Below is an article originally written in late 2019 just before the world became a little crazy. GFG would like to send our well wishes to the people of Dunkeld and hope that we shall be able to return at some point in 2021 once Australian borders re-open and in particular Victorian restrictions are lifted.
International Gourmet Food Guide is dedicated to scouring the globe and finding the best places to eat, drink, stay and play. Recently, we have been checking out hidden gems in our quest to share the exquisite experiences and places nominated by readers and our Instagram followers for inclusion in the International Gourmet Food Guide. One such gem that recently knocked our socks off, and left our jaws on the floor, is located in a tiny town of 670 people at the base of a mountain range in a national park some 300km from Melbourne in Australia.
Admittedly, it was a trek to get to, but definitely worth the 4 hour detour South en route to the middle of Australia. The Grampian mountain range and surrounding plains are absolutely stunning and popular with campers, ramblers and all manner of iconic Australian wildlife. Near the base of Mount Sturgeon is the little town of Dunkeld. Like many small towns we had passed through on our journey across Australia, at its heart is the local pub. However, in this instance “pub” or even “hotel” is a massive misnomer because in The Royal Mail Hotel is a sensory experience unlike any other within a 300km radius.
Its humble origins as a local pub with accomodation have been transformed by the loving attention of owner and philanthropist Allen Myers AC, QC. Allen grew up in the town as the son of the local butcher and owns much of the 10,000 hectares of farmland surrounding Dunkeld. International Gourmet Food Guide were given the privilege of touring The Royal Mail’s 1.2 hectare kitchen garden which is Australia’s largest working restaurant kitchen garden. Fresh local produce is the key to their outstanding food and most of the produce showcased on the Royal Mail menus is grown onsite and harvested daily by the kitchen team including the interesting and obscure.
From garden to table brings us to outstanding gourmet food…….”Wickens” is Royal Mail’s hatted restaurant run by English executive chef Robin Wickens. Local architect Nick Byrne designed the restaurant area as a multi-sensory experience, and the dining space is simply breathtaking. To enter Wickens is to enter a luxurious womb with a view.
Robin’s five or eight course degustation and chef’s table menus are equally breathtaking and balanced with spectacular wines from an award winning cellar. Menus are dictated daily by what’s available from The Royal Mails amazing kitchen garden and from Allen Myer’s livestock in the surrounding fields. Think lamb with nasturtium and carrots/duck with leeks and sour plums/ zucchini with white chocolate and daisy ice cream as an exquisite example. On our visit we found an industrious Robin busy in the kitchen preparing a beetroot mousse to be served with chocolate milk…
Award Winning Wine Cellar
Here’s where we come to the Royal Mail’s “pièce de resistance” that really makes it a strong contender as an International Gourmet Food Guide ” Hidden Gem”
Boasting a 28,000 bottle collection, the Royal Mail’s cellar has a range of local and international wines and the largest private collection of Bordeaux and Burgundy in the Southern Hemisphere. Sommelier Matthew Lance proudly showed us around the cellar that features a supply of 1934 Chateau Margaux and Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Grands Echezeaux among other spectacular wines. The good news is that although The Royal Mail Hotel is somewhat off the beaten track, for those unable to actually visit this spectacular cellar, The Royal Mail Hotel has recently launched its unique wine club where they are offering inaugural members the chance to win a $2,500 bottle of 1982 Château Mouton Rothschild.
Finally, the Royal Mail team were, without exception, incredibly welcoming and informative. We wished we could have lingered longer. Unfortunately due to time constraints we didn’t get to sample the Royal Mail’s accommodation, but we will definitely revisit and report back on the entire experience in the near future. In our opinion, this is truly a hidden gem that should not be missed.
This establishment was nominated for inclusion by The Gourmet Guru (@thegourmetguru888) and actual video footage the visit has been posted on our own Instagram site @gourmetfoodguide