By Ellen Hill for Hillbilly Cider Photos: David Hill
Hillbillies at heart can escape the big smoke and experience nature for real at the newly opened Hillbilly Cider Shed in the heart of Bilpin apple country.
Wend your way up the famed Bells Line of Rd and follow the comforting aroma of fermented apples into the Hillbilly Cider Shed to discover a hidden refuge of Prohibition-era speakeasy ambience overlooking a working apple orchard.
There, you can escape the foot-stomping winter chill outside and imbibe in a belly-warming mulled cider and munch on fresh salted popcorn while learning about the cidermaking process and the Hillbilly philosophy from Hillbilly Shane or Hillbetty Tessa McLaughlin themselves.
In 2007, the couple shifted to a bohemian existence on 35-acres at Bilpin, where fourth generation farmer and Canonbah Bridge winemaker Shane (“Dodge’’ to his mates) set about making a cider in a cellar he dug by hand under the house.
The result? Just apples. With altitude. And a squeeze of good old Hillbilly magic.
We don’t add sugar, we don’t pasteurise and we don’t add artificial flavours,’’ the Cider Australia treasurer says.We’re all about keeping it real and honest – 100 per cent crushed fruit fermented with minimal intervention for an easy bohemian bubble.’’
Dedicated Hillbillies can seek out the uninhibited honest earthiness, mountain air, memories of good times with friends and fermented fruit of Hillbilly Cider straight out of the barrels at the new cider shed.
Tasting cider straight from the barrel is but one experience available exclusively at the inner Hillbilly sanctum.
In season, pick the very apples that go into the cider.
Stock up on the new Scrumpy and Sweet Julie ciders – the ones you don’t see around too much outside the Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury, and grab new ciders the moment Hillbilly Shane releases them.
In fact, the Sweet Julie is the only cider in the world made from the Julie apple, discovered and grown at the orchard onsite and the newest apple discovered in the area since the Granny Smith 100 years ago.
Environmentally conscious cider lovers can reduce packaging purchase to zero by investing in their own 1.854lt Hillbilly Cider growler, only at the Hillbilly Cider Shed.
It’s also the only place in the country to buy a cider canimal. Filled with nearly a litre of Hillbilly liquid goodness, canimals “are mini kegs so they’ll keep you going for a while – you won’t lose your place around the bonfire’’, Shane says.
Have your canimal filled on the spot with your choice of cider straight off the barrel and pressure sealed by the first and only canimal machine used for cider in Australia.
Hillbillies can picnic under the trees with the company of cider shed dog Star or sit on the deck and soak up the vibes of raw Hillbilly music, meaningful conversation and the nostalgic scent of crushed cider on the breeze.
After tasting the award-winning alcoholic and non-alcoholic apple and pear ciders, cleansing the palette with salted popcorn, stocking up on your chosen flavour of bottled bohemian lifestyle, be sure to proclaim your Hillbillification with pride on clothing and other items available at the cider shed.
Hillbilly Cider is also available throughout the Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury and beyond via independent bottle shops, funky bars and restaurants, or catch the Hillbillies at farmers markets and music festivals.
The Hillbilly Cider Shed, Shields Orchard, 2270 Bells Line of Rd, Bilpin, is open from 12pm to 5pm Friday and 11am to 5pm Saturday and Sunday (check website for extra open days during school holidays). Go to hillbilly.com.au for more information.
- Hillbilly Cider is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media
By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group Photos: David Hill
The original Blue Mountains party palace will host a regional food and wine showcase on a majestic scale at the annual Roaring 20s Festival long lunch on Saturday, February 25.
The mouth-watering feast of shared plates will begin with antipasto by Kinship Kitchen, followed by a chicken and rabbit rillettes with toasted brioche main dish designed by Hydro Majestic head chef Mate Herceg with caper dressing and Parklands Country Gardens & Lodges herb-crusted beef fillet, horseradish crème fraiche and sides of twice-cooked potato and pumpkin, EVOO and carrot, kale and celeriac salad, white balsamic dressing.
The Majestic Long Lunch will be completed with exceptional regional cheeses from the Carrington Cellars & Deli and a wickedly indulgent dessert by Josophan’s Fine Chocolates.
