Daylesford is a country Victorian town with charm to burn. It also has a large number of places to eat. This makes our suggestions on the best restaurants in Daylesford highly useful if you’re planning a trip to this beautiful region.
Lying in the foothills of the Great Dividing Range, Daylesford is a popular destination for day trips and weekends away. This is because it is both a picturesque location and home to natural mineral springs.
The mineral springs have led to a thriving ‘wellness’ industry with many visitors making the 90 minute drive from Melbourne to enjoy spa treatments. Birthdays, anniversaries and Girls’ Weekends away are all great excuses to head to Daylesford and indulge in some quality rest and relaxation!
The constant influx of tourists, means that Daylesford has an impressive selection of restaurants, cafes and bakeries for such a small town.
Even so, Covid and the lockdowns that have ravaged Victoria have taken their toll. The much-loved restaurant Mercato and the wine bar Belvedere Social have both sadly closed.
Mercato, in particular, is a major loss. The restaurant served culinary delights of a consistently high quality (it was an Australian Good Food Guide Winner as recently as 2019) and was a popular destination for many when in the Daylesford/ Macedon Ranges region.
Mercato’s degustation menu was first class and there was an enviable and extensive wine list featuring quality drops from local and international vineyards.
Recent years have seen the demise of many fine dining establishments, and Mercato is another restaurant that will be sorely missed.
However, there are still plenty of excellent places to dine if you find yourself in Daylesford region. So here are our recommendations on some of the best restaurants in Daylesford and neighbouring Hepburn Springs.
And if you make it to Daylesford, why not add a night or 2 in Bendigo? Click here for our Best Restaurants in Bendigo for dining suggestions.
Location: 3 Tenth St, Hepburn Springs, VIC 3461 Ph: (03) 5348 4628
It might have an amusing name, but this gem of a restaurant has an impressive pedigree. Run by Gastro Pub royalty in the form of Simon Bevanda and his partner Vanessa Kalamistrakis and Fitzroy’s Hell of the North alumni Sean Marshall manning the stove top, it’s no wonder it books out quickly.
Featuring a fixed price 4-course menu which changes daily, the food is unfussy, but beautifully executed. It’s all about making quality local produce shine. The kitchen is proud to work with local producers and it shows.
One day you may get a perfectly seasoned and chopped steak tartare. The next may offer the rich ooze of burrata against the sweetness of an heirloom tomato salad. Dishes such as slow-cooked lamb-neck show how good lesser used cuts can be when cooked with love.
And the chips. For all we know, fries may be are on the menu on other days, but the fat, crunchy golden chips are worth the drive from Melbourne alone!
Update: We’re delighted to tell you that The Surly Goat received One Hat in The Age Good Food Guide 2023 Awards.
Recommended: 15 of the Best Fish & Chips Eateries in Melbourne
Location: 4 King Street, Daylesford, VIC 3460 Ph: (03) 5348 3329
You can’t talk about the best restaurants in Daylesford and not mention the Lake House.
Co-owner Alla Wolf-Tasker is the doyenne of regional dining. She and her artist husband Allan left the city for the orchards and farms of Daylesford more than 40 years ago when no one knew where it was. Since then, she has been was instrumental in making the small town a destination for foodies wanting a great meal (and luxury accommodation) in stunning surroundings.
The 2-hatted restaurant (Good Food Guide) is a special occasion destination, with prices to match. It offers lovingly sourced local produce with fine dining credentials in a sophisticated country house setting. The menu shifts focus regularly as vegetables come into season and livestock reach their peak.
The passing years have seen whimsical dishes like ‘Rivers and Lakes’ come and go. Expertly poached yabby and slithers of Murray cod sashimi aside rich pillows of eel brandade and subtle smoked trout jelly, all balanced by a vibrant salsa verde. Beautiful and delicious.
A new month and menu may showcase the sweetness of spring lamb against the earthiness of morel mushrooms and freshness of asparagus.
Whatever delights you are served at the Lake House Daylesford, every plate is guaranteed to be a work of culinary art.
As we enter the ‘new normal’ of Covid times, the four-course a la carte menu costs $175 per head. Having checked the restaurant’s website, it seems that the glorious Tasting Menu is not currently being offered. Hopefully it will be back soon as I recall it as a truly memorable experience!
