The Blue Mountains, just 90 minutes north of Sydney, is usually a popular spot for a weekend-away but the bushfires have scared people off. While part of the one million square hectares of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area has caught fire, the rest has stayed open for business. And they need your help, so book a food-focused trip, go hungry and help the locals out.
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BEST BURGERS: AUNTY ED’S
Descend the basement and step back in time as you’re greeted by leather booths, upholstered lounges and crocheted throws. It serves up the kind of big, packed burgers and spiders, soft drinks topped with ice cream, that you used to enjoy at the corner store back when every suburb had one. To complete the retro vibe, there are also old-school arcade games and old-fashioned board games to keep the young – and young at heart – entertained.
BEST WINERY: MEGALONG CREEK ESTATE
This family-run, boutique vineyard specialises in single-vineyard wines, which means its viognier, pinot grigio and shiraz grapes all come from the same site that has been specially selected as having optimum conditions to grow that variety. For something unique, try its Prozzante, a lightly sparkly prosecco-style drop at the cellar door, a re-purposed shipping container with tasting bar and views across the valley.
BEST FINE DINING: DARLEY’S RESTAURANT
Dining at this award-winning restaurant is like stepping back in time. Rather than modern minimalism, you’re surrounded by crystal chandeliers, intricate wallpaper and leadlight windows in a space that used to be the home of Sir Frederick Darley, the sixth chief justice of NSW. While the premises were built in 1888, the food is all about now with 80 per cent of the menu coming from a 100 mile radius.
BEST HIGH TEA: HYDRO MAJESTIC HOTEL
There are high teas and the there’s high tea at the Hydro Majestic Hotel, taken in the Wintergarden Restaurant overlooking the Megalong Valley. If you want something more exotic than the traditional fare, there is an Eastern high tea option with dumplings, prawn and vegetarian rice paper roll, crab claw and more.
BEST BAKERY: PIE IN THE SKY ROADHOUSE
It’s hard to beat a pie at a country bakehouse. And seeing as Bilpin is known for its apples, it makes sense to go for the signature, sugar-dusted apple pie made from French-style, butter puff pastry. There are savoury options too, but if you do, don’t pass up the chance to take a family-sized apple pie home. And remember, it’s cash only so hit the ATM before you get here.
BEST CASUAL DINING: LEURA GARAGE
The focus here is on seasonal, locally sourced ingredients, whether it’s a stone baked pizza, an a la carte option or its multi-course tasting menu. That local philosophy extends to the drinks too and you’ll find the wine champions NSW’s Central West. You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to the award-winning, cool climate wines of Orange, Mudgee and the Central Ranges.
BEST CAFE: ANONYMOUS CAFE
If specialty coffee is your thing, make this a pit-stop on your visit. The house beans are Campos’ ‘Superior’ blend plus there’s a rotating selection of seasonal single origin beans. The majority of the menus is made in-house, such as the granola with maple toasted pecans, or the signature mixed plate which includes house-made pickles, compote and organic sourdough.
BEST MODERN ASIAN: FUMO
The team from Blackheath’s former Vulcan’s have opened the Asian-inspired Fumo, which makes the most of seasonal produce and Asian flavours. Think miso marinated pumpkin, sake steamed mussels with kimchi butter or duck Maryland served up with green mango and roasted rice. It celebrates local produce and Asian tastes, bringing together the best of both worlds.
BEST PUB: AMBERMERE INN
Built in 1845, this is the perfect pit-stop for a drink and taste of country life. The bar is located in what was the original tap room and serves a selection of local craft beers and wines, including Hillbilly apple ginger cider made from Bilpin apples.
A seasonal bistro menu means the options are always changing, but could include a pork and veal terrine or a spatchcock with tarragon jus. In summer, sit in the courtyard shaded by fruit trees overlooking the escarpments of Mt York and when it’s cooler, take refuge inside near the open fireplaces.
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