A spinning Curtin Mayfield record booms in the foyer, as Michael Lelliot dawdles between portraits of Hells Angel bikers, religious icons and bottles of rum. Mike, as his mates know him, has a way of making chaos feel natural.
“Should we take the Rolls Royce out drifting?” smiles Mike. A contagious larrikin, Mike has the figure of an NBA star, wears stick-n-poke tattoos and maintains a bushranger’s swagger.
Synergy. If there is one word to describe the partnership between Tony De Marco and Theresa Albiloi it is synergy. Business and life partners, this dynamic couple met later in life, yet together they have already accomplished more than many would in a long lifetime. We meet them at The Oxford, a large former guest house they recently refurbished and added to their portfolio of luxury accommodation properties, The Houses Daylesford. The Oxford is massive and sleeps 24. The walls are lined with over 90 original charcoal drawings by artist Derek Erskine. The main room is dominated by an impressive non-sectional double-sided upholstered banquette. "It was made for a house in Caulfield," says Theresa. "It cost them tens of thousands of dollars." Tony jumps in, "we paid a lot less than that," he says with a laugh. "It took a lot of work to reassemble when it arrived."
Nick Andrew is a Beaumaris boy. He has that air of a kid who grew up by the sea. He has limbs slightly worn from battling against the windsurfer and a big upfront voice from talking against the wind. But Nick was an observant kid and took in all those canter levered block houses in the sand dunes as he rode around on his BMX. Those preposterous Australian modernist creations with floor to ceiling windows, flat rooves and mixed mediums where brick, steel, wood and aluminium collided to create a new form of Australian architecture. He saw it all.
Lynda Gardener has an infectious enthusiasm. Her eyes light up as she describes a house she is styling or the new small hotel she is working on. The interior stylist, with her broad smile and signature mane of untamed hair, is an unmissable part of the local business community.
You could say Johnny Baker is a stage name. It’s the alter ego of John Stekerhofs, professional chef, self-taught patissière and all-round
bon vivant. It’s also the name of the singular, bustling coffee stop and pastry heaven he’s run in the heart of Castlemaine since 2015.
Hidden at the rear of the Newnorthern Art Hotel, near the Castlemaine Botanic Gardens – look for the de rigueur small sign pointing the way, or just follow your nose - is where you’ll find the always-pumping Johnny Baker. It’s colonised the old drive-through bottle shop, where coffee and cakes have replaced champagne and chardonnay. And if the words “drive through” don’t strike you as the food world’s
You don’t get to be award-winning cheesemakers without loving cheese. An overflowing trophy cabinet and legions of cheeseophile fans across Australia are evidence that Carla Meurs and Ann-Marie Monda, owners and cheesemakers at Holy Goat Cheese in Sutton Grange, truly love their work. But it’s quickly apparent that cheese is not the only thing they love about life on their 82-hectare farm.
“One of the best things about making goats cheese is that you get to have a goatherd,” says Carla. “Goats are the most gorgeous animals – easy, friendly and they come to a call. They know us - the older goats will come over and acknowledge us whenever we’re in the paddock.”
Tim Foster has learned the ways of Central Victoria in his five years running leading Kyneton restaurant Source Dining. Some days he turns up to work to find fresh produce left at the kitchen door – figs, sometimes, or maybe quince or lemons. “We won’t know who has left it. until a local is in having a meal and they’ll say, ‘Did you get that box I left for you?” he says. “It’s really lovely.”
There’s a delightful synchronicity that Foster finds himself embedded in a community upholding the old-fashioned food values. The promise of such a life is what originally lured him and wife Michelle to the area in 2013. “We grew up in South Australia – Coonawarra born and bred - but loved how the food scene in Victoria was so active and vibrant.”
The urban winery movement arrived with a bang in Central Victoria with the June opening of Musk Lane – but first you have to find it.
Tucked down a no-name laneway in central Kyneton (the owners are in the process of having it officially anointed Turners Lane, after the Turner Bros Hardware yard that used to inhabit the site) this working winery, cellar door, wine bar, beer garden and neighbourhood hangout shows that you don’t have to leave the comforts of town for a taste of terroir.
Hot chocolate is like a hug from the inside, reads a sign at Atelier Chocolat, at once summing up one of the joys of a Central Victorian winter (just add crackling fire, and maybe cake) as well as the attractions of chocolate in warm liquid form.
And you rest assured that this is no ordinary hot chocolate. Laetitia Hoffmann, who opened her charmingly bijou Trentham handmade chocolate shop at the end of March, is a devotee of the bean-to-bar school, in which the cocoa beans can be traced back to an ethical source.
