A family friendly destination for your little monkeys
When travelling in the south-west with your children, everything suddenly becomes focussed on kids menus and playgrounds. Even though I think it might be wonderful to visit a posh winery with an eight course degustation lunch, my kids don't tend to share my views, so we were constantly on the lookout for lunch destinations which could feed and amuse the kids sufficiently, so the adults could enjoy a relaxing lunch.
Lunch at the Cheeky Monkey Brewery north of Margaret River wasn't exactly relaxing, and it was far from being the best meal we had on our holiday, but it had a dedicated kids menu and a large gated playground and sand pit that was appealing for the children so we could eat in (relative) peace.
Cheeky Monkey Brewery is an attractive barn- style building located halfway between Dunsborough and Margaret River. It is conveniently close to the Margaret River Chocolate Company and Providore, which is lucky, because I can't recall seeing anything sweet on the menu, although apparently they do offer dessert until 5pm.
There are plenty of both indoor and outdoor tables
With its no booking policy and appeal to young groups and families, it can be a bit of a bunfight finding a table, but this place is big, and you would have to be particularly unlucky not to find a seat. There are two indoor rooms and a large outdoor area which is mostly undercover or shaded by umbrellas. There are a few unshaded tables down near the edge of the lake, but signs indicate this is a smokers area, so you might not want to eat there.
The playground is large and mostly shaded by sun-sails. It has a high pool fence and a gate that most kids under six can't access. It is located at one end of the outdoor area, meaning only a handful of tables have a direct view. Because of this draw card, the Cheeky Monkey was teeming with families and small kids.
The menu is divided into light meals, main meals ($25-$38) and pizzas ($20-$25). Pizzas prove to be one of the most popular choices, and probably one reason for this is that they tend to be the quickest meal to come out of the kitchen. When there are hundreds and hundreds of guests all arriving for lunch, and the queue to order food is 20 minutes long, the prospect of waiting another 30 minutes for food isn't an appealing one (a sign tells you the approximate wait time for meals).
But without exception, the pizzas were the first to arrive at most tables, and the kids who ordered one as part of their kids meal were looked at enviously by everyone else at the table.
Kids pizzas (ham cheese and pineapple, or ham and cheese $15) aren't much smaller than the full sized ones, and while they are tasty with a nice thin crust, they are not exceptional. Other kids meals include fish and chips, a platter with ham and crackers (or a sandwich depending on when you are there), and a creamy pasta with ham. All kids meals are between $12-15 and include a small airplane-style juice cup.
The creamy ham pasta was a large serve for a child ($13), and when my daughter picked up a piece to offer it to me, I was shocked to see it literally dripping with oil (and not much shocks me when it comes to fatty foods). It was tasty and the ham was cut off the bone, but no kid needs to eat that much oil.
I ordered the crispy chicken drumsticks with spicy South American hot sauce, sour cream and charred corn salsa ($16) from the light meals section. It was neither crispy, nor hot, nor charred but it was still an enjoyable if bizarre dish. My meal was literally seven drumsticks. Three and a half chicken's worth, and I would not recommend this as a single person's meal – better to share (with six others).
The Leeuwin Beef Burger looked pretty good, but at $25 and laden with a house made patty and bacon, it was very heavy and needed more salad.
There are five pizza options, all named after breeds of monkey. The marmoset ($20) is essentially a margarita while the howler ($25) is a tandoori chicken pizza with mint yoghurt. For an extra $2 all pizzas can be made on a gluten free crust.
Other main options include fish and chips ($28) and pork ribs ($32). Many dishes have the special Cheeky Monkey sauce, a chipotle ketchup made in-house.
Since it is a brewery there are obviously a number of options for drinks, including all their craft beers and pear and apple ciders also made on the premise. Alcoholic drinks are ordered from a separate counter than the food, meaning it can be quite a long time spent in queues.
Kids seem to enjoy the play area which is large enough to accommodate plenty of kids. It is gated but I would still be cautious leaving them unattended as the entire brewery is built on the side of a lake (many of the wineries and breweries in the region are).
Due to the sheer number of people, it is very loud, so most people tend to shout at each other, meaning it isn't exactly a peaceful lunch. The favourite dishes were the beer battered chips with aioli ($9) and the salt and pepper squid ($15).