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Blue Mountains, NSW: Snow-dusted Yulefest

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.

High tea with a view at the Hydro Majestic Hotel

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.

High tea in plush comfort at Lilianfels Resort & Spa

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.

Hatted decadence at Darley’s Restaurant

“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.

Tenor Brad Cooper brings to enchantment of opera to the Hydro Majestic Hotel

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

Fireside dining at Darley’s Restaurant


Blue Mountains: Cheeky fun returns to Hydro Majestic

Opera singers (l-r) Damien Whiteley and Brad Cooper will perform at the Hydro Majestic Hotel

By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group            Photos: David Hill

Seat-swapping, hand-crossing bravura, drama, passion and cheeky fun will return to the original Blue Mountains party palace as a string of musical events rolls out during the next few months.

Tenor Brad Cooper performing at the Hydro Majestic Hotel last year

The music program will see the return of popular opera and classical instrumental performances, reviving the traditions established by original Hydro Majestic Hotel owner, Mark Foy, in the early 20th century.

General manager of Escarpment Group, which owns the Hydro Majestic, Ralf Bruegger said: “The Hydro Majestic and Foy himself were famous for their revelry and decadence and we’ve reignited the celebration by filling the calendar with festivals, events and performances and an endless round of public and private parties.

“Guest are welcome to swap seats, cross hands and indulge in cheeky fun but please keep the passion and drama to yourselves.’’

Choose one or more from the following performances:

Cellist Teije Hylkema performing at the original Blue Mountains party palace recently

 

Le Grand Tango, June 11: Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra principal cellist Teije Hylkema and internationally-awarded pianist Grace Kim will present a program to ignite passion and fire featuring Le Grand Tango by Astor Piazzolla.

4 hands, 2 pianists, 1 piano, August 19: One of the busiest pianists in Australia, Kristian Chong, will team up with Grace Kim to present a brilliant program of seat swapping, hand crossing bravura. You will see why four hands are better than two.

 

 

 

There will be plenty of operatic humour from bass Damian Whiteley

2017 Blue Mountains Opera Festival, September 30 – October 1:

  • High tea, Saturday: Mozart’s magnificent masterpiece, his Clarinet Quintet, will begin the weekend on a high note featuring Sydney Symphony Orchestra clarinettist Frank Celata with the Enigma Quartet.
  • Opera Gala Dinner Concert, Saturday: After a glowing inaugural success last year, Opera Australia tenor Brad Cooper, mezzo/soprano Sally Wilson and bass Damian Whiteley will take guests on an evening of drama, passion and cheeky fun.
  • High tea, Sunday: The festivities crescendo when eight of the finest string players perform with the ever popular Mendelssohn Octet.

Teije Hylkema will return to the Hydro Majestic

Each high tea concert package ($85pp) includes a glass of sparkling wine on arrival with a sumptuous three-tier offering including an indulgent selection of gourmet sandwiches, warm fluffy scones, delicate pastries and the finest selection of handmade desserts served with Vittoria Coffee and La Maison Du The teas. The concert will be from 12pm to 1pm.

The Gala Dinner Concert package from 5.30pm to 9.30pm on Saturday, October 1, will include drinks and canapes on arrival followed by a two-course dinner with beverages. Cost: $150pp.

Go to www.hydromajestic.com.au or phone (02) 4782 6885 to book concerts, accommodation and dining.

  • Escarpment Group is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media

 


Beautiful revamp for Bygone Beautys treasured teapot collection

(l-r) Professor Dame Marie Bashir inspects the new-look Bygone Beautys with proprietor Maurice Cooper OAM

(l-r) Professor Dame Marie Bashir inspects the new-look Bygone Beautys with proprietor Maurice Cooper OAM

By Ellen Hill for Bygone Beautys               Photos: David Hill

Whether you like English or Irish breakfast, Oolong or Russian Caravan; white, green, orange or red; weak, strong or smoky, the long-awaited Bygone Beautys Treasured Teapot Museum & Tearooms revamp has been steeped to perfection and is ready to savour.

