I am forever trying to think of restaurants for lunch – something that’s in a nice location, preferably with waterfront views, but which doesn’t completely blow the budget. And as the editor of a restaurant website, you would think I would have hundreds of ideas up my sleeve, and yet, every time I’m asked for a lunch recommendation, I still stammer in response. “Errr, Catalina – but that’s expensive. North Bondi Italian – beautiful, but you’ll probably have to wait for a table”. Then I stop.
This was before I discovered Nielsen Park Restaurant. And, it was my sister-in-law, who lives in the country, that suggested this lunch destination. As we drove down the Vaucluse headland, she reminisced about her days of living in Sydney when she used to escape the city franticness by retreating to this beautiful heritage parkland. From the outside, Nielsen Park Restaurant simply looks like a little beach shack with glass windows and weathered sandstone steps. As we walk in the doors, though, the interior blows us away. It is simple and casual yet exudes a classic elegance. The pristine white interior is complete with fresh flowers in glass vases, chic aqua-blue antique furniture and oak timber floorboards. It is everything I love about beachside dining.
A friendly waitress welcomes us and takes us to our table. We look around, a smartly-dressed group of Eastern Suburbanites fill the room, sipping cold glasses of Chardonnay and nibbling on their salads. As our one-year-old starts to energetically giggle, we look at one another, worried about the “appropriateness” of a child in such a place. But as we take a seat, the charming waitress whizzes off to get a high chair. We sigh in relief. Finally, a child-friendly cafe in the East – what a God-send.
The menu is immaculate. I order crisp skinned barramundi with a fennel and watercress salad. The barramundi is plump and buttery with flavour while the skin is crunchy. With the aniseed zing from the fennel and slight tang from the watercress – it is all I dream about for a summer lunch meal. My sister-in-law’s poached salmon salad arrives with a dollop of mayonnaise, sprinkled with dill and colourful with slices of capsicum, cherry tomatoes and julienned cucumber. The coffee rivals the inner-city’s best and, a little note to soy aficionados: they even have Bonsoy.
For casual fish ‘n’ chips by the beach, the cafe next door is fantastic. Rustically served in cardboard cone-like boxes, the chips are chunky and the fish is lightly battered and fresh. But if the wind is out (or you have an energetic one-year-old in tow), head next door to the main dining area. I dare say Nielsen Park Restaurant has just become my new city refuge and, of course, my number one summer lunch spot suggestion.
Read more about Nielsen Park Restaurant here