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Blue Mountains Tourist : Spring 2010
Spring dining -- world class! It's Spring, and this season our food reviewers visit two of the Blue Mountains finest restaurants, Echoes and Darley's ... Echoes Echoes is famed for its breathtaking views and fine dining. A place for the foodie hip, it has a reputation for delivering faultless fare to a growing number of diners hunting that unbeatable Blue Mountains experience. Its dramatic yet groovy decor and divinely inspired menu testifies to the philosophy behind everything Echoes stands for. It's where eats meets arts -- and all on a grand scale. Boasting some of the region's most dramatic views, diners at Echoes are treated to a cinematic scale display of colour and light, draped spectacularly across high sandstone escarpments plunging to the rugged valley below. Epic? Indeed. We begin with the Vegetarian Mediterranean Plate, a generous platter of lightly grilled spring vegetables, finely cured olives, roasted herb infused whole cherry tomatoes, accompanied by a plethora of house-made condiments and crusty bread. Serious sustenance! The standout dish -- the Confit Duck Risotto -- is delicately flavoured with black truffles and a mushroom ragout. It's here Executive Chef Robbie Stapleton displays his knack for creating the memorable. Echoes Salad, with crispy clean flavours of fennel, pear and Verjuice vinaigrette, provides the perfect counterpoint -- as does the De Bertoli Sauvignon. We continue to soak in the view. It's mesmerising. The fresh Potato Gnocchi with baby butternut pumpkin, porcini mushroom in a saffron beurre blanc, is a multi layered delight. Captivated by the dramatic vistas and delicious food, we have lingered too long. The bushwalk is postponed as the Spring Cocktail menu draws our attention. The serenely sophisticated 'Roseberry' is a delicately hued base of peach schnapps and vodka, imbued with rose essence and raspberry. Spring in a martini glass! A 'Black Berrylicious' contrasts with its deep vibrant richness. A generous explosion of black, blue and raspberries smashed with cranberry and pineapple juices and aroused with vodka and Chambord Liqueur. A refreshingly tart interpretation. Sensational. If you choose to dine at Echoes, the location will have you dawdling, immersed in the panorama and loitering over sumptuous dishes. As a man in a hat once said, 'do yourself a favour'. Linger longer. You'll love it! Darley's at Lilianfels Darley's at Lilianfels is the Blue Mountains premier, award winning restaurant. Our mission is to sample the new Spring menu created by inventive Executive Chef, Carl Middleton. We choose the degustation menu and it unravels to be a journey through the arts -- a ballet for the taste buds, a masterpiece for the eyes, an opera for all the senses. We are in Carl's theatre. A silky soft shot of Vichyssoise. Aromatic truffle oil arouses the nose, the palate teased, and spring chives lingering, this is a light seductive prelude. Act 1 appears from the garden. Fresh sugar snap, snow and garden peas rest atop smooth avocado. Pea tendrils add an earthy punch. Adorned with whole candied hazelnuts, the sweet nuttiness is balanced by a creamy salted ricotta. This light, crunchy spring salad is perfectly matched with a breezy, non-vintage, Pirie Tasmanian Sparkling wine. This crisp start is followed by thin, elegant slices of lightly seared Yellowfin Tuna. The tantalisingly tender fish is juxtaposed with the citrus bite from the accompanying escabeche vegetables. Fresh baby rocket leaves and eggplant jous add garden overtones to the tangy carrot, capsicum and oyster mushrooms. This is coupled with an honest Bloodwood Riesling from Orange. Continuing the seafood overture, exquisite butter poached Marron Tail takes centre stage. The West Australian freshwater cray is sweet and fluffy, yet remains firm. With an entourage of fennel confit, tender warm potato rounds and dynamic blood orange salad, you'd be forgiven for thinking this is the crescendo. Kooyong chardonnay from Victoria's Mornington peninsula is an appropriate partner for this dance. And so, we arrive at the final dramatic aria. Perched upon a leaf shaped bed of crushed peas is Ballantine of 'Jumbo' Quail. Stuffed with flavoursome sweetbread, this moist game dish is rich in flavour. With a soubise puree providing a soft grounding of onion, the truffle sauce adds embellishment to this final act, with a 2006 Cotes du Rhone a logical companion. The final curtain call is a delicately layered crunchy vanilla ice cream stack with baby currents, topped with a wafer of dark chocolate, and escorted by a black current sorbet. 'The Bothie' dessert wine from the Barossa Valley sets off this climax perfectly. Based on intricate design, each dish is a clever combination of succinct flavours and enchanting textures complementing Australia's finest produce. We stand and applaud: "Bravo, Monsieur Carl... Encore!" spring 2010 www.bluemountainstouristnewspaper.com.au 23