I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for the classic Aussie pub, so it was a given that we drop into this one for a catch-up lunch with friends that just bought a house in Lawson, one of the villages up in the Blue Mountains.
Lawson is a far cry from the more popular well-touristed centres of Katoomba and Leura. It’s a town geared for the locals, not the bus loads. A handful of shops and services form the village centre, with the Blue Mountain Hotel dominating the streetscape with its colonial silhouette..
The pub you see today is very much how it looked when it was built in the early 1900s, but things fell by the wayside for a good chunk of its history.
Its appearance began to change in the 1930s when the balconies were infilled and an unsympathetic boxy projection was constructed at the front, with the tower being removed due to deterioration. Pretty hideous, really, when you look back at the old photos.
Thanks to time, effort and determination, the Blue Mountain Hotel has been restored inside and out; reviving a landmark and bringing it back to its former colonial glory, with a little more work to go.
We’re so used to seeing pub renovations where the interiors portray the latest design trends; be it shiny surfaces with raw timbers and hanging Edison light globes, industrial fixtures or chalky murals with splashes of Americana and astroturf adhered to the walls.
It’s refreshing to see the reno’s at the Blue Mountain Hotel haven’t followed this ubiquitous trend. Stepping inside reveals a very humble fit-out. It’s rustic, simple and doesn’t feel contrived at all.
Beer taps protrude from a corrugated “water tank”; something that clearly mimics the old tanks you see in the bush. The simple wooden bar sits in the centre of the front room and an impressive stained glass window features the Three Sisters; that iconic rock formation the Blue Mountains is known for.
At the back of the pub is a spacious dining room with the curious words “Christmas Swamp” displayed on the bar and stained glass window. That harks back to the name of the locality in the early 1800’s, before it was renamed in 1879 to honour explorer William Lawson.
Once again, the dining room is nothing fancy, with an outdoor rear deck strewn with wooden seating. Someone couldn’t help themselves by throwing in a few astroturf-covered milk crates, in case you wanted a tickle on the backside as you down your schooner.
The pub menu reflects the surroundings. Understated, honest and uncomplicated. All the pub classics are on offer – schnitzel, parmigiana, bangers & mash and burgers – sided with fries, mash or boiled veg.
The Atlantic salmon (22) is nicely cooked and cloaked with hollandaise. It may not be a sauce that was made from scratch, but it tastes good nonetheless. Garlic & herb prawns (14) sit alongside a scoop of rice, doused in a lip-smacking creamy sauce that lingers on the palate well-after eating them.
Porterhouse surf & turf (30) it was, for me; a very medium-cooked piece of charred steak that was ordered medium-rare. Perhaps I should have ordered it rare, as suggested, as it may have come medium-rare as I like it. I did ask for mushroom sauce as well, but somehow hollandaise was the preference of the kitchen. Sometimes you just can’t be bothered to send a dish back to the kitchen, you know. Delicious prawns, by the way.
Lamb cutlets (17) were chosen from the specials board and declared “really good”. Juicy meat, mountain of mash, boiled veg and a chunk of lemon. The kind of stuff you’d have at home.
As the meat raffle was drawn by little Ben from our table, we tucked into a couple of desserts. Most had sold out so it was down to a choice of choc fudge brownie, apple strudel and ice cream sundae for the kids.
Impressive brownie (10), by the way. A huge warmed slab of moist brownie smothered in a chocolate sauce that was akin to uncooked cake batter. Seriously delicious. And a strudel (10) that was also out to impress with its multiple layers of pastry and sweet apple innards.
This is one local I’d be happy to visit any weekend, despite its occasional misses. And no, we didn’t win the meat raffle. The ticket before us did. Bugger.