Wednesday, January 6, 2010


After flying back from Hobart, Tasmania we picked up a rental car and drove out through the misty hills surrounding Melbourne to the Southern Grampions National Park.  Nearby is the Royal Mail Hotel in the town of Dunkeld.  This was the centerpiece of our time in Victoria, and so far the highlight of our trip.

The sun came out after we arrived, and we enjoyed the native gardens and took a dip in the pool.

The view of Mt. Sturgeon from our room was like my "Crocodile Dundee" fantasy come true... on the edge of the bush!

Our little deck.

We went for a hike to the top of the mountain on our second day, taking advantage of the cool, cloudy weather.  This eucalyptus (gum) tree is over 400 years old, and is one of many of which are scattered around the plains surrounding the Grampion mountains.

In one of the most exciting moments in my life, we came across a herd of over 40 wild kangaroos.  They peered curiously at us before bounding away over a sheep fence.  I almost passed out.

As we climbed the mountain, the surrounding area began to look more and more like an African plain.

Here is the hotel from the top of the mountain.

The real reason for going to the Royal Mail, however, was the food.  This was yet another No Reservations find, and it did not disappoint.  Head chef Dan Hunter earned his stripes at one and two Michelin star restaurants in Spain before returning to Australia to transform the Royal Mail Hotel, which had been a pub and meeting place in Dunkeld for decades.  Mr. Hunter was on vacation while we were visiting, so the stellar tasting menu was not available.  His sous chefs and the rest of his staff treated us to the bistro menu instead, which was absolutely flawless each of the 6 times we ate at the restaurant.

Everything is sourced from either local producers or, as in the case of the tomato salad above, the hotel's own garden.  The olives were grown on a nearby farm by a man who brought several rare types with him from Lebanon in the 1970's.
Ham charcuterie with tomato bread.

One dish the first night was this olive oil poached kingfish with beans, capers, tomatoes and olives.  The broth you see was smokey and dreamlike.

The slow cooked lamb with vegetable stew, basil and pine nuts.  Lamb is a specialty in this area.

A light lunch on the second day: sardines on toast and a garden green (including a delicious bitter nasturtium green) salad.

On night two, after our hike, the roast chicken with herb gnocchi, ham hock, cabbage and fennel.

The seafood stew.

By the end of our trip we had made friends with the wonderfully professional and gracious staff, and our last night dinner was the pinnacle of three days of eating well.  Above is a local charcuterie plate with (top to bottom, left to right) curred ham, curred wagyu beef, curred salmon and curred duck.  I live for curred meats.

The entree (first course) was this delicate fried quail with beetroot, carrot and almond.

And the jewel in the crown: the roast for two.  Perfectly cooked grass fed beef,  garden fresh carrots and beets, a warm french potato salad and garden greens.  This was paired with a 1999 Seppelt St. Peter's Shiraz from the hotel's absolutely insane wine cellar.

Other (all white) wines enjoyed included:
Gembrook Hill Sauvignon Blanc 2007
Crawford River Reisling 2005

Every glass or bottle was great, and the excellent sommelier helped us find exactly what we were looking for.  It was exciting to see their breadth of Australian wines, most from the surrounding area or elsewhere in Victoria.

Read more on the Royal Mail's philosophy, location, menu and rates here.


  1. Unbelievable. The sky! The warmth! I love that shot you took of your room in shadows--gorgeous. and--Kangaroos!!!???? Kangaroos!!!! I will be most jealous if you see one of my favorite childhood animals in the wild--the koala. The food looks amazing. Great pictures. I live for these posts. xxxxxxx

  2. Wowow Chaddie, looks incredible! See the g10 is working out well (food shots look scrumptious. Jealous, jealous. I wouldn't want to run into a kangaroo in the middle of the night though... they looks scawy!

    xo scrambletree

  3. I think the beast would be jealous if he saw the photo of you hugging the koala bear!