THE BRIGHTON-LE-SANDS SOUVLAKI PICNIC

If you’ve ever shot-gunned the window seat on a flight into or out of Sydney’s Kingsford Smith Airport, chances are you will have seen Brighton-Le-Sands. If not, on your next flight to or from Sydney, look out the window on take off or landing.

I have always been curious about the name of this suburb. Anything with two hyphens and sounding a little French and fancy must have an interesting story, right?

Well, not really. As it turns out, the area was originally named after the famous seaside resort Brighton in England. In the late 1880s, it was the hot spot for entertainment and vacations – there was a tramway from Rockdale to Lady Robinson Beach, a ferry, public swimming baths, a substantial picnic area, a race course and the Brighton Hotel (which was on the current Novotel site). Because it was a huge success and so popular, the name was changed to Brighton-Le-Sands to avoid confusion with the English Brighton.

Brighton-Le-Sands is well known for its large Greek population and home to what Mark had promised me was the best souvlaki around.

Here is our itinerary:

ITINERARY & MAP

Food:     Souvlaki Bar

Picnic:   Brighton Beach

Coffee & Something Sweet:   Mezes

All we needed to pack was our blanket, a tea-towel (in place of napkins, which I forgot) and a plate for serving (not essential, simply for nicer photos) and we were good to go.

FOOD:

SOUVLAKI BAR

78 The Grand Parade, Brighton-Le-Sands

Apart from being very popular at 4am on the way home from a night on the town, souvlaki (or souva) is one of those deliciously simple meals that has been around since ancient times. Seriously – excavations in Greece have unearthed firedogs, which are stone barbecues with receptions for skewers, that date back to the 17th century BC!

So with centuries to hone the souvlaki craft, you’d think it’d be perfected by now?

Correct – and one place that has done so is Souvlaki Bar, a no-frills but popular takeaway joint located on the busy, main strip of Brighton-Le-Sands.

DSC_3687

There are sizzling spindles of meat rotating for the yeeros which may tempt you, but what you’re after is the deliciously warm, and custom-made souvlaki, which are cooked on a flat grill in front of you. There is a choice of chicken or lamb, and they toast the pita bread over the souvlaki, so that it infuses with the delicious smoky flavour from the cooked meat.

DSC_3511

You can choose lettuce, tomato, onion and tabouli as well as a range of accompaniments including hummus and tzatziki. They also finish off each pita with a fresh squeeze of lemon, so that there is a tangy element to cut through the seasoning.

DSC_3521-2

All your choices are laid out on your pita bread before being rolled up securely in greaseproof paper. Then out comes the skewer so that it is ready for eating.

DSC_3523

The souvlaki rolls are smaller than kebab rolls so we got three between the two of us – one with chicken and tzatziki, one with chicken and hummus and one with lamb and hot chilli sauce.

There is limited seating inside Souvlaki Bar and although it has some Greece-style artworks for “ambiance”, we suggest you do takeaway and head across the road, as it is conveniently located directly across from Brighton Beach. Hurry, so that you can enjoy while its hot!

PICNIC:

BRIGHTON-LE-SANDS BEACH

The Grand Parade (opposite Souvlaki Bar)

Here is how we set up our picnic on the grass overlooking Brighton-Le-Sands Beach (or Brighton Beach – I need to confirm this with a local):

DSC_3533

DSC_3567

DSC_3559

I recommend keeping the souvlaki roll in the bag to keep mess under control! Just tear off the paper as you go and tuck in.

Brighton Beach is not a traditional Sydney beach. It’s a little more industrialised as it looks out over Botany Bay and the Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport. But contrary to those with opinions on Sydney beaches, I don’t think this really makes it any less pretty or fun. In fact, I think it makes it more interesting.

DSC_3672

There’s also something quite charming about the Brighton-Le-Sands area. It could be to do with the surrounding 1960s / 1970s apartment complexes which somehow, give me a bit of deja vu and an impression of a simpler time (albeit, a time before I was born, but one I can relate to).

And even though its located on a main and busy strip, the beach area manages to be quiet and peaceful with perfect spots for a picnic amongst the surrounding pine trees.

DSC_3634

We sat and watched the planes come and go which was quite meditative. We imagined what all the people would be doing inside and where they were going and coming from. Apparently plane spotting is a thing, so if you’re a plane spotter, tee it up with a souvlaki picnic here.

