Royal Mail Hotel11/25/2013 11:07:00 PM
So, as I've told you a bunch of times before, we have a tradition with our friend An where we shout each other a fancy meal every year as a birthday gift. (See previous posts: Tetsuya's, Embrasse, and Vue de Monde). This year, we went to the Royal Mail Hotel for a weekend, where An shouted us the nine-course degustation with matching wines. Wow! And for those who are interested in these things, we visited the Royal Mail after chef Dan Hunter left.
|The Royal Mail Hotel|
Royal Mail Hotel
98 Parker Street
Dunkeld, VIC 3294
Ph: (03) 5577-2241
It was an easy 3.5 hour drive from Melbourne to Dunkeld (and I say "easy" because An was driving - what a treat to be chauffered!), with a stop in Ballarat for lunch. We chose Vegas and Rose, a cute little cafe with a vintage feel and generously portioned toasties. (They have an Etsy and an Instagram, but no menu on their website, hehe).
|Lunch at Vegas and Rose|
And here's Parker street in Dunkeld - quiet and peaceful with a lovely view!
We got there a little early, so checked into our room and freshened up before dinner. We were in a two bedroom apartment on the same property as the restaurant. It was very comfortable and clean, and whilst I thought the beds and amenities were great, (especially the Appelles Apothecary toiletries!), I felt the building itself was tending towards the older side, with some cobwebs in the harder-to-reach corners, and slightly old-fashioned bathrooms.
|Royal Mail Hotel - 2 Bedroom Apartment|
Here is the restaurant itself. The same space houses the formal dining area and the more casual bistro, with tablecloths and carpets in the formal area. We were also seated right next to the fireplace - so cosy!
|The dining room|
An and I went for the Omnivore menu, whilst our Sandra went for the vegetarian menu. (She's not a vegetarian but doesn't eat seafood or rare meat, and loves vegetables, so this works out well for her.) So yay! I get to show you both menus!
We started with excellent house-made bread and soft butter.
|Flaxseed, nettle, garden blossoms|
The "garden blossoms" canapé, (which I imagine were picked from the Royal Mail's own kitchen garden), was like a flower bouquet on a cracker - a very tasty flower bouquet on a cracker!
|Oyster and roe, citrus and sea lettuce|
Asparagus and rye
|Pancetta and scampi, rye cream, candied radish|
I greatly enjoyed this course, with the lovely strip of stripey, salty pancetta contrasting well against the fresh meatiness of the scampi and the sweet candied radish. The wine match for this was, surprisingly, a sake which was very fragrant, with subtle hints of banana (for real). So cool! While we're here, I should tell you I loved the wine matching throughout the meal. There were some adventurous, unusual choices, most of which I really liked, and all of which complimented the individual dishes well. A special shout-out to the sommelier (who I think was the junior sommelier), who was knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the wines without being overbearing. He was awesome!
|Carrot and almond, coriander and pickled garlic|
Sandra loved this dish! Not only did it look beautiful, but the different textures and flavours - the little carrots, the garlic, the almonds - were a delight.
|Jerusalem artichoke, hazelnut, triple cream|
|Oozy triple cream|
|Egg yolk and new potatoes, salt fish and crackling|
I much preferred the fourth course, with the liquid egg yolk oozing delectably over the tender little potato pieces and crispy salty fish crackling - it was very well balanced. I also loved the wine match, an oaky 2011 By Farr Chardonnay from Geelong.
|Egg yolk, toasted rye, legumes, yeast|
Sadly, the vegetarian option wasn't quite as impressive. The egg yolk with toasted rye, legumes and yeast looked very pretty, but it was very oversalted. (And keep in mind it was being eaten by someone who loves salty food, and when cooking at home routinely adds salt to food that I already find too salty).
|Blue eye, salsify, chicken broth and skin|
I wouldn't have thought to pair chicken broth with fish, but it worked really well. I loved the crisp chicken skin too!
The vegetarian option for this course, the garden salad, sounded like it would be quite plain, but was actually a stunning mixture of different vegetables, salad leaves and flowers. Wow!
|Eel and bone marrow, eggplant, pickled vegetables|
Another pretty dish, but I found the large piece of eel stuffed with bone marrow too gelatinously rich, even with the crisp pickled vegetables alongside.
|Charred young garlic, cauliflower, aged pecorino|
I didn't try this course, but Sandra thought it was just alright, with the pungent pecorino overpowering the other delicate flavours.
|Salt grass lamb, black cabbage, chard leaf and stem|
Sometimes simple things are the best, and I greatly enjoyed the perfectly cooked piece of salt grass lamb!
|Eggplant in white miso, dried grains, cured kelp|
The vegetarian option of the seventh course was, again, less successful, with the eggplant being too smoky (although I know some people adore smoky eggplant, so I suppose it comes down to personal taste), and the broth being one-dimensionally salty and not having much depth of flavour.
|Milk and apple, golden raisin and almond|
I liked the way this dessert looked like a little Valkyrie helmet! The sorbet was delicate and milky, and the golden raisins were plump and juicy, with some tart apple and crunchy almonds underneath. It was a refreshing dessert.
|Beetroot and mandarin, cocoa and walnut|
This dessert was made up of a little semi-circle of mandarin sorbet (or ice-cream?), with a pile of chocolate and beetroot crumbs. Sandra found the earthiness of the chocolate and beetroot crumbs a little too earthy, but An and I really liked the subtle hint of chocolate. It was a nice way of having a chocolate dessert without being super rich or filling, and I also liked the texture contrast between the sorbet and crumbs.
|Breakfast at the Royal Mail Hotel|
|Breakfast at the Royal Mail Hotel|
|Bread, Wessex Saddleback smoked leg ham, bread and butter pickle, house made ricotta, pork rillette, house made smoked salmon|
|Vanilla Custard Donut - my first Instagram photo to hit 100 likes!|
|View from the Gardens|
|View from the gardens|