Applying classical Italian convictions to everyday life, the Mercato restaurant views the local farmers' market as more than just an outdoor grocery store.
Applying classical Italian convictions to everyday life, the Mercato restaurant views the local farmers’ market as more than just an outdoor grocery store. A market place should be a place to indulge in the great flavours of life, to gossip, to laugh—even to propose marriage. A market is also a place of business, and this brings flavours and scents from all over the world. Owner Richard Mee chose the name Mercato to both honour the Italian heritage of Daylesford and to highlight the restaurant’s proximity to the Daylesford Farmers’ Market. Whatever ingredients the local farmers put into their stalls directly influences the lunch and dinner menus, almost as though the market were the heart and soul of the restaurant.
Opening Mercato in 2004, Richard decided to house the restaurant in an historic building that had once been used by the timber industry. Originating in 1864, the building has been carefully renovated, and, today, it welcomes diners with a modern dining room and contemporary, fine-dining menu. With polished wood floors, high ceilings, and open fireplaces that crackle in the winter, the dining room is a cozy and inviting space. Further, for the romantically inclined, it has soothing colours and subtle lighting, and diners can hear the heritage-listed trees capture the wind as they enter and leave the restaurant.
Mercato cultivates a feeling that anything is possible, and the kitchen welcomes special orders. Roughly 80% of the menu is gluten free, and there’s a two-course children’s menu that features everything from an Eye Fillet of Beef served with roast organic potatoes and steamed seasonal vegetables, to Homemade Pappardelle Pasta served the diner’s choice of beef bolognaise, Napoli tomato sauce, or mushroom, bacon, and chive cream sauce. For dessert, kids can choose from two scoops of homemade ice cream or sorbet.
For adults, Mercato offers an a la carte menu each night with an array of seasonal appetisers, mains, desserts, and cheese plates on offer. The restaurant also offers a Degustation Menu with optional wine pairing as well. Holding the position of Head Chef, Richard has 25 years of professional cooking experience working in 5-star hotels and country estates from the Victorian snowfields to the far north of Queensland. Whenever possible, he uses ingredients from local farms, including Mt. Franklin Organics, Tuki Trout Farm, the biodynamic Trewhella Farm, Spa Venison, and the like. “Enjoy the culinary delights that Daylesford has to offer,” he says, adding “Cooking is made easy when you have such great produce.”
Richard’s signature dish is the Carpaccio of Romsey Emu, which is served with shaved pecorino, baby herbs, thyme, and Kyneton extra virgin olive oil. Other menu items include the Seared Fillet of Kangaroo, which is served on soft truffle infused polenta with sautéed red chard, baby carrots, and native pepper berry jus, and the Dark Chocolate Fondant, which is served with muscatel ice cream and ruby grapefruit gel.
The drink menu at Mercato is sizable and includes a selection of boutique Victorian beers, Daylesford and Hepburn Springs mineral water and the wine list relies heavily on regional wines. Some international producers are also present, and the restaurant typically serves around 17 wines by the glass at a time. They were recently awarded “Two Glasses” in the Australia’s Wine List of the Year Award in 2012. They also won “Best Restaurant Fine Dining award in the 2011 Golden Plate Awards. In the 2012 Restaurant & Caterers Awards, Mercato won Regional Victoria – Contemporary Australian Restaurant/Formal in 2012.