Chocolate - a constant in most mother's diets. I believe it's part of the holy trinity of motherhood survival - Coffee, Wine and Chocolate. And for one delicious weekend you will be able to find all three at the smooth Festival of Chocolate. And the best bit for Team Little Munch is that this year the festival has a brand new location. It will now be held at the Sydney Showground in Sydney Olympic Park, which is much closer to home!
For the last few years the festival was held at First Fleet Park at Circular Quay. Whilst the location was spectacular, the space wasn't especially if you had kids in tow. It was soooo crowded which made me nervous when I had the little lads with me. So I believe the move to the showground is a God send as there will be loads more exhibitors, heaps of space for kids to wander around, and the best bit - a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Ferris Wheel! Well the boys and the hubster will love that, I prefer my feet to be firmly on the ground, preferably with a vino in one hand and some chocolate in the other - so you'll find me in the Hope Estate Garden Bar instead!
Some of Little Munch's favourite exhibitors that you can check out at the festival are:
There are heaps of other incredible chocolatiers already signed up to show off their masterful creations and each week more exhibitors are being added to the list, so keep an eye on their website to see who will be there.
To keep our offspring occupied at the festival there will be a special smooth kids area where they can have their face painted; participate in a hands on kids cooking class by Baked by Andres and N2 Extreme Gelato; meet their favourite characters from the small/big screen; the ferris wheel, plus much, much more! All of this is free with the entry price.
COST: Single Day - $55 for 2 adults and up to 3 kids; or $23/adult & $17/kid - kids under 5 are FREE. You also receive a FREE Lindt ball as soon as you walk through the gate! Also for every ticket sold, two meals will be donated to Ozharvest.
GETTING THERE: We suggest taking public transport to the festival. The Olympic Park Train Station is close by and buses let off close by too. Otherwise if you drive the Sydney Olympic carpark costs $5/hour up to a maximum of $25 per day.
MORE INFO: www.smoothfestivalofchocolate.com.au - facebook.com/smoothfestivalofchocolate
Keep an eye on the Little Munch Facebook page as we will be giving away a FAMILY PASS closer to the festival date!
Hey Blacktown - what's going on? You're making a big spash into the foodie scene of late that's for sure, with funky new joints opening up left, right and centre! And the best bit is that they are all family friendly - so a big thank you from team Little Munch!
The latest family friendly venue that we've visited in the area is the Blacktown Bowling Club. It's just received a 1.6 million dollar spruce up and it's definitely a place you should have on your radar to visit some time soon with your fambam. The biggest drawcard is the 3 level kids playground. This under water themed space kept our 9 year old happily entertained during our visit, as he climed through the various levels making new friends as he went. So your babes this age and younger will no doubt love it too.
And the playground is right next to the Club's new restaurant - Terrazzo Verdi. So you can sit and watch your kidlets play whilst you enjoy a really tasty meal. Terrazzo Verdi as the name suggests is an Italian inspired restaurant and the meals that the kitchen pumps out include Italian classics as well as Club favourites like burgers, schnitzels and fish & chips.
The restaurant has plenty of high chairs and so much space to park your pram (or multiple prams) around the table. Little bowlers have their very own $10.00 kids menu which includes a bowl of ice cream. Choices are fairly standard - spaghetti bolognese, fish & chips or chicken schnitzel & chips and the portion sizes are ideal for small tummies. If you have kids with bigger appetites, there are heaps of options for them to eat on the main menu.
The adults in our group sampled the Classic Fish and Chips ($17.00) when we dined for lunch, which came with a decent sized crispy side salad. The flat head fillets were cooked perfectly and they went down a treat with an iced cold beer on a sunny Saturday. We actually ate our lunch on the new outdoor terrace at the Club which overlooks the bowling greens - it's the best space to sit if you want to escape noisy kids (oops did I just say that!). I should also mention here that you can play barefoot bowls at the Blacktown Bowling Club - if you haven't played before, give it a go. They are so much fun and you will have so many laughs with the whole family.
But back to the food - make sure you leave some room for dessert, as they are seriously good! We shared a Sticky Date Pudding, which is as delicious as any we've ever tasted. There was also a lush looking Lemon Meringue Pie available as well as some other sweet looking tarts. If you dine on Thursday nights all desserts are half price with any main meal ordered. There's a nice range of smaller Italian biscuits and cakes to go with your coffee as well.
The Blacktown Bowling Club is only open Wednesday through to Sunday - so don't rock up there at the beginning of the week. Instead get your Mum Squad together midweek or on the weekend and head there with all the kids, and let them have a tonne of fun in the playground. Then you can either enjoy coffee and cake from Terrazzo Verdi OR if you are in need of something a little "stronger" may we suggest that you order a delcious looking Antiapasto Platter and our favourite vino, La Boheme Rose from the bar - bliss!
You will find the Blacktown Bowling Club down near Blacktown Hospital - so if you need to de-stress after waiting in emergency there for some time head to the Club for a quick cuppa or vino! There's heaps of parking and very easy access into the Club with your pram.
So my dear Little Munchers - are you loving the revamping of local bowlos like the Blacktown Bowling Club as much as we are? And do you know of any other gems in Blacktown that should be on our radar?
15 Lismore St, Blacktown
02 9622 1589
Open Wed - Sun only
**If you live within a 6km radius of the Blacktown Bowling Club you need to sign up to be a member. Social Membership is available on the spot for $5.00 p.a.**
Well here's another local bowlo that's had a facelift! The NBC Sports Club on busy Windsor Rd in Northmead has had quite a few dollars spent on it recently and part of that upgrade has been the installation of a great outdoor play area suitable for both little and big kids.
The area is aptly called the Backyard and you can see it easily from the "verandah" out the back of the Club or from one of the many picnic tables within the yard. There's a small kids play area that has sun protection, and then there is Tiki Island - a massive jumping castle. There's also loads of space to run around , kick some balls and play bullrush or one of those other crazy games kids love to play.
On a recent visit our lads spent ages in Tiki Island whilst we enjoyed a drink watching a beautiful Western Sydney sunset (quite romantic really!). It's also the perfect spot to catch up with your mates with kids and enjoy a cooling beverage whilst the offspring have loads of fun in the Backyard. And just to let you know on Friday evenings they have $10.00 cocktails - cosmopolitans and mojitos included!
If you prefer to sit indoors, you can still see out to the play area through the large glass windows, but this is probably only suitable for those of you with older, well behaved kids. High chairs are available and the whole of the NBC Sports Club is pram friendly.
When your bellies begin to rumble, head up to the front counter to place your order. Maze Grill and Cafe is open 7 days. During the week you can have coffee & cake, lunch & dinner and on weekends they serve breakfast. We love that you can eat as early as 11.30am for lunch, and 5.30pm for dinner - perfect for those of you with younger kids.
The kids menu is fairly typical of what you find in most clubs and pubs. There are 4 simple choices and a popper is included in the price. It would have been awesome to see some "greens" available on the menu - whether it was some salad vegies or steamed beans etc. as a choice instead of fries.
Maze Grill and Cafe also offer quite a few special deals throughout the week. On Monday nights, kids eat FREE with every adult meal purchase, which will save you some coin. There are $11.00 lunch specials Monday - Friday, as well as some dinner specials on throughout the week, so check out their website to keep up to date with what is going on. We love the sound of the Family Roast Chook on Thursday night with vegies, salad and rice for $30.00!
The big people's menu has some awesome choices available - your typical Club favourites plus a few fancier dishes like the Barramundi with Mango Salsa & Potato Rosti ($28) and a Seafood Pasta ($28). Burgers, Schnittys, Bangers & Mash are all on the menu for under the $20.00 mark.
We didn't sample dessert, but there's a sweet looking range of cakes and other treats at the front counter. They also do a mid week coffee & cake deal for $6.95 for those of you wishing to catch up with your mum squad.
If you get a chance to leave the kids at home, gather your favourite chicks and head to the NBC Sports Club for their "Girls on the Green" afternoon. For $20.00 per person you can have a laugh playing barefoot bowls, a glass of bubbles and some nibbles over a 2 hour period.
**Please note, if you live within 6km of the NBC Sports Club you must be a member to enter - social memberships are availbale on the spot for $5.50**
166 Windsor Rd, Northmead NSW 2152
02 9630 2875
Ah Sam - you've done it again!
Sam is the owner of the very family friendly Groundskeeper Cafes in both Ryde and Blacktown Parks and he has now opened another gem in the beautifully restored George Street Gatehouse at the front of Parramatta Park. This lovely cafe offers up both indoor and outdoor seating and our little people are welcome with open arrms.
For those of you still with prams in your life, the outdoor area is the best spot to sit - it's easy to access and there is plenty of space to park prams of all shapes and sizes. High chairs are available and there's a toilet with a baby change table too. If you want to escape the elements then you can sit in the actual Gatehouse. The intimate interior has been tastefully restored but there is very little room for prams. If you have older kids like we do, they will happily run around on the beautiful grassy area opposite the cafe - I wouldn't advise letting little ones do this without parental supervision. A playground is close by but not visible from the cafe, unlike the other two Groundskeeper Cafes which are smack bang next to excellent play areas.
The extensive menu is the same at all three of the Grounds Keeper Cafes, serving up tasty breakfast and lunch dishes with a Middle Eastern influence. There are tagines, shakshoukas, fatouch and hearty mezze boards as well as cafe classics like granola, bacon & egg rolls and burgers. Little Groundskeepers will be well satisified with their menu - the breakfast pancakes ($9.50) are always a huge hit and look (and taste) totally delish! The kids menu costs between $6.50 for a basic ham & cheese toastie, up to $12.50 for a Wagyu cheese burger with fries. Babycinos and kid size drinks are available to quench the thirst of your offspring.
If you are just after coffee and cake or a sugar hit you are in for a real treat, as Sam and his team are master bakers. Each day freshly made cakes hit the shelves - their carrot cake is simply sublime and their cute cupcakes are always a hit with the kidlets. The Di Bella coffee is consistently well made, and if you are going to hit up the playgrounds in Parramatta Park afterwards, make sure you grab a takeaway!
Parramatta Park has two playgrounds. There is a small and dated one just behind the cafe which is better suited for little people, but everyone's favourite is the fabulous Domain Creek Playground in the middle of Parramatta Park. This is about a ten minute walk from the Grounds Keeper Cafe and is easily done with a stroller or pram. This modern playground has equipment suitable for most ages but it does lend itself more to school age kids.
Parking: there's plenty of parking within the Park but it is at a premium on weekends. All of the parking is timed, so make sure you take note of the signs as those pesky parking rangers are constantly patrolling. The closest parking is at the Macquarie St entrance to Parramatta Park - check out this PARK MAP for more details.
Cnr George & O'Connell Streets, Parramatta
02 9808 4696
Open 7 days for breakfast & lunch
A fabulous new cafe seems to be opening up every week or so in Western Sydney at the moment! Our latest discovery is the delightful Corner Shop Cafe in Quakers Hill. It has a certain Donna Hay design element to it. With duck egg blue walls and bleached white furniture, a visit here will brighten up the gloomiest of days.
The Corner Shop Cafe occupies a corner position at the suburban Farnham Road Shops in Quakers Hill. There's plenty of parking and a couple of spots right in front of the cafe are designated for parents with prams. It's very easy to access the cafe with your pram and there's loads of space to park your pram(s) right next to your table, which is so rare these days when most cafes try to jam as many tables as they possibly can into their dining area.
On the morning we dined, we were greeted by a bunch of super friendly young staff. There's full table service (another bonus when dining out with kidlets) and as the cafe was fairly quiet we received our food and drinks quickly. The Corner Shop Cafe has a Kids Menu which consists of a Cheese Melt on Sourdough ($7), Nuggets & Chips ($8), as well as Fish Fingers & Chips ($8). They will also serve kids drinks such as hot chocolates, in takeaway cups if you ask them to.
