By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group Main photos: David Hill, Deep Hill Media
Australia’s first tourist destination – the Blue Mountains – has wooed and wowed with luxurious romantic hideaways, fine food and sophisticated nightlife for more than a century.
Hundreds of the Sydney well-heeled poured off the steam trains and motorcades into the upmarket guesthouses and grand hotels to “take the air’’ on exhilarating bushwalks through untamed wilderness, indulge in spa treatments and embark on automotive adventures to charming picnic spots and thrilling cave systems.
At night they retreated into the opulence of sumptuous restaurants and lounges filled with exotic furnishings and artwork from around the world to indulge in cigars, cocktails, gossip and mischief.
The smoke has now cleared but the essence of that halcyon era remains in the dining rooms, ballrooms and discretely lit nooks under ornately decorated vaulted ceilings and domes of heritage establishments around the upper Blue Mountains.
The grandest of the grand Blue Mountains hotels (the Hydro Majestic Hotel at Medlow Bath), which once hosted legendary costume parties and opera performances by the world-class likes of Dame Nellie Melba, is again gearing up for a vibrant spring entertainment line-up accompanied by a host of seasonal food offerings.
First to command the iconic venue under the Live@theHydro banner will be Havana Nights, an evening of authentic Cuban music and seductive Saturday, September 29. Musical globetrotters can journey to Havana as they sway to the soulful sounds of Cuba, dance the salsa, rumba, mambo and cha cha cha and sip on rum mojitos and daiquiris in the Majestic Ballroom.
Then, on Saturday, November 3, the original Blue Mountains party palace will be taken over by retro grooves when The Australian Bee Gees Show – A Tribute to the Bee Gees performs the greatest hits of the adored `70s sibling trio. Straight from Vegas, the covers band featuring lookalike Barry, Maurice and Robin Gibb will rock the Blue Mountains escarpment when it recreates hits like Staying Alive, You Should Be Dancing, How Deep Is Your Love, and Jive Talkin’.
Guest services manager of Escarpment Group, which owns the Hydro Majestic, Meagan Iervasi said: “Combined with fortnightly live music gigs in our Boiler House Café space, fine dining and opulent architecture and décor, the Hydro Majestic is fast becoming THE place to be for anyone looking for sophisticated weekend nightlife at reasonable prices in a seriously upmarket venue.’’
Tickets for both shows: $40pp entertainment only includes complimentary welcome cocktail; $135pp three-course dinner and show package featuring the freshest seasonal produce sourced by an internationally-trained team of award-winning chefs.
Dinner, show and accommodation bookings: hydromajestic.com.au or phone (02) 4782 6885.
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 for Escarpment Group Photos: David Hill
Traditional dishes from exotic global locations infused with local flavours served by staff from around the world: the Hydro Majestic Hotel in the Blue Mountains represents the modern face and cuisine of Australia – as it has for more than a century.
The original Blue Mountains party palace will celebrate its history of cultural diversity during the Australia Day week with a World Degustation Day feast on Friday, January 27.
Escarpment Group general manager Ralf Bruegger said: “The Hydro Majestic has always embraced cultural diversity, not because its first owner Mark Foy was politically correct but because he genuinely loved people of all races, their culture, art and food – just as we do today.
“In fact, what is seen as progressive, even outrageous today, has always been normal at the Hydro Majestic. I mean, what was normal for a man who liked to dress in his wife’s clothing and held cross-dressing parties for his friends?’’
With the means to satisfy his every whim, the well-travelled Foy had the famous hotel dome pre-fabricated in Chicago and shipped to Australia. Dr George Baur of the Shoeneck health spa in Switzerland was hired to devise and supervise a program of diets and weird and wonderful treatments. Turkish coffee at the Hydro Majestic was served by Turkish waiters, Chinese tea by Chinese waiters.
Fascinated by all things Asian, Foy employed many Chinese workers who sold their traditional skills across the Blue Mountains during the Bathurst golf rush era around the turn of the 20th century.
One was Louie Goh Mong, nicknamed “Charlie’’, who worked as a cook at Foy’s Sydney home and managed the mayhem at the Hydro Majestic for 35 years.
Today, staff from 16 language groups work at the Hydro Majestic including English, French, Canadian, Russian, Chinese (all dialects), Portuguese, Vietnamese, Spanish, Italian, Indonesian, Thai and more. Mr Bruegger is German and head chef Mate Herceg has a Croatian background.
People visit the Hydro Majestic from all over the world and we must understand and accommodate their cultural needs,’’ Mr Bruegger said.In an internationally renowned destination such as the Blue Mountains it is expected of us and certainly received by our guests in all other mature tourism regions of the world.’’
Guests at the World Degustation Day banquet will be treated to global gastronomy through a decadent five-course food safari featuring flavours from all seven continents on Earth infused with the distinctive tastes of the Greater Blue Mountains and NSW Central West.
“We’ll also have a dish that’s quintessentially Aussie, because after all that’s our shared experience and we all love being here in this fantastic country of opportunity and diversity,’’ Mr Bruegger said.
The multicultural feast at the grandest of the grand hotels in the Blue Mountains will be designed and prepared by chefs from various cultural backgrounds with experience at internationally-recognised restaurants around the world including Michelin star restaurant-trained sous chef Max Vloet.
Guests can fully immerse themselves in the sumptuous theme with the dramatic colours and sensual textures of the hotel, the unrivalled views over a jaw-droppingly beautiful landscape set to the dulcet tones of African-Australian jazz songstress Evelyn Duprai.
World Degustation Day will be held at the Hydro Majestic Hotel, Great Western Hwy, Medlow Bath, from 5.30pm to 9.30pm on Friday, January 27. Cost: $145pp includes seven-course dinner, sparkling lychee and mint cocktail on arrival and entertainment. Bookings: hydromajestic.com.au or (02) 4782 6885.
* Escarpment Group is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media
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.