WHY THE BLUE MOUNTAINS IS STILL A PERFECT GETAWAY | My Top 3 Places to Visit
I’ve overlooked the Blue Mountains in recent years, favouring the Southern Highlands for a quick getaway from Sydney; but a recent stay in Katoomba reminded me what the region has to offer – aside from the vast, awe-inspiring natural environment which speaks for itself.
THE UPSIDE: the slow pace, natural beauty and great selection of dining options to suit all moods, tastes and budgets.
THE DOWNSIDE: you might relax so much you lose your edge and, along with it – a game of scrabble!
I didn’t venture beyond Katoomba on this recent visit. Needing to just be still for a few days was in order so we kept it simple and did things all within walking distance from our accommodation.
There are still all the lovely old homes, beautiful tree-lined streets with floral gardens, BnB’s and local galleries. The Carrington is still there and dominates the top end of the main street and at the other end, the Three Sisters stand strong and draw the ever-present crowds.
Always enjoying a bit of old-school charm as well trying something new, we did just that. Here are my three highlights that cover both bases.
1 Cassiopeia Specialty Coffee – the (relatively) new kid in town
On a quiet street, which most of them are unless it's the main one that runs right through town, lies Cassiopeia. I had to search for its name, hidden on the side on the building, which seems to be their style. It’s understated, clean, minimalist design with a great vibe, and friendly laid-back service – which stands out when you’ve just left the big smoke. They offer excellent coffee roasted in-house and some light food options – toast with avo and some pastries. Get your coffee fix here. You’ll pass them on the way to the Three Sisters.
2 Old City Bank Brassiere – the old-world staple
Often in a country town or on a getaway we’ll factor in a meal at the local pub. You get to soak up some of the local scene, see what the folk are all about and feel less like a blow-in from out of town.
The Old City Bank Brassiere, which used to be part of the Carrington, is definitely worth a visit. We were all surprised by the quality of our meals and we enjoyed them thoroughly, along with the charming dining room (definitely eat upstairs) and good service. Special mention to the beef cheeks and the lamb shoulder; better than many restaurants. Go for those over a steak if you’re looking for meat, you won’t be disappointed.
3 The Grey Duckling – the off-beat surprise hit you need to be in the know to know about
We were staying with locals who had only just discovered this unassuming gem - so this is hot off the press. The Grey Duckling takes over The Elephant Bean café at night and already does a great trade. Local artist and chef, Loretta, runs the entire kitchen on her own with the assistance of one wait staff. The food is homely, authentic Italian style and quite impressive; especially when you consider it’s a one-woman-show. The vibe is ultra-relaxed, casual and fun. We see Loretta turn away several punters who we feel sorry for as we know they’re missing out. Don’t think about it too much, just take my word for it – pop in during the day, tell them you’ll be back that night and they’ll probably nod and smile and say, “see you then” (without writing anything down or asking your name). Unless word has gotten out and they've started taking ‘proper’ bookings and announce they’re fully booked. I wouldn't be surprised. Ps. The homemade fettuccine is a hit!
Ps. I know I said 3 highlights, but The Yellow Deli and the new Kiosk renovation down by the Three Sisters also deserve a quick mention. The Yellow Deli is the most original place you'll come across, and thank goodness someone has done something with that food, souvenir shop space!!