... a dreamer, freelance writer, massage therapist, naturopath, mother & drop-out social work student living, working and writing in the Blue Mountains. When not occupied with the real world, she writes fantasy.
Published June 4th 2014
By a former 'Good Pub Food Guide' reviewer & Katoomba local
Bread and olives entree at the Carrington Hotel Old City Bank Brasserie - why not?
As a local resident, I've been asked for restaurant recommendations so many times I decided I may as well write an article.
I've seen restaurants and cafés come and go, so no guarantees every business listed on here is still thriving five years post this review, however, many are long-term stalwarts, so chances are the doors will still be open when you arrive in town!
If you're planning to eat out in Katoomba, be aware that in terms of convenience and opening hours this isn't Sydney nor New York. Don't expect to head out of your hotel at 10pm for a late Thai curry. Actually, at 9pm you might be pushing it. Also, alas, many, if not most food establishments are closed any combination of Sunday, Monday or Tuesday night. This is because the majority of you (our dear tourists) have abandoned us. As this is primarily a tourist town (although apparently some people do live here) many close shop in preference to twiddling their thumbs. Do check the opening hours of the cafe or restaurant before you visit. I've provided phone numbers and website links for this.
If you get desperate, there's always the local Coles – open till midnight. And, there isDomino's Pizza. Although, let's hope it doesn't come to that.
Click on the link below, to check out my dining recommendations courtesy of my ten or more years of local experience. You'll note there's no ranking numbers on this list. As they say, one man's / woman's caviar is another's soggy dumpling. I've picked the best of the bunch, now it's up to you to choose your own rose from my bouquet. And, please do leave a comment on how you fared.
Sanwiye Korean Cafe
Cuisine: Korean Address: 172 Katoomba St Phone: 0405 402 130 Price range: Cheap Website: none
The locals simply call this 'the Korean place' because they can't pronounce Sanwiye (just a tip if you're asking for directions). This humble little business, set on the main street of Katoomba, has down-home café style and sweet, glowing rice-paper lanterns. You can book a table if you wish and there's a mix of seating arrangements from the semi-circular seat by the window to the large wood benches suitable for groups. A small combustion fire adds ambience in winter, but not a great deal of warmth.
You will find the best bang for your buck here. Servings are whopping and I'm not exaggerating. The simple, rustic food is tasty and authentic and the menu has many options from noodle dishes to Asian pancakes, dumplings and sumo-sized soups with potato or rice noodles.
Free water with lemon and a chocolate flavoured wafer served with most meals add to the bliss. This has the fastest food service I've ever encountered. In fact, one Trip Advisor reviewer complained it was too fast. If you can find anywhere faster I'll shout you a free beer.
I adore the fine touch of the dark chopsticks placed on their rests. But, if you're after high-end service and sophisticated food, this one isn't for you I'm afraid.
Sanwiye also gains my vote for its accessibility to people on special diets – gluten & dairy free, vegan and vegetarian options are plentiful. The ginger tea with walnut is very sweet, spicy and delicious, but beware drinking too much liquid because ....
One downside is the lack of toilets. If you need to go, staff will give you a key and direct you to toilets out the back. Can be highly inconvenient if you have young children who want to go suddenly. Or if that case of urgency is yourself.
Sanwiye Korean Cafe - best value for money in town.
Cuisine: Indian Address: 16 Valley Rd Phone: (02) 4782 4662 Price: Mid-range Website: None
Indian cuisine has come to Katoomba in a big way with three to four such businesses currently in residence. Arjuna's has been here the longest and is still my personal fave. Although, just slightly out of the main section of town, Arjuna's excellent reputation amongst the locals and regular tourists ensures it a constant flow of loyal trade.
The key to their success is consistent quality and regular opening hours. The naan bread is massive – best to share one between two - and the meals come in little pots that belie how full they will make you. I no longer consume dairy foods, but from past forays can tell you that the mango Lassi is a killer – in a good sense that is! The dim lighting, the Indian style music and wall art provide a pleasurable ambience. If you get there early enough it's nice to watch the sunset through the glassed verandah.
