Where to find this little gem of a place? Just 90 minutes from Melbourne along the Princes Freeway is the country town of Drouin and just a few kilometers further along Main Street South you'll discover the oasis of Glenfyne Gardens, Cafe and Chapel. This place is like a little piece of Heaven, hidden from the world by its massive trees.
As you drive through the stone entrance gates the gardens open up before you. Dotted amongst the bushland are fountains, gazeboes, statues, benches, bowers and native and deciduous trees. Two magnificent cypress trees, well over 60 years old, tower over the centrepiece: the warm and inviting cafe and standing sentinel around the 6 acre perimeter are many more majestic cypresses.
It is from this centrepiece that your hosts, Danny and Maryanne will greet you, extending the hand of friendship and offering superb hospitality. A rare warmth and sincerity simply ooze from these European hosts and it is instantly evident that they really enjoy the company of their guests. The rapport is established immediately when you emerge from your car.
While these hosts are first rate, the food is unbelievably good. Using fresh vegies and herbs from their gardens, the meals are superbly cooked by the very skilful Maryanne. Choose from home made soups, freshly baked breads, pasta, koftas, homemade chicken and beef pies, bacon and eggs and sandwiches (and much more) and if there's still room, follow up with fresh berry crepes (add cream and ice-cream), scones, cakes, slices and brownies.
Just when you think things couldn't get better, you take a look at the bill. It's so easily affordable that initially I actually thought that the cost of one of the main meals had been overlooked. It hadn't: this is their regular pricing. Quality food at this price is rare indeed. Whether you're there for morning or afternoon tea or for lunch, it certainly won't break the bank.
I've mentioned the acres of award winning gardens, the fabulous cypress trees, the flowering shrubs and wonderful cafe, but I haven't yet shared the piece de` resistence - the lovingly restored chapel and registry sitting proudly on a vast expanse of lawn, just across the path from the cafe. Its warm timber walls and stained glass windows provide a wonderfully romantic setting for the many weddings that take place beneath its high arched ceilings.
From the front steps of the chapel, your gaze carries out through the rose covered arched lychgate and across the lawn to the small rotunda with seats, fountains and flowering shrubs. The beautiful little chapel has quite a history. It was relocated from Ripplebrook, in a dishevelled state in the early 60s and has now been restored to its original grandeur. The first glance tells you that its restoration was a labour of love. It is simply beautiful.
The gardens are part of an original 154 acre dairy farm established in the late 30s. The farm was later converted to a flower farm and today's residence (original) was built in 1951. The land was later subdivided and a 6 acre lot was transformed into a wedding venue. The now stunning chapel was brought in by truck to take pride of place.
The shedding and outbuildings were later restored and a cosy cafe added. For the past two and a half years, Danny and Maryanne Lukic have added their touch of wonderful hospitality and expert culinary skills. Danny was a professional soccer player for Yugoslav United and came to Australia to play. He simply fell in love with the country. Maryanne was already here in Australia helping out her uncle. Together their skills bring to this little piece of magic surrounded by farmlands, an air of hospitality they would be hard to better. For us, they turned a simple day trip to meet family for lunch, into a "must return" occasion.
Glenfyne Gardens caters for singles, couples, families and groups and with the convenience of the extensive 6 acre outdoor entertaining area, huge parking lot, BBQ facilities, function Barn (70 guests) and romantic chapel, it lends itself ideally to hosting club functions, parties, masquerades, murder mysteries, fundraisers and of course, weddings. Brides have been known to arrive on horseback, in vintage cars and in huge trucks.
Danny and Maryanne open much more than just the gardens to others. In late 2012 as part of " Gardivalia", they opened their hearts as well and supported the fundraising effort for Beyond Blue. The event at their venue raised $1400, $500 of which was attributed to the Sew Inspired Quilters (love the clever name) who donated several of their quilts for exhibition.
Judging by the number of return guests, this venue is likely to be really busy during the summer months, but winter and early spring offer a real ambience added to by the cosy fireplace and wandering amongst the budding growth on the hundreds of trees and shrubs. This quieter time is an ideal time to visit as the lack of many visitors allows time and space and makes one forget that there's a busy world out there on the other side of the highway.
This beautiful haven deserves to be shared so if you're looking for something different to do at very low cost, take a short drive to experience an easy ramble around the flowering gardens, have a bite to eat in the warm cosy cafe and experience a healthy dose of expert hospitality. Just give Danny and Maryanne a call first to let them know you're coming, as bookings are essential.
(Ph: 0458 153 932 or Ph: 5627 5546)
Danny & Maryanne Lukic
Glenfyne Cafe & Gardens
1095 Main South Rd
Drouin South 3818
Open Friday to Sunday 10am to 4pm
Functions by appointment
Entry is free of charge and cafe prices are exceptionally good.