(l-r) Professor Dame Marie Bashir inspects the new-look Bygone Beautys with proprietor Maurice Cooper OAM

(l-r) Professor Dame Marie Bashir inspects the new-look Bygone Beautys with proprietor Maurice Cooper OAM

 

 

The major extensions and renovations of the popular Leura tourist attraction were officially opened by former NSW Governor Professor the Honourable Dame Marie Bashir AD CVO last Tuesday at a glittering soiree attended by a veritable who’s who of the local tourism industry and Macquarie Federal MP Louise Markus.

Local Aboriginal man Chris Tobin gave a Darug Welcome to Country. Dennis Barber, who gave an Acknowledgement to Country on behalf of the Gundungurra people, said tea drinking was a great equaliser of class and status and that many problems had been solved over a cuppa.

 

 

Gundungurra man Dennis Barber gave an Acknowledgement to Country

Gundungurra man Dennis Barber gave an Acknowledgement to Country

 

That theme was expanded on by Professor Dame Marie, who said Bygone Beautys was filling an important role in preserving the history and culture of tea, a significant part of Australian ethos and heritage.

She told the gathering about visiting the Blue Mountains, “one of the most beautiful places on the planet’’, as a child.

Professor Dame Marie also unveiled a commemorative plaque and spectacular custom-made Mad Hatter’s-inspired teapot sculpture by metal artists Ron Fitzpatrick and Steve Cunningham of Talisman Gallery at Hartley. The creation was made from a salvaged chimney stack from a steam engine, complete with a candy-like decorative steel handle, bow-tie-wearing rabbit and spout.

 

(l-r) Metal artists Steve Cunningham and Ron Fitzpatrick with their teapot sculpture

(l-r) Metal artists Steve Cunningham and Ron Fitzpatrick with their teapot sculpture

 

 

The Bygone Beautys revamp was created using local suppliers and tradespeople where possible and includes a new museum space, function room, formal tearoom and retail area specialising in all things tea-related.

Resplendent in a magnificent patterned jacket and trademark bow tie, Mr Cooper led Professor Dame Marie on a tour of the premises before more than 300 guests wandered the airy new spaces and inspected thousands of teapots, some debuting publically for the first time.

 

 

 

Bygone Beautys co-owner Maurice Cooper OAM

Bygone Beautys co-owner Maurice Cooper OAM

Mr Cooper acknowledged the efforts of owner of the original Bygone Beautys teapot collection Ron Hooper who began the collection in 1974 and with whom Mr Cooper went into business with in 1992.

“I was thinking about what I was going to do during my retirement at age 55, Ron had a teapot collection and I was a compulsive teapot buyer,’’ Mr Cooper said.

“When we took over this premises it was zoned as a tearoom so to comply we had this tiny little tearoom and a huge display of antiques.’’

Twenty-three years later, the teapot collection has grown to more than 5500 teapots and is the largest of its kind in Australia and one of the largest in the world. It spans five centuries and includes items from all over the world. It also includes 7000 teaspoons and 3000 tea towels among other artefacts.

 

Bygone Beautys co-owner Kerry McKenzie

Bygone Beautys co-owner Kerry McKenzie

 

 

The tearooms are also famous for decadent Devonshire tea and traditional high tea, served with a degree of pomp and ceremony on fine bone china from a tea trolley to the strains of Land of Hope & Glory.

Mr Cooper thanked the Bygone Beautys staff for their tolerance during the renovations and partner of 48 years Mr McKenzie, “my mentor, my partner and the person I most respect in the whole world’’.

 

 

 

Champion Aussie bush poet Gregory North

Champion Aussie bush poet Gregory North

 

The occasion was marked with a specially-penned poem by bush poetry champion Gregory North and cake made by Betty Reynolds and guests were entertained with a dance rendition of Im a Little Teapot by pint-sized dancers from Blackheath’s Dance For Life! school and an opera performance by Opera Bites.

