The uniting force of food will be the binding tie of inclusiveness, respect and belonging when the multicultural staff at the Hydro Majestic Hotel celebrate Harmony Week with international cuisine from March 18 to 31.
Visitors will embark on a global food journey when they nibble on a special multicultural high tea of duck rice paper roll, Aussie beef mini pie, Sri Lankan fish cutlet, pulled pork adabo, green papaya slaw, chicken tikka wrap, mint chutney, kachumber salad, mini naan followed by sweet pastries, berry pavlova, Gajar ka halwa, Maja blanca, pandan cake, Watalappan and scones.
The dishes will be prepared by the international kitchen team.
Hydro Majestic guest services manager Meagan Iervasi said more than 30 languages were spoken and staff ethnic origins from six continents, from Asia to Africa: “The only continent we haven’t interviewed anyone from yet is Antarctica.’’
While all Escarpment Group properties, which also include Lilianfels Resort & Spa, Miss Lilian Teahouse, Darley’s Restaurant, Echoes Boutique Hotel & Restaurant and Parklands Country Gardens & Lodges, align well with the strong national multicultural population today, the Blue Mountains and the Hydro Majestic have a multicultural heritage stretching back to the days of original owner Mark Foy.
During the post-Bathurst gold rush era around the turn of the 20th century numerous Chinese workers reverted to their traditional skills across the Blue Mountains, with many working as butlers, cooks, nannies, maids and produce suppliers to inns, guesthouses and manor houses.
One was Louie Goh Mong (nicknamed `Charlie’), who worked as a cook at department store doyenne, sportsman and flamboyant playboy Foy’s home and managed the mayhem at the Hydro Majestic for 35 years.
Go to hydromajestic.com.au or phone (02) 4782 6885 to book a Harmony Week high tea.
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 Photos: David Hill, Deep Hill Media
Celebrate family unity, vitality and respect for your elders with the exotic flavours of the Orient when the Miss Lilian Teahouse heralds the Year of the Pig throughout February.
The new Echo Point dining venue which serves a tasty array of popular Asian street foods, will serve a special Chinese Lunar New Year tasting menu this month.
Escarpment Group, which also operates the adjoining Darley’s Restaurant and the Hydro Majestic Hotel among other tourism ventures, the venue is already festooned outside with coloured lanterns and inside with latticework, dozens of bird cages and other Eastern decorations.
Escarpment Group guest services manager Meagan Iervasi said the Miss Lilian Teahouse was well placed to greet thousands of Asian tourists who flocked to the region during Chinese Lunar New Year given its blend of local and international staff and authentic dishes.
“Lunar New Year is the only time of year in China when people really rest, relax and take time out to focus on family unity, vitality and longevity. This is often the only time of year when people can go home to visit relatives, especially elderly ones. It’s also the time when Chinese people spend money, believing that one must spend money to attract more money.
“We can help you fulfil all those requirements.’’
Lunar New Year and all things Oriental is not new to the Blue Mountains, with Australia’s first tourist destination experiencing Eastern obsession during the
roaring 20s’’ including at department store doyenne Mark Foy’sPalace in the wilderness’’ and modern sister property to the Miss Lilian Teahouse, the Hydro Majestic Hotel at Medlow Bath.
During the post-Bathurst gold rush era around the turn of the 20th century numerous Chinese workers reverted to their traditional skills across the Blue Mountains, with many working as butlers, cooks, nannies, maids and produce suppliers to inns, guesthouses and manor houses. One was Louie Goh Mong (nicknamed `Charlie’), who worked as a cook at Foy’s home and managed the mayhem at the Hydro Majestic for 35 years.
Lunar New Year will be celebrated at the new Miss Lilian Teahouse on the Lilianfels Resort & Spa property, Echo Point Rd and Panorama Drive, Katoomba, with an evening tasting menu. Cost: $75pp includes complimentary sparkling cocktail. Bookings: misslilian.com.au.
By Ellen Hill
Cupid’s day of love is almost here, and lovers of all ages can celebrate amore in unforgettable style with fine dining, majestic venues and even a private table aboard the region’s very own love boat.
Sweetheart options include:
Nepean Belle Paddlewheeler, Tench Reserve:
Float along the tranquil waters of the Nepean River aboard the regional aquatic icon against the picturesque backdrop of the Blue Mountains escarpment.
