The award-winning dining room of The Royal Mail Hotel in Dunkeld has been the same for years.
“It’s been an awkward set-up, which hasn’t been ideal,” says the restaurant’s executive chef, Robin Wickens. “The restaurant now doesn’t create much excitement, you see into the dining room when you walk into the reception” of the hotel.
There has always been a plan to relocate the hotel’s internal fine diner as a standalone, off-site restaurant and, according to Wickens, who has been with the Royal Mail since September 2013, “the time is now”.
And at the new restaurant, he’s getting his name on the wall; Wickens at the Royal Mail Hotel will open in early October.
Meanwhile, the dining room will become home to the hotel’s casual diner, Parker Street Project. (Aside from the purpose-built space for the new restaurant, the hotel will also undergo more general renovations.)
“Having the new restaurant off-site will also give us a chance to bring a lot more of the cellar into it,” Wickens says. The hotel’s wine cellar is home to 27,000 bottles of wine from all over the world, worth $2.8 million.
To reach the new restaurant guests will have to walk or be driven by the hotel car.
Nick Byrne of Melbourne-based Byrne Architects has been brought on to design the new venue. Byrne has worked mostly in residential architecture, and this is the firm’s first restaurant project.
“We were really keen to get someone fresh and new who wanted to make a statement,” Wickens says. “Elements of the space are related to the kitchen garden and the surroundings.” The restaurant’s kitchen garden is one of the largest in the Southern Hemisphere and it’s from here Wickens sources 80 per cent of his produce.
“The site is spectacular,” Bryne says of the new location. “We want to get as much as possible out of the scenery but we also want it to be about more than just the view.”
There will be a glass wall with views out to the Grampians. Another glass wall will divide the dining room and the kitchen space.
“It’s an interactive experience, guests can appreciate the view and theatrics of the kitchen,” Byrne says.
Wickens at the Royal Mail Hotel is due to open early October.