Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Sydney's Best Child Friendly Cafes by suburb

Abbotsbury - Amoretti's
Abbotsford - Prato Cafe & Diner
Alexandria - Love Grub
Ashfield - Excelsior Jones
Baulkham Hills - Little Rock Cafe, Sol.Cafe, Bull & Bush BistroBaulkham Hills Sports Club, 22 Cafe Bar & Grill
Beaumont Hills - Nest Cafe
Breakfast Point - Upper Crust Boulangerie
Broadway -  Gardeners Lodge Cafe
Brighton Le Sands - Sorelle on Grand
Camperdown - Gather on the Green
Caringbah - The Tea House at the Camellia Gdns
Carlingford - Red Heart Cafe
Castle Hill - Delish Foods, Air Coffee, Castle Hill Tavern
Clarendon - Hawkesbury Cafe & Playground
Clovelly - Clodeli
Dural - Wild Pear Cafe,
East Lindfield - Deli in the Park
Emu Heights - Zokoko
Enmore - Kellermans Cafe
Gladesville - The Bayview Hotel, Mercato e Cucina
Glenhaven - The Tuckshop, Cafe Belle Fleur
Glenorie - Glenorie Bakery
Hammondville - Addie & Me
Hornsby - Bees Knees
Katoomba - The Gingerbread House
Kurrajong - Lochiel House
Leichhardt - Flood St Carousel
Lilyfield - The Local Press
Maroubra - The North End Cafe
Marrickville - The Henson Hotel
Middle Dural - Geranium Cottage
Mosman - Plonk Beach Cafe
Newington - Armory Wharf Cafe
North Parramatta - Lake Parramatta Cafe
North Rocks - Pronto Rocks Cafe
North Ryde - Dragonfly Cafe, The Ranch Hotel
Northmead - Coffee Embassy, Pancakes on the Rocks
Orchard Hills - Mamre House
Padstow - Vanilla Bean & Lime Cafe
Parramatta - Parramatta Park Cafe, Grill'd, Adora Chocolate Cafe, The Terrace Cafe, Sabu 
Pemulwuy - Granatas
Pennant Hills - Hotel Pennant Hills
Randwick - Cafe OneSixNine, The Royal Hotel Bistro
Rhodes - Kokoda Cafe
Rouse Hill - The Aust Hotel & Brewery, Griddle, Oliver Brown Chocolate Cafe
Ryde - The Grounds Keeper
Surry Hills - Meadow Cafe
Sydney City - The Tea Cosy, WagamammaAust Museum Cafe
Sydney Olympic Park - GG Espresso, Abattoir Blues Cafe
Thornleigh - Curl The Whisker Cafe
Wareemba - Hopscotch Cafe
Waverton - Botanica Garden Cafe
West Ryde - Pages Cafe, Element 6
Wilberforce - Australiana Pioneer Village
Windsor - Cafe Red, Lime & Coconut Cafe
Winston Hills - Cafe Els

The Kokoda Track Memorial Walkway & Cafe

The Kokoda Track Memorial Walkway is a very humbling experience. It is a memorial to all of those brave men that fought for our freedom in WW2, specifically along the Kokoda Track. The track meanders along the water's edge between Rhodes and Concord about 800m in length. It starts at Brays Bay Reserve which is such a scenic picnic spot with an awesome playground. Park your car here and start the walk. 

This easy walk is both educational and almost spiritual.  Along the way an old gentleman's voice will start speaking to you through the shrubbery. There are sensors in the walkway that start the recording of an episode of the war, it's fascinating to stand and listen to it and you can also read further information on the storyboard located where the speaker is. Obviously young children may find this quite boring so make sure you keep an eye on them and don't let them wander off as there are water courses around. The vegetation that is planted along the walkway resembles the vegetation that is typically found in Papua New Guinea.

Halfway into the walk you will come across the beautiful Memorial Centrepiece. You walk across a little bridge into the Memorial and here you will see images from the war that have been sand blasted into large granite walls. Water features add a tranquillity to the space, something which little kids will have difficulty understanding as they just see water to play with. However if you have older children hopefully they will appreciate the significance of this very spiritual part of the walk. If you can, sit for a while and let the peace of the space wash over you - much easier said than done with little kids in tow.

Continuing on the walk you will find the Kokoda Cafe. This quaint cafe is the perfect pitstop for a cool drink or ice cream. You can also have breakfast or lunch as well as coffee and cake. There is both seating inside and out and I suggest if you are walking with kids you choose an outside possie as there is a playground! It's quite small but it is fenced in so you can lock up your littlies whilst you try to enjoy your coffee in peace. The playground is right outside of the toilet block (which contains a baby change table) and also an educational facility.

