This art deco meets Palm Springs inspired hotel opened late last year on the site of the former Redleaf Resort (long before that it was the Redleaf Lodge) just off Govett's Leap Road. It's quite the stylistic leap for the bohemian village of Blackheath, once renowned for upmarket foodie guest houses like Cleopatra, Glenella and Kooba Runga (the latter two still operating, minus the restaurants that made them a huge drawcard). The 46-room pastel-hued getaway is in a Goldilocks niche all of its own – not too high end, yet a significant step up from some of the mountains' more outdated establishments.
The Kyah sits within almost a hectare of manicured gardens at the gateway to Blackheath, one of the highest points of the famed Blue Mountains and roughly 1.5 hours' drive from Sydney. Govett's Leap and its dramatic canyons are in one direction, while Blackheath Golf Course is just across the way. The village of Blackheath is 10 minutes' walk and bushwalks, waterfalls, the Three Sisters and Megalong Valley are within easy reach by car.
Embracing the original motel's functional layout, Sydney-based design firm, MKD Architects have recast the Kyah as contemporary mountain retreat with a stylish understated aesthetic.
Rooms are spread across three separate accommodation wings (each named after one of Katoomba's famed Three Sisters) fanning off from a cactus fronted lobby with porte cochere. From here a minimalist reception area flows into swanky restaurant and bar Blaq which overlooks a century-old Japanese cherry blossom tree. Archways, curves and luxe touches like velvet chairs, along with indoor and outdoor fireplaces evoke a sense of warmth befitting of its mountain locale.
Stage two of the revamp aims to connect indoor spaces with Kyah's luxuriant grounds by introducing a produce garden, resident farm animals, alfresco gym, indoor heated pool and resurfacing the original tennis court. "Being outdoors is the reason why people come to experience the Blue Mountains. They don't want to just stay in a room where they're not part of it," said MKD Architects director Carl Salim, who designed The Kyah.
Following the original motel footprint, guest rooms may not be on the large size, however beds are sumptuous and decor is on trend in blush or earthy tones entered via pastel pink, keyless doors. Room configurations range from king and twin rooms and larger two-bedroom suites through to accessible family suites with king bed in one room; bunk beds the other.
Each guestroom comes with complimentary Wi-Fi, smart TV, USB charging points, reverse cycle air-conditioning, custom lighting, plants and heavy velvet blackout drapes. Bathrooms are dimly lit, however they're neat, functional and offer ethically sourced amenities (a full spruce up is planned). Mini-bars meanwhile are stocked with local favourites such as premixed Negroni (complete with dehydrated orange slices) by Karu Distillery, Herbs of Life Kombucha, Mountain Culture tinnies and Whisk and Pin cookies and treats.
Blaq is where Kyah really comes into its own. We did a double take as Mate Herceg removed his general manager's hat and donned an apron to man the stoves as executive chef. Yet Kyah's unconventional approach is clearly working. Blaq (named for its location - Blackheath) is underpinned by sophisticated simplicity, designed as much to appeal to in-house guests as locals.
Hailing from the Blue Mountains, Herceg (ex-Hydro Majestic Hotel, Lilianfels, Blackheath Bar and Bistro) focuses on a garden-to-plate philosophy and hyper-local, seasonal and sustainable produce and these producers are located within an 80 kilomere radius. The pork scratchings with lemon and fennel salt along with the charred cucumber with miso creme fraiche are a highlight.
Blaq's drinks list also champions local suppliers, from the award-winning Karu Distillery located at the foot of the mountains through to the wholly NSW wine list curated by consultant sommelier Andres Aragon. The result is a menu showcasing the diversity and terroir of NSW wine sub-regions and, where possible, producers that follow organic, biodynamic or sustainable farming practices.
Perch at the bar with a signature G & Tea (Karu Infinity Gin, amethyst tea, butterfly pea, ginger root, dry tonic, citrus aromats and rose petals) or nab a spot on the alfresco deck after getting outdoors and filling your lungs with all that fresh mountain air. Multiple fireplaces keep things cosy while luxe banquettes invite long, leisurely dining.
Tackle the Grand Canyon Walk, search for vintage treasures at the incredible Victory Theatre Antique Centre and Café or walk Blackheath's (often) mist shrouded streets lined with cosy cottages to Blackheath Memorial Park. Stop in for a cocktail at Anonymous, a popular one-time café that has morphed into a cool small bar.
This clever motel conversion is exactly what the mountains was crying out for with its mix of stylish contemporary rooms, warm hospitality and elevated food and drink offerings. What's not to love?
From $210 a night for a king room (some pet-friendly rooms), 13-17 Brightlands Ave, Blackheath. See thekyah.com.au
Hotel breakfasts can be hit and miss but Kyah's is a winner. I'd stay again just to have the cured salmon bagel.
There's no wardrobe or desk space in guest rooms however if you're only staying for one or two nights this isn't an issue.
Sheriden Rhodes stayed as a guest of The Kyah Boutique Hotel.