The adult's food is seriously delish. The smashed avo ($16) and truffled mushrooms on toast ($16) are great choices to start the day. There's also the usual eggs benny, big brekkie etc. At lunch time the menu features different types of burgers, a steak sanger, a schnitty and a chicken salad for those of you who limit the calorie intake.
The cafe doesn't have toilets but I do believe they are located close by (just ask for the key). Also bring along some pencils and paper to keep the kidlets occupied whilst you dine - so that you can enjoy your caffeine fix in peace. And yes the coffee they serve is a very decent brew.
So Western Sydney, keep up the good work as we're thoroughly enjoying road testing all of these fabulous new cafes and thank you for welcoming families with open arms x
1/216 Farnham Road Quakers Hill, 2763 NSW
Mon - Fri: 7am - 2pm
Sat - Sun: 8am - 2pm
I do love a hidden suburban gem. Those cafes that are not on the main drag or in a major shopping centre, but out in the local strip of shops that not many people know about. Cafes just like the funky Old Boy Espresso in the backs streets of Blacktown for example!
The Old Boy Espresso has been open for about a year and it has been fitted out in that trendy retro style that you find in so many inner west cafes these days, and now more and more in outer west cafes too. The friendly young staff are very welcoming and brew up a damn fine cup of coffee for you to enjoy whilst you peruse the menu.
The menu has a very brunch like feel to it and is full of current cafe classics. There isn't a specific menu for little people, but there are quite a few options that they could get their little choppers around - one of which would be the Nutella Burger! This sounds divine - nutella and vanilla icecream is seved on a toasted milk bun and comes with strawberries and crushed pistachio. There are also waffles, muesli, bacon & egg rolls and toasted banana bread that little ones could also eat.
If you are dining at lunch time (like we were), and don't really feel like a breakfast type of dish there are burgers and the like on the menu for you to munch on. It would have been great to have a healthier option like a salad to choose from although, especially when you are pretending to diet. Wanting to avoid the calorific burgers I chose the Avo Smash, which I ordered without properly reading what actually came with it. So when it was delivered to our table and I saw those evil little green balls called peas, my heart sank a wee bit as I can't stomach them (bad childhood memories). So they were quickly flicked off and over to the old boy that I was dining with (aka Mr Munch), for him to consume!
Now the Old Boy Espresso has a loo out the back (but it doesn't have a baby change table). I didn't spy any high chairs either, so your little one may have to sit in your stroller/pram. Access is very easy into the cafe with your buggy, and there is also some space to park it near you table whether you sit inside or out. There's also quite a lot of parking available both in front of the cafe and also in the surrounding streets. Bring some colouring in along to occupy your kidlets during your meal, then afterwards pop around the back of the shops and you'll find a small playground and quite a bit of space for the kidlets to burn off some energy.
24 Tallawong Ave, Blacktown NSW
Thu - Fri: 8.30am - 2.00pm
Sat - Sun: 9.00am - 2.00pm
Last year we made the trek to Wetherill Park to check out the amazing XS Espresso that had the social media world in a spin, due to their incredible mega shakes. Upon departure from the cafe, I was quite relieved that we didn't live close by, as I knew we would be there all the time inhaling their calorific beauties. Unfortunately less than 6 months later, XS Espresso decided to expand their business, and they set up shop less than a ten minute drive from our house, in North Parramatta! And yes we sadly go there too often now, and as a result I've increased the number of stretchy pants that make themselves at home in my wardrobe!
The XS Espresso in North Parramatta can be found in the outdoor Junction Shopping Centre which is on Windsor Road (near the corner of James Ruse Drive). There's plenty of parking available, the cafe is kind of pram friendly, but don't bring a whole tribe of pramsters with you, as there isn't enough space to fit too many around a table. You can choose to sit inside or out, but this cafe is seriously busy most of the time, so arrive early as they don't take bookings. There are a couple of high chairs, and the staff are very friendly and efficient, and are always welcoming of kids.
They serve a strong brew of Campos coffee at XS Espresso, which is perfect to jolt bleary eyed parents awake first thing in the morning (the coffee machine is fired up from 7am each day), and their babycino is a delight - pure froth, chocolate coated and sprinkled with 100s & 1000s. There's also an excellent range of cold pressed juices if you would prefer your little ones to ingest have something healthier.
Obviously they have their range of megashakes available, as well as seriously decadent cronuts. And recently we've discovered their baby gaytime donuts, which are a little burst of deliciousness in the mouth. Everything is presented beautifully, and you can feast on these delights until 10pm each night!
It's not all about the decadent treats at XS Espresso as there's also a savoury menu available, which has heaps of delish choices for both breakfast and lunch (their salads are healthy and seriously tasty, as is their version of avo smash). And the savoury items also receive the same attention to detail with their presentation as the sweet stuff does. There's not a dedicated kids menu here, but there are items that kids will eat such as banana bread and toast for brekkie (which we make the boys have as they drool over the cronut cabinet!). Or perhaps your kidlets could share a meal, such as bacon & eggs, burgers or pasta.
I've also discovered recently that there's actually another XS Espresso located in the heart of Parramatta on Eat Street (Church St), so I'm thinking that their must be an increase in the sale of stretchy pants throughout Parramatta at the moment! So my dear parents, make sure you don't wear your skinny jeans when visiting, and enjoy this decadently delicious cafe x
Shop 9A, 2 Windsor Rd, North Parramatta
02 9890 9229
Open 7 days 7am - 10pm
Wet'n'Wild in Western Sydney, is a wonderful water playground where you could literally play all day if you have enough energy! But what can you eat when you get there, to keep that energy going?
The Village Bean
My first recommendation when you arrive is to go and grab yourself a coffee from their new cafe - the Village Bean. I was actually a bit shocked to find a cafe onsite, I thought it was going to be all fast food/canteen style type of grub. So to be able to grab a decent coffee and even a slice of yummy cake was a big surprise. The cafe is down near the beach area and besides coffee, they serve tea, chai lattes, hot chocolates, frappes and more. There are lovely looking slices of cake like banana and carrot cake, as well as caramel slices to satisfy your sweet tooth. And there are wraps, pies, quiches and other snacks to have, if you are after a savoury item. All of these items were usual cafe prices.
Lil Fins Kids Cafe
This is the first eatery that you come across when you enter Wet'n'Wild. It's near the Nicolodeon Beach area where your smaller kids will want to hang out, so it makes an easy option for lunch. They sell everything from popcorn to sausage rolls, and even wicked looking oreo churros. There are ham & cheese sandwiches, as well as chicken and lettuce ones, plus a few other selections. You can grab something quick and easy to take back to where you kidlets are playing, or you can eat it at one of the tables provided.
We all went for hot diggity dogs for lunch from Lil Fins. It was a quick, easy and pretty tasty lunch, that the lads wolfed down before heading back to the action. A full range of soft drinks are available, and even coffee if you need another one. All of the food items cost below $10.00, so a family of 4 can have something to eat and drink for about 50 bucks.
The Promenade Dining
This seemed to be the most popular place for WetnWilders to eat at! I think that's because you can get your fast food fix here like hot chips, burgers and pizza. They also have a kids lunch box for $17.00. For this price kids receive a Wet'n'Wild lunch box that has a burger, fries and drink in it. The prices aren't exactly cheap here, but that is typical of all theme parks. The overcast day we visited, the queues were quite short, but I can imagine in peak periods you might have to wait a while to get yourself some hot chippies.
The Surf Club Restaurant
Sadly this was closed the day we visited, which was a shame, as it's where I would have preferred to dine for lunch. It's upstairs from the beach, and it apparently has a Tex Mex inspired menu. Oh well there's always next time!
If you are a bit cashed up, you can pay to access Wet'n'Wild's premium air conditioned lounge called Club W. This costs $30.00 per person for everyone aged over 3 years. This price includes your own "pod" to sit in which can seat 8 people, as well as unlimited tea, coffee and water all day, as well as snacks. You can charge your phone here (in case your battery has gone flat from the numerous selfies you've been taking), make use of the private bathrooms and also leave your possesions here whilst you go out and play. When the belly starts to rumble, you can order food (which you pay for) to be delivered straight to your pod. Some of the offerings include cheese and antipasto platters, dips and breads, as well as fish and chips and gourmet sandwiches.
When you are in need of a sugar fix, it's time to hit Sweet Treats. In here you can have a soft serve yoghurt and toppings, or a more decadent donut cone filled with soft serve ice cream!! There's also a help yourself lolly bar as well - so don't take your kids in here unless you are in a treating mood. We actually used this as a bribe to get our kids out of Wet'n'Wild, otherwise we would have been there until way after sunset!
There are also GrabnGo Kiosks around the place where you can grab frozen cokes and the like, to cool you down on a hot summer's day.
You can take some of your own snacks into Wet'n'Wild, and of course all of your own baby food. I took bottled water and a few packs of crackers and chips for the boys, as well as some fruit, and had no issues at all. Security do check your bags as you walk in, so if you try to sneak a whole picnic lunch and bottle of vino, just be warned that you may have to take it back to your car. There are quite a few different areas with loads of seating for you to eat your food too.
Throughout Wet'n'Wild there are numerous toilets and showers, as well as baby change tables. There's even sunscreen dispensers near the loos in case you forgot to pack any. The entire park is pram friendly (they also have strollers for hire). There are small lockers for hire, in case you want to store your posessions whilst you swim as well. There's plenty of seating everywhere, and I was really surprised at how tidy and clean the whole park was. For more info on our visit to Wet'N'Wild, click here.
427 Reservoir Rd, Prospect NSW
13 33 86
If you've been reading Little Munch for a while, you would know that I'm fairly passionate about Western Sydney and all that it has to offer. But there's another gorgeous Mumma who is even more passionate than I am about the West of Sydney!
Little Munchers, please let me introduce you to Eleanor. This amazing chick created the Facebook page called Fun for Kids - Western Sydney. If there is something happening out here in the West, Eleanor knows about it. She has 32,000 plus followers on her page, she is a Mumma to 3 gorgeous kids, and she also has a day job - what a woman!
1. What area of Sydney do you live in and why?
I live in Western Sydney (Quakers Hill). I love where we live. Great local schools, shopping centres and playgrounds! Being close to the M7 is very handy. Means we able to get to the city within 30 mintues.
2. What do you do for a living?
I work for a Market Research Company at Castle Hill. We pay people to try new products.
3. Where's your favourite neighbourhood gem/s that you dine at as a family?
We love Marayong Brewhouse for many reasons. Kids eat free on Sundays. They have a disco the 1st Friday of the month. They have a great outdoor playground and an indoor jumping castle. Oh and the food is delicious.
Windsor. Windsor is one of our favourite place to go with friends. A great variety of cafes and takeaway shops. Take a picnic rug and sit in the well shaded park and relax.
4. Any tips for parents of small kids on how to have a relaxing eating out experience?
I have a 4 ,6 and 8 year old I ALWAYS have colouring pencils and paper in my hand bag. It keeps them happy and hubby and I can have a chat. We recently purchased the small board games from the Telegraph. They have been great to take to resturants with us lately.
5. Where is your favourite playground for kids in Western Sydney and where can you grab a coffee close by?
Our favourite playground in Western Sydney would have to be Blacktown Showground. A fantastic water play area and playground. The new cafe is amazing. Also the Ponds Park on Pebble Crescent, The Ponds. It has sheltered seating, bbqs, a path for the kids to ride their bikes around. There is a small shopping centre next door with several great cafes. My children love (I would go as far as saying obsessed) with Aqua Golf as Penrith. We love to go on the weekend and have a hit then wander up to Harry Cafe de Wheels for a pie or hotdog.
Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to chat with us Eleanor. I'm certainly going to take the lads to the Aqua Golf in Penrith soon, and also for a pie at Harry's Cafe de Wheels (can you believe we've never eaten at a Harrys before!).
Little Munchers make sure you follow Fun for Kids - Western Sydney. It lists all of the awesome things happening in Western Sydney, as well as tells you about playgrounds, fairs, fetes and special deals happening in the West!
You will find Coco Cubano restaurants dotted all around Sydney. They are a chain of funky Cuban inspired eateries that welcome kids with open arms! Especially during their kids hour, which runs from 3pm - 6pm every Monday - Friday. During this time kids can order any meal, or any crazy shake for only $4.90 from the kids menu. So it makes it the perfect place to go for an after school treat, or an early dinner with the fambam.
We popped into the Blacktown location recently for a late lunch - it's on the top floor of the Westpoint Shopping Centre. However you will also find Coco Cubano restaurants in Parramatta, Rouse Hill, Crows Nest, Darlinghurst, Campbelltown, Penrith, Ryde, Kensington and also in the city at Central Park. Each location is styled similarly with quirky knick knacks dotted everywhere, bright coloured flowers, comfy lounges, retro seating and pretty mosaic tiling all featuring. The stores are reasonably easy to access with prams, they have high chairs and normally have a baby change table in their bathrooms. And you can make a booking. So they tick loads of the family friendly dining boxes.
The other big box they tick, is providing activities for kidlets. They have a huge Coco Cubano Kids Club activity sheet that doubles as a kids menu. The sheet has loads of colouring in and puzzles on it which should hopefully see your offspring occupied for most of the time you are in the restaurant. I bet you will even find yourself mindlessly helping out with the colouring in too!
Just to let you know the qualifying age of kidlets for the happy hour deal, is for anyone 17 years and younger, but during normal times the kids menu is only available for peeps who are 12 years and under.
So what can kids actually eat at Coco Cubano? Well there are 5 options on the Kids Menu - Ham & Cheese Toastie ($7.90); Hamburger & Chips ($9.90); Chicken Strips & Chips ($9.90); Crispy Calamari & Chips ($9.90); or Nachos ($9.90). My dudes went with their usual chicken strips & chips, and they were both a bit put off at first when it arrived looking a tad black (I think they may have even said a little too loudly, that the chef had burnt their lunch). But chef did no such thing, it's the Cuban spice coating that is dark looking, and gosh it was delicious. As was the chicken inside - very tender indeed, and my boys gobbled it all up, after some reassurance. If you venture to Coco Cubano for breakfast they have a kids special of a poached egg on toast with a hash brown, or your babes can just have plain toast and spreads for $3.90.
The Crazy Shake selection is very tempting for kids and adults alike. There's a Gummy Bear Shake, Banana Choc Bomb Shake, Salty Caramel Shake or your Classic Milkshake on offer. Our lads shared one of the Gummy Bear shakes, much to their displeasure, but I know that they can never finish one each (they only want to eat the topping and lick the chocolate from around the edge anyway). The shakes are big, so I suggest if you have younger kids, you do the same - just ask the waitperson for 2 straws.
The adults food is obviously inspired by the cuisine of Cuba. The Coco Cubano restaurants are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as snacks in between meals. To kick start the day you can fill your bellies with a Havana Feast (aka the big brekkie), a Healthy Start (poached eggs inside avocado halves topped with salsa), a Chorizo Wrap or Banana Bread served with Ice Cream, to name but a few. And at lunch and dinner time you can have a light meal such as a toasted chicken wrap or nachos, up to a full blown burger or a rack of ribs. There are salads for the health conscious, as well as small selection of vegetarian options. For a sweet treat there are churros, brownies, souffles and waffles, plus a giant ice cream sandwich! And of course the crazy shakes can be ordered for adults too.
It can be so expensive dining out with kids that's for sure, and I think Coco Cubano are so smart having a kids happy hour, well it's actually 3 hours isn't it! It provides families with a reasonable option for dining out mid week, and because of that mega activity sheet to occupy the sprogs, it should be a relative peacefully experience. And if it all goes pear shaped, you are so within your rights to order yourself a dirty big mojito to survive, as Coco Cubano is fully licensed! Enjoy x
Open 7 days
Restaurant hours vary depending on location
At the back of the Flower Power nursery in Orchard Hills you will find a hidden little gem called the Little House of Coffee. It reminds a wee bit of the Little House on the Prairie and I almost expected Melissa Gilbert (Laura) to run out and greet us when we first arrived - I'm showing my age now aren't I!
The Little House of Coffee is very quaint and occupies an idyllic garden setting thanks to all of the beautiful greenery and flowers of the nursery. The sunny outisde tables are perfect on a Winter's day and also an ideal spot to sit with kids who like to wander around (perhaps don't let your little ones pick all the flowers as the plants are obviously for sale). There is a special little table just for little people with a checker board top too, so kidlets can have their very own tea party.
If you prefer to sit inside there are more tables and comfy chairs to sit in, and you will even find some games for kids to play with. No matter where you sit, the access for prams is super easy and there is heaps of room to park them too - Mums groups will love this. You will find high chairs and also a baby change table in the outside toilet block, so the Little House of Coffee ticks so many of the kid friendly boxes.
The Little House of Coffee pride themselves on their home cooked food, but it's really all about the cupcakes here. I've been drooling over their social media pages which are full of amazing looking concoctions every single week! On the morning we visited the delectable looking Cherry Ripe Delight was on offer, so they were promptly ordered for my ravenous young lads. There are all sorts of other sweet treats available too, so make sure you pop inside the cafe to see what's been recently baked, as the selections change quite often.
Being typical kids, the boys only ate the topping and icing of the cupcakes when they arrived on the table. I had a sneaky bite of the cake itself, and whilst it had a lovely flavour, it had the texture of being refrigerated for just a little bit too long in my opinion. So I was very glad that I had ordered my passionfruit cheesecake slice, as it was basically like a slice of heaven. The consistency of each layer in the slice was perfect, and the little berry compote on the side complimented the slice very nicely indeed.
They use Delano beans from Wollongong in their coffee at the Little House of Coffee. The coffee was good, but I like a nice strong brew, so I think when we visit again I may ask for a double shot. The babycino was full of foam and came with a marshmallow on top (and from memory it was free or almost free, but don't quote me on that). For the non caffeine addicts amongst you there is a decent selection of teas as well as hot chockies, creamy milkshakes and smoothies on offer.
As we visited for morning tea we didn't sample the Little House of Coffee's Lil Gardeners Menu. The menu doubles as a colouring sheet which should keep bored little people occupied. The menu is really reasonable and I LOVE that you can get a snack plate that has fruit, veggie sticks, cheese & crackers on it for $5.00 and that price even includes a pop top juice! Well done Little House of Coffee.
If you dine at breakfast or lunch, the big people's menu looks really delish. Pancake Dippers and Red Velvet French Toast sound like a fabulous way to start your day. And at lunch time healthy salads, burgers, soup, bruschetta, sliders and BLTs are available for you to full your beautiful bellies with. And the menu is all reasonably priced which is another bonus.
Now I've heard on the grapevine that there are plans afoot for a playground near the cafe too, which will make the Little House of Coffee one of the most kid friendly of cafes in the Penrith area that is for sure x
CNR Northern Rd & Castle Rd
Orchard Hills (Penrith)
Mon - Sun: 8.30am - 4.30pm
Wouldn't it be nice if every park in Sydney had a cafe? Don't you think the city would be a happier place? Kidlets would be happy mucking around in the playground or scooting here, there and everywhere, and parents would also be happy, as they would be fully caffeinated. Well it seems that this little dream of mine is starting to become a reality, thanks to the team behind the Grounds Keeper Cafe. See they already have a brilliant cafe in Ryde Park. And now they have a brand new cafe in Francis Park Blacktown, and they are about to open another cafe in Parramatta Park. The Grounds Keeper's motto is that every ground needs a Grounds Keeper, and I couldn't agree more!
The Grounds Keeper in Blacktown has taken up residence in the space that used to be Reflections Cafe. There is still the same amount of generous seating inside and out of the cafe, therefore it's the ideal venue for Mothers Groups and a catch up with friends who have prams. There are high chairs available for little bottoms to sit in as well. They provide table service at the Gounds Keeper and the staff are super friendly and patient, as you need to be when dealing with kids who change their mind every 2 seconds about what they actually want to eat/drink. And there is a hole in the wall for the take away trade, which is perfect for those of you who may just want to eat out in the playground or at one of the many picnic shelters in the park.
Now the best thing about the Grounds Keeper Cafe is that when you sit outside (and even from some of the inside tables), you have a great view of the playground, so you can let older kids have a play whilst you sit back and relax with your brew and scroll through your instagram feed. Toddlers will need to be supervised however, as there are quite a few cement stairs that they can tumble down and there is also a water course close by.
All of the facilities are awesome in the park. There is a water splash playground; an excellent all abilities playground which has equipment suitable for both big and little people; fantastic picnic shelters; loads of beautiful green space; a great bike/trike/scooter track; bridges over a water catchment; very clean toilet areas, complete with baby change tables; loads of parking; basketball courts; views over the train lines; and last but not least, obviously the cafe.
We spent over 2 hours at the cafe and playground when we visited recently, because the boys were just having such a great time - and the water park wasn't even working as it was in the middle of Winter. So I daresay, you might need to be prepared to linger a little longer in the warmer months. But I've also heard that it can be quite manic on weekends and school holidays during Summer, so my advice would be to arrive early.
Now lets talk about the new Grounds Keeper Cafe. The food is seriously good, just like it is at the Ryde Park Cafe, with the same menu being used. The prices are definitely more expensive than those of the previous Relections Cafe, BUT the quality of the food is far superior! Kidlets have their very own menu for both breakfast and lunch. The prices range from $6.50 - $9.50 at brekkie time. There's a Ham & Cheese Toastie; Eggs & Bacon on toast; Ham & Cheese Omelette; or the delightful Pancakes with berries, ice cream & maple syrup. Our lads happily devoured a plate of the pancakes in between their playground frolics.
At lunch, little bellies can be filled with a Wagyu Burger ($12.50), Chicken Tenders & Chippies ($9.50), Kafta Skewers & Chippies ($9.50) or Penne Napolitana ($9.50). And I'm sure your kids will be very thirsty after all of the running around, so they can have a babycino ($1), kid size milkshakes, soft drinks, juices or just good old table water. If you need a sweet treat for your babes, there are some yummy looking home made cupcakes lurking in the cake cabinet.
The adults menu at the Grounds Keeper takes its inspiration from the Middle East. Delicious Shakshouka, Kafta Tagine Eggs and Hummus Awarma feature, as do more traditional Australian style breakfast dishes like Bacon & Egg Rolls, Pancakes and Granola. And let me tell you the granola is amazing - I have never seen such huge macadamias in a granola before! The breakfast menu ranges in price from $11.50 - $23.00 which is the price for the Whole Grounds (aka the big brekkie).
The lunch menu for us big people is extensive and we are looking forward to going back and checking it out very soon. Lebanese Mezze Boards, Tagines, Salads such as Fattouch and Slow Cooked Lamb with Quinoa, and yummy sounding wraps and burgers are all available. However I think I'll be ordering the Fatit al Hummus which is toasted pita bread layered with chickpeas, minted yoghurt and topped with slow cooked lamb and toasted pine nuts - boy that sounds good!