After whiling away the afternoon, I got the idea that being a Greek area, there would probably be some good baklava around. Baklava, if I haven’t mentioned, is one of my favourite desserts. I know I talk a lot about favourites, but so you understand the scale, I would say I like baklava better than ice-cream. Which is a huge call. So without knowing where we were going, we ended up finding baklava and something better!

DSC_3756-Edit

Facilities

→  BBQ facilities: Nil

→  Shelter: √

→  Toilets

→  Dogs:  – we had some friendly beagles come up for a pat (they smelled souvlaki).

→  Parking:  – we parked in a side street – the actual road is busy so you may have to do some driving around the back streets. You may be able to get parking in Bayside Plaza.

→  Walking:  – there is a board walk and we spotted lots of walkers and runners – may have to come back for a run!

COFFEE AND A LITTLE SOMETHING SWEET:

MEZES

Shop 36, Bayside Plaza, Corner Grand Parade & Bay Street, Brighton Le Sands

If you studied Greek mythology in high school, you may have come across the story of Tantalus, son of Zeus who was a bit of a glutton. It’s said that Tantalus was invited for dinner with Zeus on Mount Olympus and enjoyed the god’s ambrosia and nectar so much that he stole some to take back and share with his friends, the mere mortals. This enraged Zeus who punished Tantalus by making him stand forever in a still pool of water up to his neck and over his head hung a branch laden with fruit that the wind wafted away whenever he tried to grasp them. And this is where the word “tantalise” comes from.

So there’s a slight possibility that I may be facing some risk of punishment with the Greek secret I am about to disclose (and if you’re Greek, I can’t see this being a secret, so forgive my ignorance).

After searching for baklava and almost giving up, we discovered something else – loukoumades.

Loukoumades (pronounced “loo-koo-MAH-thess”) is a pastry made of deep fried dough soaked in a sugar / honey syrup and sprinkled with nuts and which tastes like love and happiness.

I’m sure these delicious donut-y puffs are old news to some lucky people who grew up with a yia-yia who made these, but it was my first experience and needless to say, I was blown away.

Here they are, along with baklava which we purchased from Mezes, a waterfront Greek restaurant which happily provided extra large serves to go, along with takeaway Lavazza coffee.

DSC_3761

And here’s a close up if you’re not yet salivating:

DSC_3798

Loukoumades also have quite an interesting history. In the ancient Olympic Games, one of the prizes awarded to victorious athletes was “honey tokens” – fried balls of dough covered in honey – and this is considered to be the earliest mention of any kind of pastry in European literature. They are best eaten hot and while still crispy and we enjoyed ours together with the baklava and our coffee. You can thank us later 😉

DSC_3799

Check out the Mezes website for more details.

Final Note

Maybe you noticed, maybe you didn’t, but we’re a little behind schedule on this blog post.

It’s because WE GOT ENGAGED!

Mark surprised me with a proposal on a beautiful Sunday morning during our “ritual” at the place that kicked off The Picnic Press and that will now forever be “our” place – Paddington Reservoir. It’s been such a wonderful wave of excitement and happiness and, to top it off, we are now down to a single-digit countdown for our holiday!

We intend to keep reporting back via The Picnic Press from picnic locations in Rome, the Amalfi Coast, Croatia, Prague, Vienna and Berlin and anywhere else in between. Although we have the best intentions to keep The Picnic Press regularly updated, it will be silly of us to guarantee any real consistency as there is a strong likelihood that we may get carried away exploring and having fun. But we do promise to keep our Facebook page and Instagram account (@thepicnicpress) regularly updated with photos so you can check out where we’ve been!

Arrivederci friends! We look forward to seeing you in Europe!

DSC_3658

DSC_3657

L&M

P.S If you love Mark’s photos, check out his other work at Mark Jay Photography and on Facebook.

Advertisements

THE WATSONS BAY FISH & CHIPS PICNIC

Last weekend, The Picnic Press hosted my gorgeous cousin, Stephanie, who was visiting us from The Netherlands where she has been living it up for the past year with her boyfriend, Corey, who is a bona fide international DJ sensation (DJ name: Code Black). It’s so cool, I can’t even make that up.

Steph has been missing her home-town of Sydney and the weather was smashing so we decided to be tourists in our own city for the day and enjoy what people come to Sydney for. We invited my brother, Adrian, his wife, Kristina (Kiki), and my sister, Nadia to join in.

