Cafes Redfern, NSWThree Williams, five stars. It's a large industrial style cafe with a lot of soul. I didn't expect it to be kid-friendly, but it was surprisingly so.
We came for breakfast on Saturday morning in a party of 7 and were seated at the round table in the corner. It's a great spot -- roomy and comfortable. The menu is great, and they allowed me to order a couple of sides for the toddler, and even offer half-sized (and half-priced) juices and banana smoothies for the littles.
The lovely waitress who served us had a huge smile on her face and was incredibly warm. She even came over to offer me a mini fork for the one year old, and allowed a friend to order an off-the-menu item (I can't say what it is) because it was his birthday.
Coffees are great, the brioche French toast is as decadent as it sounds, and the scrambled eggs and hash brown I ordered for the one year old was delicious - I know because I ended up eating most of it.
On the back wall is a large chalkboard which is great for entertaining older kids. The walls on either side of the cafe feature some amazing art I wish I could afford.
We got there early and found a large table really easily, but the cafe got busy around 9:30. At the corner of my eye, I see a staff member gesturing at our table to someone waiting outside, but at no point did anyone make us feel like we had to leave. We ordered a last round of coffees and cleared ourselves out before we became a nuisance.
You line up at the counter in the centre of the cafe to pay, and the friendly staff wishes our friend a happy birthday and cracks a couple of jokes.
I loved the food, the service and the laid back vibe. Great first visit; I can't wait to plan the next!
Cafes Newington, NSWThe Armory Wharf Cafe is a great spot for young families. Located right between Blaxland Riverside Park (otherwise known as heaven for kids) and Parramatta River, it's a great choice for a post playtime meal. The menu is pretty extensive, and they cater for children. The cafe is equipped with high chairs, children's plates and cutlery. The food is great, but don't expect it to blow your mind.
Restaurants Ryde, NSWOkay, so this isn't where you are going to get your traditional Neapolitan pizzas, but it is undoubtedly delicious.
For months I avoided Bondi Pizza after it opened its doors at Top Ryde City Shopping Centre, arrogantly assuming it to be too mainstream and "for the masses". Ha! After giving it a go due to lack of lunch venue options in the area, it appears that "mainstream" and "for the masses" was right up my alley.
The pizzas - whilst they may not be traditional - are beautifully presented and taste as good as they look. Fresh ingredients, good produce, and amazingly great value. For lunch on a weekday (except maybe Fridays?), individual 8 inch pizzas are $9.95 with a free drink. I don't even think you could get that value at the food court.
The restaurant is huge, and extremely family friendly with plenty of high chairs. They definitely have the lunchtime mum crowd sorted out. A downside though, is that the kids menu isn't that great (in value or in taste), but I think it's a fair and acceptable compromise for the mess that the little ones create. On my first visit here, they also offered my 1 year old a kids activity pack which included some crayons, colouring sheets and some stickers.
I've been 3 times in two weeks, and it looks like it might even become a regular haunt.
Cafes West Ryde, NSWThis cafe is still good, but the quality of food and service has been a bit hit-and-miss over the last 6 to 9 months. Waitstaff can be slow and unattentive, even though when the cafe isn't busy. They also seem to offer less blackboard specials on weekdays, so as a regular, the menu can get a little tired and boring. That said, I have recently discovered their ultimate cheese toastie which is all kinds of awesome.
I still frequent this cafe during the week and on weekends, but am making a concerted effort to try other cafes that have opened up in the broader Ryde/North Ryde area.
Food can take a looooong time sometimes, despite the cafe not being busy on weekday mornings. If you want any variation on your egg orders, be very clear and specific, and ask for your order to be repeated to you. On several occasion (we have personally experienced this as well as overheard complaints from neighbouring tables), waitstaff don't get the order right.
I really hope they pick up on their service and quality, it's still a good cafe and I genuinely want to see them succeed.
Holiday Resorts Warrnambool, VICWe stayed one night at Lady Bay Resort as part of a week long trip from Melbourne to Adelaide via the Great Ocean Road. We stayed in a one bedroom apartment on a high floor. I booked the apartment online and had the opportunity to choose the exact apartment based on photos and other information. We chose one on the top floor (I think it was level 4) with a balcony and views over the river and out to the ocean. It is a short walk down to the coastal parklands and the beach and pier.
The apartment was extremely spacious, with a generously sized bedroom, living/dining and kitchen areas. The bed was big and comfortable.
We bought groceries and dined in for both dinner and breakfast today, and found the kitchen to be clean, modern and fully equipped.
It's by no means a 5 star hotel, but it provides great facilities for a clean, comfortable and family-friendly stay.
