THE HYDE PARK LUNCH BREAK PICNIC

Do you stop for lunch?

I have to admit, I am someone who frequently takes my lunch break at my desk in front of my computer. I multitask eating with responding to emails, paying bills or doing other personal admin tasks (and, if I’m honest, that turns into watching YouTube delights like tiny hamsters eating tiny burritos!!). It’s all under the guise of trying to be “productive” and get s#*t done, but how productive is it really?

Research conducted by ING Direct last year found that I am not alone. Working Aussies are increasingly eating lunch at their desks.

This is contrary to advice from professionals that have found it’s absolutely beneficial to take a lunch break. In fact, it’s a proven way to increase productivity and help sustain energy levels and focus into the afternoon. It’s also adds balance to the day to counter stress. If you’re one of those people who says, “I’m too busy to stop for lunch”, google “benefits of a lunch break” for some science behind why you need to step away from the desk.

With that in mind, we decided to swap stale air-conditioning for fresh air and fluorescent light for sunshine on our next lunch break and enjoy some time out in the park instead.

There are some added benefits to this lunch break picnic strategy: Sunshine tops up vitamin D levels, necessary for maintaining bone health and wards against disease, and also, it generally makes you feel happy. In addition, exposure to green environments, like parks, has been proven to improve health, increase wellbeing, and reduce stress. (You can read about it here).

Ergo, the Hyde Park Lunch Break Picnic. A wellbeing all-rounder.

Here’s our itinerary:

ITINERARY & MAP

Food:     David Jones Foodhall, Market Street

Coffee:   Metro St James, Elizabeth Street

Picnic:   Hyde Park, Elizabeth Street

FOOD:

DAVID JONES FOODHALL

65-77 Market Street, Sydney

David Jones Foodhall is a gourmet emporium located under the DJ’s mens section on Market Street.

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The Foodhall showcases fresh produce and finest food from Australia and around the world. It has a wine bar, oyster bar, panini bar, cheese and antipasto bar, noodle bar, grill bar, sushi bar, espresso bar and juice bar. It’s un-bar-lievable! 🙂

If you’re looking for a healthy and delicious lunch, there is an abundant range of gorgeous and enticing salads on offer:

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Plus, you can pick up some fresh fruit for an afternoon snack:

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For our Hyde Park Lunch Break Picnic, we couldn’t go past the fresh Vietnamese satay chicken & young coconut rice paper rolls and Peking duck pancakes from the cutely decorated MissChu mini-tuckshop, famous for its Vietnamese takeaway.

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As you can see from the bag below, MissChu is described as “Queen of Rice Paper Rolls”, and I’d have to agree. The rolls are fresh and tasty and came with a lovely spicy dipping sauce to complement the satay flavour. Oh, and the Peking duck pancakes? Yes, my only complaint was that we should have ordered more!

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Because we’re all for raising our endorphins today, we also got a small treat to go with the coffee we planned to order.

In my first full time job as a sprightly 21 year old, I worked in a building close to DJs. I learnt a lot in that job, including that David Jones Foodhall makes the best chocolate covered fruit. Ever.

There’s a huge range of all kinds of delicious fruit lavishly dipped in milk, dark or white chocolate including strawberries, figs, bananas and dates.

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I know we are trying to be a bit healthier on our lunch break, but it’s still fruit, right? We deliberated a while before deciding on dipped strawberries in milk chocolate with crushed pistachio nuts, dipped strawberries in dark chocolate and slivered almonds and a chocolate covered fig.

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You will see the huge range of chocolate covered stuff as soon as you enter from the stairs on Market Street. I dare you to resist these on your way out.

The other great thing about the Foodhall is that you can also pick up items for dinner, should you need to, so it saves you time running around after work. There is a range of take home items, like fresh pasta, and prepared meals, as well as fresh veggies, meat and fish. It’s multitasking at its finest!

For more details, see the David Jones Foodhall website here.

COFFEE:

METRO ST JAMES

110 Elizabeth Street Sydney (just behind St James station)
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Metro St James has been described as a “Parisian bistro meets New York cafe”, due to its French influence and location just behind St James train station. It’s situated in an elegant sandstone building which has maximised its pretty outlook over the leafy Hyde Park and St Mary’s Cathedral.

