Once upon a time, a chef built a house by a lake.
She built the house in a dusty field on a hill overlooking the swampy part of Lake Daylesford. The field was littered with the rusty hulks of abandoned cars and overgrown with blackberry. The house took two years to build and rabbits ate everything she planted.
The chef was Alla Wolf-Tasker, whose Russian-Austrian parents had taken her to Daylesford as a child, to visit the spa.
She called the house Lake House. The house by the lake. Simple, unpretentious. Lake House. Her idea was to open a little place in the country for people to visit, have a snack, maybe a meal. Open only on weekends. Who would visit weekdays? Nobody. But Alla Wolf-Tasker had worked in France where people enjoyed dining in the regions and she knew they would here as well. She would draw on her Russian heritage, her French training and the fresh produce for which the region is renowned and then see how it worked out. You can only try.
People visited. Word got out. Awards rained.
This year, Lake House won the Conde Nast Traveller Gold Standard. It won Wine Spectator (US) 'Best of' Awards of Excellence for the world's most notable wine lists every year from 2001 to 2005. (There are 10,000 bottles so your fiftieth birthday won't run dry.) Lake House has collected 47 Chef's Hats from The Age Good Food Guide. It may have won Be Kind to Kitchen Hand awards, for all I know. It may also be Australia's best restaurant. Alla Wolf-Tasker recently extended the building. Probably to house the awards.
You should visit Lake House once in your life. If you can't, read the book. Alla Wolf-Tasker has written her story. Like she wasn't busy enough. This is not just a book of recipes, but the story of a dream, an adventure, an inspiration. It is a food book for all tastes, in a world with too many cookbooks, too many pictures of white plates on pastel backgrounds and too many TV celebrity chefs. In fact, the best pictures in the book are not of food; but the scenery, which is jaw-droppingly lovely. (Amazon says it is not yet available, but I have seen it in stock at Readings in Lygon Street.)
At Lake House, the rabbits still come down the hill and nibble the extensive vegetable garden; but now, the only abandoned cars are those of customers who come for lunch and stay for dinner. Or for the night.
Or for a week.