The upmarket repast will be held after the attempt for the largest number of costumed people dancing the Charleston hopefully reclaims its Guinness World Record with 1,000 dancers in front of the Hydro Majestic Pavilion at 11am. (Go to hydromajestic.com.au to register and charlestonchallenge.com.au to see a dance tutorial.)
Once the excitement of the Blue Mountains Charleston Challenge has quietened and retro revivalists promenade to glamorous effect, diners will graze on decadent regional fair.
They will also glimpse exquisite fashion from yesteryear from the Darnell Collection of International Vintage Couture.
Diners are encouraged to dust off their most sophisticated `20s-inspired costumes befitting the elegant venue (eg: feather boas, spats, fedora hats) to be eligible to enter the prizes galore up for grabs on the day (best dressed lady, man, couples and hats).
Plate Up Blue Mountains food and wine advisory group chairwoman Pam Seaborn said: “The Blue Mountains is fast becoming recognised as a must-visit food destination, with so many fabulous dining venues and chefs doing amazing things with the outstanding fresh, seasonal produce to be found throughout the Greater Blue Mountains and NSW Central West.
“The annual Roaring 20s Festival is a perfect opportunity to show them off – and dress up, dance and enjoy an afternoon with friends at this gorgeous venue too of course.’’
The Majestic Long Lunch will be held at the Hydro Majestic Hotel, Great Western Hwy, Medlow Bath, from 12.30pm to 4pm on Saturday, February 25. Cost: $95pp includes spiced Peach Melba sparkling cocktail on arrival. Bookings and details: hydromajestic.com.au or phone (02) 4782 6885.
- 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 Lithgow Workies Club Photos: David Hill
The oldest registered club in NSW is serving a modern era of upmarket dining for the home of Australia’s first industrial hub, Lithgow.
The new Esk Restaurant at Lithgow & District Workmen’s Club was part of a recent $6.5 million revamp which also included a new 36-room 4-star (self-rated) motel with two disability access rooms, a refurbished showroom, conference centre, art gallery and more.
Established in 1887, the club (known affectionately as “the Workies’’) is located just west of the Blue Mountains at the gateway to the NSW Central West, an historic food bowl of the state and latest foodie hotspot.
Esk Restaurant was added to complement the existing successful Cino Café and club bistro, both of which will continue to serve traditional food and beverage favourites.
Armed with a diverse background ranging from mobile fast food to fine dining, club executive chef Tim Standing plans to gradually infuse the Esk Restaurant contemporary Australian cuisine menu with a growing amount of local and regional produce to tempt local tastebuds and attract visitors to the area.
Diners have already reviewed positively to the menu since Esk opened in January.
Club members and guests can expect a contemporary blend of traditional favourites with multicultural influences from Asia and Europe presented with the unique flavours of ingredients from the NSW Central West, Blue Mountains and the wider Sydney region.
“People’s expectations of club food has really risen,’’ Standing said.
“They still expect to be able to get basic meals at a reasonable price like rissoles, sausages and mash, schnitzels, a good steak and pot pies but the quality has lifted a lot.
“Our first menu is not too intimidating but we’ll develop it into a very modern, contemporary restaurant using many local products over time.’’
Raising the culinary stakes has been the result of innovations in farming techniques and crop choices, manufacturing of boutique products and a migration of top chefs from Sydney onto the central plains.
Standing himself made the shift two and a half years ago.
“There’s loads of great chefs and restaurants out here in the west now,’’ he said.
“I want to be one of the best restaurants in town because I’d like all the restaurants in Lithgow to be good because that makes a food destination.
“If people drive up here Friday night and stay until Sunday, they’re not going to eat here every night, so we need other places in Lithgow to be good too, and they are.’’
Standing’s culinary passion began as a child. His mother was a cook and the family trawled the show circuit in fast food vans throughout Victoria.
Young Tim started his career as a hotel dish washer before an apprenticeship at the Dromana Hotel in Dromana. From there he worked at the best restaurant in the region, Moonlight Bay Resort.