Swimming Pools Sydney Olympic Park, NSWI expected an olympic-sized pool with serious goggle-clad swimmers doing laps, but I'd heard from a couple of mum friends how great the facility is for kids.
I came here a week ago with a few girlfriends and our 13-14 month old toddlers after some beach plans fell through because of the crummy weather. Four days later, I was back. Needless to say, the toddler (and I) enjoyed it that much.
There is an olympic-sized pool, of course. Two, in fact. One is reserved for competitions, and the other for doing laps / training. There is also a diving pool (boring), a spa (reserved for members), and -- this is where it gets exciting -- a water playground and a rapid river ride.
The water playground is pretty spectacular, with a number of water slides, buckets that fill up and tip over -- including one giant one. There are plenty of shallow bits suitable for toddlers and babies, and some slightly deeper areas for the older kids. There are lots of fun water fountains and jets, contraptions to pull at, wheels to turn, and plenty of people to watch.
It does get busy during school holidays and on weekends, but the space is big enough so that it's not unbearable. As an adult, I found it lots of fun, and you can only imagine how excited the kids get.
On my second visit, the rapid river ride was shut down, everyone booted out of the pool and sent to the water playground. About 20-30 minutes later, they shut that one down too and evacuated the disappointed crowds over to the training pool (which isn't much fun). We found out later that it was due to a vomit situation, and they issued us a family visit pass to come back again.
Change room facilities are pretty decent too. We found the four family change rooms particularly handy.
I'm definitely coming back (and even considering a membership or multi visit pass. Oh, and 4 hours free parking when you validate your ticket. Can't complain!
Pubs & Bars Darlinghurst, NSWWhat a great spot to catch up with mates for a few drinks. They are known for their extensive beer list but their wine menu is decent too. I didn't order any food but was envious of those who did.
Takeaways Sydney, NSWAny hipster or anyone who cares about fried chicken has heard about Mary's in Newtown. I fall into the latter category.
That said, the thought of waiting an hour for a table -- cranky toddler in tow -- with the hipster and food blogger crowd is enough to turn me off and possibly even eat a salad for dinner instead.
When I heard about the pending opening of Mary's in the CBD, weekday work lunch options started to get exciting. The CBD joint is takeaway only, and (even better), burgers only. As expected, opening day was insane and the keen office worker slash food blogger community came in droves. Two months later, the buzz has settled down and I am game enough to try it out.
On the menu is the Mary's burger, a cheeseburger with pickles, their famous fried chicken in a burger, a veggie burger and a breakfast burger. You can get your burger on its own, or in a meal deal with fries and a soda or a shake.
I know exactly what I want, and after a short wait and much anticipation, I get my white and black paper bag with my fried chicken burger and fries. The fried chicken is everything I want it to be -- and more. It's a generous, chunky, juicy serve of chicken fried in a glorious buttermilk batter. The chicken has just the right amount of spice, and is sandwiched in a soft bun. The accompanying Mary's sauce is delicious. The burger isn't huge but it's enough (to clog up your arteries). The fries are shoestring, slightly thicker than your Maccas fries (which I also love). They are good but on the salty side -- the side you want to err on when fries are concerned. The help-yourself soft-drink machine is a great idea - very Hungry Jack's.
Needless to say, I'll be back to try the other burgers, probably as often as my skinny jeans will let me.
Restaurants Sydney, NSWI want to give this more stars as it is a top location and the menu is promising. Situated right next to Opera Bar, you really can't go wrong with location, especially on a nice day.
The food isn't amazing despite having been put together by some big names. Our beef burger is way too dry despite being sandwiched by a lovely brioche bun. The accompanying fries are a disappointment, but a side order of onion rings are marvelously crisp and satisfying.
Drinks are really expensive -- say $6 for a cranberry juice -- but understandably so. A number of patrons I saw were just there to sit down for a drink or two. The crowd is a mix of sunburnt tourists, overly made up models in high fashion, and families with kids.
I'd come back if I was in the area, but it's not a destination in itself. Oh, and watch out for the pigeons and seagulls!
Restaurants Darlinghurst, NSWIt's been over a year since my last review here and I have to admit I still enjoy their green curry. It's not the most authentic but it's definitely comfort food. I love that takeaway dishes come really quickly. I called to order and was asked to pick it up in 5 minutes. How's that for Thai fast food?
Restaurants Sydney, NSWMy favourite sushi train in Sydney makes an appearance in my favourite Westfield shopping centre! If you're a fan of Sushi Rio on Sussex Street, the opening of its doors in Westfield Sydney seems to up the ante on its predecessor - quality seems to be better, special orders come quicker, and it's much less busy, crowded and noisy. The sushi plates cost more at $3.50 a plate instead of the usual $3 plates, but I think it's a reasonable price given the location.
