Obscured by undergrowth on a rock outcrop overlooking Megalong Valley are the vestiges of a flying fox, constructed in 1904 to ferry fresh produce from a farm on the valley floor to the famous hotel perched on the escarpment: the Hydro Majestic.
This ingenious device illustrates arguably the first ‘paddock to plate’ fine dining experience in Australia; and more than 110 years and many trends later, the Blue Mountains culinary scene has come full circle, with fresh, local produce presented with innovation and passion the key to an ever-evolving foodie scene.
“The Blue Mountains dining scene has truly arrived,” says Mary-Jane Craig, whose 20-year tenure at the helm of some of the area’s most acclaimed restaurants culminates in her latest venture, Blackheath’s Cinnabar.
“I would even venture to suggest it’s ‘post contemporary’ – vibrant, eclectic, generous and hospitable. There is a dining scene to suit every palate and pocket.”
Here are some of our favourite places to replenish after a bushwalk or serious scenery-gazing.
Where to get coffee
Anonymous is a little slice of Surry Hills in Blackheath, served with Campos coffee, a quirky, seasonal food menu and to-die-for brownies. Cushioned nooks and local artwork add to the bohemian vibe. Its sister property in Medlow Bath, Synonymous, also rates highly.
Caffeine is taken very seriously at this busy mid-Mountains hang, with arguably the best coffee in the mountains. Each cup is made with double ristretto extracted from Locale beans, with a different single origin guest roaster featured each week.
Adding some fun, hippy-dippy colour to the bland town square outside Coles, Big Beet serves delicious vegan food, cold pressed juices and good coffee with a choice of regular, almond, coconut and soy milk. Vintage nanna-lounges, mismatched chairs, local art works, hanging inner-peace quotes and a reggae soundtrack add to the Nimbin ambience.
Tucked away in a garden setting behind the Woolies carpark, Lily’s Pad is a local gem with casual indoor and outdoor seating, excellent coffee, a fantastic selection of house-made chai and an extensive breakfast menu with seasonal offerings.
Blackheath’s newest café doubles as an art space and concept store selling homewares and creative gifts, including whimsical coloured pencils. Food is cooked in an AGA oven, with locally blended coffee made from fairtrade organic Sumatran beans, served with single-origin milk from the Little Big Dairy.
Lunch with a view
Located in an historic Cobb & Co inn at picturesque Little Hartley, Ambermere Rose is an atmospheric location for a languid long lunch, with seasonal regional produce matched with Central Tablelands wines. A tasting room on site sells menu ingredients if you can’t get enough of the delectable flavours. Open for lunch Friday to Monday and dinner Saturday.
Boasting some of the best views in the Mountains across Jamison Valley, Echoes – located in the boutique hotel of the same name – offers a discerning Modern Australian menu using local produce and herbs and veggies grown in sister property Parklands’ gardens.
It’s all about the view with the Hydro’s signature High Tea experience, with the Megalong cloudscape as mesmerising as a television on mute. Grab your posse, put on your prettiest frock and pamper yourself in a manner fitting the original vision of this extraordinary, historic hotel.
During the 1920s and ’30s, there were nine tea rooms in the Megalong Valley; today, there is just one, with its origins in the 1950s. The experience of a Devonshire Tea served is a tranquil rural setting beneath the rugged escarpment is timeless, offering an alternative view of the Blue Mountains.
This is pizza worth travelling for, the best in the Mountains. These are seriously good woodfired pizzas, made from organic wholewheat flour and free-range, locally-grown toppings and served with glorious views of the escarpment as a bonus.
Stay for dinner
Former Ashcrofts owners Mary-Jane Craig and Corinne Evatt’s latest offering is creating quite a buzz, with its ‘Travel the World’ concept delivering flavour-packed delights such as sizzling Jamaican spiced prawns and wild scallop tartare. It’s an innovative and exciting addition to the Mountains’ dining scene.
Multi award-winning Darley’s consistently delivers quality, creativity and hospitality in its heritage-listed formal dining room, showcasing local produce in a Modern Australian à la carte and degustation menu.
Fresh and local is the mantra at this fun, casual eatery, located in a former car workshop – complete with old mufflers and a hoist that now serves as a wine rack. Produce is sourced from within a 100km radius, with home-grown herbs, harvested rainwater and local Central Tablelands and Blue Mountains wines.
Former Vulcan’s chef Joe Campbell has returned home to take over the restaurant where he worked for ten years, creating an exciting Modern Australian menu with Japanese influences – think tofu with smoked eggplant, tea-smoked salmon, and beef slow-braised in the 100-year old Scotch oven. Fumo is only open weekends, with two dinner sittings (6pm and 8pm).
For cheap and cheerful Asian street food, don’t overlook this humble restaurant, located in a dreary arcade off Katoomba’s main drag. The extensive menu includes signature dishes such as grilled eggplant duck curry, Asian tapas, wok and curry dishes. It’s a great value place with good food.