When he was 24, Standing went to London and worked for agencies and hotel groups in upmarket areas as well as the large Slug and Lettuce group at the forefront of cutting edge pub food at the time.
Returning to Australia, he worked as executive chef with Captain Cook Cruises in Cairns then at the Union Hotel at North Sydney and The Watershed at Darling Harbour.
He was executive chef at the 500-seat Japanese restaurant Zenbu at Darling Harbour, Bamboo at Circular Quay, Liquidity at Rose Bay, The Zettle Room at The Exchange Hotel at Balmain and Il Baretto at Surry Hills.
Standing opened his own pizza restaurant, Rialto Restaurant at Narrabeen, and Bar Rialto at Surry Hills before joining Lithgow Workies Club in 2013 where he is executive chef to about 35 staff at the Esk Restaurant, Cino’s Café and the club bistro.
Cooking is the one thing I was always good at,’’ he said.I cook at home. To me, going to work and cooking is not a job, its fun.’’
Most of Standing’s kitchen staff at Lithgow Workies Club are young locals. There are also four apprentice chefs and the club has two hospitality trainees.
Head chef Aaron Engler, 23, returned to his apprenticeship training ground 18 months ago after gaining experience throughout NSW and Canberra including in a 500-seat café, as a function chef, at the 5-star Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley near Lithgow and the hatted Darleys Restaurant at Katoomba.
You go to Katoomba, Sydney and Bathurst and there’s great food everywhere,’’ he said.Esk Restaurant could be the beginning of a new contemporary Australian food scene for Lithgow.’’
Lithgow Workies Club general manager Geoff Wheeler said: “We’ve never had a dining venue at the club before where you can have table service and enjoy quality wines and food in a quality environment with lovely views and décor.’’
Esk Restaurant at Lithgow Workies Club, Tank St, Lithgow, is currently open for dinner from 6pm (last orders 8.30pm) Friday and Saturday. Bookings: firstname.lastname@example.org or (02) 9682 3807.
The official opening of Esk Restaurant, the new club motel and associated works will be hosted by media and sporting identity Mike Whitney in the new showroom from 7.15pm on Saturday, March 19.
The evening will be rounded off with spectacular entertainment from Australia’s “Queen of Soul’’ Lisa Hunt and her band in the revamped showroom. Tickets: $20.
Go to www.workies.com.au or phone (02) 6350 7777 to book and for more details.
By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group Photos: David Hill
Celebrate the rich prospects of 2016 on the eve of the Chinese lunar New Year when the most fabulously famous hotel in Australia celebrates its Asian heritage with a special Shanghai Nights event on Saturday, February 6.
The event will be part of Roaring 20s Festival events to be held at the Hydro Majestic Hotel, to celebrate the 1920s era when Australia’s first tourist destination kicked up its heels for a decade-long party.
Escarpment Group general manager Ralf Bruegger said: “The Hydro Majestic has been blessed with a long connection with Asia.
“Around the turn of the 20th century, the hotel became the good fortune of Chinese workers disillusioned with the Bathurst goldfields and stranded in the Blue Mountains with no money to return to Sydney.
“Mark Foy, the great Sydney retailer who built the Hydro Majestic Hotel, was fascinated with all things Asian and happily employed many Chinese workers such as Louie Goh Mong, nicknamed `Charlie’, who worked as a cook at Foy’s Sydney home and managing the mayhem at the Hydro Majestic for thirty-five years.’’
The Shanghai Nights event will wrap up Roaring 20s Festival events at the Hydro Majestic, which will kick off with a Gangster Casino Night on Friday, February 5, and also include on Saturday, February 6, the Hydro Charleston Challenge world record attempt for the largest number of costumed people to dance the Charleston and the Majestic Long Lunch featuring local and regional food and wine.
Shanghai Nights will include an evening of exotic cocktails and canapes, lights, lanterns and jazz music to celebrate on the eve of the Chinese lunar New Year.
“This will be a very beautiful event which reminds people of the romance of the 1920s and the elegance of the Hydro Majestic rather than just the flappers and gangsters,’’ Mr Bruegger said.
