When The Age Good Food Guide 2023 awards were handed out, the Daylesford and Macedon Ranges region was recognised for its strong culinary culture.

Five restaurants awarded one hat and two with an unprecedented two hats. We asked the chefs to pick the dish that best represents their restaurant.


Lake House, Daylesford

Local food legend Alla Wolf-Tasker was again awarded for the ongoing excellence in food and service presented at her family-run kitchen and dining room at Lake House. The three decades-old fine-dining restaurant, with its widely spaced lined-dressed tables, overlooks Lake Daylesford. “Mother nature is our teacher,” says Alla. “We grow much of our food at the farm at Dairy Flat, and we need to change with the seasons. At this time of the year, we have a savoury tart made with a parmesan crust filled with the bounty of the season,” she says. The tarts are filled with a goat curd custard topped with vegetables from the garden: eggplant, tomatoes, green leaves, and tiny peas finished with a tangy citrus dressing. “It is a homage to the bounty of the season.”

Kadota, Daylesford

From its traditional charred timber walls to hand-made chopsticks, Kadota reflects the Japanese culture of attention to detail. Chef Aaron Schembri has designed a beautiful and perfectly paced Japanese set menu. “Our food has a Japanese backbone with a local focus,” says Aaron. He takes baby eggplant from his garden and makes a modern variation of the classic miso fried eggplant nasu dengaku, setting them on almond puree with pickled blossoms, shiso and sancho leaf, seeds and flowers from the garden and little smoked herring eggs.

Lake House Daylesford. Photo by Martina Gemmola
Lake House Daylesford. Photo by Martina Gemmola


Beppe Kitchen and Bar, Daylesford

With its team of Italian chefs working in this charming former home in Raglan Street, Beppe opened just days before pandemic lockdowns. It survived selling takeaway but blossomed when the state opened up. “We are a comfortable place for people to slowly enjoy some Italian classics,” says co-owner Sam Mackley. “Our gnocchi alla sorrentina, made with local potatoes in a Napoli sauce, dotted with Mount Franklin basil and mozzarella, represents our warm, comforting style.”

du Fermier, Trentham

This autumn, Annie Smithers celebrates 10 years at her French provincial farmhouse-inspired restaurant cooking simple dishes beautifully. “One of my favourite dishes is lamb navarin,” says Annie. “The lamb comes from farmer Bruce Rolfe, whose farm I can see from my veranda. I grow the root veg in my garden, and the thyme and garlic. With a splash of white wine, it is a classic, honest French dish made with all the things I love.”

Kuzu Izakaya, Woodend

Kuzu Izakaya embraces the spirit of the laid-back bars in Japan, offering down-to-earth but delicious Japanese dishes with western influence. Chef and co-owner Japanese-born Eriko Pannam trained at William Angliss in classic European cuisine and offers a delicious little dish of scallops. “I make a sauce of cream, a little mustard, white wine and miso,” she says. “I cook scallops, shimeji mushrooms, and asparagus in a hot pan.” Front-of-house manager and co-owner Gareth Rowland suggests a match with a Bindi “Dhillon” Col Mountain Rosé.

Beppe. Photo by Chris Turner
Beppe. Photo by Chris Turner

Midnight Starling, Kyneton

In Kyneton’s historic Piper Street is this inviting Euro-style bar and bistro with its bare floorboards and wood panelled walls. Chef Steven Rogers loves working with Macedon Duck which he dry ages to develop flavour and help crisp the skin. “We roast the breasts to order and serve with carrots cooked in garlic butter and stock, a little braised lettuce and shallot with a rich sweet sauce made with plum puree and jus. “It goes great with a Lyons Will pinot noir.”

The Surly Goat, Hepburn Springs

Chef David Willcocks’ Hepburn Springs restaurant is set in a historic weatherboard building overlooking the bushland reserve below. It is the place to meet local foodies and winemakers who appreciate his skill in the kitchen. “I love using the lesser-loved fish such as gurnard and season it the French / North African spice mix vadouvan and poach it in oil with potatoes and onions,” he says. “It is simple, no more than four things. It under promises and over delivers. That’s The Surly Goat.”

Bar Midland, Castlemaine

In this art deco dining room inside an 1872 hotel with its wrap around veranda is served food that is exclusively from Victorian farmers, fishers and foragers. “We use traditional technique and sustainable ingredients such as wild shot venison,” says chef and co-owner Alex Marano, formerly of The Good Table and Movida. His most popular dish is a tart of chickpea flour, milled at Harcourt, filled with Echuca yabbies, vegetables and herbs from his own kitchen garden.

Kuzu Izakaya 02913 must credit KGMG Creative e1680578113900 uai
Kuzu Izakaya. Photo by KGMG Creative

The Age Good Food Guide Favourites

Bar Merenda, Daylesford.
Young fun modern bar with bar dishes based on local ethical produce.

Fook Shing, Kyneton
A pan-Asian fusion restaurant from dumplings to massaman curry.

Sault, Daylesford
Seasonally influenced fine dining based on the kitchen garden all set on a lavender farm.

Spaghetti Bar, Kyneton
Small, neighbourhood trattoria located on Kyneton’s historic Piper Street.

The Oxford Dining Room, Hepburn Springs
Enjoy high tea in this historic building.

Wild Food & Wine, Castlemaine
From devilled eggs to steak tartar, a fun vibey room in a historic fire station


Hero image: Kadota by Chloe Smith Photography

About the author

Cornish Richard
Richard Cornish
More Articles

Richard Cornish is an award winning food writer whose love of the land lead him to explore the issues around food, where it comes from, how it gets to us and why some foods taste better than others. He writes for The Age, SMH, DMT Life and has written eight cook books including co-writing the Movida series with Frank Camorra.