By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group
He was acknowledged by industry for his fine dining creations but for NSW Chef of the Year, Darleys Restaurant executive chef Lee Kwiez, “it’s all about the yum’’.
His top chef gong was one of five major awards received by Escarpment Group in the Blue Mountains at the Tourism Accommodation Association (NSW) Awards of Excellence in July.
Other Escarpment Group awards included Regional Superior Hotel of the Year for Echoes Boutique Hotel & Restaurant, Regional Deluxe Hotel of the Year for Lilianfels Resort & Spa and Front of House Employee of the Year for Lilianfels duty manager Meagan Iervasi. The world-famous Hydro Majestic Hotel Blue Mountains at Medlow Bath also received a highly commended for Redeveloped Hotel of the Year.
Escarpment Group general manager Ralf Bruegger, himself a career executive chef, said: “We are very proud to have the top chef in NSW leading our restaurant team. The innovation from his kitchen is exceptional and I am particularly impressed with how he is embracing local and regional food in the menu.
“However, the award for Darleys Restaurant shows that the outstanding dining experience our guests have come to expect is the result of an excellent team of chefs and wait staff at the restaurant.
“Darleys is a beautiful restaurant – the refurbished décor and gorgeous view, the customer service and the fantastic food is world-class.’’
A Colo High School alumni who grew up on a large rural property at Freemans Reach in the Hawkesbury, Kwiez’ culinary career inspiration was cooked up at home.
Mum was cooking shepherd’s pie when I was 14/15 and I thought `I want to be a chef’, then I did work experience at Maxwell’s Table at Kurmond and stayed on to Year 12,’’ he said.I finished school on the Thursday and started work full-time at Maxwell’s Table on the Monday.’’
During his career, Kwiez has travelled the world working in kitchens in Switzerland, Hayman Island and Canada before returning to Sydney where he worked at several restaurants including Milson’s Restaurant.
He was responsible for raising the Woolwich Pier Hotel from number 13 out of 20 to 18/20 in the Good Pub Guide, ranking it one of the top seven pubs in NSW.
“Flavour. Simple. That’s why I love being a chef,’’ Kwiez said.
“Food has got to look good obviously but if it looks pretty and you can’t eat it, I’m not interested. It’s all about the taste – it’s got to have the yum factor.’’
Kwiez has embraced the national focus on local and regional produce, choosing for his menus from produce grown in the 6000sqm kitchen garden at the Escarpment Group-owned Parklands Country Gardens & Lodges property at Blackheath wherever possible.
“Freshness, seasonality and locally grown: that’s my aim in the Darleys kitchen wherever possible,’’ he said.
What can’t be sourced from the Parklands garden is bought from local and regional suppliers from a 100 mile radius of Darleys Restaurant.
The range of produce is enormous, from Dutch carrots, nasturtium flowers and tomatoes to quince, pears, apples, plums, kale, broccoli and more, even the occasional catch of yabbies.
You think `Great, we can make a soup, we can make a salad’,’’ Kwiez said.You go online, you look at cookbooks, you look at what other chefs are doing, you look at three Hatted restaurants. Then you make a little salad or something and tell the customers it’s from the dam up the road – Parklands Pond Yabbies, there you go.’’
Kwiez counts former colleague Saffire Freycinet head chef Hugh Whitehouse (they were apprentices together at Maxwell’s Table and Kwiez took over Darleys from Whitehouse) as a mentor who inspires his own culinary creativity.
While Kwiez is the recognised talent of the Darleys kitchen, he also credited his team for the exceptional standard of food and service at the multi award-winning restaurant: “I’ve got a great team – it’s not just about me. Without them I couldn’t do this.’’
Away from the restaurant kitchen, the father-of-three loves simple flavoursome food: “ A nice steak or sausages as long as you’ve got a big salad to go with it. Or roast chicken with roast potatoes in rosemary and garlic and a big side of greens, that’s my favourite thing with maybe a nice sauce from the roasting juices of the chicken. You can’t beat a good roast chicken.’’
Darley’s Restaurant, Lilianfels Resort & Spa, Lilianfels Ave, Katoomba, is open from 6pm to 10.30pm Tuesday to Saturday. Reservations: (02) 4780 1200 or email@example.com.
Awards – Lee Kwiez
- Woolwich Pier Hotel: Sydney Morning Herald Good Pub Guide 2012-Three schooners award (18/20)
- Milsons Restaurant: Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide – One Hat Award
2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000
- Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide – One wine glass award 2009, 2008, 2007
- Gourmet Traveler wine awards – -Two glasses 2004
- Gourmet Traveler food awards – -two stars 2006, one star 2005
- Jaspers Restaurant: Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide – One Hat Award 2001, 2000
Awards – Darleys Restaurant
- Regional Restaurant of the Year 2013 – Tourism Accommodation Awards for Excellence 2013
- Fine Dining Restaurant Award – 2010 Savour Australia Restaurant & Catering Awards for Excellence – NSW Regional
- Australian Hotels Association (NSW)Hall of Fame. 2010
- Best Regional Restaurant – SMH Good Food Guide Awards – 2010
- Two Chefs Hats – SMH Good Food Guide Awards – 2010
- Regional Restaurant of the Year – AHA (NSW) Awards for Excellence – 2009
- Two Chef’s Hats – SMH Good Food Guide Awards – 2009
- Hotel Restaurant of the Year – Hotel Management National Awards – 2007
Escarpment Group is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media
By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group
The Escarpment Group collection of hotels in the Blue Mountains is the premier luxury accommodation provider in NSW.
