Beyond the Blue
Looking for that perfect escape from the city, but only have a few days to spare? Leave the crowds behind and head to the Blue Mountains and beyond, to discover a spectacular garden like no other. By Roshan Sukhla.
THERE’S NOTHING BETTER than getting away from it all and taking a break from the hustle and bustle of life and work. So grab some friends or the family, hit the road and head west to the World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains.
Make your first stop the lovely town of Leura. When we visit it’s spring and they are in the midst of their Gardens Festival. Cherry blossom trees line Leura Mall in a flourish of white and pink flowers. Leura Garage is the must-try spot for lunch. As the name suggests, this popular spot was once a mechanic’s garage but has been converted rather cleverly by owner James Howarth. Solar panels have been installed, recycled materials have been used, car hoists have been converted to wine and drink racks and rainwater filtration systems have been added underneath the building, so you are drinking fresh water that Leura Garage have filtered themselves. The menu is a mix of share dishes and mains. The roasted pumpkin with tahini dressing, crispy kale and roasted pepitas was incredible, as were the pork meatballs with smoked turnip, parsnip puree and crispy beetroot chips.
From here, we head to our accommodation for the night, to let the relaxing begin! Lavender Majestic is a magnificent property in Katoomba, which can be hired out by groups and friends, perfect for special occasions and hens weekends.
The three-bedroom house (which can sleep up to 10 people) was originally built in 1890, with a few upgrades over the years. Owner Nicky Vaux has created a marvellous space that welcomes and soothes you as soon as you walk in. A butler is included in your stay so all you have to do is sit back, relax and take it all in, as they bring you your champagne, refill snacks and anything else you may require. Relaxation certainly is the name of the game at Lavender Majestic because each person gets a massage included in their stay here.
For dinner, we head to Blackheath and the newly opened Cinnabar Kitchen, by Corinne Evatt and Mary-jane Craig, the team behind the award-winning Ashcrofts restaurant. The menu is a new take on modern international cuisine, with dishes designed to share. Begin with the flat bread and tahini hummus,
pimiento and wild olives. The wild scallop tartare with wakame and pickled ginger was a delicate flavoursome surprise balanced with a kick from the ginger. Cinnabar Kitchen is quickly becoming a local favourite, from a renowned team, and locals are happy to have such highclass fare back in the area.
After our very relaxing breakfast in the grand dining room of Lavender Majestic, we leave Katoomba to drive over the mountains to Oberon. Just past the main town centre, you’ll find the turnoff for Mayfield Garden. This privately-owned estate, which belongs to the Hawkins family, is a magnificent cool climate garden, inspired by the gardens of Europe. Before exploring the grounds, we head to the on-site café for sustenance. The café has a garden-to-plate philosophy with 80% of the produce sourced from the gardens itself, and Mayfield’s own farm, with the rest coming from local suppliers. A breakfast and lunch menu is available as well as options for the kids. I chose the Mayfield Vegan salad, which was a fusion of freshness and colour featuring ingredients from their kitchen garden.
The 15 hectares of Mayfield Garden are open to the public 363 days a year. Wander through the Water Garden along the boardwalks, then view the marvellous Obelisk and pond. Don’t miss the cascading waterfalls, walk over the beautiful stone bridge and then explore around and through the Grotto. Follow the path to the Copper Tree Fountain, and the soon-to-be-opened Valley of the Five Ponds. Wind your way back through the garden and have a game or two of chess or croquet on the lawns.
No matter what time of year you visit here, there is always something to see with different plants in bloom. The spring sights of beautiful tulips, rhododendrons, azaleas and cherry blossoms were breathtaking. If you are feeling inspired, and I have no doubt you will be, you can take home and nurture your own plant from the Nursery near the entrance to the gardens.
On our way home, we return via the Bells Line of Road, and take a break at the famous apple town of Bilpin for some cider tasting. We visit the Hillbilly Cider Shed which overlooks Shields Orchard, a working apple orchard. As a cider lover it is fascinating to meet with owner Shane Mclaughlin and learn all about Hillbilly’s incredible 100 percent natural cider. Taste test all their varieties straight from the barrel. There’s Apple, Pear, Sweet Julie and Scrumpy, as well as a nonalcoholic cider and a vintage cider.
As we drive back to the city, I reflect on this trip that has been a perfect, much-needed escape balancing fine food, relaxation and getting back to nature. Pure bliss!
Mayfield’s Water Garden.
Mayfield Garden dining.
Hillbilly Cider. Photo: Deep Hill Media.