Wombat Hill Botanic Gardens
(Enter via Central Springs Road)
Daylesford, VIC 3640
(03) 4373 0099
Every year, as winter draws to a close, my family and I have made it a tradition to blow off work or uni for a few days and take a road trip out of Melbourne. My parents celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary last week, so we decided to drive up to Daylesford for the weekend along with my aunt, my cousin, her husband and their deceptively cute, super cheeky kids.
Being the typical Filipinos we are, we loaded up both cars with about half a year’s worth of food and drinks. I’m not even kidding. My mum doesn’t do underprepared well. But my heart sank a little because if we had this much food and a fully stocked kitchen, then it kind of defeated the purpose of going out to eat. And I was eager to see what this goldmine of local produce had to offer.
Luckily, I was able to do a bit of digging. After breakfast at home with the works followed by a morning of PJs, movies and Foxtel, we moseyed on up to Wombat Hill House for a late lunch. The café is set in the idyllic Wombat Hill Botanic Gardens and built on the border of an extinct volcano, the remains of which have been replaced by an Eden of lush green trees and leaf-strewn pathways.
The refurbished 1940s caretaker’s cottage is the other Daylesford gem cut and polished by Lake House’s famed Alla Wolf-Tasker. After noting Wombat Hill House’s claim to fame as The Age Cheap Eats Country Champ for 2012, my hopes for a mind-blowing lunch were sky-high.
It was almost two o’clock when we were seated out in the café’s very own herb and vegetable garden. We thought we could escape the crowds, but apparently everyone else was thinking the same thing – and for good reason. The menu isn’t expansive, but Wolf-Tasker and her team have definitely nailed it. The dishes on offer are simple yet classy, and their use of locally sourced and seasonal fare shines through.
We placed our orders only to find out that our late arrival had come at a price – in addition to half the specials board, they had also run out of the Moroccan duck pastie AND the lamb pot pie. I was famished by this point, so I only vaguely remember settling on a roasted tomato, basil and mozzarella pizza (13.5). Not a fascinating choice in hindsight, but a tasty one nonetheless. The pizza base was wafer thin and the classic combination of tomato and mozzarella danced on the tongue.
I traded my sister a slice in exchange for one of hers; she went for the potato, rosemary, goat’s fetta and garlic infused oil pizza (15.5). Potatoes have never sprung to mind as a pizza topping, but it worked. The goat’s fetta was wonderfully salty and creamy, and lifted the whole dish.
After one look at the specials board, Dad had his eyes set on the wombat chilli dog with caramelised onions, chutney and fries (14.0). Fortunately, it was one of the options still available. He offered me a bite when I kept stealing glances at the chilli dog – it smelled amazing! Of course, I couldn’t refuse. The meat was juicy and full of flavour, and the chilli jam fired things up without being overpowering.
I was a little bummed that we had missed out on what could have been an extraordinary lunch, but alas, it just wasn’t our day. Still, if you’re ever up in Daylesford and looking for a decent but inexpensive bite to eat, look no further. Wombat Hill House is the picture of a Saturday afternoon well spent, whether you’re sitting by the fireplace, or out in the garden lapping up the sunshine. While you’re at it, take the scenic drive on your way out; the Gardens have excellent views of this small but incredibly charming town.
I’m definitely going make an effort to visit again; I can already see a girls’ weekend on the horizon. With any luck, I’ll be able to make a bigger dint in Daylesford’s impressive culinary scene. Here’s hoping! 🙂