Is driving 3 hours for a meal considered crazy? Potentially... but that doesn't mean that it wasn't worth it. So finally the day I've been looking forward to for 2 months rolls around - dinner at the Royal Mail Hotel.
At the base of the Grampians, in the middle of Dunkeld (a town with surprisingly little to do) lies the unassuming, unimpressive building - but as they say you can't read a book by it's cover.
There are 2 food options - vegetarian or omnivore; and about a million wine options to choose from the famed RMH cellar. We decide for the non vego option; and the wine list was a bit overwhelming so we decide to go with with matching wines - one village (a selection of Australian wines) and one vintage (a selection of International wines).
So as we wait in anticipation for the procession of 9 dishes, we are given warm freshly baked bread and an unusual smoked butter laden with a delicious subtle bacon flavour. YUM! So before our first dish comes we are given the first wine of the night - a pink Champagne; I manage to down it before our food comes - but when our impossibly sweet tomato with basil, interesting "sardine on toast" and melt in your mouth pork sandwich came they topped it up my glass again! (I soon found out this happened through all courses and as a result I soon was very tipsy).
Two vegetarian dishes follow, the first was sugar snap peas bursting with sweetness paired with sashimi made from watermelon - intriguingly and genius. The next was a play on tartare, made from oats, legumes and yeast; mixing in the yolk created a smooth gravy that coated the crunchy earthy base.
Three quite different seafood dishes follow; starting with an understated rock lobster that let the freshness of the ingredients play the star, following was a glowingly fresh and perfectly cooked piece of tuna, topped with an intense onion stock; and finally my favourite dish of the night - a Japanese inspired piece of eel with beef tendon. It was sweet sticky and the textures of all the elements on the dish worked perfectly.
Our main was lamb, eggplant and chlorophyll (not to be mistaken for chloroform), like all of the preceding dishes, the colour, texture and flavour combinations were perfect.
Three desserts followed - first an apple pie infused with chamomile, topped with crunchy almonds on a thin crispy base, followed by summer berries with an unusual but successful beetroot ice-cream. Our final dessert and dish was simply titled pistachio, hazelnut and chocolate. It ended up in front of us as a delicious mess of textures and flavours.
The matching wines, the tastes, the presentation and the service, all hit the right notes; is this the best meal I've had? Probably...
5 / 5 yums!
Where? 98 Parker Street, Dunkeld, VIC 3294
What? Degustation $135 (wines $115 or $195)