STEPPING through a door surrounded by leadlight windows into a room of polished timber floorboards and old fireplaces, there's an impression of being a guest in someone's home as we select a table at Daylesford's Perfect Drop.
Beyond the front dining room of this former residence is a bar with a long communal table and outside is a sizeable dining area.
It's this flexibility that makes the place work both as a restaurant and a wine bar - or ''wine lounge'', as manager and waiter Owen Rowe prefers to call it - into which patrons can drop in for meals or just a few sharing plates with a glass of wine.
It's surprisingly quiet at 1pm but Owen says people will trickle in all afternoon.
The menu is similarly flexible - entrees and mains have been banished in favour of smaller and larger dishes. Narrelle and I nevertheless go for a traditional three-course approach. First up, she has the creamy and delicate smoked eel and leek fritters (pictured) for $12.50, while I opt for the Tunisian-spiced slow-cooked beef ($16), beautifully tender meat wrapped in crunchy cone-shaped ''briks''. For main, I choose the rare roasted venison ($35), which is tasty and reminiscent of a traditional roast with its baked onions and roast potatoes. It makes me jealous of Narrelle's more adventurous choice of cinnamon and sugar-cured grilled duck breast, roasted nectarines, cabbage, walnut and orange salad ($35).
Chef Andrew Dennis's menu is notable for its generous use of Middle Eastern spices and local ingredients. The wine list also has plenty of local heroes and we've chosen an excellent Eastern Peake Intrinsic pinot noir ($62) from the Ballarat region to accompany our meal.
Dessert? Why not? In a spirit of compromise, we share the rosewater-poached peaches ($16) and a spectacular lemon verbena creme brulee ($16).
It's been a fabulous lunch; now I just need somewhere to lie down.
Reviewed by Tim Richards, who was hosted by V/Line and Tourism Victoria.
Perfect Drop, 5 Howe Street, Daylesford, 5348 3373, open Monday-Friday 4pm-late, Saturday-Sunday noon-late. To stay nearby: Elira, Hudson on Wombat, Hepburn at Hepburn, all booked via dayget.com.au.