A Party in Time: a review of the Fitzroy Inn in Mittagong
We first stayed at the Fitzroy Inn earlier this year for a weekend away and fell in love with the history of the property. The original building commenced as an inn in 1836 and currently offers six suites to the public for $240 per night. The other main building was Oaklands School from 1871 to 1888 and is now referred to as the School Master’s Cottage. It offers four suites, slightly larger than those in the main house and thus at the slightly higher price of $260 per night.
The owners and managers, Paul Lovell and Maria Aloi, are very welcoming hosts. They originally bought Fitzroy Inn with their spouses who have since passed away. Plaques can be found in the gardens to commemorate their lives. A freshly cooked meal with your choice of eggs, bacon, sausages, tomatoes and mushrooms is included in the price of accommodation. The mushrooms were the real hit with my husband who is naturally a fan but was particularly enamoured with the buttery alcoholic touch. Stewed fruit is also on offer with an array of cereals, this batch of fruit had the flavour of star anise and cinnamon and a splash of alcohol.
After breakfast we were treated with a tour of the cellar. But this is not merely a cellar. This was the original kitchen built from sandstone with a well in the floor, carved out of the shale by hand during the convict era. Even more enthralling were the old cells that once held criminals on their way to Berrima Gaol. A few years ago the Fitzroy Inn also operated a restaurant and these cells were filled with racks of wine. The racks are still there but they are mostly empty. Maria talked of the wedding receptions they had hosted which started in the cells beautifully lit by candle light. I had to have my party in this place.
The party started in the cellar with sparkling wine, simple canapés and candles lighting the room, just as Maria described, and as can be seen in the brochures and on the website. Guests wandered through the rooms exploring the history it contains. We then moved to the function room which is a large elevated platform of floorboards surrounded by more sandstone and with thick solid wooden columns through it. One wall consists of cedar-framed glass bifolds looking out to the School Master’s Cottage and tennis court. The fireplace was lit and candles surrounded the long table inviting my guests to a feast.
The dinner started with delicious warm and creamy pumpkin and kumera soup. Then, like a wedding, alternate meals were served. Some received lamb backstrap with a spicy plum sauce and mashed potato and green vegetables, others received stuffed turkey. Arguments broke out over the lamb but I was very happy with my turkey. The filling held together well, flavoured with crunchy pistachios and served with cranberry sauce and vegetables. All plates were practically licked clean. The desserts alternated between a pear poached in rich red wine with home-made vanilla ice cream and a delicate cherry strudel served with custard and ice cream. My husband and I went halves in each and I was unable to select a winner, both just melted in my mouth.
We barely noticed the waiting staff as they delivered meals and collected empty plates. There were no extensive delays between courses, making the night flow smoothly. Before I knew it there were only four people left and it was past midnight. Soon everyone was fast asleep in their luscious beds of lovely white linen in simply but elegantly decorated cream and white bedrooms.
The suites are mostly generous in size although some of the bathrooms are small and quaint. The rooms on the top floor have sloping ceilings on the edges which adds to the historical feel of the place but tall people who forget to duck may receive a painful reminder. Each room in the School Master’s Cottage has a sofa bed, TV, DVD player, bar fridge and tea and coffee making facilities. The rooms in the main house don’t have these facilities but instead have a shared formal lounge with a large screen TV, fireplaces, comfy couches and loads of games. Numerous games of Scrabble and chess were played during our stay. The tennis courts were also in constant use by our group on this gloriously sunny weekend.
Maria and Paul also live in the main house so the lounge is also theirs. Tea is freshly made by Maria or Paul, with real leaves, and delivered on trays with a generous serve of biscuits. The only tea bags I spotted were in the School Master suites. Maria owns two small fluffy white dogs who seem to be constantly present, particularly when there is food around. There is a towel over one of the couches which they call home. My children adored Max and Mimi. Others may not.
Generally it was a pleasure dealing with Paul and Maria. They are not great at returning phone calls and may miss some patronage as a result. Maria’s friendly chatter reveals a genuine person who obviously loves hosting guests. Paul is a little more reserved and although he was delightful as we organised this event he dampened our enthusiasm slightly at the end with a few snide complaints to some about how late the party went and as we paid the bill he called it “a fiscal pleasure”.
Overall, I highly recommend the Fitzroy Inn for its historical charm and as a great venue for a function. It acts as an ideal gateway to the delights of the Southern Highlands and I am now much more comfortable with saying I am 40 years old.
1 Ferguson Crescent
Mittagong NSW 2575.
Phone (02) 4872 3457