After exploring Nepean Gorge while sipping a complimentary beverage, passengers can request songs special to them and slow dance on the dance floor.
For those planning a milestone romantic event such as a proposal, two specially decorated private balcony tables surrounded by fairy lights and lanterns are available. A dedicated waiter will serve sparkling wine, and a red rose and chocolates will help set the scene.
Nepean Belle owner Carol Bennett said: “We’ll provide the dinner and unique experience. We’ll even set the scene and present each lady with a rose and a gift on boarding. The rest is up to you.’’
Hydro Majestic Hotel, Medlow Bath
Begin your majestic experience with a complimentary glass of sparkling wine before indulging in a three-course menu of seasonal delights featuring oysters, lamb and chocolate with truffle-infused vegetarian options overlooking panoramic views of the magnificent Megalong Valley.
Darley’s Restaurant, Echo Point:
Located within the historic home of former Chief Justice of NSW Sir Frederick Darley, the hatted restaurant is within the Lilianfels Resort & Spa property and offers ultimate indulgence with outstanding service among sumptuous décor.
Dine on a five or seven-course seasonal degustation menu featuring the flavours of foie gras, elderflower, caviar, wagyu beef, black garlic, marigold and almond.
Escarpment Group guest services manager Meagan Iervasi said: “Darley’s Restaurant has long been recognised as the ultimate venue for romantic dinners.’’
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, Deep Hill Media
Would-be hospitality workers can receive 5-star training in the region’s top hotels for free after the State Government scrapped TAFE fees for 100,000 apprentices, saving students about $2000 per course in order to combat the national trades drought.
Escarpment Group of hotels will contribute to the training investment, to be facilitated by the Skilling Australia Fund from July 1, and has invited applicants to submit their details.
The company operates the most awarded resorts in regional NSW including Lilianfels Resort & Spa, Darley’s Restaurant, Echoes Boutique Hotel & Restaurant, the iconic Hydro Majestic Hotel and Parklands Country Gardens & Lodges in the Blue Mountains. Further north, it also owns the historic Convent in the Hunter Valley and the multi award-winning paddock-to-plate restaurant Circa 1876.
With 10 busy dining outlets, the need for skills is significant.
Escarpment Group operations manager Adam Holmes said training trades and tourism workers under an apprenticeship enrolment with TAFE would help top up falling worker numbers in the industry.
“Over the past five years the numbers of apprentices has reduced year on year to almost nil and we need more motivated skilled staff for regional tourism to thrive.
“Escarpment Group is a dynamic operator of premium hotels and resorts and needs trainees to future-proof the region for economic growth.’’
Apprenticeships are available in the roles of chef, housekeeping, food and beverage service, customer service and reception.
Mr Holmes, originally from Cronulla and recently returned to Australia from Mauritius, said: “Escarpment Group is the largest tourism employer in the Blue Mountains with numerous staff with experience in some of the top restaurants and hotels in the world, ready and willing to share their knowledge and skills with trainees.
“With five luxury properties across two mature tourism regions, there is plenty of opportunity for growth and diversity in a versatile career that can take you anywhere in the world.’’
Potential apprentices have been invited to submit details to email@example.com.
*Escarpment Group is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media
By Ellen Hill Photos: David Hill, Deep Hill Media
The chirp of cicadas competing with Christmas carols, an awe-inspiring backdrop of towering golden escarpments and dramatic valleys and a cooling breeze carrying the subtle scent of eucalyptus. Welcome to an Aussie bush Christmas and summer holiday season in the Blue Mountains.
Begin the Christmas countdown early with lantern-making workshops for kids aged four to 12 at Leura Garage funky eatery off the top of Leura Mall from 3pm to 5pm on November 28 and December 4 and 13 in the lead-up to Leura Village Association’s December 15 Christmas festival. Cool prizes from upmarket local shops. Cost: $10 per child (must be accompanied by an adult) includes lantern kit and drinks and nibbles. Bookings: (02) 4784 3391, firstname.lastname@example.org or leuragarage.com.au/lantern.
Give your adult loved ones some grown-up time with a Faeriestorm Nanny Service voucher. Available in hourly blocks (minimum two hours *conditions apply), the fully qualified nannies will care for their kids while the adults enjoy some down time. Purchases: Brenda Edwards 0417 448 318 or email@example.com.
