If you read the title with an eyebrow raised, I’m sure you have gathered that this picnic is not one for the faint hearted.

There’s no denying it: This is pure, unashamed indulgence.

So do some exercise, prepare a salad, pack your picnic blanket and meet us in Carramar.

Carramar is quiet little suburb nestled between Fairfield, Cabramatta, Villawood and Lansdowne in Sydney’s South West. It’s name comes from an Aboriginal word meaning “shade of trees”. How picnic appropriate, right?

Apart from being home to one of the last Sizzler restaurants in Sydney, Carramar is our number one location for getting the best takeaway pork belly. Yes that’s right – if you want deliciously tender, lovingly roasted pork belly topped with ‘too good to be true’ crispy crackling, then this is your place.

Our day was threatening rain but ever determined, we bundled up my cousin, Anita, her husband, David, and their gorgeous girl, miss Sophia (Pia) and when the sky cleared, we made our way to nearby Lake Gillawarna to enjoy a picnic.

So, what of the ice-cream? Well, I had heard about a great gelateria which had won a heap of awards and was conveniently also in Carramar so despite the cold weather and beanie attire, it made perfect sense to head there for a post-picnic dessert.

Here’s our itinerary:


Food:     Pronto Smallgoods & Butchery, Carramar

Picnic:   Lake Gillawarna, Georges Hall

Gelato:   Art of Gelato Michelangelo, Carramar



7 Quest Avenue, Carramar 

Pronto Smallgoods & Butchery is one of those unsuspecting places in an unsuspecting suburban street in Carramar, that just so happens to make the best takeaway roasted pork belly in Sydney. Pinkie promise.

Whenever we have a family party or occasion, my mum will order a tray of pork belly from Pronto and it’s always a hit. So if you’re planning a feast, this is one thing you should put on the menu.

To me, “the best pork belly” must meet three key tests:

1) it must have crispy pork skin – ideally, so crackly that you can hear it!

2) the meat must be tender and juicy and not too fatty or dry; and

3) it must have the perfect salt balance – not too little, not too much.

Although these sound like fairly simple requirements, it’s not often that you score the trifecta.

That’s unless you go to Pronto. They are the masters of roast pork belly.

When you walk in to Pronto, you immediately catch the comforting scent of the traditionally smoked and hanging smallgoods – a smell which takes me back to my Djedo’s (grandfather’s) old backyard smokehouse. It’s no-frills and homely.


There’s a good range of continental groceries…


Tip: pick up some Ajvar to go with your pork – it is a delicious Balkan relish made from roasted capsicum and garlic.


… and then your eye travels to the succulent rows of expertly roasted pork belly.




The pork belly is roasted whole and then taken out the back where it is neatly sliced up for you to take with you. As a guide, I was told one kilo will generously feed about 4 people. We’re all pretty good eaters, but we had some to spare which was great the next day heated in the oven until crisp and served for lunch.

Here is how it looks on our picnic:


And, more importantly, how did it taste?

Like satisfaction.

Warning: The pork belly at Pronto will normally sell out on weekends so get there early. It’s also best to order in advance if you have a party or occasion. For more details, see the Pronto website here. Thanks to Pronto Smallgoods & Butchery for suppling us with pork belly for our picnic. 



Off Henry Lawson Drive, Georges Hall

Lake Gillawarna is part of the Mirambeena Regional Park within the suburb of Georges Hall and a stones throw from Carramar. As the name suggests, there is a lake in the centre, which you can follow around the surrounding walking tracks.

There’s plenty of ducks and even some swans, so it’s a hit with the little ones.

Here is my darling miss Sophia saying hello to the wildlife while we set up:


And, look how excited she is to join our picnic!



We set up our picnic with our packed salads and tucked into our still-warm and delicious pork belly.


