The Sutherland Shire is where Sydney's urban sprawl starts to recede. It's where tourists come to blister in the sun on our sandy beaches and to surf and swim in our shimmering seas. It's also transformed to a destination where a happy mix of visitors and urbanites come to dine and drink for the day. From picnics near the promenade to a small bar detour, here is how to spend the perfect weekend in the Sutherland Shire.
The Saturday morning Shire Farmers' Market has become a great place to catch up and connect with friends and family. Located in the Flora St Carpark in Sutherland, the market has up to 55 stallholders selling their wares each week. Specialties at the market range from French pastries and Thorough Bread sourdough to Pepe Saya butter and fruit and vegetables, some of which is grown by the stallholders themselves. Visit www.shirefarmersmarket.com.au for more details.
The Foodies & Farmers Markets in Menai is another local fave: held on the second Friday of each month. This family-focused market promises to tantalise your taste-buds with a spectacular array of International street food and mouthwatering desserts. Our local producers bring a variety of local fresh produce and many more goodies to take home.
If Rudi's Butcher isn't on your radar then it should be. The butchery, delicatessen and smokehouse specialises in handcrafted artisan German-style sausages such as wurstwaren and hackbraten. Rudolf Birmili is Rudi who migrated from the southern German city of Stuttgart in 1981 and established the butchery in 1983. Rudi's son Stefan now holds court in the family's meat temple in a blue apron offering customers a taste of this and that or advice on just how long to cook that leg of lamb over a gentle heat. Liverwurst, Schinkenwurst, jagdwurst and gelbwurst all taste of lip-smacking German tradition.
Carbo phobes need look away now. Bourke St Bakery has planted its flag in Kirrawee and don't the neighbourhood locals love it! Everything from the sourdoughs to pastries and cakes is made by hand at the little café on the Boulevarde: the bakery's prune and brandy tart is an exercise in extravagance while its meat pies and sausage rolls have become Sydney staples. ThoroughBread is another haven for bread lovers with those in the know travelling to and from Kirrawee's industrial precinct to find this unlikely bread paradise. The sweet potato wholemeal and rye is a high point of any trip to the Monro Avenue bakery.
Take a seat beside one of the sash windows in the lovingly restored Art Deco space and flick through a few surf mags while waiting for your Breakfast - trying to choose between the Haloumi Stack, the famous Breakfast Burger, amazing pancakes or the sourdough laden with mushrooms or avo is truly going to be your biggest challenge. It's a wholesome package that is the ultimate comfort food for vegetarians. Note: Pilgrim's is also open Friday and Saturday nights for Mexican vego feasts. Pilgrim's Vegetarian Cafe, 97 Gerrale St, Cronulla 02 9523 7580 www.pilgrims.cafe
It used to be that most visitors to Cronulla walked in a straight line from the train station to the beach. These days, the dining is also a draw, thanks in no small part to places like Blackwood Pantry. For locals, Blackwood Pantry was a long time coming. And it’s a space they love to linger. Put simply, Blackwood Pantry is the place to go thanks to the efforts of chef Rob Lechowicz who trained at Michelin-starred restaurants in France. Here, dishes such as the Turkish poached eggs are reflective of Rob’s travels and the dish is one of many that ticks all the obvious boxes and a few more to boot. Sit here a while under the palm trees to enjoy a coffee, read the paper and catch up on the week’s news over Blackwood bircher, or the ubiquitous amped-up avo on toast. blackwoodpantry.com.au
The Nuns Pool
The Nuns Pool takes its name from the ocean pool across the road at Shelly Beach where local nuns once bathed. With sweeping terrace views through the pine trees to the ocean and beachside esplanande, this restaurant, located down the southern end of the Cronulla peninsula is one of the most popular. An Australian-style cafe is brimming with delicious fare made with high quality and locally-sourced ingredients. thenunspool.com
Warm fuzzy feelings abound at SixSmith Café in South Cronulla, which boasts an unhurried vibe and incredible food. Owners Graham and Sarah Taylor dive into the garden out the back to forage for lettuce and beetroot and fresh eggs from the chickens and what they can’t source themselves they procure with care from sustainable local producers. Sit at the long communal table and enjoy a hearty breakfast of avocado on toast or pick up a delectable selection of baked goods, such as almond croissants or strawberry and chocolate cake for a picnic at nearby Shelly Park. The vibe at the cosy café tucked away on the South Cronulla peninsula perfectly encapsulates the food movement in Sydney at the moment. It’s fun and casual and promotes easy conversation. The menu changes daily and you can pick up a homemade lasagne or ratatouille for an inspired takeaway dinner. sixsmith.com.au
Essenze Chocolate's chocolatier, Vincenzo Morgia, is regarded as one of Australia's best: his handmade chocolates are made using the finest Belgium couvertures and traditional European techniques. Choose from a selection of more than 50 handmade chocolates in the store where the chocolates are made fresh daily. Curate your own chocolate box and fill with bite-size flavour bombs such as pistachio marzipan, burnt butter and sage, apple pie and cappuccino. The Caringbah chocolate shop Essenze also has a bite-size range to please vegans. Cheat sheet: the chocolates will do the trick if you want to impress your friends with petit fours post dinner party.
For Nina’s Chocolates it all began in the early 90’s when George Magganas, a chocolate obsessed Food Technologist founded his first Nina’s Chocolates boutique in Gymea. Using only the finest Belgian Couverture Chocolate and for fillings, fresh local ingredients are complimented with the finest flavours sourced worldwide.
