Every month my husband and I take it in turns to take one of the girls out on a 'date night', where we spend a few hours just hanging out and having quality time. I had thrown around a few ideas for my latest date night with my seven year old, but what she really wanted was fish and chips and icecream. I realised that if I combined that with a train ride, a play in a park and some window shopping, we had a winning combination in Leederville.
Leederville is great for plenty of reasons – there is plenty of parking available (at a price) but it is also only one stop from Perth Central station on the train and has the bonus of the high pedestrian bridge over the freeway where you can see for miles, and the joy of running down the winding bridge.
There are plenty of kid-friendly dining options in Leederville, from the brand-new Grill'd on the corner of Oxford St and Newcastle to the fading appeal of Siena's and of course Little's Caesar's awesome pizzas. However, we wanted fish and chips, and with that in mind we headed to Sweet Lips (voted Australia's best Fish and Chips, 2013) on Oxford St.
You can dine in, but it's a bit boring inside (although they do have colouring-in while you wait). So we ordered our meal to take away, and went to do some window shopping while we waited (try Urban Depot, 117 Oxford St; Oxford Street Books next door and Henry Hiccups at 133 Oxford St).
The menu at Sweet Lips is extensive, but knowing that we had a few big dessert options for later, I tried (and failed) to keep it small. I ordered two serves of the kids fish and chips, which is very respectable hake (four pieces for $7.90), two pineapple rings ($2.50 each), a serve of my favourite deep fried feta (not really for kids) at $4.90 and a choc milk to share. Our meal for two was just under $30, and absolutely delicious, but the kids meals were pretty big, and once we added the pineapple (and feta), neither of us could actually finish. Keep this in mind if your kids are light eaters.
We took our dinner down the road to the brand new Oxford Street Reserve which boasts a gated nature playground, plenty of outdoor seating options, manicured grassed areas and public table tennis and chess boards (BYO bat and ball). We settled into the bar-style seating that faced the park, so my daughter could come and go as she pleased. The seating is a combination of stone and metal, and not the most comfortable. The bar seating is quite high and a bit difficult to get on and off (especially for kids) but there are lower tables also available. In time, wisteria will grow up and over the pergola, making it both beautiful and shady.
The nature garden, opened in August 2014, is comprised of ramps (perfect for wheelchairs and prams), things to climb on, things to wobble on, things to yell through, dig, balance and slide. Since it's gated, there's little issue with kids running onto busy Oxford Street, and it is big enough for kids to have their freedom.
Beyond the playground is the grassed area, perfect for bocce, lounging on or running around on. It overlooks the skate park where there is always something interesting to watch. We then moved onto the outdoor ping pong table (stone) and had an imaginary game of table tennis before moving onto an imaginary game of chess, which involved us laughing crazily and throwing (imaginary) pieces at each other, to the strange looks of the blokes in the skate park. Crazy lady with a small child alert.
There are so many great dessert options in Leederville, the difficulty is in getting to kids to make a choice. You can do the churros and chocolate thing at San Churro (2/150 Oxford St) or dive into the huge range of cakes at Greens and Co (123 Oxford St) or do what we did, and try the new DIY frozen yoghurt bar at Tutti Frutti (136 Oxford St).
The process is simple, choose your cup size (large or huge) then fill it with as much (or as little) frozen yoghurt as you like, which comes in about a dozen flavours including Oreo, salted caramel, various fruit flavours and a couple of soy based yoghurts. They come in a dispensing machine like a soft-serve icecream (and they taste like icecream too). Then you head over to the topping section where you add as many nuts, fresh fruit, jelly cubes, lollies, chocolate, sprinkles and sauces as you can manage.
Here's a tip – watch your kids like an eagle, because you pay by weight, and when they get carried away like a kid in a candy shop (because that's basically what it is), you will end up paying the price. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised by the price of our shared effort, a tad over $6 (I was expecting to pay around $10). So as she sat and watched Korean MTV and I people watched we enjoyed our various yoghurts and lolly toppings.
One of the nicest things about Leederville, is that if you are there during kid-friendly hours, the atmosphere and mood is energetic but safe. Yes, there are bars and clubs, but they are tucked away on Newcastle Street and don't get rowdy til later. Luna Cinema's are on the corner of Oxford and Vincent, although they admittedly don't often play many kids movies (they have toilets though in the foyer).
Leederville is three kilometres north west of the city and easily accessible via the freeway, Joondalup train line and the free green CAT bus.