Picnic Tip – Mason jars are incredibly practical for a picnic salad. You don’t need to bring all the salad serving-ware and the jars  screw tight when you’re done so that all the leftovers and dressing are neatly contained for you to clean up later. Add your dressing just before serving, close the lid and shake and you’re good to go. If you really don’t want to deal with messy plates, just eat from the jar and have napkins on standby for your pork belly. Too simple!

The flavours of our Asian-inspired Crunchy Cabbage Salad went especially well with the pork as did the apple sauce we so cleverly thought to pack prior. Click here for our salad recipe.

So even though it was a bit chilly and the sky a bit grey, it actually went perfectly with our warm and hearty meal and made it that much more satisfying.

There are some other advantages to a winter picnic too:

1) Daddy Daughter beanies are super cute:


2) Tickle torture is completely necessary to stay warm:



3) As is flying a tiny human plane:


4) And best of all, huddling and cuddling becomes completely mandatory:



Plus, you’ll burn more energy keeping warm which means pork belly and ice-cream are totally justified!

So don’t let winter keep you away from your picnic or cooped up indoors. Australia has such a temperate climate so unless its snowing, raining or there are gale force winds, you can still get out there and enjoy the fresh air and natural beauty of the great outdoors.


→  BBQ facilities: √

→  Shelter: √

→  Toilets

→  Dogs:  – dogs were spotted on a lead

→  Parking:  – parking is easy and there are allocated spots at the entrance.

→  Walking:  – there is a great walking track around the lake.



30 The Horsely Drive, Carramar

Anita and I were lucky enough to share a Djedo (grandfather) with a huge fondness for ice-cream. This meant our grandparents always had one of those chocolate-strawberry-vanilla Neopolitan ice-creams in their freezer for Djedo’s cravings. Not terribly sophisticated, but we loved it all the same.

Ice-cream / gelato has come a long way since we were kids and there are now so many amazing gelaterias out there selling delicious gourmet flavours.

I wish Djedo was still around so that we could take him to Art of Gelato Michelangelo. He would have loved it.



At Art of Gelato Michelangelo you will find traditionally made gelato, gelato cakes, Italian sweets and Lavazza coffee.

The owner, Martino Piccolo has been in the game for over 25 years and recently beat the Europeans at their own game at the Gelato World Cup in Italy, where he won one of the top honours based on a “mystery box” challenge. The winning creation is now sold in store and is made from Loacker biscuits, which are a crunchy Italian chocolate hazelnut treat.

All flavours at Art of Gelato Michelangelo are created from scratch in-house and there is a full wall adorned with awards that have been won.


Here you will find some creative and unusual artisan blends including a new “flavour of the week”, every week, where they get inventive. When we visited, the flavour was ‘Mango & Green Tea’ – which was delicious – and more recently, they have concocted ‘The Socceroos’ – a green pandan sponge cake mixed into a lemon cream and custard gelato and ‘Candy Mountain’ – creaming soda sorbet with vanilla gelato, speckled with candy and served with pop-rocks.

If you can’t decide on just one flavour, you can get a Coppa Venezia decorated cup which has 15 flavours (!) for $30. If you’re ambitious but not that ambitious, there’s also an eat in cup for 2 with 5 flavours for $12.

Sophia was first to choose and happily went for the Nutella flavoured gelato:



I took a bit longer and tried as many flavours as was polite before it became a tie between the ‘Australian Jewels’ – a blend of vanilla creme, macadamia nuts and toffee and the ‘Salted Caramel & Peanut Brittle’ which was a-ma-zing and, dare I say it, better than the Messina Salted Caramel.


As usual, Mark ordered the Hazelnut knowing full well that I will steal some from him. He is such a good sharer.

And here is a close-up if you’re not already drooling with excitement:


If you feel like ice-cream alfresco and on your picnic blanket, you can purchase a takeaway tub to go from the huge range at the same time you pick up your pork belly from Pronto – they can wrap up the tub in layers of paper to keep it frozen and I was told it will take about 45 minutes until it starts to melt – perfect timing to eat pork belly and then have dessert.



