The first time we went to the Royal Mail Hotel, we were on the way home from nathan's parents place past Hamilton and wanted a quick bite to eat. All we got was the soup of the day with some fantastic bread but we liked the place. The architecture is modern but suits its surrounds, a suprisingly bright space in a very small town, a town which boasts its own lawn bowls which elevates it above some of the nearby towns, but still is a very small town.
So after hearing that it had won the best wine list in the Age good food guide, and then seeing the favourable review in Ed's Blog at http://tomatom.com I became very interested in going back and having dinner at the restaurant. Chef Dan Hunter comes from being head chef in Mugaritz in Spain, and is known for using edible flowers in his dishes.
So finally this weekend my chance to go to dinner came up as we were headed to the in-laws place for the weekend. It started well, we had a 730pm reservation, and after leaving work at 3pm (yes it took that long on a Friday night), we got there just in time. Having to still drive another 90 minutes after dinner, we opted not to go for the full degustation, and chose entrees and mains to start.
I got a Spanish tempranillo which was so fruity that if I closed my eyes, I could imagine I was drinking a white wine. it went well with the food though. First a complimentary fennel salad was brought out which was dressed with flowers and what I think was sumac. It was a good way to ignite my hunger, which I must admitt, was already making itself known in the car trip. We also got a choice of 4 lovely breads, all of which were really lovely, particularly the sourdough and olive.
This is where things went a bit weird. We waited a LONG time for our entrees. In fact we didnt get them till 845pm. That is a long wait when you are me (ie, my favourite style of dining is yumcha, no wait, lots of little dishes). When they finally arrived they were small, but really good. I had the yabbie, artichoke and pork dish, which again was dressed with small artichoke flowers and was in a pork reduction. This was really tasty, the first time I have had yabbies I am embarrassed to admitt, and the pork reduction was incredible, as Nath put it, like liquid crackling. mmmm, I would like some now... nath had the smoked tuna broth with shitake mushrooms which was also really really good.
So then, at 930, after a lot of moaning from me, our mains appeared. I had ordered the snapper, and Nath the lamb. Nathan was presented with the pork though. We mentioned it to the waiter who was very apologetic, and after consultation with the kitchen asked if it was ok if he had the pork cutlet, and then afterward we would both get a 'taste of lamb'. This was quite gracious of them I think and so we agreed to this. I also got a free top up of my wine which was nice. The mains were served with brocollini which was refreshing. The snapper was served with a hazelnut sauce, some flowers which tasted like onion, and jeruselum artichoke. It was a nice piece of fish and the sauce worked well. The pork was served with apples and potato I think, and a chocolate sauce, which though a little strange, worked pretty well. The lamb then appeared and this was quite nice, I particularly liked the baby carrots which were served with it. So, we ended up leaving the restaurant at 1040pm, a 3 hour meal for 2 courses. The desserts looked interesting but there was no way we were waiting for it!
Being the snoop I am, I observed that the tables around us were also having to wait very long times. The table next to us had some issue with their beer arriving warm and so got some on the house, but they didnt look too happy. I also noticed that the guy didnt seem to like his beef. Further away, I noticed a table where the fella was taking notes before eating anything. He looked like a reviewer, which was confirmed as Stephen Downes from the Herald Sun later by Ed from tomatom. He didnt look particularly impressed though, but I think they knew it was him as he got walked out the door (which they didnt do for us!), so maybe his wait for food wasnt as long as ours!
SO... a very long winded way to say nice food, but very long service. I understand that it must be hard to get wait staff in the country, but it looked like the folks at the cafe which ajoined the restaurant were getting their food faster. It also looked quite nice (which i snooped on when I went to the ladies). Next time we are passing through, i think we might just go there instead!