Now if you still have room after your meal, I urge you try one of the amazing little bundt cakes that are on offer at the Grounds Keeper in Blacktown. These little babies are home made and I have't really tasted anything like them before. Apparently they are Filipino in orgin and they have a very delicate and very moist, sponge like texture. The purple delight is made from beetroot and is served with lemon curd, coulis and a pistachio crumble. The green bundt is made from pandan leaves and they both have a delicious jam like topping. Both bundts go perfectly with the Di Gabriel blend of coffee that the Grounds Keeper brew up, that's for sure.
After we finished our meal, we went and did some trainspotting for a while and then we went for a big explore of the park (to walk off our huge meal). The park is actually located in the Blacktown Showground Precinct, (the show is on in early March each year), so it would be an awesome day out combining a visit to the show and the park. There is also a flourishing community garden in the precinct as well, and the vegies that are growing, showcase the diversity of the background of residents who live in the local Blacktown area.
So my dear Little Munchers, let's hope the Grounds Keeper family keep forging through Sydney with their cafes in parks, beacause in this day and age we most definitely need to be outdoors more, and we also need more happiness in our lives x
Mon, Wed, Thu, Fri: 9am - 4pm
Sat & Sun: 8am - 4pm
Cnr Richmond Rd & Balmoral St
Blacktown NSW 2148
Shopping with kids can be a nightmare. If you are like me and don't have any family members living close by where you can dump your beloved rugrats when you need some retail therapy, then you need to make sure the shopping centre you are about to visit has both a cafe and a playground. And if they just happen to be side by side, then that's a big fat shopping bonus!
The Lidcombe Shopping Centre has exactly that. I've only recently discovered this place, even though it has been around for a while. However in the last 12 months the centre has undergone some major development and there are now some of our favourite stores located within its walls. The quirky and ultra cheap Japanese cult store Daiso is there, as is a very cool Kmart. There is a huge party store as well as a big Spotlight store and the list goes on. On the grocery side there is an Aldi, Woolies plus loads of other fresh food places. And it is also across the road from Costco in case you need to do a mega shop. And for kidlets there is a cool little playground to be explored.
And that playground is smack bang next to a great cafe called Chow Bella on the ground level. A lovely looking Leaf Cafe is close by too, but it doesn't have the same view of the play area as Chow Bella does in my opinion. The kid friendly Chow Bella Cafe is open 7 days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It has an on trend fit out with subway tiling, industrial style seating, pops of yellow here and there, as well as ample space and access for those of you with prams. The outdoor seating has the best view over the playground, but you can also see the playground reasonably well from some of the indoor tables near the window. And for those unplanned emergencies, the shopping centre's parents room is practically next door on the ground floor, so you won't risk pulling a hammy if you have to make a quick dash for it.
The playground is fully enclosed and has an assortment of play equipment suitable for kids probably aged 8 years and younger. The gate to the playground is on the other side of the cafe, so if you have little people, sadly you will have to get up and down from your seat to let them in and out. There are shade sails over the playground which will provide some sun protection during the warmer months. The ground is covered in that spongy soft fall stuff, so hopefully there shouldn't be too many oops a daisys!
Chow Bella's coffee is very decent and they all come with a cute shortbread cookie. And the babycino was spot on - perfectly frothy and the two big fat rainbow marshmallows on the side received the big thumbs up from my little lads! If you are a fan of mega shakes they are on the menu here, as are some delicious sounding frappes - nutella, tim tam, Turkish delight and salted caramel to name but a few. There are also decadent white hot chocolates as well as matcha and chai drinks available too, in case you are not a caffeine addict.
The cheapish kids menu includes nuggets & chips ($7), spag bol ($7), fettucine boscaiola ($7), and fish & chips ($9). All of these dishes include either an orange or apple juice. For breakfast there are simple items on the main menu such as toast with spreads ($3.90), nutella crepes and museli with fruit and yoghurt that are suitable for our little people. And to indulge after their meal there are kid size sundaes availabe for $3.00 and a soft serve ice cream cone for just 50 cents!!
The all day breakfast menu for adults covers the ususal cafe staples very nicely. My choice of the Lite Breakfast ($14.90) included toast with poached eggs, smashed avo, grilled tomatoes and fried halloumi. The Bacon & Egg Roll ($7.50) is fairly traditional, but it does contain 2 eggs. But don't worry, those of you who prefer a bit of fancy in their bun, can order the Breakfast Roll which has baby spinach and tomato relish added to the bacon & egg.
At lunch and dinner time the menu really comes to life. You can have everything from tapas stlye dishes, to Korean fried chicken, or if you like to get a bit messy, you can order the Ribs for 2! There are also loads of burgers, salads and pastas featuring on the menu. The front cabinet is groaning with such sweet looking cakes so you will be well sorted if you are only after coffee and cake mid shop too.
So Little Munchers what is your favourite shopping centre cafe/playground? Is there one out there that we haven't reviewed yet??
92 Parramatta Rd, Lidcombe NSW
02 9748 8802
Mon-Tue-Wed-Fri-Sat: 7am - 7pm
Thu: 7am - 9pm
Sun: 8am - 7pm
The current trend of mega shakes is going from strength to strength in Sydney, with cafes everywhere serving up these calorific beauties. However there are a couple of cafes who are the leaders of the pack in my opinion, the Vogue Cafe in the Macquarie Centre being one and the other is XS Espresso in Wetherill Park.
XS Espresso is a funky cafe/dessert bar located in quite an unassuming location - an outdoor supa centre. It is also right next door to a gym which is quite handy if you want to burn off some of the calories that you inhale whilst dining at the cafe! We rocked up at about 9am on a Sunday morning and the place was absolutely buzzing. As the downstairs dining area was choc a block full, the bright and friendly staff sorted a table for us upstairs (which I believe is a relatively new addition to the cafe, aptly named the Next Level). And I was so glad they did, as this area is a lot more spacious and a bit more peaceful then the hustle and bustle of downstairs. If you end up upstairs, make sure you keep an eye on the little people in your life, as the stairs are really quite steep.
You have to order and pay at the counter at XS Espresso, and even though the place was so busy, our meals came super quick - so the kitchen is extremely well run. And our drinks were pumped out really fast too. They serve a strong brew of Campos coffee which will certainly give you the jolt of caffeine that you need first thing in the morning. For the freak shake lovers among you, there are about 8 different ones to try. And for the health conscious there are delicious sounding cold pressed juices on the menu too.
The drinks come in kid size serves and my little lads were super surprised when I ordered them the XS Surprise shake as they thought they would never be allowed something so decadent so early in the morning. This little masterpiece came in a small milk bottle with white chocolate and sprinkles crusted on to the rim of it. The bottle was full of a thick nutella milkshake, and then topped with fairy floss and a Kinder Surprise - the boy's jaws literally dropped when they saw it. And then they dropped again when they saw their food - a cronut topped with M&Ms and then decadently served with chocolate and M&Ms! Now this was a complete mummy fail of a breakfast - not one ounce of nutrition, just pure sugary indulgence. And as a result they were hyper for the rest of the day. So I recommend that you only order one of these decadent concoctions for your babes, and afterwards that you go for a long family walk, jog or the like, to burn off all that sugar.
Now there isn't a kids menu for breakfast or lunch, but there are items available for little people to eat. Examples other then the decadent cronuts/donuts are toast with spreads, muesli and eggs on toast. But at dinner time XS serve up oven baked pizza and there are apparently special "XS" pizzas for our extra small people, on the menu. Dinner is served from the very family friendly hour of 5pm each day too which means you can get in and out before it gets too dark.
To be honest with you, because XS Espresso is famous for their shakes and sweet things, I wasn't really expecting that much of their food. But boy was I wrong. Their breakfast game is strong! I had the Breakfast Stack and boy was it good. Perfectly poached eggs and perfectly grilled halloumi were sitting on top of avocado toast and thick slices of tomato ($17). Mr Munch's omelette was perfect too - light and fluffy and you can choose your own 3 ingredients to go inside ($16). At lunch time there are lush sounding burgers, pastas and salads to fill you up, with vegetarian and gluten free options available. And of course there are loads of desserts on the dessert bar menu, that will no doubt cause you to abandon the scales the next day.
Before I go I better tell you about the essential kid friendly aspects:
Wetherill Park is certainly making a name for itself as a foodie destination in Sydney. With the delicious Grano and Factoria just around the corner from XS Espresso, you are spoilt for choice with quality food and coffee in this hood that's for sure. And to make a real day out for teh family, why not include a visit to the awesome Plough & Harrow Playground which is about a 5 minute drive away x
Greenway Supa Centre
9a/1183-1187 The Horsley Dr
Wetherill Park NSW 2164
Mon - Fri: from 6am til late
Weekends: from 7am til late
In the area.....
We have good news Little Munchers! There is another pub in Sydney that is welcoming families with open arms. This pub has such a cool little play area for kids and has just had one swish make over too. Let me introduce you to the Plumpton Hotel!
The Plumpton Hotel is located in Glendenning a suburb of Western Sydney (the suburb of Plumpton is right next door). It's not an area that we were familiar with, but when I saw pictures of a very cute dinosaur playground pop up in my social media feed, I knew we needed to go on a little explore!
The Plumpton Hotel belongs to the Laundy Hotels group - they own quite a few pubs all over Sydney and NSW. They've just spent a bit of dosh recently fixing up the Plumpton Hotel and now it could be at home in any posh suburb of Sydney. When you arrive you will find plenty of parking right in front of the hotel and you can easily take your pram inside as there aren't any steps to negotiate, and there is also heaps of space next to your table to park it.
The play area is outside of the hotel's eating area, with quite a few of the tables having a good view over the space. You can also ring up and book a table so that you are guaranteed a table with the best view. And as the play area is under cover, kidlets should be able to use it in most weather conditions. You will find your menu and cutlery on your table (with extras available inside near the kitchen). Once you have made up your mind, pop into the bistro and place your order. You are given a buzzer to notify you when your meal is ready. It's in here too that you will find the toilets (no baby change table) as well as some high chairs.
The kitchen at the Plumpton Hotel serves up a reasonably priced kids meal deal. For $10.00, kids receive a meal, drink and paddle pop! You will find the usual suspects on the kids menu - nuggets & chips, cheeseburger & chips, pasta bolognaise, fish & chips as well as a sort of healthy option - sausages, mash & vegies. The boys went with the bolognaise which was on the smallish size, but they didn't complain as they just wanted their paddle pop and to play in the playground again!
The adults meals are typical of what you find on most pub menus these days. Burgers, steaks, schnittys, pizzas, pasta and salads. Prices range from $16 for a burger up to $24 for a T-bone. It's not gourmet by any means, but it does fill the belly well. When we dined on a Saturday at lunch time, the hotel was really quiet, so our meals were served very quickly indeed. And just to let you know, if you dine during the week they have some special deals happening such as free dessert and $12 meals on offer.
The Plumpton Hotel is open from 9am Monday - Saturday, and from 10am on Sundays. So it would be a great place to visit with your mums group or fellow parents at that time and just have a coffee whilst the kids play. Or if you really need a wine, go for that too....there's no judgement here my lovelies!
556 Richmond Rd, Glendenning NSW 2761
Open 7 days lunch & dinner
Taking kids furniture shopping is tortuous! The kids hate it and you normally spend the whole time making sure they don't put their grubby little paw prints over some extraordinarily expensive white piece of furniture. But if you can bribe your little darlings with the promise of a sweet treat and a play (if they behave themselves perfectly) than that can make the ordeal a wee bit easier for you.
