Drink, dine and enjoy the Sydney sunshine
The rooftop bar at the Glenmore Hotel in The Rocks. Photo: Sahlan Hayes
Nice weather we're having. Every Easter school holidays (at least in my selective memory) Mother Nature turns on a cold and miserable show of chubby rain and depressingly grey sky. But this time round she's been generous and provided sunshine and temperatures best described as 'jacket optional' (if you have a sweet jacket you want to wear, it can be done without raising a sweat - likewise you can rock a T-shirt and not chatter your teeth to a powder).
Below are a few ideas and spotlighted places to best take advantage of this pleasantness before Tim Bailey is telling us to pack the brolly again.
An outdoor tipple
I find that one drink during the day is the equivalent of two in the evening, so go easy on the vino unless you want to be asleep by 4pm (this is doubly true if you're in firing line of the sun). Not all beer gardens and rooftops are the smoke-infested haunts they used to be, and Sydney has no end of choices. Here are some favourites:
The Potting Shed at The Grounds, Alexandria
The Grounds of Alexandria now has a licensed restaurant and bar. This is good news. It's very much the adult corner of The Grounds but the younger generation is still welcome. Hanging plants and a spacious dining area make this a top spot to enjoy a cider and buttermilk popcorn chicken while the kids say hello to Kevin Bacon the pig and Bradley the sheep.
2 Huntley St, Alexandria, 9699 2225, groundsroasters.com
The Henson, Marrickville
The unofficial home of The Newtown Jets got a jolt of life last May when it reopened as a watering hole catering equally well to local families, skinny-jeaned Young Henry's drinkers, and Tommy Raudonikis fans. There's a huge beer garden, a ball pit for the tykes, and one of the best pub menus in Sydney.
91 Illawarra Rd, Marrickville, 02 9569 5858, thehenson.com.au
Not too much longer for a rooftop riesling before the blankets and thermals need to be whipped out. The Local Taphouse has an amazing craft beer selection and does hearty beer food suited to an autumn afternoon. The Glenmore Hotel over at The Rocks has one of the best harbour views going and Sweeneys in Kings Cross suits if you're keen for a bit more of a 'sesh'.
Hassle-free eats in the park
It's the holidays. Do you really want to stuff around with potato salads, cooler bags, and dodgy picnic set cutlery? For a stressfree picnic, grab the rug and some takeaway and worry about the making tabouli another time.
Bread and Circus sandwich boxes to Centennial Park
B&C sambo boxes are a little picnic for one. Ingredients like preservative-free Bangalow pork, free range smoked ham, avocado, pickles and Meredith Dairy goat's cheese are neatly packed into a box, separate to two slices of sourdough. This means by the time you do a suburb jump over to Centennial Park to do some sandwich construction those tomatoes haven't made the bread soggier than a Scottish football field.
Bread & Circus Wholefoods Canteen, 21 Fountain St, Alexandria, 9698 2939, breadandcircus.com.au
Black Star Pies at Camperdown Memorial Rest Park
Christopher The's pastries are immensely popular and jagging a seat at Black Star's hole-in-the-wall cafe in Newtown can be a tricky thing. Instead, why not grab a beer and brisket pie or a cheesy mushroom quiche and stroll up to Camperdown Park? BYO picnic rug.
Black Star Pastry, 277 Australia Street Newtown, 9557 8656, blackstarpastry.com.au
Paul's Hamburgers by the banks of the Georges River
No wagyu, brioche, and Zuni pickle here, mate. Paul's has been making the prototype Aussie burger since 1957, recently taking out the Sydney Morning Herald's Good Food Under $30 Hall of Fame award. A seat outside Paul's takes in all the serenity of Princes Highway so a better option is to take your works burger and pineapple crush down to the water surrounding Tom Ugly's Bridge instead.
Paul's Famous Hamburgers, 12 Princes Hwy, Sylvania, 95225632, paulsfamoushamburgers.com.au
Botanic Gardens Restaurant
Hidden among the Norfolk palms and Hawthorn oaks of the Royal Botanic Gardens is the al fresco dining and 19th century facade of this Mother's Day favourite. But you needn't wait until gifting mum a Lotto pack to eat here (although do keep it in mind for Mother's Day). A three-course set lunch for $69 is fine value. Ham hock and foie gras terrine on the verandah? Most definitely. And another Aperol Spritz while you're at it.
Mrs Macquaries Rd, Sydney, 9241 2419, botanicrestaurant.com.au
Blackwattle, Jubilee and Federal Parks, Glebe
Like dogs? This string of waterfront parks is for you. On any day there's at least two of every breed scratching an itch underneath the Glebe Point Bridge. It is practically a big Noah's Park of canines. Blackwattle Cafe has Little Marionette coffee and a solid selection of cafe staples. If you're lucky enough to grab an empanada from Cafe Bariloche (they sell out FAST) at the top of Glebe Point Road they make a nice one-handed breakfast for a stroll around the water's edge.
