I know this is a BIG call but I do believe the best playground in all of NSW (if not Australia) is located at Speers Point at Lake Macquarie. Have you been?
So why is it the best?
Now lets go straight to the cafe shall we. Sal's by the Lake. Some of you may presume that a person called Sally owns the cafe with a name like Sal's. You would be incorrect. It is actually owned by the Salvation Army - the Salvo's, the Sallies. That army of people who invest so much of their time, capital and lives into doing good for others. All profits from the cafe are used for local community projects by the Salvos - I like to call this a cafe with a conscious.
The cafe is in the same accessible building as the kiosk. If you can't drag your kids away from the playground, you can grab something to eat from Sal's kiosk and have a picnic in the park. They do a roaring trade serving all of the usual take away food, plus coffee, ice creams and soft drinks - oh and they will even cater for your kid's birthday party in the park!
We decided to dine in at the cafe as the little bulls had worn themselves out running wild in the playground. The cafe has both indoor and outdoor seating. If you are lucky enough to nab a seat on the sunny balcony you will have a reasonable view of part of the playground, so you may be able to leave your older tackers out there whilst you enjoy your meal. We sat right in the middle of the cafe so that we (I) had a birds eye view of everything going on in the cafe itself.
The first thing I noticed when I sat down, was how pram friendly Sal's Cafe is. There is ramp access as well as loads of room to manoeuvre and park your pram at the tables. The next thing I noticed was the "parents place". Basically this is a little nook that contains a microwave so that you can heat up a bottle or your baby's food brought from home. There are also bottles of tap water and glasses here for you to help yourself to. The parents place certainly gets a big tick from me - have not seen that in a cafe before. I give Sal's another big tick for the toilet facilities.They have a baby change table and there is plenty of room for you to be in there with all your tribe!
When you arrive at the cafe you find a table, check out the menu and then go up the counter and place your order. The menu offers your typical cafe fare. They have a children's menu for both breakfast and lunch. Breakfast items are all around $6.00 and cover bacon, eggs and toast. At lunch time the menu costs $7.70 for kids and each meal includes a glass of apple or orange juice. There are 3 items - nuggets & chips; fish cocktails & chips; or a toasted ham, cheese & tomato sandwich.
For breakfast, adults can enjoy meals such as bacon and egg wraps, ham and cheese croissants, raisin toast, banana bread and the very interesting sounding Grandma March's House Special - a big thick slice of toast, topped with eggs, chopped bacon and grated cheese, baked in the oven and served on a bed of spinach. At $8.25 this sounds like quite good value indeed. At lunch time you will find all of the usual suspects such as burgers, soup, salads and steak sangers on the menu. We chose the beef burger with bacon and chips at $16.50 and the Moroccan Chicken and Roasted Veg on Turkish Bread for $14.50. Whilst it's not the best cafe fare we have ever eaten, it certainly hit the spot on the chilly wintry day that we dined.
We didn't sample the coffee but from the number of takeaways being served I can only presume that it must be very good. If you are after something light to eat, Sal's serve scones, raisin toast and a large variety of cakes and cookies can be found in the front cake cabinet.
Now I need to comment on the service. Service is the backbone of the hospitality industry - I should know - I "served" for 20 years before doing this motherhood gig. There was this lovely young dude called Jimmy who seemed to be doing the job of ten people. He was the one who took your orders and he was the one that delivered your food. He was seriously under the pump. I think Sal's was caught a bit unawares on the Sunday that we visited. It was meant to be raining, but it wasn't - the sun was shining and hence everyone headed to the playground. As a result the kiosk was doing a bustling trade and I think all of Sal's staff were looking after that side of the business. Which left the cafe with Jimmy. I have to give him credit - he survived! He didn't stop smiling (even though he was clearly frazzled) and he kept apologising for the wait to be served. I've been to some of the coolest cafes in Sydney and under the exact same circumstances, I've walked away because the wait staff just couldn't be bothered to be hospitable.
You probably won't have a long leisurely lunch at Sal's - that playground has got to be explored again. The little bulls scoffed down their lunch, and headed straight for that blasted 9m high slide. Sadly for them, their mother suffers from severe vertigo and their father has a fear of being confined, so what do you think their chances were of being allowed to climb up said blasted slide?!
I've given Sal's by the lake a big fat 5 lollipops. Now whilst it isn't as hip and fabulous as some of the city cafes I have given the same score to, it still ticks every single child friendly box (plus more) and the fact that it is a not for profit, community based cafe means that it deserves every single pop!
So my fellow Little Munchers, do you agree with me - is Speers Point the best playground in NSW? If there is a better one, please let me know x
15 Park Rd, Speers Point NSW 2284
Mon - Fri : 9.00am - 3.30pm
Sat-Sun: 8.00am - 4.00pm