Take a family road trip and 'are we there yet?' hits high rotation on the list of frequently asked questions. But go out to eat and it's more likely to be 'can we go now?' It's no surprise then that parents swarm like children on a freshly fallen pinata when they hear of an eatery going above and beyond to keep the whole family happy. Sound good? Try adding some of the following to the school holidays hit list.
Eat and play indoors
Alexandria's French cafe and bistro, Bitton, has a children's room with toys and blackboard walls, a great children's menu (fish, pommes frites and baby peas, merci beaucoup), high chairs, change table and a playground across the road. In Crows Nest, the pram-line express leads to St Malo Bakery for freshly baked goods and a courtyard play area with a view of the bakers at work. At Maroubra's Kokoroya, tempura takes the place of tantrums thanks to an enclosed play area and chicken katsu is a never-fail dish for younger palates.
- Bitton Cafe & Bistro, 36-37a Copeland Street, Alexandria
- St Malo Bakery, 83 Willoughby Road, Crows Nest
- Kokoroya, 665-667 Anzac Parade, Maroubra
Eat and play outdoors
The recently opened Grounds Keeper Cafe in Ryde Park has won families over with the combination of a good, Middle Eastern-leaning menu (clay-pot baked eggs? Check), and the reassuring bird's-eye view of park and playground. Meze Me at Rouse Hill offers a similar deal with playground plus Middle Eastern fare. There's also plenty of outdoor seating, baby change facilities and high chairs. A grassed area at Prato in Abbotsford means children can run a few rounds between mouthfuls – and the food is terrific (try the fish pie). There's also a huge communal table inside for those epic extended-family affairs. The Boathouse Balmoral Beach is a popular seaside special occasion spot famous for its fish and chips, among other things. Child-friendly food and the beach a chip-toss away? It's worth a splurge.
- The Grounds Keeper Cafe, Ryde Park, 30 Argyle Avenue, Ryde
- Meze Me, 16 Bellcast Road, Rouse Hill
- Prato Cafe & Diner, 378 Great North Road, Abbotsford
- The Boathouse Balmoral Beach, 2 The Esplanade, Mosman
For foodie kids
The pizza at Vacanza is a frequent feature on Sydney's best pizza lists, so who better to give your children a pizza-making lesson? Vacanza runs pizza-making parties for groups of 12-18 children – food and fun rolled up in one. A range of children's cooking classes will also run as part of October's Good Food Month program, plus special Family Table events at Good Food Guide-rated restaurants including Rose Bay's Catalina and Antoine's Grill at Concord.
- Vacanza, 261 Bronte Road, Waverley
- Good Food Month, October, see goodfoodmonth.com
Bonus novelty value
The sight of noodles being hand-pulled at Chefs Gallery is a kind of culinary magic trick, while the dessert platter/artwork (complete with sweet black sesame-filled piggy-faced buns) is a sight to behold. At Darling Quarter, the sushi train at Umi is sure to excite (there's a la carte, too), and just outside is one of Sydney's most amazing playgrounds featuring water play and flying fox, plus Monkey Baa children's theatre company (see monkeybaa.com.au). Fairfield's Green Peppercorn keeps children happy with pad Thai and fried ice-cream, but getting behind the wheel of the tuk-tuk parked at the bar is a highlight, too. And the Grounds of Alexandria's monthly markets amp up the cafe's already impressive offerings with – among other things – a petting zoo. The next markets are Sunday and Monday, October 6-7.
- Chefs Gallery, Regent Place, 501 George Street, Sydney
- Umi Sushi & Udon, Shop TR-10, 1 Harbour Street, Darling Quarter
- Green Peppercorn, 1 Hamilton Road, Fairfield
- The Grounds of Alexandria, Building 7a, 2 Huntley Street, Alexandria
Affordable food, rowdiness approved – families and pubs are a natural fit. Some do it better than others, including the recently renovated Henson Park Hotel at Marrickville, now known simply as The Henson. The food is terrific (try the beef brisket "knuckle sandwich") with plenty of variety and the children's area is a riot – ball-pit included. The Newport Arms Hotel at Newport has an epic beer garden complete with two playgrounds and an amazing Pittwater view, while Sunday is Kids Day at the Taren Point Hotel (awarded best family-friendly pub in the Herald's 2013 Good Pub Food Guide), complete with petting zoo and face painting.
- The Henson, 91 Illawarra Road, Marrickville
- Newport Arms Hotel, 2 Kalinya Street, Newport
- Taren Point Hotel, 105 Parraweena Road, Taren Point
And then try…
- Italian restaurant 42 Bannerman Trattoria at Glenhaven: children (and adults) love the pasta, there's a grassy area outside and Sunday lunches include free babysitting.
- Pizzeria e Cucina at Newport has an accessible children's menu of pizza-pasta-gelato, plenty of high chairs, and colouring-in supplies.
- Sideways Cafe at Dulwich Hill might just have more high chairs than any other eatery in Sydney, plus good cafe fare with a Greek twist and a park and playground about 100 metres away.
- Chicken & Fishhead at Beecroft: this cute cafe doubles as a children's clothes and toy shop and is just around the corner from the brilliant Children's Bookshop.