game meat

Royal Mail Hotel On Spencer: Melbourne Food & Wine Festival – Are you game?

Going back to the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival for a moment – as well as the Hawkers’ Market, Bro and I also attended the “Are you game?” dinner at the Royal Mail Hotel on Spencer.

Also known as the “roadkill” dinner, it was an evening of dishes showcasing different Australian game meats. Apart from the yabbies, all the meat that evening was wild caught game. Drink wise, we started with a glass of Prosecco, and then over the course of the evening were served three glasses of wine from the wine label, Ladies Who Shoot their Lunch. Seriously, how perfect was that wine label for the evening. I’m not going to talk about the wine because I know sweet FA about wine, apart from the fact I like to drink it. On to the food!

There were TEN courses… when we saw the menu we thought that we might have to select from some of the options. But no, there were TEN COURSES! Oh my goodness. Let’s get stuck in.

"Are you game?" dinner at Royal Mail on Spencer

First up was a Yarra Valley yabby martini with lime aioli and spring onion cigar. The yabby meat was very delicately flavoured, and we found a bonus quail egg at the bottom of the glass. The aioli was nice and creamy, although I found the spring onion cigar rather sweet, which was disconcerting!

"Are you game?" dinner at Royal Mail on Spencer

Next up we received a quail pithivier with wild rice and curly kale. The pithivier had light flakey pastry and I also noted that it was buttery – mhmmm so buttery – with hints of cinnamon. The wild rice was chewy and sweetish, and the kale was also buttery. It was a very enjoyable dish.

"Are you game?" dinner at Royal Mail on Spencer

The third course was a smoked Flinders Island mutton bird salad with Mount Buffalo organic hazelnuts and grapefruit dressing. This was one dish that had everyone divided. The mutton bird was interesting, and was unlike any other bird I had ever eaten before – it had a very strong, oily anchovy flavour. Yes, anchovy! Mutton bird tastes like fish! Amazing. I can’t say that mutton bird is a meat that I would seek out again, but it was interesting to try it.

"Are you game?" dinner at Royal Mail on Spencer

After the mutton bird, we received wild barramundi with “sand of the sea” and clam foam. The barramundi was BEAUTIFUL – it had fantastic flavour, was perfectly cooked and flaked away under my fork. The “sand” was finely ground breadcrumbs, and the “foam” was tapioca. Chives represented seaweed and thinly sliced potato on the fish represented scales. I was so impressed that the fish was perfectly cooked when the kitchen would have had to cook so many portions at the same time. This was the dish of the night for me. Seriously lovely.

"Are you game?" dinner at Royal Mail on Spencer

Following the barramundi was a duck liver parfait with apple and pear chutney and brioche. The duck liver parfait was very, very rich – to the point where it was almost bitter. It was nice though, very smooth, with the sweet, fruity chutney helping to cut through some of the richness, both from the parfait and the buttery (and heavily buttered!) brioche.

"Are you game?" dinner at Royal Mail on Spencer

Next was a Flinders Range kangaroo rogan josh curry served with a pappadam and a piece of nann. The curry had big bold flavours and the roo meat was made into a couple of large meatballs. I’ve had (and cooked) roo many times before, and because it’s so lean it’s not a meat that is nice when overcooked. So I’m not entirely sure about roo meatballs – while the roo meatballs weren’t too dry, they were noticeably drier than a beef meatball would be. It was a tasty curry though.

"Are you game?" dinner at Royal Mail on Spencer

After the curry there was a palate cleanser of crocodile ceviche with Yarra Valley salmon roe and limoncello. This was really interesting, it was like a lemon liqueur crocodile chewing gum!

"Are you game?" dinner at Royal Mail on Spencer

Moving into the final courses, next up was herb crumbed Daylesford venison with mushrooms, kipfler potatoes and saffron cream. Maybe I was a bit delirious with food by this stage, but I wrote in my notes that the venison had a pate like flavour with a texture that made me think of boiled meat.

"Are you game?" dinner at Royal Mail on Spencer

And for our last savoury course, we received slow braised wild Redesdale rabbit with squid ink gnocchi. This was supposed to come with Flinders Island wallaby prosciutto, but they must have had a shortage because a small amount of the prosciutto was passed around the table (which didn’t get to us). The chewy and tough gnocchi was the only disappointment of the night. The rabbit, however, was good – tender and flavoursome, and in my notes, I wrote that it tasted like a savoury chicken pie! I think I was definitely delirious with food by this stage. The thing that was topped with a mushroom was a potato filled with rabbit liver.

"Are you game?" dinner at Royal Mail on Spencer

And finally, for dessert, we had duck egg crème brulee. This was SUPER rich, and very creamy. It was lovely, but oh my god it was SO RICH, particularly after ni
ne other courses! I enjoyed smelling the sprig of rosemary and lemon too.

I was mostly very impressed with the food that evening. Most of it was cooked really well, presented nicely and nothing was too strange (not that Bro and I mind strange, we did do offal last year). It was a very good event to attend and we went home two happy eaters.

