The festive routine over the past few years seems to have become one of first opening whatever presents are left, then phoning various daughters, grand-daughters, sisters and nieces, calls that could have been obligatory except that they’ve come to mean so much more.
Then it’s normally off to the Molong Recreation Ground — a journey of a full block — for the community Christmas lunch, an annual get-together of those with no better place to go.
The cost is minimal or zero, the food and labour are donated, and a splendid time is generally had by all.
But last Christmas it was different. I had an invite to a slap-up lunch on the big day and a couple of nights of accommodation in a suite at the Novotel Parramatta.
And lunch really was a slap-up affair, with more than 400 in attendance, quite a few of them with rooms booked for night so that they could really let their hair down — if, unlike your writer, they still had hair to let down.
Chef Kiki Kiki and his team had prepared a real smorgasbord feast … prawns, oysters, steaming hot dishes, too many cold platters to poke a stick at, and too large a bevy of desserts to even begin describing.
Guests scurried to make sure that they were in plenty of time to grab their share of the best bits, but there was really no need to hurry. As they say in the classics, there was an elegant sufficiency to be had.
The property itself is quite spiffy, from the moment you roll up outside reception and are met by the grand façade.
The Novotel Parramatta’s public areas are quite splendid, with the 350 Restaurant and Lounge offering quite fabulously presented and tasting dishes throughout any day, not just for Christmas lunch.
Enjoy delights such as prawn linguini served with a creamy napoli sauce and chilli, and grain-fed angus sirloin, before finishing with mango pannacotta.
The rooms are finished subtly with all mod-cons and at the top are a couple of two-storey suites, with bedroom separated from large living area by a very manageable spiral staircase.
I’m ensconced in one of these and fully take in the outlook over gorgeous Prince Alfred Square. I could easily wander down to take in a show at Parramatta’s Riverside Theatre or a bite to eat at one of Church Street’s many excellent ethnic-oriented eateries.
Metropolitan Parramatta, in Sydney’s west, may seem like your average, unassuming city on the surface, but visitors could be pleasantly surprised if they look in the right places.
Stepping into Elizabeth Farm, the oldest house in the country, for instance, feels like a journey two centuries back in time.
One of Parramatta’s most fascinating colonial landmarks, whose dark history is a source of much intrigue, this quaint bungalow was once the home of John and Elizabeth Macarthur, a famous couple in the colony.
Now it serves as a museum, shining a light on the NSW colony’s early history.
John Macarthur was instrumental in bringing Australia’s wool industry to the national forefront and was a key figure in the Rum Rebellion of 1808, the only successful armed takeover of government in our history.
And his eventual mental state led to jokes about how ironic it was that the face that graced the former $2 note belonged to someone who wasn’t the full quid.
IF YOU GO
Novotel Parramatta, 350 Church St, Parramatta; phone (02) 9630 4999; visit www.novotelparramatta.com.au.
- Disclosure: John Rozentals was a guest of Novotel Parramatta.