“We will recreate the softness of the lighting, the reds and greens and golden colours, the feathers and fabrics, the sophisticated lines of the architecture. Guests will feel like they have slipped into a fantastic dream.’’
Guests are encouraged to dress in 1920s-style Asian fashion to help create an authentic atmosphere of old Shanghai.
For women, that could include kimono-style coats and robes or cheongsams and richly embroidered fabrics accessorised with carved bone, ivory and mother-of-pearl jewellery and high heeled shoes.
Men could wear a western-style three-piece business suit which became popular in China during the 1920s or the tradition Chang Pao and Ma Gua long shirts over traditional drawstring “lantern pants’’ and finished with a top hat.
The Roaring 20s Festival celebrates the sumptuous architecture, saucy clothing, outrageous dancing and jazz music of the hedonistic heyday of Australia’s first tourist destination, the Blue Mountains. The festival will continue throughout February at other venues around the area.
Go to hydromajestic.com.au to book for Shanghai Nights ($150 per person), the Gangster Casino Night, the Majestic Long Lunch, to register for the Hydro Charleston Challenge and for more event, accommodation and dining option information and bookings.
* Escarpment Group is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media and Headline Publicity
By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group Photos: David Hill
The Blue Mountains needs 1000 dancers in 1920s-style costume to snatch a Guinness World Record back from England on Saturday, February 6.
The Hydro Charleston Challenge broke the official world record three years in a row but was thumped by the town of Bexhill in the UK in August with 503 people followed by an attempt with 975 dancers in London validated by Guinness in October.
Hydro Charleston Challenge co-ordinator Angela Corkeron said: “We want that title back and we’re going to take it back in elegant art deco style.
“Technically we need 976 dancers to reclaim the record but this is the Hydro Majestic, so let’s raise the stakes and aim for a thousand dancers to really smash the record.’’
The annual Guinness World Record attempt for the largest number of costumed people dancing the Charleston will be held at the Hydro Majestic Hotel on the lawn in front of the Belgravia accommodation wing.
Pre-register online (www.hydromajestic.com.au) or manually on the day from 9.30am and practice the dance routine at home to the online tutorial (see the website). Practice sessions will be held from 10am on the day, with the actual world record attempt to kick off at 11am.
“There’s plenty of room. If the lawn fills up or you prefer to dance on a hard surface, step into the historic tennis courts overlooking the exquisite Megalong Valley,’’ Ms Corkeron said.
“We’ll even spill into the carpark if we have to.’’
Anyone can take part in the Hydro Charleston Challenge. All participants need do is wear a costume and be able to follow the dance for five minutes.
Click HERE to watch a Charleston dance tutorial to practice in private before the big day.
“Assembling a costume could be as simple as wearing a boa, a drop-waist dress and some Mary-Jane shoes (the ones with the straps, buttons or ribbons across the top) for the ladies and a loose suit and a Fedora for the fellas.’’
Gold coin donations will be collected for the Rural Fire Service Blue Mountains district on entry.
Escarpment Group general manager Ralf Bruegger said: “The Hydro Charleston Challenge is a chance to let your hair down and show off against the backdrop of this fabulous flamboyant hotel.
“This is where Mark Foy held legendary outrageous parties, where the famous and the infamous came; this is where Australia’s first Prime Minister died; this was the centre of the Blue Mountains’ heyday.
“The Hydro Majestic is definitely back on the party scene with all the flare and style of its first heyday.’’
The 2016 Hydro Charleston Challenge will be held at 11am on Saturday, February 6, followed by the Majestic Long Lunch from 1pm to 5pm when guests in 1920s finery will graze informally from picnic hamper boxes packed with regional delicacies, promenade on the lawns and dance the afternoon away to the strains of a `20s-style band.
The Roaring 20s-themed weekend will begin on Friday, February 5, with the Gangster Casino Night to celebrate the era of breaking with tradition, crooks and prosperity – and this time there’s no prohibition. Net proceeds from the adults-only event will go to CareFlight aeromedical charity.
The weekend will close with the uber sophisticated Shanghai Nights of cocktails and canapes, lights, lanterns and jazz music to celebrate on the eve of the Chinese lunar New Year.
