When I took a recent day trip to Daylesford I indulged in a few hours at The Mineral Spa, but all that relaxation worked up a serious appetite. Luckily the spa is situated on beautiful grounds that also houses The Argus Dining Room, a fine dining restaurant, that is offers package deals with the spa for indulgent days away. I gave their Spa Lunch package a try which partnered my spa session with a two course lunch.
In this review I share my take on the country dining experience and what was served, of course which incorporated my vegan dietary requirements.
The Argus Dining Room is located in Hepburn Springs, one of the small Victorian country towns that makes up “spa country”. It’s 3 minutes away from Dayelsford (one of the other most-well known spa country towns) and roughly 2hrs from Melbourne CBD.
The restaurant is part of the Peppers Mineral Springs Retreat, which is also home to The Mineral Spa and Peppers’ Hotel. Package deals including all three venues are readily available and make booking a weekend away nice and simple. The property is exceptionally well maintained and the exterior is filled with trees and greenery that makes you quickly realise how beautiful the countryside is.
The property also houses a kitchen garden that provides fresh produce to the restaurant, and it provides such a scenic delight to the property that you’ll just want to wander on the grounds for hours.
Lots of dark, rich-hued wood makes you feel immediately comfortable when you walk into the establishment. It’s creamy walls and pure white tablecloths make the large space feel classy without taking away from the warm atmosphere. Lots of natural light fill the restaurant and the decor is a mix of upper-class country chic and a modern cabin in the woods.
When walking through the large double-doors to the dining room I was greeted promptly by the hostess/server. There weren’t too many people in the dining room for a mid-week lunch and I thought that was perfect. A few couples having a romantic lunch, a group of girlfriends catching up over a delicious meal and some 5-star business meetings were taking place but with a room so large we were all spread out to have our own space. It was just how I like to have a solo fine-dining experience.
A large table at the entry showcased fresh loaves of bread. They smelt so good and you could see the various types were fresh from the oven. As I was being escorted to my seat we passed another large table stocked full of expensive alcohol and tools for mixing drinks. It was so homely and inviting, something I would love to have in my own dining room when I have a room big enough.
Just about everywhere I turned there was wine. Bottles and bottles of wine. I had to restrain myself as I had to drive the 2+hours home immediately afterwards but if you’re a wine lover you’d be spoilt for choice at The Argus.
Using their prime location amongst some of Australia’s finest producing farms, the seasonal menu highlights the best ingredients available with a fresh, farm-to-plate, rustic authenticity. While meat and seafood do feature heavily on the menu, vegetarians will be happy to see a number of options for them on the frequently changing menu and vegans (like myself) can dine comfortably knowing that something can be made to cater for their dietary requirements. 5 and 7 course degustation menus are available with optional wine matching as well. The menu is small but offers great variety because it’s based on the local seasonal produce so you can be sure that there will always be something new to try.
I advised the restaurant of my dietary requirements when I booked ahead so upon my arrival I already had a menu designed for me. As soon as I was seated I was served an amuse-bouche of yuzu beer and a rhubarb stick with salt and pepper from the garden. It’s definitely not something I would have ever imagined to work together but wow, it really did. I actually have dreams about that yuzu beer.
It was then time for bread selection and I opted for the housemade sourdough with dark rye. The Argus usually serves the bread with butter but for me they served it with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It was such a soft, delicious bread that I scoffed it down but shortly after my hostess returned to advise that the chef had made me some vegan butter using olive oil. I couldn’t not try it so I braved eating another piece of doughy heaven, and the butter was superb! I was pretty full just on that but my meal hadn’t even started yet.
My entree was a beautifully presented beetroot salad with crisp apple slices and wild flowers. I’m not a huge beetroot fan but after this dish I learnt that I was judging all beetroots based on the tinned kind. Fresh, baby beetroots are something completely different – delicious!
For main course I tucked into scrumptious warm baked avocado with a hazelnut crumb, Jerusalem artichoke chips and radish. This was like the most perfect main dish you could serve me. I adore avocado but I struggle to use it beyond the typical avo on toast or guacamole. This was a dish I want to learn to recreate. It wasn’t only delicious but inspired me to be more adventurous with my food, and cemented that there is nothing boring about vegan food!
While I officially only ate two courses, the experience seemed to feel like so much more. I love a fine dining experience and that’s exactly what I got at The Argus Dining Room. I will most definitely be rushing back there but I think this time I’ll book a hotel room so I can eat until I pass out.
The Argus Dining Room is located at 124 Main Road, Hepburn Springs, Victoria Australia 3461.
Do you like the sound of The Argus? Do you enjoy fine dining? Let me know by commenting below!