The Coogee Pavilion is uber cool, beautifully styled and a fabulous place to hang out in. It's the sort of place where you would think that kidlets would not be welcome just in case they disturbed the hipster set's morning brew. However it is the complete opposite - hipsters, ladies who lunch, surfers, kids and backpackers all seemlessly blend in together, and I think this is one of the reasons that the Coogee Pavilion is always so busy and also why it has just won Time Out's award for the Best Family Friendly Pub in 2015.
When we first walked through the doors of the Pavilion, I was a little overwhelmed to be honest. I remember visiting the venue in its previous incarnation (The Palace) in my single as a pringle days, but boy have things changed. I call it the Merivale Magic. Mr Hemmes and his team have seriously worked their wizardry on this place! The interior is quirky retro meets the beach. In the front half of the space there is a coffee cart, juice bar, flower stall, a huge bar, a seafood and a pizza kitchen as well as the restaurant seating area. But if you are at the Pavilion with kids, you need to head down the back to the fun parlour!
This area is packed full of all sorts of games and activities to keep kids (and adults) amused for hours. Ping pong tables as well as games on steroids (scrabble, connect four, quoits, draughts & tic tac toe) are placed between comfy areas to sit and there is even a table dedicated for colouring in. As it was school holidays when we visited, this area was heaving at 10.30am on a weekday with kids of all ages (there are special activities on from 11am - 1pm during the holidays as well). I dare say on a normal week day it may be a bit more low key with the mum and bub set.
We easily found a table down the back and the boys happily wandered between all of the games, making new friends as they went. It was only as we sat down that I realised I had no clue as to how we ordered our food and more importantly coffee. Just in case you are as vague as I am, this is what you do: the coffee cart at the front door is where you order sustenance from, prior to 11am in the morning. There is a stack of menus and the menu for this time of day is simple but suits most tastes and belly sizes. Once you have ordered you get a table number and then the staff try to find you amongst the chaos of the fun parlour!
And I have to give the staff of the Pavilion a huge round of applause because these guys and gals handle people from all walks of life with ease and friendliness. The morning we visited there were babies crawling around the floor, kids with developing eye hand coordination, throwing quoits and hitting ping pong balls in all sorts of weird directions (that would be my boys) all of which the young staff had to dodge in order not to spill the coffees and food that they were ferrying to tables. Not once did the staff grimace, roll their eyes or seem annoyed by the chaos in the kids section. Likewise when I ordered our coffee and food, the young chap who served me was full of the chats and was just as happy conversing to me, a middle aged Mumma, as he was to the cute little blonde backpacker who was being served at the same time!
Now for the kid friendly nitty gritty - there is a paid car park as well as paid street parking right next to the Pavilion. During the week scoring a spot is fairly easy but on weekends (especially in summer) this can be a wee bit tricky. Pram access is really easy into the Pavilion as there aren't any steps and the doors are nice and big. Once inside you can manoeuvre your pram but be aware that when the place is full you might need to smile sweetly and ask people to get out of your way. The morning we visited there were loads of prams parked down the back, so I'm sure you won't be the only person with one. There are high chairs and excellent loo facilities with a baby change table. You can even get your kidlet's hair cut at the in-house barber shop, but bring a bit of coin with you as they cost $30 +!
For their mid morning snack, my lads had pain au chocolats and table water (which you get from the self help stations at the bar). Babycinos, hot chocolates, soft drinks, juices as well as mocktails ($5) and kid size smoothies ($8.50) are all available for kids to slurp on. If you are dining at the Coogee Pavilion at either lunch or dinner time, kidlets have their very own menu which they can order from if you have scored a table in the "restaurant" section. In this section you can book a table in advance or try your chances by rocking up on the day (I would not advise that on a weekend, if you want proper table service).
If you are sitting elsewhere in the Pavilion you need to order from the bar menu (at the bar). This covers items such as the wood fired pizzas, burgers, salads and a few other items that I'm sure kids will happily munch on. To be honest I find all of these different places to order a bit confusing as there isn't any proper signage to tell you what to do. So to avoid finding yourself in a muddle, I suggest you grab a member of staff and ask them what the go is.
Whilst we were at the Pavilion we sampled their Will & Co coffee, which was simply outstanding, as well as the bacon & egg roll and the jaffle. The bacon & egg roll was jam packed full of bacon and aioli - it was actually too much aioli, which detracted from the whole roll. However the jaffle was delicious - it was really cheesy and when you tore off little pieces and dunked it into the pot of spicy tomato relish it was even better!
Just to let you know, there is a section of the Coogee Pavilion where kidlets are not welcome and that is the Roof Top Bar. This stunning spot is for date nights, girls nights or basically any time when you can escape from the kids. More of the Merivale Magic has been spun on this level as well, but nothing can really beat the view! And NO you cannot leave the kids downstairs whilst you enjoy yourself upstairs. Perhaps if you are a seriously free range parent, you could let your kids have a play on the beach whilst you are up there sipping on a cocktail, but I do not advise this as you might also find yourself in trouble with the authorities!
Actually, the only way we could drag the boys out of the Coogee Pavilion was by promising them a play on the beach (fully supervised of course). On a sunny day, in any season, Coogee Beach is just so darn tempting. How lucky are the families of Coogee to have access to two such stunning locations at the Pavilion and the beach?!
So I'm totally smitten with the Coogee Pavilion - I adore how inclusive they are of people who have bred and who haven't, or are yet to. Because this is such a fabulous place to visit, it can very busy during peak periods (weekends for example), so I do recommend that when you visit, you choose your arrival time wisely, as you may not feel the magic as much as we did.
p.s. the Merivale group are currently weaving some of their wizardry on another family friendly pub up north - the Newport Arms - so it will be interesting to see how it compares to the almost perfect Coogee Pavilion when it opens its doors next year.
169 Dolphin St Coogee, NSW 2034
02 9240 3000
Mon - Sun 7.30am - late