A night away with a day spa pamper package at a blissful retreat such as Parklands Country Gardens & Lodges or dinner at a swanky restaurant such as the Wintergarden Restaurant at the Hydro Majestic Hotel are always popular.
A truly unique way of sightseeing in style is with Blue Mountains Vintage Cadillacs from within a vintage Cadillac car. Dressed in formal attire, your local driver will collect you from and return you to any location in the Blue Mountains. Bookings: firstname.lastname@example.org or Donald on 0455 352 976.
Tuck into a sumptuous feast with all the trimmings, decorations, bon bons, beverage package and even a visit from Santa for the children at the 5-star Lilianfels Resort & Spa near Echo Point or a seven-course degustation at the multi award-winning hatted Darley’s Restaurant. Bookings: escarpmentgroup.com.au or (02) 4780 1200.
NEW YEAR’S EVE:
For an unforgettable Auld Lang Syne moment, feast in the New Year at the chic Echoes Restaurant at Katoomba or the world-famous Cat’s Alley at the Hydro Majestic Hotel after watching a sublime sunset over a blue haze-shrouded valley while sipping a cocktail and resolving to take more time out in 2018. Bookings: escarpmentgroup.com.au or (02) 4780 1200.
SCHOOL HOLIDAY ACTIVITIES:
Talisman Gallery, Hartley historic village, Great Western Hwy (400m before turn off to Jenolan Caves heading west): Try your hand at the time honoured art of blacksmithing and make your very own fire poker on the forge and anvil on January 26 and 27. Cost: $25 includes materials and tuition. Decent footwear required. Bookings essential: Ron 0407 723 722 or email@example.com.
Everglades Historic House & Gardens, 37 Everglades Ave, Leura: Kids aged three to six can learn about heritage conservation and the natural environment in one of the most enchanting historic properties in the Blue Mountains through the My Adventure at Everglades activity book ($10 and $5 per subsequent book). Entry: $13 adults, $8 concessions, $4 children, National Trust members free. Details: (02) 4784 1938 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
* All businesses mentioned are commercial clients of Deep Hill Media
By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group
The Greater Blue Mountains region will be showcased to billions of potential tourism visitors when SBS airs the next Luke Nguyen cultural foodie series early next year.
The celebrity chef spent a whirlwind two days in the area recently filming interviews with food producers in the Jamison and Megalong valleys, visits to cultural identities such as the Escarpment Group-owned Hydro Majestic Hotel at Medlow Bath, fusion cooking at Echoes Restaurant and inspiration gathering sessions with Darley’s Restaurant Hatted executive chef Lee Kwiez.
The SBS Food Diaries series, which will be shown in 160 countries, will trace Nguyen’s journey from his childhood roots and connections in Vietnam to his first restaurant in Surry Hills and his current international success.
Escarpment Group director Huong Nguyen has known Luke (no relation) since he was a child growing up in his family’s restaurant at Cabramatta: “Our fathers were both in the military before the war ended in 1975 and his family came to Australia shortly after mine.’’
Both Nguyen families were among two million Vietnamese to flee the Communist regime after it came to power in 1975. “Despite his humble background, Luke and siblings Pauline and Lewis were all resilient, creative and academically gifted and have all achieved outstanding success.’’
Nguyen is best known as the host of television series Luke Nguyen’s Vietnam and Luke Nguyen’s Street Food Asia. He is also a judge on MasterChef Vietnam and has appeared several times on MasterChef Australia as guest chef.
He also owns a cooking school and restaurants in Hong Kong and Vietnam, the Red Lantern in Surry Hills, Fat Noodle in The Star Sydney and the Treasury Hotel & Casino in Brisbane, and has penned several cookbooks.
“Now Luke is bringing Australia to the world. Yes, Luke’s latest series is definitely a fantastic showcase of our Blue Mountains properties, but it’s also great exposure for the region and will introduce millions, if not billions, of viewers throughout the world to the abundance of fresh regional produce available to them when they visit any restaurant, café, B&B or hotel that offers local flavours on their menus here,’’ Ms Nguyen said.
- Escarpment Group is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media
By Ellen Hill Photos: David Hill
Spine-tingling ghost hunts through historic sites, theatrical dining in globally recognised locations, chauffeured vintage car rides through sublime landscapes and luxe overnight escapes into colonial Australia. Christmas shopping in the Blue Mountains makes for unforgettable gifts.