Update: Since publishing this, the team at The Lake House have again been awarded a well-deserved 2 Hats in The Age Good Food Guide Awards 2023
Lake House Daylesford Accommodation
And a final tip. Make your visit to the Lake House Daylesford an event in itself and book an overnight room too. It won’t be a cheap weekend, but when you’ve eaten a divine meal and enjoyed a well-matched wine you’ll be glad to tumble into a luxurious bed and not have to drive home!
Recommended: 15 Great Vegetarian Restaurants in Melbourne
Location: 2349 Ballan-Daylesford Rd, Sailors Falls, VIC 3461 Ph: (03) 5348 6555
Housed in a stunning homestead framed by striking lavender fields, Sault is another notable entry in the list of best restaurants in Daylesford.
Championing sustainable homegrown produce and local suppliers, this lovely contemporary Australian restaurant offers fine dining finesse in a welcoming, relaxed space. It’s not a ‘tricked-up’ menu, but rather classic combinations, executed with a light touch. And I confess, I’ve found both the food and service in harmony with the ambience of the dining room when I’ve eaten there.
Sault presents guests with considered menus and clean, fresh flavours. You might like to select from the $98 3 Course Menu, or go all out with $130 7 Course Tasting Menu (an additional $60 for matching wines). And we love that they offer a separate Plant-Based Tasting Option ($125).
Decisions on how much you plan to eat made, you can sit back and enjoy a parade of tantalising flavours. Perhaps you’ll get a perfectly rested rectangle of Eye Fillet, topped with a pungent disc of smoked garlic butter on a smooth carrot puree with red wine jus. Maybe your dessert will be the sweet, sharp and savoury bliss of the cashew cake, oat-milk panna cotta, rhubarb and divine honey miso.
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Location: 1 Camp St, Daylesford, VIC 3460 Ph: (03) 5348 1218
You may think that country town is the last place to find refined Japanese food, but this is exactly what you’ll get a Kadota.
This is casual fine dining at its best. Chef Aaron Schembri met his wife Risa Kadota whilst working in kitchens in Japan and the 2 have imbued the concept of Omotenashi (wholeheartedly looking after guests) into every aspect of their Daylesford restaurant. From impeccable service to sublime food and a belter of a sake list.
Set menus are the order of the day and local ingredients are married cleverly with classic Japanese flavours. Portions are small, but the restraint on show is all about finding the perfect balance on the plate.
The opening course of the ‘Classic’ menu tells you all you need to know. A deceptively simple bowl of Osuimono (clear soup), garnished with a cube of homemade horse radish tofu, a flower-shaped slice of okra, roasted nori and wakame.
At $99 for the current 7 course offering, this is a meal where each carefully curated dish should be savoured.
Great cooking starts with a great knife. And the Japanese are famous for their quality chef’s and steak knives. Click here for more information and prices.
It’s no wonder that Kadota won the coveted Golden Plate Best Contemporary Dining Award this year. Accolades like this will only enhance the status of this superb eatery. It definitely deserves its spot amongst the best restaurants in Daylesford.
Update: We’re very happy to inform you that Kadota has been given 2 Hats in The Age Good Food Guide Awards 2023.
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Location: 6/8 Howe St, Daylesford, VIC 3460 Ph: 0499 022 212
Daylesford’s ‘neighbourhood French bistro’ has earned a reputation for classic Franco-fare done really well. But then as the chef/owner (Matthew Carnell) has rattled the pans at a 2-Starred Michelin establishment in France, you’d hope so.
The menu is small, but the flavours are big. Start your meal with the Pork Belly and Scallops ($25). Here, crisp cubes of succulent pig are paired with sweet, translucent scallops on a punchy Gremolata and seaweed emulsion. A scattering of fish eggs add a salty pop.
That French holiday favourite – Steak Fries ($42) – is elevated with a cut of Sher Wagyu 6+ Rump. The fries would make any Parisian happy and the Cafe Paris Butter is fab.
The wine list carries a good range of both Australian and French bottles to compliment your meal.
Given that there are few truly genuine French bistros here in Australia, it is a lovely surprise to find that one of the best restaurants in Daylesford is presenting such authentic food.
