Royal Mail Hotel - Dunkeld, Australia

Dinner - Sunday, October 14, 2012

This meal has been a long time coming.

Ever since I first heard about the dining room at the Royal Mail Hotel (the source of this information has been lost in the mists of time), it has been a magical place to me. This compulsion was compounded by pictures I saw of my brother's dinner there a few years ago - the lineage to Andoni Aduriz was evident (Mugaritz remains one of my favourite meals of all time).

Nestled in the sleepy town of Dunkeld at the southern foothills of the Grampians mountains, the hotel is a low-lying and unassuming place - we would've driven right past it were it not for the fact that we had five pairs of eyes in our car. Dinner at the restaurant necessitates an overnight stay at the hotel (unless you're the kind that likes driving long distances in the middle of the night), and guests are treated to a sumptuous breakfast with all manners of house-made products the morning after - sadly, not covered in this post as I did not take any pictures.

Marque - Surry Hills, Australia

Dinner - Saturday, October 20, 2012

Surry Hills seems like a really fun neighbourhood. On a Saturday night, it was crawling with people of all ages, boisterously enjoying food, drink and each other's company. Crown Street, where Marque is located, is jam-packed with restaurants and cafes (whose quality I cannot judge). By comparison, Marque has an extremely subdued exterior - we walked right past it and only doubled back when we did a double take at Kylie Kwong's place right next door.

Inside, however, the space is energetic. We were slightly worried about our meal when we heard that long-time head chef Pasi Petanen had left his position a few months ago to strike out on his own. Our concerns were unfounded - Mark Best himself was present and helming the kitchen, and the food was completely on point (as you will see).

NB: I apologize for the strange lighting in the photos - we were seated in a very dark corner of the restaurant.

Quay - Sydney, Australia

Dinner - Friday, October 19, 2012

Quay has one of the most gorgeous night-time views of any restaurant I've eaten in, rural or urban. Your mileage will almost certainly vary, with two major factors coming into play: (i) seating - we were fortunate enough to be seated at the best table in the house (at the north end of the restaurant, where the floor-to-ceiling windows wrap around in a semicircle), with panoramic views from the Sydney Harbour Bridge, to the Opera House, all the way back to the edge of Circular Quay; (ii) obstructions - of our four nights in Sydney, we were again lucky to dine there on the only night that a giant cruise ship was not blocking the restaurant's entire east-facing view.

Of course, good food and good views come at a hefty price. The eight-course degustation at Quay runs $220 (a four-course prix fixe menu is $160), a significantly stiffer pricetag than all the other restaurants we dined at on this trip. Was the meal worth the admission fee?

Attica - Ripponlea, Australia

Dinner - Saturday, October 13, 2012

Although we were very disappointed at missing the Ben Shewry guest dinner at Manresa earlier this year, we certainly made up for it by making the trip to Attica proper.

The restaurant's star has been on the rise in the past few years, due to Shewry's use of native Australian ingredients and his "earthy" menus - just the type of cuisine that appeals to us.

The restaurant is black, like a studio set, with draped curtains and minimalist furniture. Spotlights direct your attention to the food in front of you, so organic that it is a jarring contrast to the industrial environs. With the degustation being the only option on weekends, relatively few choices are required of the diner (drinks, essentially) before the food arrives. And arrive it does, in the humblest of beginnings.

Intermezzo 6 - Consolation

I posted a disappointing time in Long Beach this weekend, in what should've been a very easy race. I was keeping up with the 3:15 pacer until I was waylaid by a terrible case of side stitches 3 miles from the finish line - this from someone who virtually never experiences them. In any event, I had to run-walk the remainder of the race (although I was proud of my kick in the last half-mile) and finished way off my goal time, and 3 minutes over my PR.

Such a performance did not deserve the congratulatory breakfast I had planned at the one-and-only Roscoe's Chicken & Waffles, so we settled for a consolation meal on the way home. Eat your vegetables, kids.

Rapini, cherry tomatoes, anchovies, chili - Pizzeria Mozza, Newport Beach, CA (2012)