More than just degustation dining
Nothing beats leaving Melbourne and getting away to the country for a night. Destination – Dunkeld, a small shearing town in the Grampians, three hours west, and home to the Royal Mail Hotel.
The hotel is famous for its Chef’s Hats and degustation dining, but given Dunkeld’s remote location, diners often stay the night, so the hotel has tapped into this and introduced some diverse experiences for overnight guests to try.
One of the best experiences they offer is to tour the hotel’s extensive edible gardens, learning all about their paddock-to-plate approach with one of the 13 chefs.
Degustation – more playful than pretentious
The five-course degustation is as fun as it is delicious, and can be served with matching wines or you can choose from the wine-list, which is a 90-page book (we’re talking 26,000 bottles). The amuse bouche certainly did amuse – ‘egg and soldiers’ with a twist; the ‘soldiers’ were brioche, the ‘yolk’ a pumpkin custard and the ‘white’ a soy puree.
Hard to choose, but the standout flavours of the meal were the linseed cracker with lovage butter, flathead with kohlrabi, pancetta and preserved lemons; wagyu flank with pine mushroom ketchup, and the palette cleansing feijoa cream was ridiculously good. Your taste buds will be dancing when you finally leave the dining room, happily sated but not overfull.
Sleep then more play
After a great night’s sleep (the silence is noticeable) and a slap-up breakfast, the garden tour is just what you need. Executive Chef Robin Wickens’ vision is to serve only what the hotel grows and he’s already 80% there. The main kitchen garden is 2 acres of companion planted fruits, veggies and herbs, including poly tunnels to regulate temperatures.
With additional olive groves, orchards and 80 free-range hens (all from Mt Sturgeon property) the menu is written daily according to what’s fresh. Fertilisers and pesticides aren’t used, instead two resident ducks can be seen de-bugging the garden, snacking on slugs and snails.
More to RMH than food
If wine is more your thing, pre-book a cellar tour with the sommelier of the hotel’s impressive wine collection curated over the past 40 years. For nature lovers, at 4.30pm each day (except Sunday), you can also meet the squirrel gliders, long nosed potoroos and Eastern quolls at feeding time – part of the hotel conservation department’s captive breeding program. And if you’re there on a Wednesday or Friday, you can tour Allan Myers’ (owner of the Royal Mail Hotel) extraordinary 24-acre garden, the wall of which took 15 years to build!
The additional experiences make it well worth the drive.
Helen Collier experienced the Eat Drink Stay package, which costs $465 per couple / twin share Sunday to Friday and is available till August.
Package price: $465 per couple / twin share
How: Booking can be made directly through the Royal Mail Hotel on 03 5577 2241 or email email@example.com.
Royal Mail Hotel
t: (03) 5577 2241
a: Royal Mail Hotel, 98 Parker Street, Dunkeld