The enchantment of opera at a legendary party palace, river cruising along a mighty waterway, belly laughs at timeless humour, the intimate luxury of crackling fireplaces and even the possibility of snow-dusted landscapes. Yulefest in the Blue Mountains is the most magical season.
After the exhilarating zing of a chilly day spent exploring the lookouts and bushwalking tracks of the magnificent Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, shopping at charming villages and visiting attractions, sojourners are warmly invited indoors for steaming drinks, fireside dining, festive decorations, music and rousing entertainment.
A regional tradition since 1980, Yulefest is held mid-winter (officially throughout July but often beginning in June and extending into August), with many hotels, guesthouses, B&Bs and restaurants taking part.
Escarpment Group of luxury hotels guest services manager Meagan Iervasi encouraged visitors to immerse themselves in the festive atmosphere by staying at least one night: “Yulefest in the Blue Mountains offers the European-style atmosphere people associate with Christmas – a chilly landscape outside and cosiness inside, but without the stress and frosty relatives. Sometimes there’s even snow.’’
Here’s an early bird Yulefest list to choose from:
Mountain Whispers, Leura and Katoomba
French champagne on ice, handmade chocolates, scattered fresh rose petals, a private chef to cook a three-course festive dinner and a personal waiter to serve it, followed by an in-house massage and/or facial in opulent surrounds. Yulefest equals romance, an escape with the girls or a group of great friends at Mountain Whispers MW Collection, where every minor detail matters.
Owner Lorraine Allanson said: “While Christmas is about family, Yulefest is a great time to take a mid-year break to focus on romance or time with your friends to indulge and escape the daily grind.’’
Each of the multi-award winning self-contained immaculately restored heritage properties – Varenna, Leura Rose and Strawberry Patch in Leura and The Gatsby and Chatelaine in Katoomba – promises a luxurious getaway in total privacy and comfort for couples and small groups.
Details: mountainwhispers.com.au or 1300 721 321.
Hydro Majestic Hotel, Medlow Bath
A Night in Vienna: In the lead-up to Yulefest, relish the romance and nostalgia of Austria’s operatic golden age led by Opera Australia, Oper Köln, Opéra Comique & Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris and English National Opera tenor Brad Cooper against the magnificent backdrop of the Megalong Valley on June 1. The Wintergarden Restaurant performance will be matched with a five-course degustation dinner. Tickets: $135pp. Bookings: (02) 4782 6885.
Diesel Live@theHydro: One of Australia’s favourite adopted sons, Mark Lizotte (aka Diesel) will entertain fans on July 20, three decades after he stepped off a 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. Bookings: hydromajestic.com.au/events/diesel.
Traditional high tea: This elegant three-tier serving will feature nostalgic flavours such as ginger, cranberry and roast pork in the elegant Wintergarden Restaurant overlooking the Megalong Valley. Accompany you repast with a delicate blossom tea, freshly brewed coffee or a glass of sparkling wine.
Lilianfels Resort & Spa, Katoomba
Sink into the refined 5-star surrounds 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.
Darley’s Restaurant, Katoomba
For the ultimate Yulefest decadence, the hatted restaurant in the historic home of former Chief Justice of NSW Sir Frederick Darley will serve five and seven-course degustation dinners each Friday and Saturday throughout July with special winter flavours.
Nepean Belle river luncheon cruise, Jamisontown
`Tis the season to cruise the tranquil waters of the Nepean River aboard the regional aquatic icon on your way to or from the Blue Mountains.
The heritage-style Nepean Belle paddlewheeler will be festooned with festive decorations and guests will board for luncheon to the strains of popular carols against the picturesque backdrop of the Blue Mountains escarpment.
Tuck into two-course Yulefest fare with all the trimmings, beginning with a shared platter of succulent roast turkey with fruit seasoning and tender roast pork with apple sauce and gravy garnished with honey-roasted vine tomatoes and accompanied by creamy sautéed potato; a selection of hot seasonal vegetables; steamed broccoli, carrots and peas; and a Greek salad with feta.
A dessert platter of festive favourites will follow, with White Christmas, chocolate rum balls, fruit cake, chocolate mud cake and rich butter shortbread biscuits washed down with your choice of freshly brewed tea or coffee.
