Brixton Cottage, Leura review: Toasty charm, no chintz

Read our writer's views on this property below

Jacqui Taffel enjoys the warmth both inside and out at a Blue Mountains cottage with a sober heritage.

KNOWING a house was built by the Temperance Society, a movement that frowned on drinking alcohol and other forms of indulgence, you might expect the place to be a bit austere or unwelcoming.

Brixton Cottage is the opposite. This cosy little timber property, between Leura and Katoomba, is toasty warm when we arrive. The gas heater has been left on for us and the slow-combustion stove is ready to light. Two heaters might seem like overkill for a spring weekend but there's still a chill in the air and we do end up lighting the fire.

Built in 1906, Brixton is now owned by Elizabeth Walton, an artist and writer. Inspired by Australian cottage garden pioneer, Edna Walling, Walton built the pretty front garden and planted it with heritage roses and a weeping cherry. A pot of purple pansies sits on one side of the front steps; on the other is a fragrant bush of daphne. Sprigs have been placed on our towels.

We instantly feel at home, with the stacked bookshelves, sofas with lots of cushions and a furry throw rug. Painted a cheery lemon-curd yellow, the walls are hung with artwork a hefty cut above the usual holiday-house prints. The rooms are comfortably furnished with a well-chosen mix of old and contemporary and there's no television. The dining room has a proper, clothed table and chairs, and a day bed in one corner, where our son sleeps. In the kitchen cupboards are such staples as Dilmah tea, Vegemite and olive oil.

The claw-foot bath in the small, timber-clad bathroom dates from about 1911 but we are thankful for the modern touch of electric blankets on the double bed, as the heating doesn't flow into the main bedroom. It's a classic mountain cottage, cute but not chintzy, in a quiet spot opposite a park. The noisiest things are the cockatoos flying over in the mornings.

We are also quietly triumphant because the sun is shining. For the past three years, every time we've come to the Blue Mountains, it has poured. It's become a running joke with friends who live here. But the bad-weather spell has been broken, so hopefully it will be sunny for the next three years of visits.

There's another breakthrough when we take our three-year-old son out for dinner with friends. He is so entertained and distracted by their two older children, we are able to eat without rushing or one of us leaving early with him. The venue is Leura Garage, a new restaurant occupying the site of Leura's former garage where, until recently, locals took their cars to be serviced.

The service is swift and efficient, delivering tapas-style dishes on wooden boards and tasty pizzas until we decide we're full. Highlights are the roasted heirloom vegetables, plump seafood calzone and tender meatballs with goat's cheese. We drink Knappstein beers, served in tall frosted glasses, and the room is buzzy and full. It's like a piece of Surry Hills transported to the mountains, so it adds something new to the Leura dining scene.

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There have been other changes since we were last here. Woolworths, Witchery and Bed, Bath N' Table have arrived on Leura Mall. Fortunately the smaller, unique stores are still going strong, such as Josophans Chocolates and Megalong Books. A new arrival, Princess Pantry Ladies Guild, is worth seeking out behind the old post office. Here, jam maker Cathy Armstrong sells her award-winning conserves - we take home Spiced Rhubarb Crumble and Aunt Betty's Berry Vanilla - as well as a canny selection of practical and arty items, from crocheted flower necklaces to Chinese paper lanterns, children's clothes and tea cosies. OK, so Leura needs another gift shop like Peter Garrett needs a haircut but this one has far more personality than most.

We go out for breakfast on Sunday morning to a Leura institution, Red Door Cafe, for croissants from the excellent Hominy Bakery in Katoomba and perfectly poached eggs with generous sides of smoked salmon and roast tomatoes. The coffee is good too, a blend called Mojo, roasted by the young barista. Our son likes the home-baked banana bread, more like cake and not too sweet.

He also likes the park at Wentworth Falls Lake, where he feeds the ducks and plays with local kids, while we chat to their parents and enjoy the unexpected sun.

The writer was a guest of Brixton Cottage and Tourism NSW.

Leura

Trip notes

Where Brixton Cottage, 2 Clarence Street, Leura, 0415 940 421, brixtoncottage.com.au.

Getting there Head west, up the Great Western Highway. Turn left at Leura Mall, right into Megalong Street and left into Clarence Street.

How much $478 for two nights for two people (there's a two-night minimum).

Style statement Charming old mountain cottage with an artistic flair.

Perfect for Couples who like to read the paper from end to end.

Don't forget To bring your favourite CDs, there's a good sound system.

Shame about The leaking tap in the bathroom, which hopefully has been fixed by now.

Kudos Well-appointed kitchen with a really good gas stove, perfect for cooking a roast.

Take the kids? One is do-able but this place is designed for a couple.