We were recently visiting the Auburn MegaMall on Parramatta Rd looking for something obscure, which meant we had to visit quite a few of the centre's stores - and we had our little lads in tow. The centre is home to all sorts of furniture and electrical stores. In my experience, these sorts of places have quite bland cafes inside them that serve ordinary coffee and food. But the Auburn MegaMall doesn't. It has the delicious Barista Haus in it. This funky little cafe is right next to the mall's Kids Space - a pirate ship themed play gym, so it is the perfect spot to recharge the batteries when you are out shopping with the fambam.
Barista Haus is located on level 1 of the mall. There is loads of space to park your pram and also those of your friends, so it would make for a great place to meet your mums group too. And as the mall has heaps of undercover parking available, this makes for a perfect rainy day outing for you and the brood. The coffee at Barista Haus is superior and they have a very decadent range of donuts, nutella balls and the like, that will give you a decent sugar fix mid shop. They even create those amazing looking shakes with a tella ball on top. There is a full breakfast and lunch menu available in case you need something more substantial, with their huge burgers being the speciality of da haus!
They have a kiddies menu for lunch time which costs $7.95 or less. Pluto pups, mini pizza, fish and nuggets all come with hot chippies. There are also melts available too on the main menu if you would prefer something that isn't deep fried for your little ones. For drinks there are babycinos, hot chocolates, shakes, soft drinks and juices available to quench the thirst of little people. And if they drink too much and you need to use the loo in a hurry, the toilets are just across the way from the cafe and they include baby change facilities.
If you are like us and make a naive decision to go furniture shopping as a family, my advice is to definitely visit Barista Haus after you have explored the shops. Because if you do it before, you have lost your bargaining power, and the likelihood of grubby little paw prints has tripled especially if they have just demolished a nutella ball!! And yes, we were guilty of that...but luckily the nutella paw print was placed on something in Fantastic Furniture where a baby wipe quickly cleaned up the mess on their extraordinarily cheap piece of furniture x
During the school holidays the Auburn MegaMall always have some sort of free kids activity happening so make sure you keep an eye on their FB page to see what is coming up.
265 Parramatta Rd, Auburn NSW
Open 7 days
Mon - Sat: from 9am
Sun: from 10am
I am so guilty of the that old saying "don't judge a book by its cover." I do it all the time! The biggest example of this is that I have regularly driven past the Wenty Leagues Club in Wentworthville, and thought that it was a wee bit drab looking from the outside, and therefore never ventured in. However, a girlfriend convinced me to have a play date there during the school holidays on a stinking hot day, and she promised me that I would be impressed. And she was right - this is one impressive club! Not only its size, but its facilities, décor, service and food are all top notch - even their coffee is pretty good!
The Wenty Leagues Club is kind of like the mother ship of clubs - there are 5 different venues to dine in, numerous bars, a huge indoor kids play area and weekly kids activities, function spaces and of course bowling greens and pokie lounges. There is plenty of parking and access into the club is very easy with prams - there is a lift that will take you up to the various levels where the dining and play areas are. If you need help at all, the door staff are so very friendly - actually every member of staff I've encountered on our visits (yes we have been back!) are lovely and helpful.
On the first level of the club you will find the kids play area which has loads of things for kids to climb in up and through, as well as a slippery slide, TV viewing room and gaming machines. This room is sound proof and has glass frontage so you can spy on the kids from the dining area directly outside it. If the kids need to use the loo, they are just near the lift (where you came in) and there is also baby change facilities here too. The play room closes at 9pm each night and socks must be worn at all times when in there - staff actually patrol the area and ask kiddies to leave if they don't have them on (yep, guilty as charged).
You will find most of the fambams sitting outside of the play room and ordering from either the Wenty Cafe or Lawsons Bistro. We've eaten from both the cafe and the bistro and have been very happy with the food and drinks we munched away on. There is a TV on the wall in this area with the Nickelodeon channel turned on, which helps to keep little people occupied whilst eating. During mid morning this area is full of mums groups and grandparents looking after their grand kids. By mid afternoon it is dead quiet, making it a great place to have a play date after school. On Friday and Saturday nights it is jam packed - so make sure you arrive early to grab a table.
The Wenty Cafe is open from 9am (8am on weekends) and it serves breakfast (including red velvet pancakes & smashed avo on toast!) coffee, cake, sandwiches, burgers, salads, pizzas and the list goes on - the selection is huge. You order and pay at the counter and are a given a buzzer. And because it's a club you can also have a cheeky wine or two from the bar next door with your meal.
Now Wenty Leagues have gotten on board the freak shake train, and are pumping out some incredible looking delights in the Wenty Cafe. Their signature shakes are the Choc Mint Crunch, Tim Tam Slam or the Caramel Craze. And at the moment they have a special Easter Egg shake which the boys have road tested and given a big thumbs up to. These shakes will set you back $10 (or $9 if you are a member) and make for a special afternoon treat. The Easter shake has chocolate milk in the jar, then is topped with whipped cream. On top of that is a waffle basket that has had its edges dipped in chocolate and sprinkles. Then piled into the basket are two scoops of ice cream, a slice of chocolate and walnut brownie, an Easter Egg as well as mini Easter eggs sprinkled on top. If you have kids who share well (unlike my lads) I would only order one as they are huge.
The kids meals from the Wenty Cafe come in a fun box which includes a drink. It's just your typical club fare from the cafe for kidlets, but the benefit of it coming in the box means if they don't finish it all you can always take it home with you for later, or just grab the meal to go if the offspring (or you) decide to have a meltdown! But don't be worried about meltdowns, because this place is full of families so there shouldn't be too many judgemental types around.
The other places to dine in at the Club are:
On the couple of occasions that we've now visited Wenty Leagues, I've had coffee from the Wenty Cafe which I was really surprised to find to be really good! Not too many clubs know how to brew proper coffee that's for sure. And I've also had a meal from Lawson's Bistro which was excellent. The Chicken Cashew Salad was huge and full of of lettuce, avocado, red onion, cucumber, toasted cashews and grilled chicken. And it came with a honey mustard dressing. I think there was meant to be crunchy tortillas on top but they were MIA. If salads aren't your thing, you might like the Pigmeup pulled pork burger or the Jamican Jerk Chicken or even a Seafood Platter for one. The menu is very diverse and caters for herbivores and carnivores alike, as well as providing gluten free choices and healthy heart choices too!
Just to let you know, Tiny Tots Tuesdays is held every week at the Club from 11am - 2pm. Little ones will be entertained with drumming sessions, discos, fairy parties and more. Check the Wenty Leagues website for details. During school holidays groups such as the Wiggles and Hi Five also appear at the club, but you must book tickets in advance.
Are you guilty of judging books by their cover too Little Munchers? I've certainly learnt my lesson and hopefully won't do it again, just in case I miss out on experiencing an amazing family friendly facility like the Wenty Leagues Club is x
50 Smith St, Wentworthville NSW
02 8868 9200
Mon - Fri: from 9am
Sat - Sun: from 8am
The boys are never impressed when I drag them out of the house on Saturday morning to visit a cafe, because they've been dragged out of Chez Little Munch first thing for the previous 5 days to go to school. So I have to have a few tricks up my sleeve in order to get them into the car without suffering through their histrionics. The trick I last used, was to tell them that we were going for a picnic in the park for breakfast, which just happens to have a pretty cool playground.
So they eagerly jumped into the car and asked why I hadn't packed a picnic basket and rug - Ha Ha, suckers, boy had I fooled them! Well actually I wasn't really lying, as we weren't going for a picnic but we were going to The Picnic, which most definitely is in a park (the lovely Burwood Park), and it most definitely has a pretty cool playground!
The Picnic opened for business earlier this year. This very pretty cafe has set itself up to be like a glamorous all day picnic. The picnic table seating is all outdoors but under cover and there is bright Mexican oilcloth cushions on the seats. Ivy and picnic baskets are looped through the roof of the cafe giving the space a lovely outdoorsy feel. Now there is most definitely easy access to drive your pram right up to your table as well as loads of space to park it. High chairs are in abundance and there is an automated toilet onsite that has baby change facilities in it.
If you don't fancy sitting down in the cafe, you can also just grab takeaways and head out for your own picnic in the park. There is a yummy selection of sweet treats that both kids and adults will go wild for, as well as home made popsicles. Forget the humble paddle pop these flavours sound amazing: Fig & Cream (burnt honey cream with bruleed fig); Lychee Rose (fresh lychee with rose infused cream & raspberry coulis); or a Santorini Sunset (watermelon on the bottom and then topped with pineapple & passion fruit). You can even pre-order a picnic basket from The Picnic that is full of delicious goodies freshly made in the cafe's kitchen!
We obviously dined in when we visited The Picnic. When we arrived at opening time, the gorgeous young staff showed us to a table that had a perfect view of the playground - because that's where the boys wanted to be. The fully enclosed playground is about 25m from the cafe. We were more than happy for our boys (7 & 5) to scamper up there by themselves and have a play. However I'm sure if you have younger kids or are a tad helicopterish in your parenting style, this would not be suitable for you. So I suggest you bring some sort of game or colouring in with you and let the little ones sit on one of the kids picnic tables at the back of the cafe to keep them entertained until you are ready to venture to the playground with them. (I picked up the below portable game of Snakes & Ladders for $2 from a bargain shop and keep it in my handbag at all times).
You will also be able to keep the kidlets occupied with some of The Picnic's delish and super cute kids food. Like the Bear Toast ($5.90) for example. This is what the boys had for breakfast - 2 slices of toast, covered in peanut butter and then bananas and blueberries were used to create a bear's face. Such a simple yet oh so effective dish. Or perhaps they would prefer the French toast with flowers, a raspberry red face, nutella lips, & blueberry eyes with banana & strawberries for $8.90; or the Yoginola (muesli with sweet yoghurt & fruit $8.90); or just good old Scrambled Eggs on toast for $6.90.
At lunch time our little people can feast on Spring Chicken (chicken tenders with chippies $9.90); a Hamburger (cheeseburger & chips $9.90); or some Luigi pasta (penne with nap sauce & parmesan $8.90). For drinks there is of course table water, as well as babycinos ($1.50), peanut butter hot choclates with crushed maltesers, classic shakes, or mega shakes (which may be better for kids to share).
Ok the kids are done and dusted so lets move onto the seriously impressive adults menu. It's not that often that I'm left speechless, but when my breakfast was placed in front of me at The Picnic, I don't think I spoke for a good few minutes as I was too busy admiring the beauty of the dish. It's called Panacotta Granola and it will cost you $16.50 and it is worth every cent. To deconstruct it - you will find crunchy fig & maple granola with almonds, cranberries and I think candied peel on the bottom. On top of this is a selection of beautifully fresh berries and fruit (the passion fruit halves had pistachios and some delicious liquid in them). There was also honeycomb, star fruit and micro herbs as well as pretty a flower. And the piece de resistance was the sublime pannacotta of the week, which tasted like rosewater. Far out, this is THE best breakfast I have ever had at a cafe!!!!
Equally Mr Munch's Shakshuka was sublime - it was full of eggs, lamb merguez sausage and labneh. On the side was a huge piece of fresh pita bread. And the other dish which blew my mind every time it was delivered to a table close by, was The Picnic's Not So French! It's coco pop coated French toast with watermelon, Dulce de leche (the best caramel you will ever eat), berry reduction, fresh berries, pistachios & Persian Fairy floss. There is so much more on the menu and I think team Little Munch will be back to sample them all!
And I mustn't forget the coffee - it was superior. I actually don't know what beans they use in their brew but I'm sure most of you coffee enthusiasts will be completely satisfied. For non coffee drinkers The Picnic have a great range of loose leaf teas that come beautifully presented in small plungers and their cold drinks are equally well presented.