Five top awards at the prestigious Tourism Accommodation Australia (TAA) NSW 2015 Awards for Excellence on Wednesday (July 29) proves it.
Awards won by Escarpment Group at the gala awards night at the Westin Hotel in Sydney were:
Chef of the Year 2015 (NSW): Lee Kwiez
Regional Restaurant of the Year: Darleys Restaurant
Regional Superior Hotel of the Year: Echoes Boutique Hotel
Regional Deluxe Hotel of the Year: Lilianfels Resort & Spa
Front of House Employee of the Year: Meagan Iervasi, Lilianfels Resort & Spa
The world-famous Hydro Majestic Hotel at Medlow Bath also received a highly commended for Redeveloped Hotel of the Year.
The TAA awards this year received its largest number of submissions ever, 281 from 67 top accommodation venues in NSW across more than 30 categories.
Escarpment Group general manager Ralf Bruegger said: “We are all very excited.
“We were up against very high competition from the Hunter Valley, south and north coasts so to take home so many awards was a fantastic result.
“These awards are a reflection of the quality product and experience we have at all our hotels as well as the calibre of staff, who I like to call associates.
“Taking home so many awards also ensures the spotlight swings back onto the Blue Mountains as a top quality regional destination where high-end visitors are guaranteed excellence in facilities, customer service, dining with a focus on regional produce and experience.
“These awards are recognition from our peers that Escarpment Group meets all those expectations across our hotels. We have the best of the best in New South Wales.’’
TAA NSW chairman Nigel Greenaway said all the winners were a testament to the high standard of accommodation in NSW.
“The quality of nominees has shown once again that this really is the accommodation tourism industry’s night of nights.
“These venues are the best in the business. They range right across the spectrum from established to new entry brands, from the regions to the Sydney CBD.
“It is no wonder NSW is setting the trend for quality tourism accommodation right around Australia. My congratulations to tonight’s worthy winners.’’
Mr Bruegger congratulated Darley’s Restaurant executive chef Lee Kwiez and Lilianfels Resort & Spa hotel duty manager Meagan Iervasi on their individual awards, along with the entire Escarpment Group team for the property wins.
“Knowing that there is an outstanding team making sure our guests have a memorable stay is motivation for me every single day.
“That’s what really gives us the edge, along with the escarpment location with landscapes you see nowhere else.’’
Mr Greenaway said: “Hardworking, talented men and women like these are the backbone of the hotel industry.
“I congratulate all winners, indeed all nominees, for putting in a tireless effort every day – and night – to ensure guests at their venues have a memorable stay. The high calibre of the nominees and winners demonstrates that the industry is well placed for the future.’’
By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group Photos: David Hill
Discerning foodies seeking to savour the flavour of crisp Blue Mountains air and earthy tones of the Central West will find it in every bite served at Escarpment Group properties.
With few exceptions, food and wine served at the Hydro Majestic Hotel, Lilianfels Resort & Spa, Echoes Boutique Hotel & Restaurant and Parklands Country Lodges & Gardens is sourced from within a 100 mile (160km) radius of the kitchen and served to a delectable standard.
A growing proportion of ingredients are even sourced from the 1000sqm edible garden at the Parklands property at Blackheath. Menus across Escarpment Group now carry a specially-designed logo printed next to items which include at least 80 per cent local and regional ingredients.
Escarpment Group general manager Ralf Bruegger, himself a career chef, compared the Blue Mountains food scene to that of northern Italy: “The food I have tasted up here is absolutely sensational.
“Our eventual aim is total fruit, vegetable and herb sustainability for all kitchens at all four Escarpment Group properties.
“It makes sense economically, it fits in with our business ethos and our guests expect it.’’
Hydro Majestic head chef Mate Herceg, whose team served 21,000 guests during May alone, said: “Things I can buy locally I will buy locally for my kitchen.
“We roughly know what type of produce is around at what time of year and we talk to suppliers about what’s coming up. We always know that artichokes are good in autumn but don’t use asparagus because it’s not in season here and comes from Peru or Mexico.’’
All items sold at the Hydro Majestic Pavilion are locally sourced from areas such as Lithgow, Orange, Bathurst, Mudgee, the Blue Mountains and Western Sydney.
