Blaq at Kyah

Jackie McMillan
25th Feb 2023

Refurbishing 1970s motels into four-star properties attached to upmarket dining destinations is certainly gaining popularity. The first one I stayed in - a decade ago - was in Bowral and attached to Biota (a sad COVID-19 casualty). From there I headed to Cabarita Beach for Halcyon House and the standout Paper Daisy. My most recent adventure was to Blackheath where a refurbished three-wing motel, now called Kyah after one of the Three Sisters, is cohabiting with a destination dining spot called Blaq.

The 46-room motel has had a pale pink and white makeover, retaining those eye-catching 60s arches, and adding potted palms and groovy silver-black light fittings to the rooms. They’ve stripped out most of the functionality, with only a gesture toward a wardrobe: coat hangers attached to a plush grey unit that also hides a bar fridge full of upmarket drinks and snacks. The makeover has extended to darkening the bathrooms but stopped short of the full renovation that the three-hundred-dollar-a-night price tag probably deserves. The other downsides are having to claw your way out of the trenches that form in the attractive looking but hella soft king sized beds and inadequate soundproofing.

Taking a property designed for overnight stopovers for people travelling to and from Sydney and making it into a celebration destination for families and large groups of young people means better soundproofing is necessary. Our neighbours sang karaoke until after midnight, favouring a remake of Toto’s 1982 hit, Africa and Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy. I felt a bit crazy too by the time the extras finally went back to their own room: we heard every shriek, giggle and step as they walked down the hallways too. Despite the fancy room key app. where you can talk to reception without a phone, nothing was done about this until the morning when we were apologised to and offered a free breakfast at Blaq.

Rueful staff were fast to get well-made Underground coffees ($5.50/each) onto our outdoor verandah table at Blaq. While a continental breakfast of cereals, toasts, yoghurts and various charcuterie is included with the room rate, items like a breakfast bun ($16) with bacon, eggs, slightly too sweet tomato chutney and caramelised onions, come at an additional charge. Free-range chicken chipolatas were the highlight of the Blaq breakfast ($22) joining house-smoked bacon, poached eggs, slightly watery beans with crushed tomato, and mushrooms with local Black Cockatoo sourdough.

By night Blaq offers up an interesting selection of snacks, smalls, bigs and complete meals for locals who prefer to drop in for one-course affairs. Plates like the 300g Berkshire pork saddle ($36) with fennel, sage and apple chutney are certainly big enough to take care of all your dining needs, especially as they come with standout greens from the kitchen garden and slightly undercooked crisp chat potatoes.

From the wider menu, after a tussle with one waitress over her certainty that the Sydney rock oysters came from somewhere in Sydney, we enjoyed the deep-cup Sydney rock oysters from Merimbula ($4/each) with a fingerlime mignonette. They suited the 2021 Tumbalong Hills Chenin Blanc ($55) from Gundagai, itself a site of contention because it was actually on the NSW-focused wine list twice with two different prices. We pointed it out, but were still charged the higher price. Roasted Sichuan baby eggplant ($24) with lively accompaniments of chilli, smoked almonds, labneh and cinnamon freekeh took our minds off whether that was legal (the ACCC says it’s not).

Kangaroo fillet ($35) arrived generously proportioned and quite well-done, but somehow avoided being dry or chewy, against pickled walnuts, put lentil ragu sweetened by red cabbage and a wild game jus. It only wanted for something green, which the garden delivered in spades with a side of juicy green beans ($12) with roasted hazelnuts and Parmesan (though the kitchen had switched out the latter for a nuttier cheese).

Blaq at Kyah (4 star restaurant, 3.5 star hotel)