Wander down the garden path of Daylesford’s enchanting Wombat Hill Botanical Gardens and you’ll soon discover the charming Wombat Hill House. The café, store and kitchen garden is the brainchild of critically acclaimed, Alla Wolf-Tasker, (Executive Chef and co-owner of the Lake House), her artist husband Allan and daughter Larissa. So it’s no surprise it has become one of regional Victoria’s hottest food destinations.
The original 1940s caretaker’s cottage has been beautifully restored to blend in seamlessly with its natural surrounds. The project has been a long term labour of love for the Wolf-Tasker’s, who have a strong sentimental tie with the garden and fond memories of a whimsical childhood.
Surrounded by lush green lawns, giant conifers and stately elms, Wombat Hill House is the perfect retreat for a morning breakfast or lazy Sunday lunch. Upon entering the café, I am immediately captivated by its homely charm. From the beautifully upholstered shabby chic furniture to Allan’s whimsical winged wombat mural flanking the main room’s wall, it’s evident that a lot of love and energy has been put into this place. An open fireplace surrounded by plush sofas takes centre stage, where I can see myself cosying up to with a cup of hot chocolate on a chilly wintry day.
There is also plenty of space to bask in the sunshine alfresco in the summer months. A handsome bar opens up onto a gorgeous covered pergola of rambling vines and blossoming geraniums. Or you can choose to retreat to the rear of the cafe and sit amongst the herbs and vegetable pots in the rustic kitchen garden.
Showcasing the best of seasonal local food, the menu is thoughtfully prepared and offers diners relaxed simple fare. A blackboard is scrawled neatly with the daily specials, or your taste buds can be further tantalised with the delicious spread of cakes and pastries at the counter.
Early risers can enjoy a sumptuous selection of homemade crumpets with Istra bacon and maple syrup, free-range eggs (all ways) and granola with Meredith sheep’s milk yoghurt. For lunch there’s plenty of freshly baked sandwiches, gourmet salads and posh pies on offer. The pizzas are a crowd favourite as is their famed Wombat Reuben with thinly sliced corned beef and sauerkraut.
Super food nuts will love their vitamin enriched smoothies with a range of interesting ingredients like spirulina, camu camu and bee pollen.
We started with an avocado smash, which literally busted with seasonal colour and flavour from slithers of fresh radish and juicy segments of blood orange. The creamy avocado combined beautifully with a heavy sprinkling of pepita seeds and grains which provided a nice textural contrast: While a moreish potato rosti with caramelised leeks was topped generously with smoked ocean trout and a perfectly poached egg. A smattering of minted peas provided a touch of freshness to the dish and cut through the richness of the rosti.
Fresh from the kitchen garden, a beetroot and roasted cauliflower salad was teamed with chickpeas, green beans and a hint of chilli to add a touch of spice. This was the perfect summery dish, packed full of quality local produce.
To finish, a warm pear clafoutis was served with a side of whipped cream and a cup of superb All Press coffee. The clafoutis was ridiculously moist with a delightful airy texture and chock full of delicately spiced poached pears, a perfect way to end a sumptuous lunch.
No bookings are required at Wombat Hill House but it does get busy, especially on weekends. Just take particular note of the opening hours since they hibernate on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. If you’re in a rush, there’s also a great range of take home “heat and eat” packages and picnic fare. The delicious range of Alla’s “A Wolf in the Kitchen” produce is perfect for Christmas gifts.
The Lake House Daylesford may have the prime position of the lake, but Wombat Hill House certainly has the most enviable position in the gardens. Don’t leave without having a casual meander around the gorgeous gardens and help burn off your meal by climbing the top of Pioneers Lookout Tower. You’ll be rewarded with a bird’s eye view of Daylesford and its surrounds. It sure does make the perfect day trip from Melbourne. Next time I will be coming back to try their high tea!