We just grabbed takeaway coffees and icy poles for the kids so I can't really comment on the food. Our coffee was ok and gave us the caffeine hit we required. There were some tasty looking little morsels in the cake cabinet and the other diners seemed to be enjoying their meals as we walked by. The cafe also doubles as a gift shop and information spot. So you can pick up a leaflet about the walk at the same time as buying yourself a pair of earrings!

Outside the cafe there is also a large picnic shelter with BBQs so you can bring your own food. You can also park near here if you prefer so that you don't have to walk your food in from where we parked at Brays Bay Reserve. Likewise there is also parking at the other end of the walk in the car park of Concord Hospital - however this is paid parking. 

As you continue along the walk you will also find the Memorial Rose Garden, another lovely spot to stop and take in the beauty of this walk. Have a look at all of the plaques that have the names of fallen diggers who fought in the war. It is now time to turn around and walk the same way back. At the end of your walk the kids can have a play in the playground at Brays Bay Reserve and you can sit back and enjoy the view. The walk is both wheelchair and pram friendly.

The Kokoda Track Memorial Walkway is open every day. There is plenty of parking available. If you choose to take public transport alight at Rhodes Train Station and walk across the road to start the walk. The cafe along the walk is open from Tuesday - Sunday from 9.30am. They may be closed in periods of extreme weather such as heavy rain. Call ahead if you would like to make a booking on 02 87651797.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Excelsior Jones - Ashfield

I dare say the parents around Ashfield are quite smug these days. They have one of Sydney's best cafes right on their doorstep. Located right in the middle of suburban Ashfield, you will find Excelsior Jones. This cafe was reviewed so many times last year about how it was the latest, greatest and hippest cafe to open in this cafe infested city of ours. I actually presumed that it wouldn't be that child friendly, but I'm pleased to say I was very wrong!

The first thing I need to comment on is the service. I have this pre(mis)conception that hip/trendy/cool cafes come with a good dose of hipster attitude and therefore aren't particularly fond of families with children. The staff at Excelsior Jones are young and hip, BUT they seriously have a good service ethic. From the moment we walked in to the moment we left, the service we received was some of the best I've experienced in Sydney. There were crying kids, there were screaming kids, there were kids in big prams that needed tables to be moved for them and not once did I see an eye roll from the staff or a scowl, just fast efficient service.  Or maybe they've realised the faster you get the families in and the faster you feed them, the faster they will get out!!

The interior of Excelsior Jones is quite spacious with a decent amount of table seating. If you prefer you can pull up a stool along the front window and  also the kitchen. Kids I'm sure would love watching the guys in the kitchen cooking up a storm as there is a big window giving you a bird's eye view. Large windows abound in this corner positioned building which allows loads of natural light to flood in. The neutral colour scheme has a coffee like tone to it. The interior is actually quite minimalist, white chairs are paired with plain tables and a few plants here and there as well as green cushions on the banquette seating give it an almost minimalist retro feel - if there is such a thing! There is a good stack of high chairs available for little bottoms to sit in and as I said earlier, staff are more than willing to move seats around to accommodate prams. They have a large loo on site (baby change table though is MIA).

We were at Excelsior Jones for breakfast. I had a bacon and egg sarnie ($10), and it turned out Mr Right had the same hankering so unfortunately that is all I can show you from the menu. The menu is reasonably priced ranging from $5 - $16, so many hipster joints served meals that hover around the 20 buck mark so it's nice to be able to eat somewhere cool that won't do too much damage to your hip pocket. Likewise at lunch time the prices are still reasonable and everyone raves about their crinkle cut chips with aioli or T. sauce for $7.

Now on to the all important coffee - it was superior. They use 5 Senses coffee and it can come in your typical espresso style or you can be on trend and ask for a drip filter. I also noticed that they use different beans depending on whether you have white or black coffee. So if you consider your self a serious coffee buff this is the place for you.

There isn't a specific kids menu save for the house made chicken nuggets with chips ($10)  for lunch. However there are quite a few options off the main menu that your kidlets will enjoy. For example a serve of toast with spreads will set you back $5. The little bulls munched on the muffin of the day (apple and raspberry) $3.50 and there are are loads of other baked goodies that kids would enjoy.

