A Royal Meal at Dunkeld

There’s a bit of the wow factor as you enter Dunkeld. Mt Sturgeon towers majestically behind the town, making a spectacular backdrop to this place dubbed the entrance to the Southern Grampians. But there’s more here than big views. There’s some pretty epic food too.

Getting to our campground was an adventure and Reflections at Rocklands tells the story. But fast forward 24 hours from our dramas at Rocklands Reservoir and we’re back in Dunkeld for our royal meal at the Royal Mail. Well, it’s not quite regal, but it’s close enough …

The Royal Mail Hotel is no ordinary pub, in fact it’s one of country Victoria’s finest. This highly awarded hotel is well known for its nature driven fine dining and its impressive restaurant kitchen garden. On the weekend we visited, Head Chef Chef Robin Wickens had just finished a tour for hotel guests and graciously agreed to meet us for an unofficial kitchen garden stroll before our lunch.

Robin is one of Australia’s most exciting chefs, having earnt consecutive awards and hats from both The Age Good Food Guide and Gourmet Traveller. Haling from the south coast of England he made his mark in the UK before doing the same in Melbourne and later Apollo Bay in his own gourmet bakery before taking on the role at the Royal Mail. He says he can’t see himself moving back to the city, loving the landscape and inspiration that’s found in Dunkeld. It’s no wonder.

The Royal Mail Kitchen Garden is known as the largest and most productive kitchen garden in Australia. It’s located only a few kilometres from the hotel, with the magnificent Mount Sturgeon rising behind it and it’s an oasis of changing seasonal produce. There are more than 1.2 hectares of kitchen gardens, stone fruit and citrus orchards and olive groves. As well, scattered around Dunkeld are farms of beef and lamb that are reared on 25,000 hectares of farmland.

It was a cold autumn day when I spoke to Robin and our chat was cut short by rain but still it was a treat to see the garden and talk to him about his passion for cooking local. Garden tours are held most weekends and even if you’re not staying at the hotel, non guests can arrange to join a tour. It’s a fantastic way to appreciate where your food comes from. Knowing that more than 80 per cent of the food on the menu is grown from the neighbouring farm and kitchen garden makes the experience a very special one.

The Royal Mail has two dining options, fine dining at Wickens Restaurant and the more casual Parker Street Bistro. It’s here we settle in, cosy and warm by the window, enjoying the relaxed ambience and friendly service. And then I’m handed the wine menu, all 99 pages of it!

It read like a bible and when I jokingly mention that to our waitress she laughs. “That’s exactly what we call it” she tells me. With 25,000 bottles in their wine cellar and the largest sparkly collection in the Southern Hemisphere, it’s enough to completely overwhelm a girl or send her to heaven. It’s a heavenly glass of Merlot for me!

The food menu was smaller, thankfully. But, what gorgeous choices, showcasing fresh colourful seasonal produce with snacks, small plates and mains offering a bit of everything, from marinated Dunkeld olives, golden linseed sourdough with Vegemite butter to an eclectic array of mains. And mouth watering desserts. Everything is artfully presented and bursting with flavour and freshness.

Our experience at Dunkeld was a wonderful reminder of our bountiful Earth. And how, when humans are passionate and visionary about what we do, we can work together with nature to co-create the extraordinary.

Whether it’s a herb pot in an apartment, vegetables in the backyard or a huge kitchen garden like the one at Dunkeld we all have a hand in creation, in the ability to grow, nurture and produce a bountiful harvest. Food to love.

“My mum used to say that everything tastes better in the great outdoors. How true that is! I didn’t inherit her green Italian thumb, unfortunately, but mum did cultivate in me a love of food and a passion for authentic cooking. Now, as a camper, as a lover of nature, of good food and a glass of vino I get it. Life, love and living mindfully is all about slowing down, it’s the art of being patient and purposeful. It puts us back into the slow circle of nature.”

After our meal I swapped my boots for runners and we walked to the Piccaninny summit, overlooking the majestic mountains of Mt Sturgeon and Mt Abrupt.

Love your life. Honour your journey. Find joy and beauty in what surrounds you. Feel the blessing of life in simple moments and in the gifts that Mother Earth provides us. When we appreciate what the Universe gives us, we’ll be given more. When we focus on abundance we’ll always have enough.

Ground yourself in a new earth. Are you waking up each morning with a zest for the day ahead? If not, what do you need to do to bring more passion and light into your present? How do we create more heaven for ourselves, especially on the inside? What will shift the consciousness of this planet?