I first heard of this cafe when they ran a promotion last year where you could pay for your coffee with a kiss. The kiss had to be real, staff weren’t involved and it was all designed to promote love. How very French! The promotion is no longer running, but the coffee will warm your heart nonetheless. Merci, Metro St James xx.

PICNIC:

HYDE PARK

Elizabeth Street (near Market Street), Sydney

Hyde Park is Australia’s oldest park and a tranquil setting in the middle of Sydney’s CBD. It’s a popular escape for office workers who want some fresh air or a quick siesta under the huge, leafy trees.

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Park Street splits Hyde Park in half and the two sections are officially referred to as Hyde Park North and Hyde Park South. We picnicked in Hyde Park North this time, as it’s within easy distance of the David Jones Foodhall and Metro St James.

There are several monuments that stand guard in Hyde Park North, the most notable of which is the Archibald Fountain, with its commanding bronze Apollo.

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The fountain is in an ideal location to enjoy some of Sydney’s tourist sites. To the left of the fountain, you have a view of the Sydney Tower (or Centerpoint Tower), which is the tallest building in Sydney.

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To the right of the fountain, you overlook St Mary’s Cathedral, an English-style gothic church and one of Sydney’s most treasured historic buildings offering a unique space of solace and prayer within the bustling city.

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Some of the beautiful gardens within Hyde Park

We set up our picnic so that we could fully appreciate the view on each side.

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Taking an important call from the “Editor in Chief” – aka my mum 🙂

Our MissChu rice paper rolls and Peking duck pancakes were delicious and just enough so that we felt satisfied but not sluggish.

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The David Jones Foodhall chocolate covered strawberries were absolutely necessary and completely worth it.

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As soon as we found our spot on the grass in Hyde Park, we already felt more relaxed and refreshed.

We watched kids shriek with delight and chase giant bubbles made by a busker.

We saw people going about their business and realised the world doesn’t really revolve around us today.

We had real and genuine interaction with laughs and hugs instead of sending smiley faces and “xox’s” via email.

We felt our senses awaken by inhaling the crisp air and feeling the sunshine warm our backs.

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We left feeling happier and more human and ready to take on the rest of the day.

Facilities

→  ToiletsPublic toilets are available.

→  Parking / Transport: There is parking in the Domain Car Park, but we suggest leaving the car at home and making use of the train as Museum and St James train stations are beneath the park. Bus services are also available, as the park is bordered by several major roads.

→  Bike: You can’t really do any hard core cycling in the park, so bike parking is available.

→  Dogs: There aren’t any off-leash areas, but I saw a few dogs being walked on a lead.

See the City of Sydney website here for more details.

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See how fun getting out on your lunch break can be? We spotted these people dancing!

Final note

As someone who has worked long hours, I understand that taking a lunch break can feel a bit self-indulgent when you have deadlines pressing, clients chasing you, or a huge task to complete. A lunch break picnic may not be feasible or realistic every day. At the very least, get outside for 15 minutes to get some air and re-centre.

If you’re normally desk-bound or running about doing personal errands, try once a week (at least) to lock in some quality time for a lunch break that you will actually enjoy – not some half hearted attempt at your desk or on the run, which ends up being counterproductive.

A lunch break picnic is a more fulfilling option and the fresh air and sunshine will stand you in good stead to face the rest of the afternoon. It’s also far less stressful than claiming a sticky table at a bustling and overcrowded food court. Time seems to move slower too, so even 30 minutes of actual rest will feel longer than an hour of running around or online shopping ‘al-desko’.

Invite your colleague, friend or partner along, or if you need some time out, take a good, fun book or magazine and some nice, deep breaths.

We’d love to hear if a lunch break picnic makes a difference to your day. Are you more focused? Less stressed? More productive? Happier? Please also tag us on your Instagram pics, and we’ll share with our community: @thepicnicpress #thepicnicpress.

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Next week on The Picnic Press: We set up our picnic blanket in the beautiful town of Berry, on the NSW South Coast.

See you then! Now back to work…

L&M

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

 

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THE CENTENNIAL PARK SAUSAGE VS. SAUSAGE DOG PICNIC

I’m going to put it out there.

I am a dog lover.

Sorry cat lovers. I do tolerate cats but ever since I tried to introduce one to my dog when I was 7 (yes, not the smartest idea), I haven’t felt completely comfortable around any animal with the propensity and desire to claw at my face. I make exceptions for my dear furry cat-friends, Roger, Ziggy, and Sarah Socks, but otherwise, cats and I unfortunately got off on the wrong foot.

