Like it or not, dining habits change when you have kids. Not all restaurateurs know what makes dining out that little bit easier for young families. But that doesn’t mean new parents need to forgo going out. Whether it’s a ball pit, kids activity packs or cheap children’s meals, we skipped and hopped our way around Sydney searching for the most kid-friendly pubs and cafes in the city.
The Henson Pub in Marrickville
With its generous beer garden and fun-filled games and rumpus room, this inner-west pub brings all the hipster parents to its yard with its sense of fun. There are high chairs, a small climbing wall, ball pit, Pacman and Big Buck Hunter machines and a Mr Men mural. In the unlikely case your kids are unimpressed with all that, they also sell kids activity packs for $4 each. The children’s menu is a little more inventive and healthy than most with kids salads for $5 and organic apple juice.
The Greens at North Sydney
The old home of the North Sydney Bowling Club has been transformed into a garden-party-themed playground for big kids and their mini-mes looking for family friendly fun in the sunshine. As well as $10 kids meals there’s a petting zoo and face painting on the weekends, high chairs and a birdcage housing Beyonce the hen and Eminem the rooster. Pets promising to be on the best behaviour can also gain entry. It’s a kid-free zone from 9pm onwards, so go early.
The Grounds Keeper Cafe in Ryde Park
With both open-air and undercover outdoor seating, high chairs and situated right next to a kids play area, this idyllic suburban cafe promises minimal tantrums while you tuck into Mediterranean-inspired dishes. Between slides on the slippery dip, little ones can enjoy omelettes, pancakes, gelato milkshakes, cheese toasties or penne Napolitana for under $10.
The Bather’s Pavilion in Balmoral
If ever there was a Sydney beach that was designed with kids in mind, it’s Balmoral; with its characteristically flat seas on Sydney’s North Shore. This historic beachside cafe takes full advantage of its position, catering to babies and toddlers with colourful high chairs and a playground just a walk away. A tad on the pricy side, it’s the view you pay for here; lunch items including fish and chips or grilled fish with risotto and lemon are $15 and up.
The Grounds of Alexandria
This sustainable community cafe and garden used to be an abandoned warehouse. It features a number of different spaces, carts peddling organic goods and fruit, a lemonade stand, a picket-fenced playground, plus a small animal farm that is home to a goat, pony and Kevin Bacon the pig.
Newport Arms Hotel
With unbeatable views over Pittwater, the expansive grounds and beer garden of this Northern Beaches icon has high chairs and features two playgrounds for kids and plenty of yachts to encourage imaginary pirate adventures. It also hosts birthday parties. Children’s meals are fairly basic, but ideal for beachside dining; fish and chips, ham-and-cheese pizza or chicken nuggets and chips. Merivale has promised to keep it family friendly when they take over in May.
The Incinerator in Willoughby
Originally an art space designed by Walter Burley Griffin in the 1930s, this architectural wonder and now Incinerator cafe in Willoughby is next to Halstrom Park. It’s the ideal location for bigger kids to totter off to the playground and oval to kill time while you tuck into options such as tapioca, yoghurt, seeds and mango. Kids meals – including cheese on toast and sausage in a blanket – are inexpensive.
Bitton Cafe & Bistro in Alexandria
It’s perfectly acceptable to drop your kids in the play area full of toys on the back terrace of this Alexandria cafe while you linger over the French-Australian inspired menu, coffee and crepes. The all-day food options for the little ones to eat from their high chairs are as elegant as you'll ever find, with croque monsieur; baby bitton of scrambled eggs and mushrooms with turkish bread; and gelato and sorbet.
Chicken & Fishhead
Combining cuisine and kids couture in one charming heritage-listed building, this cafe and children’s wear store in Beecroft is great for killing two birds with one stone. It features a kiddies table with activities and books and little ones can tuck into a lunch box containing their choice of roll, popcorn, apple, chocolate crackle and a juice box or special treats such as fairy bread. They also cater to allergies.