Many businesses throughout the “city within a national park’’ offer gift vouchers, including cafes and restaurants like the uber funky Leura Garage serving upmarket casual regional fare in an overhauled car mechanic’s site.
The Escarpment Group collection of boutique hotels includes the hatted Darley’s Restaurant, five-star Lilianfels Resort & Spa and chic Echoes Boutique Hotel and Restaurant at Katoomba near Echo Point Lookout overlooking the Three Sisters rock formation, deluxe retreat Parklands Country Gardens & Lodges at trendy Blackheath and the world-famous Hydro Majestic Hotel at Medlow Bath with theatrical dining in the Wintergarden Restaurant. Vouchers are available for accommodation, dining and spa treatments. Details: escarpmentgroup.com.au.
Perfect for couples, Blue Mountains Vintage Cadillacs (bluemountainsvintagecadillacs.com.au) recreates the romance of yesteryear with tours throughout the upper mountains in a luxury vintage car with dedicated chauffeur. Cruise into spectacular lookouts, quaint villages and whimsical art galleries and shops. Journey options include a decadent high tea at the Hydro Majestic or a gourmet picnic at Parklands Country Gardens & Lodges.
Experience by day the jaw-droppingly beautiful scenery of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area with Blue Mountains Mystery Tours (bluemountainsmysterytours.com.au). Creep back after dark for a spine-tingling ghost tour and discover the rich and sometimes bloody history behind the rugged landscape.
Stuff stockings with regionally-sourced gourmet goodies, trinkets and homewares from boutiques such as the Hydro Majestic Pavilion and Blue Mountains Chocolate Company in Katoomba (bluemountainschocolatecompany.com.au), and celebrate the silly season with uniquely Aussie Hillbilly Cider vintage bubbles (hillbillycider.com.au).
After Christmas, treat your family to the sites and sights of the Greater Blue Mountains, experienced by visitors from around the world. Blue Mountains Attractions Group suggests itinerary inclusions from guided tours, magical heritage gardens and thrilling rides through awesome landscapes to glimpses back to our colonial past, ventures into the underground, close encounters with classic literary characters and furry friends and much more.
- All businesses mentioned are commercial clients of Deep Hill Media
By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group
He was acknowledged by industry for his fine dining creations but for NSW Chef of the Year, Darleys Restaurant executive chef Lee Kwiez, “it’s all about the yum’’.
His top chef gong was one of five major awards received by Escarpment Group in the Blue Mountains at the Tourism Accommodation Association (NSW) Awards of Excellence in July.
Other Escarpment Group awards included Regional Superior Hotel of the Year for Echoes Boutique Hotel & Restaurant, Regional Deluxe Hotel of the Year for Lilianfels Resort & Spa and Front of House Employee of the Year for Lilianfels duty manager Meagan Iervasi. The world-famous Hydro Majestic Hotel Blue Mountains at Medlow Bath also received a highly commended for Redeveloped Hotel of the Year.
Escarpment Group general manager Ralf Bruegger, himself a career executive chef, said: “We are very proud to have the top chef in NSW leading our restaurant team. The innovation from his kitchen is exceptional and I am particularly impressed with how he is embracing local and regional food in the menu.
“However, the award for Darleys Restaurant shows that the outstanding dining experience our guests have come to expect is the result of an excellent team of chefs and wait staff at the restaurant.
“Darleys is a beautiful restaurant – the refurbished décor and gorgeous view, the customer service and the fantastic food is world-class.’’
A Colo High School alumni who grew up on a large rural property at Freemans Reach in the Hawkesbury, Kwiez’ culinary career inspiration was cooked up at home.
Mum was cooking shepherd’s pie when I was 14/15 and I thought `I want to be a chef’, then I did work experience at Maxwell’s Table at Kurmond and stayed on to Year 12,’’ he said.I finished school on the Thursday and started work full-time at Maxwell’s Table on the Monday.’’
During his career, Kwiez has travelled the world working in kitchens in Switzerland, Hayman Island and Canada before returning to Sydney where he worked at several restaurants including Milson’s Restaurant.