Royal Mail Hotel on Spencer
519 Spencer St
West Melbourne
Phone: 03 9329 6955

More game meat – kudu, zebra, croc and ostrich

Dune sunrise

Sunrise at Dune 45

We spent about 10 days in Namibia, and it was my favourite country that we visited. It’s a large but very sparsely populated country, with a population of about 2 million, which makes it the least densely populated country in the world after Mongolia.

Namibia gained independence from South Africa in 1990. Politically it’s very stable and is one of the safest countries in Africa. It’s said to be “Africa for beginners”. It’s also the only country in the world to specifically address conservation and protection of natural resources in the constitution.


The Dead Vlei

The climate is very dry, and much of the country is occupied by deserts. Desert may not sound very interesting, but oh, it’s beautiful. I was so taken with the landscape. I adored the swirling red dunes, although I didn’t like walking up them as much as I liked them aesthetically!

Our last night in Namibia was spent in the capital city, Windhoek. Most of our group went to a restaurant called Joe’s Beerhouse. I’m sure all tourists to Windhoek visit this restaurant – it’s very well known for game meat. It’s decorated with all sorts of knick knacks – most hanging from the ceiling! For example, we were seated under a bicycle, which thankfully stayed hanging.

Game meat menu

Excuse the hair – it gets everywhere!

The menu had many, many options (if you eat meat that is). As I looked through, I immediately saw what I was going to order – the Bushman’s Sosatie. This was a kebab of chicken, kudu, zebra, crocodile and ostrich.

Surprisingly, considering the fact that we were a large table of 25, our meals didn’t take too long to arrive. And unlike our other large group dinner, the food all arrived together! This gave those of us who had ordered the Bushman Sosatie an opportunity to conduct a meat tasting.

Game meat skewer

Chicken, random vegetable covered in bacon, kudu and zebra

First up was the very pedestrian chicken. It was terrible – overcooked and dry. We quickly moved on. The next item was some random vegetable, perhaps squash, covered in bacon. The fact that I didn’t recognise it probably says something about how much attention was paid to it.

Next on the skewer was kudu.

Greater Kudu

Greater Kudu

The Greater Kudu is a distinctive large antelope that is found throughout eastern and southern Africa. It has long spiral horns and is one of the tallest antelopes. The meat was tasty and very similar to beef steak. I was expecting a more gamey taste, but it wasn’t really there. I’ve read some accounts that described kudu as a strong tasting meat but I didn’t think so.


Following the kudu was zebra. Zebra, surprise surprise, was very similar to beef but slightly sweeter. The texture was different and quite distinctive. It was drier and grainier than beef.

game meat skewer with corn

Zebra, crocodile & ostrich plus 2 corn fritters

Moving along to the white meat pictured after the eggplant – crocodile. This was a firm white flakey meat – which some say tastes like chicken. I disagree. It has a very delicate flavour and I thought it tasted slightly like fish. It was very pleasant and is definitely something I would be keen to have again.

Last but not least was the ostrich, languishing at the end of the skewer. My, what a revelation this was! After the chewy ostrich steak from the other meal, this was amazing. It was cooked perfectly and was really tender and moist. This ended up being my favourite meat on the skewer, with the crocodile coming a close second.

The only negative of the night was splitting the bill. Strangely, they gave us separate bills for drinks, but all the food came on one large bill. It ended up being over $2000 Namibian dollars in total – guess who got the job of counting all the money!? Even with my superior counting skills, the waitress said we were short, even though most of us had added a tip. I still don’t know if she was cheating us or if I just can’t count. It didn’t matter. We paid extra so we could get out of there, nursing our tummies overloaded with red meat.

African game meat: Oryx and Ostrich

Oryx at waterhole

While in Africa, we had the opportunity to try some game meat at different points along the way. Me being me, I jumped at the chance.

First up was the roast oryx/gemsbok in burgundy sauce that was on the menu in a restaurant in Swakopmund, Namibia.

Oryx are large antelopes with long spear like horns and black facial markings (above on the right). The one above was at a watering hole in Etosha National Park.

When I ordered the meal, I wondered if it was okay to do so (ie were they endangered?). I’ve just read that Wikipedia says that it is considered a threatened species. o_O Anyway, I’m sure it wouldn’t have been on the menu if it wasn’t okay or from an okay source (I hope).


On to the meal – you know how people say, “it tastes like chicken”? Of course it didn’t! It tasted like beef but slightly gamier. The texture was very similar to beef.

That same evening, we went to another restaurant in Swakopmund where ostrich steak was on the menu. Ostrich is a dark red meat, and apparently is very low in fat and cholesterol.

Ostrich meat

Oh, the ostrich. Service at the restaurant was terrible, and I received my meal last – about 20 minutes after Alastair, who got his first! Admittedly, we were a large group, and as our guide Heini always said, “There’s no time in Africa!”

As you can see from the photo, the ostrich was rare – very rare. I quite like my meat bloody, but this was too rare and was very chewy (the larger piece was just seared on each side and completely raw in the middle. However, the parts that were cooked a bit more were nice and tender. Again, it tasted like beef but I thought it was slightly milder in flavour.

It wasn’t the best steak, but it satisfied my curiosity!