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Food, Travel

A Guide to the Grampians for Grampians Grape Escape (2)

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The World Loves Melbourne enjoyed a stunning visit to Halls Gap and surrounds over several days thanks to Grampians Tourism with the upcoming Grampians Grape Escape in April with the grand finale weekend 30 April and 1 May 2016. Natural beauty, fine accomodation and top notch food and wine; a winning combination! Here is a look at our Day 2 and Day 3 action in the Grampians.

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Harvest Halls Gap is just off the Main Road but well worth the detour; a foodie haven that served us first class coffee and stunning brunch dishes. We've found a keeper!

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Smokey House Baked Beans Oven Baked with eggs and sourdough toast was a sensational brunch dish; with addition of Sheeps milk feta and Greenvale chorizo. Highly recommended. A hearty breakfast if you plan to go busk walking!

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Nutty House made Granola with the key ingredient of Sheeps milk yoghurt, local honey, sweet seasonal peaches and fresh berries, was delicious!

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Cafe, accomodation, and provedore; Harvest Halls Gap has it all!

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We recommend a short walk from the centre of Halls Gap to Venus Baths. Or drive a bit further to other walks such as Boronia Lookout or McKenzie's Falls.

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Our next stop was Grampians Olive Co, the home to the historic Toscana Olives - the perfect stop on your Grampians day trip. Enjoy free tastings of the estate-produced premium organic olive oils in the farm shop, including the distinctive range of infusions, table olives and artisan vinegars. A selection of dukkahs, honey and farmgate exclusive seasonal preserves made on the grove are also available.

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We were given a fascinating tour and tasting of this large operation by Andrew Matthews the Owner operator.

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Where to for lunch? Deirdre's Restaurant is located in Laharum Grove, an organic olive grove covering 300 acres, nestled beneath the dramatic western escarpment of Mount Difficult Range within the Grampians National Park.

The restaurant celebrates the seasonal diversity and quality of fresh produce sourced from small, independent growers. Come and visit them for a delicious lunch or dinner and to try Laharum Grove's award winning organic oils and tasty preserves - available for purchase.

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The World Loves Melbourne enjoyed the famous Platter featuring local produce, as well as local wines.

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Rain (much needed) cut short some of our planned bush walking but there's still plenty to see and do in the Grampians. Of course many people hike in rain but the rain this day was heavy.

We took the trip to our next accomodation; Halls Gap Lakeside Tourist Park. This is an excellent tourist park and on the rise after extensive rennovations.

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The park, with its great reputation, offers a genuine bush-camping experience with the convenience of clean and modern amenities and facilities. The park is a myriad of lush sweeping green pastures and spacious drive-through sites.

For those who like to experience the Australian outdoors, the park hosts a differing range of accommodation options from 'retro glampers' to luxurious modern cabins overlooking the spectacular valley and wide-open paddock that serves as a home to friendly wandering emus, bounding kangaroos and a diverse array of bird life.

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Unique features of the park includes the backdrop of the Grampians National Park, an outdoor wood-fire heated pool, and as the name suggests, access to Lake Bellfield, perfect for kayaking and fishing.

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The World Loves Melbourne loved our modern accomodation, with stunning views and top notch facilities. Thanks to Josephina we were also given a bottle of Bests Wines as a gift on our arrival.

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What a great place to stay for a family. Halls Gap Lakeside Tourist Park also have decent specials, so check them out, including fabulous winter specials.

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A spectacular visit was Royal Mail Hotel; a regional restaurant in Dunkeld (40 min drive from Halls Gap) that is one of the best restaurants in Australia. What a privilege to visit this iconic restaurant!

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People passing through the town may not realise the genius that lies within Royal Mail Hotel; exceptional dining with Head Chef Robin Wickens and top notch accomodation (we stayed in Halls Gap driving safely aware of kangaroos).

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Every day, chefs harvest produce that inspires that day’s menu from the large organic kitchen garden. Royal Mail Hotel orchards and olive groves provide further seasonal produce. Eggs from the free range hens are collected daily. Their own farm provides our lamb and beef.

