Dining out with little ones can quickly turn into chaos. Thankfully, some venues are savvy enough to know parents still want to enjoy a meal out after their brood expands. So don’t panic the next time your friend suggests meeting you and the tot out for a bite – just head to one of these places for a regret-free experience (and if you're looking for more, take a look at our previous guide.
Woolwich Pier Hotel Few pubs are as geared towards families as this one. A central lawn surrounded by three dining areas means toddlers and older kids can let off some steam while adults eat within arm’s reach. There’s a kids corner with benches, colouring books and a screen that plays favourites such as Frozen and Tarzan all day and night. Every Saturday between 1pm and 3pm an entertainer is out on the lawn kitted out with face paint and games. Tables can be booked for groups of eight or more but there are plenty for walk-ins, too. A substantial kids menu keeps fussy eaters happy.
Three Williams Family-friendly dining in the city fringe is rare. Three Williams has risen to the challenge with a kids corner. Parents can perch at marble tables nearby and order the season’s latest, such as Wagyu bolognese mafalda with smoked speck, pecorino and parsley butter. Babycinos and kids milkshakes will keep the youngsters happy, and it’s always loud inside, so you can go easy on the noise-patrol.
The Backyard: Briars at Greelees, Concord This inner-west favourite has a decent stash of soft toys for kids to play with on the green. Twelve-seat benches give families a sit-down dining spot close by and a no-glass-on-the-green policy makes it completely safe. Inside, crayons and colouring-in sheets should help lengthen sit-down stretches, as should kids meals such as cheeseburgers and pastas, which come with a scoop of gelato for under $10 on Tuesdays. After dark, fluorescent lights on the green make it easy for little ones to navigate – and for parents to keep an eyeball on them. The Backyard is available for functions, with a jumping castle and ball-pit included to sweeten the deal.
The Boathouse Balmoral The calm, clear-as-gin water of Balmoral makes it a family-friendly beach dream. Right by the gated playground (another tick), The Boathouse Balmoral offers a kiosk-style eatery where you can dine in or take away, with options such as quinoa bircher; green eggs and ham with heirloom tomatoes and basil pesto; salads; and heartier fare such as beer-battered flathead for lunch. While there’s no dedicated kids menu, the venue will happily make smaller portions of its regular menu items.
Shuk The cafe serves Israeli foods that business partners Erez Beker, Yoni Kalfus and Ariel Hefe grew up eating. Two out of the three owners have children of their own, meaning family-friendly features haven’t been forgotten. While the kids run amok in the shaded and gated play area out back, feast on falafel rolls with Israeli salad, coconut labne, pickled cabbage and tahini. Starving? Try the prime beef shawarma sandwich with garam masala, pickled-cucumber green tahini, caramelised onion and zhug with sweet potato chips. There’s plenty for the little ones to eat too, with kids-sized eggs on toast or muesli, and schnitzel and chips for lunch. On the way out, stock up on treats such as halva and white-chocolate cake at Shuk’s deli and bakery. It’s open for dinner from Thursday to Saturday, but the play area out back isn’t open after dark.
Copo Café & Diner Sporting “breast-friendly” signage and a change-table inside, this roomy cafe is only a short walk away from the Bay Run. There’s a large kids menu with pancakes, bacon and eggs, cheese jaffles, pastas and burgers for lunch. Chalk is dished out for table entertainment. The adult menu features toast by Brickfields and classics with a global twist; South American-style baked beans with chorizo; Karaage chicken with slaw, pickles and wasabi mayo – the latter of which is a local favourite. You can also purchase activity packs for $4.50, crammed with colouring-in kits, keyrings and stickers. Copo is also open for dinner from Thursday to Saturday with a kids menu on offer.
Coogee Pavilion The ground floor of Merivale’s seaside behemoth is as geared towards kids as it is adults. Its games arena –with petanque, giant magnetic scrabble, ping-pong and an in-house theatrette – offers families an indoor alternative to fish and chips on the beach. Will & Co coffee and lobster rolls are a hit with the grown-ups. Pizza fresh out of the wood-fire oven goes down well with tots.