Calm Waters - Luxury Travel Magazine
|By: Lee Mylne, Issue 49 Summer 2012|
|Lake House, Daylesford|
|THERE AREN’T MANY THINGS THAT SPEAK OF PEACE AND TRANQUILLITY AS WELL AS A LAKE. A SHORT DRIVE FROM MELBOURNE, LAKE HOUSE DAYLESFORD IS THE BEST PLACE TO STAY FOR GARDEN WALKS, FIRESIDE AFTERNOONS, FINE FOOD AND INNER PEACE.|
Mist rises from the lake in front of the Lake House in Daylesford in the early dawn, an ethereal start to the day that is its own reward for climbing – however reluctantly – from the cocoon of a four-poster bed.
I know this because it’s not my first visit to Lake House; but on this stay the Spring weather in Victoria is warm, the sky is overcast and the mist – which swathes the lake on more mornings than not – is absent and I am treated instead to crisp, clear reflections.
Whatever the mood of the morning, a wander along the meandering path around Lake Daylesford is a delightful pre-curser to breakfast. With dew still on the grassy slope that leads from the private retreats at Lake House to the still water from which it takes its name, a walk around the lake is a bucolic start to the day. A black swan glides past, a mother duck hustles a small flotilla of ducklings along the still water, and fat white geese barely turn their heads as joggers pass by.
I’ve been here a little more than 12 hours and already I can feel the city cares ebbing away. Starting my visit with a spa treatment has clearly been a fine idea.
From the Salus Spa’s menu, I’ve chosen one of the signature treatments, aptly named “Salus Bliss” and for more than an hour luxuriate in a combination of a hot stone massage with warm oil and a “polish” with fragrant lime and ginger salts. By the time I am cocooned in towels and succumbing to a mini-facial and scalp massage, I’m ready to nod off. Rousing myself from the massage table to finish off with a “hydrostorm” shower – steam, Vichy jets and a waterfall shower – takes a bit of effort but the end result is a truly relaxing start to my few days’ visit to the “spa country” of Daylesford.
Lake House is almost synonymous with Daylesford. Since Alla and Allan Wolf-Tasker combined their dynamic culinary and artistic talents three decades ago to create one of the most elegant and luxurious retreats in Australia, it has been the catalyst for a blooming foodie culture throughout the entire region.
The most recent addition to Lake House’s accommodation is an exclusive retreat, set just a bit apart from the other 33 rooms. Staying here is like stepping into a friend’s stylishly modern country house, dotted with quirky objet d’art and works from the Wolf-Tasker family’s private collection. It’s all textures and colour, to great effect.
The retreat is cleverly designed so it can be used as a whole house or it can be split in two, each side with its own living, dining, kitchen and sleeping area, a luxurious bathroom with deep tub (chandelier above, heated floor below), and private outdoor deck. The Spa Villa has a spa pool and canopied day bed on the deck, and this is the side I favour!
Tearing myself away from a squashy leather armchair in front of the open fire, I head down the path lined with lavender and fragrant roses to the two-hat Lake House restaurant. Alla Wolf-Tasker’s commitment to fresh, seasonal produce sourced from within the local region means each day can bring something new, but the best is always assured.
The light-filled restaurant, overlooking the lake, is also a showcase for Allan Wolf-Tasker’s vibrant art – if you can be distracted from the flow of delicious treats coming from the kitchen. I decide I’m not up to the eight-course tasting menu, but can be tempted by tastes not often on offer at city restaurants; smoked Skipton eel and rabbit to name just a couple.
Walking off such a sumptuous meal seems sensible, and there are plenty of options. Paths
from Lake House lead to the lake, to Wombat State Forest and to the centre of Daylesford. Lake House’s latest venture is worth exploring too, so I head to the Wombat Hill Botanical Gardens where the conservatory-style cafe, Wombat Hill House, is the perfect place for a light lunch or to pick up a picnic. The gardens are also next door to one of the town’s major attractions, The Convent Gallery.
After a day’s wandering, it’s a delight to come home to the retreat and know that soon a private butler will arrive with cocktails and canapés. It’s all part of the service, which extends to room service served, if you like, outside on the deck or at the elegant dining table.
“Above all at Lake House, we believe that eating something truly delicious has always done wonders for the human spirit,” writes Alla in the beautifully illustrated history of Lake House that I find on the bookshelf. It is a belief that – at least by the time they leave – her guests will need little convincing of.