When the NSW Tourism Minister Adam Marshall said to me a couple of weeks ago at the Mercedes Benz Australia Fashion Week 2017 launch party that regional NSW has a lot to offer and there is so much to see, I believe him. Too often we think of going on holidays as hopping on a plane and flying to another capital city or overseas, but what if we hopped in a car or a guided minivan tour and headed out to the Central West NSW which is about 3 hours drive, to explore what is on offer, for a long weekend getaway from Sydney, for some country fresh air, to be seduced by the pastoral beauty, lush green fields, to learn of the region’s history, the local produce, to taste the food and the wine?
That's what I did in two days. Our destination was Mayfield Gardens in Oberon, NSW, but our journey in our mini van with Ian Redpath of Bathurst Tours included stopovers at Hydro Majestic in the Blue Mountains to indulge in Eastern High Tea, which is a more refined and elegant way to have ‘yum cha’ overlooking the panoramic misty mountains of Megalong Valley; a tour and taste of what Mayfield Gardens has on offer for the coming months and a historic walking tour of Bathurst. The journey from Sydney to Mayfield Gardens with Bathurst Tours passing through the Blue Mountain region was a blissfully absent-minded pleasure, with Ian providing us stopovers of places he recommended we go to like Mountain High Pies in Wentworth Falls if you want the best pies in town. Ian was also a wealth of knowledge of the history of the region.
This journey really is an ideal long weekend getaway from Sydney.
Both Mayfield Gardens and Bathurst are going through a major tourism transformation. My first visit to Mayfield Garden was about two years ago when I was invited to a private function of a friend of a friend’s wedding and access to events like this was pretty much invitation only. I remember the beautifully manicured gardens which would have been picture perfect if there weren’t so many flies at the time we went, which is what you get in Australia in the middle of Summer. But on my second visit to Mayfield Garden recently on a media famil, I found solitude. With the onset of Autumn and the air cool and crisp, the garden resembles a place that I would only see in Impressionist paintings, like Monet’s garden, in Paris. Mayfield Garden brings the vision of these paintings to real life. It is hard to believe something so majestic, so magical to see is only 3 hours drive from Sydney. Mayfield Garden is truly a hidden gem, a beautiful masterpiece.
Originally created by the Hawkins family in the 1990s, it is one of the world's largest privately owned cool climate gardens. You'll see all colours of nature here. There is an onsite wholesome rustic cafe with a paddock to plate menu with 80 percent of what is served being Mayfield's produce and remaining handpicked from local suppliers. And browsing through the menu makes my stomach rumble. Imagine waking up to the smell of a Mayfield breakfast with maple bacon and smashed rosemary potatoes, or indulging in the chocolate honeycomb pancakes and for lunch, you may fancy the Mayfield lamb pie or “Dirty” chocolate and berry trifle for dessert. Heath Smith formerly restauranteur of Bathurst Cobblestone Lane and Webb & Co Bar leads the entire food operation and under his guise is Head Chef, Dan Child. But it doesn't stop there.
Mayfield Garden is about to hold a line up of events, workshops and festivals for the wider community to enjoy. CEO Hamish Keith, former international event producer has curated a range of seasonal events. The next one will be in April called AutumnFest which will give access to explore Mayfield's 160 acre garden plus performances in front of the Mayfield Obelisk & Pond featuring the ‘not so reckless’ legendary Aussie rocker James Reyne as well as Boom Crash Opera, Matt Boylan-Smith and dynamic duo, Smith & Jones. There is also food and wine from a range of food and beverage vendors that has been curated. For the health conscious, Mayfield Garden will also host yoga retreats next month in May.
In Spring, a Cool Climate Wine & Food Festival is planned to celebrate world class cool climate wines from over 20 local vineyards, gourmet Tickets go on sale May 1 for that event.
We took a leisurely guided tour of Mayfield Garden with Hamish and in its serenity, we were surprised with characters from Alice in Wonderland popped up along the way as we walked through the gardens and its caves. Just before the sun set, we were treated with wine from Mayfield Garden’s cellars and tasted the canapes that Head Chef Dan Child created using the produce sourced from the gardens. One of the highlights was watching and listening to the music and poetry of entertainers and actors who performed in the gardens for us against panoramic backdrop of the Mayfield Garden as the sunset.