Arjuna's is a family run local business. BYO for small corkage fee. There are plenty of vegetarian options and the vegetarian Korma is my tried and trusty fave.
Cuisine: Chinese Address: 246 Katoomba St Phone: (02) 4782 2868 Price: mid-range Website:www.katoombacantonpalace.com.au
Obligingly open 7 days a week, and situated just down the hill from the main drag – on the left side of Katoomba street - this is the token "Chinese" joint that every town has. It's also damn good, so don't take it for granted. Canton Palace has survived in this town while many other Chinese restaurants have gone down. This is the place I take family for guaranteed professional service and quality Chinese food. In these times there's nothing like something you can depend on.
Canton Palace has a big menu with all the standard Chinese fare, plus extensive alcoholic beverages. The waiters here are professional and nice. It's also a large premises with those classic big round tables that are suitable for group get togethers and share plates, and there's plenty of parking on site. When I come here (which is often) I'm rather partial to the bok choy and mushrooms, the delicious vegetarian fried rice and those vegetarian dim sims. Oh yes!
Cuisine: Modern Australian, Japanese, Italian influences. Address: 132 Lurline St Phone: (02) 4782 2281 Price: mid-range Website:www.pinsonlurline.com.au
A stone's throw from the town, in a residential setting, at night you can spot the restaurant with the long-winded name by its' fairy lights. It's hard to categorise 'Pins' with its' gingerbread house exterior and strange combinations of cuisines, but I'm sure you will find something if not a lot to like.
Pins on Lurline is run by a Japanese wife and Scottish husband combo and features an eclectic mix of Italian pastas, rice dishes and Japanese noodles, plus modern Australian dishes.
The circa 1898 old-style interior provides a cosy vibe. But don't be fooled: this place has plenty of modern-day hustle and bustle and seems popular with groups - thus, make sure to book well in advance if you want to eat here on a Friday or Saturday night. Seating capacity is quite small which can add to the difficulty of getting a table, but on the upside it adds to a cosiness factor. Just don't cough in the wrong direction.
Prices are reasonable and Pins on Lurline has the distinction of being ranked number one Katoomba restaurant on Trip Advisor.
Gluten free, dairy free and vegan options are helpfully marked on the menu. In addition, alcohol, innovative desserts ($12) and blackboard specials supplement the meals.
Despite all the adulation above I wasn't as thrilled with my main and dessert as I'd anticipated I'd be, but the majority of you should find joy.
Cuisine: deli / light cafe food Address: 214 Katoomba St (bottom round-about) Phone: 02 4782-9744 Price: Cheap Website:yellowdeli.com/katoomba
A fave with locals and tourists alike, this was my local meeting place with friends until it fell into disrepute through a newspaper article. You see, the café with the cheery name is run by a religious mob and some of my friends aren't big on that.
Don't let that put you off and rest assured there'll be no attempts to convert you. The bearded men and long-skirted women are pleasant and somehow relaxing and you will enjoy the chilled peace and lack of pretension while you down a home-style pumpkin soup, chai or blueberry pancake.
Of all food establishments in Katoomba, this is the one where you will feel most peaceful, comfortable and at home. Just don't put your feet up on the table. Yellow Deli is the closest thing you will find to Gran's kitchen - although that does depend on what kind of gran you have.
Yellow Deli or whatever their latest name is, isn't vegetarian by the way. Perhaps it's the hippy-like appearance of the staff and the natural wooden decor that misleads us into thinking their ideals might extend to the animal kingdom.
It's primarily the quirky, charming decor and the earthy vibe that make Yellow Deli such a hit. Tree trunks form furniture - tables, wall features and kitchen benches - and, oh look there's a fake frog inside mine. It all adds to the feeling you are inside Bilbo Baggins Hobbit hole. Super cheap food and serene, easy-going staff make it a winning trifecta.
