Posts tagged ‘Blue mountains’

July 20, 2011

Wentworth Falls: a cool place to visit

both literally and figuratively! MD and I drove up for the day on a sunny but really cold day in winter…it’s definately pack-your-thermals up there, so we had the perfect excuse to while away some time in a warm, cosy cafe. First on the agenda, however, was a visit to the oldest bridge still standing on mainland Australia – Lennox bridge. It is a little way off the beaten track but worth a visit…first head to Glenbrook, turn right at the McDonalds and follow that road towards Mitchell’s pass…you’ll almost literally bump into the bridge, unfortunately the road behind it that was the main route up to the Blue Mountains is closed now due to falling rocks.

 

The bridge was designed by David Lennox, a master mason with plenty of experience building major bridges in England and built by him and a party of 20 especially selected convicts using locally quarried stone – it took from November 1832 until July 1833 to build. Apparently David was taken by the good work of his men, as he petitioned for the pardon of 8 of them after work was finished! 

About a half hours drive up towards the Blue Mountains themselves lies the picturesque town of Wentworth Falls – it seems to specialise in cute, quirky little shops and enticing looking cafes – and we all know how much I like that particular combination!

This antique shop had not only lovely objects inside but beautiful tiles on the outside of the building:

 The original Wentworth Falls post office has been turned into one such cafe – I don’t know where the post office went to…but it certainly makes a lovely place to eat…

Inside was eclectic, cosy and warm, with a roaring open fire set in an antique grate…

 Although it was quite small that only seemed to add to it’s charm…there were a few tables scattered outside, but they were all taken, (plus it was a bit too nippy for me to eat outside, even in the sunshine!)

MD ordered a toasted turkish pide with bacon, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise, it was fresh and delicious and at only $11.90 a good value lunch…

I went for the potato pancake with smoked salmon, the pancake was thick and chunky, just slightly sweet and the salad accompanying it had a really yummy whole grain mustard dressing…this one cost $14.50

Because we were too full to pack in dessert I took some photos of them just to show you, (even though I got some very strange looks from the other patrons)…

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April 6, 2011

Saddle up pardners…we’re headin out west!

Orange…the up and coming mecca for Australian foodies and winies, (that’s wineeees not whinies), and a darned tooting pretty place to visit too! MD and I had the extremely rare pleasure of a long weekend so decided to hit the happy trail and mosey along into the heartlands of the NSW Central West – are you getting sick of the western motif yet? Sorry, I’ll tone it down a little. Of course it’s not helped by the fact that MD is currently playing Red Dead Redemption on the XBox – a real shoot-em-up cowboy game – a little gory but great graphics if you’re interested!

Anyway, back to the trip…we decided to take the scenic route up through the Blue Mountains, then on to Lithgow, Bathurst and Orange, all up it took about 2 and a half hours, with plenty of cow, sheep and goat spotting as well as the sweeping hills and charming countryside this area is famous for. Forget your cactus’s, (or is it cacti), even without a lot of rain lately the pastures were still green and the towering pines a novelty for those of us from the suburbs.

You might be aghast to know that I didn’t actually get any photos of Orange itself, I’m sorry, it was raining pretty heavily, so you’ll have to just take my word for it, it is the coolest town. It is bigger than I had imagined, with its fair share of boutiques, elegant restaurants and a long, long main street prettily paved with red bricks. The streets are so wide, with huge trees growing up through the bitumen along each side, (which the locals merrily park between), and heritage-listed-esqe houses nestle cheek by jowl with old-fashioned workman type pubs. You know, the ones with the tiling up to the  middle of the walls so they can hose off the…well, you get the picture!

We had booked our night’s accommodation via Wot If at a boutique hotel called the de Russi Suites and I’m cheerfully and heartily recommending it if you’re considering hanging out in Orange for the night. I find it is always a little bit of a gamble booking things over the net but we were very pleasantly surprised, (this I did manage to take photos of). Firstly, it’s a good location, close enough to the city to be handy, down one of those quiet, tree-lined streets and is an easy walk to the main shops/restaurants if you are so inclined. There is an off street parking area too.

