When you think regional or destination restaurant, you usually picture the rustic charm of Beechworth’s Provenance, or the rolling vineyard views of the Mornington Peninsula’s Ten Minutes By Tractor.
What you won’t picture is Pakenham’s The Lakeside Mill – a modern, two-storey, all-day bistro, flanked by a takeaway pizza joint and a suburban fish-and-chip shop overlooking a man-made lake and the local ALDI.
But while Pakenham, at 60 kilometres or an hour’s drive from Melbourne’s CBD, qualifies as regional (or metro-regional, if you want to get technical), for owner Casey Brent Summerville, it’s as much about servicing the local community as it is about being a destination.
“We want the venue to be a social beacon for the community and the neighbouring community, because at the moment, there’s really nothing else in the area,” says Summerville.
Chef Jake Kellie’s (ex-Estelle Bistro, The Commoner) menu starts at breakfast (including eggs and soldiers for the kids) and goes through to dinner. A $70, five-course-plus-snacks tasting menu serves as the restaurant’s major attraction.
“I want locals to be able to experience food that comes from their region,” says Kellie. “When you’re in the city you always have access to the best-available produce, because you can source it from everywhere. But when you’re relying on a region’s resources, you’ve got to show off your skills a lot more. It’s testing me as a chef, and pushing me to places I’ve never been before.”
The menu will change with the seasons, but at the moment there are dishes such as local potatoes cooked in Jersey milk; Mt. Martha mussels in roasted-meat broth; and O’Connor’s beef rump cap with caramelised kelp and salt-baked kohlrabi. Dessert might be a roasted peach, flavoured with lemon verbena and served with Sunny Creek organic blackberries.
The wine list has been curated by Chayse Bertoncello from O.MY in nearby Beaconsfield, and is as local as the food. Expect a solid selection from the Mornington Peninsula, the Yarra Valley, Officer and upper Pakenham. Natural wines get a look-in, too.
The space, designed by Summerville, has polished concrete floors, exposed copper pipes and recycled timbers. A tangle of Edison light bulbs and tiny terrariums hang above the main dining room, which, in its current configuration, seats about 45. A further 10 can fit at the public bar, although they’ll have to stick to the snacks menu. But, best leave that to the locals: if you’ve made the trek out to Pakenham, you’ll want to taste everything the area has to offer.
The Lakeside Mill
38 Lakeside Boulevard, Pakenham
(03) 5940 8700
Sun to Fri 7am–11pm