Last Sunday, The Picnic Press hosted our first guests – our dear friends, Kylie and Angelo, and their gorgeous girls, Sienna and Asher (‘Ashie’). Kylie and Ang are from the Northern Beaches so we had the brilliant idea of taking our picnic blanket to them to capture the last bit of Autumn sun by the beach.
Mark and I had run the Sydney Morning Herald Half Marathon that morning so we were pretty keen to avoid using our legs for the rest of the day. That meant we had to locate food, coffee, and a picnic spot with a view, all in a very tight location. Challenge accepted!
Here’s what we decided to do:
ITINERARY & MAP
Food: Pilu Kiosk
Coffee: Pilu Kiosk
Picnic: Freshwater Reserve, overlooking beautiful Freshwater beach
PILU KIOSKEnd of Moore Road, Freshwater
Pilu restaurant opened in 2005 and has been awarded two Chef’s Hats by Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide every year since for its quality Sicilian cuisine. It’s located in a beautiful heritage-listed weatherboard beach house perched above Freshwater beach, which is between Manly and Curl Curl beaches.
The Pilu Kiosk is a little offshoot of the restaurant located next door to Pilu and specialises in casual dining and takeaway panini, pastries and coffee.
I was lucky enough to first dine at Pilu restaurant for a wedding in 2009. The food was a-ma-zing. In fact, it was so good, I still distinctly remember the main course almost five years later – snapper fillet baked in Italian white wine and encrusted with tart green olives (That’s right, hey Jackie?). Yum!
My dining experience at Pilu was however unfortunately stymied by a wardrobe malfunction that I have chosen to share as a lesson for my girls out there.
I decided on the day of the wedding that the dress I was wearing required a waist belt. I made a dash to the shops and found one to match but the only size available was a size too small. I purchased it anyway, figuring I could channel my inner fashion MacGyver and punch an extra belt hole so that it just fit, alas, not so comfortably.
This was all fine until post-ceremony when they started serving canapés. I am someone who likes trying little bits of everything. It frustrates my family to no end when they find half a biscuit or a bite stolen from their meal when they are not looking. Most of the time, just one bite is all I want and need.
Canapés are therefore my kryptonite. I was practically stalking waiters to sample the delicious morsels. My inability to say no and/or pace myself caused a serious dilemma once we sat down to the three course dinner and I realised I had no other “emergency” belt hole.
‘Why not just take the belt off?’, you say. Well, I come from a “beauty is pain” school of mothering, so this was not an option – I arrived in the belt, I had to leave in the belt. Refusing dinner was not an option either. I had read the menu and it wasn’t going to happen.
So I pushed through.
I made a pact with myself that it would all be okay provided I stopped consuming liquids. As the night wore on, I became really thirsty. I clapped through speeches while imagining the relief of ripping that damn belt off. I danced without breathing. I gritted my teeth and smiled for photos while cursing the belt in my head. I suffered.
When it came time to remove the belt a mere six hours later, my stomach didn’t know what to make of its sudden freedom and it panicked. I was unwell.
I learnt two important lessons that night: 1) Pace yourself, lady and 2) In future, don’t let anything hold you back.
I therefore wore my comfy jeans to our picnic, just in case. I knew ahead of time what I wanted – the famed Pilu Kiosk signature roast suckling pig panini. It was my main motivator while running that morning. Also, this panini had become somewhat of an urban legend for me. I had stopped in several times at Pilu Kiosk previously and each time they were sold out. This time, I was definitely getting one so I made Kylie and Ang meet us for lunch at 11am.
In case you hadn’t heard, the suckling pig panini is made with signature Pilu suckling pig. Yes, that’s right. You are pretty much getting Pilu restaurant specialty, without the restaurant price tag.
The panini is served on lightly toasted Sonoma bread filled with succulent pork with sweet apple, shaved fennel and rocket, and then drizzled with a mustard mayonnaise. The pork is so tender, so I can see why it is legendary. One word of warning, however – don’t expect crackling. If crackling is what you’re after, we’ve got plans to share our hidden gem which sells amazing pork with crackling in a later issue, so you don’t miss out.
We set up our picnic at a beautiful spot in Freshwater Reserve overlooking Freshwater beach with the sun on our backs and tucked in.
Check out The Kiosk website. Note: the suckling pig panino is a big seller so we recommend getting there early to avoid disappointment – if you miss out, don’t worry, there are other delicious sandwich varieties and breakfast options too.
