The Village Larder

Posted on August 29, 2011

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En route home to Melbourne, I’d very strategically planned a pit stop at the very sweet looking town that is Woodend. Why? Because the sun was out, I wanted to stretch my legs and cue drum roll: it is home to The Village Larder (81 High Street, Woodend VIC). As you should know, food is always very central to my plans.

Once upon a time someone had tried to convince me to embark on a ‘tree change’ to Woodend. The argument being houses are cheaper, the commute to Melbourne is only an hour by train and Woodend is apparently quite trendy and filled with things I would like (read: good food). Suffices to say that the protagonist was not successful in luring me out of Melbourne, but I had bitten enough of their bait to want to visit this town. Big tick for a cute main street with lots of cafes and little boutiques. But no store compared to the famed Village Larder; its big tables were booked out and there was a 10 minute wait to seat the 2 of us. Believe me, this is a big deal for a place that just claims to do ‘comfort food’, especially since it was a sleepy Sunday and the town itself only posted a population of ~3,200 at the last Census count in 2006!

Unfortunately for us, we’d missed their breakfast menu. Us lazy city folk are too used to arriving at noon to consume brunch while the country still views noon in the more traditional sense; the signal for the start of lunch service. Fyi, brekky finishes at the early hour of 11am. Whispers across the online world had told me that their corned beef laced hash browns are particularly spectacular and now I’m quite determined to return to get a taste of these.

The exterior is quite cute with an English cottage look. Internally, their decor is clean, light and simple. Food is what they’d rather you concentrate on.

In a vague attempt to get into ‘lunch’ mode, my fellow diner shunned coffee to try the house beetroot and ginger juice (~$5). Not quite as zingy as I would have liked, but the chunky juice still deserves praise for delivering some fibre.

I went for the Spanish braised lamb shoulder, yoghurt, flat bread, hommus, roasted eggplant and pomegranate salad ($22). The very friendly waitstaff said it was their chef’s interpretation of a sovlaki. Best. Sovlaki. Ever. Ever. And get this, I’m not even a big fan of lamb. Lamb usually ranks quite low for my choice of protein (I know, how unAustralian of me). But this was absolutely sublime. Only criticism is that the flatbread was a bit oily, but that was easily fixed with a little pat down with a napkin. Otherwise it was perfection: melt-in-your-mouth lamb, velvety hommus, silky eggplant and tangy pomegranate. It was like a party in my mouth.

My companion also went for a heavy lunch meal; the special of beef pie and salad ($28). Again, a fantastic dish. The stew was flavoursome with generous chunks of tender beef and assorted veggies. The pastry was so buttery and flaky. Comfort food at its best.

Service is everything you’d expect of a cute little country cafe, the staff were friendly and more than happy to point you to Woodend’s other attractions. Overall a top experience. If I’d known about the Larder back then, maybe I could have been swayed to become Woodend resident. It really is that good.

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