Monday, August 11, 2014

Go west to Atura Blacktown and Skyline Drive In

I'll be the first to admit that I don't go west very often - those inner city and inner west bubble walls can be rather thick.

But a recent Saturday morning event in the west presented me with a unique opportunity to go west the night before - to the rather new Atura Blacktown hotel by the AHL group that also owns Sydney's boutique QT Hotel, and the adjacent Skyline Drive In cinema.

Atura Blacktown, Cricketers Arms Road, Blacktown
For those not accustomed to going west (hi), Blacktown is pretty far from the inner city especially in after-Friday-work peak hour traffic. When you do get to Blacktown/Prospect, don't get too worried when GPS tells you to turn off a dark, rather sparse road that shows very little around for what seems like miles.

You're (probably) on the right track to reach the beacon-like, white-and-yellow-lit Atura Blacktown on Cricketers Arms Road. Opened in late 2013 as a newly-built three-storey structure, Atura Blacktown is the first of a new chain of design hotels by AHL aiming to bring some style and quirk to city fringe, suburban or regional areas where there's still demand for accommodation.

Pool table and seating on the ground floor lobby
Aside from a whole lot of corporates, Atura Blacktown targets event-goers at Eastern Creek (apparently now known as Sydney Motorsport Park) and in the warmer seasons, families and groups headed to Wet'n'Wild Sydney.

The hotel's philosophy is based around "high connectivity" and "low guest maintenance" which means free WiFi and a huge shared space lobby incorporating reception, entertainment, the Roadhouse Bar & Restaurant, and a Grab & Go pantry where quick snacks, microwaveable meals and other necessities are there for guests' grabbing and purchasing convenience.

Bedroom suite
Upstairs the guest rooms are a surprisingly spacious proposition, like a well-planned studio apartment with all the necessary trimmings. Decked out in what I can only try to describe as a modern quirky art/design style, the rooms have a desk, small sofa and table, bed (of course) and the added facilities of an almost-kitchenette.

There's a kitchenette sink, microwave, kettle and pod espresso machine as well as some kitchen utensils which makes me think there was also some kind of stove implement for basic in-room cooking.

Then, there was the full mini bar with drinks, including booze, snacks and even microwave popcorn for drive in cinema or in-room consumption - the latter a rather tempting offer with the on-swivel flat screen television and free movies on offer - yes, free movies.

Artwork and sofa

Room furnishings

Bathroom artwork

Bathroom furnishings

Roadhouse Bar & Grill dining area
(Image courtesy of AHL)
Of course, for something more substantial to eat there's the Roadhouse Bar & Grill on the ground lobby floor which offers a menu of grill and modern Australian dishes with something to to suit everyone.

The open kitchen at Roadhouse Bar & Grill, Atura Blacktown
The bonus of the open and shared lobby space means that there's plenty to watch for entertainment as you wait for your meal - from cars pulling up out the front, people at reception or the pantry, to people at the lobby televisions or playing pool and in the warmer weather, probably people in the pool.

Aperol Spritz (left) and Dark and Stormy (right) cocktails
The Roadhouse Bar has standalone bar seating while it also services the restaurant with a full offering of beer, wines and cocktails.

I opted for a weather-inappropriate pre-dinner Aperol Spritz, while the Dark and Stormy was also served classically: tall with Goslings Black Seal rum and topped with ginger beer and lime.

Popcorn prawns
It didn't take long at all for our starters to arrive, beginning with battered popcorn prawns that we demolished in minutes.

Served considerately atop a leafy salad with pickled carrots, the not-small golden-surfaced prawn pieces were deliciously easy to enjoy, especially with a sweet chilli lime mayonnaise drizzled over.

Baked beetroot and goat's cheese salad
The friendly waitress' favourite dish of beetroot and goat's cheese salad featured baked baby specimens of both golden and normal beetroots. Pimped up with crunchy pistachio nuts and pumpkin seeds, the salad was a perfect balance of leafiness, tart balsamic vinegar dressing, sweet beets and creamy goat's cheese.

300g free range Kurobuta pork chop, potato gratin and beans
Being the cold night it was I felt like something comforting and winter-appropriate, and so ordered the larger than expected pork chop served with creamy, cheesy potato gratin and green beans.

The huge, well-grilled pork chop came with a glossy, tasty gravy but even that couldn't get me all the way through the quite lean chop, while the potato gratin was irresistibly filling.

200g eye fillet steak, Grassland, NSW
As a grill restaurant it's hard not to go with a steak and the Grassland eye fillet is one of five steak options, all served with fat chips and a choice of sauce.

