I just love how Sydney has embraced its history and converted so many unused historical spaces into cafes. The Incinerator in Willoughby is one such example. Once upon a time it was the place where things went up in smoke and also a sewerage plant. Its design was very modern thanks to the creative nous of Walter Burley Griffin, who tried to disguise the fact from local residents that they had an unsavoury (but necessary) industrial unit in their neighbourhood. Luckily these days nothing is going up in smoke, perhaps except the occasional piece of toast, as the building is now a very good cafe and also an exhibition space.
At The Incinerator, sitting outside is the most popular spot for those of us who have sprogs. There are tables on either side of the cafe under picnic umbrellas. There is loads of space for kidlets to run around, but please make sure you keep a close eye on little sprinters, as the road is close by and loads of big suburban tractors (ie 4wds) are cruising along the street. The morning we dined, we decided to sit inside as the summer rays were pounding down - I also wanted to check out the kitchen in action, so I just pulled out the electronic devices to keep the boys happy.
The open plan interior of the cafe is industrial yet modern. All tables have a perfect view of the kitchen and coffee machine, so you can keep an eye on your breakfast and lunch being whipped up. Access is very easy for prams (I saw a gorgeous Mumma wheel her twin double pram from one side of the cafe to the other, picking up a takeaway coffee en route without any dramas). Most of the tables are pretty close together however, so there isn't a load of space to park your pram inside. If you are dining with fellow breeders, either get there early to score an outside spot, or leave the pram in the car and plonk your offspring in a high chair.
Loads of gorgeous young things are on hand to serve you at The Incinerator and they are pretty darn friendly. Meals are pumped out of the kitchen fairly quickly, considering how busy this place gets, which is brilliant when dining with little people. The baristas have their craft down to a fine art, brewing up perfect coffees using The Grounds beans. And the best bit is that babycinos are free with every coffee purchase.
If your kids are over the babycino stage they can have a kids size milkshakes and smoothies ($4.50). Their bellies can be filled with toast & vegemite ($5); cheese on toast ($6); kids eggs with toast ($7.50); bacon sandwich ($7.50); or a kids pancake at breakfast time. Our little dudes road tested the bacon sanger which was the perfect size for little tummies, and also a freshly baked muffin (flavours change daily).
There is also a lunch and dinner menu for children at The Incinerator too. Lunch includes cheese on toast ($6) or a chicken sandwich, or fish & chips for $9. At din dins there are sliders, bangers and mash as well as fish & chips and they all cost $9.00. And for dessert they serve up ice cream with sprinkles for $5.00. Dinner is served from the very family friendly hour of 5.00pm, Thursday - Saturday evening and they are licensed just in case you need a vino or three to get you through the witching hour with your babes!
Adults should be fairly impressed with the menu items for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Our choices of poached eggs and smashed avocado ($14), as well as the bacon and egg roll ($12.50) hit the spot and if you are dining at lunch time I think you will enjoy with the gourmets salads, sandwiches and burgers on offer ($15 - $24).
At dinner time the menu encourages you to share, with some tasty sounding dishes such as pancetta & sage stuffed pork belly, calamari fritti with zucchini & mint, as well as wood roasted market fish with eggplant salad to name but a few. The prices range from $22 - $38 depending on how extravagant your taste buds are. And as I mentioned before they are licensed - their booze list is small but perfectly formed.
After your meal at The Incinerator, you can burn off some energy in Halstrom Park which is a hop, skip and couple of jumps from the cafe - please note the playground is not visible from The Incinerator. The playground is spread out in a bushland setting and should impress kids of all ages. Apparently it was designed to reflect the layout of Taronga Zoo. There are loads of things to climb and slide on as well some pretty cool stone carvings of wild animals.
You can also go for a family walk like we did after our breakfast to burn off some extra energy (highlighted in blue below). We did part of the Flat Rock Gully walking track which would be suitable for those of you with small kids and even prams. You walk pass Henry Lawson's man cave (a place where he went to chill out after life got too much for him!) as well as some interesting artwork that has an Indigenous theme. The walk will take you less that 30 minutes and should be enough to tire little legs out. And if you need a pit stop before the trip home there are toilet facilities available back in the park.
Just to let you know parking can be an issue around here as the cafe and playground are very popular, especially on weekends. A lot of sport is also played close by, which adds to the problem. So you may find yourself having to park in a street nearby or there is also the Willoughby Leisure Centre close by that has a fairly decent size car park.
2 Small St, Willoughby NSW
Open 7 days 7am - 4pm
Dinner Thu - Sat nights from 5pm