The fare - sandwiches, salads, soup, cakes, brekky offerings - is simple but significantly cheaper than any other cafe in Katoomba – being discounted by possible free labour and love. I almost think of this place as a type of community service.
The Yellow Deli is closed Friday night and all of Saturday, so don't turn up then.
Cuisine: Japanese Address: 183 Katoomba St Phone: (02) 4782 1529 Price: Cheap Website: none (as yet)
There's nothing visually exciting about this establishment with its casual fish and chips shop style décor and drinks fridge. This is your standard Japanese Sushi train, but it's high on my list because it's [currently] the only Japanese place in Katoomba.
The healthy and fresh offerings are light on your gut and very pleasant on the palate, not to mention easy on the wallet - always important if you're not married to Jamie Packer. The casual ambience is somehow grounding, watching the train of food mesmerising in a hypnotic 'shall I have one more' kind of way, and the 'help yourself' mode of dining satisfying. After all, you only have yourself to blame if you choose the wrong dish or commit the sin of eating too much. It's also quick - great if you want to move onto something else, as you do.
Dishes on the train range from about $2.50 to $8 for the sashimi giving you the option to go up or down in price.
Vegetarians should watch out for the offerings that follow that sign marked 'vegetarian' - you can't miss it! - and don't grab those tasty spring rolls with my name on them. I also recommend the vegetable tempura from the menu.
Yes, you can also order more goodies from the menu – including the $2.50 miso soup, so don't be shy and do ask the hovering waitress. I eat here about once a week and haven't died yet nor found a hair in my food. Now that's a worthy recommendation.
Season Sushi is a newcomer on the Katoomba dining scene. Let's hope it sticks around.
Bring plenty of cash (at least a few hundred dollar bills) or a well endowed credit card, and expect to spend it in order to feel full. This is the high-end of Katoomba: piddly, pea-sized portions that cost the earth, but are crafted with the sort of care that makes you feel guilty for consuming them in less than five minutes.
The food is scrumptious and deserving of all the fanfare and hype (including its multiple awards) - so worth all that damage to your bank account. Of course if you're eating here, spare cash is not your concern.
I've been here for a special occasion and can report that the waiters are charming, prompt and attentive though they can make you feel pushed as though you are all actors in a play with a defined closure. Shame there's no free encore.
The décor is classy to the core – in the most scrumptious mountain heritage style possible with two fireplaces, leadlight windows and crystal chandeliers and yeah, you get it. It's also warm and cosy as can be - worth paying any money for when the temperatures drop, as they are so wont to do in this neck of the woods. Do get a window seat so you can look out on the glorious garden beyond. If you want to impress or find somewhere to go for a very special occasion, this is it.
Non-carnivores will find one entree and one main on the short menu but if you are on a special diet don't expect to be catered for except in a minimal way (if that). On weekends and public holidays there is a set price menu consisting of 3 courses for $125 each. Do re-check this if it's no longer 2014. Factor in the cost of alcohol in your dining experience: it's reportedly exorbitant. If you like excellent value for money, you will probably want to pass on this, but if you're in the mood to splurge, go ahead.
Don't let me stop you!
Darleys restaurant at Lilianfels Resort - wonderful setting.
Cuisine: Asian (Malaysian, Chinese, Thai), Australian & fast food Address: 50 Katoomba St Phone: (02) 4782 6998 Price: Cheap Website: none
Unassuming and small, it's all too easy to walk past the humble Bamboo Box. Yet, this is my fave place for Thai/Malaysian food in Katoomba. The food here is reasonably priced and very tasty, a fact that can be obscured by Bamboo's modest appearance.
You will find Bamboo a few doors down from the Savoy, up the top (station) end of Katoomba Street opposite the Carrington Hotel.