Cooked to medium-rare as requested, the petite but thickly cut steak was a tender affair that was best with the rich pepper sauce.

Eye fillet steak served with fat chips and sauces
Meanwhile, the metal basket of super fat chips with fluffy innards were great with the bacon-and-garlic-scented mushroom sauce; an inadvertent second steak sauce.

Roast vegetables
A side of roast vegetables was a wintry celebration of sweet, softened root vegetables - pumpkin, carrot, sweet potato and the ever-delightful parnsip.

Queue at Skyline Drive In, Cricketers Arms Road, Blacktown 
Unfortunately we didn't have time to try desserts at Roadhouse Bar & Grill as we were due for a movie at the neighbouring Skyline Drive In - the only permanent drive in cinemas in Sydney, and with two screens.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who thinks of Grease at the sound of a drive in and it's all the fun you imagine and more. Drive in, queue up in your car, pay per person at the entry then park in one of the many designated spots.

Watching a movie at the drive in!
Then, tune in to the right radio frequency and voilà - surround sound in the confines of your car. Note that it can get pretty chilly in winter so rug up, take a blanket or work out how to keep the heating (and radio) on without the car lights on.

Grab and Go pantry at Atura Blacktown
If dinner and popcorn weren't enough to stave away hunger pangs post movie, a quick visit to the Grab and Go pantry late at night would have done the trick.

Roadhouse Bar, by day
The next morning we returned to the Roadhouse restaurant area for breakfast. As with many hotel restaurants, the space doubles as the buffet breakfast area with the kitchen pass getting covered in vessels and food dispensers.

Cereals, milk, yoghurt and fruit at the breakfast buffet
Healthy options include yoghurts, fruit and cereal - and weirdly, I can never resist tinned peaches at a hotel breakfast buffet.

Yoghurt, fruit and juices 

Bread station
The bread station offers a decent selection of white, brown and super thick raisin bread as well as English muffins and a range of spreads including Lurpak butter and Birch & Waite honey.

Next to the breads is the conveyor belt toaster machine which warmed my English muffin though I wouldn't have called it toasted. I think I need more practice with those machines.

Scrambled eggs
From the hot food selection were heavy enamel pots of scrambled eggs, not quite crispy bacon and the best whole, buttery, button mushrooms of which I could have had seemingly endless helpings.



Buffet breakfast plate
However healthy the intention, this is what my buffet breakfast plates tend to look like. With the addition of crisp hash browns and mini chicken sausages, this big breakfast was completely appropriate for a day when the consumption of alcohol commenced before noon and not long after check-out.

The pool at Atura Blacktown
Once the weather warms up, I can imagine the pool and pool bar just outside of the restaurant dining area will become highly coveted spots for those staying in the hotel and not in the area for water park queues. Given this was the view from our room, bikini parades and people watching are also likely to be popular.

Chairs by the pool
Atura Blacktown brings some city pizazz and quirk out west with a unique offering at an affordable price point. With the Roadhouse Bar & Grill and the Skyline Drive In next door, it's a bit of an attraction in itself - worth going west for.

Atura Blacktown exterior by day
(Image courtesy of AHL)
Food, Booze & Shoes was a guest of Atura Blacktown, Roadhouse Bar & Grill and the Skyline Drive In.

Roadhouse Bar and Grill on Urbanspoon


Melanie Y said...

Super excited about my upcoming staycation the hole "mad men" vibe this place has going on (and that it's only a short drive from home).

missklicious said...

what a cool hotel! I have to admit I also don't venture out west often either, but there does seem to be a lot of cool places popping up!

Vivian - vxdollface said...

I had a great time staying here! Absolutely loved the design and all the bright colours hehe. Shame it was too cold for a swim!

Hendy said...

Great to see more fine establishment popping up in the west -- we need to circle Sydney with fine establishments so as to make the whole wider Sydney ever more exciting :)

Tina said...

Hi Mel - Hope you enjoy it (and the pool!)

Hi missklicious - Yeah, we both may need to do some more day trips out west ;)

Hi Viv - Great hotel, isn't it? Love all the quirky boutique touches.

Hey Hendy - Day trip out west some time? :D

Helen (Grab Your Fork) said...

Whoah those pool chairs are striking!

Anonymous said...


Where the West Things Are said...

We chose Blacktown Skyline drive-in as one of our favourite things to do in western Sydney after dark!

Couldn't get over how cheap it was. Also the Atura in Blacktown looks very contemporary with it's modern furnishings and layout. Love it!

- L


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