This post is almost two months overdue. I’ve said it before in some other posts and it’s also obviously evident in my lack of posts in the recent weeks – life 1.0 has taken over. For some reason I have been crazy busy, getting fit, training for a half marathon, catching up with friends, trying to find time to read a book.
And all this while celebrating our recent engagement. Yes, my beautiful boyfriend, now fiancé proposed to me and it was perfect! He chose a place that fit us as a couple perfectly: The Royal Mail Hotel. A two-hatted restaurant in Dunkeld in the Grampians, serving incredible food about three hours from Melbourne.
He told me we were heading to a company get-together in the country so I packed warm clothes, hiking gear and also some fancier things for dinner with his colleagues. And it was all a big fat lie, just to lure me away. Instead he had booked us into one of the cottages that are part of the Royal Mail Hotel, overlooking Mt Sturgeon. It was perfect.
Obviously he knows me very well, having chosen a beautiful countryside as the backdrop for his proposal. And of course I said yes!!
And then we sat down to an 8-course feast. With a few complimentary courses thrown in too… At the beginning of the night, we were asked if we were happy to not see the menu and just have our food arrive. And we would be given a menu at the end of the night. I thought this was a great idea, instead of reading the menu in advance and expecting what things would be like you could just trust your tastebuds. And the wonderful staff explained each dish as it arrived anyway.
One of the best things about The Royal Mail Hotel is that they grow most (all?) of their product in their very own kitchen garden, which you can visit during one of the Kitchen Garden Tours. This was the amuse-bouche, so a pre-course to our 8-course feast.
The curly bits are dehydrated pumpkin, to the left is a linseed cracker. And those little things on the right are delicious little parcels of apple and beetroot. The flavours and textures were incredible.
Another incredible amuse-bouche. Homemade cottage cheese, yum!
The Royal Mail Hotel is renowned for its winelist. It’s actually not a winelist – it’s a book! As we had decided to not go with the matched wines for our meal, we got to pick from this incredible list. Thank god the sommelier was incredibly nice and helpful.
Smoked Chicken Mousse, pumpkin, egg yolk emulsion, sherry gel and garden petals. And this was still an amuse-bouche!
The first “real” course: Marinated scallops, cape gooseberry, eucalyptus. I love, love, love cape gooseberries and have not been able to find them anywhere in Australia yet (in Germany you get them in pretty much every supermarket). Despite being inland, the scallops were incredibly fresh and delicious.
Broccoli, lemon, sheep’s milk espuma and granola. So this is basically just broccoli. But it was the best broccoli we’ve ever had. It was packed full of flavour and since we had this dish, we’ve been roasting our broccoli at home too. This “simple” dish was one of our favourites of the night.
King George whiting, sorrel, jasmine, escargot. It was beautiful. The acidity of the sorrel was the perfect accompaniment to the fish. Delicious.
Greenvale farm pork, knuckle sandwich, celeriac and apple. Another incredible dish, the pork knuckle sandwich is what you can see in the front, with some lovely crackling on top.
Sher wagyu F1 8+ sirloin, broccoli and blue cheese. I’m not a beef expert, but this beef was one of the most tender pieces I’ve ever had. If I understood it correctly the ‘F1 8+’ refers to the quality and marbling of the meat. It wasn’t a big piece, but it was an amazing piece, it just melted in our mouth.
We had this one seen being delivered to other tables and were keen to find out what it was. Two bowls nestled in a bed of hay.
‘Grampians Pure’ sheep’s milk, lemon myrtle, hay, topped with floss. The lemon myrtle sprinkled on top smelled incredible! The sheep milk yoghurt sorbet and hay cream hidden underneath the floss had this amazing mouthfeel, rich and so refreshing. One of my favourites!
Rhubarb, yoghurt, rosemary. Pretty as a picture and such an interesting flavour combination. I loved the mix of gel, cool sorbet and rosemary crumble.
Oh wow! Another extra to the menu: Orange terrine with dark and white chocolate sorbet. Chocolate and orange is a match made in heaven. For anyone who still has doubts should try this and shall be convinced for ever. Rich and fruity. Amazing.
Poached meringue, walnut broth, mushroom and treacle. Yes, this was dessert! I loved it as it was pushing the limits to a whole new level. The soil had the most incredible texture and who has ever had mushroom ice-cream before?
I loved it!
Um, minimalistic potplant? Far from it! Hidden underneath the potplant was a chocolate soil with treats hidden inside. This one is meant to be eaten with your hands, basically getting your hands dirty and digging (we had a spoon from L’s after-dinner coffee).
The staff take turns in showing their visitors around their fabulous gardens. His enthusiasm for what he does was shining so bright it was inspiring. You could tell he loves his job! The Royal Mail Hotel’s menus change regularly and are always seasonal and dependent on what is growing in the garden at the time. I especially loved their ‘pest control team’.
I have loved every moment of this incredible weekend, my boyfriend, err, fiancé had thought of everything and chosen something that was so very ‘me’. Country, good food, cosy accommodation, laid back yet perfectly organised. It really was perfect. (And I’m subtly dropping hints that we should make the Royal Mail Hotel a yearly anniversary trip 🙂 ).
Royal Mail Hotel
98 Parker Street
Dunkeld Victoria 3294
03 5577 2241