Escarpment Group restaurants routinely use local and regional produce such as apples, chocolate, berries, herbs, bread, eggs, carrots, nuts, nasturtium flowers, tomatoes, quince, pears, plums, kale, broccoli, carbonero, trout and yabbies. Regional meat is served wherever possible.
Escarpment Group is committed to further developing the Parklands Kitchen garden and has also installed a state-of-the-art composting system which already takes all kitchen waste from Parklands and the Hydro Majestic.
Multi award-winning Darleys Restaurant executive chef Lee Kwiez said: “I grew up on a thirty acre farm at East Kurrajong in the Hawkesbury so I really appreciate quality fresh food.
“It’s easy for us to serve our guests food fresh from the garden. We just send through a list of ingredients we would like to use in our menus and it is grown for us. The gardener also sends us lists of what is in the garden, as do our other local and regional suppliers and we incorporate those ingredients in our menus.’’
While he creates unique fine dining dishes for five-star guests at the hatted restaurant, the underlying influence on Kwiez’s cooking is his childhood.
“Mum was cooking shepherd’s pie when I was 14 or 15 and I thought `I want to be a chef’. For me, it’s all about the flavour – it’s all about the yum. Simple.
“Freshness, seasonality and locally grown: there’s not much of a carbon footprint because you’re not hauling vegetables from here to Sydney and then back again. We’re also looking after other local businesses.’’
Mr Bruegger said Escarpment Group was committed to regional produce in its delivery of high-end tourism and hospitality on a scale rarely seen in regional NSW.
“The Blue Mountains has been renowned for its innovative cuisine and fine wines for a long time and we are proud to be a part of that reputation through our established Darley’s and Echoes restaurants at our five-star properties and now the various dining venues at the Hydro Majestic.’’
The full suite of Escarpment Group dining experiences is:
Wintergarden, Hydro Majestic: The light-filled restaurant with spectacular views over the Megalong Valley offers a premium afternoon high tea and a gourmet dinner menu in refined surrounds.
Salon du The, Hydro Majestic: The Flying Fox and Cat’s Alley have united to form the Salon du The, offering a refined Asian-inspired menu and a range of cocktails and wines with magnificent views of the Megalong Valley.
The Boiler House, Hydro Majestic: Casual all-day dining featuring traditional pizza, pasta and Australian cuisine overlooking the Megalong Valley.
Echoes Restaurant & Bar: The award-winning restaurant offers modern Australian cuisine with Asian influenced menus with specially selected local and important wines. Open daily seven days a week.
Darley’s Restaurant & Bar, Lilianfels: The multi-award winning hatted venue offers modern Australian cuisine served as a la carte or degustation menus with specially selected local and imported wines.
Go to www.escarpmentgroup.com.au for more information about individual properties, events and special offers.
Words by Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group
Darley’s Restaurant at Lilianfels Blue Mountains Resort & Spa is the best noshery in Australia. Its Book A Restaurant award proves it.
The 2015 Top Rated Annual Awards are the result of real diners rating their top Australian restaurants through bookarestaurant.com.
The multi award-winning Darley’s, a Hatted restaurant inducted into the Hall of Fame for Best Regional Restaurant in 2011, is located in the heritage listed original homestead of sixth Chief Justice of NSW Sir Frederick Darley on the 5-star Lilianfels Resort & Spa property at Echo Point.
It is part of the Escarpment Group collection of luxury properties which also includes the Hydro Majestic Hotel at Medlow Bath, Echoes Boutique Hotel at Katoomba and Parklands Country Gardens and Lodges at Blackheath.
Sir Frederick bought the Darley’s property in 1888 and built a retreat so his family could access the mountain air for their daughter Lilian, who may have contracted and died from tuberculosis. It is assumed the house was named Lilianfels is in honour of Lilian, coupled with the German fels for high land.
Today, Darley’s Restaurant, which has recently undergone an extensive refurbishment, overlooks lush manicured gardens with soaring mountain views.
The main dining room seats up to 50 people and features two open ornate fireplaces, spectacular leadlight windows, crystal chandeliers, luxurious designer wall prints, evocative artworks and plush furnishings that illustrate style and grace.
With its magnificent décor, Darley’s sparkles with newly revived old world charm accentuated by a magnificent setting and unrivalled destination – the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.
The Top Rated Annual Awards recognise restaurants across five categories: Best Restaurant, Quality of Food, level of service, Romantic Rendezvous and Fit For Foodies.
Escarpment Group general manager Ralf Bruegger said: “We have always been confident that the quality of the food, service and décor at Darley’s Restaurant is world-class but it’s great to have that vote of confidence from the people who matter the most to us – our patrons.
“Congratulations to Darley’s executive chef Lee Kwiez and his team of chefs and wait staff especially for this award.’’
Darley’s Restaurant was included in the Top 50 Rated list for an impressive four categories (Best Restaurant, Quality of Food, level of service and Romantic Rendezvous).
Diners who make a booking online through bookarestaurant.com have the opportunity to recommend the restaurant to other diners and friends.