The Roaring 20s Festival will continue throughout February at other venues around the Blue Mountains.
The Hydro Charleston Challenge and other Roaring 20s events at the Hydro Majestic Hotel pay homage to the decade when the region cut loose in an endless round of hedonism – sumptuous architecture, costume balls and high teas, saucy clothing, outrageous (for the time) dancing and jazz music.
Go to hydromajestic.com.au for more event, accommodation and dining option information and bookings, to register for the Hydro Charleston Challenge and watch the tutorial of the Charleston dance HERE.
* Escarpment Group is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media and Headline Publicity
By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group Photos: David Hill
Retro foodies can indulge in some of the most delectable regional fare in true Roaring 20s style when the Hydro Majestic Hotel hosts the Majestic Long Lunch on Saturday, February 6.
Dressed in their most elegant 1920s-style finery, guests can indulge in a generous picnic hamper packed with scrumptious locally-made and sourced fare.
The Majestic Long Lunch will be one of four Roaring 20s-themed events to be held at the original Blue Mountains party palace, including a Gangster Casino Night on Friday, February 5, and the Hydro Charleston Challenge and Shanghai Nights on the Saturday.
The festival will celebrate the sumptuous architecture, saucy clothing, outrageous dancing and jazz music of the hedonistic heyday of Australia’s first tourist destination, the Blue Mountains.
Escarpment Group general manager Ralf Bruegger said: “The food and wine of the Greater Blue Mountains region is absolutely on a par with anywhere in Australia.
“With some of the best chefs in the country, it’s no wonder – and we have more than thirty of them working with us across our four Escarpment Group properties including Mate Herceg who is creating the main course for the Majestic Long Lunch.
“Many of the chefs in this region bring to their menus influences from multicultural backgrounds and training but incorporate the local and regional produce found from a one hundred mile radius of the Blue Mountains. That all creates a flavour unique to the region.’’
Goodies packed into the luxury picnic boxes at the Majestic Long Lunch will include antipasto by Princess Pantry; a main course of Holmbrae chicken marinated in Pig In The House cabernet sauvignon certified organic wine from Orange for 24 hours, house-cured speck, local braised champion mushrooms served with Bakehouse on Wentworth four-hour garlic croutons, crusty French baguette and fresh tossed salads created by Hydro Majestic Hotel head chef Mate Herceg; mouth-watering regional cheeses from The Carrington Cellars & Deli; and a wickedly indulgent dessert by Josophan’s Fine Chocolates.
Each course will be matched with locally produced wines available for purchase from The Majestic Marquee Bar.
Add the most famous hotel in Australia and the magnificent Megalong Valley as a backdrop, a line-up of special guests and leading food identities Lyndey Milan OAM and Joanna Savill, live jazz music, dancing and a fashion parade, and Majestic Long Lunch diners are set for the most deliciously saucy event of the season.
The Roaring 20s Festival will continue throughout February at other venues around the Blue Mountains.
Go to hydromajestic.com.au to book the Majestic Long Lunch ($95 per person), other Hydro Majestic Hotel events and to register for the Hydro Charleston Challenge.
By Ellen Hill for Vesta Blackheath Photos: David Hill
She’s warm and gentle with a loving embrace: the honorary maître’d of Vesta Blackheath has been at the heart of the popular eatery for more than a century.
Executive chef of the upper Blue Mountains restaurant, Misha Laurent, said the 120-year-old Scotch oven influenced the menu and set the tone for the atmosphere and décor.
“This oven is gentle, loving, warm, a matriarchic, an oversized mama. But she’s not temperamental at all. We just put the fire on and she warms up and ten hours later the food is cooked. Literally, the lamb shoulder is always perfect.’’
Guests’ first experience of Vesta is crusty bread made daily in the oven and served complimentary with homemade labne and local olive oil.
In fact, most dishes on the menu are cooked in the oven.
“It would be ridiculous not to because it’s there,’’ Misha says.
Vesta’s use of the enormous oven harks back centuries when wood-fire ovens were present throughout Europe in Italy, Tuscany, Spain and even Turkey and North Africa.
