Looking good after a timely and stylish refurbishment, the Bundanoon Hotel is well worth a visit for a family lunch, evening stay away or a full-on celebratory function. ESH booked in to get a feel for the new look.
WORDS ALEX SPEED IMAGES ELISE HASSEY
According to the Bundanoon History Group Inc, a ghost called Mary is said to live at the local hotel, and occasionally reveals herself to the staff and some guests. Had I known this before I went to stay at the newly renovated Bundanoon Hotel, perhaps I may not have had such a skip in my step as I checked in.
The Tudor style hotel with its 62 rooms sits proudly on the far side of the railway line from the little town of Bundanoon’s main street. According to more information from the Bundanoon History Group, it was built nearly 100 years ago in 1922 on the same site in Erith Street as the first establishment, The Commercial, which was built soon after the railway came to Bundanoon in 1868. That building was demolished in 1907 and the present hotel erected 15 years later. Its first licensee was one Ella Tyler.
With the coming of the railway to the Southern Highlands, Bundanoon became a popular holiday destination for Sydney visitors. They travelled here to take in the Highlands air and enjoy the spectacular local scenery, and guesthouses and hotels sprung up in response.
Since 1978, the town has hosted ‘Bundanoon is Brigadoon’, an annual gathering to celebrate all things Scottish. Up to 20,000 people descend to partake in this Highlands event, which has well and truly kept the town of Bundanoon on the map. It’s also one of the reasons why Peter Dean and business partner Marty Downs bought the Bundanoon Hotel last year from longtime owner David Kerrigan.
I am here to enjoy their upgrade and modernisation of this nearly century old establishment. I am in Room 4. Given it has two entry doors, I presume this room was once two, back in the days when pub hotel rooms were singles only with a shared bathroom down the hallway. And indeed, if you like that option, there is still a communal bathroom nicely renovated at the end of the hallway. But thankfully my room has a new bathroom, albeit a rather idiosyncratic one, with a three quarter wall that doesn’t close it off completely.
Built in heavy frosted glass, it is cleverly designed with wall to floor tiles, a glass walk in shower, a basin and loo. With its gilt edged mirror, it is smartly reminiscent of a boudoir’s walk in chamber. While this openness may bother some guests, I like the slightly European feel.
The rest of the room is simply but nicely done in cool greys and blues. There is a queen size bed crisply made with white linens and cushions and set off with an upholstered bedhead in grey flannel and a colour coordinated footstool at its end. A smart emerald green velour armchair and footstool invite sitting upon, especially as these rooms have no television. Suits me. I have a seat and take in the original cornices, kickboards and sash window looking out onto an internal lawn. No kettle, cups or little packets of biscuits here, but there’s a set up on a nearby shelf outside in the hallway, along with water glasses. It’s a comfy little room. Sparsely but nicely done that uses what is there, and then some.
Much like the rest of Peter and Marty’s ongoing renovation job. There has been clever emphasis downstairs on refreshing, modernising and opening up the large hotel spaces. In the main saloon, Scots Bar and restaurant, the old garish yellow and red carpet has been ripped up and replaced with grey wool throughout. Walls have been changed to tonal greys, allowing the stained glass windows to shine. Ugly gas fires have been replaced with a huge open fireplace. There are Chesterfield settees to sink into for a quiet drink or you can tinkle on the baby grand in one corner. It’s an elegantly done transformation.
The hotel is set within two acres and the large family restaurant (seats up to 100) opens out onto a grassy lawn with tables and chairs, a swimming pool (open to the public in summer), tennis court and even a stage.
Executive chef Andy Cooke’s bistro restaurant menu is extensive. On it are entrees like salt and pepper squid, and salads such as beetroot, pumpkin, Binnorie feta, rocket and kale. There are also pub classics like chicken parmigiana, Asian spiced pork belly and the Bundy Beef Burger with bacon and aged cheddar. The bistro is open for lunch Wednesday to Sunday and dinner seven days, with Taco Tuesdays, Kids Eat Free on Thursdays and $15 rump steak night on Wednesdays. I have my rump with Diane sauce, chips and salad, and a glass or two of local red. Excellently cooked and excellent value. There is also a woodfire pizza bar that’s open Thursday to Sunday, where you can eat in or takeaway.
The hotel also runs a courtesy bus that picks up from Penrose, Exeter, Wingello, Moss Vale and around Bundanoon on Fridays and Saturdays from 4.30pm to 11.30pm, and on Sundays from midday to 9.30pm. It also delivers you home again. I wander about downstairs, taking in the smart new private dining room, which seats up to 20 and stick my head into the original pub bar with its tiled walls and room length bar. I like that this pub doesn’t appear to have been changed or gentrified, and the locals, any in their high vis, seem happy watching the dogs on the tele.
I return to Room 4 and spend an hour or so reading in my very comfortable surroundings before nodding off to sleep, hoping that Mary doesn’t do the big reveal. She doesn’t, and I sleep well, waking impressed with what’s become of the Bundanoon Hotel.
* Escape Southern Highlands was a guest of Bundanoon Hotel.
Suits: people visiting for Bundanoon’s Garden Ramble, Brigadoon Highland Gathering in April or Winterfest in June. Marrying couples who’d like their 100 guests to stay and party in one place
Perfect for: intergenerational gatherings; outdoor enthusiasts wanting to stay close to nearby Morton National Park; foodies looking for excellent, good value bistro dining; lovers of Taco Tuesdays!
Bundanoon Hotel, Erith Street, Bundanoon