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The tiny Vic town drawing world chefs

AAP logoAAP 24/10/2016 Angus Livingston

You don't expect to find the best food of your life in a one-horse town that could have closed a decade or so ago.

The Royal Mail Hotel sits in Dunkeld, looking up at the Grampians in Victoria's west.

Like any other tiny town it could have shut down in the 1980s and 1990s, but former Dunkeld boy Allan Myers QC put some of his wealth to good use.

He put a two-hat restaurant - one of Australia's best - in the 450-person town.

Now it's a destination for chefs from around the world to learn how to cook with organic produce picked fresh from the garden.

The trip to Dunkeld takes just over three hours from Melbourne, and sits us down on the edge of Mt Sturgeon, one of many distinctive peaks in the Grampians mountain range.

Once we've checked into the lovely accommodation, we take a tour of the various market gardens that dot the town, all operated by Dunkeld Pastoral staff.

If you love gardening this is an absolute highlight, and even if you don't, it's worth it to better understand the amazing food you'll be eating later on.

The gardens grow seasonal organic produce, the orchards grow fruit, and even the meat is from the local Dunkeld Pastoral flocks.

The chefs spend up to an hour each day in the gardens selecting the ingredients they want to use at dinner that night.

We get our hands dirty - the tour guide shows us a couple of the unusual herbs and plants they grow so we know what to look out for later on.

After that it's time to see the wine cellar, which has the largest collection of Bordeaux and Burgundy in the southern hemisphere.

The wines are very good, and the tour focuses on comparing the extensive French collection with similar Australian wines.

Finally - the highlight.

The Grampians are beautiful, but the food at the Royal Mail Hotel is exquisite.

You can choose between a five- or eight-course dinner, with wine matching from an expert sommelier. Our tastebuds are in for hours of happiness.

A tip - don't fill up on the bread rolls (and you will be tempted to, because they are delicious).

It doesn't matter if you're a vegan or a carnivore, the chefs prepare a collection of fine dining courses that take you on a culinary journey.

Each course is a mix of flavours and textures, perfectly matched with the wine to bring out the taste.

The wait staff explain what we're eating and what to watch out for, and we start to pick out some of the flavours we tasted in the garden during the day.

Japanese pepper leaves, white asparagus, smoked artichoke, locally sourced goat - it's all delicious.

And there's a sumptuous chocolate surprise on our table at the end of the meal.

After a dinner and wine that amazing, we need rest. We head to our room for sleep, and wake up to a view of sun rising on the Grampians.

We take off for a drive, go see a waterfall, and feel happy Dunkeld didn't close down when so many other little towns did.

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