PILU KIOSKEnd of Moore Road, Freshwater – as above
Pilu Kiosk specialises in takeaway Lavazza coffee and for the girls, “chinos” (babycinos). We let our lunch settle and then wandered back for a coffee later in the afternoon.
I don’t take sugar in my coffee but I love a cappuccino because I enjoy that little sweet aftertaste at the end. The best part about Pilu Kiosk’s cappuccino is that they use real chocolate shaving on top. Ashie approves.
FRESHWATER RESERVEEnd of Moore Road, Freshwater and just in front of Pilu – too easy!
Freshwater Reserve isn’t a huge space but it does have the same million dollar views as Pilu restaurant.
What could be better than beach views, sunshine, salt air, suckling pig panini and a coffee/’chino’?!
Sharing it with our friends, that’s what.
That’s the beauty of a picnic. It gives us the perfect chance to catch up with our loved ones, have a laugh and engage in simple pleasures with no distractions.
That’s how we like it!
→ Tables: There are a couple of sheltered picnic tables, but you need to be quick to grab these.
→ Toilets: Public toilets can be found in the neighbouring Freshwater Surf Life Saving Club.
→ Playground: There is a small play area with swings for the kiddies, although Sienna and Ashie had just as much fun picking flowers and enjoying their ‘chinos’.
→ Parking: We managed to get free all day parking on Charles Street, just down the road (outside Harboard Beach Hotel). There is also a car park directly out front, but you may have to pay for parking.
→ BBQ facilities: If you are so inclined, there are BBQ facilities here as well.
→ Beach: In summer, you are perfectly positioned to make a stroll down to the beach so don’t forget to pack your swimmers!
See you next week!
Sydney is a great place to live but whenever we have the luxury of a free weekend, we want out. ASAP.
So for Mark’s birthday this year, my gift to him was a weekend away to Orange in Central NSW, about three and a half hours west of Sydney. Why Orange? Well, we had been given the hot tip from our dear friends Michelle and Tim (Hi guys!) that it was the hot spot for food and wine. This was confirmed once we had sampled (scoffed) the delicious bottle of Sangiovese they had brought back for us from Orange’s little neighbour, Millthorpe. And so we made it our next ‘free weekend’ destination.
Orange is an incredibly picturesque town with beautiful tree lined streets adorned with elegant historic buildings and lovingly kept homes and gardens.
We were lucky to visit the Orange region in Autumn to take advantage of the kaleidoscope of colourful tree canopies and to walk on the crunchy, fallen leaves.
When you add in Orange’s stylish cafes, wineries, bakeries, hatted restaurants and gourmet food providores, you cannot help but start conversations like, “Maybe one day we’ll move to Orange…” which later morphs into, “When we live in Orange…” while you mentally pick out a cute cottage with a hedge.
Once we found the perfect picnic spot, we came up with the following itinerary and bundled up our picnic blanket:
ITINERARY & MAP
Food: Cakes from The Old Mill Cafe, Millthorpe
Coffee: Byng Street Local Store, Orange
Picnic: Cook Park, Orange
THE OLD MILL CAFE12 Pym Street, Millthorpe
The Old Mill Café is in the heart of Millthorpe, a quaint little historic town about a 15 minute drive from Orange and a ‘must-visit’ if you’re in the area.
Our interest to make the trip to The Old Mill Café for our picnic provisions was piqued after having heard that the owner, Stacey, had trained with the renowned Adriano Zumbo of macaron fame.
We were also told that the meat pies were pretty extraordinary and so we timed our trip to coincide with lunch and each ordered the “Big Al’s” homemade beef & shiraz pie.
It is absolutely no exaggeration when I say that this pie – all tender beef and buttery pastry, with a delicious hint of shiraz – was the best pie we have eaten, in. our. entire. lives.
To give you an idea of the scale of what I mean when I say ‘best pie’, we are seriously contemplating doing a day trip to The Old Mill Café for lunch.
This will mean driving a total of around 7 hours in a day.
For a pie.
It’s that level good.
Our big regret is that we didn’t get a food selfie for you. We left the camera gear in the car and even though we ‘scissor-paper-rocked’ it (best of three), neither of us was prepared to leave the pie. And so we reasoned that sometimes in life you must embrace the moment and just eat the pie.
