By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group Photos: David Hill, Deep Hill Media
Circa 1876 is the best fine dining restaurant in regional NSW, with the Pokolbin restaurant’s win at the prestigious Restaurants & Catering Industry Association Australia (R&CA) awards last week [September 18] cementing its culinary reputation.
Executive chef Trent Barrett and his team brought home the NSW Regional Fine Dining award from the Savour Australia Restaurant & Catering Hostplus Awards for Excellence. Circa 1876 also earned an honourable mention in the NSW Regional Restaurant Caterer category.
Circa 1876 executive chef Trent Barrett, whose sustainable dining philosophy fuels his menu through the restaurant’s kitchen garden, onsite bee hives, quails and chooks, praised his team: “No one can achieve excellence without the commitment and skills of a team, and I am blessed to work with so many talented chefs and wait staff here.
“While we appreciate that our guests expect to be wowed by our meal designs, our aim is always to nourish diners with ingredients of the freshest and highest quality. This award confirms we are on the right track.’’
Located next to Peppertree Wines, Circa 1876 and The Convent boutique hotel on the same property recently joined the Escarpment Group collection of luxury properties which also includes Lilianfels Resort & Spa, Echoes Boutique Hotel, Parklands Country Gardens & Lodges and the famous Hydro Majestic Hotel in the Blue Mountains.
Escarpment Group general manager Ralf Bruegger said: “There are many fantastic restaurants in Australia and the Hunter Valley is home to some of the best, so this is a terrific achievement and a wonderful acknowledgment of the calibre of our business and the team behind it.’’
The R&CA Awards for Excellence is a nationally recognised, independently judged awards program that recognises exceptional service and culinary talent in restaurants, cafes, takeaway and catering businesses across Australia. It provides publicity for hospitality businesses, a chance to network with key suppliers and acknowledges the achievements of hospitality staff.
* 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 Photos: David Hill
Members of an African children’s choir experienced the diversity of the Aussie workforce during their visit to the Blue Mountains last week.
As well as enchanting audiences throughout the mountains and Emu Plains with vibrant singing and drumming performances, Ubuntu troupe members spent last Friday, May 20, “job shadowing’’ (observing) at Blue Mountains MP Trish Doyle’s electorate office at Springwood, Blue Mountains City Council, Nepean Hospital, RKE Engineering at Emu Plains, Katoomba Neighbourhood Centre, Rare Birds women’s fashion shop at Wentworth Falls and Selwood House Vet Hospital, Hazelbrook.
Blue Mountains tour organiser Brendan O’Reilly said the young men and women of Ubuntu were African Children’s Choir graduates with diverse career aspirations and were thankful for the opportunity to spend time in Australian workplaces learning about workplace culture and practices.
They’re about to study to become doctors, engineers, diplomats, designers – one wants to be a flight attendant,’’ he said.Blue Mountains employers have made a great contribution to their African guests as they work hard to expand their horizons and free themselves and their families from poverty.’’
Four young people spent the day at Escarpment Group luxury hotels Lilianfels Resort & Spa and Echoes Boutique Hotel at Katoomba, and in the Wintergarden Restaurant and providores pavilion at the Hydro Majestic Hotel at Medlow Bath before performing in a concert at Springwood High School that evening.
Escarpment Group general manager Ralf Bruegger said: “We welcome guests from around the world every day at our hotels so it was easy for us to host the young people from Ubuntu. We hope our new friends from Africa take home many good memories of their time in the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area. With beautiful warm smiles and excellent etiquette, I’m sure they would be well suited to careers in the tourism and hospitality industry.’’
The African Children’s Choir uses money raised from concert tours organised by charity Kwaya Australia and donations to educate children in poverty in Uganda, Kenya and elsewhere from primary school to university. Such concerts in the Blue Mountains have raised tens of thousands of dollars for education in Africa in recent years.
- Escarpment Group is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media
By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group
Young hospitality workers can learn how to take their careers to new heights when Escarpment Group takes part in the TAA Hotel Career Expo in Sydney on May 16.
Those who attend will have the chance to meet influential hotel industry professionals such as Escarpment Group general manager Ralf Bruegger, who can explain the many opportunities the luxury collection of hotels has to offer across its four Blue Mountains properties (Lilianfels Resort & Spa along with Echoes Boutique Hotel & Restaurant, Parklands Country Gardens & Lodges and the Hydro Majestic Hotel).
