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The Royal Mail Hotel

  • Restaurants
  • Dunkeld
  • price 3 of 4
  1. Deluxe Mountain View Room Balcony
    Royal Mail Hotel | Emily Weaving
  2. Parker Street Project
    Royal Mail Hotel | Emily Weaving
  3. Bruce the Rufous Bettong
    Royal Mail Hotel
  4. Royal Mail Hotel interior dining table
    Royal Mail Hotel
  5. Royal Mail Hotel Wine Cellar
    Royal Mail Hotel
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Time Out says

The famous country pub features a fine dining restaurant, fancy accommodation, that famous kitchen garden and an enviable wine cellar

Nestled in the foothills of the Grampians is the little town of Dunkeld on Gunditjmara country, 283 kilometres west of Melbourne. Blink twice and you could miss it. The most notable attraction? The Royal Mail Hotel. 

This little oasis is home to a hotel, a bistro, a fine diner, pool, kitchen garden and its own mini wildlife sanctuary, complete with sprawling views of Mount Sturgeon. Neighbouring bluestone cottages also belong to the hotel and promise a slightly more private experience. Staying on the premises if visiting its resident fine diner is a given considering its location – the accommodation alone is worth the visit.

Stay

The Deluxe Mountain View Rooms live up to their name. Opening the door to the room never gets old when you’re greeted by the grandiose sight of Mount Sturgeon and its surrounding bushland. The opportunity to indulge in a cup of coffee on the balcony in the morning with neighbouring ash-coloured wallabies is too tempting too.

The bathroom features heated floors which is another welcome surprise in the morning and embroidered robes lay in wait. A TV is stocked with an array of films if you choose to stay in and you can choose to sit in your seats or lie in bed and laze away.

The minibar stocks ice-cold Cokes if you so desire, along with locally-made Chappys chips if you get hungry. Complimentary breakfast completes the experience with little tubs of yoghurt, muesli, fresh fruits and milks replenished daily. If you’re lactose intolerant you can even request dairy-free milk from reception.

A hop, skip and jump away is the central pool. It’s freezing in winter but provides the perfect respite during summertime. 

Do

There’s a few tours to take advantage of. If you’re in luck, the kitchen garden tour that takes you through the Royal Mail’s vast 1.2-hectare kitchen garden (featuring most produce the restaurants use) is hosted by chef Robin Wickens himself. Learn how each and everything has a purpose - from the proud ducks who are employed to eat the snails and other pests, to the companion planting. Sample the fruits of the team’s labour along the way too. Receive a packet of seeds to sow at home and if you’re like me, grow an outrageously successful and delicious patch of rocket.

Tours run Thursday, Friday and Saturday mornings at 10am, $15 per person.

If you happen to stay on a weekday, you’re in luck. The Native Wildlife Feeding Tour (priced at $19 per person) is available from Wednesday through to Friday and gives you the chance to learn about the hotel’s captive breeding program and environmental initiatives. The best part might be that you get to meet said endangered native Australian animals like Bruce, the fluffy little rufous bettong. 

Eat and drink

The Royal Mail’s wine list and cellar is any oenophiles dream and the Wine Cellar Tutorial isn’t one to be missed. Guided by the Royal Mail Hotel’s sommeliers. It includes a comparative wine tasting, set amongst the hotel’s 30,000 bottle collection and costs $25 per person per 30 minute session.

The Royal Mail Dining Room became Wickens at the Royal Mail in late 2017 and was named after executive chef Robin Wickens. The fine diner offers dinner from Thursday to Saturday which features a seasonal chef’s menu. It’s a thoughtful and playful approach to fine dining. Tables are spaced out to maintain a level of intimacy between guests; light wood panels the ceiling and forms the curves of bottle holders in the cellar; and round stone tables are dotted with round brown leather placemats, highlighted by flying saucer-like lights that hang overhead. Floor-to-ceiling glass adds a sheer layer between the kitchen and the dining area, the team inside lit up. Wickens mans his station and sees off each dish with a tick of approval in the form of a neatly-placed scoop of anise myrtle sorbet.

Parallel to this is the view of trees, their leaves lit up by the sun, and Mount Sturgeon sitting pretty in the background.

On our visit, the meal starts with a menu sealed with green wax displaying Wickens’ logo. Seven courses can easily become nine or ten if you so please as supplementary dishes are always on offer. Amuse-bouche are loaded onto 3D-printed plates that resemble a birds-eye view of the garden and is soon followed by Wicken’s signature alphabet soup that spells out the venue’s name, filled at the table with a rich, moreish bone broth. 

An earthy cylinder of beetroot holds bone marrow within its rings, topped with mulberries and sweet cicily which gives off the scent of anise. Desserts are well worth waiting for too. A scoop of cherry frozen yoghurt blankets rich chunks of brownie, while petit fours come in the form of jelly baby vegetables. We told you it was playful. 

“The wine list is the biggest Burgundy wine list in the Southern Hemisphere” the sommelier tells us. But it isn’t just Burgundy here, there’s even an entire page dedicated to Joh. Jos. Prüm too.

If you’re looking for a more casual dining option, then it’s hard to go past the venue’s very own Parker Street Project. It's open for lunch and dinner from Wednesday to Saturday and it’s the best spot around for bistro-style fare. It’s kid-friendly and has an outdoor dining area with a lawn with those striking views again. 

The menu is classic and hearty. An entree of ham hock terrine with thick toast soldiers and curried, pickled cauliflower disappears as quickly as it arrives; signature cocktails including the Negroni pack a herbal punch owing to the Royal Mail’s own vermouth and mains of roast chicken with jus are best mopped up by the garden’s own squash and tangy lashings of romesco. The food is top-notch and full of flair – it goes hand-in-hand with the entire Royal Mail experience – high in quality and finishes so quickly it leaves you wanting more.

The hotel’s full wine list is also available here upon request. 

Visit

If, like us, you’re looking to stretch your legs and explore the Grampians (which is at your disposal), head out and drive north for an hour to Zumsteins Picnic Area and do a five kilometre return hike to Fish Falls. It’s less crowded than Mackenzie Falls and you can swim in the river area. Just be careful of the current, and it’s not advised to swim during winter months, but on a 30-degree day there’s nothing better. The walk itself is also moderate and has some inclines so it’s best suited to those able to hike the distance. 

The Balconies is also a must-see with its sprawling views of the Grampians. There are also a bunch of walks one can do closer to the hotel with the trek to Mount Sturgeon a popular option. The hotel provides a list of walks, too.

Overall it’s too easy to spend a weekend or longer at the Royal Mail. It’s a little slice of paradise in the middle of the countryside. A spot for gastronomes, oenophiles and those just seeking to relax alike.


Written by
Rushani Epa

Details

Address:
98 Parker St
Dunkeld
Melbourne
3294
Transport:
Nearby stations: Dunkeld
Opening hours:
Dinner Wed-Sun
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