He was responsible for raising the Woolwich Pier Hotel from number 13 out of 20 to 18/20 in the Good Pub Guide, ranking it one of the top seven pubs in NSW.
“Flavour. Simple. That’s why I love being a chef,’’ Kwiez said.
“Food has got to look good obviously but if it looks pretty and you can’t eat it, I’m not interested. It’s all about the taste – it’s got to have the yum factor.’’
Kwiez has embraced the national focus on local and regional produce, choosing for his menus from produce grown in the 6000sqm kitchen garden at the Escarpment Group-owned Parklands Country Gardens & Lodges property at Blackheath wherever possible.
“Freshness, seasonality and locally grown: that’s my aim in the Darleys kitchen wherever possible,’’ he said.
What can’t be sourced from the Parklands garden is bought from local and regional suppliers from a 100 mile radius of Darleys Restaurant.
The range of produce is enormous, from Dutch carrots, nasturtium flowers and tomatoes to quince, pears, apples, plums, kale, broccoli and more, even the occasional catch of yabbies.
You think `Great, we can make a soup, we can make a salad’,’’ Kwiez said.You go online, you look at cookbooks, you look at what other chefs are doing, you look at three Hatted restaurants. Then you make a little salad or something and tell the customers it’s from the dam up the road – Parklands Pond Yabbies, there you go.’’
Kwiez counts former colleague Saffire Freycinet head chef Hugh Whitehouse (they were apprentices together at Maxwell’s Table and Kwiez took over Darleys from Whitehouse) as a mentor who inspires his own culinary creativity.
While Kwiez is the recognised talent of the Darleys kitchen, he also credited his team for the exceptional standard of food and service at the multi award-winning restaurant: “I’ve got a great team – it’s not just about me. Without them I couldn’t do this.’’
Away from the restaurant kitchen, the father-of-three loves simple flavoursome food: “ A nice steak or sausages as long as you’ve got a big salad to go with it. Or roast chicken with roast potatoes in rosemary and garlic and a big side of greens, that’s my favourite thing with maybe a nice sauce from the roasting juices of the chicken. You can’t beat a good roast chicken.’’
Darley’s Restaurant, Lilianfels Resort & Spa, Lilianfels Ave, Katoomba, is open from 6pm to 10.30pm Tuesday to Saturday. Reservations: (02) 4780 1200 or email@example.com.
Awards – Lee Kwiez
- Woolwich Pier Hotel: Sydney Morning Herald Good Pub Guide 2012-Three schooners award (18/20)
- Milsons Restaurant: Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide – One Hat Award
2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000
- Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide – One wine glass award 2009, 2008, 2007
- Gourmet Traveler wine awards – -Two glasses 2004
- Gourmet Traveler food awards – -two stars 2006, one star 2005
- Jaspers Restaurant: Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide – One Hat Award 2001, 2000
Awards – Darleys Restaurant
- Regional Restaurant of the Year 2013 – Tourism Accommodation Awards for Excellence 2013
- Fine Dining Restaurant Award – 2010 Savour Australia Restaurant & Catering Awards for Excellence – NSW Regional
- Australian Hotels Association (NSW)Hall of Fame. 2010
- Best Regional Restaurant – SMH Good Food Guide Awards – 2010
- Two Chefs Hats – SMH Good Food Guide Awards – 2010
- Regional Restaurant of the Year – AHA (NSW) Awards for Excellence – 2009
- Two Chef’s Hats – SMH Good Food Guide Awards – 2009
- Hotel Restaurant of the Year – Hotel Management National Awards – 2007
Escarpment Group is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media
By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group
The Escarpment Group collection of hotels in the Blue Mountains is the premier luxury accommodation provider in NSW.
Five top awards at the prestigious Tourism Accommodation Australia (TAA) NSW 2015 Awards for Excellence on Wednesday (July 29) proves it.
Awards won by Escarpment Group at the gala awards night at the Westin Hotel in Sydney were:
Chef of the Year 2015 (NSW): Lee Kwiez
Regional Restaurant of the Year: Darleys Restaurant
Regional Superior Hotel of the Year: Echoes Boutique Hotel
Regional Deluxe Hotel of the Year: Lilianfels Resort & Spa
Front of House Employee of the Year: Meagan Iervasi, Lilianfels Resort & Spa
The world-famous Hydro Majestic Hotel at Medlow Bath also received a highly commended for Redeveloped Hotel of the Year.
