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Looking for great food Sydney & Melbourne but . . .

I'm looking for suggestions for great food in Sydney and Melbourne, but I'm traveling with 2 kids (4 yrs old and 1 yr old). I'm wondering if any of the top restaurants in the cities would be able to accomodate us with the children. We live in San Francisco and take the kids out for nice, though not formal, dinners. We also travel quite often and have taken them to nice restaurants, usually with no problem. I'm not sure how formal the dining scene is in Sydney and Melbourne.

I'd really appreciate any suggestions for restaurants with excellent food where the kids would be tolerated. I'm not looking for kid friendly like pizza/fish n chips, etc but rather I'm looking for great food where they wouldn't give us dirty looks for bringing 2 kids.

Thanks a lot for your help.

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  1. I was told about the good food guide. I think at least one of the places listed was kid friendly. The question I have is, how good is the guide?


    1 Reply
    1. re: barnaby33

      As Mr Gimlet says the SMH Good Food Guide is pretty good. But this isn't a great link, better to go to the "Good Living Section" of the Sydney Morning Herald website. Or better still buy the guide itself, it isn't expensive. The guide has a notes on all specifically "child friendly" restaurants - there are lots.

      The link above only has the one hats, there are lots and lots of others at higher and slightly lower standards in the book - but all pretty good.

    2. Despite being from Melbourne, I eat out in Sydney top-end a lot and I think most places would be very happy to have two well-behaved children enjoying their food. Dining in Sydney, even at the top end, is not particularly formal. The places I would perhaps advise caution with are some of the up and coming places in the eastern suburbs who are sometimes a bit up themselves.

      Barnaby, the GFG is usually on the nail. One hats can be a bit hit and miss, though often represent good value for those of us with Australian dollars to spend. We can't afford the 3 hats generally!

      ciaotuffy, not sure exactly what you're looking for in terms of the type or style (or price!) of restaurants - in Sydney whether the view is important is a key consideration. If you could narrow it down I (or lots of others) could probably make some suggestions.

      2 Replies
      1. re: mr_gimlet

        Thanks for the suggestions on the guides. I'll have to pick it up when we arrive.

        I don't have anything particular in mind as to cuisine although Australian cuisine would be fun. I've also heard that there is lots of good asian food. The view or decor isn't as important as long as the food is good. I can do a "hole in the wall" type place or a nice place. I was hoping we'd go out for 2 nice, pricier meals (hopefully less than $100 US per person) in each city and then more casual, less expensive restaurants the rest of the time. We're staying about 1 week in each city.

        Thanks again for the help. I really appreciate it.

        1. re: ciaotuffy

          I'm assuming 1 and 4 year olds don't yet have the chilli tolerance for authentic thai...

          A couple for the shortlist: Becasse in Sydney for one of your pricier meals, their serving staff are fantastic, the food is superb and the kids won't faze them; Golden Century for smart seafood-heavy Cantonese (live fish in tanks territory), or BBQ King for that where chefs go after service; Bistrode or Assiette for something a bit different in hat territory.

          In Melbourne, I'd suggest one of the Crown restaurants - although its a casino, in the past couple of years they've lured big names and the location is great on the Yarra. GAS, Rockpool are cracking, and Phillippe Mouchel's brasserie is on the list because their lunch deal is the bargain of Melbourne. Press Club would also be a good hatted kid-friendly place.

          Asian - mainly Cantonese with a sprinkling of Szechuan, there's heaps in the CBD where I assume you are. If you're travelling around at all let me know and I'll come up with some suburb or out of town suggestions.

      2. well behaved children with good table manners are well tolerated nearly everywhere. You will find most of the restaurants referred to here or in the guides have chef / operators with young children. having said that, I can't imagine wanting to take kids to Pier, est. or marque... but... Anyways, there is an excellent range of slightly less formal but equally impressive eateries in Sydney.

        A great choice IMO would be Bird Cow Fish. it's good food cooked excellently and chef Alex herbert has lovely kids of her own that i have occasionally spotted in house. Somewhere like longrain wouldn't be a great choice unless you get there at opening and avoid the cocktail bar.

        I could go on and on, but I think you will find we are quite egalitarian and as long as your kids don't take over the restaurant they and you, will be well looked after.

        Give BBQ King a miss unless you like chinese roulette.

        have a great trip!

        1. Thank you so much for the great suggestions. All of these places sound really good.

          We will also be going to Blue Mountain, any good spots there? Or in Phillip Island?

          And is there any good restaurant in either Sydney or Melbourne for fresh abalone? I don't even know if it's in season or if there's a season for it, but a friend suggested I get some.


