The Royal King
STORY AND IMAGES BY RICHARD CORNISH
Local hospitality king Frank Moylan and his wife Melissa Macfarlane have returned to Kyneton’s Royal George Hotel. After almost a decade since they poured their last glass of wine in their 160-year-old Piper Street hotel they have been rightfully restored to their place behind the jump. They bought the lease and freehold of the Royal George 19 days after they left the Farmers Arms in Daylesford in 2006, swearing they would never do hospitality again. A little older and a little wiser they are offering a wonderful mix of fine and affordable wine, CUB and craft beer and a menu based on their best-selling small and shared plates they made over the past 20 years in hospitality.
“What we have really noticed is that customers want value for money in wine,” says Frank over a glass of Granite Hills The Gordon, Bordeaux style blend from the nearby Cobaw Ranges. “Gone are the days when (a restaurateur) could foist an ok to good wine by the glass for $14,” he says. “People want value for money and something drinkable under $10 a glass. People are better educated, and they know how much decent wine costs.” Frank is selling some very French sauvignon blanc for $8 a glass. He knows his wine and his judgement is respected. He was recently cast as a presenter in the SBS TV series Battle of the Vines where his understanding of the modern drinking palate shone through. “The other thing that has changed in the last decade is that regionalism is firmly locked into wine lists from pubs to cafes to clubs,” he says. “While even a decade or so ago it was just us and Annie Smithers who were shouting out ‘drink local, local, local!’, now everyone is on to it. Which is good.” This normalisation of buying local has allowed Frank and Melissa to relax and share their love of European wines mix with local drops over their 40 strong wine list.
Frank is very man with a wry wit. “Some people used to be scared of admitting they liked Carlton Draft,” he explains. “Now they are coming out of the woodwork and saying, ‘I don’t understand craft beer, do you have a beer I don’t have to think about too much?’” Frank says it’s not just his older patrons but young people, particularly younger women who will happily down a frothy CUB beer over a hopped artisan ale. That said he still pours a lot of beer from Shedshaker Brewing in Castlemaine.
What Frank and Melissa are really enjoying is returning their old pub to its former glory as a welcoming, ecumenical, happy place to eat and drink. They bring their dark bohemian touch of 20th century furniture, exposed antique wallpaper, dark wood and stuffed deer heads back to the old girl. “By simply being ourselves,” says Frank, “by serving the food and wine we love makes what we do here real. We are not about tokenism. We are about the relationships that we have built up with winemakers, such as Lou Knight from Granite Hills and Gilles Lapalus from Maidenaii over decades,” he says. “By being true to what we love means that the whole hospitality package comes naturally.” He gives a big smile and passes over a plate of smoked pork and beef stuffed dumplings on a bed of sour cream and paprika butter washed down with a coffee infused black lager from Shedshaker. “Perfect,” says Frank with a smile.
24 Piper St, Kyneton; royalgeorge.com.au