Perched on the very edge of an escarpment, with views straight down the Megalong Valley with the Kanimbla Ranges in the background, the Hydro Majestic is in Medlow Bath, a leafy suburb in the Blue Mountains region of Sydney.
Originally named the Belgravia Hotel it began its life as a health retreat in the late 1800s. That was until Gatsby-esque retail baron Mark Foy bought it in 1902 and created a hydropathic sanatorium. It offered all sorts of ‘interesting’ treatments (bowel kneading anyone?) to become one of the country’s finest hotels. Lavish parties reminiscent of French Belle Epoque were regularly hosted; where guests could dance the night away in the beautiful ballroom.
The decadent parties attracted the rich and famous (Dame Nellie Melba performed regularly, and Sir Edmund Barton actually died here in 1920). The hotel was then used by the US army in World War II as a general hospital, but in 1921 the hotel was badly damaged in a bushfire. There were several refurbishments as the hotel tried to reinvent itself, but it never regained its original majesty and ostentation, instead falling into disrepair and finally closing.
That is, until its recent change in ownership and a much needed $30 million redevelopment. The buildings have been fully restored to their eclectic mix of Victorian, Edwardian and art nouveau architecture and design. The old girl lives again!
The day we visited for high tea started out as a lovely brisk morning in the mountains, but the weather soon rolled in (as it’s want to do in the mountains in autumn) and it was a quick scurry from the carpark to the Wintergarden trying to avoid the sudden downpour. Once we were seated though, it didn’t take long for the clouds to clear and the view along the Megalong Valley slowly revealed itself.
The Wintergarden is a grand room. High ceilings, fireplaces, white tablecloths, fine bone china tea service and comfortable wing-tipped chairs make it a place you can easily settle into for the afternoon. The floor to ceiling windows flood the room with natural light, and the view is fantastic. If you’re not sitting right near the window, it looks like you’re actually floating above the valley – instead of just being perched on the edge.
We started our high tea with a glass of Pol Roger champagne to sip and watch the clouds clear from the valley while we were waiting for our high tea tier to arrive.
The sandwiches were the traditional cucumber; roast beef and chicken. All on multigrain bread, they were nice and fresh. It was the other two savoury elements that shone though.
The smoked salmon on the blini was extra smokey, and the little sprinkle of caviar on top added a nice salty pop. The star of the savouries though is the mini goats cheese tart. Perfect shortcrust pastry, a firm goats cheese filling topped with some caramelized onion. A large slice of this tart with a side salad would make a lovely lunch.
Moving on to the sweets, the madeline was vanilla with a hint of lemon. Texture wise it sat between a cupcake and a friand. So not too light, but not dense with almond meal either – the best of both worlds really.
The custard tart was encased in another perfect pastry shell and topped with fresh strawberry slivers and blueberries. And while the cappuccino cup was supposed to be mousse-like, it was a little runny. It had a great hit of coffee though. The shortbread biscuit was nice and buttery sandwiched together with some gooey jam.
The scones were served with strawberry jam and clotted cream. They had a great crust with a nice texture in the middle. On the plate were both plain and fruit versions.
Overall, the venue for this high tea is definitely what sets it apart from others. You really feel like you’re sitting in a place that has decades of history behind it, and even though the walls are new, if they could talk they’d channel some very interesting stories!
Hydro Majestic High Tea Options
Wintergarden High Tea
$65 per person ($55 weekday); $79 per person with a flute of Australian sparkling wine ($69 weekday); $85 per person with a flute of Pol Roger NV Champagne ($75 weekday).
Gluten Free High Tea
$65 per person ($55 weekday)
Eastern High Tea (new option – not available when we visited)
Selection of steamed Eastern dumplings, BBQ duck pancake, vegetarian rice paper roll, twice cooked pork belly and selection Eastern and Western desserts.
$70 per person ($60 weekday).
Children’s High Tea
Selection of sandwich soldiers, sweet treats and pikelets with jam and cream and your choice of tea or hot chocolate.
$35 per child.
Hydro Majestic Guided Tour
If you’re making the journey up the mountain, why not relive a little slice of yesteryear with a guided tour before or after your high tea. Beginning in the Casino Lobby under it’s iconic domed roof, the Salon Due The and Cat’s Alley, the elegant Majestic Ballroom and finishes in the Hydro Majestic Pavilion which has displays of the Hydro’s historical past. All tours run for approximately 30-45 minutes. Cost: $10.