The enchantment of opera at a legendary party palace, river cruising along a mighty waterway, belly laughs at timeless humour, the intimate luxury of crackling fireplaces and even the possibility of snow-dusted landscapes. Yulefest in the Blue Mountains is the most magical season.
After the exhilarating zing of a chilly day spent exploring the lookouts and bushwalking tracks of the magnificent Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, shopping at charming villages and visiting attractions, sojourners are warmly invited indoors for steaming drinks, fireside dining, festive decorations, music and rousing entertainment.
A regional tradition since 1980, Yulefest is held mid-winter (officially throughout July but often beginning in June and extending into August), with many hotels, guesthouses, B&Bs and restaurants taking part.
Escarpment Group of luxury hotels guest services manager Meagan Iervasi encouraged visitors to immerse themselves in the festive atmosphere by staying at least one night: “Yulefest in the Blue Mountains offers the European-style atmosphere people associate with Christmas – a chilly landscape outside and cosiness inside, but without the stress and frosty relatives. Sometimes there’s even snow.’’
Here’s an early bird Yulefest list to choose from:
Mountain Whispers, Leura and Katoomba
French champagne on ice, handmade chocolates, scattered fresh rose petals, a private chef to cook a three-course festive dinner and a personal waiter to serve it, followed by an in-house massage and/or facial in opulent surrounds. Yulefest equals romance, an escape with the girls or a group of great friends at Mountain Whispers MW Collection, where every minor detail matters.
Owner Lorraine Allanson said: “While Christmas is about family, Yulefest is a great time to take a mid-year break to focus on romance or time with your friends to indulge and escape the daily grind.’’
Each of the multi-award winning self-contained immaculately restored heritage properties – Varenna, Leura Rose and Strawberry Patch in Leura and The Gatsby and Chatelaine in Katoomba – promises a luxurious getaway in total privacy and comfort for couples and small groups.
Details: mountainwhispers.com.au or 1300 721 321.
Hydro Majestic Hotel, Medlow Bath
A Night in Vienna: In the lead-up to Yulefest, relish the romance and nostalgia of Austria’s operatic golden age led by Opera Australia, Oper Köln, Opéra Comique & Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris and English National Opera tenor Brad Cooper against the magnificent backdrop of the Megalong Valley on June 1. The Wintergarden Restaurant performance will be matched with a five-course degustation dinner. Tickets: $135pp. Bookings: (02) 4782 6885.
Diesel Live@theHydro: One of Australia’s favourite adopted sons, Mark Lizotte (aka Diesel) will entertain fans on July 20, three decades after he stepped off a bus with his band Johnny Diesel and the Injectors and set off on a chart-topping 15-album career. Cost: $150pp dinner and show, $40pp show only. Bookings: hydromajestic.com.au/events/diesel.
Traditional high tea: This elegant three-tier serving will feature nostalgic flavours such as ginger, cranberry and roast pork in the elegant Wintergarden Restaurant overlooking the Megalong Valley. Accompany you repast with a delicate blossom tea, freshly brewed coffee or a glass of sparkling wine.
Lilianfels Resort & Spa, Katoomba
Sink into the refined 5-star surrounds to nibble on delicate finger sandwiches, fluffy scones with homemade jam and fresh clotted cream, and a selection of Yulefest sweet treats beside a cosy fireplace.
Darley’s Restaurant, Katoomba
For the ultimate Yulefest decadence, the hatted restaurant in the historic home of former Chief Justice of NSW Sir Frederick Darley will serve five and seven-course degustation dinners each Friday and Saturday throughout July with special winter flavours.
Nepean Belle river luncheon cruise, Jamisontown
`Tis the season to cruise the tranquil waters of the Nepean River aboard the regional aquatic icon on your way to or from the Blue Mountains.
The heritage-style Nepean Belle paddlewheeler will be festooned with festive decorations and guests will board for luncheon to the strains of popular carols against the picturesque backdrop of the Blue Mountains escarpment.
Tuck into two-course Yulefest fare with all the trimmings, beginning with a shared platter of succulent roast turkey with fruit seasoning and tender roast pork with apple sauce and gravy garnished with honey-roasted vine tomatoes and accompanied by creamy sautéed potato; a selection of hot seasonal vegetables; steamed broccoli, carrots and peas; and a Greek salad with feta.