Maybe creating heaven is all about nurturing the small things today that will cultivate more growth tomorrow. Plant more seeds of kindness and purpose and watch how it grows. Love is the most fertile seed so love unconditionally and without limit. It’s what the world needs today.

Enjoy the journey. And all the deliciousness along the way.

With love.

Cheers to following our bliss

64 thoughts on “A Royal Meal at Dunkeld

  1. When you said Epic meal you really weren’t kidding – 99 pages of wine listings!!! The food looks so beautiful as well – can’t imagine how much fancier it would have been if you had opted for fine-dining.

    Your walk after was stunning as well – all those vistas!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Wow! Miriam, the kitchen garden to beat all kitchen gardens! The backdrop of the mountain alone is amazing and wow, the size and selection of goods is incredible. As for meeting the chef himself, double wow! I’ve never heard of a 99 page menu and imagine you need to arrive early to read it all! An amazing setting and the food looks sublime … so happy for you, my dear friend and thank you for sharing with us! (Pity we can’t sample some food!) sending Spring love & hugs from England xx ❤️

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Annika. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could send some tastes and samples over the air waves! 😄 But yes, it was altogether a wonderful experience. Thanks for the spring hugs. Big one back from Melbourne. Have a great rest of the week my friend. xx ❤️

      Liked by 2 people

  3. wow Miriam, my eyes really enjoyed your photos… ohh my they are pretty… and yessss we must enjoy and savor everything that we have at the moment rather than sulk and worry for something we are not even sure of.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Off the grid for a couple of weeks and I enjoy getting back to reading. Wonderful to get a one on one with the head chef. Obviously kind and passionate about his career. I can see how you have done a great deal of research for this story, Miriam. I appreciate learning about the area, the garden and the food. Oh my goodness…99 pages of a wine menu! ‘Nurture, kindness, cultivate…love is the most fertile seed….’A beautiful post, Miriam!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Erica, getting off the grid is always good for us. I hope you’re feeling well and refreshed and I’m so glad I could transport you to this wonderful garden and food heaven. Truly it was a feast for all the senses. Thanks again. xx

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh Miriam… What can I say…. you know this post speaks to my gardening heart.. Loved to see the marigolds too among the veggie garden.. We too allow them to seed down…. they are a good complimentary plant to help keep bugs away and off the veggies…
    What a Kitchen garden that is.. and what beautiful food… Such a delight for the senses,,, The Eyes , smell, and taste buds..
    Fantastic….. Thank you so much for sharing your Royal Meal….. it was certainly a huge treat for me.. ❤
    Much love my friend ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sue, so happy to have you walking with me amongst that wondrous kitchen garden and virtually sharing the exquisite artful food. I know how much you appreciate earth’s bounty. Take care and enjoy your own garden my friend. Big hugs and much love back. 💚❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Such a blissful experience! Must say who gets the opportunity of a garden visit with the chef in tow and enjoy food from you own backyard! Must be the most satisfying and amazing feelings. Pictures of the kitchen garden and the food looks heavenly! Certainly a royal treat! Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re welcome. Garden tours are actually available most weekends, I just got lucky and got a solo one! But yes, an amazing experience and exquisite food. 😊


  7. I was wondering in your last post what for gorgeous food you found! I love being spoil with tasty local fresh food and wine! How great to explore the garden too! I agree to enjoying the journey, observing how everything grows and evolves AND with the ingredient of love… we cannot fail to create out dreams come true❤️🙏 love to you and your guy x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it was was such a treat to walk through the garden and then enjoy the beautiful fresh ingredients afterwards. It felt like a true indulgence of the best kind! Thanks for the love. xx 💜

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Dear Miriam, how beautifully you’ve combined a travel article and spirituality. A gorgeous post, and how exciting to meet the head chef himself!
    It’s definitely on our list now….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much my lovely friend. It’s definitely worth a visit, for the whole gourmet experience, the food, the gardens and the beautiful views surrounding Dunkeld. Much love your way. 😍💚

      Liked by 1 person

  9. What an amazing place to visit! Just beautiful, I’d love to tour those gardens. And the fresh local food!!! And wine!! Looks and sounds like you had a wonderful time. How special to meet the chef and take a tour with him.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it really was special. The whole weekend. The gardens, the food, the wine, meeting the chef … even getting bogged cos it made us appreciate the good stuff even more! Thanks so much Jeni. 😊 xx

      Liked by 1 person

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