After we savoured the last bite, we then had the challenge of deciding between the extensive range of freshly baked cakes and pastries for our picnic, all enticingly lined up on a rustic wooden bench.
I singled out a flourless orange cake with maple syrup icing and prettily scattered floral petals. Mark chose the red velvet with cream cheese icing, intricately decorated with fresh raspberries and a white chocolate garnish.
We also reasoned that it would be nice of us to take some cakes back home as ‘gifts’ for our loved ones, so that we didn’t miss out on the fluffy lemon meringue or gooseberry frangipane tart that we forced them to share. (They had to).
Check out The Old Mill Café website. For peak lunch time (12 noon – 2pm), it was recommended to book a table. We also got the insider tip from a local that breakfast is pretty spectacular too.
BYNG STREET LOCAL STORE47 Byng Street, Orange
We had been to the Byng Street Local Store for coffee in the morning and really loved the fresh, easy vibe of this café. Plus, I am a sucker for any café that does that gorgeous thing of putting a little shortbread on the spoon. These guys went one further and put them on the takeaway cups too. Champions.
If you are in Orange and looking for a picnic lunch that didn’t involve heading to Millthorpe, we suggest you stop in here as we spotted some tasty looking baguettes that you can order for on the go. It is also in very easy walking distance of Cook Park, our next stop. Picnic time!
For more details, check out the Byng Street website.
COOK PARKCorner of Summer and Clinton Streets, Orange
Cook Park is a grand, historic park that has been around since 1873. It is incredibly green and lush and the contrast between this and the Autumn colours was simply magical. Mark took so many beautiful photos so I’m going to let you look in peace for a while… Enjoy.
Sorry to interrupt, but you have to see this – there is a flower display (of Tuberous Begonias, I found out later) from February to April each year in the Blowes Conservatory, a charming art deco glasshouse in Cook Park. So many colourful flowers! So much happiness!
There are other great things in Cook Park too, like a fernery, gazebo, aviary, a little lake with cute little ducks, and beautiful ornate park benches to rest your legs. Take your time to explore and soak it all up and then, when you’re ready, a picnic awaits.
Here’s how we set ours up:
All that’s left to do now is relax, indulge, and enjoy.
It really is food for the soul.
→ Picnic tables and toilet facilities provided.
→ Dogs are permitted in the park on a lead.
→ Sorry guys, no bicycles although you can park bikes in the bike rack provided at Bastick Cottage.
→ You can book weddings and other functions – we spotted a wedding party taking their photos and there is a beautiful cathedral in Orange too which is worth a look.
THE PICNIC PRESS RECOMMENDS:
→ For accommodation: Dalton St Studio Dalton Street, Orange. We stayed in this charming B&B in easy walking distance (via tree-lined streets) to Orange town centre. It has a little kitchenette and the lovely owner, Pam, kindly left us yoghurt, muesli and other treats to make a continental breakfast that we ate on our little verandah out front. There is wi-fi Internet, and all the usual things like TV, DVD and air conditioning, and the experience comes complete with cuddles from Bailey, their beautiful English pointer.
→ For a wine bar: Union Bank Wine Bar 84 Byng Street, Orange. We stopped in here for a nightcap, which was a great opportunity to try some Orange wines all in a lovely historic building.
→ For a winery: Angullong Wines The Old Bluestone Stables, Cnr Park & Victoria Streets, Millthorpe. Angullong Wines make the aforementioned Sangiovese that Michie & Timo got us onto – it’s so good, they had sold out of it on our visit. It’s located in a gorgeous late 1800s bluestone building (see pic below) and they take online orders too.
→ For a fancy pants dinner: Lolli Redini 48 Sale Street, Orange. We enjoyed a beautiful dinner at Lolli Redini which serves contemporary Italian and French influenced food using local, seasonal and organic produce that has been ethically farmed. It also has one chef’s hat rating and one wine glass rating by Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide Awards. Win-win!
→ For a pub lunch: Gerrys @ The Commercial Hotel 29 Park Street, Millthorpe. Gerry’s has been rated 2013 Best Steak (Rib-Eye) in NSW & 2014 Best Lamb Burger in NSW by Sydney Morning Herald Good Pub Food Guide. The Lamb Burger must be good as it was sold out when we arrived. It has a pleasant outdoor area (next to the lovely Angullong Wines’ cellar door) and a warm open fireplace inside.
