Royal Mail Hotel

The elegantly served eel and bone marrow is a highlight.
The elegantly served eel and bone marrow is a highlight. Photo: Eddie Jim

98 Parker Street Dunkeld, Victoria 3294

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Opening hours B L D Daily
Features Bar, Accepts bookings, Accommodation, Breakfast-brunch, Business lunch, Degustation, Events, Green-eco focus, Groups, Licensed, Long lunch, Open fire, Outdoor seating, Private dining, Pub dining, Vegetarian friendly, Wheelchair access
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Chef Robin Wickens
Seats 85
Payments eftpos, AMEX, Visa, Mastercard
Phone (03) 5577 2241

WHERE AND WHAT

A visit to the Royal Mail Hotel requires forward planning: partly because it's almost four hours' drive away, partly because if you turn up on the spur of the moment there's no guarantee there will be any available accommodation in the motel-style rooms or bluestone cottages with magnificent views of Mount Sturgeon. So book, please, whether it's for the bistro or the full-monty degustation that's one of the best gastronomic experiences anywhere in Australia.

WHERE TO SIT

First make the choice: the restaurant or the bistro? The restaurant is comfortable and spacious, with well-spaced tables all facing towards the open kitchen where the chefs compose plates of food with tweezers; the bistro is more closely packed and louder. After dinner check out the public bar, which has an open fire and a pool table.

WHEN TO GO

The restaurant is open Wednesday to Sunday nights; the bistro does lunch and dinner seven days a week.

DRINK

The wine collection amassed by Royal Mail owner, philanthropist, QC and Dunkeld native Allan Myers is so big it's housed in a storage shed across the highway. There are more than 2000 different bottles on the bound list but don't expect it to be all expensive old-world stuff; there's an incredible depth of vintage from local heroes such as Crawford River. If beer's more your thing, there's another big list to plough through, Australians and internationals, from big names to boutique.

EAT

Dan Hunter's food is seasonal and technical, highly evolved yet not overworked. A dizzying succession of set-menu courses (officially 10, although more might turn up) might take in a charry piece of bone marrow with a glistening shard of eel wafer and tiny pickled vegetables; Jerusalem artichoke filled with hazelnut cream that bursts from its thick skin when pierced. The bistro is the poor cousin only in this rarefied context. From the latest menu: suckling pig, nashi and turnip, shallot and black mustard pickle. Vegetarians are catered for whichever way they jump.

WHO'S THERE

Destination restaurants lure all sorts of well-heeled types but the Royal Mail seems equally loved by the locals.

WHY BOTHER?

Four hours is a long way to go for dinner but it's worth the journey.


Royal Mail Hotel

98 Parker Street (Glenelg Highway), Dunkeld, phone 5577 2241.

royalmail.com.au

http://www.royalmail.com.au/