Dogs however steal my heart, hands down. I am one of those people who will pat dogs I see waiting for their owners outside cafés. I love nothing more than cuddling up on the couch with Gina (our family dog). I have googled, “How to become a dog walker”.

I would own a dog but for the fact that I don’t live in a pet-friendly apartment. Boo!

So when my lovely friend Shani mentioned to me that she was going to an event in Centennial Park called “Dachshunds in the Park” with her boyfriend Kieren and their gorgeous dogs, Coco and Taco, I invited myself and Mark along and we came up with the genius idea of a “Sausage vs. Sausage Dog Picnic“*.

*No sausage dogs were harmed in the making of this picnic.

Here’s what we did:

ITINERARY & MAP

Food:     Victor Churchill, Woollahra

Event:    “Dachshunds in the Park”, Centennial Park

Picnic:   A quaint spot near Musgrave Avenue, Centennial Park

Coffee:   Centennial Park Kiosk, Centennial Park

Let’s go!

FOOD:

VICTOR CHURCHILL

 132 Queen Street, Woollahra

If you’re after swanky sausages (yes, there is such a thing), Victor Churchill is your place.

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Victor Churchill has maintained its location as a butchery in the leafy suburb of Woollahra in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs since 1876 (!). It is now in the hands of father and son team, Vic and Anthony Puharich, the duo behind Vic’s Premium Quality Meat. Shall we go inside?

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The door handle is modelled on a link of sausages and I was pleased to see this theme continued to the draw handles at the work bench where they wrap up your produce.

As you will see, the store is a work of art. Literally. It won the 2010 International Interior Design Award for retail stores and the window display when we visited had been commissioned by an artist and featured beautiful and intricate copper and brass autumn leaves which framed a huge cut of meat.

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It is unfitting to describe Victor Churchill as a “butchery” in the traditional sense as it is the antithesis of your ordinary butcher shop with plastic door curtain, abrupt fluorescent lighting and astro turf grass display. Rather, Victor Churchill is a high-end meat boutique. It’s what you get if you crossed a butchery with a Louis Vuitton store (as it is oft described).

There is a glass-walled meat ageing room where specialty cuts of meat slowly travel along a cog gear and metal chain rack, infusing with the flavour of the Himalayan rock salt brick wall. You can also watch expert butchers deftly preparing meat behind floor-to-ceiling glass, as if it were theatre.

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You can find all cuts and types of meat, house-made charcuterie, rotisserie chicken, and also salts, oils, French butter, duck fat, terrines…

My Djedo (grandfather) used to have his own smoke house and make this. I wish I loved prosciutto back then as much as I do now 😦

…and freshly baked bread and pastries

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For our picnic, we ordered a selection of the house made sausages:  Lamb Merguez, Pork Apple & Cider and Pork Italian.

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They were carefully wrapped up and packaged in a beautiful bag, equivalent to a designer shopping bag, and a fitting end to the Victor Churchill experience.

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Note that if you stop into Victor Churchill between Monday and Saturday, you can purchase freshly cooked gourmet sausage rolls and hot dogs, so save yourself the cooking time and simply pick one up on your way to Centennial Park!

Check out the Victor Churchill website for more details. 

 

EVENT:


“DACHSHUNDS IN THE PARK”, CENTENNIAL PARK

Federation Valley, near Loch Avenue, Centennial Park

From Victor Churchill, it is an easy drive or walk over to the beautiful Centennial Park, for our next stop, the “Dachshunds in the Park” event.

Firstly, a bit about Centennial Park as it has quite an interesting history. It opened on the first centenary, 26 January 1888, and at the opening, Sir Henry Parkes gave a rousing speech and said:

“It is emphatically the people’s park and you must always take as much interest in it as if by your own hands you had planted the flowers; and if you take this interest in it, and if you thus rise to the full appreciation of its great beauty, and your great privileges, the park will be one of the grandest adornments of this beautiful country”.

Truer words have not been spoken and you will fully appreciate the great beauty of Centennial Park when you come across views like this one:

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Here’s a bit of trivia: Did you know Centennial Park was also where they proclaimed the Federal Constitution of Australia on 1 January 1901?  Apparently, 250,000 people (I’m guessing all of Sydney at the time) gathered in Centennial Park to celebrate the joining of six formerly independent colonies as one Commonwealth of Australia. The highlight of the festivities was a ceremony which took place in what is now known as Federation Valley, which has rising slopes that afforded the crowd and members of the press good views.