Continuing on with the theme the foyer was elegant, with a cosy looking reading nook and fireplace just around the corner from the left side of this photo…

We had booked a junior suite, (the only room left for that particular night), which cost $252 a night, including continental breakfast, more about that later though…

I’m afraid the photos don’t do justice to the look of the room…it was a drizzly day so the light wasn’t right, but I found it tastefully decorated and very thoughtfully appointed.

As you come into the room a set of four wood panelled doors on your left slide back to reveal a baby kitchen complete with microwave, stove top with four hot plates, fully stocked kitchen drawers, toaster, coffee plunger, tea-pot, sink and mini fridge. Sitting on the bench was an intriguing brown paper bag…inside were the supplies for our breakfast…two glass bottles of juice, two packets of whisk and pin muesli, ground coffee, sachets of butter and jam and two cutely wrapped packages each containing a slice of white, wholemeal and raisin bread, a box held a selection of T2 teas.  

The small living room managed to successfully fit a dining table with two chairs, a huge lcd tv, a pair of very comfortable black velvet tub chairs and an ottoman, without feeling crowded at all. Floor to ceiling glass doors led to a small balcony complete with teak chairs.

 

The bathroom had a spa bath, and a shower with a really fat shower head, (you know what I mean by that…not one of those horrible skinny little things that puts like four drops of water on you), and the hot water was plentiful and strong, there were four thick, soft towels and a bathrobe each.

 I hate to sound like a noob, but how cool is that glass see-through basin? 

The L’ Occitane bath products were a little touch of luxury that I really appreciated…they smell divine!

The bedroom held a queen sized bed with a feather filled pillow top to it that made you feel like you were sinking into fluffy heavenliness, a window that could be opened, another lcd tv, (this time smaller and mounted up on the wall), a comfy chair, wardrobe complete with hairdryer and coat hangers, iPod dock/alarm clock, silken pull cords to turn off each overhead light and a giant chocolate chip cookie laying on the bed. These people really know the way to a girl’s heart!

We decided to eat dinner at a restaurant called ‘Bistro Ceello’, it came highly recommended by a lady who owns a local B&B, and it certainly didn’t disappoint! Set in one of those beautiful old houses opposite a park it has three dining areas so it doesn’t feel like you are squashed next to anyone else, and is decorated with warm modern style whilst still retaining period features such as cornices, stained glass sash windows, wooden floors and a fireplace.

The staff were friendly, efficient and very helpful – in fact, I would go so far as to say that Orange had the friendliest people I have ever met, perhaps outside Bali, maybe it’s all that calm country living. Our dishes were brought out at a measured pace, even though for a while we were one of only a few tables. Each dish on the menu was accompanied by a recommendation of a local wine to pair it with, and which was available by the glass if so desired.

I had the fried whitebait for entree which was a suggestion by our waitress, she was right, it was delicious, and the orange, radiccio and fennel salad teamed with it had enough citrus tang to perfectly counterpoint the fish. MD had the pork and duck rilettes which were served with sourdough toast and cornichons, the creamy texture and subtle flavour was lovely with the crispy toast pieces. For mains I chose pork belly served with creamy polenta and an olive, red pepper and tomato braise – mmm my mouth is watering just remembering it, perfectly cooked, the pork was juicy and literally fell apart as I cut into it. MD chose the sirloin steak which was served with tasty colcannon mash and red wine jus and even though he ordered it medium to well the chef took pity on him and didn’t over cook it at all!*

*Sorry for those who haven’t read Anthony Bordain’s first book ‘Kitchen Confidential’, it’s a reference to how chefs view cooking steak any more than rare!

For dessert I had the financier, (a french cake made with ground almonds), which I had never tried before, it was light, sweet and the texture was perfect, a little like a butter cake. It was served with local stewed peaches and the nicest home-made vanilla bean ice cream I have ever had. MD was talked into dessert, (he’s not usually a dessert kinda guy), and thoroughly enjoyed his summer berry pudding with the same ice cream – in fact he made a point of complimenting the owner on it as he was paying the bill! All up, with a couple of drinks each and some bread to start the total came to approx $160.

Sorry this has turned into a bit of an epic…in a nutshell…go to Orange…go now…I promise you won’t regret it!

February 21, 2011

Sirens, sandwiches and scenery at Norman Lindsay’s house.