Nepean Belle owner Carol Bennett said: “We love Christmas so much that we’re holding it again in July – but without the in-laws, expensive pressies and weather that matches the heat of the roast dinner.’’
Cost: Monday to Friday – $59 adults, $53 seniors, $39 teens (13-16 years), $20 children (3-12 years); Weekends – $65 adults, $58 seniors, $39 teens, $25 children. Bookings: nepeanbelle.com.au or 4733 1274.
The Goon Show LIVE! Dinner and show
The cult comedy tour de overacting incorporates loads of sound effects, silly voices and a platoon of crazy characters which promise to have audiences belly laughing all evening.
It regales the stories of Neddie Seagoon, a good-natured and hairy sort, albeit short and rotund and the victim of a terrible weakness – greed. Coupled with his innate gullibility, Neddie’s covetous nature makes him easy prey to confidence schemes courtesy of the conniving cads Grytpype-Thynne and Moriarty.
Peppered with one-liners, the high energy show will feature a plethora of characters including the world’s most famous idiot Eccles (yes, even more infamous than Neddie), the squeaky-voiced boy-scout Bluebottle (who reads his stage-directions out loud), Major Dennis Bloodnok a devout coward, and Miss Minnie Bannister the sexy senior citizen who lives in sin with crumbling, fumbling old man Henry Crun.
The dinner and show will be held in le Salon Grand at the Palais Royale, Katoomba, each Saturday night from June 29 to July 20, with a special afternoon tea on July 14. Tickets: $135 Saturdays, $80 Sunday afternoon tea, seniors and group discounts available. Bookings and details: www.goons.com.au.
By Ellen Hill Photos: David Hill, Deep Hill Media
Celebrate family unity, vitality and respect for your elders with the exotic flavours of the Orient when the Miss Lilian Teahouse heralds the Year of the Pig throughout February.
The new Echo Point dining venue which serves a tasty array of popular Asian street foods, will serve a special Chinese Lunar New Year tasting menu this month.
Escarpment Group, which also operates the adjoining Darley’s Restaurant and the Hydro Majestic Hotel among other tourism ventures, the venue is already festooned outside with coloured lanterns and inside with latticework, dozens of bird cages and other Eastern decorations.
Escarpment Group guest services manager Meagan Iervasi said the Miss Lilian Teahouse was well placed to greet thousands of Asian tourists who flocked to the region during Chinese Lunar New Year given its blend of local and international staff and authentic dishes.
“Lunar New Year is the only time of year in China when people really rest, relax and take time out to focus on family unity, vitality and longevity. This is often the only time of year when people can go home to visit relatives, especially elderly ones. It’s also the time when Chinese people spend money, believing that one must spend money to attract more money.
“We can help you fulfil all those requirements.’’
Lunar New Year and all things Oriental is not new to the Blue Mountains, with Australia’s first tourist destination experiencing Eastern obsession during the
roaring 20s’’ including at department store doyenne Mark Foy’sPalace in the wilderness’’ and modern sister property to the Miss Lilian Teahouse, the Hydro Majestic Hotel at Medlow Bath.
During the post-Bathurst gold rush era around the turn of the 20th century numerous Chinese workers reverted to their traditional skills across the Blue Mountains, with many working as butlers, cooks, nannies, maids and produce suppliers to inns, guesthouses and manor houses. One was Louie Goh Mong (nicknamed `Charlie’), who worked as a cook at Foy’s home and managed the mayhem at the Hydro Majestic for 35 years.
Lunar New Year will be celebrated at the new Miss Lilian Teahouse on the Lilianfels Resort & Spa property, Echo Point Rd and Panorama Drive, Katoomba, with an evening tasting menu. Cost: $75pp includes complimentary sparkling cocktail. Bookings: misslilian.com.au.
By Ellen Hill
Cupid’s day of love is almost here, and lovers of all ages can celebrate amore in unforgettable style with fine dining, majestic venues and even a private table aboard the region’s very own love boat.
Sweetheart options include:
Nepean Belle Paddlewheeler, Tench Reserve:
Float along the tranquil waters of the Nepean River aboard the regional aquatic icon against the picturesque backdrop of the Blue Mountains escarpment.
After exploring Nepean Gorge while sipping a complimentary beverage, passengers can request songs special to them and slow dance on the dance floor.