“The expo will be a great opportunity to go behind the scenes at hotels such as ours and kick-start a new career in this fast-paced industry where you have the chance to travel around the world, meet lots of people from around the world and work in a rewarding career.’’
The free (although registration is essential) expo would be of interest to high school and university students, existing hotel staff and those looking for a career change.
Hotels are more than just check-in and housekeeping,’’ Mr Bruegger said.Like most hotels, Escarpment Group has lots of departments which ensure the smooth running of our properties, and they are all crucial in making sure our guests have a positive and memorable stay.’’
The hotel industry also stretches beyond major city borders into regional and even remote areas, offering staff further dimensions to their career and experience and authentic and creative hospitality experience.
For example, Escarpment Group had doubled its investment and staff numbers in the Blue Mountains in the past two years.
Staff of all experience levels worked with an international team of professionals and had the opportunity to work at properties across the group.
“While of course theory education is very important and we encourage it, we give our employees, especially the younger ones, practical training alongside those who have worked in the industry for a long time because we believe that learning from example is an experience that money cannot buy,’’ Mr Bruegger said.
Surrounded by the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, staff can also access a lifestyle like no other, spending leisure time exploring Australia’s most accessible wilderness and quaint villages which make up the community.
“It is a constant challenge for regional hotels like ours to attract dedicated skilled workers that are prepared to live in the area. Giving jobs to a local workforce is the ultimate goal,’’ Mr Bruegger said.
Workers in the hotel industry on average stay in jobs for just 12 months or less, particularly those aged up to 21.
Escarpment Group, which has approximately 230 employees across its four Blue Mountains properties, hoped to combat the problems associated with a transient workforce with a new scholarship-style program and a first for Australia.
While the details of the new program would be announced shortly, Mr Bruegger said the aim was to foster more training pathways to create a stable, skilled workforce, which would lead to sustainable quality of product and service not just at Escarpment Group hotels but eventually throughout the region.
“This program will be a direct investment in the front and back of house workforce future of Escarpment Group hotels and beyond.’’
The free 2016 Hotel Career Expo will be held at the InterContinental, 117 Macquarie St, Sydney, from 10am to 6pm on May 16.
The expo will include inspiring seminars, exhibits from 20 hotel brands including Escarpment Group, career-focused interactive booths, the opportunity to connect with industry leaders and the chance to win fantastic prizes.
Go to www.hotelcareerexpo.com.au to register.
* 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
The Escarpment Group collection of hotels has further cemented itself as the premier luxury accommodation provider in the Blue Mountains with all four of its properties named finalist in a prestigious industry awards.
The group was named finalist in 12 categories in the Tourism Accommodation Australia (TAA) NSW 2015 Awards for Excellence.
Escarpment Group general manager Ralf Bruegger said: “This is a fantastic result – all four properties making the finalist list, especially for the Hydro Majestic which has only been open since October 2014 and Parklands which opened in September.
“I am very proud to represent such a great team of hard working tourism and hospitality professionals whose commitment to providing the highest benchmarks in the area shines through in everything they do every day.
“In fact it’s great to see the Blue Mountains tourism and hospitality industry well represented at the awards with our colleagues at Fairmont Resort and The Carrington Hotel also finalists.
“This is an indication of the standard of visitor experience throughout the Blue Mountains, where visitors can be assured of world-class accommodation, customer service and dining.’’
Echoes Boutique Hotel & Restaurant is a finalist in Regional Superior Hotel of the Year and Regional Restaurant of the Year categories.
Lilianfels Resort & Spa Blue Mountains is a finalist in Chef of the Year, Front of House Employee of the Year, Regional Deluxe Hotel of the Year and Regional Restaurant of the Year.
Parklands Country Gardens & Lodges is a finalist in Health Club & Spa Facilities of the Year and Regional Superior Hotel of the Year.
The Hydro Majestic Hotel is a finalist in Chef of the Year, Function Venue of the Year, Redeveloped Hotel of the Year and Regional Restaurant 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 ranging from outstanding community service, best environmental practice and redeveloped hotel of the year through to the superior and deluxe hotels of the year categories and a range of individual staff awards.
TAA NSW chairman Nigel Greenaway said: “These venues really do showcase the best the NSW hotel industry has to offer – they quite simply are second to none and that is shown in the high quality of all the finalists.
Category winners will be announced at a gala awards night at The Westin Sydney on July 29. TV personality Catriona Rowntree will be emcee, with an after party at the Zeta Bar, Hilton Sydney.
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.