A few weeks ago it was our wedding anniversary and the plan was to go away for a couple of nights. However, with having to squeeze the celebration in between a number of other events, we had to scale back our intentions and instead head away for a 24-hour escape.
That meant we also didn’t have time for anything long distance so we booked a night at Lilianfels in Sydney’s Blue Mountains. The Blue Mountains are just a 90-minute drive from Sydney but with the vastly different scenery, landscape and climate, you really do feel very removed from Sydney.
When you book a room at Lilianfels you can purchase a package that includes dinner at Darleys, the in-house restaurant, or at Echoes, the restaurant in the boutique hotel that’s located directly across the road and yes, both resorts are owned by the same company. We’ve been to Darleys on a few occasions so we decided to book Echoes.
I made the booking on-line and for our accommodation you could choose a valley-view room or a resort-view room. I selected ‘resort-view’. Then there was a comment section so I advised we were coming up for our wedding anniversary and if at all possible, could we have a room with a lovely outlook.
Now Drew calls me ‘Charlie the Champion Complainer’, but it’s not without just cause. Here’s the view from the ‘resort view room’.
It was like a scene from my favourite Merchant Ivory film, A Room With a View. The room itself was beautiful. It was large and spacious with comfy lounge chairs and a king-sized bed and a magnificent bathroom, and there was even a letter congratulating us on our wedding anniversary with some complimentary chocolates. But the room was dark, there was no mobile reception, you felt the curtains needed to be drawn because of all the windows looking in, and there was no view.
So I picked up the phone to get straight on to the Complaints Department and Drew, who had already unpacked, just rolled his eyes. ‘Standard’, was what he muttered. We were swiftly upgraded to a valley view room on the top floor where there were two sets of windows overlooking the Megalong Valley with the sunshine streaming in, mobile reception and a bottle of champagne on ice ordered by our children as a surprise. I was feeling better.
Our booking at Echoes was at 7pm. Echoes has a lovely history. In the 1920’s a large homestead was built by Florence Young who was a missionary who travelled extensively through the Far East and Papua New Guinea introducing Christianity. From the 40’s until the mid-80’s the historic homestead was a retreat for the Australian Christian Nurses movement. By the late 80’s it was in such a poor state of repair it had become a fire hazard and the building was torn down.
In its place a three-storey contemporary guest house was built as a retreat for Australian author, Thomas Keneally (Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith, Shindler’s Arc/List) and his television mates. Today it is a boutique resort with rooms overlooking the world heritage listed Blue Mountains National Park.
The restaurant was informed by Lilianfels we were celebrating a special occasion and had consequently reserved a prime table for us on the edge of the view. The view of the Megalong Valley is stunning and as it’s constantly changing, you can sit transfixed in front of it for hours. We were fortunate to witness a stunning sunset where as the sun disappeared behind the escarpment, it looked as though the hills themselves were on fire.
The dinner menu has individual prices or you can order two or three courses for a set price. We ordered three courses for $135/pp. Reading through the menu, great care is taken to, as much as possible, only use locally sourced ingredients.
Complimentary bread was brought to the table and accompanied with olive oil and balsamic vinegar as well as unsalted butter. I enjoyed the very fresh bread that had been warmed.
The amuse bouche was a warm and creamy tomato soup. Sometimes I find tomato soup too acidic but this had none of those tones yet was still rich in tomato flavour.
For an entree, Drew ordered the crispy soft-shell crab and pan-fried Australian scallops with Som Tam salad. He said this dish was outstanding. The crab was definitely crispy and the scallops perfectly cooked with the Thai green papaya salad making the dish extremely refreshing.
I ordered the Galston Heights pan-fried quail, kale, Shimeji mushroom, tamarind & honey glaze. Sadly, I was very disappointed with this dish. It was certainly a very generously proportioned entree however it was terribly under-seasoned and I had to ask for salt and pepper to be brought to the table. I found the sauce quite watery and tasteless. Because Drew thinks I’m a champion complainer I asked him to taste it and he agreed, it was lacking in seasoning and flavour.
Drew’s main course was pan-fried Cone Bay barramundi fillet, Thai sour curry broth with fresh Parklands vegetables finished with lime leaves. Drew picked another winner and thoroughly enjoyed the barramundi that was well presented, tender and juicy. The sour Thai curry broth cut through the richness of the fish and gave wonderful contrasting flavours of heat, salty and sour.
I ordered the cashew nut crumbed grass fed Riverina lamb racks with parsnip Skordalia, Swiss chard, pencil leek and lemon thyme jus. The dish was beautifully presented and also popular as I noticed a rack of lamb being brought to every other table. The lamb was pink and tender and the Skordalia, a Greek dish of thickly pureed vegetables that includes garlic, was wonderful. I do think lamb and parsnips work very well together.
Sides can be ordered but we found the servings generous enough in proportion to not require any additional dishes.
I think Drew chose the best dessert on the menu. It was lemon crème brulee, coconut sorbet with fig and pistachio wafers. Sometimes I find creme brulee quite sweet but with lemon flavouring this brulee, the sweetness was reduced. It was a beautifully creamy brulee that was well contrasted with the coconut sorbet.
I ordered the cheese platter that was described as a selection of premium international and Australian cheese, crackers, apple chutney and quince paste. This was very generous and probably should be ordered between two. I was surprised to see the layered walnut cheese on the plate as I don’t consider that a premium cheese, however, the platter had a contrast of cheeses and I enjoyed the apple chutney.
Our waitress then brought us a complimentary platter of chocolates for our wedding anniversary which was a lovely gesture.
The service at Echoes restaurant is professional, attentive and discreet. The view is uninterrupted, outstanding and unique; it’s an absolute privilege to be situated in such a prime position. I did find the menu a little lacking in interest. While the menu certainly reads well, and while they are trying to use ingredients locally sourced, it’s a little pedestrian in that there are no surprises and the choices are typically chicken, beef, lamb or fish with a vegetarian offering. You can’t however, fault the service, view or setting.
If choosing between Darleys or Echoes, I’d say Darleys has superior food but Echoes has the superior view.
Verdict: Uniquely positioned
Echoes: 3 Lilianfels Avenue Katoomba, NSW 2780