Federation Valley is now an off-leash dog area and the meeting point for the “Dachshunds in the Park” event, created by a dedicated group of dachshund lovers who meet around 10:30am on the last Sunday of every month.

I once read in awe about the popularity of “cat cafes” in Tokyo, where people who do not have the space for a pet can pay to spend time patting cats. For me, the “Dachshunds in the Park” event was kind of like that, but less creepy as it was consensual and all doggy cuddles were given to me out of free will. All I needed to do was sit on the grass and wait for gorgeous little dachshunds to jump in my lap, like this one:

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Here are some friends I made:

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We nicknamed the dapper dachshund in the bow-tie, “Lord Nelson”, but we’re sure he might have a cooler name. Please let us know what it is!

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I believe this pretty girl was named “Bettina”

It was funny to watch the confidence of the dachshunds en masse. They definitely have a pack mentality and worked together to drive away other breeds that dared to gatecrash their party. This little guy was brave enough to sneak through – look how happy we are!

If you have a dachshund, sign up to the “Dachshunds in the Park” group on Facebook to stay up to date on events. Below is a map of the Federation Valley off-leash area which you may want to visit at other times if you’re ever in need of a quick dog cuddle – just try to act normal, and if anyone asks, pretend one of the dogs is yours:

 

PICNIC:

CENTENNIAL PARK

Near Musgrave Avenue BBQ area, Centennial Park

We found a really quaint picnic spot just off Musgrave Avenue and in close proximity to the BBQ area and bathrooms. It was also in walking distance of Federation Valley.

Time to meet our friends, Coco and Taco:

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Coco (pink collar) and Taco (blue collar) are best buddies and as you can see, they are super, super cute. They both have their own distinct personalities. Coco can be described as a princess with a diva attitude. She is a bit aloof around strangers and standoffish to the other dogs, but deep down behind that ‘mean girl’ exterior is a very sweet girl just looking for some attention.

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Taco, on the other hand, is a friendly, laid back and chilled dude (surprisingly, a bit like his owner, Kieren). He’s the counterbalance to Coco and the two are inseparable. Even with all the other dachshunds around at the “Dachshunds in the Park” event, they didn’t want to leave each other out and stuck together, like all BFFs do.

We set up our picnic rug and Mark got to cooking up the sausages on the BBQ nearby. I sliced up our baguette and we filled these with our sausages and “Sataraš”, the Croatian equivalent of tomato relish, made with tomato, onion and capsicum (get the recipe here).

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Our Victor Churchill sausages were juicy and flavourful. Combined with the Sataraš and our crispy baguette, it made for a delicious and satisfying lunch.

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Thanks to Shani, Kieren, Coco and Taco for joining The Picnic Press. We had so much fun!

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Facilities

→  Parking: There is plenty of parking within Centennial Park and its free.

→  BBQs: There are free BBQ sites in Centennial Park which operate on a first-in basis. BBQs are located in picnic areas near Model Yacht Road, Musgrave Avenue (where we went), Ash Paddock, Learner’s Cycleway, Paperbark Grove and adjacent to the playground near Paddington Gates. Don’t forget to be considerate and clean the hotplate after use. You can also bring your own portable BBQs with legs (provided there are no total fire bans in operation). You cannot use BBQs that sit on the grass and it goes without saying that you must not dump hot coals or any other rubbish.

→  Toilets: The public toilets are actually, well, nice. In fact, a respected UK design firm voted them one of the top 10 amenities in the world. Yeah, tweet that.

→  Reserved picnic spots: You can reserve picnic sites for large groups on payment of a fee – see the Picnics bookings page for more details. Note, you cannot reserve BBQ areas.

→  Playground: There are a couple of playgrounds for kids at Paddington Gates and near the Centennial Park Kiosk, our next stop.

→  Bicycle hire: Centennial Park is very popular with cyclists who like to tear through the inner loop. There is a good area for kids called Learners Cycleway with an off-road bike track, so that they are not exposed to cars or other cyclists. You can hire bicycles from Centennial Park Cycles, 7 days. There’s also some pedal cars for a fun experience.