For the kiddie drinks Excelsior Jones serve a very sweet babycino for the very sweet price of $1.00. Milkshakes can also come in kids sizes for $4.50 and they are sensibly served in a disposable coffee cup with straw. There is actually an awesome variety of milkshakes: lime & coconut, jaffa, butterscotch, cherry ripe and banana to name a few. Juices are available for $4.50 and if your kidlets are into hot chocolates they cost $3.50 (just asked for it to be served in a take away cup). Table water is of course free and you receive this as soon as you sit down. Once again the cups are the non breakable kind all adding to how kid friendly Excelsior Jones actually is.

One thing I do need to warn you about however is the jelly beans. On the front counter is a cute old fashioned red gum ball machine full of them. The little bulls clocked it as soon as we walked in. We don't ordinarily let our kids eat lollies early in the morning - and before you vigilantes out there get on your high horse YES I do realise a marshmallow is a lolly - hence why we didn't want them to have any more sugar at such an early hour. As a result both bulls had serious hissy fits as we went to pay the bill, causing other parents in the cafe to give us that knowing look of sympathy and the staff....well they are clearly used to them, as they just made way for us to escape quickly.

So dear parents, do your kidlets have melt downs in cafes - any helpful hints on how to deal with them quickly?

139A Queen St Ashfield, NSW 
02 9799 3240
Mon - Fri: 7.30am - 4.00pm
Sat-Sun: 8.00am - 4.00pm

Excelsior Jones on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Lake Parramatta Cafe

Mondayitis - we all suffer from it. We would much prefer to stay in bed than get up and get the kids out the door for school, or go to work or do both. But you know what, we get through it and normally with a bucket load of coffee. My Mondays consist of the school drop off for no.1 and then straight to swimming lessons for no. 2. On the way home no. 2 always wants to hit a playground and I always want to hit a cafe. I'm starting to run out of options of places to review that we haven't been, that will satisfy both of our demands.

This last Monday we ended up a Lake Parramatta - we had been to the lake once before but it was a bit of disastrous experience. Basically 2 mothers didn't see eye to eye over a playground dispute between their offspring. I was one of those mothers and in order to avoid maximum embarrassment to all concerned I was whisked away by Mr Right before things got a little out of hand. As a result we didn't get to try out the cafe and I've never been keen to return there, just in case I ran into my sparring partner.

Deciding that enough time has passed (3 years) I decided to return to the lake and I'm happy to report that I didn't run into the other mother and we did get to check out the cafe.  The cafe is attached to a house like building and the verandah/deck of the house is basically the cafe. Simple table and chairs are scattered around the undercover deck and there are also some which are located outside to make the most of lovely weather. The cafe overlooks the lake and you can see all the of the local birdlife flying around trying to score a stale bread meal from the visitors to the lake.

When we arrived there were only a few customers at the cafe. I couldn't see any staff, so we sat at a table and I noticed the menus hanging from the wall so I helped myself and went and sat back down. I had a quick scan of the menu and something instantly caught my attention - a $3.00 babycino! I just had to order it. Not because I'm flush with cash, I just needed to see how much bang for your buck you received for $3.00. This is the bang you get:

I'll start with the positives - it was served in a plastic cup - sensible; it was served at room temperature - also sensible; and it was large - large enough to warrant a straw. To me it resembled more of a milkshake than a babycino. So I'm not sure if it was good value or not - my cappuccino cost $3.70 so for 70 cents more I received a regular coffee. I asked the Little Munch FB community for their thoughts and they all agreed that it was too much to pay, especially as there was no adornment (e.g. marshmallow).

Just to let you know, it's kind of self service at Lake Parramatta Cafe. You get your own menu, find your own table and then order and pay at the counter. I finally found a staff member lurking behind the counter when I went up to place our order. He (like me) was obviously suffering from a serious case of Mondayitis, and as a result service was a wee bit lacking.

Lake Parramatta Cafe is open for breakfast and lunch as well as morning and afternoon teas, 7 days a week. The breakfast menu is quite extensive and covers all of the breakfast staples perfectly. It ranges in price from $6.20 for raisin toast up to $17.40 for a hearty (full) breakfast, which includes tea or coffee. There isn't a specific children's menu for breakfast but I'm sure most kidlets would be happy munching on raisin toast or pancakes ($8.80).

At lunch time the menu once again is full of the usual lunch time staples - burgers, wraps, salads etc. They are fairly reasonably priced with most prices averaging around the $10- $18 mark. There are two specific options for kids, Chicken Nuggets & Chips for $9.50 and a Mixed Kids Meal for $9.50 (fish cocktails and calamari plus some chips). There is also a kids gelato cone for $3 available for dessert.

To be honest with you, I didn't order anything off the menu, just a cookie from the "self serve" cookie jar (I was a bit worried about how many grubby little fingers had helped themselves to cookies before I had put my impeccably clean ones in). The cookie was delicious (I had a little nibble of course) and easily devoured by my little bull.

