Great food, price not an object, but we have a (well behaved) 4 year old with us (various cities)
I'm guessing the title says it all - we'll be visiting Australia in early Jan. (and again at the end of Feb.) and are looking for nice places with great food but a comfortable atmosphere. Our daughter is very well behaved and used to dining out, but we don't want someplace where it will bother other customers to see a child there, and we don't want places that take very long time between courses. I'm not big on red meat, but aside from that, we're adventurous eaters. We'll be spending time in Sydney, Melbourne (downtown on Collins), Canberra, Wollongong (with some smaller places too).
Also trying to get an idea of any great food in the Yarra Valley (and any especially recommended wineries). Any and all recommendations very much appreciated.
Looks like you are visiting BHP.
I am not certain what to recommend for Lulu as you don'y generally see a lot of children in restaurants in the evening (maybe I just don't notice). I don't think there is an issue, simply it isn't common. Maybe I eat out in the CBD rather than in the burbs and families tend to stay local, and I avoid tourist restaurants where kids maybe more common. (maybe good to ring places first and ask to check if there are any licensing issues - it may be the case if a restaurant is in a pub where there is an age restriction).
I would suggest any decent place will be more than happy to accommodate you, we are pretty laid back and a well behaved 4 year old won't phase people. The mid market is the hot space in Sydney at the moment, and as these are less formal they may suit - Duke Bistro, District Dining, Porteno (lots of meat but their fish and vegetables are also very good)
It may be a good idea to ring places first and ask to check if there are any licensing issues - it may be the case if a restaurant is in a pub where there is an age restriction - I don't really know the laws.
British Columbia (where Lulu's paternal grandparents live) has very odd (to me) rules about licensing. If the place calls itself a pub, no matter how family friendly it seems, a person under 18 or whatever the legal age is isn't allowed in. So we've learned that there are definitely rules in some places that we wouldn't have imagined.
We want to avoid tourist places too. So we very much appreciate your suggestions.
I wouldn't worry too much about Melbourne before you get here. There is so much around Collins your hotel will be able to get you in anywhere. The places I often recommend to visitors to book well in advance are the gastrotemples which aren't very child friendly (or interesting to them). There are plenty of Asian places and an excellent Italian (both child-happy) on the Collins strip. The CBD is very small and easily navigable.
I'll post back on Yarra Valley, but do you know if you will be there on a weekday or weekend?
For the Yarra, it looks like we'll be there Sunday/Monday. I imagine Sundays are busy, and possibly Mondays things are closed. Will need to discuss this timing with my husband ...
We figured there are lots of restaurants in the area around Collins, but we want really *great* food without it feeling stuffy. Lulu eats anything except hard boiled eggs. She's incredibly daring, and likes showing off what she's willing to eat (and seems to actually Love things that most kids stay far from). Are there any specific places that you think are great in the area? I very much appreciate the help from both of you.
You need somewhere with a cafe vibe - formality tends to be childless. Cumulus Inc is my answer to everyone's where should I go question. Then I would be looking at downstairs at Grossi Fiorentina, and I would be having noodles and dumplings at Noodle Kingdom. Bistro Vue or Cafe Vue would cover adults and children. And, of course, Sichuan House if you want that no compromise Chengdu kill-a-buffalo-with-chilli kind of vibe. Dim sum could be fun.
As you're coming a couple of times, a GFG might be a worthwhile purchase.
I'll comment on Canberra. At the better end you have a few options all of which will accommodate a well behaved child. These recs all came in the top 5 in this year's Canberra Times restaurant of the year.
Italian & Sons - Semi casual joint right next to the city with great Italian food from their wood over. They offer some interesting appetisers, a few carefully chosen pastas and salads and a single, daily entree from their wood fired oven. Obviously the pastas and salads are also available in entree sizes.
Pulp Kitchen - This is a great neighbourhood restaurant that took out restaurant of the year last year. The food is creative and probably to most innovative in Canberra (though that isn't saying much). The setting itself is not fine dining which may make you more comfortable taking your daughter but the restaurant is located in a residential suburb about 5 or 10 minutes by taxi from the city centre.
Rubicon - This is a perennial favourite of mine for good food in a fine dining room. The service is pretty good for Canberra and they have a decent wine list as well as a tasting menu option if that suits you. The chef has taken on some Asian influences in his otherwise European food. The restaurant is also located in a residential suburb about 15 to 20 minutes drive from the city centre.
If you are in the city during the day and are after some great coffee head up to the Lonsdale St Roasters on Lonsdale St near the city for some amazing coffee roasted on-site and one of their fantastic panini or canolo.
Just thought i'd report on a few places we've tried. In Beechworth we went to the famous Bakery for the vanilla slice (something I've never seen in the states). Wonderful. Had dinner at a cute little place called The Ox and Hound. Low key and comfortable with very good food. Husband started with some sort of smoked trout, and i with the chickpea fritters (basically falafels) - both darned good. he had steak, I had a fish pie with wine, basil and tomato. Very very good. They were helpful and made Lulu pasta with olive oil and garlic and she loved it. Had a beautiful Tasmanian rose.
Last night in Melbourne at at Movida (the cafe- the restaurant is fully booked for the week). It was fantastic. Lots of great tapas, one of the best tortillas I've ever had (not usually high on my list of favorite tapas, but this was so good i ordered a second). We probably got about 7 things total, and all were good. The mushroom fritters were fantastic, as were the boquadillas.