The TAA awards this year received its largest number of submissions ever, 281 from 67 top accommodation venues in NSW across more than 30 categories.
Escarpment Group general manager Ralf Bruegger said: “We are all very excited.
“We were up against very high competition from the Hunter Valley, south and north coasts so to take home so many awards was a fantastic result.
“These awards are a reflection of the quality product and experience we have at all our hotels as well as the calibre of staff, who I like to call associates.
“Taking home so many awards also ensures the spotlight swings back onto the Blue Mountains as a top quality regional destination where high-end visitors are guaranteed excellence in facilities, customer service, dining with a focus on regional produce and experience.
“These awards are recognition from our peers that Escarpment Group meets all those expectations across our hotels. We have the best of the best in New South Wales.’’
TAA NSW chairman Nigel Greenaway said all the winners were a testament to the high standard of accommodation in NSW.
“The quality of nominees has shown once again that this really is the accommodation tourism industry’s night of nights.
“These venues are the best in the business. They range right across the spectrum from established to new entry brands, from the regions to the Sydney CBD.
“It is no wonder NSW is setting the trend for quality tourism accommodation right around Australia. My congratulations to tonight’s worthy winners.’’
Mr Bruegger congratulated Darley’s Restaurant executive chef Lee Kwiez and Lilianfels Resort & Spa hotel duty manager Meagan Iervasi on their individual awards, along with the entire Escarpment Group team for the property wins.
“Knowing that there is an outstanding team making sure our guests have a memorable stay is motivation for me every single day.
“That’s what really gives us the edge, along with the escarpment location with landscapes you see nowhere else.’’
Mr Greenaway said: “Hardworking, talented men and women like these are the backbone of the hotel industry.
“I congratulate all winners, indeed all nominees, for putting in a tireless effort every day – and night – to ensure guests at their venues have a memorable stay. The high calibre of the nominees and winners demonstrates that the industry is well placed for the future.’’
By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group Photos: David Hill
Discerning foodies seeking to savour the flavour of crisp Blue Mountains air and earthy tones of the Central West will find it in every bite served at Escarpment Group properties.
With few exceptions, food and wine served at the Hydro Majestic Hotel, Lilianfels Resort & Spa, Echoes Boutique Hotel & Restaurant and Parklands Country Lodges & Gardens is sourced from within a 100 mile (160km) radius of the kitchen and served to a delectable standard.
A growing proportion of ingredients are even sourced from the 1000sqm edible garden at the Parklands property at Blackheath. Menus across Escarpment Group now carry a specially-designed logo printed next to items which include at least 80 per cent local and regional ingredients.
Escarpment Group general manager Ralf Bruegger, himself a career chef, compared the Blue Mountains food scene to that of northern Italy: “The food I have tasted up here is absolutely sensational.
“Our eventual aim is total fruit, vegetable and herb sustainability for all kitchens at all four Escarpment Group properties.
“It makes sense economically, it fits in with our business ethos and our guests expect it.’’
Hydro Majestic head chef Mate Herceg, whose team served 21,000 guests during May alone, said: “Things I can buy locally I will buy locally for my kitchen.
“We roughly know what type of produce is around at what time of year and we talk to suppliers about what’s coming up. We always know that artichokes are good in autumn but don’t use asparagus because it’s not in season here and comes from Peru or Mexico.’’
All items sold at the Hydro Majestic Pavilion are locally sourced from areas such as Lithgow, Orange, Bathurst, Mudgee, the Blue Mountains and Western Sydney.
Escarpment Group restaurants routinely use local and regional produce such as apples, chocolate, berries, herbs, bread, eggs, carrots, nuts, nasturtium flowers, tomatoes, quince, pears, plums, kale, broccoli, carbonero, trout and yabbies. Regional meat is served wherever possible.
Escarpment Group is committed to further developing the Parklands Kitchen garden and has also installed a state-of-the-art composting system which already takes all kitchen waste from Parklands and the Hydro Majestic.
Multi award-winning Darleys Restaurant executive chef Lee Kwiez said: “I grew up on a thirty acre farm at East Kurrajong in the Hawkesbury so I really appreciate quality fresh food.