The wine enjoyed with as part of the dining experience is from a vast collection. This collection has been privately curated over the past 40 years and forms a wine list that has been awarded Best Hotel Wine List world-wide by Fine Wine magazine (UK).

They recommend guests indulge in our signature experience - the eight course Chef’s Tasting menu with matched wines, served Wednesday through to Sunday evenings. We enjoed a fabulous five course option.

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Pre dinner snacks with rocket juice, rhubarb chicken parfait, linseed crackers and a chocolate ice cream delighted. 

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Royal Mail interpretation of Eggs on Toast was a highlight; can we have this every day?

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Royal Mail Hotel is a seasonal champion and they were showing off their amazing garden here with Tomato,nasturtium panna cotta, basil seeds, wasabi ice cream, served with a cracking 2015 Brokenwood Pinot Gris, Beechworth Victoria. So refreshing and the best taste of the garden ever!

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How do people come up with these genius names? Octopuses Garden is a clever dish. Thinking of The Beatles song "our little hideaway beneath the waves"; this is like a secret underwater garden as a flow on from the previous course. 

The octopus was a highlight but the accompanying potatoes and upland cress from the garden were exquisite. Salty and earthy with wine match n.v equipo Navajos la nota de manzanilla, Sanlucar Spain.

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Great ocean duck, smoked beetroot, seeds, bitter chocolate oil was a triumph in taste and texture; and we were loving the introduction with chocolate with the duck which enhanced the richness, but balanced by the garden elements. Served with 2007 Domaine Leroy Bourgogne Rouge, Burgundy France. To be honest the quality of the wine is up there with the quality of the food; one reflects on the exceptional wine pairings.

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A famous dish is the Royal Mail Beef (their own beef!), carrots in fig leaf, malted barley, cheddar whey; served with 2012 Izway "Bruce" (actually we had the "Harold") Shiraz, Barossa Valley, South Australia. Paddock to plate baby!

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Dessert was also stunning with Dark chocolate aero, mint, milk chocolate; a nod to aero chocolate. Not a heavy dish it was playful and a wonderful combination of flavours. This was served with 15 y.o. Henriques & Henriques "Sercial", Madeira Portugal.

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A surprise was the edible sweets in the pot; our table decoration was actually a dish!

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Wow! Royal Mail Hotel is a must visit during your stay in the Grampians! (If staying in Halls Gap just be careful of kangaroos on the road).

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Day 3 began with breakfast from the fabulous cafe Livefast in Halls Gap. This cafe is ecelectic and the home of the creative community.

Livefast Lifestyle Cafe have a young and energetic team made up of artists, musicians, sporty and adventurous, travelling, creative types that love the beauty and nature of the Grampians.

Their focus is on excellent coffee, and delicious food made with local ingredients wherever possible. Serving breakfast, lunch and other juicy items seven days a week, you will be sure to top up your tanks in the cafe by the creek.

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The brunch dishes were top notch. 

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Smashed avocado salsa on Zeally Bay sourdough was a highlight.

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Eggs royale on herbed waffles with smoked salmon was a fabulous brunch dish.

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Then it was time for some hiking on trails just off the main car park in Halls Gap...

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Our next visit was to a standout olive producer just out of Halls Gap in Pomonal. Red Rock Olives grows and produces high-grade, locally-pressed olive oil, table olives and other signature products including their house-made olive salt and range of artisan vinegars.

The grove and farm gate café is easily found between Pomonal and Halls Gap, in the Grampians National Park, western Victoria.

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We enjoyed a wonderful tasting. Red Rock Olives are motivated and committed to promoting food integrity and enjoyment, encompassing local and seasonal produce and flavours. Drop by the farm café for tastings, a menu of grazing plates, homemade cakes, coffee, chai or tea.

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We indulged in one of their outstanding Platters featuring local produce (including their own olives).

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Then it was time to travel back to Melbourne after a stunning 3 day visit to the Grampians. Get on it!