A dessert platter of festive favourites will follow, with White Christmas, chocolate rum balls, fruit cake, chocolate mud cake and rich butter shortbread biscuits washed down with your choice of freshly brewed tea or coffee.
Nepean Belle owner Carol Bennett said: “We love Christmas so much that we’re holding it again in July – but without the in-laws, expensive pressies and weather that matches the heat of the roast dinner.’’
Cost: Monday to Friday – $59 adults, $53 seniors, $39 teens (13-16 years), $20 children (3-12 years); Weekends – $65 adults, $58 seniors, $39 teens, $25 children. Bookings: nepeanbelle.com.au or 4733 1274.
The Goon Show LIVE! Dinner and show
The cult comedy tour de overacting incorporates loads of sound effects, silly voices and a platoon of crazy characters which promise to have audiences belly laughing all evening.
It regales the stories of Neddie Seagoon, a good-natured and hairy sort, albeit short and rotund and the victim of a terrible weakness – greed. Coupled with his innate gullibility, Neddie’s covetous nature makes him easy prey to confidence schemes courtesy of the conniving cads Grytpype-Thynne and Moriarty.
Peppered with one-liners, the high energy show will feature a plethora of characters including the world’s most famous idiot Eccles (yes, even more infamous than Neddie), the squeaky-voiced boy-scout Bluebottle (who reads his stage-directions out loud), Major Dennis Bloodnok a devout coward, and Miss Minnie Bannister the sexy senior citizen who lives in sin with crumbling, fumbling old man Henry Crun.
The dinner and show will be held in le Salon Grand at the Palais Royale, Katoomba, each Saturday night from June 29 to July 20, with a special afternoon tea on July 14. Tickets: $135 Saturdays, $80 Sunday afternoon tea, seniors and group discounts available. Bookings and details: www.goons.com.au.
By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group Photos: David Hill, Deep Hill Media
Indulge in a feast of the senses this festive season as the Konzert Kollektiv fills the grandest of the grand Blue Mountains hotels with majestic Christmas music on December 22.
Accompanied by fine food and sublime sunset views, soprano Catherine Bouchier will join tenor Brad Cooper and concert pianist Katherine Day for an unforgettable evening at the Hydro Majestic Hotel in the Blue Mountains to mark the 200th anniversary of loved Christmas carol Silent Night.
The event will include well known pieces by Adolf Schulz-Evler, Percy Grainger, Richard Strauss, Peter Alexander, Peter Cornelius, Franz Lehár, Erich Korngold, Adolphe Adam and more.
As well as favourites such as Joy to the World and The Holy City (Jerusalem), the great carol of peace will receive special attention on its 200th anniversary.
According to legend, Silent Night was sung for the first time on Christmas Eve 1818 in a little church in the Austrian village of Oberndorf outside Salzburg. The story goes that the choirmaster hurriedly penned the hymn to be played on a guitar when it was discovered mice had chewed through the bellows of the church organ.
Escarpment Group guest services manager Meagan Iervasi said: “The story of Silent Night pefectly complements the Hydro Majestic, with that just right blend of magic, mischief and majesty.’’
The program will be accompanied by a five-course “taste of Christmas’’ degustation dinner of fresh regional produce showcasing the culinary talents of an international team of chefs.
Tickets: $145pp includes welcome cocktail, dinner and concert. BOOKINGS.
The Silent Night event will open a Christmas and New Year’s season of operatic proportions at Escarpment Group collection of luxury hotels.
Inspired by the sparkle of Christmas lights and the warm glow they bring to the festive season, the Wintergarden Restaurant will host a decadent five-course degustation with all the trimmings overlooking the spectacular views of the Megalong Valley. Cost: $125 adults, $65 children (3-12 years), children aged 0-2 years complimentary. BOOKINGS.
Christmas Day – December 25
Lunch: five-course lunch infused with Asian flavours overlooking the Jamison Valley. Cost: $189 adults, $65 children (4 – 12 years).
Dinner: five-course Asian-inspired degustation with a glass of sparkling cocktail on arrival. Cost: $169 adults, $65 children (4 – 12 years).
