46 CALF News • August | September 2020 • By Kathleen and Mark Hennessy Contributing Editors  CALF BEEF REVIEW Wickens Melbourne, Australia BEEF? Where’s the Really Exceptional W hile we lived in Melbourne, Australia, we tried to visit as many places as we could. We invited ourselves along on our friends’, Amy, Triston and Brynlee (our adopted granddaughter), weekend trip to The Royal Mail Hotel in Dunkeld. It’s just outside the Grampians National Park, about 160 miles west of Mel- bourne. The Royal Mail is a gorgeous four-star hotel with a great history. Its setting takes advantage of the stunning beauty of the Grampians. The hotel is the home of Wickens. Wickens is the award winning restaurant with Executive Chef Robin Wickens at its helm. He was involved in the restaurant’s planning and design, which incorporated resources available from the area. The restaurant uses locally quarried sandstone tables paired with soft pendant lighting. It has a calm and welcoming vibe. There are floor- to-ceiling windows that take advantage of the spectacular views of Mount Sturgeon and Mount Abrupt. It’s simple and elegant. For the food fest, we signed up for the Chef ’s Table degusta- tion experience. Our reservation was for 6 p.m. From our hotel, there was a lighted wooden walkway to the restaurant. Thankfully, the front door opened automatically before we were confounded by no door handles. We entered the lounge into what reminded me of a speakeasy – low light, dark wood and deep seats. We were immediately wel- comed and offered a spe- cialty cocktail or a pour of a rare, high-end wine. We tried their versions of a gin and tonic and a glass of Penfold’s Grange. We enjoyed both options. As you walk through the restaurant toward the kitchen, it's apparent the kitchen is set up like a stage. It is enclosed in glass and fully lit to see all the goings on. Once in the inner sanctum, we were led to an elevated booth on the side. We got to observe cooking and preparation up close and personal. The innova- tive dishes were sourced from the kitchen garden grown just yards away. The menu changes frequently based on produce harvested daily from the garden – Australia’s largest working restaurant kitchen garden. The beef and lamb are sourced from a neighboring farm exclusively for the restaurant. We started our 10-course meal with canapés, many cana- pés. The servers introduced themselves and explained each dish in detail. They clearly enjoyed sharing the food and their knowledge with us. Each course came with a wine that paired