 

 

Bygone Beautys is located on the corner of Grose and Megalong streets in Leura, a short stroll from Leura Mall. Open seven days a week between 10am and 5.30pm, last tearoom orders taken at 5pm. Traditional High Tea is available 10.30am – 4pm weekdays and 10.30am – 4.30pm on weekends. Bookings essential: (02) 4784 3117 or info@bygonebeautys.com.au.

* Bygone Beautys is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media

 

Guests browsing some of the 5000 teapots on display at the renovated Bygone Beautys

Guests browsing some of the 5000 teapots on display at the renovated Bygone Beautys


Blue Mountains: Majestic setting for Mystic High Tea

Indulge in high tea in the gorgeously refurbished Wintergarden.

Indulge in high tea in the gorgeously refurbished Wintergarden.

By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group

Tea drinking guests of the Hydro Majestic Hotel can discover “what a day may bring forth’’ when the tealeaves are read at the new Mystic High Tea experience on weekends.

Escarpment Group general manager Ralf Bruegger said: “Tealeaf reading goes along with the quirky activities people remember about the Mark Foy period of the Hydro specifically and the end of the Victorian era in general.

“This is a new attraction we are introducing as part of our continued journey as part of the history of the Greater Blue Mountains region.

The beautiful Wintergarden overlooking the Megalong Valley.

The beautiful Wintergarden overlooking the Megalong Valley.

“Nowhere else in the Blue Mountains can you indulge in a high tea, wander through the halls of history and have your tea leaves read.

“Everything we do here is done with elegance, good taste and fun. Tea leaf readings are a bit of harmless fun that will help re-create the mischievousness of the original `Palace in the wilderness’.’’

Tealeaf reading, or tasseography, is one of the most common divinations or fortune-telling methods. It interprets patterns of tealeaves (or coffee grounds or wine sediments) and will be practiced in the sumptuous Cat’s Alley venue at the world-famous hotel.

Guests may have their tealeaves read in the dramatic setting of Cat’s Alley after indulging in high tea in the Wintergarden.

The activity involving “the cup that cheers but not inebriates’’ represents refinement, prestige and vogue, just like the exquisitely refurbished Hydro Majestic Hotel.

Continuing with traditional practice, the Hydro Mystic High Tea readings will be conducted only by women, considered to hold the qualities of peace, comfort, and refinement, which will be epitomised in the forms of Juliette Frederick and Sophia Helene at the Hydro.

High tea is served in the Wintergarden, while tealeaf reading is conducted in Cat’s Alley at the Hydro Majestic Hotel, Great Western Hwy, Medlow Bath, from 12pm to 4pm every Saturday and Sunday. Cost: $40pp after normal high tea costs. Go to http://www.hydromajestic.com.au for more information.

Retire to the dramatic setting of the famous Cat's Alley for a tealeaf reading.

Retire to the dramatic setting of the famous Cat’s Alley for a tealeaf reading.

Four Steps to Reading Your Tea Leaves by Juliette Frederick

STEP 1:

Once your tea is cool enough, begin sipping.

If you are right-handed, lift your cup with your left hand.

If left-handed drink with your right. If ambidextrous reach for your cup, stop and use the other hand.

STEP 2:

Now that you are quiet and relaxed, concentrate on the issue foremost in your mind, block out all thoughts and empty your mind.

If there is a stubborn thought that keeps returning, that will be the subject of this reading. Hold that thought. Otherwise, if nothing comes to mind, this will be a general cup reading.

STEP 3:

Breathe deeply. Drink your tea, leaving a couple of teaspoons of liquid in the cup. Hold your cup in your hand and give three good swirls clockwise. This will disperse the tea leaves around the inside of the cup. Gently pour out the remaining liquid by turning the teacup over into the saucer.

STEP 4:

Put your hand on the upside down cup and wish.

Take 3 breaths before turning your cup over.

Now your reading begins.

Owner of the Hydro Majestic Hotel, the Escarpment Group, is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media