Stopovers on the way to Mayfield Gardens, Oberon
Hydro Majestic Hotel
One of our first stops on our journey to Mayfield Garden was to the Hydro Majestic Hotel for lunch. I had heard a lot about the Hydro Majestic but had not been before. The hotel is newly renovated and to re-establish the original owner Mark Foy’s ``Palace in the Wilderness’’ in the heart of the Blue Mountains. Although I could not compare what it looked like before the renovations, and the interiors were strong, bold, opulent and interesting, the highlight for me was the Eastern High Tea lunch at Wintergarden Restaurant and perhaps hunger had something to do with it. I tried the Western High Tea too which was very delicious but the flavours of the Eastern High Tea stood out for me. It was like a very elegant way to have “yum cha”.
On the Eastern High are a selection of steamed eastern dumplings, crispy bbq duck spring roll, coconut chicken sugar cane skewers, twice cooked pork belly and a selection of eastern and western desserts and your choice of tea or coffee. The pork belly was so delicious and the pork skin done to crispy perfection. The Eastern High Tea starts from $70 per person, $79.00 per person with a flute of sparkling wine $85.00 per person with a flute of Pol Roger NV Champagne
Bathurst's economy was transformed by the discovery of gold in 1851. Bathurst was the place of first European settlement west of the Blue Mountains. We did a walking tour on Bathurst and one thing I learnt to appreciate was the architecture of the buildings in Bathurst. The architecture reflects Bathurst's history from colonial through to recent times, with many examples remaining intact. Historical buildings range from workers cottages, terrace houses, mansions, slab huts, industrial, commercial buildings and grand civic structures. Take for example, the Carrington House, previously Masonic Hall built 1889 in the Italianate architecture style with stuccoed and decorated surfaces.
Since Bathurst was discovered for its gold, its affluence and prosperity brought to Bathurst the growth of hotels and inns which became typical of architecture of pubs known today. We stopped for a delicious casual lunch at one of them before our departure back to Sydney. The George Hotel is licensed & owned Matthew Harrowsmith, has over 20 years' experience in the wine industry with past role of Sommelier for a number of years in London. Matthews's latest wine list showcases his passion and knowledge boasting over 60 wines both local and international, making it the most comprehensive selection in the Central West. The food is a casual, relaxed dining experience focusing on fresh local produce.
“Jenny, you are in the tranquility room tonight”, Christine Le Fevre the owner of Bishop Court Estate says to me as I arrived at the Bishop Court Estate after our tour of Mayfield Garden and I was ready to crash on my bed as day touring does drain you, in a good way. But not just yet, as I walked into my room and was awoken with curiosity of the detailing of the décor. My room was opulent and beautifully decorate with the colour of passion, giving you a feeling of warmth and tranquility. The ideal room for romance. From the exquisite memory blacks on the walls to the luxurious spa bath located in the private marble bathroom (which use to be a nurse’s quarter), this room as been designed to provide a warm cocoon of comfort and pleasure.
Bishops Court Estate is so much more than just accommodation or stay in Bathurst, it has a charm, elegance and a history that you will appreciate when you stay there. The estate was built as the residence of the Anglican Bishop Samuel Marsden in 1870 and home to a long line of clergy until it was sold into private ownership in 1961. Christine Le Fevre, bought Bishop's Court a former Sydney based interior designer for hotels now owns and runs the place and is a talented cook. And the food is so memorably delicious.
Bishop’s Court Estate is classy, luxurious, elegant but with relaxed, country hospitality and perfect for a Sydney weekend escape
Trip Notes Summary
· Bathurst Tours www.bathurstonedaytours.com.au which has tours from Sydney or Bathurst and its surrounds.
· Self-drive from Sydney to Oberon is about 3 hours.
· Train to Bathurst from Sydney. You can see www.sydneytrains.info for more information and timetables.
Where to stay
· Bishop’s Court Estate in Bathurst www.bishopscourtestate.com.au
· Mayfield Garden offers accommodation during certain times of the year aligned with events. See their website for further details. www.mayfieldgarden.com.au/events
· Hydro Majestic in the Blue Mountains
· Mountain High Pies, Wentworth Falls, for pies and clean toilets
· Glenbrook (Visitor Centre), clean toilets
Where to Eat
· The George Hotel in Bathurst for excellent gastropub food www.thegeorgehotel.pub
· Legall Patisserie, Bathurst www.facebook.com/LegallPatisserieCafe/
· The Hub, Bathurst for great coffee www.facebook.com/thehubbathurst/
· Hydro Majestic Hotel, Blue Mountains - Wintergarden Restaurant for Eastern or Western High Tea www.hydromajestic.com.au
· Mountain High Pies, Wentworth Falls
See.Taste.Do travelled as a guest of Mayfield Garden.