→ For shopping: The White Place 100 Byng Street, Orange. I wish I could live in The White Place and pretend it was my home. It offers a gorgeous mix of stylish homewares, including things like cushions, rugs, furniture and art, as well as designer clothing and jewellery laid out in beautifully styled rooms in a converted house. Perfect for those delightful one-off pieces that people will ask about and you can casually say, “Oh I just picked this up in Orange”. They have an online store too – be careful, it could be dangerous!
We hope you make it to Orange soon.
And, don’t forget to pack your picnic blanket!
THE PADDINGTON BRUNCH PICNIC
There are no rules that say you have to picnic on a Sunday. So, last weekend, instead of doing boring Saturday stuff (like ironing clothes for the week), we decided to kick-start the blog instead.
We settled on a light brunch picnic as we only had a few hours spare in the morning and we decided to keep it local by staying around the East. We came up with the following itinerary:
ITINERARY & MAP
Food: Eveleigh Market, Eveleigh
Coffee: Crate Bar & Pizza, Oxford Street, Paddington
Picnic: Paddington Reservoir Gardens, Paddington
Because of where we are going, we didn’t need to take much so we left with a bag containing the following:
- Picnic blanket
- Wooden chopping board
- Water bottle (because water is free that way)
- Crackers (because there are good cheese stalls)
- Home made berry sauce (because it was delicious)
So, are you packed? Yes? Let’s go!
EVELEIGH MARKET245 Wilson St, Eveleigh (near Redfern)
Eveleigh Market comes alive every Saturday between 8am and 1pm. Market stalls are set up in an old heritage listed railway workshop known as the Blacksmith’s Workshop (adjacent to Carriageworks) in Eveleigh, a tiny suburb near Redfern.
I need to make a confession upfront, as it is likely to be something you see in this blog a lot. I have a thing for old walls. It’s weird. I know it. Mark knows it. But I can’t help it! The more flaky, decrepit, crumbled, or worn out the wall looks, the more I love it. Eveleigh Market has great walls.
Apart from that, you can find all kinds of local fresh produce here. There’s everything from gourmet meats (organic grass-fed lamb anyone?), handmade pasta, free-range eggs, artisan cheese, smoked fish, delicious baked goods, boutique wines and vibrant flowers. And of course, a great range of organic fruits and vegetables.
Yes, it’s not exactly cheaper than Coles or Woolies for your fruit and veg, but you do get a chance to chat to the owners and find out where your produce is coming from. And for some things, like the massive bunch of organic purple kale we got, its freshness can’t be beaten. If you normally save your grocery shopping for Saturday, then this is the perfect opportunity to multi-task. The bonus is that most of the stallholders offer free samples so you can see what takes your fancy. And, you can do it all with a coffee in hand!
So for our picnic brunch menu, we tried amazing goats curd from a stall called Willowbrae Chevre Cheese and decided this had to feature. We paired that with some delicious fresh figs from G & M Putrino, which we were informed may be the last of the season, and which would go perfectly with the goats curd and our pre-packed crackers.
And because of the way those damn cinnamon scrolls were deliciously stacked at the Sonoma stand – I swear if you stood close enough you could hear them whisper “Eat me! Eat me!” – we picked up a croissant and a cinnamon scroll to round it out.
As you can see, deciding on our picnic menu was an unplanned but very inspired process. If you make the Eveleigh Market your picnic produce stop, then we simply encourage you to go in hungry and see what you feel like on the day!
The Picnic Press Tips
→ Bring cash to save time lining up for it. There is an ATM in Carriageworks across the Markets if you need more.
→ Bring a spare bag for your produce, or if you have it, a ‘granny trolley’ (there’s probably a proper name for this). Never fear, there is a stall selling these in cute prints if you decide you need one.
→ Chat to the growers about what’s in season and what to do with your produce. For example, I didn’t know that you could use beetroot leaves instead of kale in salad or that you could freeze goats curd and defrost as needed to make it last longer. It makes for less waste and a good learning experience.
→ Get up early and enjoy breakfast there. There is great coffee to get you started (and for while you’re looking around) and the guys at Bird Cow Fish do unbelievably good lookin’ bacon and egg sandwiches with melted cheese (which Mark already knows we need to come back for).
→ If you head over later or are peckish for a light lunch instead, check out the very popular Billy Kwong stall which serves up pork dumplings and egg pancakes. Kylie Kwong is often spotted there behind the steamers and by the way those people stand around devouring those pork buns, you just know it’s good.