Perfect stop for a quick lunch or post late-night shopping dinner.
Shopping Centres North Ryde, NSWI take back what I previously said about Macquarie Centre being old and fuddy-duddy. The newly refurbished and extended shopping centre is really impressive, mainly because of the array of fashion and beauty names being brought to the centre. There's something for every price point too, from H&M and Uniqlo to the likes of Zimmerman, Scanlan & Theodore, Willow, Josh Goot and Alice McCall. Another welcome addition is Mecca Maxima, which looks strangely like a Sephora store.
They've gone all out with Christmas decorations in the centre - in a good way. I love the wide aisles in the new wing of the shopping centre, though lift and toilet facilities aren't that conveniently placed. Parents rooms are clean and well-equipped though, with great play areas for the little ones.
My favourite store in the centre is the new David Jones, but that deserves its own review!
Restaurants North Ryde, NSWI was really excited to hear about Chefs Gallery opening in the newly refurbished (and extended) Macquarie Centre because I loved it when it opened in Town Hall. My husband and I visited with the baby on a weekday for lunch on opening week, and it was already packed with a number of people (like us) waiting for a table.
We were seated after about a 10-15 minute wait, and ordered promptly. The food isn't as good as I remembered it to be in Town Hall, and prices have definitely increased. We don't mind paying more for good food, but we left feeling seriously ripped off. Take for example, the $14.90 bowl (more like cup) of murky chicken broth, which wasn't very tasty at all. The neighbouring table complained about a similarly priced bowl of seafood and tofu soup which also did not look like the photos presented in their glossy menu.
Service was also terrible, with waitresses ignoring several requests for water. They never brought any, so we hurried up with our meal and left.
Cafes Sydney, NSWOh my gosh I'm in love with Cre Asion all over again. I love the assortment of breakfast options - egg and ham or mushroom baked in puff pastry cases are clever and really tasty. It's not something you can't make yourself at home, but they just do it better. The house-made pork sausage rolls are divine, and dare I say, better than Bourke Street Bakery. They are huge, perfectly moist, herby, stuff with mushroom, and the pastry is light and crispy. I managed to get one fresh out of the oven this morning and I was in absolute pastry heaven. The bags of granola are great too, perfect for days when you need to smash a quick breakfast at your desk at work.
The coffee is a little weak and milky, I like mine with a lot of punch. Hasn't stopped me going back for breakfast though. Food prices are a little on the high side, but the baked goods are amazing and you get the sense that they are made with pride.
Restaurants Eastwood, NSWAfter having loved this restaurant for years, we ordered some takeaway tonight, only to have an incredibly disappointing and frustrating takeaway experience.
My husband placed an order for 3 dishes - the snow crab, the pork spare ribs Peking style, and the stewed pork belly with preserved vegetables.
He drove to pick up our order and before he left, checked the dishes and told the waiter that we didn't receive the right dish - the stewed pork dish wasn't right. The wait staff insisted that it was the right dish, so he took the wait staff's word for it and came back home.
When we opened up the takeaway box, it most certainly wasn't stewed and there wasn't any preserved vegetables. There was lots of capsicum and tofu with sliced pork in a chilli bean sauce.
We called up to complain and asked for a refund, and despite a frustrating conversation with the person on the phone who asked "so what you want to order?" 3 times, staff was nice enough to agree to a refund. The problem was that the husband had to drive back out to get it.
It really sucks when staff don't listen to customers - regular customers - and brush them off instead. Pick up your act!
Restaurants Bondi Beach, NSWServing fresh hand-made pasta, A Tavola has always been the real deal. The long communal/pasta-making marble table in the Darlinghurst restaurant makes an appearance in the Bondi restaurant. You can't go past the stracciatella unless you're allergic to dairy. The wagyu beef pappardelle is another signature dish that is rich, decadent and all round amazing, but the seafood linguine is a sure way to my heart.
Restaurants Chatswood, NSWSo what do you do on Australia Day? Go for yum cha, of course.
Admittedly in have avoided yum cha here at Kam Fook Chatswood because of the crowds, but we came at 11 and a friend managed to get us a table for 7 adults, 2 children and a pram.
The restaurant is huge and it filled up pretty quickly. The steamed dumplings at Kam Fook were really good - generous portions without skimping on seafood, while other dishes like the "yong tau foo" (tofu and eggplant stuffed with fish paste) aren't spectacular. (other restaurant in Castle Hill do a great job with that one.)
Service is decent, but they charge $3 a head for tea. That's $21 for cheap tea leaves and hot water.