Lunch: seven-course contemporary Australian degustation featuring the freshest seasonal local ingredients served in the historic multi award-winning building. Cost: $229 adults, $119 children (4 – 12 years).
Lunch: five-course degustation featuring hot and cold traditional Christmas fare including a three-hour beverage package (standard beer, wine, soft drinks). Cost: $199 adults, $179 teenagers (13 – 17 years), $90 children (4 – 12 years).
Lunch: sumptuous three-tier feast featuring fresh seafood, charcutier selections, carvery and traditional Christmas desserts as well as a three-hour beverage package (standard beer, wine, soft drinks) in the understated elegance of the Wintergarden Restaurant. Cost: $199 adults, $149 teenagers (13 – 17 years) and $85 children (4 – 12 years).
Dinner: lavish five-course degustation featuring an elegant array of seafood, traditional Christmas roasts and dessert, with a glass of sparkling on arrival while enjoying the sunset over the Megalong Valley. Cost: $159 adults and $85 children (4 – 12 years).
- Each venue will be decked in traditional decorations, with bon bons on the table and even a visit from Santa for the children. Children aged under 4 years complimentary.
HYDRO MAJESTIC HOTEL
High Tea: Take advantage of the holiday season and extend celebrations to a three-tiered indulgence in the Wintergarden Restaurant against the backdrop of sublime panoramic views over the Megalong Valley. Cost: $75 adults and $45 children (4-12 years old).
BOILERHOUSE CAFÉ, Hydro Majestic Hotel
Lunch: Two-course casual meal in a funky venue with a glass of sparkling on arrival and views over the Megalong Valley. Cost: $75pp.
HYDRO MAJESTIC HOTEL
Celebrate global fusion with an evening of world music, a five-course degustation meal featuring outstanding fresh seasonal produce and the culinary talents of our team of international chefs. Tickets: $135pp includes glass of sparkling on arrival, degustation dinner and performance. BOOKINGS.
HYDRO MAJESTIC HOTEL
Retro Grooves: Dust off those platform shoes and Motown moves for a night of `70s DJ dance music. Make your New Year transition unforgettable with an extravagant five-course degustation, glass of sparkling on arrival and live entertainment and panoramic views over the Megalong Valley. Smart casual dress code applies. Cost: $159 adults, $85 children aged 4-12. BOOKINGS.
Go to hydromajestic.com.au or phone (02) 4782 6885 to book events, accommodation and dining.
By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group Photos: David Hill, Deep Hill Media
The enchantment of opera performed within a legendary party palace, fine dining, the intimacy of crackling fireplaces and even the possibility of snow-dusted landscapes this Yulefest with Escarpment Group.
Locals and sojourners are warmly welcomed into any of its boutique hotels for steaming drinks, fireside dining and rousing entertainment to celebrate the season for which the Blue Mountains is most famous.
Walk up an appetite by wandering sumptuously refurbished, exotically-named spaces like Cat’s Alley and Salon du The on a guided history tour of the Hydro Majestic Hotel at Medlow Bath while listening to saucy tales of indiscretion on a luxurious scale.
Then, indulge in a traditional high tea repose featuring nostalgic flavours such as ginger, cranberry and roast pork in the elegant Wintergarden Restaurant overlooking the Megalong Valley.
Alternatively, sink into the refined surrounds of the 5-star Lilianfels Resort & Spa lounge at Echo Point to nibble on delicate finger sandwiches, fluffy scones with homemade jam and fresh clotted cream, and a selection of Yulefest sweet treats beside a cosy fireplace.
The decadent Yulefest theme continues with degustation dinners each Friday and Saturday throughout July in the historic Darley’s Restaurant on the Lilianfels property, as well as in the adjacent Echoes Restaurant and the Wintergarden Restaurant at the Hydro Majestic.
Escarpment Group guest services manager Meagan Iervasi encouraged locals to immerse themselves in the festive atmosphere by attending an event.
“Yulefest in the Blue Mountains offers the European-style atmosphere people associate with Christmas – a chilly landscape outside and cosiness inside with roaring fires, hot food and drinks, traditional decorations and festive music, but without the stress and frosty relatives.
