As the name implies, the Wickens at Royal Mail Hotel is nothing but royal. Internationally renowned for their exceptional wine list and constantly evolving degustation menu, the Royal Mail Hotel is an icon of the Western District. You may recognise the guys from Byrne Architects from our first Let Us In episode on the Wensley. Byrne Architects were commissioned in 2015 to develop a masterplan for the hotel complex that would groom the customer experience beyond dining. The new fine dining restaurant, Wickens, is the first stage to be completed.
Headed by the British-born chef and Royal Mail Hotel’s executive chef for the past years, Robin Wickens, the new restaurant is created to solve a problem created by the last major remodelling of the hotel, back in 1998, which left it with a graceless entrance shared by the degustation-only restaurant and hotel reception.
The new lounge is connected to a wine corridor where approximately 700 local and international wines from the hotel’s award-winning cellar rest with floor to ceiling windows connecting the kitchen and dining room.
“Dining at the Royal Mail is an immersive experience. Our design focuses on the guests’ engagement with three defining elements – food, wine and place. Sitting in the dining room guests are literally immersed in these elements. Sheer glass walls expose the intricate workings of the kitchen to one side of the dining room, while a climate controlled cellar pierces through the space near the entry, housing over seven hundred bottles of rare wine.” – Byrne Architects
All tables in the restaurant have full view of the kitchen and its team at work. There is also a Chef’s Table available for up to four people, located within the kitchen. Additionally, groups of up to 14 people can access a private dining room within the restaurant.
On the restaurant’s interior, the team took in a beautiful mix of local materials including timbers and sandstone sourced from Dunkeld’s local quarry to create a raw and pared-back sense of luxury. Wool-lined shelves feature in the cellar of the hotel’s huge nationally significant wine collection.
“The cellar has never been part of the restaurant so bringing in a bit of that was something we really wanted to do,” – Wickens
Another element to address in the brief was the under-utilisation of the potential views. The old structure had the dramatic edifice of Mount Sturgeon obscured to the back of the room. With the new build, the concept capitalised on the views of the Grampians and added a sense of adventure for diners as they treaded through the native plant-strewn path to arrive at their destination.
The guests dining in the restaurant will see how its architecture and design connects with the surrounding land, kitchen garden, wine collection and references the heritage of the Royal Mail Hotel. With the sleek renovation done on the hotel and the addition of the flagship restaurant, the whole place provides an immersive and sensational experience for all the guests.