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Royal Mail Hotel, Dunkeld

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Hi,

I had a dinner at this much talked about place at the end of November. I must say it was worth the effort, bringing my dad along for the journey.

Only about 45mins from delightful walks in the Grampians it's worth making the trek from Melbourne. The town itself is tiny and unpretentious. So it does focus your mind around walking and eating. Not a bad combination.

The restaurant itself is airy and relaxed without the pretence often found in fine dining. It's a good place to while away a few hours. Although I went expecting culinary fireworks, the meal itself was very restrained, focusing on wringing out the maximum flavour from seasonal and the freshest of ingredients, grown in the gardens on the grounds.

There are pictures and commentary on my blog, but the standout dishes were:

- egg yolk, toasted rye, legumes and yeast
- asparagus, duck ham, spring blossoms and duck consomme
- pistachio cake, hazelnuts, honeycomb and chocolate

I could see while some people would question this sort of dining experience. What you're paying for is not readily evident on the plate - an absence of luxury ingredients and showy technical skill. However there is a much admired restraint and focus on great and involving tastes. It made for one of the more interesting meals of the year and I would look forward to return.

Anybody else been of late? thoughts?

Fergal
www.foodmiles.wordpress.com

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  1. Hmm, I just realised I never wrote up my visit there last year in July. It was not a great evening: Mrs_G was violently sick on the walk to the restaurant, felt better, had two courses and turned around. I honoured the booking, and they very generously only charged me the one meal. Then someone at an adjacent table had stroke-like sympoms and the table disappeared, with only one returning to finish their (apparently wedding!) dinner. Everyone recovered (I asked).

    My impressions of the ambience are the same as Fergal's. We were too cheap to stay in the hotel, so went to a cabin around the corner. I had some of the same dishes. The wine pairings were good but I think they were still building their list, they used to have a ridiculously premium wine pairing experience but it all got a bit out of hand and they stopped it.

    The impressive dish I had that fergal didn't mention was a piece of fish but served with chicken stock - very clever. I really liked the lamb with chlorophyll, I though the whole 'shady woodland' presentation was a very clever joke.

    I really liked it, especially for a country town, and thank you Mr Myers for bankrolling it. I would definitely go back if I was in the Grampians or heading to Adelaide.

    That said, I think Loam is in the same class and a lot shorter drive for me. I think Loam's pairings have the edge as well as of last year's experience. But Royal Mail is a must do for any Victorian foodie.

    1. We made it there between Christmas and New Year. We had a really great meal and loved nearly every minute of it. I would write in detail but can't access my notes at the moment. The food is wonderfully innovative but not extreme, Dan Hunters food shows the Mugaritz influence from his time as head chef in San Sebastian. Some really good broths in the dishes and the use of edible flowers adds a great touch.

      We tried both the "Omnivore" and "Vegetarian" menus. On balance we liked the omnivore one the most, the veggie one had some extreme highs but also a couple of lows. Most notably the "tofu, burnt potato, mustard, nashi" dish which is served with John Dory on the omnivore menu. The fish makes the dish, the tofu doesn't work in the same way. Obviously the kitchen needs to do this in order to deliver two ten course menus in a small restaurant but each course needs to work.

      A couple of gripes to watch for, wine glasses are filled up too quickly, we found our first bottle was nearly finished by the time the first course was served, it is a two bottle meal, but three would be tragic! Also there were some gaps in the service, 45 mins between two courses later in the meal which was frustrating.

      It is a nice quite place, accommodation at the pub is expensive, we stayed in a nice little cottage which was a short walk away - http://www.visitsoutherngrampians.com...

      1. We had dinner at Royal Mail on July 23 - we booked about 3 months in advance to get a Saturday night - and it involved hours of driving and hiring a car. I feel like I have now seen "country Victoria". Interesting that we had some of the same dishes as you did fergal and it is now 6 months later. That said, I did enjoy it, we had a glam wkend there - walking around the grounds before dinner and reading the very extensive (and delightfully biased) wine list. The wine pairing were good. The food was well prepared, the service was nice. I don't need to go back, but it was certainly nice.

        Photos are here:
        http://www.flickr.com/photos/haynes/s...

        (was pretty dimly lit

        )

        I loved the beetroot powder creme brulee dessert. I liked the egg yolk, apparently they heat it up in a glass container. lamb was cooked sous vide.

        oh and the main road through the Grampians is washed away, so you have to go around rather than through the natl park.