There are restaurants, and then there’s the Lake House. With almost every national gastronomy award under its belt and a growing collection of international ones, this culinary destination continues to appear at the top of must-visit lists, celebrated for its championing of local produce and its all- inclusive approach to hospitality.
This ongoing success is due to the ingenuity of the Wolf-Tasker family, led by Alla and Allan. The husband-and-wife team established the property in 1984, creating a space where visitors could indulge and relax, pairing Alla’s renowned skills as an award-winning chef with Allan’s growing portfolio as an artist.
Five years earlier, they had purchased a blackberry-infested paddock in a village that had fallen on hard times. Dreaming of green gardens, a notable cellar, peerless local produce and menus that provided a real sense of place, they spent years clearing, building and planting, working to make their dream come true.
More than 30 years later, the Lake House property proudly includes a cellar, hotel, spa and cooking school. But the restaurant is still the beating heart, a venue where sense of place and the true essence of hospitality are of the utmost importance. Over time, Alla and Allan have also been joined by their daughter Larissa, her partner Robin Wilson, and a tribe of industry professionals. Together, they continue to spread pleasure through food in a warm and welcoming environment.
Alla leads a team of passionate young cooks and professionals who travel all over the world for a chance to work within the Lake House’s four walls. They espouse her produce philosophy – a mantra since day one – of using seasonal and local ingredients wherever possible.
“As a cook and gardener I love the anticipation of seasonal produce,” Alla said. “It fuels the imagination like nothing else. The aroma of those first quinces, the muskiness of freshly foraged wild mushrooms, the first white asparagus paired with milk fed lamb and spring sheep curd – how can one fail to be inspired? The menus almost design themselves.”
Dishes change twice a season and revolve around what’s available at the time, meaning every visit brings a new technique, flavour or texture. First course may include oxtail and marrow dumplings with consommé and truffled butter brioche, and Bass Strait scallops served with curry, Portarlington mussels, kohlrabi, orange and vadouvan ‘granola’.
Second courses might bring roasted ballotine of free-range duck, parfait, coffee-roasted carrots, black barley, almonds, carrot top pesto, elderflower and elderberry, or soft pasta pillows of herbed spring ricotta and goat’s curd, served with local morels and white asparagus. Third and fourth courses continue to showcase the very best cheeses and sweet treats on offer.
The entire experience is capped off by service that Alla calls ‘fine dining with the top button undone’. Knowledgeable and friendly, the raft of waiters can explain just what you’re eating, where it came from and what wine you should be drinking off ‘Australia’s Best Wine List’.
When the Lake House first opened its doors, Alla hoped it would become ‘worthy of a journey’. With great contemporary food that highlights the region’s expansive culinary offerings, a stellar wine list and simply splendid surrounds, it’s fair to say it’s the best journey you’ll ever take.