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 sad 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.
Covid has brought about 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.
3 Tenth St, Hepburn Springs, VIC 3461
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!
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4 King Street, Daylesford, VIC 3460
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, 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!
And a final tip. Make your visit to the Lake House 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!
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2349 Ballan-Daylesford Rd, Sailors Falls VIC 3461
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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32 Raglan St, Daylesford VIC 3460
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.
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1 Camp St, Daylesford VIC 3460
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.
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.
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6/8 Howe St, Daylesford VIC 3460
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.
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30 Raglan St, Daylesford VIC 3460
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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70 Main Rd, Hepburn Springs VIC 3461
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.
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97 Main Rd, Hepburn Springs VIC 3461
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.
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.
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1 East St, Daylesford VIC 3460
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?
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 that 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.
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