Blackwattle Cafe, 55 Leichhardt St, Glebe, 02 9692 9785, blackwattlecafe.com
Cafe Bariloche, 33 Glebe Point Road, Glebe 02 9660 3524
Fish and chips by the water
Easter + holidays = fish and chips. Simple. Holidays at any time equal fish and chips, really. Here are some favourites.
A longtime favourite in the east, a 'Mongers' family box will serve a family of four with fish, prawns, calamari, oysters, chips and a couple of scallops. Take the clan down to the beach and do your best not to feed the seagulls.
42 Hall St, Bondi Beach, 9365 2205, mongers.com.au
Neilsen Park Kiosk
The secluded Shark Bay in Vaucluse is a charming spot to grab some F'n'C. Enjoy under the shade of Moreton Bay Figs or find a spot on the beach where you can wave at the ferries and, thanks to a shark-proof net, go for a dip in the calm water.
Greycliffe Ave, Vaucluse, 9337 5511
You don't always need battered flathead fillets on a beach, though. Barry Lane from Windsor Seafood has been servicing the north west with good, honest fish, squid and pineapple fritters for fifteen-odd years. Order to go and find a grassy spot on the Hawkesbury.
74 George St, Windsor, 02 4577 2155
Crack out the Birkenstocks and take to the streets in areas outside your own neighbourhood. Angie Schiavone, editor of the Good Food Under $30 Guide, has recently put together a list of Canley Vale Road's new and old Vietnamese joints to be discovered over Fairfield way. Plus there's guides to Enmore Road and Cronulla for your culinary convenience.
Foraging with Diego
Naturalist Diego 'The Weedy One' Bonetto is Sydney's foremost urban forager. On his edible weed and mushroom day trips to various locations around Sydney, Diego will teach you how to safely harvest wild mushrooms and misunderstood 'weeds' for delicious means. weedyconnection.com
Day trip out of the city
Put some petrol in the hatchback and hit the road. Sydney has plenty of good day trip options from the beaches of the South Coast to antiques and tea in Katoomba.
Southern Highlands vineyards
Destination Southern Highlands has a great wine trail map online. Plot your course, flip for designated driver and crank up the Neil Young as you drive around rolling hills of the Highlands. Should the day trip turn into overnighter, then Biota's new weekend brunch is highly recommended.
Biota Dining, 18 Kangaloon Rd, Bowral, 02 4862 2005, biotadining.com
A two hour jaunt up to The Steel City is rewarded with amazing beaches and, these days, fine food. Revamped pub Carrington Place is good for a tapas lunch and a Hunter-centric wine list. Suspension Espresso does a knock-out coffee while Scotties Fish Cafe will sort you for a burger of Port Stephen's flathead to be taken up to the Norfolk pines and ocean views of King Edward Park. Carrington Place, 132 Young St, Carrington, 02 4961 1116, carringtonplace.com.au
Suspension Espresso, 02 4962 2717 3 Beaumont Street, Islington, suspensionespresso.com.au
Scotties Fish Cafe, 36 Scott St, Newcastle East, 02 4926 3780
Al fresco dining
The bevy of options for sitting outside for breakfast or lunch on a sunny day is one of the great joys of living Sydney. Here are two to maximise those water views.
Cottage Point Inn
You can arrive by land, water or seaplane to this old-timer in the middle of Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park. A spot on the verandah lets you take in the full beauty of Cowan Creek - just don't let those kookaburras near your roast spatchcock or grilled onglet steak.
2 Anderson Pl, Cottage Point, 02 9456 1011, cottagepointinn.com.au
The Boathouse at Palm Beach
A brekkie of eggs with mushroom is always a suitable start to the day and a spot on the Boathouse verandah is the most sort after place on the Northern Beaches to do it. If Palm Beach is too far to get to for breakfast then the lunch menu offers a bucket of prawns with housemade seafood sauce and a much revered fish and chips.
Governor Phillip Park, Palm Beach NSW 2108, 02 9974 3868, theboathousepb.com.au
The Oxford Tavern
No longer the gentleman's club of yore. In addition to the usual lunch menu, 'The Tav' does an American style barbecue each weekend in the beer garden. Hawaiian-shirted students and the occasional family tuck into smoked chook, ribs, pulled pork and brisket that be sniffed out from a block away. ANZAC Day promises the inner west's largest two-up competition and $4 tinnies all day.
1 New Canterbury Rd, Petersham, 02 8019 9351, theoxfordtavern.com.au