The next two days in Dunkeld were magical, better than either of us could have dreamed. The Royal Mail Hotel is a haven for those who want to just bliss out for a while, which is exactly what we did on the following two days. I’m so glad they only had Mountain View rooms available, because they are much more private and relaxing than the Garden View rooms (which could more accurately be called Carpark View).
There is still a pub attached to the complex, though as Strop the local told us The Royal Mail is now a pub attached to a restaurant rather than the other way round. Which is great for us food tourists, but it has apparently put a few of the locals’ noses out of joint. Not that we minded: the day after the big meal we started with lunch from the bar menu (which features wagyu burgers, whole baked fish, corned wagyu, etc) and then settled in for the afternoon with a few wines, vintage champagne, a fine Mersault over dinner then a late night back in the pub, chatting.
Chatting in fact was the highlight of the stay, not just between ourselves but also with the staff. During the big meal the night before we had several different waiters, and we saw all of the them again the next day in more casual mode. They were extremely friendly, and Jeremy the sommelier even took us on a fantastic tour of the cellar and looked after us later in the day when we wanted to splash out on a couple of better wines. Brendan the barman is a treasure, and we also got on well with Clint, Ainslie, Katie and Dale too. They all seem to work insane hours though: we dubbed the kitchen staff “the undead” because they were ALWAYS in the kitchen, from early in the morning to late at night.
There is another dining area at the Royal Mail apart from the main restaurant, more casual but still turning out superb food from the same kitchen. In any other place it would be a fine restaurant in its own right, here it is “merely” The Bistro. Over the two nights we dined there we shared some delicious dishes, including: pigeon pie; braised octopus; roast chicken; slow-cooked lamb with stewed eggplant, beans and potato; and some terrific jamon iberico, the Rolls Royce of hams, served simply on tomato bread. It’s important to have an alternative to the deluxe menu if you want to stay a while, and the food here is done so well it’s easy to spend a few days in gastronomic heaven at any level (even the bar menu is great).
On our final day we at last managed to take advantage of property’s bushwalks, going for a long stroll along the river towards the original Mount Sturgeon homestead. Reason to return: there are seven other walks, some of which take you into the Grampians proper. Next time we will definitely take advantage of these, both for the exercise and to gain enough appetite for more of that great food and wine :-D