After the success of my recent weekend in wine country, I set off in search of another foodie adventure within an easy drive of Sydney. My destination was Lilianfels, a picturesque Blue Mountains retreat, about an hour and half drive from the CBD. Well unless you make the same mistake I did, and leave straight after work on Friday afternoon…
All was forgotten upon arriving at the country mansion style resort. Five star touches abound – from valet parking; to an indoor (read: all weather) heated pool; to his and hers steam rooms, spa pools and saunas; to welcoming staff who work hard to anticipate guest needs. Even the long American colonial style hallways captured my movie buff imagination – I kept expecting Danny from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980) to come pedalling round the corner on his plastic ‘Big Wheel’.
Lilianfels (www.lilianfels.com.au) is also the site of regional hatted gem Darley’s (www.darleysrestaurant.com.au). Under the Lee Kwiez’s imaginative command, it’s a decadent, luxurious experience that spoils you for neighbouring restaurants like that of boutique sister property, Echoes (even if their restaurant balcony does offer up an amazing vista of fifty shades of deepening blue). It’s fighting food, from a crisp confit pork belly with lobster boudin blanc, silken cuttlefish and lobster essence, to a Zokoko dusted venison loin enhanced by roasted beets, cashew nuts, yams and a cassis sauce. It’s also distinctly regional, with the chocolate and Mandagery Creek Venison both sourced within a couple of hundred clicks.
Inspired, and remembering the addictive Trunkey Creek Bacon I found in Orange, I dedicated the next day to stockpiling regional bounty. I found my bacon nirvana in the well-equipped produce section of Carrington Cellars (www.carringtoncellars.com.au). If you like beer though, save your grog shopping until you hit Leura Cellars (www.leuracellars.com.au). Their collection is astounding – I walked away with Ferran Adrià’s Spanish beer and Go-Shu Sake, produced in Penrith no less!
While you’re in Leura, you can also stock up on kitsch candies for the drive back at The Candy Store (www.candystore.com.au).
After eating their bread at Darley’s my first stop the next morning was Hominy Bakery (185 Katoomba Street, Katoomba). Their amazing sourdough is the product of a twenty-three year old starter. Its life currently rests in the hands of baker Kris Clarke, who started at this well-run bakery a decade ago – as the sixteen year old prodigy of the retired Brent Hersee. They do a very worthy old-school (mince) or new-school (chunky steak) pie, as well as a seasonal cumquat and custard tart that made me whimper with delight.
After pastries you’ll definitely need a coffee. The best cup in the mountains is found at Anonymous (www.anonymouscafe.com.au) in Blackheath. Upon arriving, I was unsurprised to see they’re using my favourite beans, Golden Cobra. While you’re in the neighbourhood, Adelaide born ex-chef and foodie Lewis Thyer has opened up Tommy Ruff Fishmonger (238 Great Western Highway, Blackheath). It’s a boutique seafood and produce store with a ripper cheese cabinet – a creamy cheddar and some Cloudy Bay clams crept into my hamper.
From there follow the signs down to Megalong Valley, stopping on the way at Logan-Brae Orchard (www.loganbrae.com.au) to buy gloriously simple hot apple pies, take-home apple conserve and cider vinegar – plus a cup of hot spiced apple juice. You’re heading for Dryridge Estate (www.dryridge.com.au) to try their elegant Riesling. Who knew they made wine here? Their grapes enjoy a particularly lovely view, and if you haven’t stuffed yourself silly on pastries like me, bring a picnic and consume a bottle in their wine pavilion. They also boast the fanciest dunny in the bush. Don’t say I don’t look after you.