If you think it’s still a tea and scones kind of place, you haven’t been paying attention. Restaurateur Baden Evans talks us through the best places to eat in the Blue Mountains.
A love of rock climbing may have drawn Baden Evans to the Blue Mountains from his previous base in Wollongong, NSW, but since making the move nearly five years ago he’s found plenty more to keep him busy – namely Tempus, the modern Australian restaurant he co-owns in Katoomba.
The region is having a resurgence, he says. “People want food that’s sustainable and connected to the producer and we’re so well served here. We can have vegetables from little organic farms and wines from wineries that people can easily visit. Plus, it’s a tourist region so we have lots of good cafés, restaurants and boutique bottle shops.” Here’s his pick of the mountains.
For the pastries: Black Cockatoo Bakery
“It’s predominantly a sourdough baker, working out of Lawson, and there’s a retail space in Katoomba as well. They do a range of beautiful sourdoughs and pastries, including an incredible cinnamon croissant. They also do weekend specials – it might be a goat’s cheese, caramelised onion and thyme focaccia. But I go for the coffee and that cinnamon croissant.”
For picnic supplies: This Little Piggy
“Maria, the owner, is a kindhearted woman who sells boutique cheeses, lots of lovely meats and a great deli range of chutneys, olive oils, flavoured salts, gluten-free crackers and the like (238 Great Western Highway, Blackheath; 0466 261 076). And she makes excellent sandwiches and quiches. It’s one of my go-tos in Blackheath if I need a cheeseboard or I’m heading out on a bushwalk; I grab a couple of sandwiches and maybe a brownie.”
For a bougie dinner: Ateş
“This is a high-quality fine-diner in an intimate setting with a 150-year-old woodfired oven. I get the dégustation and it’s a beautiful exploration of local flavours, utilising that oven really well. Will Cowan Lunn is an incredible chef – the restaurant earned a Chef’s Hat recently. There’s also a handful of fantastic wines. It’s the place for a date night or dinner with a close group of friends.”
For a pub dinner: New Ivanhoe Hotel
“It’s one of those quintessentially Australian pubs in an Art Deco building right in the middle of Blackheath (231 Great Western Highway; 02 4787 6156). The service is always fantastic. It’s a warm and homey environment, perfect for grabbing a beer and a good lamb shanks and mash kind of dinner.”
For momos: Tibet Kitchen
“It’s a small, Tibetan, family restaurant in Katoomba (10 Katoomba Street; 0406 122 623), serving momos and broth soups and things like that. It’s very understated in style but has that cosy mountains vibe and hearty food. The fried potato momos are amazing. It’s great after a bushwalk to sit down here and be warmed from the inside.”
For craft beer: Mountain Culture Beer Co.
“There’s always a range of interesting and fun new brews at this spot in Katoomba and the deck out the back catches the afternoon sun beautifully. You can grab some tater tots with curry sauce and have your late arvo beer before you head back to freshen up for dinner.”
For falafels: Cedar Kebab Cafe
“This place isn’t open every day but if it is, there’ll be a line out the door for fresh kebabs (129B Katoomba Street, Katoomba; 0410 151 024). The falafels are made in-house and are the best. You’ll spend about $10, be full and happy with the flavours.”
Want more delicious places to eat and drink in the Blue Mountains? Try...
For cider: Hillbilly Cider
Nestled deep in the folds of Bilpin you’ll find Tessa and Shane McLaughlin, founders of Hillbilly Cider. Here, chief cidermaker Shane (who is also treasurer of Cider Australia) grows "apples at altitude", resulting in a product that is one of the most highly awarded craft-cider companies in Australia. Hillbilly has a brand-new Cider Shed where visitors can sample apple cider, pear cider and a vintage apple cider that is a great alternative to sparkling wine.
For fresh produce: Blackheath Growers' Market
The Blackheath Growers' Market hosts more than 60 stalls with a wide array of regional foods on the second Sunday of every month. From fruits and vegetables to free-range eggs, meats, bread, cheeses, olive oils and wines, this market is a happy hub for the community.
For coffee: Leura Garage
Eco warriors unite at Leura Garage, a hippie-meets-hipster hangout with a regional food and wine focus. Revheads with a conscience will appreciate the environmentally friendly space, converted from an auto-repair shop to a restaurant with Scandustrial décor and car-themed art. A long black will help fire up the engines.
For high tea: Hydro Majestic
Get your pinkie finger primed for high tea at the Hydro Majestic, where you will enjoy a selection of petite sandwiches, housemade pastries and scones with clotted cream and jam, plus your choice of tea or coffee. While the Hydro serves decadent sweet creations, it also turns tradition on its head with the hugely popular Eastern High Tea. Linger a little longer to enjoy those magnificent Megalong Valley views.
For fine dining: Lilianfels Blue Mountains Resort & Spa
Serious gourmands must factor in a detour to Darley's, located at Lilianfels Blue Mountains Resort & Spa, the only hatted restaurant in the Upper Blue Mountains. Darley's is all about fine dining, old-world charm and tinkling jazz.
For a meal with a view: Echoes Boutique Hotel & Restaurant
Enjoy lunch with spectacular vistas at Echoes Boutique Hotel & Restaurant, which occupies prime real estate overlooking the mountains and rumpled Jamison Valley. Grab your posse for pre-dinner drinks at this Echo Point institution and watch the sunset bruise the sky with shades of pink, purple and blue.
For bread and pastries: Hominy Bakery
Use your loaf. Pick up a signature sourdough at Hominy Bakery (185 Katoomba Street, Katoomba; 02-4782 9816), a charming little bakehouse where you will stand cheek by jowl with locals getting their fix. Be prepared to queue for a chunky beef pie.
For scones: The Megalong Valley Tearooms
Walk up an appetite trudging along the Six Foot track, which takes three days to complete, then reward yourself with a trip to The Megalong Valley Tearooms, where you can carb-load with scones, pies, cakes and other baked treats.
For chocolate: Blue Mountains Chocolate Company
Chocolatier Adam Preen specialises in handmade chocolates using only the finest Belgian couverture and locally sourced premium-grade ingredients at the Blue Mountains Chocolate Company. Indulge in a mug of hot chocolate served atop a candle that melts the choc into the milk as you drink it. It’s the perfect fuel for a walk to the Three Sisters, which is five minutes away on foot.
Bottoms up at Dryridge Estate
Pause at the Wine Pavilion Door (a posh name for a cellar door) at Dryridge Estate to enjoy views of the bony sandstone escarpment looming over the Megalong Valley floor. The boutique vineyard is worth a visit as it pioneered viticulture in the Blue Mountains and is the only licensed producer of local mountain wine. Chin-chin.
Image credits: Damien Milan (Katoomba and Baden Evans); Destination NSW (Hydro Majestic)