 Your only difficulty will be selecting the flavour – Good luck!

Check out the Art of Gelato Michelangelo website for more details and the Art of Gelato Michelangelo Facebook page to find out the flavour of the week!

Final Note

Although picnics are generally seen as a ‘summer’ activity there is no need to abandon picnics in the winter months. In Australia, we really have no excuse – it rarely snows and our winter days are generally sunny and fresh, rather than freezing.

Getting outdoors and enjoying a picnic in winter is a breeze.

All you need is an adventurous spirit, some extra layers, a comforting dish and your favourite people to warm your heart like no other way.

Thanks to Anita, David and Pia for joining The Picnic Press!


Next week on The Picnic Press: We finally head South of the CBD for Souvlaki and my latest dessert love – Loukoumades!


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



If you read the subject line and thought, “What’s an Abbotsbury?” then I encourage you to read on. (Hint: It’s a place…in Sydney).

When I was at uni and subsequently working in the Sydney CBD, I was surprised to meet many adventurous people who had lived in Sydney their entire lives and who had never ventured to South West Sydney.

There’s a whole world out there, people!

From European to Asian, to Middle Eastern to South American, South West Sydney is one of the most culturally diverse areas in all of Australia. The delightful upshot of this is that it’s a region with many beautiful and authentic cuisines to be experienced and enjoyed. It’s where people learn to cook traditional, cultural delicacies by osmosis from their mothers, fathers, and grandparents, rather than from a cooking show or recipe book.

What that means is that you can find seriously delicious food in Sydney’s South West. You know, the kind of food that doesn’t rely on hype or fussy presentation or fancy decor or price to justify its worth. The kind of food that is just good, honest, enjoyable food.

For our first Western Sydney edition, we explored three neighbouring suburbs in the City of Fairfield in South West Sydney, starting with Edensor Park (for food), via Bonnyrigg (for coffee), and to Abbotsbury (for our picnic). This little pocket of suburbs has a particularly dominant Italian community which is apparent from the abundant range of delicatessens and continental grocery stores in the area. In fact, in Abbotsbury, the 2011 Census found that 22.5% of its residents recorded their ancestry as Italian. That’s almost one quarter!

In honour of this, we decided on an Italian ‘antipasto-style’ lunch picnic.

Here’s our itinerary:


Food:     Fred’s One Stop Shopping, Edensor Park

Coffee:   Cafe Harvest, Bonnyrigg Garden Centre, Bonnyrigg

Picnic:   “The Dairy” at Western Sydney Regional Park, Abbotsbury



 661-671 Smithfield Road, Edensor Park 

Fred’s One Stop Shopping, or just “Fred’s” as it is known to the locals, is part of a family owned and run fruit and vegetable empire that was established in Western Sydney in the early 1960s. It’s one of the best in the area for fresh fruit and veggies and to prove the point, in 2014, Fred’s won its second Fairfield City Business of the Year award and the title of most outstanding fruit and vegetable shop for the fifth time.

As well as the huge variety of fresh fruits and veggies, Fred’s also sells a mouth watering selection of cheese and cold cuts from the Delicatessen and a range of continental groceries.


Here’s what we picked out for our antipasto picnic:

♦   Mixed marinated olives with a scoop of extra Sicilian green olives for me. (I only like the hard olives).

♦   Jamon Serrano Prosciutto sliced very thin. (The only way).

♦   Vecchiet Calypso Hot Salami – We were assured this was the hottest of the lot. (It has to be hot).

♦   Pepperdews stuffed with fetta cheese – These are small marinated peppers which are sweet but with a mild heat complemented by creamy, salty fetta cheese. (Trust us, they’re amazing).

♦   Buffalo mozzarella – Need I say more? It ended up also being a perfect balance to the prosciutto and hot salami.

♦    Olive Panini – Those delish rectangle rolls that kind of feel a little oily with a hard chewy outer crust and flour dusting.

