Monday, April 5, 2010

Royal Mail

Hi everyone, hope you all had a Happy Easter! I'm back from my short Easter getaway to Dunkeld/ Southern Grampians and figured I better write about my Royal Mail Restaurant experience before my memory fails me and all the flavours escape me. That 3-hour drive from Melb to Southern Grampians better be worth it, huh? We made the booking to dine at the restaurant 3 months earlier in January. It's a very, very simple place- nowhere near could say it was like a community hall, only with wooden floors and floor-to-ceiling windows. I think the restaurant was trying very hard to cope with full capacity (they cook for both the restaurant and the bistro) and to give you an idea of how long we dined, we arrived at 7.30pm and didn't leave till 12am (keep in mind they only have either a 10-course vegetarian or omnivore degustation option to choose from)! The restaurant staff were lovely though. All pics taken with a digital camera on the highest ISO setting. 

Chefs hard at work. They were diligently decorating each dish using tweezers. You'll see later how they incorporate flowers and little leaves in their dishes. All ingredients are sourced from their private garden, located in the precinct itself.

Our first course- Sardine on toast, pork sandwich and heirloom tomato with different basils. The pork sandwich was absolutely divine. The pork was the most moist, soft, tender, tasty and juicy piece of pork I've ever tasted and the bread accompanied the pork very well. The tomatoes were brilliantly infused with basil and they just exploded in your mouth (if you like the taste of fresh herbs). I loved the sardine on toast as well, but thought the pork sandwich overshadowed it. 

Our second course- Snow pea, pacific oysters, marine essence, grapefruit and some other stuff I forgot (don't have the menu with me now). Sad to say, I've had better oysters. The sugar snap peas provided just the right amount of vegetable crunchiness and the marine essence was flavourful. 

Our third course- Southern rock lobster, prosciutto, sea lettuce, quinoa. If you've visited Malaysia and have had this dish called 'wu tau gou' (something like a savoury yam pudding/cake- type dish) and tasted the topping then you'd know what the prosciutto and quinoa mixture tasted like. Exactly the same! Well, at least the one that my mom makes tastes the same. I was underwhelmed by this dish, purely because the flavours didn't excite me. I know lobster is a little tasteless on its own, hence the prosciutto mixture. 

Our fourth course- Egg yolk, toasted rye, legumes and yeast. I was eagerly anticipating this because I've seen pictures before and it looked absolutely delicious. This dish didn't disappoint. I wonder if they flavoured the egg yolk because it sure didn't taste like normal egg yolk. The legumes were crunchy and tasted a little like alfalfa sprouts. Underneath the legumes were two spears of asparagus and some avocado guacamole (I think), which provided a nice hint of saltiness to the legumes. I didn't mix my whole dish up and ate different bits slowly to savour the taste and I reckon that's the way to do it- otherwise it'll just taste like egg-yolky rice crispies.  

Our fifth course- Yellowfin tuna, onions, nori, garlic. Just look at how beautiful the colours on this dish are. They say you eat with your eyes as well, so the aesthetic certainly contributed to the overall experience. The tuna was cooked just right and I absolutely loved this. 

Our sixth course- Smoked eel, beef tendon, kohl rabi, potato. Easily one of my favourite dishes of the night. The potatoes are the little balls you see in the picture, in case you were wondering what they were- cos I was! The smoked eel was very, very intense- the smoked taste lingered in my mouth long after the dish was cleared but I think it contributed nicely to the dish because the beef tendon provided a different texture, but not flavour. I think they purposely flavoured the eel to make up for this fact. I had no idea what kohl rabi was until I Wiki'ed it. It's something like cabbage, but spherical in shape.

Our seventh course- Lamb, eggplant in white miso, pine nut, chlorophyll. If you love lamb, you'll love this. Sadly, as much as I've tried...I'm just not a fan of lamb. This wasn't one of the better dishes I had that night, but purely because I don't like lamb. This dish was executed well- the lamb was tender.

Our eighth course- rhubarb, licorice, almond, citrus. I enjoyed this dish. The rhubarb was tart and was a nice texture. It came with licorice infused (ever so lightly) sauce. Surprisingly, the combo of rhubarb and licorice was brilliant. It also came with tiny citrus strips (like those you find in marmalade jams) and that went very well with the other components on this dish. This was a nice little segue way into dessert :)

Our ninth course- fresh and dried berries, beetroot, black olive, rose. This looks like something I would like! The dried berries provided a nice sour contrast to the creaminess of the rose ice-cream. I didn't taste rose in the ice-cream was more creamy and milky than rose-flavoured. The beetroot tasted a little out of place, but otherwise this wasn't too bad a dessert. I sure did taste a hint of black olive but I have no idea where it was in this dish. 

Our last and final course- pistachio, hazelnut, honeycomb and chocolate. I didn't like this as much as the dessert above because I couldn't taste the pistachio in the cake. I guess if you're a lover of conventional desserts- you'd appreciate this because it's got all the right ingredients. 

I was very close to bursting at the end of the 10 courses. Overall, the experience was good (I've never seen dishes so prettily and meticulously decorated before) but I think to thoroughly enjoy this dining experience, you have to throw all food inhibitions out the window and open your mind to a lot of flavours because they combine some of the oddest ingredients together but the end result is always delicious and unique more often than not. The flavours are very, very intense.. there was nothing subtle and everything is meant to stand out and provide you with a nice hit of flavour- whether you like it or not :). 

Royal Mail Hotel on Urbanspoon

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