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.

Where Sydney - - Contents -

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.

Cinnabar Kitchen.

Laven­dar Ma­jes­tic.

May­field Gar­den din­ing.

Leura Garage.

Hill­billy Cider. Photo: Deep Hill Me­dia.

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