As far as I know the closest the Hawkesbury has to a famous resident is a dead artist who actually lived in the lower Blue Mountains – his name was Norman Lindsay and he was the original renaissance man. He not only painted magnificent (mostly nude) women, (who all have slightly cruel gleams in their eyes), he sculpted, (mostly nude) women, made vases, hand-built model ships and did incredibly detailed etchings of… you guessed it, mostly nude women. And then, when he had a little spare time, wrote and illustrated a bestselling children’s book called ‘ The Magic Pudding’ – which was apparently first written to win a bet with a fellow artist friend, (the illustrations used to scare the living daylights out of me when I was a child, most of the characters had evil gleams in their eyes too).

 He lived most of his life in a beautiful old house in the suburb of Faulconbridge, which is an easy pit stop if you are on your way either up to or back down from the Blue Mountains. It is however, the type of place that could easily consume a day trip in itself. Owned and run now by The National Trust the house itself holds a gallery of his art, it costs $10 per adult, $5 per child to enter, is open from 10 – 4 every day and once inside you are free to wander as you will. There are free half hour guided tours that are very interesting and are run completely by volunteers, these take in his private studio, kitchen, etching studio/printing presses, house and garden.

It might be prudent to rethink it as a destination, however, if you are taking great-aunt Gertrude out for the day, the paintings are tame by todays standards but they are nearly all nudes, (his paintings were banned from the National Art Gallery for obscenity) – one famous quote goes that Norman fell in love with the first breast he ever saw and painted it for the rest of his life. There has even been a movie based, somewhat loosely, on his life, called ‘Sirens’. It was filmed at the actual house and was famous in it’s day for featuring Elle Macpherson au natural.

His garden was also his pride and joy and he managed to sculpt an English-manor-house-style area in amongst the good old gum trees of the Aussie bush, of course liberally sprinkled with cavorting naked nymph statues! The garden is free to wander in, look at and picnic in, but I have a much better idea…almost hidden at the bottom of the garden, down some cute hand-hewn stone steps is the yummiest little cafe. There are outdoor tables set amongst the azaleas and camellias, there are covered verandah tables for if it looks a little drizzly and there is an indoor little-old-house type house.

This was taken inside the cafe itself, looking out to the garden, how cool are those windows?

 The menu is rather an eclectic one, offering such delicious choices as:

Lemon infused smoked trout and potato hash with fried egg and lemon and roquette oil

Moroccan lamb burger with char grilled eggplant, sweet peppers, tomato, mesculan lettuce and minted yoghurt

Blue cheese tart served with caramelised onion, and a roquette and parmesan salad

Braised chunky beef pie with garlic and parmesan mash, button mushrooms, spicy tomato relish and a red wine jus

Pumpkin and feta pie with a roast pumpkin, pine nut and sage salad and spicy tomato relish

Gourmet steak sandwich, tomato, beetroot confit, Emmental cheese, mesculan lettuce, onion compote and tomato and chilli pickle

I thought I’d order something nice and light, seeing as how I really wanted to sample one of the amazing sounding desserts on the menu, so chose the Lindsay’s club sandwich, with smoked chicken breast, bacon, egg, tomato, mesculan lettuce and mustard mayonnaise…um, maybe not as light as it sounded…nevertheless it was a very nice take on the usual club sandwich, as well as being hearty it was fresh tasting and the mustard mayonnaise complimented the flavours perfectly.

 MD went for one of the specials, Italian sausages with garlic and parmesan mash and caramelised onion gravy, which tasted as good as it looked, the mash was lovely and creamy and the gravy not too sweet – which can sometimes be the case with caramelised onion.

 

Now for the piece of resistance – after much toing and froing I decided on the chocolate cherry black forest cake for dessert: beautifully presented, it came with not only cream, raspberry coulis and a strawberry but a dish of chocolate icecream with pieces of mars bar mixed into it…

 The prices range from $12.50 for the soup of the day, to $24.50 for pan fried barramundi with hand cut fat chips and lemon beurre blanc. Our mains were $18.50 each and there are a long list of daily specials added to the basic menu. The cafe isn’t licensed but you can BYO and there is a 10% surcharge on Sundays and public holidays. 

I’m afraid I wasn’t allowed to take any photos inside the gallery, (which is a shame because his paintings are wonderful), I can only suggest you go and see them for yourself…or check out the official website at : www.normanlindsay.com.au

See... I told you it looks scary!