A year after taking the reins at Dunkeld's Royal Mail Hotel following the departure of Dan Hunter (who now runs Brae), chef Robin Wickens is putting his stamp on the look and feel of the restaurant.
The new red-gum bar includes a temperature-controlled wine display wall showcasing a selection of the 26,000 bottles stored in the Mail's mighty cellar.
The bar also comes with a new bar menu. "I'm working on some bar snacks to create a bridge between the pub and the dining room," says Wickens. "We won't be as old-school as a bowl of chips, but we might have vegie crisps from the garden, marinated local olives or charcuterie and cheese."
Under the guidance of Wickens and restaurant general manager Scott Horn, the restaurant and bistro areas have been given a refresh, merging into a single dining space. The rejigged room also brings a more flexible approach than the dégustation-only style of the Royal Mail's recent past, and now there's the option to dine à la carte alongside the offer of five- and eight-course tasting menus.
"It's always been quite a formal dining room, but now guests can just come for a drink and something small, or go for the full tasting menu," says Horn. "We get a lot of solo travellers coming through midweek who might prefer to sit at a bar for their light meal; this gives them the option. More than anything, our new bar is a great place to sit and admire the wine collection."
Given that the Royal Mail's cellar is the largest known private collection in the southern hemisphere, the admiration could take some time.
Royal Mail Hotel, 98 Parker St, Dunkeld, Vic, (03) 5577 2241.