The good, and the bad.
My partner and I had been looking forward to a trip to Dunkeld for quite a while, and finally decided to visit on a spur of the moment trip, only organising it the day before we left! I was relieved to get accommodation and a seat in the restaurant at such late notice, although, it was mid-week. We both had high expectations of the Royal Mail Hotel and I am unhappy to say that it did not completely live up to expectations.
The good points, and there were a few! I stayed in the cheapest accommodation, the Garden View Rooms and was very happy with it. There was a lot of space, comfy bed, big TV, big bathroom, endless hot water and reverse cycle air-conditioner. Although, not a wine glass in sight?!! The public bar has a beautiful open fireplace and a pool table. It is a nice space, however, it bring downs the ‘fine dinning’ feel of the place. There are beautiful native gardens around the whole property and the wattle has just come into bloom. The backdrop of the Grampians National Park is spectacular and the surrounding walks and trails are a good escape. Dunkeld is a sleepy little town, with a population of about 400, a nice change for those who have travelled from the big city.
I dined in the restaurant; both my partner and I had the eight-course degustation with matching wines. The stand out dishes were the egg yolk, pigeon and quince with coffee, stand out wines were local Walwhinnie Chardonnay and Grossett ‘Polish Hill’ Riesling. Our wait staff were exceptional, the Sommelier, Simon, fantastic! The wine list was phenomenal; I could have read it all night. In fact the whole place is about the wines they have, and it is worth a visit just to enjoy their selection.
There were a few things that really brought down the whole night. The chairs are uncomfortable, office chairs that give the impression they might break if you lean back on them. The tables were set up in two rows, away from the fireplace. Therefore, instead of the fire being made the feature we were looking at the waiter’s station (something I think should be tucked away in the corner, for the staff as much as the dinners). The station divided the room, making us feel uneasy, especially with the row behind us breathing down our backs. When they bring the food to you, an entourage of floor staff, all carrying one plate, approaches the table! This is intimidating and un-necessary. Throughout the evening we were served by all floor staff members, not one waiter, this meant that a rapport could not be established. The first course, chicken crisp was horrific and the fried truffle croquette nothing to write home about.
All in all I had an enjoyable night, but would not go back, although maybe my expectations were too high. I would rather go to Melbourne to a place with more ambiance.
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