Once you have finished your eating at the cafe it's time to hit the playground. Just follow the path up beside the cafe and you will walk past toilets (which include a baby change table) and then across a small carpark into the place where all kids want to be. It's a very decent playground with a small scooter path winding through it. My little bull spent ages checking out all the equipment whilst I checked out all of the gorgeous rock sculptures. If you have your chess pieces handy in the car you can always set up a game on the chess board located on one of the benches.

Once your little ones become bored of the playground you can go for a walk around the lake. The surface is relative easy with a few pot holes along the way, so be careful if you have a really fancy pants pram. If that seems too strenuous just remember to bring along some stale bread and you can feed all of the ducks that you will find along the lake's edge. 

So tell me dear parents, what is your cure for Mondayitis and would you baulk at paying $3.00 for a babycino?

Illawong Dr, North Parramatta NSW 2124
Open 7 days 9.30am - 4.00pm weekedays and from 8.30am weekends
02 98908136
Lake Parramatta Cafe on Urbanspoon

Friday, 21 March 2014

The Australiana Pioneer Village - Wilberforce

If you would like to give your kids a quick lesson on Australian History (and I'm talking about a "live" lesson, not one you can get by looking at Google) then I suggest you hop into your hot rod and have a wee hoon out to Wilberforce on the fringe of Sydney and visit The Australiana Pioneer Village. This quaint little village has been recreated  so that we and our children may have an appreciation of how life was back when our magnificent country was first colonised.

The Village is run by an amazing group of VOLUNTEERS! They work tirelessly to maintain this time capsule of Australian history. Most of the buildings and dwellings that make up the Village have been relocated from their original sites from around the Hawkesbury Valley. You and your brood can see what it was like to live in a slab hut, to go to the loo outdoors, to do the washing in a pre historic looking contraption, to grow all of your own food and then to see what Village (not town or city) life was like. You can visit the local Church, Police Station, Bank, Pharmacy, Blacksmiths, General Store, Pub and see what a child friendly cafe was like back in the 1800's!

This really is a great day out for the whole family - even Nan and Pop would enjoy it - oh and it is CHEAP! Adults are $5.00 each, Kids are $3.00 (or if they are under 5 they are free) and a family is $15.00. You arrive and pay the lovely gentlemen on the front gate. You can park outside of the Village or there is also ample parking inside. Once you have paid you receive a pamphlet with a map of the Village as well as detailed explanations of all the buildings.

Take a wander along the main street and visit all of the old buildings. The volunteers who work at the Village are kitted out in pioneer clothing so they are easy to spot! If you have any questions, they are more than happy for you to partake in some of their invaluable knowledge, they are passionate about the Village and its longevity. There are various activities throughout the day such as egg and spoon races for the kids, guided tours, Ned Kelly re-enactments and floggin's! So if your kiddliwinks are giving you grief, you can always send them down to the man with the cat o nine tails!

Now along your wander, you will smell the amazing aroma of freshly baked scones and damper so you MUST head into the Damper Camp for a devonshire tea. This quaint cafe of yesteryear is so cheap, so delicious and so friendly ( they could actually teach a thing or two to modern day cafes!). For 5 bucks you get a delicious pot of tea, 2 scones and lashings of jam and cream. Or you may prefer some damper with cocky's joy (that is golden syrup to you city folk). If the kids are being good you can spoil them with an Ice Cream Sundae for $2.50 or an old fashioned Ice Cream Spider for $3.00. It is quite pram friendly and there are even a couple of ride on horseys for the kids to play on. There are toilets located just behind the Damper Camp, but sadly no baby change table.

There is also a lolly shop that I'm sure your kids will spot as soon as they set foot on the main street and be warned there is a bit of highway robbery going on with their prices! Maybe let the kids put on a little puppet show in the street and ask passers by to cough up a spare bob or two so that the kids can pay for their own sweeties! 

You can easily spend and hour or more wandering down the street and when you come to the end you will find the animal enclosure where you can all get up close and personal with a hairy coo (a highlander cow). There is a big bag of carrots where for some spare change you and the kids can feed these amazing bovines. Chickens and handsome roosters will also be prancing around trying to look important. If you keep on towards your right you will also find a yard of donkeys who also are in need of some Vitamin D apparently, as there is another big bag of carrots and a donation box asking for a 50 cent donation so that you can feed these funny looking asses. 