Recommended: 15 Top French Restaurants in Melbourne
Location: 30 Raglan St, Daylesford, VIC 3460 Ph: (03) 5348 3279
Cliffy’s takes the whole country town General Store vibe and runs with it. The decor is heavy on olde worlde charm and the food is hearty and honest. The Emporium itself proudly supports local producers. The shop also sells an array food and drinks as well as the plates from it’s kitchen.
The current brunch menu has some nice changes from the usual avocado on toast – not that there’s anything wrong with a smashed avo! Laksa Eggs ($22) feature scrambled coconut eggs, a decent coconut sambal and roti. And the earthy tang of buckwheat buttermilk Crepes ($22) is offset by sweet ricotta, zesty lemon curd, raspberries and rhubarb sauce. Textural crunch comes in the form of an almond crumb.
Crusty rolls, loaded with fillings rotate through the menu. You may find a Hot Roast Beef Roll served on ciabatta with peppercorn gravy and horseradish cream. Or it could be juicy Porchetta with grilled veggies and a pistachio pesto.
Cliffy’s has been a favourite with locals and visitors for years and on market days it is heaving. You can’t do better than that.
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Location: 70 Main Rd, Hepburn Springs, VIC 3461 Ph: (03) 5438 2843
The evocative aromas and colours of the Mediterranean are the stars at Rubens@Hepburn.
Here you can grab a table on the veranda and take in the bush views as you enjoy the friendly service.
This is the place to come if you yearn for Pumpkin and Goats’ Cheese Arancini ($15) or a bowl of juicy Mussels in a light Chilli and Tomato Broth ($22). The mains include a good selection of popular pasta dishes, along with a smattering of risottos, chicken, steak and seafood options.
A special mention must go to the Calamari Tiganita where the soft, delicate flesh is crumbed, fried and made to sing by a lemon pepper seasoning. Sometimes, less really is more.
Pizzas are also a feature at Rubens and extend from that perennial favourite, the Margherita, through to more unusual combinations such as Chicken Camembert($18.50) and Sweet Chilli Prawn ($22).
With it’s extensive menu, there’s something for everyone. And Rubens laidback style makes it a great place to enjoy a long, lazy lunch or a fun meal with the family.
Recommended: 15 Top Pizza Eateries in Melbourne
Location: Shop 4, 26 Vincent Street, Daylesford, Vic 3460 Ph: 0480 286 838
Open 7 days – Mon-Thurs 12pm-late; Fri-Sun 10am-late
We were fortunate enough to spend a couple of days in lovely Daylesford recently. Apart from delighting in the autumnal shades of the countryside, we also managed to do some serious eating.
Winespeake is an excellent place for lunch, in particular. It is a wine shop and delicatessen/ cafe in a beautiful corner location, with impressive floor to ceiling windows overlooking the streetscape.
Winespeake is a fabulous spot to while away a lazy afternoon, people-watching, in a cheese and wine lovers paradise.
Please click here for our full review of the wonderful Winespeake. You really want to know about this gem.
Location: 32 Raglan St, Daylesford, VIC 3460 Ph: (03) 5312 2778
Beppe Kitchen & Bar is the latest venture from the team at Cliffy’s Emporium. As the name suggests, the inspiration is the neighbourhood Italian trattoria.
This is the kind of rustic food that goes down well after a winter’s walk around nearby Wombat Hill Botanic Gardens or browsing the wares at the Daylesford Sunday Market.
Wood-fired pizzas have a good char to them and come in a regulation 12 inch size – so there’s no dilemma on how big to go. The flavour combos aren’t over done with the mushroom version enhanced solely by Asiago and thyme and the prosciutto on another allowed to shine next to pear and brie. And a shout out to the fabulous simplicity of potato, Taleggio, Fontina, truffle oil and a sprinkle of rosemary.
The pasta is well-made and silky. Pappardelle is paired with a pea and mushroom studded lamb ragu or you may prefer the plump pumpkin and ricotta ravioli with amaretti, walnut, brown butter and sage.
The Secondi section is brief, but this clearly isn’t the main focus of Beppe’s. The current options include barramundi cooked al cartoccio (in paper) with olives, tomato and potatoes and a vegetarian dish of eggplant, Provolone crespelle, Napoli sauce and pesto. In contrast, the drinks list is extensive and features some good local wines, along with cocktails, beers and spirits.