          2 Replies
          1. re: ciaotuffy

            the big one in the mountains is vulcan's at blackheath, but I'm not sure how phillip searle feels about kids. in a customer sense, that is.

            ashcrofts, also in blackheath is another great place, as is darley's at lilianfels in katoomba.

            I'd also recommend silk's in leura, although I haven't been there since the silk family completed the handover to the new owners.

            and if you're keen on casual, family-friendly cafe fare, I could always suggest our new place at mount victoria, due to open next month... but of course, modesty precludes me.....

            1. re: ciaotuffy

              Phillip Island is a gastronomic desert. The exception is the fresh fish guy at hebtsnns on the jetty in Cowes is your best bet.

              There are wineries etc on the Mornington Peninsula, which is a minor and worthwhile detour. Montalto used to be good, have a look the gfg

            2. One more question- Are the nicer restaurants like Becasse, Assiette, Bird Cow Fish etc jacket & tie required places? Becasse looks pretty formal on their website but I can't quite tell. (In San Francisco most restaurants are casual and only a few are jacket & tie required.) Just trying to get an idea of what to pack.
              Thanks again for all the help.

              2 Replies
              1. re: ciaotuffy

                the only place a jacket & tie are required in australia is when you're referred to as "the defendant".

                1. re: fooftales

                  LOL foof!
                  jacket & Tie is pretty much clubs and, as our learned friends notes, courtrooms. Smart casual will do but definitely not jeans and trainers at the upper end.
                  I suspect (and have heard) Sydney is quite similar to San Fran...

              2. Thanks so much for everybody:s suggestions. I was feeling a bit ambivalent about our trip and finding good food here. I know there is plenty of good food, I just wasn:t sure about the kids. Thanks for giving me options and inspiring me to get some good food.

                We just arrived in Sydney yesterday and tried Harry:s pies at the airport. We:re looking forward to Assiette and Bird Cow Fish. As well as fresh seafood at Golden Century and Din tai fung dumplings. I don:t think the little guys are ready for Becasse, the baby is getting loud these days. We will be going to Rockpool in Melbourne which sounds great since I:m a steak fan. I:m really looking forward to some good meals now.

                Does anybody have any favorites for casual thai or malaysian in Sydney (no reservations needed)? My husband loves spicy food so we might try one night.
                Thanks a lot!

                5 Replies
                1. re: ciaotuffy

                  try sailors thai if you are still in sydney, it is aroungd the rocks area. Alternatively oceanic thai in the eastern suburbs at clovelly is great too!

                  1. re: ciaotuffy

                    Most people will refer you to spice i am - be warned it may blow the kids heads off!
                    Longrain is contemporary take on thai but pricier (although servings are huge)
                    Mamak in Goulburn street is cheap and cheerful Malaysian. Very short menu and very very tasty. Of these, I'd go to Mamak. (drooling thinking about it)

                    1. re: kmh

                      Thanks, we walked by Mamak on the way to golden century and it looked great. We Love good roti so we:ll prob check it out. We:ve had some great food so far in Sydney, thanks to all your great suggestions. Will post a summary after our trip.

                      1. re: ciaotuffy

                        if you like roti, then definitely go.
                        I loved everything we tried.

                        1. re: kmh

                          I really rate Mamak, but it seems to have got extremely busy in the past few months

                  2. Rockpool has great service, I think Bills is a nice bistro. Most places are good with kids.

                    And if you can get a reservation at Tetsuya, I think it would be ok as long as they didn't run around crazy - staff there are great

                    1. Sorry, this is a long overdue summary from our trip. We had a great time in Australia and found it to be very family friendly there. People were very considerate and helpful opening doors or helping us with our strollers, much more courteous than people in the US.