If you are needing some lunch you can either bring along your own picnic and enjoy a lovely lunch by the duck lagoon (wood BBQs are also provided free of charge) or you can mosey on into the Oxboro Inn up near the entrance of the Village and enjoy some hearty yet simple pioneer fare - note this is the pub with no beer cause the Inn isn't licensed.

Now for another couple of interesting tid bits, the TV series Wild Boys with the handsome Daniel McPherson was filmed here a few years ago; you can do a Ghost Tour, of an evening (obviously), bookings essential and children are not permitted; and Captain Thunderbolt, a real live bush ranger grew up in Wilberforce - history lesson finished!

Only opened on Sundays from 10.00am - 4.00pm, a visit to the Australiana Pioneer Village is a perfect excuse to have a Little Explore of the whole Hawkesbury Region. On the way back home you can stop in at Macquarie Park just before the bridge into Windsor for the kids to have a play at a fantastic playground and if you are in need of a "modern" cafe experience the best cafes in Windsor according to Little Munch are Cafe Red and Lime & Coconut Cafe.

Rose Street, Wilberforce NSW 2756
02 4575 1777

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Holy Cow Cafe - Pyengana Tasmania

Located in the NE of Tasmania, approx 2 hours from Launceston, you will find the delightful little hamlet of Pyengana. Lush green fields full of big fat dairy cows as far as the eye can see, dominate this beautiful part of the Apple Isle. Pyengana is also home to the Holy Cow Cafe and holy moley this is a fabulous little spot to rest awhile next time you are down that way.

The Holy Cow Cafe is part of the Pyengana Dairy Company. For 4 generations this company has been farming dairy cattle and producing both amazing milk and cheeses. The lush and fertile farmlands around Pyengana produce very happy cows indeed. As a result they churn out some very delicious milk which is then turned into some very delicious cheese. All of the cheeses are cheddar and you can taste them and buy as much or as little as you would like. There is a full spectrum of cheddars available from the very mild all the way through to a full flavoured cheddar called Devilish (chilli, onion and chives have been added to it and you will certainly be breathing fire after you have tasted it!).

The Holy Cow Cafe is open from 9.00am every day (winter hours may vary). They serve breakfast and lunch as well as morning and afternoon teas. You can stop by for a meal or just some cheese tasting. Loads of cute local arts, crafts and foodie items are also for sale. When we arrived at 9.00am we had a wander around the shop/tasting room (as they were still firing up the coffee machine) and then we found a table as we were in need of some breakfast. And let me tell you dear parents, our breakfast was nothing short of brekkie perfection! 

Our Scrambled Eggs on melted cheese toast, leg ham and relish tasted so fresh and so delicious. It was the perfect start to a chilly summer's day! The little bulls had the kids cheese on toast which was accompanied by the tomato relish and they washed this down with milkshakes - they certainly received their dose of calcium for the day!  The menu is basic but it covers all of the bases of wholesome country cooking. Pyengana cheese and milk are obviously dominant features in each menu item, so if you have a dairy allergy this sadly may not be the place for you!

Tasmanians are very parochial and I mean that in a good way. For example at the Holy Cow Cafe they only serve produce that is made in Tasmania. Their fabulous coffee is from a Hobart roastery, their apple juice is from an orchard down south in the Huon Valley etc etc. In other words they look after their own and as a result when you dine in Tasmania you are really receiving a full Tasmanian dining experience.

Our little bulls were obviously right at home at the Holy Cow Cafe. They love everything to do with farms and farm life. They spotted as soon as we walked in the door of the cafe, the play equipment outside, which was next door to the dairy sheds. They already had their gumboots on so they were out there as quick as a flash mucking around on the equipment and counting cows. There are tables and chairs for you to sit on out here but we preferred sitting by the open fire inside the cafe. We still had a fairly good view of the boys outside, so we were happy enough to let them be boys whilst we enjoyed a few minutes of peace and quiet. 

When you have finished your meal make sure you taste all of the cheeses available and have a chat to the helpful staff. We stocked up on cheese, crackers, tomato relish and some locally made fudge, which made for a delightful picnic lunch on our journey to Hobart.

This little slice of paradise is a bit of a detour from the main roads in Tasmania, but I thoroughly recommend you take it. The food, the coffee, the scenery and the cheese are pure Tasmanian and I'm a firm believer that when you travel you should totally absorb yourself in local culture. The Holy Cow Cafe and the Pyengana Dairy Company are as about Tasmanian as you can get. Enjoy x

St Columba Falls RD, Pyengana, TAS, 7216
03 6373 6157
Open 7 days
Summer: 9.00am - 5.00pm
Winter: 10.00am - 4.00pm