“They would kill the goat and put it in the red wine from their own vines and then add vegetables from the garden and shove it into the oven and come back ten hours later after a hard working day and serve it up to the family.’’
Misha uses the same techniques with local and regional produce at Vesta.
“You’ve got this amazing cut of meat from Rydal and it’s soaked in wine and vegetables for 24 hours, then it’s put into pots and covered with that liquid and vegetables and herbs and put in the oven for 12 hours and pulled back out.
“Then you’ve got all this fresh organic local vegetables with it that has been roasted or blanched and this amazing sauce that you’ve got from cooking this lamb for 12 hours.’’
The Vesta oven is part of one of the first buildings in Blackheath, the bakery.
“They would make their bread and distribute it around town door-to-door and people would bring dishes into the bakery and cook them in there in return. It was a sort of barter system.’’
When the bakery closed the oven was ignored for many years. The building was used as a retail shop before it became Vulcan’s Restaurant in the 1980s.
Current owner David Harris was adamant that the oven would become a crucial feature of Vesta Blackheath when he opened the restaurant in 2011.
Built of double brick with a wall of sand between its layers to retain the heat, the oven can hold 180 loaves of bread.
The fire is lit on Wednesday morning when it heats to about 180 degrees Celsius ready for service. It is kept going until Sunday.
Food served from the oven’s belly is infused with the smoky flavours of a century’s subtle perfumed woods and ancient coal.
By embracing the historic oven and allowing her to dictate the food style and influence the menu, Vesta (meaning “goddess of the hearth’’) has become a second home for many locals and substitute Grandma’s kitchen for those searching for the warmth and comfort of rowdy family oven dinners of hearty food in intimate spaces rather than frigid venues offering plates of absence and pretention.
“Who wouldn’t want a slow cooked local lamb shoulder with vegetables grown in Hartley and great wines and good service?’’ Misha says.
This kind of thing is actually missing in Australia, whereas in Italy they have Agriturismo which promotes local food experiences at farms. It’s phenomenal food and it’s everywhere.I want to try to recreate that in regional Australia: an extension of home combined with a special occasion of going out while not being posh and uptight.’’
The oven at Vesta allows Misha and his team to “cook from the heart’’ rather than rely on modern gadgets and technology.
“Unfortunately these days chefs rely on electronic devices monitoring humidity, temperature, time of cooking etc and it removes the feeling part of cooking – looking, smelling, tasting, touching.’’
Diners are also steering away from the complicated eating of the past 20 years and craving a return to the simple, wholesome cuisine of the past, Misha says.
“The trend is to go back to the early days of cooking, all the old recipes are coming back.
“I like to bring in a modern touch, not so much in the decoration but old style cooking was quite heavy so I modernise it by keeping it light.’’
Food has always been at the heart of French-born Misha’s life. His father Toma who is now a Blue Mountains food supplier, is an avid cook and owned restaurants and espresso bars in Germany.
While food on his mother’s side of the family “wasn’t very relevant’’, Toma was on a perpetual food safari.
“My dad used to grab us on the Friday after school when I was a child, drive from Munich to Modena four hours away, to his favourite restaurant. We’d have dinner, amazing stuff, and then drive back.’’
Outings and holidays centred on eating – golf and food.
“We’d go skiing in Austria, we’d go to Faro in Portugal, we’d go to Italy, Switzerland. It had to have good food.’’
Friday evenings were spent at the table of Misha’s Jewish step-grandmother Rachel.
“She’d prepare homemade breads and duck and chicken and fish and there would be porcelain and crystal glass on the table. She spent two days in the kitchen preparing for what we call shabbat.’’
Misha began his career with an apprenticeship at the Sheraton Hotel in Munich followed by positions with the Eastern Oriental Express luxury train through South East Asia and The Road to Mandalay river cruise in Burma.
He then solidified his techniques in his father’s upmarket Italian restaurant, Il Borgo, in Toronto, before being the opening chef at Leura Garage in the Blue Mountains where he created the menus, its concept of shared food and designed the kitchen.
Misha took over the Vesta kitchen in 2014.
Vesta, 33 Govetts Leap Rd, Blackheath, is open for dinner from Wednesday to Sunday. Details and bookings: (02) 4787 6899 or vestablackheath.com.au.
