Can you have your cake – and wine – and eat and drink them too? Indeed you can with the new Fantastic Aussie Tours (FAT) high tea and winery shuttle in the Blue Mountains and Megalong Valley.
The charter and tour bus company rerouted its itinerary to close to home locations after the COVID-19 pandemic forced interstate tours off the road.
From Saturday, September 5, passengers will be transported from Katoomba into the verdant Megalong Valley and the picturesque vineyards and cellar doors of Dryridge Estate and Megalong Creek Estate.
Alight at one and walk to the other before boarding the FAT bus back to Katoomba.
Passengers can also hop off the bus at the Hydro Majestic Hotel at Medlow Bath for high tea and a history tour before continuing on the Megalong Valley on a later bus.
One of Australia’s best kept secrets, the Megalong Valley features tranquil rural landscapes and native forests ringed by towering sandstone escarpments.
Next to the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area at the centre of Sydney’s water catchment, the Megalong Valley teems with wildlife.
Operated by Simon and Emma McMahon since 2015, boutique vineyard Dryridge Estate was founded by Bob and Barbara Tyrrell in 2000 and produces distinctive crisp mineral-flavoured wines from the pink granite soil.
Indulge in a leisurely cheese platter and wine tasting before strolling to the nearby kerosene shale mine ruins and Megalong Creek Estate and single vineyard wines.
Established in 2002 by the Draguns family, all grapes are grown onsite and handpicked and transported to Mudgee for wine making by highly regarded third generation winemaker Jacob Stein.
As well as viognier, pinot grigio, pinot and shiraz, Megalong Creek Estate also produces a sparkling they have named Prozzante, a lightly sparked Prosecco-style wine, and a late harvest unique dessert-style wine.
Both wineries are located along the famous Six Foot Track, an important Indigenous pathway linking southern parts of the Hunter Valley with the Blue Mountains and western tablelands for the past 20,000 years.
Blue Mountains Explorer Bus managing director Jason Cronshaw said: “The Megalong Valley has been linked to the Blue Mountains for millennia yet is largely unknown today.
“Our new shuttle service is a fantastic opportunity to reintroduce the area to a new generation of visitors.’’
The Megalong Valley high tea and winery shuttle “means you can have a tipple and we’ll navigate the road for you’’.
“We also have large storage bays under the bus, so don’t be shy about stocking up on your favourite drop.’’
Fantastic Aussie Tours coaches leave Katoomba at 10.15am, 12.15pm, 2.15pm and 4.15pm and Megalong Creek Estate and Dryridge Estate at 11.10am, 1.10pm, 3.10pm and 5.10pm each Saturday and Sunday.
Buses stop at the Hydro Majestic Hotel at Medlow Bath in time for a history tour and high tea or continue to the Megalong Valley on a later service. Alternatively, stay aboard and continue straight to the wineries.
Book the shuttle and receive complimentary pick-up and drop-off to any hotel in Katoomba or Leura on the famous red double-decker Blue Mountains Explorer Bus circuit.
Tickets: $59pp return shuttle.
The uniting force of food will be the binding tie of inclusiveness, respect and belonging when the multicultural staff at the Hydro Majestic Hotel celebrate Harmony Week with international cuisine from March 18 to 31.
Visitors will embark on a global food journey when they nibble on a special multicultural high tea of duck rice paper roll, Aussie beef mini pie, Sri Lankan fish cutlet, pulled pork adabo, green papaya slaw, chicken tikka wrap, mint chutney, kachumber salad, mini naan followed by sweet pastries, berry pavlova, Gajar ka halwa, Maja blanca, pandan cake, Watalappan and scones.
The dishes will be prepared by the international kitchen team.
Hydro Majestic guest services manager Meagan Iervasi said more than 30 languages were spoken and staff ethnic origins from six continents, from Asia to Africa: “The only continent we haven’t interviewed anyone from yet is Antarctica.’’
