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Spend the weekend at the Royal Mail Hotel and drink Château d’Yquem by the glass

By J'aime Cardillo

11 Apr, 2023

Victoria's Royal Mail Hotel has been named Australia's first Château d’Yquem Lighthouse.

As you drive down the main street of Dunkeld, a town with a population of just 683 people, at every angle you’re greeted by views of the Grampians National Park. Then, the mint green facade hits you, letting you know you’ve arrived at at your destination. 

The Royal Mail Hotel is home to critically acclaimed restaurant Wickens, led by executive chef Robin Wickens. Inside, the connection to the land is paramount, from the floor-to-ceiling windows framing southern Gariwerd (Grampians National Park) to the food, mostly grown in Australia’s largest working restaurant kitchen garden.

Royal Mail HotelThe Royal Mail Hotel in Dunkeld, Victoria.

The wine list is 4200 bottles strong, and guests can choose from the five or eight-course menu option for dinner on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The private dining room is available for groups (seats up to 14) and the kitchen-side chef’s table seats two or four people.

We were lucky enough to visit Wickens for a very special celebration. The Royal Mail Hotel has been selected by Château d’Yquem as the first and only Château d’Yquem Australian Lighthouse.

Only 31 venues internationally – including Villa le Bec in Shanghai, Les Caves Legrand in Tokyo, Maison Estelle in London, The Peninsula Paris in Paris, and Burj al Arab in Dubai – have been given the Lighthouse honour.

“Yquem is at the heart of the Royal Mail Hotel’s collection, and we’re thrilled to have the opportunity to share our reverence for the Château with our guests," says John Myers, director of the Royal Mail Hotel. 

2020 Château d’Yquem2020 Château d’Yquem.

So what is a Château d’Yquem Lighthouse? The program's aim is to ensure the coveted Sauternes is accessible to diners and drinkers (including by-the-glass service). If you haven’t encountered the sweet, sticky nectar before, it’s a blend of semillon and sauvignon blanc infected by botrytis cinerea, or noble rot. 

Château d’Yquem Cellar master Tony El Khawand, who had landed in Melbourne from France only hours before lunch, says d’Yquem isn’t just a sweet wine to be paired with desserts. The idea is to start introducing drinkers to d’Yquem with savoury dishes, or even as an aperitif. 

Wickens' hero crayfish dishWickens' barbecued crayfish, crayfish butter, Tokyo turnip and rose geranium.

Take Wickens’ hero dish; a bespoke course of barbecued crayfish with crayfish butter, Tokyo turnip and rose geranium that's designed to be paired with the newly released 2020 Château d’Yquem. Chef Robin says that as the season comes to an end, and in line with the restaurant’s approach, the d'Yquem hero dish will evolve. Up next? Maybe venison. 

You can also take a tour of the kitchen garden during your stay. The organic garden is 1.2 hectares and supplies up to 80 per cent of the produce at Wickens. Each chef picks their own produce daily. The harvest then influences the menu at both Wickens and at the more casual dining space, Parker Street Project.  

Royal Mail Kitchen GardenThe Royal Mail Hotel's organic garden is Australia's largest working restaurant kitchen garden.

The Royal Mail holds the largest private collection of Bordeaux and Burgundy in the Southern Hemisphere. The cellar is oenophile heaven. Comparative wine tastings are available from Wednesday to Saturday. 

The Mail offers various types of accommodation, depending on the size of your party. Choose from the deluxe mountain view rooms, apartments, courtyard rooms, the Mount Sturgeon Cottages and the Homestead, which houses up to 12 guests.

Finally, make sure you stop off at the Dunkeld Old Bakery – an institution that has been operating since 1887.

For more information visit royalmail.com.au.

Image credit: Kristoffer Paulsen and Emily Weaving.

J'aime Cardillo was a guest of the Royal Mail Hotel.