By Ellen Hill for Leura Garage Photo: David Hill
Mudgee winemaker James Manners will complete the dining circuit begun by his father in the 1980s when he visits popular pit stop Leura Garage Café-Restaurant as part of Vinovember on November 18.
Diners can learn about the family’s long association with the Blue Mountains food scene (Michael was one of the first in the 1980s to establish a fine dining environment in the area) and the story of how Manners Wine began over a long lunch in the south of France during the Meet the Winemaker dinner.
Leura Garage owner James Howarth said: “James being a prominent winemaker in the Central West and Michael’s restaurant history in the Blue Mountains represent what Vinovember is about – a celebration of great Blue Mountains food marrying wines from the Central West.’’
While international vino will also be feted, wine producers within 100 miles of Leura Garage such as Orange and Mudgee will be featured foremost and 2015 NSW Wine Awards winners announced on October 30 given victory laps.
“The Blue Mountains is the gateway to the Central West wine regions of Orange and Mudgee and we are fortunate to have prominent winemakers stop by on their regular travels from east to west,’’ Mr Howarth said.
As well as James Manners on November 18, diners can meet David Lowe of Lowe Wines in Mudgee on November 11 and Jason O’Dea from Windowrie Wines at Cowra on November 25.
There will be free wine tastings from 5pm to 7pm Tuesdays to compare local drops against their European counterparts, and customers will receive a complimentary glass of bubbles on Melbourne Cup Day, November 3.
Also, pay just $2 for each glass of wine poured from the bottle on each table on Mondays and kids will eat free with the purchase of any bottle of wine every Thursday.
“The food hasn’t taken a back seat because that’s what we do best. We are just shining the headlights onto the wines which enhance our food,’’ Mr Howarth said.
Now open seven days, Leura Garage diners can pre-book a table online.
* Leura Garage is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media and Headline Publicity
By Ellen Hill for Delishus Tapas Bar & Restaurant Photos: David Hill
Naming your restaurant Delishus sets high expectation but it is one which Richmond restauranteurs Jose and Sally Fernandez consistently exceed.
Since opening Delishus Tapas Bar & Restaurant in the Hawkesbury in October 2009 with no restaurant experience, the couple has won the Foxtel I Love Food Award for Best Spanish Restaurant in NSW 2014 and the Dimmi Awards for Best Rated Spanish Restaurant in Australia and Best for Parties & Groups twice in 2013.
With the flavours of Madrid emanating from the kitchen, the fire of matadors in the red and yellow décor and the suave maître’d Jose greeting every diner at the door, it’s hardly surprising.
We try to give people the full Spanish experience,’’ Jose said.After visiting us, people who have never been to Spain want to go. For Spanish people, it reminds them of home. Many customers bring us things back from Spain for the restaurant.’’
Dining at Delishus is to visit a destination. To partake of Delishus tapas is to sample Spain.
People can eat at home but they come here for the experience,’’ Jose says.People have become friends after meeting here.
“Spain is a melting pot for many of the old world empires. Beginning with the Phoenicians who came to Spain about 400BC, then the Romans and then the Moors, who all brought foods and spices from their respective empires. Finally, all the new produce brought by the Spanish Conquistadores from the Americas has been blended together over the centuries to produce what is now a distinctive and wonderful Spanish cuisine with many of the Spanish colours featured in the foods such as the yellow of saffron and the red of peppers.
“We are passionate in Spain about food – we don’t eat because we have to eat, we eat because we want to eat. We even celebrate our food with festivals for different food dishes and produce.’’
Food from the Delishus kitchen is as fresh as possible, with as many ingredients sourced from local and regional suppliers as possible.
But the Delishus experience is also infused with the spice of life – Jose and Sally’s life.
Born in Madrid, Jose never knew his father, was tormented at school and raised by his beloved grandmother Pila, only for her to die when he was 11, leaving him virtually alone to fend for himself.
Amazingly, “I have had a wonderful life really – I wouldn’t change it for the world,’’ Jose, who enjoyed a successful business career before opening Delishus, says.
