A few weekends ago Mother PhotoMonkey was visiting from QLD and rather than let her traipse around inner Melbourne for 4 days straight we decided to surprise her, hire a car and do a Sunday road trip into the Victorian countryside.
Before that though, on Saturday I wanted to take mum to have a quintessential Melbourne brunch and when I think good food, sweet cakes, a cute space and personalised service, I think Beatrix (review here) on Queensberry St, North Melbourne. It made our Melbourne’s Best Brunch List.
People – if you have not taken the time to visit, or popped into Auction Rooms or Twenty & Six Espresso (review here) instead, make the best decision of the year and pay the Beatrix team a visit. We had the St Bridgid – roasted chicken ciabatta, which was mouth-watering, great Allpress coffee and rounded it all off with both the raspberry roulade and the apricot crumble. Mother PhotoMonkey was so taken by the food and the service she wanted to come back the next day.
Last year we did our Guide to the Goldfields, which has garnered much attention from both locals and visitors looking to visit Castlemaine and its surrounds, so we decided to put together this guide to Daylesford to complement it. So we are here to talk about our road trip to the ‘Spa Centre of Australia’ and we took off early Sunday morning stopping at Fitzrovia for coffee and Baker D Chirooco for pastries, and onto the highway. Daylesford is a lovely historic town famed for its mineral water and is located about 110km from Melbourne ~ 1.5 hours. At its peak during the gold rush era, Italians and Swiss set up life here and you can definitely see their influence in the architecture and gardens, giving the town a very European feel.
Prior to our trip we took to Twitter for help on where we should schedule foodie stops and our first destination was suggested by @CookingCapers – Breakfast & Beer (117 Vincent Street, Daylesford VIC 3460). Housed in one of the oldest freestanding buildings in town, B&B serves super-fresh regional Australian ingredients, so we settled in for brunch.
We decided upon the heirloom tomato bruschetta with basil, pumpkin seeds and olive oil. As you can imagine when you put fresh ingredients like this on a plate the aromas overwhelm you. The pungent basil worked wonders with the freshly cut tomato and sourdough.
I decided on the chorizo, rocket and fried egg Lancashire sausages (thank goodness for substitutions) on Turkish bread. Again freshness is the word of the day. The chorizo was not oily or overly fatty and the combination of two types of sausages went better than what I thought they would. The first of our four meals of the day went splendidly.
Post-brunch I decided on heading to Daylesford Weekend Market and tee it up with a Heritage Train Ride. I love me a market and if you do too then I would highly recommend this place, perched right next to the train tracks and selling an assortment of clothing, antiques, farm fresh food and veg.
If you have the time, and if you are moseying around Daylesford then you should, halfway through the market you will come upon the station where for $10pp you can get a return ticket to Musk on the Heritage Train.
It leaves the station every 45 mins and the 15-minute journey to Musk is enjoyable no matter what your age. The carriages are roomy with leather seats and windows that open all the way up so you can hang your body out to get the best view possible.
The one issue I had with the service is that the train does terminate in Musk – where I was hoping to get off and visit Istra Smallgoods and a Cidery then catch a later train back to town. What you don’t realise is that ‘Musk station’ seems to be literally in the middle of nowhere.
So you get off the train and take a photo of the tin shed shelter while the driver changes ends to drive us back to town. Well done Train – you got us good. In saying that the journey was relaxing and it got us out of the rain, so no real complaints. If you have kids or spending time with the parentals then give them a surprise – mine loved it.
Walking around the market and seeing all the fresh produce had our tummies rumbling again so about 400m back to town we stopped off at the quaint cafe and food store known as Cliffy’s Emporium – recommended by @esurientes. Another seasonal and organic foodie stop worthy of some time. Signs strewn around the shop show support for the people who produce the food they serve/sell. This allows them to serve up a forever changing array of interesting soups, salads and dinners every day.
If I lived locally this would be my substitute for Victoria Market – stocking fruit & veg, cheese, milk, meat, pate & terrines, condiments and anything else you may need. You can get lost in the treasure trove of local goodies literally at your fingertips. All these items are also used in their cafe in which you can seat yourself outside, perch on a windowsill or head into the side room decorated with an amazing assortment of lanterns.
I love the idea of handwritten menus and Cliffy’s has the menu scrawled on a small recycled paper bags. Service is swift and the waitresses are able to reel off the specials highlighting what they believe to be the dish of the day. Mum decided upon the soup – chicken noodle soup. If you were playing Super Mario Bros. then just sniffing this soup would have increased your health bar. The stock was thin but the flavour was well rounded.
Having just made the foray into more meaty dishes WordMonkey chose the Lamb Pie with mint and peas. When this was served I could see the disappointment on her face. She had hopes (as I did) that the pie would be a crusty mountain that would need to be carved at to get to the meaty centre. Instead what was placed on the table resembled an overgrown Party Pie. Yes – the meat and gravy filling was nice and definitely needed the mint salsa kick but there was nothing to it that was to be marvelled at.
The Meaty Thing of the day was duck pate, which was light enough to enjoy and still have room for a few more meals around town. The velvety pate was elevated by the quince paste, sweetness cutting through the peppery duck. The dish made me happy as I was on a grazing day but had I been hungry then I would have needed much more than just this.
Join us for Part 2 where we will visit an organic winery, a purveyor of choice smallgoods, head into the orchards to test out the local cider, Perfect(ly) Drop in on a Twitter favourite and get embraced by the local’s Farmers Arms.