Friday 3 January 2020

Dining in Dunkeld

On this trip I was hosted by the Royal Mail Hotel, though I paid for my own transport.

On the Friday before Christmas, Narrelle and I journeyed out to Dunkeld, a small town west of Melbourne at the southern tip of Grampians National Park.

I was there to review the Royal Mail Hotel, which has recently renovated its rooms... and in our own, a welcome gin & tonic awaited, the mint garnish to be plucked by us from a plant on the balcony:

(That accommodation review will appear in due course in Traveller.)

The town is pleasant enough; though home to only 600 or so people, it has a number of interesting heritage buildings, explained via recently installed signage:

And in the Memorial Park on the main street I found this plaque. Why have I never heard before about the Australian submarine at Gallipoli?

The supreme highlight of our trip, however, was food. The Royal Mail is famous for its restaurants, particularly the fine-dining Wickens. On the Saturday afternoon we joined the regular tour of the hotel's kitchen garden, a sprawling delight on the edge of town, guided by head chef Robin Wickens himself:

Then, at 6.30pm, we sat down at Wickens for a spectacular four-hour meal - eight courses (really 13 with the added amuse-bouches and palate cleansers), all using the produce we'd inspected and sampled earlier in the day.

We'd asked for our meal to be pescatarian, ie fish and vegetables, so this is the menu the Wickens team devised and served to us:

Could it be as impressive in reality as it seemed on paper? It could. what followed was a fascinating cascade of small dishes, expertly crafted and matched with wines. The flavours and textures were amazing; consumed to a view of native trees and Mount Sturgeon, it was by far our most memorable dining experience of 2019.

Here are some of the dishes we were served (see if you can match them to the menu, they're presented in order of serving):

And the view from here...

... was of this:

A perfect evening, much recommended.

Wickens is at the Royal Mail Hotel, 98 Parker St, Dunkeld, Victoria, Australia. Visit its website for more details.

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