Daylesford is one of my favourite spots for a weekend getaway. The region is rich in natural produce and has the most delicious range of restaurants and cafes to spoil yourself for a weekend. One of the spa country’s finest restaurants is Sault Restaurant on Ballan -Daylesford Road. Beautifully set on a spectacular 125-acre estate, the restaurant is housed in a gorgeous sandstone country building. Flanked by purple lavender fields and a pristine lake, you’ll be transported to the French countryside in Provence in no time.
Hailing from Spain, head chef Santiago Nine-Fernandez, has crafted a spectacular produce driven menu, showcasing the best of modern Australian cuisine. A tasting menu is available for $75 per person. Think Basque-style blue swimmer crab paired with crispy bread tuile, paprika, potato and saffron aioli and a delicious Sher wagyu with San Simon cheese, radish, caramelised onion and mustard leaves. Kick back, relax and enjoy the food and the breathtaking views over the lake, and Wombat State Forest beyond. A memorable experience.
The dining room at Sault is tastefully decorated, with floor-to-ceiling windows to take advantage of the spectacular views of the lake and country side beyond. There’s also an alfresco deck where you can enjoy a pre-lunch or dinner drink in summertime. Upon entering, we are immediately made to feel at home and get acquainted with the menu options.
Despite the a la carte menu being equally tempting, we couldn’t go past ordering the Sault’s summer tasting menu ($75p) so we could enjoy a long, lazy Sunday lunch. Crafted by head chef Santiago, the tasting menu is inspired by traditional recipes of Spanish gastronomy and ancient cookbooks and techniques, with a modern twist.
We started with a shot of gazpacho to kickstart our palates, paired with a gourmet Spanish baby sardine, sourdough, roast vegetables and hazelnut romesco. The starter was designed to sip a little gazpacho then take a bite of the baby sardine which oozed with depth and flavour. Served cold, the gazpacho was refreshing and cool, the perfect accomplice to the nutty romesco which had subtle kick of garlic, capsicum and vinegar.
This was followed by a beautifully crispy croquette stuffed generously with Jamon serrano and Manchego cheese. One bite revealed a beautiful oozing filling of cheesy and salty flavours from the dry cured Spanish ham. The dish was finished with a dusting of tomato powder which provided a surprising flavoural contrast to the dish and brought all the elements together.
Moving on to the third course, a bowl of salmorejo literally exploded with flavour. I wanted to throw away my manners and lick the bowl to finish off every last drop. Originating from Cordoba in Andulucia in Southern Spain, salmorejo is a puree of tomato, bread, oil and garlic. A nice assembly of seafood salpicon (meaning “hodgepodge” or “medley” in Spanish) resembled a seafood salad of sorts and was fresh and nicely balanced. The biggest surprise of the dish was the avocado sorbet which provided a nice textural contrast to the dish to complement the seafood.
A goose terrine was smartly presented and teamed with a fresh fig stuffed with a creamy duck liver parfait. Unctuous and rich, the terrine had a great depth of flavour which paired well with small dollops of caramelised onion, saba and cracked hazelnuts.
Slow cooked for 48 hours, the beef oyster blade certainly didn’t disappoint, falling apart with the slightest of fork nudges. Dressed with edible flowers, king mushroom and rainbow radishes, the dish definitely tasted as good as it looked. Finished with a subtle red wine jus, the beef was allowed to shine and be the real hero. A dollop of roasted eggplant puree was a nice addition, but I felt the beef didn’t need any more flavour.
A red fruit and Cabernet Sauvignon sangria was the perfect sixth course to cleanse and refresh our palates before the dessert.
We finished with a picture perfect dessert of menjar blanc, cherry macaron, rosewater meringue and cherry sorbet. A rectangular block of menjar blanc (a popular dessert in the Catalan region in Spain commonly called “almond cream”) was elegantly topped with meringue cylinders infused with rose water and an impossibly zesty cherry sorbet to complement the cherry macaron. A really clever and inventive dessert which harmoniously balanced the sweet and sour components.
Sault Restaurant is a perfect place for a special occasion, worthy of a day trip or a weekend in Daylesford. The service is friendly and lacks pretension, exactly what I look for in a finer dining establishment. The food crafted by Santiago is both fun and inventive, paying worthy homage to his heritage. I can’t wait to come back to try the Autumn Tasting Menu.
Don’t forget to take a wander through the beautifully scented lavender fields. I am sure you will fall in love with it just as much as I did.