Here’s how we spent our day:

ITINERARY & MAP

Food:     Doyles on the Wharf Takeaway, Watsons Bay

Picnic:   Robertson Park, Watsons Bay

Coffee & cheeky ice-cream sundae:    Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel, Watsons Bay

 

What could be more ‘Sydney’ than sitting by the harbour fending off seagulls while tucking into fish and chips?

Adding in a ferry ride, that’s what!

Sydney-siders are blessed with one of the most beautiful forms of transport in the world. Yes, you can drive to Watsons Bay but its so much more fun by ferry. You can skip traffic and parking hassles and instead enjoy beautiful views like this one:

Mark_Jay20140524-DSC_3726-Edit

There’s something about travelling by ferry that changes your perspective and makes you feel like you are going on a happy adventure. Besides, you really don’t need a car for this picnic as there is nothing to pack other than your picnic blanket.

Mark_Jay20140524-DSC_3616-Edit

We got on the ferry at Rose Bay which is the last ferry stop before Watsons Bay and a beautiful part of Sydney to wait around for the ferry to arrive. I easily found four hour free parking on New South Head Road, adjacent to the Rose Bay promenade.

Mark_Jay20140524-DSC_3622-Edit

Mark_Jay20140524-DSC_3629-Edit

For us, it was a short but joyous ride with the wind in our hair and smiles on our faces as we soaked up the salty breeze and harbour views from the deck.

Mark_Jay20140524-DSC_3712-Edit

Mark_Jay20140524-DSC_3718-Edit

We arrived conveniently at our next destination – Doyles on the Wharf – which is located as soon as you get off the ferry.

Ferries operate from Circular Quay to Watsons Bay between 10am and 3pm weekdays and between 9am and 6:30pm weekends and public holidays. Check the timetable to be safe. If you want to stretch out the tourist and/or ferry experience, get on at Circular Quay. 

 

FOOD:

DOYLES ON THE WHARF TAKEAWAY

Fishermans Wharf – Marine Parade, Watsons Bay

If we’re talking Watsons Bay and fish and chips, we’re talking Doyles.

Doyles is a Sydney institution owned and operated by the same family for over five generations since 1885 (!) which makes it Australia’s oldest seafood restaurant. You can therefore be assured they know all things seafood.

Mark_Jay20140524-DSC_3788-Edit

The menu has a great mix of grilled and battered options as well as fresh seafood packs and oysters, so you can go as light or as filling as you like.

Mark_Jay20140524-DSC_3782-Edit

Mark_Jay20140524-DSC_3780-Edit

Mark_Jay20140524-DSC_3769-Edit

Mark_Jay20140524-DSC_3776-Edit

Mark_Jay20140524-DSC_3952-Edit

Mark_Jay20140524-DSC_3975-Edit

I’m not generally a fan of batter so I ordered the grilled barramundi pack, but I managed to distract Kiki (cue point in opposite direction with loud, “What is THAT?!”) to pinch one of her calamari rings. The batter was light, crisp, and delicious and not at all ‘gloopy’, which is how I usually describe battered stuff. Next time, I will definitely be ordering the calamari as well!

The tartare sauce that came with my fish had the perfect balance of sweet and sharp and a nice lemony zing.

Oh and the oysters? Well, they were as amazing and fresh as they looked!

Mark_Jay20140524-DSC_3983-Edit

If you’re after a more upmarket experience sans picnic blanket, you can head to the restaurant, Doyles on the Beach, which is just opposite Doyles on the Wharf. See the Doyles website for more information. Thanks to Doyles on the Wharf who supplied our delicious lunch!

 

PICNIC:

ROBERTSON PARK, WATSONS BAY

Marine Parade, Watsons Bay and just opposite Doyles on the Wharf!

Robertson Park in Watsons Bay has been a popular spot for picnickers since the land was handed over to the public in 1906. I’ve done my research and according to the 1910 Tourist Guide to Watsons Bay and Vaucluse, it was named an ‘agreeable resting place for visitors’, and yes, I have to, well, agree.

Why jostle for a table at a crowded cafe when you can have perfect, uninterrupted views of the Harbour on your own picnic blanket?! We set ours up under a beautiful old fig tree with leaves that gently rustled with the breeze as we settled in to enjoy our fish and chips.

Mark_Jay20140524-DSC_3998-Edit

Mark_Jay20140524-DSC_4017-Edit

It was so good that there was nothing left for the seagulls.

Mark_Jay20140524-DSC_4007-Edit

After lunch, we took a stroll past lines of boats, feeling like we were somewhere far, far away. Proof that doing something ‘touristy’ in your own city will give you that magical holiday feeling.