“It’s also a great way for people who have made a recent tree change to mingle with their neighbours and make new community connections.’’
On July 21, one of Australia’s favourite adopted sons, Mark Lizotte (aka Diesel) will celebrate with a special performance at the Hydro Majestic, 30 years since he literally stepped off the bus with his band Johnny Diesel and the Injectors and set off on a chart-topping 15-album career. Cost: $150pp dinner and show, $40pp show only.
On August 18, relish the romance and nostalgia of Austria’s golden age with a program of crowd favourites from the best Viennese waltzes, gorgeous Wienerlieder (Vienna songs) and operetta to the wild world of the 1920s and `30s Berlin cabaret with a splash of comedian harmonists.
Opera Australia, Oper Köln, Opéra Comique & Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris and English National Opera tenor Brad Cooper and Johann Strauss Ensemble Vienna leader, violinist Russell McGregor, will be joined by Austrian accordionist Pavel Singer in the Wintergarden Restaurant performance, which will be matched with a five-course degustation dinner. Tickets: $135pp. Bookings: (02) 4782 6885.
Then, on August 25, experience opulence and history on a grand scale when the Hydro Express vintage train returns to the Blue Mountains.
Travel from Central in your choice of class carriage (standard, premier or lounge) aboard a heritage train hauled by restored 1950s diesel locomotive 4201. After a scenic two-hour rail journey to the Blue Mountains, be guided to the beautifully refurbished Hydro Majestic Hotel for a luxe afternoon high tea.
Go to escarpmentgroup.com.au or phone (02) 4780 1200 for more information about accommodation packages, dining options and events.
*Escarpment Group is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media
By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group Photos: David Hill
Seat-swapping, hand-crossing bravura, drama, passion and cheeky fun will return to the original Blue Mountains party palace as a string of musical events rolls out during the next few months.
The music program will see the return of popular opera and classical instrumental performances, reviving the traditions established by original Hydro Majestic Hotel owner, Mark Foy, in the early 20th century.
General manager of Escarpment Group, which owns the Hydro Majestic, Ralf Bruegger said: “The Hydro Majestic and Foy himself were famous for their revelry and decadence and we’ve reignited the celebration by filling the calendar with festivals, events and performances and an endless round of public and private parties.
“Guest are welcome to swap seats, cross hands and indulge in cheeky fun but please keep the passion and drama to yourselves.’’
Choose one or more from the following performances:
Le Grand Tango, June 11: Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra principal cellist Teije Hylkema and internationally-awarded pianist Grace Kim will present a program to ignite passion and fire featuring Le Grand Tango by Astor Piazzolla.
4 hands, 2 pianists, 1 piano, August 19: One of the busiest pianists in Australia, Kristian Chong, will team up with Grace Kim to present a brilliant program of seat swapping, hand crossing bravura. You will see why four hands are better than two.
2017 Blue Mountains Opera Festival, September 30 – October 1:
- High tea, Saturday: Mozart’s magnificent masterpiece, his Clarinet Quintet, will begin the weekend on a high note featuring Sydney Symphony Orchestra clarinettist Frank Celata with the Enigma Quartet.
- Opera Gala Dinner Concert, Saturday: After a glowing inaugural success last year, Opera Australia tenor Brad Cooper, mezzo/soprano Sally Wilson and bass Damian Whiteley will take guests on an evening of drama, passion and cheeky fun.
- High tea, Sunday: The festivities crescendo when eight of the finest string players perform with the ever popular Mendelssohn Octet.
Each high tea concert package ($85pp) includes a glass of sparkling wine on arrival with a sumptuous three-tier offering including an indulgent selection of gourmet sandwiches, warm fluffy scones, delicate pastries and the finest selection of handmade desserts served with Vittoria Coffee and La Maison Du The teas. The concert will be from 12pm to 1pm.
The Gala Dinner Concert package from 5.30pm to 9.30pm on Saturday, October 1, will include drinks and canapes on arrival followed by a two-course dinner with beverages. Cost: $150pp.
Go to www.hydromajestic.com.au or phone (02) 4782 6885 to book concerts, accommodation and dining.
- Escarpment Group is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media