Now my lovelies you need to be aware that we dined at 8am on a Saturday morning - we were the first diners of the day. By the time we left at around 9.15am, The Picnic was full and there was a long line starting to form waiting to score a table. So my advice is to arrive early on weekends as they do not take reservations. There is paid street parking available on Park Ave and there is also parking close by at the Westfield Shopping Centre where you can park for free for 2 hours. Or ditch the car and go for a ride on the train as the Burwood train Station is only a 5 minute walk away x
Cnr Park Ave & Burwood Rd, Burwood NSW
02 9745 1034
Open Tue - Sun: 8am - 4pm
Over a year ago we went to Jamie's Italian for dinner in the city and didn't have a particularly good experience. I even wrote Jamie a letter about it, to which I funnily enough never received a reply - you can read that review/letter here. So when Jamie's Italian Trattoria opened up in Parramatta, people kept asking me when are you going? Because of our previous experience, I had fallen a bit out of love with Jamie and kept putting the visit off. But for some reason my boys are actually obsessed with the man - so when I asked where they would like to go for a special lunch before school started back - they said Jamie's!!
So off we trotted to nearby Parramatta. Jamie's Italian Trattoria is located on the edge of the very pretty Centenary Square. Here you will find all walks of life either rushing here and there, or sitting back and watching the world go by. There is limited street parking available near Jamie's, so you may have to park at one of the numerous parking stations around the area. The Parramatta train station is within easy walking distance, and numerous buses also stop close by.
If you have a pram, the outside seating would be ideal for you. There is some space to park a pram next to the indoor tables and they also have high chairs available. If you do sit inside with a pram, use the side entrance (facing Centenary Square) as there is only one small step to negotiate - the front entrance has about 4. The outside seating is also a good choice for those of you who have restless kids who may want to move around. Just be warned that there are water spouts in the Square which kids love to run under - so perhaps pack a change of clothes! And if you need to change them in private, there are excellent toilet facilities on the ground floor of the restaurant that contain a baby change table.
There are two levels of inside dining available at Jamie's. I feel that the bottom level is the best place to eat with smaller kids and I recommend that if you are going to dine at a peak period (e.g. Fri/Sat night) that you book ahead to guarantee this. Bookings can be made online or over the phone. We sat downstairs and our table looked onto the open plan kitchen. The interior is very funky, with loads of recycled looking objects being used to give the place a homely sort of feel, like a trattoria is meant to be.
Upon arrival we were greeted by such a friendly waitress who showed us to our table and immediately grabbed colouring and a view finder for the boys to see their menu. I love this concept as the kids can see exactly what their meal is going to look like. And I love Jamie's Italian Trattoria kids menu - it is full of good stuff with quirky names. Each meal comes in either a small kids ($9.50) or big kids ($12.50) size and includes a juice/water and a "shake me" salad. I also believe that it's great value for what you get! My little men chose the small sized Mini Meatballs & Spaghetti and the Baby Free Range Beef Burgers with baked Hedgehog Potatoes (baby spuds).
The other selections on the kidlet's menu are Fresh King Salmon in a Bag which comes with crushed spuds, beans & cherry tomatoes; Secret Seven Tomato Pasta Bake; a Picnic Box (chicken wrap, fruit & salad) and for nugget loving kids, Jamie's do a Happy Chicken Lollipops (chicken on a stick). The meals were a decent size, especially when you consider they also come with the salad. The Shake Me Salad comes in a glass jar and is full of fresh salad ingredients such as lettuce, cucumber, tomato and capsicum.
If your babes need dessert they can have fresh seasonal fruit which is only $2.50 for a plate of sliced fruit or for the same price a jumbo scoop of ice cream that comes with a cookie & chocolate sauce. Or if they want something really decadent, there is also a chocolate brownie available which is served with ice cream, toffee popcorn and chocolate sauce!
The menu for bigger humans covers Bread & Antipasti, Pasta, Mains & Sides as well as Dessert. I devoured a bowl of Pasta Alla Norma (spaghetti with eggplant, ricotta, tomatoes, oregano & chilli), which I completely forgot to photograph. I washed my tasty meal down with a house made Lemon Lime & Bitters (Jamie's is fully licensed in case you need a little glass of something). Most of Jamie's bigger meals cost between $20 - $30. Oh and they serve breakfast too! You can have everything from Posh Scrambled Eggs to a Super Food Salad, to good old Toast & Marmalade!
Now if children are good little munchers and eat all of their greens, they are allowed to choose a badge from a big jar confirming that they did so. And yes my boys ate every single one of theirs (except for a few little pieces of sneaky lettuce which I found had somehow made their way onto the floor!). None of this awesome kid friendly stuff happened when we visited the Jamie's Italian in the city, that's for sure.
So Jamie, you have perhaps redeemed yourself with the Trattoria! We loved every moment of our visit to your delightful restaurant in down town Parramatta. Maybe it's because it isn't in the city and there aren't the same hordes of tourists lining up to eat at your joint; maybe it's because we dined at lunch time; or maybe it's because this restaurant is so much bigger; or more than likely it's because your staff have got their act together. Anyway, whatever it is, we will be back for sure and I'm so glad I've fallen in love with you again!
Just to let you know my dear Little Munchers, Jamie's Italian Trattoria quite often has fantastic Kids Eat Free deals in school holidays. So make sure you keep an eye on their social media, because this would be a great time to dine there with the tribe x
Cnr Church & Macquarie Streets, Parramatta NSW
02 8624 6800
Mon - Fri: from 10am
Sat - Sun: from 9am
We first visited Cafe at Lewers quite a few years back and didn't have a particularly good experience as Mr Munch almost lost his manhood! A young waitress dropped a dish of piping hot shakshuka on his lap, and she was too embarrassed to clean it up because of where it had landed. I stepped in and sorted the mess out and sent her back to the kitchen red faced, with a half empty dish. Amazingly, the dish returned to us almost in the same state, except that it now had a poached egg on top - Mr Munch also didn't receive any sort of apology from management or from the young lass. Unimpressed, we had not returned until recently. And I'm very happy to say that there are now gorgeous new owners, who seem to have a much better grasp on the art of hospitality.
Cafe at Lewers is located within the grounds of the Penrith Regional Art Gallery in Emu Plains. The gallery and its grounds were bequested to the people of the area by a local artistic family - the Lewers family. They lived on the property for many years and their original family home still exists, as does its fabulous garden. It is within the garden that you will find some of the cafe's tables that are scattered around under trees and in little nooks and crannies. If you are dining with kids this would be the best place to sit on a sunny day, but make sure you ring and book in advance as they are very popular. There are also tables under cover which are ideal on a day when the weather is a bit foul.
Cafe at Lewers is really kid friendly. Firstly there is a decent amount of parking available either on the street or at the side of the cafe. The whole space is very pram friendly and high chairs are available for little ones that need to be restrained. Kids can bring out their inner Picasso on the chalk board easels that can be found around the garden and there is loads of space for them to run around. The staff are really friendly and obliging - they quickly sorted out a squabble between my boys when they started to fight over the easel that was closest to our table, by bringing another one over for them to use. Other kid friendly boxes that are ticked by the cafe are that there are toilets on site which contain a baby change table and they have a yummy kids menu available.
The kids menu caters for kidlets at both breakfast and lunch time. For brekkie, little ones can feast on bacon & eggs on toast ($8); a mini granola cup ($7); or a house made Belgian waffle ($10). Our dudes just wanted a muffin, so make sure you ask your waitress if they have any left - it was a raspberry flavour the morning we dined. At lunch time there are 3 offerings for kidlets - a Ham & Cheese Roll ($6); Baked Cheesy Fries ($10); or a Cuppa Soup ($6). And no little one will go thirsty, as they have kid size milkshakes, smoothies, freshly squeezed oj, apple juice, hot chocolates and babycinos all on their kids drink list! And the cafe receives another big tick as their milkshakes (and I presume most of their other drinks) are served in disposable cups.
The adult's breakfast menu features all sorts of deliciousness, including House Made Belgian Waffles and Sam I Am (Green Eggs & Ham). I was drawn to the Toasted Almond & Cranberry Granola ($12) which came with yoghurt and Ironbark honey as well as fresh fruit (my green apple sticks were swiftly stolen by the boys to nibble on). Mr Munch went with the staple of Bacon & Eggs ($12) - the bacon is from Trunkey Creek and you can choose how your eggs are cooked and what bread it is served on. Both dishes were very tasty, but I think I won with my choice (do you have competitions with your other half to see who chooses the best meal or are we just foodie nerds?).
Breakfast is served from 8am - 11.30am and lunch is from 12pm - 3.30pm every day. If you are dining outside of those hours they have a Light Eats and Sweets menu available to fill up your bellies. The wholesome lunch menu includes an interesting selection of burgers and salads, as well as a grazing board that is packed full of local produce.
Cafe at Lewers serves Morgans Coffee from just up the road in Emu Heights, which they make beautifully. Their tea comes from Dr Tea Loose Leaf Tea, and they also offer a Moroccan Mint Tea as well as a Zokoko Mint Hot Chocolate which I'm sure will please non coffee drinkers. The cafe is fully licensed, so you can sip on an ice cold glass of vino over lunch if you so desire. Or if you can farm the kids out to the grandparents, why not go along to one of their Sips and Sounds sessions that they host every Friday afternoon - cocktails, craft beers and bar snacks are available from 4pm, with different performers providing some live funky music for you to chill out to.
On some weekends/weekdays and also throughout the school holidays, the art gallery run excellent kids art classes. They range in price from $15 - $25 and go for 2 hours, there are even 3 day art camps available - check out their FB page for more information. You can also just wander through the gallery and its grounds for free if that is more to your liking. It is open every day from 9am - 5pm and their modern exhibitions change regularly.
The morning of our visit we didn't hang around for an art class after brekfast, instead we went for a walk along the mighty Nepean River that the gallery/cafe is located on. The walk along the river is an excellent family friendly walk. If you are feeling really fit you can do the loop from one side to another (7kms) or just do one side of it like we did. Your little ones will burn off some their restless energy and you will burn off some of the calories that you may have just inhaled at Cafe at Lewers! Enjoy Little Munchers x
86 River Rd, Emu Plains
Open 7 days 8am - 3.30pm
After the birth of my second child I got the baby blues big time. My little mate had a few issues because he was born prematurely and wouldn't feed and wouldn't sleep. As a result I wandered through life in a haze of lack of sleep and tears, as well as quite a few tantrums of my own. I hated leaving the house - I was scared that I was going to have a meltdown in public and that all of the other "perfect" Mums sipping on their lattes would judge me. In hindsight, I so should have left the house (and I also probably should have sought medical help). I needed to get out and into a cafe like I had before. What I really needed to do, was go to a cafe like the Creative Spirit Cafe in Minchinbury, where I could have found some nourishment not only physically, but also mentally.
The Creative Spirit Cafe is hidden in a business park (M Centre) behind the Great Western Highway in Minchinbury - you need to turn off the highway (into Colyton Rd) near the Golden Arches. And don't be tempted to just do drive thru at Maccas because you look a mess, and it is easier than getting the kids out of the car - you will regret it later when the fast food turns to lard and slows down your body. Keep going, because a home cooked meal is waiting for you just around the corner!
The Creative Spirit Center/Cafe is a one stop shop for all things mind, body and soul. Besides the cafe the centre is home to a mini marketplace where there are little stores selling clothing, jewellery, crystals, home décor items, candles, books and more. They also provide quite a few beauty, healing and spiritual services within the centre, so make sure you check out their website for more information. You will also find a crafty crochet club that meets once a week in the cafe for a crochet, coffee and gossip, as well as other activities that are available on a weekly or monthly basis. So if you don't have too many mates, joining in one of these sessions could be a great way to meet new people.
