous as we enter the Daylesford Hotel for lunch, mid Monday, me having done a gruelling morning group weights class and Paddy having arisen
well before 11am.
And so, it’s with relief that we notice immediately the robust nature of the menu
on offer. There’s plenty here for the hungriest of carnivores – ranging from small
plates to share like the popcorn chicken with chipotle mayo ($18) and the confit pork
belly with apple and wild fennel slaw, celeriac puree and jus ($19) to the Scotch fillet
with buttered kipfler potatoes, beetroot puree, roquette salad and red wine jus ($49)
among the main meat options.
But, notably, we see vegetarians and vegans are also well catered for. The
roast Moroccan seasoned cauliflower steak and the spring saffron ricotta gnocchi
(handmade) are among the tempting options that leap off the menu in this
department. I’m also delighted to discover there’s also an excellent range of options
for those who do not tolerate gluten. At all. And it isn’t just a trendy lifestyle choice.
We settle in. The atmosphere in the Daylesford Hotel dining room is welcoming
– mellow and relaxed. Green panelled timber walls, a high pressed metal ceiling,
beautiful stained glass windows and a gas log fire which is going (as though in
homage to the season’s shift) all enhance the soothing country ambience.
Nearby, the attractive bar is well stocked with all manner of glinting temptation.
Paddy does the honours, ordering us a lovely lunchtime local wine – Lachlan’s
chardonnay 2021 from Amherst Winery at Talbot. It comes in French glassware.
For starters (or “small plates to share”) Paddy selects the spiced lamb ribs served
with mint yoghurt, dukka and pickled cucumber ($22). I opt for the gluten-free
mushroom and mozzarella arancini with tomato relish (3 pieces for $15).
Arriving in no time, my choice of starter proves to be golden and crunchy on the
outside with an easily assimilated comfort food factor within. We make swift work,
Paddy happily musing on his selection: “old school flavours, tangy accompaniment”.
Next up I don’t resist the market fish (salmon) served with buttered kipflers,
avocado mousse, orange and fennel salad GF ($34). Paddy goes for the Daylesford
Hotel pie (beef bourguignon) served on a bed of mashed potatoes, peas and gravy
($29). Our mains also arrive swiftly and prove both ample and satisfying. By the time
they’re but a mere memory on our emptied crockery we agree we can hardly fit in
But we’re on a mission. So we push on, Paddy plumping for the house-made
decadent chocolate brownie with orange blossom syrup and ice cream ($16) while
I can never go past a good creme brulee. This one comes with vanilla ice cream and
strawberry and is also GF ($16). Both of our selections arrive with fresh violas for
garnish and multi-coloured sprinkles on the ice-cream.
There’s just the right degree of crunch on the brulee’s toffeed top while beneath
the surface my choice of dessert is pleasingly creamy. Paddy reports the brownie to be
“warm, rich, and very dark for chocolate lovers”.
Venue manager Trae Galea stops by to ask how things are, and we’re very happy to
report satisfaction. In response to my question, Trae confirms that the chicken dishes
on the menu here are free range. These include a parmigiana for die-hard devotees
with both half ($21) and full ($30) options available.
We note too that burger and pasta fans are well catered for, and that, beside my
large salmon plate of choice, there’s a good range of other seafood options including
classic fish and chips, chilli mussels, salt and pepper calamari, and barramundi which
comes with vegetables and lemon butter sauce.
On the other side of the bar, supervisor and bar attendant Sion says the thing she
enjoys most about working here is the conviviality. “It’s just a very nice country pub
atmosphere, very friendly and a nice little community hub.”
Leaving with dessert lingering agreeably on the palate, we can see what she means.
Along with the satisfying portion sizes, good range of gluten free, vegetarian and
vegan options, the Daylesford Hotel gets a big thumbs up for laid-back ambience. It’s
somewhere you can really chill while getting a fill. Words & images: Eve Lamb