Former health industry professional Sally began cooking in earnest at the age of 10, a skill learned from her mother Neta who was raised on a farm near Orange and cooked meals for up to 40 farm workers from the age of 15.
In many ways, the couple’s restaurant is an extension of their own kitchen and dining room – Spanish-style, she says. “This is like the ultimate dinner party.’’
Everywhere at Delishus is grandmother Pila’s influence, beginning with the Croquetas de Jamon made by Sally to a secret family recipe only she knows.
This is food I was raised with,’’ Jose says.In some ways I am chasing my own heritage by doing this, and then sharing it with others.’’
Delishus delivers true tapas food and dining. Although customers do sit at tables rather than stand around the bar or high tables in the traditional way, they are encouraged to move around and mingle.
It’s not just about eating – you can eat at home,’’ Jose says.Tapas is about being looked after and having a bit of fun.
“The idea of tapas is to taste a lot of things but not fill up on any one thing. Food is about taking your time and enjoying it. It’s not about quantity but quality. I would like people to take their time, come here at seven o’clock and leave at ten. After you’ve had tapas you’re not bloated but the senses are going `Wow’.
Apart from the exceptional food quality, diners at Delishus will notice outstanding customer service beginning with Jose’s personal welcome at the door following by the serving of a drink and nuts and olives within five minutes of being seated.
The wait staff (often Jose himself) will then describe dishes on the menu: “I say things in Spanish and then I paint a word picture of the dish so that by the time I have finished they want it – it’s about creating desire.’’
Diners should allow between 90 minutes and two hours to fully savour a famous Delishus 10-course degustation with matching wines.
For an average $40 a head for lunch and $60 for dinner (most diners order two entrée-sized tapas each and share), customers can be assured of quality. Produce is bought fresh and as needed, hardly anything on the extensive menu is pre-prepared. All desserts are made fresh daily.
Delishus Tapas Bar & Restaurant, 122 Windsor St, Richmond, is open from 12pm to 2.30pm and 6pm to late Wednesday to Friday, 12pm to late Saturday and 12pm to 4pm Sunday. Bookings: (02) 4578 6999 or www.delishus.com.au.
* Delishus Tapas Bar & Restaurant is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media and Headline Publicity
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 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.
By Ellen Hill for Leura Village Association
Discover nature’s bounty in the Blue Mountains at the second Leura Harvest Festival on Sunday May 3 and immerse in innovative sustainable living, browse more than 60 street stalls, and witness the reinvention of the iconic Australian lamington.
Set among the famous cherry trees of Leura Mall, the Leura Village Association event will showcase all facets of sustainable living including outstanding regional produce, handmade and recycled items, to the latest clever initiatives in the Blue Mountains and wider region.
Visitors and locals can learn about everything from food preserving to clean energy, permaculture, beekeeping and micro-farming from an impressive line-up of guest speakers. Visitors can also meet this year’s Leura Harvest Festival ambassador, Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley executive chef Jason Martin who is passionate about sourcing the very best regional, seasonal organic produce for the resort’s restaurants.
Other highlights will include regional wine and beer tastings, jam-making and knitting competitions, the traditional art of wool spinning, a chook show and dozens of stalls exhibiting sustainable, organic and locally grown food and produce, clean energy.
Leura Village Association president Barry Jarrott said: “The Leura Harvest Festival is a result of a growing demand for quality locally-grown produce from a population that is disillusioned with the multinational corporations that dictate what we eat, how it is produced and where it comes from.
“The success of last year’s festival proves that the Blue Mountains and wider community craves a stronger connection with the environment, better quality food and support of local growers and manufacturers.”
The second Leura Harvest Festival has received funding from the NSW Department of Premier and State Cabinet’s 2014 Bushfire Recovery Grant. The festival’s theme is “connecting the community’’.
The event will celebrate food from a 100 mile radius and promote recycling and re-purposing and encourage visitors to notice and immerse themselves in the magnificent Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area around them.
Go to www.leuravillage.com.au to find out more about Leura and its accommodation options. Visit http://leuravillage.com.au/fairsandfestivals/ for details about Leura Harvest Festival and event registrations. To apply for a stall, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.