A mountain retreat to bury the blues

The Blue Mountains' Fairmont Hotel provides the perfect setting for a weekend of fine dining and pampering.


Australia's favourite food blogger,
Not Quite Nigella, aka Lorraine Elliott, heads to the Blues Mountains to clear the air with an angry husband – and taste the local bounty as well.

I’ve been a bad wife. Really bad. Unspeakably bad really.

You see Dear Reader, this year, I missed Mr NQN’s actual birthday. I didn’t forget but I was overseas for it – with his blessing mind you, but guilt can be a terrible thing. So I sought to remedy it as soon as possible. And that would be with a weekend to the Blue Mountains at the newly refurbished Fairmont Hotel.

At 2:30pm it is peak hour at the Fairmont Hotel that borders the Jamison Valley. Families, couples and extended families line up at the reception area to check into the newly renovated hotel. The car park is full (a state we discover is permanent on weekends). When I told my friend Buxom Wench that I was going to the Fairmont, she gasped and asked if it was the same place that was A Current Affair for mismanagement and terrible room conditions.

fairmont hotel leura

Whilst the name stays the same, it was purchased by a hotelier in 2009, and has undergone extensive renovations and whilst the outside looks the same, the inside is brand new. Accor who own the Sofitel brand, have taken over the management. Warm copper covers walls and there is a distinct chic ski lodge feel with the attic style roof and Nordic chandelier. A baby grand piano sits underneath.

Our room, 442 on the top floor affords us spectacular views of the Blue Mountains and the green surrounds of the grounds. The room is spacious and there’s a queen sized bed with a pretty print background. There’s a warm atmosphere courtesy are comfortable chairs with patterns, golden wood and leather. Next to the lounge and coffee table is an ensemble that houses the tea and coffee and mini bar also with a Nespresso machine.

On the table, a macaron display and a bottle of sparkling wine are a gift from the hotel for Mr NQN’s birthday. The macarons are light and filled with a dark chocolate ganache and he eagerly wolfs them down. Another closet holds robes and slippers and a safe. All M Gallery properties have their own identity – the last one I stayed at was in Lyon in France and the theme there was toile and French bulldogs. The style here is definitely that of a Swiss chalet with the room having a cathedral ceiling. Internet is charged at $20 a day or $5 an hour which is not a small amount.

The bathroom is very minimalist and its sparseness doesn’t quite match the warmth of the bedroom. There’s a long sink on the left and a bath shower on the right. The MOR Products include a shampoo, conditioner, soap, shower gel, body cream, vanity kit, mouth wash and shower cap.

A golf course is also attached to the enormous gardens. There is also an outdoor pool area but given the winter chill, most are congregated in the indoor pool.

As part of "the Good Wife” initiative, I have a couples massage booked for Mr NQN and I at Spa Sublime. However, being the confused wife more than the Good Wife, I had accidentally gone to their location at Katoomba rather than the one at the hotel itself-oops! On the second floor, past the pool is couples massage suite. We fill in the form and our two therapists Felicity and Natalie get us to sniff a range of four the Aquorah products. The scent that we respond most to is the one that they will use. We both chose the first scent which was rich in ylang ylang.

I have a half hour facial and a half hour massage booked with Felicity whilst Mr NQN relaxes with an hour long massage. They check on the pressure and the massage is one with long, firm strokes and mainly concentrates on the back and neck so if you want legs or arms, then you are best to book in for an hour or request that certain parts are worked on. I turn over after 30 minutes and she gives me a facial and whilst the mask is on, she gives me a much needed arm and hand massage. Meanwhile, Mr NQN looks almost fast asleep on his side of the room!

Afterwards, we do a little bit of shopping in Leura and take some photos at Sublime Point before the cold hurries us back into the car and back to our warm room. Dinner is at 6pm so I quickly apply my makeup. The restaurant Eucalypt is downstairs one level and it’s a large space. As we’re dining at 6pm we are the first diners but we overhear that it is a full house this Saturday night. The space is a little cold with tones of green and blue and is scheduled for a much needed renovation to make it look warmer.

The menu looks quite interesting and we have some trouble choosing an item. Service is sweet but a little unsure. Local items are mentioned and mains are priced between $28 to $58 which is definitely on the high end. Townsville born chef Rebecca Kaye heads the kitchen and was brought in as part of the team to turn The Fairmont around.

fairmont hotel leura

The spatchcock breast, above, was a tad dry but well seasoned but the component I liked best was the date tagine tian with quinoa made with whole, soft dates giving the spatchcock moisture and sweetness. There was also some turmeric yogurt on the side that lent the spatchcock a sweetness.

Next was the carpaccio of smoked venison. Whilst the flavour was good, it was such a small dish that it disappeared in just a few mouthfuls. The smoked venison came as give paper thin slices with cubes of pomegranate jelly, salty parmesan crisps and blue pickled onion strong in aniseed.

To be honest, I was a bit worried when I saw the size of the entrees and the venison in particular. But the mains – snowy river rainbow trout, risotto nero, baby octopus, fennel and pomelo salad – look to be a good size ...

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