Alla Wolf-Tasker, of the cel­e­brated Lake House in Vic­to­ria’s Dayles­ford, re­veals her fresh new project.

The force be­hind Lake House in Dayles­ford, one of the coun­try’s most cel­e­brated restau­rants and re­gional ho­tels, the un­stop­pable Alla Wolf-Tasker is now ex­tend­ing her vi­sion to a new pi­o­neer­ing project, writes DAN STOCK.

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - For Alla Wolf-Tasker’s best-ever recipes head to de­li­cious.com.au.

It’s a brave per­son who gets be­tween Alla Wolf-Tasker and a good idea.

As daugh­ter Larissa tells it, the lat­est labour of love for the fam­ily be­hind Dayles­ford’s lux­u­ri­ous Lake House should re­ally never have hap­pened.

Cham­pion of all things lo­cal, sea­sonal and sus­tain­able, Wolf-Tasker had long longed to “put my money where my mouth is” and start grow­ing pro­duce for the restau­rant while at the same time of­fer­ing a new ex­pe­ri­ence for guests.

The fam­ily had been search­ing “for ages” when a prop­erty just seven min­utes’ drive from Lake House came up for auc­tion. “Mum and I walked around it and loved it,” says Larissa. “We brought Dad and Rob [Larissa’s hus­band] back, and we got re­ally ex­cited. But we de­cided it wasn’t the right time. Rob and I were go­ing to start a fam­ily, and it would take too much re­sources. We’d look for some­thing else. But then Mum went and bought it!” Wolf-Tasker and her mother, Kather­ine, planted all the trees on the bare Lake House site 30 years ago, so she took the farm’s drive lined with sil­ver birches as a sign it was meant for the fam­ily. “The thing I love most about it,” she says, “is where Lake House had not a tree on it, this al­ready had a beau­ti­ful Manchurian pear walk,

sil­ver birches on the drive. My mother planted the birches by the lake [at Lake House]. Ev­ery­where we plant birches be­cause it re­minds me of my fam­ily – just that con­nec­tion. There were a lot of things that ticked boxes.”

Her hus­band, Al­lan, took her out of town on the auc­tion week­end to stop her par­tic­i­pat­ing, but the pull of a prop­erty just down the road with the po­ten­tial to of­fer ev­ery­thing she wanted to add to Lake House proved too strong. Alla phoned in the win­ning bid.

“I kind of shocked my­self that we got it,” she says.

In June last year, the fam­ily got the keys to Dairy Flat Farm and have been flat chat since then trans­form­ing the 15-hectare prop­erty into a work­ing farm.

A two-hectare vine­yard planted with chardon­nay and pinot was on death’s door and had to be brought back to life, a 250-strong olive grove needed prun­ing, and a “crazy house on the hill built by an ec­cen­tric 25 years ago that has a tower and cel­lar” needed a lot of love.

Three hoop green­houses and a glasshouse are home to wild and won­der­ful pro­duce – tiny tomatillo-like ground cher­ries, var­i­ous breeds of pump­kin, egg­plants in a be­wil­der­ing ar­ray of shapes and sizes and every herb imag­in­able.The farm al­ready sup­plies Lake House restau­rant with much of its fresh pro­duce, and soon the new cut­ting gar­den will pro­vide the flow­ers.

“The va­ri­ety of stuff we now have in the kitchen is so ex­cit­ing for me, and so ex­cit­ing for the cooks,” Wolf-Tasker says.

“Cook­ing is won­der­ful, but it can also be a drudge – the same old, same old. To give them a break, we go out to the farm, we pick stuff – they see some­thing in­ter­est­ing and they have some­one talk about it. It gives them a burst of en­ergy.”

But it wasn’t just the idea of a work­ing farm that set Wolf-Tasker’s mind a-whirring. “I feel priv­i­leged that we can spend money on some­thing we re­ally want to do and love,” she says. “This will sound corny, but you can buy an apart­ment on the Gold Coast and that’s your su­per fund or you can cre­ate some­thing spe­cial.And I think this is go­ing to be re­ally spe­cial.”

That house on the hill is be­ing trans­formed into a six-bed­room farm­house called Dairy Flat Lodge where by late spring guests will wake to the smells of the bak­ery that’s be­ing built in the old wine tast­ing room. “Peo­ple will be able to im­merse them­selves with that idea of be­ing on a farm,” Wolf-Tasker says. “Peo­ple will be able to stay there, at­tend classes or tours of the gar­den.”

The bak­ery will sup­ply Lake House and its sib­ling Wom­bat Café with all their baked goods, while guests will start the day with buns, fruit tarts, crois­sants and sour­dough as fresh from the oven as it gets.

Mean­while, the farm’s head gar­dener, Jen­nifer Pryke (who was the head veg­etable gar­dener at Ray­mond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in the UK), will hold gar­den­ing classes, with bee­keep­ing, other pad­dock-to-plate cour­ses and bak­ery work­shops also on the agenda.

“We were so un­der-re­sourced when we opened Lake House, I can’t tell you. We had two sets of pen­sioner par­ents and we bor­rowed from both of them to put the cut­lery on the ta­ble. It was nuts,” Wolf-Tasker says. “Now I feel the busi­ness is sta­ble and it’s a priv­i­lege to do some­thing like this – to get the right peo­ple to­gether with the right skills.”

With the vines start­ing to come back to life, Wolf-Tasker is busy eye­ing off other pad­docks on the prop­erty, toy­ing with the idea of grow­ing her­itage wheat for the bak­ery, or per­haps plant­ing an ar­bore­tum fea­tur­ing trees from around the world.

“It’s like me be­ing in a lolly shop,” she says. “At this age, what else would I be do­ing? I’m not so into ba­bies that I could be a full-time gran. I still love cook­ing, I still love the dy­namic of ser­vice. Look, you’d make money on a Gold Coast apart­ment, but you wouldn’t have fun.”

“THE VA­RI­ETY OF STUFF WE HAVE IN THE KITCHEN IS SO EX­CIT­ING FOR ME AND THE COOKS.”

GAR­DEN VA­RI­ETY Alla Wolf-Tasker’s new prop­erty al­ready sup­plies Lake House restau­rant with al­most all its fresh pro­duce.

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