DAWDLING in Daylesford? There are worse pastimes surely. But when the kitsch country shops turns into an overload of retail banality, Cliffy's Emporium is the ticket to recovery.
The first time I entered Cliffy's, enchantment occurred. Nothing appeared organised, or quite real. My eyes were drawn to a garden pail full of fresh currants. Next to it was a basket of potatoes. I wanted both but opted for the former. That the quirky handwritten sign for these little gems of sweet-sour ripeness was spelt "currents" mattered not. I bought half a kilo, adding them to a summer pudding I made later the same day. After lunch I relented. The potatoes were sublime in a salad with smoked trout, capers and fresh dill.
I can't find anything at Cliffy's that isn't sourced locally. Tuki Farm smoked trout, Holy Goat cheese, fruits and vegetables, too, scattered about in baskets and buckets among the jars of home-made jams, chutneys and pickles. Emporium indeed, more a Turkish bazaar trapped in an old wooden-frame house a short walk from Daylesford's main street.
Back again, we peruse the menu. Written on a paper bag, it hangs on an earring rack. A duck liver pate with toasted sourdough bread and pickled cherries, when in season, ($12) is simple and perfect. A rustic, locally sourced organic vegetable platter ($15) is pure country goodness on a plate. An apricot and almond cake with double cream ($7.50) is a tangy, nutty delight. Excellent coffee follows. One in our party has a pot of Earl Grey tea, leaves floating in a flowered pot, lemon slice on the side. None of the crockery matches. Jazz plays softly in the background.
Ensconced in a booth seat at a window table, I pick up a travel magazine from a stack balanced on a nearby bookshelf. From the last century, it features a cover story about Spanish tapas. It's a kismet moment while I nibble on food that looks as good. Soft light filters through the grape arbour hanging from the verandah roof. Retail banality? Not at Cliffy's Emporium.
Reviewed by Tom Neal Tacker
Cliffy's Emporium, 30 Raglan Street, Daylesford. Phone 5348 3279. Open Sunday-Friday, 9am-5pm; Saturday, 9am-9pm. Licensed and BYO. To stay, nearby options include Lake House, lakehouse.com.au; Balconies Guesthouse, balconiesdaylesford.com.au; Pendower House, www.pendowerhouse.com.au.