For those planning a milestone romantic event such as a proposal, two specially decorated private balcony tables surrounded by fairy lights and lanterns are available. A dedicated waiter will serve sparkling wine, and a red rose and chocolates will help set the scene.
Nepean Belle owner Carol Bennett said: “We’ll provide the dinner and unique experience. We’ll even set the scene and present each lady with a rose and a gift on boarding. The rest is up to you.’’
Hydro Majestic Hotel, Medlow Bath
Begin your majestic experience with a complimentary glass of sparkling wine before indulging in a three-course menu of seasonal delights featuring oysters, lamb and chocolate with truffle-infused vegetarian options overlooking panoramic views of the magnificent Megalong Valley.
Darley’s Restaurant, Echo Point:
Located within the historic home of former Chief Justice of NSW Sir Frederick Darley, the hatted restaurant is within the Lilianfels Resort & Spa property and offers ultimate indulgence with outstanding service among sumptuous décor.
Dine on a five or seven-course seasonal degustation menu featuring the flavours of foie gras, elderflower, caviar, wagyu beef, black garlic, marigold and almond.
Escarpment Group guest services manager Meagan Iervasi said: “Darley’s Restaurant has long been recognised as the ultimate venue for romantic dinners.’’
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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
By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group
Continuing its tradition of being an industry and regional leader, the Escarpment Group collection of luxury hotels in the Blue Mountains is home to Sydney’s first Audi e-tron charger.
The initiative means that the most famous hotel in Australia, the Hydro Majestic at Medlow Bath, and the only 5-star hotel in the region, Lilianfels Resort & Spa, are now clean mobility providers, offering the revolutionary plug-in to the new battery-run Audi A3 Sportback prototype.
In fact, the e-tron charger is just the latest in a string of firsts for the historic Hydro Majestic since it was built in 1904 by cutting edge retail doyenne Mark Foy.
A huge car enthusiast, Foy owned several of the first cars brought into Australia and inspired the first car rally from Melbourne to Sydney and subsequently, Sydney to the Blue Mountains.
Totally enamoured with the motor car, Foy then began Australia’s first motoring touring business, travelling from Blackheath to Jenolan Caves. With the exception of a line of steam omnibuses in Western Australia, it was the first public service motoring venture in Australia.
At the time, the hotel included a steam-driven generator imported from Germany, which produced electricity for the resort and the neighbouring township of Medlow Bath in the upper Blue Mountains.
The Hydro Majestic had working electricity four days before Sydney. It also had its own water supply, steam laundry, freezing works, sewage treatment works and was one of the first in the Blue Mountains to have a telephone system connected to the Sydney exchange.
Escarpment Group general manager Ralf Bruegger said: “Mark Foy is well known for his legendary outrageous parties, but he was actually responsible for much progress in the Blue Mountains, in the tourism industry and for the nation,’’ Mr Bruegger said.
“Foy was a leader because he had the money to do it of course but also because he had the gumption and the foresight to take risks and make change. He refused to be bound by the conservative traditions of the day, nor would he accept hardship as a reason for not doing something.
“You could say that attitude is the unofficial philosophy of Escarpment Group – we don’t follow the pack, we lead it.’’
The e-tron plug-in is one of several green initiatives implemented by Escarpment Group across its four Blue Mountains properties which also includes Echoes Boutique Hotel and Parklands Country Gardens & Lodges to ensure the properties comply with 21st century environmental standards.
All seven dining venues at the hotels have a focus on local and regional produce to reduce food mileage, a composting plant will soon be installed at Parklands and there is an energy efficient plant room at Lilianfels which helps cut greenhouse gasses and energy by regulating heating and cooling of air and pool temperatures throughout the year.
One e-tron charger is available at the Hydro Majestic Hotel, while there are two others at Lilianfels.
“Simply plug in your car and recharge your own batteries inside the hotel,’’ Mr Bruegger said.
“Guests at Lilianfels will be pampered whatever they choose to do, while visitors to the Hydro can take a tour, a casual meal in the Boiler House Café or the Wintergarden Restaurant or light refreshments at the Hydro Majestic Pavilion or in the famous Salon du The and Cat’s Alley venue.’’
Go to escarpmentgroup.com.au for more information about accommodation and dining options.
* Escarpment Group is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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