“It’s easy for us to serve our guests food fresh from the garden. We just send through a list of ingredients we would like to use in our menus and it is grown for us. The gardener also sends us lists of what is in the garden, as do our other local and regional suppliers and we incorporate those ingredients in our menus.’’
While he creates unique fine dining dishes for five-star guests at the hatted restaurant, the underlying influence on Kwiez’s cooking is his childhood.
“Mum was cooking shepherd’s pie when I was 14 or 15 and I thought `I want to be a chef’. For me, it’s all about the flavour – it’s all about the yum. Simple.
“Freshness, seasonality and locally grown: there’s not much of a carbon footprint because you’re not hauling vegetables from here to Sydney and then back again. We’re also looking after other local businesses.’’
Mr Bruegger said Escarpment Group was committed to regional produce in its delivery of high-end tourism and hospitality on a scale rarely seen in regional NSW.
“The Blue Mountains has been renowned for its innovative cuisine and fine wines for a long time and we are proud to be a part of that reputation through our established Darley’s and Echoes restaurants at our five-star properties and now the various dining venues at the Hydro Majestic.’’
The full suite of Escarpment Group dining experiences is:
Wintergarden, Hydro Majestic: The light-filled restaurant with spectacular views over the Megalong Valley offers a premium afternoon high tea and a gourmet dinner menu in refined surrounds.
Salon du The, Hydro Majestic: The Flying Fox and Cat’s Alley have united to form the Salon du The, offering a refined Asian-inspired menu and a range of cocktails and wines with magnificent views of the Megalong Valley.
The Boiler House, Hydro Majestic: Casual all-day dining featuring traditional pizza, pasta and Australian cuisine overlooking the Megalong Valley.
Echoes Restaurant & Bar: The award-winning restaurant offers modern Australian cuisine with Asian influenced menus with specially selected local and important wines. Open daily seven days a week.
Darley’s Restaurant & Bar, Lilianfels: The multi-award winning hatted venue offers modern Australian cuisine served as a la carte or degustation menus with specially selected local and imported wines.
Go to www.escarpmentgroup.com.au for more information about individual properties, events and special offers.
Words by Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group
Darley’s Restaurant at Lilianfels Blue Mountains Resort & Spa is the best noshery in Australia. Its Book A Restaurant award proves it.
The 2015 Top Rated Annual Awards are the result of real diners rating their top Australian restaurants through bookarestaurant.com.
The multi award-winning Darley’s, a Hatted restaurant inducted into the Hall of Fame for Best Regional Restaurant in 2011, is located in the heritage listed original homestead of sixth Chief Justice of NSW Sir Frederick Darley on the 5-star Lilianfels Resort & Spa property at Echo Point.
It is part of the Escarpment Group collection of luxury properties which also includes the Hydro Majestic Hotel at Medlow Bath, Echoes Boutique Hotel at Katoomba and Parklands Country Gardens and Lodges at Blackheath.
Sir Frederick bought the Darley’s property in 1888 and built a retreat so his family could access the mountain air for their daughter Lilian, who may have contracted and died from tuberculosis. It is assumed the house was named Lilianfels is in honour of Lilian, coupled with the German fels for high land.
Today, Darley’s Restaurant, which has recently undergone an extensive refurbishment, overlooks lush manicured gardens with soaring mountain views.
The main dining room seats up to 50 people and features two open ornate fireplaces, spectacular leadlight windows, crystal chandeliers, luxurious designer wall prints, evocative artworks and plush furnishings that illustrate style and grace.
With its magnificent décor, Darley’s sparkles with newly revived old world charm accentuated by a magnificent setting and unrivalled destination – the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.
The Top Rated Annual Awards recognise restaurants across five categories: Best Restaurant, Quality of Food, level of service, Romantic Rendezvous and Fit For Foodies.
Escarpment Group general manager Ralf Bruegger said: “We have always been confident that the quality of the food, service and décor at Darley’s Restaurant is world-class but it’s great to have that vote of confidence from the people who matter the most to us – our patrons.
“Congratulations to Darley’s executive chef Lee Kwiez and his team of chefs and wait staff especially for this award.’’
Darley’s Restaurant was included in the Top 50 Rated list for an impressive four categories (Best Restaurant, Quality of Food, level of service and Romantic Rendezvous).
Diners who make a booking online through bookarestaurant.com have the opportunity to recommend the restaurant to other diners and friends.