Taking Kids to One of Sydney’s Favourite Restaurants
I love Café Sydney. I first went there in 2001 for my first wedding anniversary and my husband and I ended up spending all the money intended for the next two weeks grocery shopping. It was totally worth two weeks of Vegemite on toast.
Fast forward a decade or so, and we had returned again, but this time with three small children in tow.
One of the desserts at Cafe Sydney: worth waiting for
There are many restaurants who wouldn't have let us step foot through the door with our slightly out-of-control, jet-lagged crew, but it is a credit to the staff at Café Sydney (and nearby diners) how welcome they made us feel.
Customs House, Circular Quay, Cafe Sydney is on the top floor
Firstly, the restaurant itself. Café Sydney is perched on the top floor of Customs House in Circular Quay. In other words it is directly in the middle of the harbour and once you gaze over the glass balustrade, ignoring the rumble of the trains, the vista is an unobstructed view of one of the most beautiful harbours in the world.
Although there is a large, dark, glassy and über cool indoor dining and lounge area, for some reason we are always seated on the terrace. It might have something to do with the kids, but who knows? But with fresh(ish) air and those views, the outdoor dining area would be my preference anyway.
Despite its moniker, this is no casual café. Café Sydney is fine dining and one of Sydney's favourite restaurants. While the quality is top-notch, and it is difficult to fault the creativity and talent that goes into the food, it is pricey.
I am well aware that most kids have very simple tastes and it's never wise to offer fancy dishes to small children. However, the prices on the children's menu are not reflective of the simple dishes, and I'm almost ashamed to admit we paid $66 for three serves of nuggets and chips for the kids. There are some slightly cheaper (but not much cheaper) kids options on the dedicated kids menu but in general, the prices on the kids menu were a bit hard to swallow. Perhaps they're not quite as welcoming as I thought.
[ADVERT]The rest of the meals were exceptional.
The menu is relatively varied with nine appetisers, four seafood options, nine mains, assorted salads and side dishes, and five desserts. All dishes change regularly with the seasons, and there is only one vegetarian options for starters and mains.
An entrée of Moreton Bay bugs, tiger prawns, potato, caviar and lettuce was light and fresh ($29).
By contrast, the Wagyu carpaccio with shaved pear, rocket, pecorino and a lemon vinaigrette ($27) was declared beefy and rich.
Café Sydney is usually booked months in advance, but we were able to call the day before and nab an early sitting on the terrace (5pm) on the condition we would be gone by 6.45pm. It doesn't seem like a lot of time if you want to sit and leisurely enjoy your meal but let's be honest, when you have small children, no meal is ever relaxed and genteel. Eating in less than two hours proved no problem. We even managed to fit three courses in with ten minutes to spare.
For mains I ordered the barramundi with a crispy skin, a crab croquette, roasted cherry tomatoes, and fresh asparagus ($39). I cannot fault the dish except that it was over too soon.
My husband ordered the beef tenderloin ($39), a fat, round medallion of meat sitting on a bright green spinach puree, baby carrots, jus and (in a very Aussie twist) a chorizo sausage roll. No really, a sausage roll. Although the meat was a tad over the medium rare requested, the beef was of such quality it didn't matter. It could have been cut with a kid's plastic knife, so tender was the meat.
My sister-in-law tried duck for the first time, a twice cooked leg, with sage gnocchi, assorted roasted vegetables and jus ($39). It was very filling for her, and I was happy to be able to help her finish it off.
By this stage the kids had well and truly had enough of their dinner, which we had ordered within minutes of sitting down and which came out blessedly quickly. However, at $7 a nugget we were not leaving anything on the plate, so we all helped finish their dinners. We weren't leaving without dessert, and while there was the option of the $45 dessert platter (designed to share - or not) we all decided to order our own.
Kids have the obvious option of vanilla icecream with chocolate or strawberry sauce and meringue sticks ($12). After requesting the strawberry option we were told there was no strawberry purée available, and even though we suggested they borrow a few fresh specimens from the cocktail department, the kids ended up with chocolate ice-cream with a few strawberry slices. It wasn't quite what we expected but the kids were still happy. They're kids.
Our desserts were a lot more thoughtful.
I ordered the fried banana, peanut butter parfait, and salted peanut chocolate ice-cream ($19). It was as rich as it sounds and the winner being the banana which ended up being like a bit like a warm donut. It's difficult when warm components make the ice-cream melt and you have to chase the dribbles around the plate. You end up wanting to lick the plate, which isn't an example I want to set in front of the kids.
My husband ordered the warm lemon pudding with crème fraiche and raspberry ice-cream ($19). He didn't let me try any.
Café Sydney is many things: it is a fine dining restaurant and also a lounge with a separate bar snacks menu available. It has some brilliant views of the bridge and harbour and the quality of the food is without doubt.
As a parent, it is both stressful and delightful when we can take small children with us to one of our favourite restaurants. It is commendable that Cafe Sydney has a kids menu and offers colouring-in, however their meals are very pricey.
In general we like the small touches that Café Sydney makes: their kids menu is printed on a large A3 sheet with lots of pictures to colour in, and when you are shown to your table they immediately drop off crayons without being asked.
They are happy to take immediate orders and bring children's food out quickly, and I am sure last time we visited they discretely asked if we wanted a portable DVD player brought out (but that could have been wishful thinking).
They also offer other thoughtful touches to all diners, such as blankets for people on the terrace if they are feeling a bit chilly, and gas heaters in the winter.
Then there is the food,and that beautiful view. One of my favourites.