Head to the chief city in the Blue Mountains for heritage-listed restaurants, spa resorts, steep cable car rides and late lunches in Leura.
If you’re dining in Katoomba, don’t look past Darley’s: hatted cuisine in a heritage-listed venue, with a candlelit outlook onto the gardens and the eponymous ‘fels’ (German for ‘rocky outcrop’). The restaurant is named after chief justice Sir Frederick Darley, who built this residence in the 1890s and named it after his daughter Lillian, who succumbed to Tuberculosis at the age of 22.
Escarpment Group’s Echoes Restaurant (part of Lilianfels’ smaller sister, Echoes Boutique Hotel), is 50 metres down the driveway, and offers substantial, straightforward cuisine – seafood, roasted and slow-cooked meats – with Asian and European inflections. We don’t care that with the exception of a plum pudding dessert offering, their Yulefest menu is more Yule in name than fact: the grass fed Riverina lamb racks are perfection. The wine list, while a little thin on by-the-glass options, furnished us with a very good Clare Valley Pinot Gris and Côtes du Rhône Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre.
We went to the mountains in search of pure R&R, and stayed as the guests of Lilianfels Blue Mountains Resort & Spa. Owned by the Escarpment Group, who seem to have cornered the market in boutique Blue Mountains accommodation (including the recently overhauled Hydro Majestic), Lilianfels is a one-stop-shop for indulgence in the most picturesque part of Katoomba, just 50 metres from Echo Point and its overlook of the Three Sisters, and with views over the Jamison Valley from the lounge and valley-view rooms. There’s a hatted restaurant on site, a day spa, and Scenic World is a short walk away.
While you might go to the Hydro for its freshly restored cliffside grandeur, Lilianfels has more of a “shabby chic” charm: chintz furnishings and wallpaper, and illustrations of birds, stags and hunting hounds. In our room, the musky-pink 19th-century décor (courtesy of previous owner-operators Orient Express, circa 2002, and a tribute to Lilianfels’ heyday) makes one think of maiden aunts and lapdogs. But with mod-cons like Wi-Fi, cable, 24-hour room service and Sealy Posturepedic mattresses, you’ve got the best of both worlds.
Families and first-timers will want to check out the cable cars, vertical railway and funicular at Scenic World, your best bet for getting a birds-eye view of the majestic Jamison Valley, or getting up close to the Jurassic rainforest – including the giant ferns that were the subject of such fascination for 19th century European tourists.
he design-inclined should check out the National Trust’s Everglades property, an example of Functionalist architecture and Art Deco interiors designed by Danish expat Paul Sorensen in the 1930s, and situated in restored gardens that bowerbird elements of English, European and Japanese design.
And don't forget...
Love a high tea? Whether or not you're a guest, make an afternoon booking for high tea in the Lillianfels lounge – recommended for the view, the structurally unsound scones with heavy velvety cream, and the shot-glasses of rosewater panna cotta with strawberry salsa.
Time Out stayed and dined as a guest of the Escarpment Group.