→  Horse riding: You can ride horses in Centennial Park and there are pony rides available for kids on the weekends.

→  Dog-grooming: Get this, Centennial Park has its own dog grooming service, available 7 days. See details here. Handy!

→  Alcohol: Alcohol is permitted within most of Centennial Park, but there may be declared alcohol-free zones, so take note of any signs near your picnic spot.

Check out the Centennial Parklands website for more details about Centennial Park, including upcoming events and activities!

 

COFFEE:

CENTENNIAL PARK KIOSK

Corner Grand Drive and Parkes Drive, Centennial Park

The Centennial Park Kiosk is in the middle of Centennial Park and a great spot to grab a coffee or tea to recharge.

The Kiosk serves light meals and takeaway treats, including brownies (that I barely resisted) and some healthier snacks as well, such as muesli bars, fruit, and popcorn.

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If you want to take a seat at the Kiosk, it’s in a pretty, shaded spot (just behind me, below). Keeping with the picnic theme, we took our coffee and enjoyed it on our blanket on the grass in the sun. Ah, bliss!

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BONUS:

CHECKLIST

Here is a bonus this week – our list of packing essentials! As this picnic involved some cooking, we needed to prepare ahead and pack a little extra this time. The below list may be handy as a checklist for your next BBQ picnic!

The Picnic Press essentials:

♦   Picnic blanket

♦   Plates

♦   Napkins / paper towel

♦   Drinks (with optional lemon and mint garnish)

♦   BBQ scraper

   BBQ tongs

♦   Cooking oil

♦   Salt (to clean the BBQ)

♦   Hand sanitiser (a good idea around dogs, and great for cleaning sticky hands)

♦   Lunchbox / container with lid to easily transport cooked sausages and keep warm

♦   Home made Sataraš (click here for the recipe!)

AND if you’re planning to visit Centennial Park, make sure you bring your best friend!

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 Coming to The Picnic Press: Next week, we reveal where to find delicious food and a gorgeous spot to visit in South West Sydney!

Your Suggestions: We’re on the hunt for a great picnic spot in South Sydney (e.g. Cronulla, Sans Souci, Brighton Le Sands, Dolls Point, etc…). Where is your favourite place for good takeaway, coffee and a picnic in South Sydney?

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.

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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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…

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We connected…

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We loved…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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?

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Ashie rocks the ‘nonna socks’

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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!

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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!

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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.

GET ME TO ORANGE

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.

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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.

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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

FOOD:

THE OLD MILL CAFE

 12 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. 


COFFEE:

BYNG STREET LOCAL STORE

47 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.

PICNIC:

COOK PARK

Corner of Summer and Clinton Streets, Orange

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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.

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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!

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You can tell I’ve paid attention to Mark’s wedding shoots – this pose is a bit bridal…

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:

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All that’s left to do now is relax, indulge, and enjoy.

It really is food for the soul.

  Facilities

→  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.

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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 shoppingThe 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.

One final tip – look into coinciding a visit with Orange FOOD Week or Orange Wine Week – or both!

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And, don’t forget to pack your picnic blanket!

L&M

P.S If you like Mark’s photos, check out his professional page – Mark Jay Photography and on Facebook.

THE PADDINGTON BRUNCH PICNIC

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
  • Knife
  • Wooden chopping board
  • Napkins
  • 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!

FOOD:

EVELEIGH MARKET

 245 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.

The Saturday morning hustle

So much choice!

Multi-tasking Saturday grocery shopping with our brunch picnic date. See, efficient!

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!

It’s a good idea to bring a spare bag for your goodies!

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.

Yes, that’s me making a beeline for Sonoma

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.

“Eat me! Eat me!” they said

Sonoma croissants – the best in Sydney!

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!

Mark chose kale over flowers. What a romantic!

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.

Getting there

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.

COFFEE:

CRATE BAR & PIZZA

393 Oxford Street, Paddington

So we’ve chosen this cute little coffee spot as:

  1. It’s within easy walking distance of the Paddington Reservoir Garden; and
  2. They brew Campos (hoorah).

Love our Campos!

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.

PICNIC:

PADDINGTON RESERVOIR

Corner 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.

 Facilities

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.

Getting there

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.

FINAL SUGGESTION

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.

L&M

P.S. If you like Mark’s photos, check out his professional page, Mark Jay Photography and on Facebook, for more!