24-Hour Room Service: Lilianfels, Blue Mountains, Australia
Saturday 22 April 2000
As a hotel, Lilianfels has had some very good press. Indeed chic magazines such as
Conde Nast Traveller have raved about it. Just metres from the edge of an escarpment in the Blue Mountains, two hours' drive from Sydney, it sits surrounded by eucalyptus forests. Dramatic, yes. But what nobody makes quite clear enough is that the hotel is also in a suburb of Katoomba. The effect is slightly surreal: on one side are wisteria-clad detached houses, on the other a dizzying panorama of peaks and forested valleys fading into blue-green abstraction.
As a hotel, Lilianfels has had some very good press. Indeed chic magazines such as Tatler and Conde Nast Traveller have raved about it. Just metres from the edge of an escarpment in the Blue Mountains, two hours' drive from Sydney, it sits surrounded by eucalyptus forests. Dramatic, yes. But what nobody makes quite clear enough is that the hotel is also in a suburb of Katoomba. The effect is slightly surreal: on one side are wisteria-clad detached houses, on the other a dizzying panorama of peaks and forested valleys fading into blue-green abstraction.
This luxury country house hotel is where posh Sydneysiders like to escape for the weekend, and the service was suitably smiley and efficient. There's a billiard room with full-sized snooker table, wood panelling and its own waiter to serve you single malt and Havanas (he'll also help you select from a fantastic list of Australian wines).
Then there's a split-level lounge festooned with enormous, Laura Ashley-style sofas and bookshelves crammed with country-house-type volumes such as Great Bird Migrations. It's rather odd cosying up with hot chocolate over a picture book when it's burning outside. Maybe rich Australians have a secret yearning for English weather.
The greatest thing about Lilianfels is the view. From the lounge you feel as if you could step over the edge of the escarpment and fly away, and there are spectacular walks to the Three Sisters mountains. Sadly, our "top floor room overlooking the valley" had a view of a large eucalyptus tree, with the valley view visible only through one corner window.
One final niggle. In this exclusive place, a gentle Monday afternoon Martini was interrupted by a conference. A Melbourne manageress was exhorting her employees to "embrace change" and "shift paradigms". Not quite the stuff of romance and wilderness.
Location, location, location
Lilianfels, Lilianfels Avenue, Echo Point 2780, NSW, Australia (00 61 2 4780 1200).
Time to international airport: by car, the hotel is two hours from Sydney but there are also numerous trains each day from Sydney Central Station to Katoomba. The journey takes 90 minutes and costs around £7 return. The hotel is a five minute taxi ride from Katoomba station.
Are you lying comfortably?
Our room was beautifully furnished, with antique wardrobes and a large, plush bed. The effect was a kind of Mediterranean Laura Ashley. The bathroom was big and marbled, with bathrobes you could happily live inside.
Room service food was delicious, with salmon sandwiches generously made and beautifully presented.
The bottom line
Valley view rooms start at AUS $350 (£140) per night. "Garden view" rooms (overlooking the suburb) are $315 (£125).
I'm not paying that
The Mountain Heritage Country House Retreat (00 61 2 4782 2155) also has spectacular views and rooms start at AUS $250 (£100) per night; it's cosy but less posh.
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