If ever you have the opportunity to visit the Daylesford- Hepburn Springs region on a pleasant clear day, and were looking for some quality midday nosh minus the ridiculous price-tag, a trip to the Lavandula Swiss Italian Farm is simply a must! Only 15 minutes drive from Hepburn Springs, the farm is situated in Shepherds Flat amongst rolling green hills. The cute La Trattoria Café serves homely humble dishes using only the freshest of local ingredients.
For only a measly $3.50 entry fee paid at the door you can gain access to this endearing lavender farm. Venture through the barn filled with lavender goods to purchase, past the mysterious stone architecture and at the end of it amongst trees is the welcoming Trattoria. There is ample seating both inside and outside depending on the weather and what vibe you were looking for. Sitting inside you feel the intimacy and cosiness of an Italian family's home, while sitting outside is like being transported to the magical countryside of Tuscany. The small but seasonal menu etched on the blackboard both inside and outside the café, adds a rustic touch and there is always something to please everyone. There is no pretence here - just plain home-made goodness.
After perusing the menu for a few minutes, I opted for the chicken puff pastry pie ($22) which was definitely a highlight of the menu. It came with a generous side serving of green salad and a dish of sweet relish which balanced the creamy richness of the pie filling perfectly, a nice change to the usual tomato sauce. The pastry was absolutely to die for- buttery and oh-so- crispy.
My sister opted for the risotto of house roasted beetroot, honey-toasted pecans and chèvre goats cheese ($18.50). Everyone knows that beetroot and goat's cheese is a match made in heaven but this is the first time I've had both in a risotto. The beetroot was roasted until just tender, subtly sweet and balanced the saltiness of the goat's cheese well. I also personally loved the nuts as it added another dimension of texture to the dish.
Of course, being a lavender farm, how can there not be a lavender theme to the menu? The lavender lemonade was a pretty pink colour with a sprig of lavender bobbing in the glass but I thought that the combination of lavender and lemon was rather odd. Still- it looked pretty. The lavender champagne on the other hand, pleased me very much---the flavours were surprisingly harmonious unlike the lemonade.
All those aside, the highlights were definitely the desserts. I had to ignore the lure of the cakes in the cabinet and go with my gut-feeling and opt for the lavender scones ($8.50) - they HAD to be a winner. Each serving came with two fist-sized scones which looked and indeed were delightfully light and fluffy with a very subtle flavour of lavender. Of course, they came with a side serving of clotted cream and lavender jam. The lavender notes were subtle and not overwhelming. If you wanted to attempt to relive this heavenly experience you can always purchase a jar of home-made lavender jam available at the counter, but sorry, the scones are definitely difficult to replicate at home. Another crowd-pleaser was the lavender ice-cream---it was rich, creamy and again, the right balance of lavender flavour as to not remind you of aromatherapy hand creams. A great end-of-meal palate-cleanser.
I love visiting the Hepburn Springs-Daylesford region with my friends and family as it is a great way to escape the usual bustle of the city and every time I've had no choice but to make a stop at Lavandula. To me, it embodies everything about this region- a respect for its produce, breath-taking views and soul-warming meals made to draw friends and families together.