Elna Schaerf-Trauner cuts a stunning figure. With her crown of gold curls, and dressed in a traditional Austrian dirndl, she sits down at the marble-topped table with a glass cup filled with coffee. The co-owner of Das Kaffeehaus in Castlemaine she looks around the great space inside the former Castlemaine Woollen Mill, now known as The Mill. Since 2015 this has been a popular part of the Castlemaine lifestyle. It moved from the Old Castlemaine Hospital when it was founded in 2003. “Both sites have chimneys, important for venting the aromatic output of the coffee roasters,” points out Elna.
Terrines, rillettes and pates are the holy trinity to any occasion that celebrates conversation and clinking coupes. For Cameron and Murvet McKenzie, the duo behind local small-goods favourite Max and Delilah, the essence of these rustic dishes is simple—for people to enjoy each other's company. For centuries, food has catered to that bond.
Murvet waltzes in, glowing with enthusiasm. We meet at Wine By The Country, the testing grounds for Max and Delilah. “Cameron was dead set against food names for the company,” smiles Murvet, “Max and Delilah are our two cats. Delilah passed away two years ago but Max is still kicking around.”
Abbie the truffle dog runs excitedly beneath the oak trees. She stops at a small mound of earth under a tree and gives a delicate scratch at the surface of the soil. Her handler Sue Daly looks pleased. “Another truffle,” she says. She takes out a small trowel and carefully digs around the mound with archaeological like delicacy to reveal the subterranean source of the bulge. It’s a truffle. A great big black truffle. A delicacy originally from Europe they are so valuable they are sold by the gram. Two dollars and fifty cents per gram. A decent sized piece to shave over your pasta will cost $25.
The aroma of baking bread fills the backyard. Sweet, dark and nutty it rolls around on the breeze. In the kitchen out the back of a home in the heart of Daylesford, two women perform a much-practised dance as the knead, shape and bake beautiful looking sourdough loaves. The space is not expansive, so they have worked ways to move around each other that are almost balletic. They are Katy Bauer and Alison Wilken, the brains, brawn and passion behind Two Fold Bakehouse.
The word ceramics can be traced to the Greek keramos, meaning “potter’s clay.” In the foreground is the potter, humankind, who has left us with objects as vestiges of culture. Sometimes, as in the Nok peoples of Africa, ceramic objects are all that is left of a civilization—as though their spirit comes to life through our observance.
For Angie Izard the practice is a little more modest, she simply describes herself as a maker of things.
Fashion designer Tiffany Treloar stops on a lonely road near Glenlyon. She takes out her camera. She lines up the lens on an old gum tree, tortured by the prevailing wind. “It is so beautiful around here,” says Tiffany. Around the corner, she stops by an old barn with a ramshackle windmill. “This is just brilliant!” she says. The Melbourne based designer uses photographic images of rural scenes, night skies, industrial landscapes and beautiful found objects to make designs. She manipulates the images on her computer and the designs are then printed on fabric and then hand made into women’s clothing. “I design here in Australia and I make the clothes right here in Australia,” says the vivacious designer. Last month she opened a shop in Vincent Street, Daylesford and is working on a range of locally inspired prints for summer in her St Kilda design studio. She has two other stores, one in Flinders Lane, Melbourne and another in Gertrude Street, Fitzroy.
Cameron Saunders and Sallie Harvey have a well-honed repertoire. They set up gags for each other and finesse the others' sentences. They have spent a lot of time together. Sallie is a huntress, cook and singer. Cameron is a DJ and record producer. Both locals, they met through their children’s schools. This summer they spent hours in Cameron’s recording studio, hidden in the bush on the outskirts of Daylesford, making an album that will be performed live on Friday, June 21. Cameron, sitting comfortably in a plush upholstered chair of the Palais in Hepburn where they are performing this month, explains the process.
August is here! Can you believe it? Just like that, the day's are getting longer and before we know it the festive season will be upon us. We've had such a wonderful response to the new team's first edition of Lost and this month we're going full steam ahead as we increase Lost to 64 pages - all chockablock full of reasons to get out and about and experience all our beautiful region has to offer.
Now I know what you're thinking; July - we're in the depths of winter, the weather forecast is looking dismal, and the last long weekend for the foreseeable future is over and done with... life is looking pretty bleak. Well, I'm here is to tell you otherwise. We are so lucky to live in such an incredible part of Australia, so magically beautiful all 12 months of the year. In fact, Winter has got to be our absolute favourite season here in spa country. Whether it's a cold night spent by the fire with a glass of local pinot, or waking up on a frosty morning with the landscape shrouded in fog; there really is no better place to get Lost in Winter.