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.

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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.