The premises reminds one of a small diner - with its bain-marie of take-out options, thin row of close tables and propensity to attract lone diners and locals in search of a cheap feed. But, don't be fooled. The food here is not second rate. This opinion is supported by its Trip Advisor rating (no. 8 out of 73 restaurants in Katoomba) which is way ahead of rivals like Chork Dee.
Bamboo Box is run by a decent Christian family – so can be shut on public holidays, parts of the school holidays and on Sundays. I guess some business people prioritise spending time with their families to making money much to the gloom of those who might crave a Bamboo Box fix on the wrong day.
With some foresight, the owner/chef recognised a gap in the market in terms of inexpensive, lunchtime takeaway options for the locals. Bamboo Box is one of the few establishments in Katoomba to offer cheap takeaway food - sandwiches, Asian rice paper rolls, curries, spring rolls, cakes and so on. These become discounted after lunch, but be quick. It disappears fast.
You can grab a $12-$15 laksa, burgers, fish and chips, sushi or something more from the menu making it a great lunch-time spot. I also find this convenient if you want to get some takeaway for a picnic. If you have room, dessert is a must and tastier than some of the places charging much more.
At dinner time white tablecloths are rolled out along with little candles. If you are out of town and alone this is one spot where you won't feel out of place amongst tables of big and noisy groups. I quite enjoyed my own solitary dining experience here.
Do book if you want to get in here on a Friday or Saturday night.
Alternatively known as the 'Bank Brasserie', the 'Carrington Brasserie' and 'the restaurant upstairs from the Bank Hotel', you access the restaurant from the Old City Bank Bar (on street level) then head up the stairs. By then you'll be pretty hungry so let's hope you booked and don't have to trundle back down again.
The Old City Bank Brasserie is actually part of the Carrington Hotel but don't let me confuse you further.
This former bank has old world charm galore and lots of modern bustle. It retains many of its original features including the green bank lights and tends to be one of the warmer eateries in oft chilly Katoomba. If you're into heritage, you'll love the decor and the old black and white photos of the Blue Mountains on the walls.
In terms of the food, there's a mix of burgers (lunch-time), pizza's (dinner only) and classic brasserie style main meals such as steak and pasta. The menu isn't overly large, however, the pizza menu (only available at dinner, remember) is extensive. The waiters are attentive and service is of a higher level than many of the eateries in the area.
I'm rather partial to their shared plates - especially the shared olives for $7. There's also some interesting liquers and ports if you want to linger in the warmth.
Old City Bank Brasserie is open seven days for lunch and dinner. One warning - if you don't like loud music, when you book check there are no bands playing downstairs that night. This is one thing they won't tell you. Ah, but I will. Personally, I much prefer the buzz of conversation to overly loud drums and electric guitar.
In a former life, the Avalon restaurant was the Savoy picture theatre. It has a quaint, eclectic, mountain heritage feel that some adore and others turn their nose up at. I wouldn't advise bringing small children here as there are many collectibles scattered about the restaurant - a combination that can cause too many jarred nerves for my liking.
The menu is small and there are some (about 3) vegetarian options.The food is overall tasty and service isn't rushed, so relax and enjoy the historical ambience and if you are here during the day (Avalon is open for lunch on the weekends) the views of Jamison valley.
Avalon is licensed with a good variety of alcoholic beverages including coffee liquors. Or, if you dare, bring your own wine for $6.50 per bottle corkage and your own cake for $1 per person per cake. Yes, this is a 'cake' fee. Ouch!
I've heard the Avalon described as over-priced, but you be the judge!
The ambience here is rather lovely, the service professional and prompt and the food quite decent. Vegetarians and those on special diets will struggle here which is probably why I haven't been back. My other gripe is those small chairs that make one feel they are sitting on top of a poker or a bit like naughty Goldilocks on baby bear's chair. We know what happened there.
The small bar adds charm and I especially love the warmth generated from the wood-fired oven, a feature which you can see from the dining room.