The Creative Spirit Centre is very family friendly - they have loads of parking; they have easy access and loads of space to park your pram; they have a little kids play area; the inside of the cafe has a fairy land theme, courtesy of a beautiful big mural on the wall; they can host kids birthday parties; there are baby change facilities in the toilets in the M Centre; they welcome and encourage breast feeding; or they can heat up a bottle for you. And the staff are just so darn nice. Nothing seems to be too much trouble for them, and they have a real community spirit, hosting work experience students from the local area, some of whom may have a disability.
Now lets chat about the cafe. The Creative Spirit Cafe's menu features yummy home made food. Food kind of like what your Mum makes (unless of course your Mum is Donna Hay!). Old fashioned cakes, pancakes, toasted sandwiches, lasagne, salads and that sort of thing. And the best bit is that it is all really cheap. For example raisin toast costs $2.00 and a cold meat & salad plate with a bread roll will cost you $9.00, I don't think I saw anything that cost more than about ten bucks on the menu. When you are Mum stuck as home with kids and you aren't as cashed up as you used to be, it is a welcome relief that there are some cafes out there that won't send you broke when you eat out with all of your brood.
Kids are really well looked after in the cafe too! Fairy bread, tubs of yoghurt, fruit salad, baked beans on toast, plain sandwiches, hash browns and kid size pancakes are just some examples of what might impress your little ones. My little mate had the gorgeous kid size pancake ($5) which not only looks fabulous but also tastes great! There is a full range of drinks and juices in the fridge as well an array of icy poles available in the ice cream freezer, if your kidlets just want something to cool them down - and their sprinkle milkshakes also look totally yum.
I tried out the cafe's home made date cake with caramel sauce, which hit the spot perfectly. As it was quite a warm day, I decided to forgo my usual coffee for a mango smoothie which was cold and creamy, just as they should be. If however you prefer something warmer, the Creative Spirit Cafe actually specialise in herbal teas which they hand blend themselves. There are teas that aid digestion, help to calm you, help you sleep etc. You can also purchase the tea mixes to take home with you.
The Creative Spirit Centre and Cafe host special events throughout the year. Their annual Fairy & Fantasy Day would impress all of the little princesses in your life (I'm sure the little princes would also have fun). It's a charity day full of magic and creativity for kids. Something else which sounds like a load of fun is their Psychic High Tea - grab a bunch of girlfriends together and you can enjoy a high tea in the cafe and also have a "chat" with the Creative Spirits. Your high tea is served on vintage china, and you receive a selection of cakes, pastries and sandwiches. You can also bring along the kids as they offer a kids high tea too.
When we finished our morning tea I took my little man for a wander around the rest of the Creative Spirit Centre. A couple of things that I noticed that I'm sure would interest you all, were that they have a cute range of hand made baby clothing for sale; and there is the most fab little store called Natasha Marie that sells retro 1950's clothing and costume jewellery that includes a range of funky maternity and breast feeding outfits!! I just wish I had somewhere to wear the oh so pretty petticoats pictured below (says the Mumma who spends way too much time in active wear and jeans).
If I had been on my lonesome I probably would have spent quite a bit of money in the centre, as I would have had more time to check out the gorgeous clothes properly, and I would also loved to have had a psychic reading. Oh and a massage would have been nice too! There is a fully qualified massage therapist on site who specialises in infant massage and is also qualified to teach you how to massage your babe.
The Creative Spirit Centre and Cafe welcomes people from all walks of life - there is no judgement here. So if you are feeling a bit nervous about heading out by yourself with the kids, why not try the this place. There is no pretension, it is very calming and relaxing experience and the best bit is that it won't cost you a fortune.
If you are suffering from the baby blues big time, please don't be a goose like I was - seek help. The PANDA website is a great place to start, as is your local GP x
The M Centre
43/44 40 Sterling Rd, Minchinbury NSW
Tue - Sat: 10am - 5pm
My boys currently have an obsession with worms. They love digging little holes all over the garden and finding them, and then it's game on, to see which worm can break dance for the longest! As much as I love them being outdoors and getting their hands dirty, I am not so keen on them digging randomly in my garden and unearthing bulbs that I have planted for Spring. As a result I have created for them their very own little garden bed, and I took them along to a nursery recently to purchase some plants to make it look pretty. And it just so happened that there was a cafe on site!
That cafe is Cafe Harvest and it is located at the back of the lovely Bonnyrigg Garden Centre in Western Sydney. The garden centre has ample parking, and for those of you who have prams, access is very easy via ramps into the nursery and also cafe. But there isn't a large amount of space to squeeze your pram through all the tables in the cafe, so perhaps considering putting bub in either a high chair or pop them in a baby carrier.
There is both seating inside and out at the Harvest Cafe. We visited at breakfast time on a brisk Winter's morning. When we arrived all of the indoor tables were either taken or reserved. So we sat al fresco on the verandah, which has a lovely outlook over the nursery. The indoor seating is right next to a gift shop, so if you sit inside, you can always do a spot of shopping whilst you wait for your meal - but you might need to keep an eye on the kids so that they don't break anything.
There isn't a menu specifically for kidlets at Cafe Harvest. However there are quite a few items on the breakfast menu that kids can easily eat, such as pancakes, french toast, fruit salad, croissants, toast, banana bread and bacon and egg sandwiches. At lunch times they have a good range of sandwiches on offer, as well as the good old staple of hot chippies. The cake counter inside is also groaning with decadent looking sweet treats if you are dining at morning/afternoon tea and your little ones are allowed something special to eat.
For breakfast the boys shared a serve of nutella pancakes ($10.50) - two fluffy pancakes were topped with lashings of nutella and a scoop of ice cream. We had the omelettes ($17.90) which were perfectly cooked and came with a chunk of crusty baguette. The breakfast menu starts in price at $4.00 for toast and goes all the way up to $22.90 for a big breakfast. The lunch menu is similar in price, in that the most expensive item is $22.90 (yearling rump steak with fries & baguette). The coffee is excellent at Cafe Harvest, and they do a range of spectacular looking smoothies and juices. Kids size milkshakes comes in disposable containers in order to avoid any breakages, and babycinos are available for $1.50.
Service was a bit hit and miss at Cafe Harvest. At first I was really impressed, the various staff we dealt with were super friendly and efficient. But then as the cafe got busier, service slowed a little. For example, the boy's pancakes were served quite a long time after our meals, which was not ideal as the kids were ravenous.
Cafe Harvest is definitely one popular cafe (I'm thinking it's because there aren't too many cafes in Bonnyrigg), so I do advise that if you dine on the weekend, that you make a booking in advance. When I took the boys off for the mandatory loo inspection (and yes they do have a baby change table) I noticed that a huge queue of diners had formed waiting for a table - Mr Munch was even asked to move from our table so that they could fit another family in. Being the good cafe citizens that we are, we decided that it was a subtle hint to get up and go check out the nursery.
The Bonnyrigg Garden Centre has everything you could possibly need to beautify your garden or to create a full on vegie patch. The staff are really helpful and the shop at the front of the centre has a great range of quirky garden ornaments that kids will love inspecting, as well as kids gardening equipment and a huge fish tank full of beautiful fishies that will keep the kids amused for a wee while whilst you pay for any purchases that you may have made.
With a boot load of plants we headed home for the boys to get digging - the boys were however a bit disappointed that I wouldn't buy them their very own worm farm!
So Little Munchers, do you get your kids involved in gardening? Do you have a favourite nursery? And more importantly, does it have a cafe?
Cnr Elizabeth Dr & Wilson Rd, Bonnyrigg NSW
02 9610 5366
Mon - Sun: 8am - 5pm
Sydney has gone milkshake mad at the moment. Photos of incredible looking milkshakes are popping up all over social media, with instagrammers trying to out do each other to see who has found the best. And not to be outdone, Little Munch has also found a serious contender! Check out the little beauty below - it's the vanilla custard, banana paddle pop and nutella shake with a little party on top!
You can indulge in this shake at 41 on Maple - a cute little cafe located in a set of suburban shops in Greystanes. We've fallen a bit in love with this cafe, because it is also located on the edge of a park, which has a playground! And the staff are gorgeous and the food is delicious. They create a new shake each weekend to tantalise your taste buds - I've seen versions on their FB page with snakes, maltesers, donuts, tim tams, oreos and the list goes on. And yes they are very bad for your waist line BUT you seriously need to try it (just pretend you are ordering it for your child, like I did).
41 On Maple has both indoor and outdoor seating. If you sit outside you have the perfect view over the park. So the kids can play whilst you sit back and enjoy your shake/coffee/delicious food. But please note the playground and park are not fenced, so you do need to keep a close eye on wandering kids as there are streets surrounding the park. And it is on these streets that you will find plenty of parking for your family planner. Access from the street into the park/cafe is really easy. The best seating for those of you with prams is definitely outside, especially if you are out and about with friends and have a few prams between you - you can park them right next to one of the cool recycled wooden tables. If you need a high chair, just grab one from inside. Another option would be to bring along a picnic blanket and dine alfresco on the lawn with takeaways!
The interior of 41 on Maple is smallish but very homely. There are both small and big tables, so they can accommodate families of all sizes. You will also find a basket of books for kidlets to read which is perfect for a rainy day when the playground is out of the question, or if your kids don't like playgrounds (I wish!). When you have made your decision as to what you want to fill your belly with, go up and order at the counter. Then one of the friendly members of staff will bring it to your table. I have to give a big thumbs up to the staff - they were fantastic - treating everyone as if they were a regular.
Your children are well looked after in the foodie stakes at 41 on Maple. They have their very own menu for breakfast and lunch. In the morning they can have either pancakes (with maple syrup & ice cream) or scrambled eggs on sourdough for $6.00. And at lunch time they have 3 choices - nuggets & chips ($8); schnitzel & chips ($10); or a ham & cheese toastie ($6). My little mate went for the toastie and he helped me consume the milkshake - in actual fact he ate the little party and I drank the remainder. If you think the party shake is too decadent for the little munchers in your life, then they just do normal kids size milkshakes for $4.00.
Just like the shakes, the food at 41 on Maple is also delicious. When we dropped by at lunchtime we had the steak sandwich special. For $15.00 you receive a lip smackingly good steak sanger with fillet steak plus your choice of either salad or chips and a drink (either a soft drink or coffee). This is such a good value deal! I chose to have mine with a salad (I had inhaled enough calories "sharing" that shake will my little mate). The salad was no ordinary salad - it was a bowl of crunchy mixed vegetables drizzled in some sort of seeded mustard dressing. It's the kind of salad I would love to know the recipe for. If you choose the hot chippies option they too looked darn fine - they come in a little mini fryer basket and are perfectly seasoned and crispy. The $15 special also includes the burgers on the menu at 41 on Maple.
At breakfast time you will find ham & cheese croissants, bacon & egg rolls, poached egg plates, eggs benedict and a big Middle Eastern Breakfast on the menu. The front counter is also home to quite a few sweet treats which would go perfectly with coffee. I didn't sample their Belaroma brew on our visit, but I'm sure I'll be back to give it a go, actually that depends on how good the shake of the week is! If you are more conscious of your calorie intake than I am, there are freshly squeezed juices as well as energiser and recovery shakes on the menu. By the way, there is a chicks gym a couple of doors down from the cafe, so if you have indulged a bit too much and you are of the female variety, you could perhaps drop in there afterwards for a bit of a workout.
The other cool neighbour that 41 on Maple has, is the fabulous kids hairdressers Spiky Tales. I've never seen anything like this salon - it is fully kitted out with toys, a play area and an awesome boat for kids to sit in whilst they are having their hair cut. Prices start at $15.00 and if you want your roots done, you can also have your hair done at the same time at the hair salon next to it called Catherine's Cutting It!