Recommended: Melbourne’s Top Italian Restaurants
Location: 97 Main Rd, Hepburn Springs, VIC 3461 Ph: (03) 5348 1156
We have been lucky enough to finally sample the fare at Frank & Connie’s Kitchen. And we are pleased to confirm that it was worth the trip to Hepburn Springs. Read our detailed review of Frank & Connies’ Kitchen (2022) here.
Frank and Connie’s Instagram claims they serve ‘Whatever comes out of the pot!”. Surprisingly, it’s an accurate description of this pretty little eateries eclectic menu. The chef/owner Caliopi Buck has dabbled in Greek, French, South American and Middle Eastern cooking styles and is happy to mix things up as she fancies.
I don’t know about you, but I love anywhere that encourages sharing plates of food. And yes, it’s probably because I’m always worried that someone else has ordered better than me! So Frank and Connie’s with it’s varied assortment of Little and Bigger Plates is always going to make my rundown of the best restaurants in Daylesford.
Why not start with in Asia with hoisin-spiked Duck Bao ($20) or salmon, crab, pineapple and finger lime Betel Leaves ($24)?
For Mains, maybe the caper and lemon zing of Rockling Grenoblosie ($35) or the crowd-pleasing Lamb Ribs ($35) with Chimmichurri. There’s also a lusciously saucy Gnocchi. Be sure to check the chalk board over the pass for any Specials that might take your fancy.
Dishes are balanced and delicious, but tend to be on the smaller side. The resulting meal isn’t cheap, but the strong online reviews show that many diners appreciate the well-executed, globe-trotting menu.
Editor’s Note: The Frank & Connie’s crew have recently added an all day brunch venue to their mini Hepburn empire. Harry’s Hepburn is a few doors up from the original restaurant and also worth a visit.
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Bonus Dining Options
Location: Hotel Frangos, 82 Vincent St, Daylesford, VIC 3460 Ph: (03) 5348 2363
Situated within the striking Hotel Frangos at the top of the town, Koukla is definitely an attractive spot to grab a bite to eat.
On a sunny day, if you take a table outside on the pavement under the protection of the vine-draped awning you could almost believe you were in Italy.
This is the ideal place for a relaxed brunch or a casual lunch with friends – lubricated by a chilled glass of vino or 2.
We opened with the Fried Korean Chicken ($18), which was moist and went well with the Sweet & Spicy Gochujang Mayo. I managed to resist the temtation of the Baked Camembert with Caramelised Onion Chutney & Rustic Bread – but only just!
The Baked Salmon ($39) with Creamed Spinach & Crispy Leeks was very pleasant.
However, the star of our meal was definitely the Diavola Pizza ($24).
Over the years, I’ve become accustomed to ordering this fiery wood-fired delight, hoping to get a chilli-rush, only to barely register a burn. Well, not so at Koukla. Their Diavola delivered a genuine Italian dose of chilli and the San Marzano Tomato, Fior di Latte, Spicy Nduja Salami, Salami Piccante & Rocket Pizza was all the better for it.
These days there are dozens of ways to cook restaurant quality pizzas at home. From Air Fryers, to specialist Pizza Ovens and Appliances that sit on your regular stove top or BBQ. See here for more information and prices.
A properly strong Piccolo Coffee ($3.5) rounded off a really tasty lunch.
If you’re looking for somewhere to people watch, eat authentic pizza and pretend you’re in Napoli, Koukla is one of the best restaurants in Daylesford.
Hotel Frangos Daylesford Accommodation
Lastly, as we said at the start, Koukla Cafe is part of the Hotel Frangos.
The Hotel Frangos has 15 suites available, each of which has been styled with a completely original vision.
The Bromley Suite features a mural wall by sought after local artist David Bromley and a circular bed. With a mirror above it. In contrast, the Nest has a dramatic chocolate velvet behead and striking painting of water fowl on one wall.
Hotel Frangos offers chic boutique hotel accommodation in the heart of Daylesford.