While all Escarpment Group properties, which also include Lilianfels Resort & Spa, Miss Lilian Teahouse, Darley’s Restaurant, Echoes Boutique Hotel & Restaurant and Parklands Country Gardens & Lodges, align well with the strong national multicultural population today, the Blue Mountains and the Hydro Majestic have a multicultural heritage stretching back to the days of original owner Mark Foy.
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 department store doyenne, sportsman and flamboyant playboy Foy’s home and managed the mayhem at the Hydro Majestic for 35 years.
Go to hydromajestic.com.au or phone (02) 4782 6885 to book a Harmony Week high tea.
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
The chutzpah of the golden age of jazz music, elegant fashion, speakeasies and all things Oriental will return in majestic style when the grandest of the grand Blue Mountains hotels hosts Roaring 20s Festival events on February 23 – 24.
The annual celebration of modern freedom, fashion and fun between the drabness of World War I and the restrictions of the Great Depression will high kick off at the Hydro Majestic Hotel with the popular Charleston Dance for Charity at 11am on the Saturday.
The community event is open to anyone dressed in 1920s costume (a feather boa, Mary Jane-style shoes and string of pearls for the ladies and a Fedora hat and pair of spats for the gents will do) and will be led by the Swing Katz and Music in the Mountains.
Gold coin donations will raise funds for Blue Mountains Rural Fire Service. There will also be prizes for the best dance performances and costumes.
The Charleston Dance for Charity will be followed by the Majestic Long Lunch, an indulgent shared feast showcasing the best regional produce and presented by event ambassadors food luminary Lyndey Milan OAM and The Darnell Collection fashion anthropologist Charlotte Smith.
Guests will graze on decadent fare from the Hydro Majestic culinary team with offerings from Parklands Country Gardens & Lodges, Lushious Gourmet Catering, The Carrington Cellars & Deli and Josophan’s Fine Chocolates under the ornate vaulted ceiling of the Majestic Ballroom.
Tickets: $95pp includes complimentary cocktail on arrival, live entertainment and dancing, a fashion show of 1920s garments and prizes galore.
Hydro Majestic guest services manager Meagan Iervasi said: “The Roaring 20s Festival relives the golden age of the Blue Mountains generally and the hotel specifically, when exquisitely dressed glamorous people lived a hedonistic life of endless parties.
“It was an era of great social change, of new freedoms and, for some, sumptuous excess.
Thousands of visitors streamed off the trains to check into the guesthouses and grand hotels of Wentworth Falls, Leura, Katoomba, Mt Victoria and, the grandest of them all, Mark Foy’sPalace in the wilderness’’, the Hydro Majestic Hotel at Medlow Bath.’’
Retro enthusiasts can fully immerse themselves in that ultimate vintage experience on February 23 by riding into the art deco era aboard the Hydro Express from Central
station to the world-famous hotel in time for an evening of decadence, fine dining and mischievous revelry.
Travel in your choice of carriage class aboard our heritage train hauled by restored NSW Rail Museum-owned 1950s diesel locomotive 4201 from Sydney to Medlow Bath and return.
Tickets: from $130.
The Hydro Express will revisit the original Blue Mountains party palace for a 1920s-themed afternoon high tea on Sunday, February 24.
Upon arrival, passengers bedecked in elegant 1920s attire will nibble on a selection of petite pastries, finger sandwiches and freshly baked scones served with homemade jam and fresh clotted cream, with freshly brewed specialty teas and coffees.
Visitors can also be wowed by the opulent refurbishment of the famous hotel on an optional complimentary history tour.
Tickets: from $110.
The Charleston Dance for Charity, Majestic Long Lunch and Hydro Express Deco Dinner will be held at the Hydro Majestic Hotel, Great Western Hwy, Medlow Bath.
Bookings: 4782 6885 or hydromajestic.com.au/events/roaring-20s-festival.
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 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.
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:
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’’.
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 I’m 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Bygone Beautys is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media