                      We had some really great meals, thanks to all of your suggestions.
                      In Sydney we went to
                      -Oktoberfest German pub at The Rocks, for lack of anything else open on a sunday. The food was mediocre but the atmosphere was fun and lively. They serve Huge portions so we probably should've shared.
                      -Bird Cow Fish- good, solid meal, didn't knock our socks off but everything was tasty and fresh. They were very nice with the kids and had a highchair for the baby. We ordered my 4 yr old the gnocchi from the menu, but he ended up eating 1/2 of my husband's fresh fish entree.
                      -Assiette- we had an excellent meal there. The restaurant was busy and almost full but they were very nice and accomodating with the children. They offered to make my 4 yr old a small portion of the fresh fish with some steamed veggies. He devoured it and really enjoyed it. My husband had the salmon prepared 3 ways appetizer which was delicious. There was a preparation with beets, I'm not a beet fan but it was delicious. He had a fish entree and I had a beef entree but I can't remember the details. The dessert had a homemade torrone ice cream which was great, nice nutty flavor.
                      -Harry's pies at the airport- decent pies but nothing I was dying to have again. We had a plain meat pie and the tiger, the tiger was better.
                      -Ivanhoe's in Blue Mountain- oh my gosh, seriously the best meat pies we've ever had! I ordered up like 5 different pies for 3 of us to share and they were super hearty. I really liked the chicken pie. The crust on the pie was excellent, nice and buttery and so yummy.
                      -Golden Century- we had the fresh abalone, mud crab and shark's fin soup. Everything was fresh and delicious. In retrospect we should've ordered 1 large abalone instead of 2 small since they do it by weight and the shell weighs a lot. oh well. It's nice that they bring to your table and show you the item and price before they cook it so you don't feel ripped off.
                      -Mamak for lunch- the roti was SOOO good. I think we ordered 2-3 orders of the roti! We had the nasi goreng, fried chicken, and curry chicken. Everything was really tasty. The nasi goreng was a little spicier than I thought it would be. But the best was the roti.
                      -Din Tai Fung- went for dinner and waited a bit, but it was worth it. We ordered up the dumplings- pork & crab, pork, shrimp and a bowl of the noodles. All of the dumplings were really good. I liked the pork the best, nice and moist/juicy inside.
                      -Sailor's Thai- it was near our hotel so I made a reservation. It was definitely more upscale than I thought it would be. There were less typical thai items (like satay, pad thai, etc) on the menu than I thought. The food was good (we especially liked the braised beef ribs, super tender and flavorful) and service was excellent. They were very nice to us even with kids.
                      -The cupcake bakery- I tried the vanilla with chocolate frosting, red velvet, peppermint. The cupcakes were denser than the ones I’m use to at home so I didn’t care for them as much.
                      -Renaissance patisserie at The Rocks- I bought a bunch of things to sample. The croissants were good, shortbread cookies were good. I didn’t care for the opera cake. The chocolate éclair was ok.
                      -Puffy- chocolate cream puffs and Portuguese tarts. The cream puffs were only ok to me. But I am totally hooked on the Portuguese tarts! The sweetness of the custard and the flakiness of the crust were perfect and I got them warm. Yum. I wish there was Puffy at home so that I could get them
                      -Fish n Chips at Manly Beach- I can’t remember the name of the place but it was a shop on the main strip as you walk from the ferry to the beach, no seating inside. They had all different types of fresh fish that you can get fried or grilled. Everything we had was fresh and tasty. I think we liked the barramundi the best
                      -Passionflower ice cream- yummy sesame ice cream and jackfruit ice cream. I sampled the rice ice cream but it wasn’t that tasty to me, kind of weird. I really enjoyed the sesame.
                      -Max Brenner chocolates- the chocolate freeze drink was Really good, nice chocolatey taste. I got 4 of the truffles and really didn’t care for them too much. (as compared to Rechiutti in San Francisco) Something about the flavor/texture wasn’t that great to me.

                      In Melbourne we went to:
                      -Shark’s fin house restaurant in Chinatown- we went with my cousin who is vegetarian so we didn’t get much fresh seafood from the tank, just some pepper prawns which were good. I wish we could go back for more authentic seafood.
                      -Rockpool- Excellent meal. My husband and I each ordered a different steak and they were both so melt in your mouth good. We shared the potato and cabbage gratin and a creamed corn. Those two sides in combo were too heavy. The corn was really fresh and tasty. The cabbage/potato was just overwhelming. My husband had oysters on the half shell which he enjoyed. I had the grilled king prawns which were so fresh and delicious. It was such a simple dish but so good. They were very nice and offered to make my son fish and chips with the fresh fish. It was the absolute Best fish n chips I’ve ever had! He loved it and wanted more! Unfortunately the kids weren’t very well behaved that evening so we had to skip dessert.
                      -Harry’s on the Esplanade on Phillip Island- had a decent meal there. I had the rack of lamb and my husband had the fish. We didn’t have time to try the homemade ice cream
                      -Claypot restaurant- in retrospect, we should’ve ordered more fresh seafood. We ordered 3 claypots and 1 fresh fish. The fish was excellent but claypots were only ok. There was one claypot with seafood in it but the seafood didn’t taste very fresh. The restaurant was really nice and made the kids (we had 4 kids with us that day) a fresh fish, veggie and rice plate for like $5 each
                      Unfortunately we didn’t get to try as many places as we wanted in Melbourne since we were meeting up with family. We still had a good time though

                      Thanks again for all the great suggestions. We loved Sydney & Melbourne and look forward to returning again someday.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: ciaotuffy


                        Thank you so much for the information. My family (with 1 year old) and I will be visiting Melbourne and Sydney in a couple weeks from DC. Any other tidbits we should look out for