→ Keep an eye on the prices or just ask if you’re unsure. For example, I got said massive bunch of organic purple kale plus a large head of organic broccoli for $7 which I thought wasn’t too bad as it most likely will last us the week. A small bag of organic green beans at another stall was $5 so perhaps less of a bargain.
→ And most importantly, try stuff you haven’t tried before if a tasting is on offer.
Train: It’s about a 7-minute walk from Redfern train station.
Bike: If you’re local and have a bicycle with a basket (seems mandatory here), then you can park it in the bike rack out front.
Car: If like us, you’ve taken the car, there is street parking which is free for a certain period, but you may need to (kindly) stalk someone for it. Apparently, you can also park at Australian Technology Park and take a free shuttle service to Eveleigh from 8.15am to 12.30pm from Bay 8.
See the Eveleigh Market website for more details.
CRATE BAR & PIZZA393 Oxford Street, Paddington
So we’ve chosen this cute little coffee spot as:
- It’s within easy walking distance of the Paddington Reservoir Garden; and
- They brew Campos (hoorah).
On Saturdays, the Paddington Markets are held next door from 10am, so if you’re not in a rush, you might want to check that out too.
PADDINGTON RESERVOIRCorner of Oxford Street and Oatley Road, Paddington
So maybe you’ve spent the day shopping on Oxford Street in Paddington and walked right past it, but in between Country Road and the Paddington Chauvel Cinema is a beautifully landscaped underground garden known as Paddington Reservoir. If you have read “About Us”, you’d have found out that this place kicked off the blog and is also affectionately termed “Ritual” (as in, “Shall we do Ritual today?”).
In its former life (and as its name hints), it used to be a vital source of water to Sydney up until 1899. The water was emptied and the site was then repurposed a couple of times including as a garage and petrol station which was later abandoned. It opened again in 2009 after having been restored and re-imagined in a new way. There are two levels – the upper street level has a lawn with permanent concrete seating and which has displays showing the history of the site.
But, for a picnic, we suggest heading down to the lower level to relax in the garden, away from the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street.
Here’s how we set up our delicious market fare:
The lower level has various chambers with beautiful Romanesque brick archways, a hanging garden canopy around a pool in the centre.
I would describe it as Sydney’s answer to the High Line in New York – not as big obviously – but with a similar concept of lovingly transforming an industrial, abandoned space into an urban oasis.
Photographers love this space as there are many architectural features that give off great light and shadows, so you’ll often see some sort of photo shoot taking place here. One of the chambers is used for various art installations and community events but is not always open to the public. You can still take a peek in though.
There is a great feeling of calm and it is surprisingly quiet, given the main street is just above. You don’t have to just come for a picnic – it’s also a wonderful place to rest your legs (and credit card) if you’ve spent the day shopping on Oxford Street, or to simply take some time out with a book. It really is a hidden gem.
To read & sit: There are FREE library books to read and FREE gorgeous striped deck chairs to sit on while you are there. There are newsagents for more reading materials nearby.
Toilets: There are no public toilets in the Reservoir but nearby are some pubs. If you’re cheeky like us, there is the Australian Centre for Photography on Oxford Street (walk past the Country Road side) which may have a bathroom with Aesop hand-wash BUT if you visit them it is only fair that you also check out the amazing photography as well.
Kids: The Reservoir is a great option for little kids as they can run about in the underground section and play hide and seek without you having to worry about them running onto the road.
Located on the corner of Oxford Street and Oatley Road, Paddington. In between Country Road and the Chauvel Cinema, and across from the Imperial Hotel pub.
Car: We have always been lucky to get parking out front which is free all day on weekends (but make sure you check the signs)
Bus: Bus routes 378, 382 and 380 stop nearby.
Bike: Of course you can ride your bicycle there too. There is wheelchair and pram access to the lower level as well.
We had a car with us so we were happy to drive between destinations. If you don’t feel like travelling between Redfern and Paddington (about a 10 minute drive, but longer by public transport) you may want to mix and match this itinerary. For example, if the Eveleigh Market takes your fancy, head there instead and find a more local park for your picnic, like Australian Technology Park (which we’ll write up in a later issue). Or if you like the look of Paddington Reservoir Gardens, the coffee stop at Crate Bar & Pizza is walkable and you can pick up lunch / snacks there or along the way.
Be flexible and go with the flow.
It’s more enjoyable that way.