Mark_Jay20140524-DSC_4088-Edit

Robertson Park has all the facilities you expect – toilets, children’s playground, park benches and tables – and some you don’t expect – a rotunda and ferry access. See the Woollahra Council website for more details.  

 

COFFEE & A CHEEKY ICE-CREAM SUNDAE:

WATSONS BAY BOUTIQUE HOTEL

1 Military Road, Watsons Bay

I know we have so far specialised in delicious takeaway coffee enjoyed via our picnic blanket, but sometimes opportunities come up in life that you don’t plan for and that you cannot say no to. This was one of them.

As we strolled past the Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel, a glamorous watering hole perfect for watching the sunset over a beer, our eagle (or seagull) eye spotted someone from afar eating an ice-cream sundae.

We headed inside and noticed the Hotel also did Toby’s Estate coffee (tick √) and so placed an order.

Mark_Jay20140524-DSC_4204-Edit

And while we waited, we investigated the menu and realised the sundae was no ordinary sundae – it was a chocolate fudge brownie sundae with salted caramel ice-cream and candied walnuts. Yeah, like we could say no to that!

Mark_Jay20140524-DSC_4230-Edit

Our only disappointment was the size of the spoon provided – the way the sundae glass is shaped meant we couldn’t completely get to the bottom and it was too good to leave even just a little bit behind.

Mark_Jay20140524-DSC_4237-Edit

Check out the Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel website here. You can also get takeaway coffee to enjoy on your picnic if your sundae willpower is stronger than ours!

Other things to do in Watsons Bay:

→  Go for a walk: Check out The Gap – an ocean cliff on the eastern side, which has views to Manly and the Pacific Ocean, as well as Hornby Lighthouse for great views.

→  Go for a swim: In summer, bring your swimmers for a nearby dip in Camp Cove. If you forget your swimmers or are simply more daring, then head to Lady Bay Beach (a legal nudist beach).

A final reflection

The other night, I had to go to Westfields to pick up a birthday present. Whilst I was there, I thought I might check out new season knitwear and four hours passed without me even noticing. Four hours. I heard the 15 minute closing announcement in David Jones and thought, “How the bleep did that happen?!” Time had simply evaporated as I unconsciously wandered without purpose or reason. I left with the frustration that I had spent almost a quarter of my day in a vegetative retail state.

On the other hand, what Mark and I have been noticing from our picnic escapades is how ‘full’ our time picnicking feels. This Watsons Bay adventure took the same amount of time as my shopping blackout period but there was so much more ‘bang for buck’, so to speak.

We laughed…

Mark_Jay20140524-DSC_4066-Edit

Mark_Jay20140524-DSC_4165-Edit

Mark_Jay20140524-DSC_4147-Edit

We connected…

Mark_Jay20140524-DSC_3932-Edit

We loved…

Mark_Jay20140524-DSC_4180-Edit

Mark_Jay20140524-DSC_4314-Edit

And we lived.

L&M

Coming up on The Picnic Press: If you’re a dog lover, you will love what we have in store for you next week, plus we share our first recipe!

P.S If you enjoyed these photos, check out Mark’s professional work at Mark Jay Photography and on Facebook.

THE FRESHWATER PANINI PICNIC

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

 

FOOD:

PILU KIOSK

 End 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.

DSC_3330-Edit

DSC_3365-Edit

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.

DSC_3272-Edit

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.

DSC_3277-Edit

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.

COFFEE:


PILU KIOSK

End 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.

DSC_3380-Edit

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.

DSC_3393-Edit

DSC_3397-Edit

PICNIC:

FRESHWATER RESERVE

End 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.

DSC_3465-Edit

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.

DSC_3326-Edit

Being friends for over 25 years means we now look a bit same-sies

DSC_3426-Edit

I’m pretty sure Kyles is laughing because Sienna called me a “hippomapotamus” when I asked her what kind of animal I am. Don’t you just love honesty?

DSC_3316-Edit

DSC_3289-Edit

Ashie rocks the ‘nonna socks’

DSC_3299-Edit

DSC_3311-Edit

That hair! Love!!

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!

DSC_3413-Edit

Facilities

→  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!

DSC_3493-Edit

Untitled_Panorama3-Edit

See you next week!

L&M

P.S If you love Mark’s photos, check out his other work at Mark Jay Photography and on Facebook.