Today I'm flying solo with the little bulls. Mr Munch has jettisoned off to Adelaide for some work thingy. We deposited him at the airport just as the sun was rising and the little bulls and I headed back to them thar hills. I knew that we wouldn't harmoniously last the whole day together without some sort of little outing so after a quick look at my "to visit" list I decided on the Dragonfly Cafe in Eden Gardens - the weather was perfect and what better way to pass some time than in a lovely garden setting on a sunny Sunday - with a coffee in hand.
Eden Gardens is very easy to access no matter what part of Sydney you live in, it is situated smack bang in the middle of Lane Cove Rd (otherwise known as the 3) and they have loads of parking. Eden Gardens is a hybrid of nursery, gift shop, gardens, gallery, cafe and function centre. Thankfully it is spaciously laid out so it can cope with the sheer volume of visitors it has every weekend. We arrived at 2.00pm with the purpose of partaking in some afternoon tea and wandering around the gardens so that the little bulls could let off some steam.
At 2.00pm I could see that the Dragonfly Cafe was packed to the rafters with people lunching so I decided that we would check out the gardens first. The gardens are expansive and beautifully laid out. Even in winter there are hundreds of plants in bloom. The gardens have been designed with different landscape themes in mind. For example there is a native garden, a Japanese inspired garden, a vegetable garden etc etc. Each area is linked by pathways and little bridges. When you first enter the gardens you wander along an elevated walkway which looks out onto each of the different gardens and at the end of the walkway is a mini fort. The little bulls scampered off up in to the fort and unfortunately I had an attack of vertigo and began to lament my temporary status as a single parent. After a lot of pleading and quite a bit of bribery they came down and than scampered off in search of the playground that they had spied from their prime viewing position in the fort.
Luckily they had to negotiate quite a few hedges and maze like paths before they got to the playground so I could catch up with them and also take in some of my beautiful surroundings. Eden Gardens is like an oasis in the middle of Sydney. There are little ponds and water features located all over the gardens as well as some amazing sculptures, everywhere you turn there is something interesting to see or touch. It is the sort of garden where you could lose yourself....actually let me rephrase that, it's the sort of garden where you can lose your kids, so depending if you want to lose them or not, be careful as those water features I mentioned are everywhere and you could end up with very wet little rug rats! I should also mention here that even though there are quite a few steps located throughout the garden you can still push a pram and see all of the beautiful gardens - just follow the signs for the wheelchair accessible pathway.
We arrived at the playground a bit sooner that I would have preferred but when you have two little roaring bulls like I do, it was just going to be easier to get there quickly as I had an inkling that they were disrupting the zen like atmosphere in the gardens for the other visitors. The playground is enclosed and is just under the Dragonfly Cafe (NOTE: you have no visibility of the playground from the cafe). The playground is a wee bit dated but still decent and it occupied the bulls for a good period of time. There is a big stone honey pot that kids can climb all over, a massive sandpit, a slippery slide that lands straight into the pit plus a massive plastic connect 4 game. There are some seats for adults to sit on plus lots of quirky artworks scattered throughout the space.
We had been at the gardens for just under an hour and I was in need of a caffeine fix so I dragged the little bulls up the ramp to the cafe with promises of babycinos and a sweet treat. Now this is when things started to go awry. The Dragonfly Cafe is large, very large, loads of tables and loads of bums on seats. There is both indoor seating and outdoor seating which merges into the gardens. I could see that there were a few vacant tables after some of the lunch crowd had departed and we lined up in the spot where the sign said "wait to be seated" and we waited and waited and waited.
After I realised that other people were queue jumping I made my presence known to a waitress and to her credit she seated us quite quickly. I had a quick flick through the menu noticing that they had an excellent but expensive kids menu for lunch and then we waited and waited and waited. I'm talking 30 minutes here (I actually did time it). I could see all around me that other patrons were having the same problems as I was - but they didn't have a 4 & 3 year old in tow like I did.
After two failed attempts to flag down a waitress I summoned up my inner diva and finally I got someone to take our order. I decided to completely forget about the coffee/babycinos as I thought it would take too long to make them, so I opted for a T2 lemon and ginger tea plus a slice of cake (one always needs cake when they are frazzled!) and for the little bulls I ordered them a fanta to share (as they spied it in the drinks fridge and had been nagging me for the last 30 minutes to order them one) and a scoop of smartie gelato each (stupidly thinking it wouldn't take that long to scoop it out and put it in a bowl).
Luckily (actually not so luckily) the fanta came immediately with 2 glasses. I don't know what I was thinking - the little bulls have never had fanta and I decided to give into their nagging on a day when we were receiving abysmally slow service - cause guess what? They both ended up have a huge sugar and orange food colour high and the rest of our order was nowhere to be seen!
Thankfully there were some sympathetic people sitting around us -they didn't seem too perturbed by the antics of the little bulls. Again we waited and waited and waited. It was another 30 minutes before our order arrived along with a bucket load of apologies from the young waitress.
And then the bill arrived!!! I hadn't even taken a sip of my tea!
It wasn't all negative. The food that I did see coming to the tables near us looked delicious and the portion sizes were decent. I have to say my slice of cake was huge and good value for $7.50. I liked the little touches such as fresh flowers on each table, blankets provided on chairs to keep legs warm as well as loads of outdoor heaters. I love the sound of some of their special deals like Winter Vintage High Tea and Devonshire Tea and Garden Talk for $10.00 but after today I would be a wee bit nervous booking in for either of them.
The Dragonfly Cafe today was clearly understaffed, the waitresses were over worked and poorly managed. I'm really hoping this was a once off, that surely they couldn't operate like this every day as why would so many people come here for lunch?
I'm really quite perplexed as to how to score the Dragonfly Cafe - it is a very child friendly cafe and it should be a big 5 lollipops considering its location and facilities.......so it shall receive 5 lollipops today, but I will return midweek with the little bulls in the near future and if I have to wait and wait and wait ........ those lollipops will be cracked in half x
**UPDATE 04.08.14: I am very pleased and relieved to say, that we did indeed revisit on a weekday (over 12 months later!) and service was far better at the Dragonfly Cafe. We enjoyed a delicious morning tea in the sunshine, another run through the stunning gardens, a play in the playground and we also discovered some chooks that I don't think were there last time. A visit to Eden Gardens really is an awesome way to pass a morning or afternoon.**
Cnr Lane Cove Rd & Fontenoy Rds North Ryde NSW 2113
02 9491 9950
Open 7 days from 8.30am