If you drink too much it's just a few steps across the road to the cab rank. Or to the Station Bar (across the road) for a top up.
Bistro Niagara - photo courtesy of Bistro Niagara Facebook page
I will be honest and admit I've not eaten here (yet!). Perhaps it was the restaurant name or the decor that put me off or the fact you can buy birthday cakes here. But, according to the local grape-vine this is a great place to eat, so I've listed it here for you to check out. It also does have a very high rating on Trip Advisor - No 2 out of 73 Katoomba restaurants. The word is that the food is tasty, portions large and garnishes nothing short of amazing. Don't be put off by the simple, unpretentious interior.
Cuisine: standard cafe food Address: 26-28 Katoomba St
Phone: (02) 4782-38-45.
Good sized cafe style meals, a massive menu and art deco interior sums this one up. Service borders on rank - if you find yourself feeling forgotten or invisible, you may need to prompt the waitress or blow a huge trombone. The best thing here is the large, old fashioned meals and there's plenty to choose from including burgers, pastas, pizzas, Mexican dishes, schnitzels, fish, steaks, salads, desserts - and you get the drift.
If it's available, the booth style seating is more cosy and comfy than the cramped small tables with their chairs that always feel too little for your arse. Occasionally, the Savoy features some of the local singers which can be a pleasant way to while away the hours and forget about that cramped arse.
The Savoy is one of only a few Katoomba cafes which stay open at night and trade seven days a week. It's also BYO and licensed.
The Savoy is conveniently located at the top of Katoomba street, a one minute walk from the station. It's not always so convenient for parking, but you could get lucky. And, apparently, walking is all the rage.
The Station Bar is located right next to - you guessed it - Katoomba station. If you suffer from dyslexia in finding places or describing them to others, this is perfect.
First, let's be clear - this is primarily a bar. Only dine here if you're fine with loud music and intent on eating pizza, salad, jaffles or garlic bread.
Having said that, this is a serious pizzeria with a bona fide wood-fired pizza oven and the Station Bar does do a mean rocket salad – definitely one of the best I've ever tasted. Judging by the number of others I've seen consuming this dish, I'm not the only one who thinks so.
Gluten and dairy free dieters should steer well clear. If you're vegetarian there are three unappetising options including "Glenbrook" (the pizzas here are named after the towns of the Blue Mountains) - an offering which comes with an excess of dried rosemary and is a bit thin on the stated ingredients. Okay, so I'm being rather pedantic as we all know pizza is always good because it's well, pizza. Plus, beer and pizza go together like love and marriage. Some might debate that.
But, if I'm going to feed my food intolerances, I personally prefer the pizza's at the less smart-looking Rene's Pizzeria - a hop, skip and jump away. However, if you want a lively vibe (not easy to find in Katoomba after 4pm) and destruction via alcohol, Station Bar is a must.
Come here if you want a city feeling and the chance to stay out after dinner (how naughty!) Station Bar is the coolest venue in K'Town by a clear mile and well worth the resultant bloating and diarrhoea brought on by an over-consumption of gluten, dairy and alcohol.
You can eat in the bar or in the dining area, jiggle to the tunes or go back for a seventh, oops, third drink. Or try the dessert pizza. Choices galore!
A group of eight of us went to Aragon Restaurant three weeks ago, its menu was fantastic, staff really helpful and friendly, and we all thought the pricing was reasonable for the absolutely brilliant meals we ate, no complaints whatsoever, PS you forgot to let everyone know about the eclectic lounge/bar upstairs as you pass through into the restaurant, and their brilliant (laughs) ladies bathroom!! We would all definitely eat there again!
I really enjoyed reading these informative and humorous reviews. I'm looking for a place with an open fire. We had a wonderful time touring ireland in their winter, and was hoping to replicate the joy of snuggling into a cosy warm corner near a fire for a hearty feed. Any such luck?