41 on Maple is one of those local neighbourhood gems that you would just love to be around the corner from where you live. Their shakes are most definitely spectacular but all the other components of this small business are also awesome. So my lovelies get out there and #supportsmallbusinesses!
Have you had one of Sydney's mad milkshakes Little Munchers? Is it better than the one at 41 on Maple?
4/41 Maple Steet, Greystanes NSW
Mon - Fri: 6.30am - 4.00pm
Sat - Sun: 7am - 2pm
Nurragingy Reserve first came to my attention last year when I wrote an article about Sydney's best water play parks - 'cause Nurragingy has a pretty cool one. During my research I found that there is also a popular kiosk within the reserve, so it's been on my list for a while to review. During the last school holidays we added it to our adventure list and popped on by.
There are a couple of different entrances in to Nurragingy Reserve, so depending on where you live in Sydney you may use a different entrance to what we did. We came in off Knox Rd and drove straight into the parking area for the Lakeside Kiosk. The kiosk overlooks the lake in Nurragingy Reserve, hence it's name. The not particularly flash seating, is typical of what you find at most kiosks in a park (with the possible exception of Centennial Park Kiosk), and it is all outside with some being undercover and the rest being under shade sails. There is loads of room for prams however, so you could definitely meet up with your Mother's Group here and have something to eat and then a walk around the lovely reserve.
The menu for the kiosk is up on the wall and your hip pocket will be happy as it is oh so cheap! You place your order with the really friendly owners at the kiosk's counter and then you are a given a piece of paper with your number on it. When your meal is ready they yell out your number and you go up and collect it. There is a self help station right next to the counter where you can get condiments etc from, if you need them.
The Lakeside Kiosk is famous for its hot diggity dogs. Their signature dawg is the Great American Hot Dog ($6). It's an all pork, quarter pounder dog that apparently comes from Texas and it is low fat and gluten free! My little man is a huge hot dog fan and he went for the Deluxe Hot Dog ($4.50) which is a combination of pork & veal - Mexican and Beef Hot Dogs are also available. Non dawg lovers can choose between a selection of burgers or fish & chips. Burgers range in price from $5 - $7.50 and they include a bacon and egg roll, cheeseburger, vegie burger, beef burger and a chicken schnitzel burger. Or you can have the exotic sounding wild Alaskan salmon burger, which was my choice. The bun was perfectly fresh and inside was a salmon pattie, lettuce, tomato, onion and tartare sauce.
Fish and chips come in two sizes regular ($8) 2 fillets of beer battered flathead fillets & chips; or large ($10) is 3 fillets & chips - this can obviously be easily shared amongst a few people. If you are a bit of a health nut your choices are fairly limited - you can have fish and salad for $9 but your fish will still be deep fried. If your kids won't eat any of the above there are small serves of spring rolls, dim sims or nuggets on the menu and of course hot chippies!
If you are after a sweet treat, there is a full range of ice creams, and some lollies as well as muffins and banana bread. To be honest, the coffee at the Lakeside Kiosk wasn't really to my liking, it lacked flavour, so I'm glad I only ordered a small one for $3.50 (a large is $4.50). In future I'll probably order a hot chockie for $4. Babycinos are available for $2.00 and my 6 year old believes he is "way too old" to drink those any more, so I'm not sure how much value you get for the $2.00. They serve a full range of soft drinks as well as super cheap old fashion milkshakes for $4.
Whilst you are eating your meal, your kidlets can wander around right in front of you, either on the grass or around the lake - BUT please note, there is no fencing which is a little odd, so there is a risk they may have an accidental swim, so don't let little ones stray too far away from your reach. You can also feed the ducks (remember to bring something suitable from home like bird seed - not bread, it hurts their little bellies). Whilst we were eating our lunch, I noticed in the distance an oriental style building so as soon as we finished out lunch we wandered over to check it out.
I most definitely wasn't expecting to find a stunning Chinese Garden in the middle of Doonside, that's for sure! The Chang Lai Yuan Chinese Garden really is amazing and a great spot to take photos. Nurragingy Reserve is actually a very popular spot for weddings (there is a function centre on site) and after seeing the seven arch stone bridge I can understand why - the perfect back drop for wedding photos! (Just a word of advice from a former bridezilla - have your wedding here in spring or autumn, in winter all the leaves are off the trees and some of the gardens look a bit dead; and in summer it would be just too darn hot out here).
As we kept wandering around we came across different themed gardens and also 4 separate and different playgrounds! I loved that all the playgrounds are in different areas of Nurragingy Reserve and I also love that there are loos not too far away from each playground. There are loads of picnic shelters and BBQ areas dotted throughout the reserve. You can also drive through most of the reserve if you're feeling real lazy or it is a great spot to ride through on push bikes. You may need to be a little careful, as there were some 'P' plate hooners on the day we visited.
It doesn't take very long to walk around the whole reserve, so it makes for a great family walk and most prams/strollers should be able to handle the flat terrain. Just remember to factor in time for the obligatory playground inspection that the little people in your life will do doubt want to conduct. And if you visit in the warmer months pack the cossies, sunscreen and towels as the splash park looks like loads of fun!
My little mate got the poos when he found out he couldn't strip off and get wet and wild in the splash park, so he took off in a bit of a huff. He has a good sense of direction although, as he found his way easily back to the kiosk and demanded ice cream as compensation!
Have you been to Nurragingy Reserve Little Munchers - were you as impressed with the Chinese Garden as I was?
40 Knox Rd Doonside, NSW 2767
Open 7 days 11am - 4pm
I dare say quite a few of you have been to the Cafe at WatervieW before - it was previously known as Lillies on the Park. It has been rebranded, and on their website they say that "Cafe at WatervieW is a cafe like no other," "Breathe Enchantment," and "You don't need a special occasion to enjoy the magic of WatervieW." After reading this, I dragged the boys along early on a Saturday morning to check out the "magic" for ourselves!
We have visited the cafe before when it was Lilies on the Park, and not had a particularly good experience, hence why it had never made the pages of Little Munch. And it was because I had seen all of the gorgeous, Alice in Wonderland type of new flyers for the new branding, that I thought it was time for another visit.
When we arrived, we easily found a park close to the cafe. There is loads of parking and during the week as well as early in the morning on weekends I have never had a problem parking here. However in the middle of the day on Saturday and Sunday and during school holidays, expect to drive around for a bit before you can score a spot. When we walked over to the cafe, I have to admit I was a wee bit disappointed - it looked exactly the same as it used to. The bike hire shop was still there, as was the exact same outdoor furniture that had been at the cafe for years.
All of the seating at WatervieW is outdoors - so don't plan your visit on a rainy day. There is some protection from the elements in the form of a covered portico area and umbrellas, and they also have gas heaters cranking on cold days. In its favour there is plenty of room and easy access for prams so it is an ideal spot to meet up with your Mothers Group or friends who all have prams. There are also high chairs, and toilets with a baby change table, are located right at the cafe which is very handy.
The morning we dined for breakfast the cafe was very quiet, so we had the pick of where to sit. The first thing I noticed were all the spray bottles located on tables. At first I thought that the staff had been a wee bit forgetful and had left them behind when they were cleaning tables. Then my son picked one up and started squirting the birds that were hovering close by (as well as his brother). When I told him to stop, he showed me the sticker on the side of the bottle that said that's exactly what they are for (except for the squirting brother bit)!! Obviously they do get a lot of birds looking for a free meal at the cafe, and they obviously don't want them defecating everywhere BUT a spray bottle in the hands of children only means one thing to me - water fight!!!
You still have to go inside the cafe and look at the menu on the wall and then order and pay at the counter. Then you receive a buzzer which buzzes once your coffees are ready and then they reset it and it buzzes again when your food is ready - it is totally canteen style, self service here. The staff are efficient, not necessarily cheery or engaging. When we dined our food was served very quickly, which was ideal as the boys were itching to hit the playground that is located close by.
The boys ordered hot chocolates and when they arrived I finally saw some of the new branding of the cafe. I had asked for their hot chocolates to come in take away coffee cups (make sure you do too) and they had very cute bunnies on them. Whilst the boys skulled down their perfect temperature hot chockies, we enjoyed our perfectly brewed coffees. Babycinos, milkshakes, soft drinks and juices are all available as well and as the cafe is fully licensed, can even enjoy a wine, champers or beer!
For breakfast the boys chose an apple and banana muffin ($5) from the front counter. Other options for kids to eat include, toast with spreads or raisin toast ($8); banana bread with butter & honey ($6); fresh seasonal fruit & yoghurt ($8); and a ham & cheese croissant ($7). During the day there are loads of junk type snacks for kids to eat including biscuits, cakes, icy poles, lollies and chips. There is also a kids menu available for lunch time meals:
The adults menu for breakfast and lunch covers all of your cafe basics. The breakfast menu ranges in price from $6.00 - $15.00. We sampled the Parmesan Scrambled Eggs with Wild Mushrooms, Thyme & Rocket served on toasted sourdough ($12). The meal was a very decent size but I'm not a fan of the balsamic glaze that was all over the plate - I think first thing in the morning that it is just a bit too much for the taste buds to handle. At lunch time you can have burgers, wraps, salads, nachos and pastas. The most expensive item is $16.00 and for that you will receive Barramundi with sweet potato, asparagus, cherry tomatoes & salsa verde - which is excellent value. You can also have high tea here - you might just need to arm yourself with one of those spray bottles so that the birds don't come and try to steal any of your sweet treats!
We scoffed our breakfast down very quickly as the boys kept trying to wander off to the playground. The playground is located about 30m from the cafe, but please don't let your younger kids wander off by themselves to play, because they have to cross a road to get to it. It's not really the cars that you have to worry about here, it's those damn MAMILS. These dudes obviously have so much testosterone surging through their veins (or maybe it's the viagra) and they won't stop for anyone or anything - children will get hurt if they aren't supervised.
The playground is still in reasonable condition considering how much use it gets, and I was surprised by how clean it was (I always get a bit nervous about the boys playing in a playground's sand pit in case there is something manky lying under all that sand). I love that this playground is suitable for all ages and abilities. The climbing pyramid occupies older kids, younger kids will love the play gym and kids with mobility issues have their very own swing. Once the boys grew bored of the playground (actually they didn't, we did) we went off on a family walk through Bicentennial Park - you can seriously spend a whole day exploring here if you have the time.
Just to let you know that during the school holidays the Cafe at WatervieW host kids cooking classes. For $22.00 per child they can either participate in a Pizza & Pasta class or a Cookies & Craft class. The Pizza & Pasta class is on Thursdays from 11.00am and they make their very own pizza for lunch and whilst it is cooking they do pasta craft. The Cookies & Craft class is on Tuesdays and Fridays at 11.00am. It's a hands on session where kidlets make cookies and also decorate a bag to take them home in. Bookings are essential for both classes - call 02 9764 9900. Whilst the kids are occupied you can sit back and enjoy one of WatervieW's brilliant coffees, which sounds ideal to me. (They say on their flyers that the activities are for 2 - 5 yr olds, however I have seen photos of kids older than this participating, so perhaps confirm when making your bookings).
Cafe at WatervieW has so many things going for it and it ticks all of the Little Munch boxes. When I saw the new branding, I had very high expectations for the cafe, believing that it had been transformed into something magical - but it still has much more to do I believe. It is the same cafe as it was when it was called Lillies on the Park. But you know what? Kids couldn't care less about this, and as long as the kidlets are happy, we're happy. Isn't that right Little Munchers!?
Have you visited the "new" Cafe at WatervieW?
Bicentennial Drive, Bicentennial Park, Sydney Olympic Park NSW
(enter from Australia Ave or Bennelong Pkwy
Open 7 days 8am - 5pm