Buon appetito!


If you are after something more filling or substantial, there is also a salad bar which sells prepared salads, and for dessert, browse the aisles of continental cakes and biscuits, or pick up some creamy Greek yoghurt and fruit.

Check out Fred’s website for more details. 



Bonnyrigg Garden Centre, Cnr Elizabeth Drive & Wilson Road, Bonnyrigg

The Bonnyrigg Garden Centre has been around for 40 years and sells a range of plants and gardening accessories. I have no green thumbs and have, through basic negligence, killed all plants and herb patches gifted to me. So lucky for the plants, it also recently opened up a lifestyle centre within its grounds which is home to the Cafe Harvest. Now there’s something for everyone!


This little cafe serves a good coffee drop and has become a popular breakfast and lunch spot due to its pretty location in a beautiful and unique garden setting.


Take a walk around and smell the spiky green plants…? Don’t worry, there’s roses too.


There’s also a homewares store next to Cafe Harvest which sells a variety of gifts, furniture, and household accessories!

The Bonnyrigg Garden Centre is only a short drive from Fred’s and on the way to our picnic destination. See the Bonnyrigg Gardens Centre website for more details.



Cowpasture Road, Abbotsbury (turn left at the roundabout)

Set in the heart of Western Sydney, the Western Sydney Parklands comprises 5280 hectares that streches 27km from Blacktown in the north to Leppington in the south. To give you an idea of the scale of this, it is 16 times the size of Sydney’s Centennial Parklands (!).

We went to “The Dairy” which is a smaller venue located in Abbotsbury via Cowpasture Road for our picnic.


This section is good for groups who are after a quieter and more picnic oriented visit to the Parklands or to read a book on the grass and take some time out.


If you go up to the crest of the hill, you will see gorgeous open views of the surrounding landscapes and can find picnic tables (with shelter) and facilities.




We set up our picnic close to “The Dairy” gates, as this little section has a stunning outlook. See what we mean?


Here’s how we assembled our antipasto-style picnic:


And here are some close ups for food porn factor:



We aren’t fussy so didn’t bother with plates or cutlery for this one. We did bring a nice wooden board and a jar for the olives but this isn’t mandatory – technically, you could just eat off the deli paper and out of the containers provided, but we are suckers for presentation and making it look special and encourage you to do the same!

All you need to do to make a delicious lunch is tear up some bread, add some prosciutto and mozzarella and Roberto is your zio.




→  BBQ facilities: There are 4 electric BBQs located throughout the picnic ground.

→  Shelter: There are sheltered picnic tables (in a very modern design) which are available on a ‘first come, first served’ basis.

→  ToiletsThere is a toilet block near the picnic tables.

→  Dogs: Dogs are allowed to walk anywhere in the Parklands but must be on a lead at all times.

→  Parking: There is a formal car park up near the picnic tables, but you can also park along the drive on your way in. If you’re driving, the gates are open from 8 am to 7 pm daily and 8am to 5pm during the months of June, July and August.

→  Bicycles: Bring your bike because there is a cycling track which runs for 27 kilometres if you need to burn off your picnic lunch.

→  Walking: If you’re not into bikes, bring your walking shoes, as the bike track also accommodates walkers / runners. Sorry, no excuses!

See the Western Sydney Parklands website for more details.



Final note

There is so much to discover in Western Sydney (including the South West) and not too many people writing about it, so we have made it our personal mission to keep exploring and updating you on these gems.

The bonus of having a vast cultural mix in the area means there is so much variety to suit any craving. It’s a region where you will find a kebab van parked around the corner from a shop making cevapi rolls, in walking distance of a delicatessen serving panini and beside a Vietnamese bakery assembling Bánh mì.

We have so much inspiration for delicious and fun picnics, coming up!

Next week on The Picnic Press: We do an express lunch time picnic in the Sydney CBD. See? There’s always time for a picnic.

Ciao amici!


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