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Location: 1 East St, Daylesford, VIC 3460 Ph: (03) 5348 2091
It’s a few years since I first ate at this welcoming Gastro Pub on a chilly winter’s afternoon. That meal was memorable for the warmth of both the service and the comforting food.
Subsequent visits have proved just as rewarding with the Farmers Arms consistently turning out generous portions of hearty, country food with polish.
Pub classic such as a daily Pot Pie ($32) and Beer Battered Fish & Chips ($31) are substantial and filling. If you feel like something a little fancier, the menu may offer Panfried Atlantic Salmon ($36) lifted by a citrus, fennel and snow pea shoot salad.
Or maybe a succulent chunk of Roast Pork Belly (@38) with a house made relish is more to your liking?
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It’s worth noting that vegans and vegetarians certainly aren’t overlooked at this eating establishment. The current dining options include Miso Glazed Japanese Pumpkin ($28) with sesame and nut granola and a lemon tahini. Much more imaginative than a drab chickpea curry or a rubbery pasta dish!
For many, a trip this area isn’t complete without lunch or dinner at the Farmers Arms. It’s been on our list of best restaurants in Daylesford for a long time, and should stay there for a while yet.
Heading back to Melbourne? We recently celebrated a family birthday in Meatmaiden, an American-style steakhouse in the centre of town. It’s well worth a visit.
Location: 2 Leggatt St, Daylesford, VIC 3460 Ph: (03) 5348 2199
Given the natural beauty of Lake Daylesford, it’s surprising that more Daylesford restaurants don’t offer waterfront views. Luckily, the Boathouse Restaurant makes the most of its enviable position on the banks of the ‘Lake with exquisite vistas across the water.
And the food is rather eye-catching too.
The chef/owner of the Boathouse Daylesford, Nixson, had a thorough grounding in European cooking before coming to Australia. Since his arrival, he’s wasted no time in adapting his culinary skills to Victoria’s superb local produce. The result is a menu that champions the foods grown and raised around the region, showcased in French and European influenced dishes.
So you might start with the rich, smooth Chicken Liver Pate, Beetroot Relish, Pickles & Toasted Sourdough. Or the perhaps the Ocean Trout – cured in Gin and served with Horseradish Creme Fraiche, Apple Radish, Dill and a Micro Salad appeals more?
From there, the Pork Belly is hard to go past. Slow Roasted with crunchy Broccolini and creamy Dauphinoise Potatoes, the richness is cut with a zing of Apple Chutney and a Red Wine Jus. However, if you fancy something lighter, the Harissa-Roasted Vegetables with a Warm Quinoa Salad is utterly delicious.
Just make sure you save space for dessert. To miss out on the Classic Vanilla Bean Brulee would be a crime!
With 2 Courses at $69pp and 3 at $89pp, enjoying either lunch or dinner at the Boathouse Restaurant in Daylesford is a lovely way to dine well and experience a taste of the town’s gorgeous surrounds.
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Location: Wombat Hill Botanic Gardens (entry, off Central Springs Rd), Daylesford, VIC 3460 Ph: (03) 7017 5999
For many, no trip to Daylesford is complete without a stroll around the beautiful Wombat Hill Botanic Gardens. And once the the walk is over, what could be nicer than a snack at the Wombat Hill Cafe?
Part of the Lake House family (see above) since 2011, the kitchen serves delicious all-day fare. From rustic Pizzas to filling Burgers and hearty Sandwiches and Rolls, everything is freshly made and beautifully presented. It’s a menu which changes with the seasons and makes the most of quality local produce.
However, the food aside, the other huge attraction of Wombat Hill House Cafe and Kitchen Garden is the setting. The ‘Botanic Gardens are lovely and the restaurant makes the most of its stellar location. There are 3 areas where customers can relax and enjoy their meal – inside the cafe, outside in the courtyard, or in a glasshouse to the side. This means that whatever the weather, diners can appreciate the gorgeous surroundings.
Finally, make sure you check out the amazing Sourdough and Pastries. These fabulous goods are brought in daily from the dedicated Bake House at sibling establishment, Dairy Flat Farm. We bet you can’t leave without stocking up on a flaky Almond Croissant or a plump Doughnut for the journey home!
With all this, it’s no surprise that Wombat Hill House Cafe is one of the top restaurants in Daylesford.