Andy Orrell is the hirsute brewer behind the Hairy Man craft brewery that is so beloved in the Shire. Find lines spilling out the door here as backyard home-brewers come to live out their fantasies at the brewery that doubles as a tap house. The cellar bar is set up on Woolooware Bay and is open from Thursday to Sunday for a quiet one and a rotating roster of food trucks.
There are also standout brews on tap in Kirrawee at Shark Island Brewery, named after the surf break off the point of Cronulla: try Shark Island Lager, a good German-style beer, or the Greenhills Summer Ale, a grassy blend of Australian hops.
Continue your craft beer crawl at Sunday Road Brewing where you can taste award winning brews, Enigma and Blackwoods - the new Hazy IPA is also just out of the tanks . There is always a great line up of food trucks and is open from Thursday to Sunday.
And finally knock the froth off a few Next Level XPA’s made by the Cronulla Beer Co. which are sold on tap at C.C. Babcoq are various venues around the Shire.
If you’re looking to dine out for a special occasions, here are some of the best places for fine dining in the Shire;
Cronulla's newest venture is The Pines, a warmly outfitted restaurant with plush seating and an airy bar and dining room down by the sea. Executive chef James Metcalfe (who has worked at two-hatted restaurants in Sydney and Michelin-starred restaurants in London) is working alongside seasoned sommelier Chris Hoy (ex-Rockpool) on the beverages. Opt for the set Food with Friends menu ($75 pp or $155 pp with six matching wines), which comprises a succession of carefully composed dishes such as leek and parmesan croquette with charcoal mayonnaise, a salad of pickled beetroot and burrata.
Alphabet St - Betel leaf with tea-smoked trout and tomato relish; fish floss, sweet pork, green mango and nahm jim; steamed whole fish with a lime and chilli broth. These are a few of the dishes that are guaranteed to provide first-timers with a sensory overload at Alphabet St. The contemporary Thai diner serves culinary treasures from Thailand and beyond: it's loud, insanely popular and -- insert eye roll emoji -- no you can't rock up without a booking as -- like sister restaurant Giro Osteria two doors down -- it's one of Cronulla's best restaurants. Sip on an apple martini and enjoy the entertaining spectacle of the neoprene-clad surfers thumping past like extras from Puberty Blues.
Warm and generous hospitality is one of the hallmarks of a Middle Eastern feast and Yalla Sawa reflects this in spades. The cosy corner restaurant in Cronulla is run by a local Lebanese family, who are renowned for food packed with personality (they have stakes in the beloved Brass Monkey live music venue, too). Order the dips, the fluffy falafel made from 'mum's recipe' and anointed with tahini sauce and the lamb shank tagine, which thrums with spice and sweetness.
With sweeping ocean views, Sealevel Restaurant and Bar offers high quality dining, dishing up a modern Australian menu with French and Italian influences. Focusing on seafood, you will enjoy a rich experience evoking all of the senses while soaking up the views of Cronulla's sandy stretch of beaches.
Jensens - Executive chef Carl Jensen has a well-known ability to take simple seasonal ingredients and flip them into something special. Zucchini flowers, dumplings and John Dory, crispy-skinned barramundi with charred pumpkin, lamb wellington, and caramelised pumpkin and ricotta ravioli are some of the loveliest options imaginable on a warm evening. Even on a chilly evening, with the rain hammering down outside, the restaurant feels warm and cosy. When it opened Jensen's seemed like an ambitious project for Kareela, but Shire locals know and love chef Jensen who flips the spotlight between here and Summer Salt down by the sea.
Johnny Hu’s Chinese Restaurant
Local power couple Joe Natale and Oriana de Luca (Alphabet St; Giro Osteria) have taken over the site formerly occupied by Cronulla’s Lucky Dragon to present a 12-month pop-up, Johnny Hu’s Chinese Restaurant. Chef Jeremy Liu (ex-Taste of Shanghai) pays homage to his Chinese heritage while also slapping you about the face with his own take on flavour. While Johnny Hu’s is here for a good time, not a long time, it has settled seamlessly into this space with its lacquered red doors and lucky dragons. We recommend the soupy xiao long bao dumplings and the fabulously filthy honey chicken, which has been battered and punched with toasted sesame seeds. johnnyhuchinese.com.au
If you know, you know. Japanophilia is rife in the suburb of Sutherland as those admiring of Japan or Japanese ways -- called shinnichi -- in Japan converge to this suburban bolthole near to Paul’s Famous Hamburgers. In summer, order the special course kaiseki (seasonal degustation) menu which starts with wafer-thin sashimi and builds to include simmered eel and fennel, cucumber, soft-boiled octopus and watermelon and small hotpots of chicken and vegetables. Run by husband-and-wife team Noboru and Miki Takayama, Wayama Japanese Restaurant is not fancy, but it is fabulous and will serve you well until you can ride the bullet train once again in Japan. facebook.com/WayamaSylvania/
Kuroneko Ramen Noodle Bar
Ask the chef at Kuroneko Ramen Noodle Bar to explain how he packs so much flavour into the broth that he builds his ramen noodle soups around and he will tell you: he simmers the homemade stock for half a day to achieve that depth of flavour. This small ramen shop in Sutherland is the kind of place you take your friends who have a passion for good food. Our ramen recommendation is for the tonkotsu spicy miso topped with ground pork and chilli-infused oil (tonkotsu means pork bones). In addition to the ramen, the karaage chicken donburi (rice with a tasty topping) and pillowy pork buns are worth raving on about. facebook.com/KuronekoRamen
Moim Japanese Kitchen
There’s nothing fancy about Moim. But as the number of people eating sushi on the sidewalk attests, this humble restaurant is a good place to hunker down for a feed in Kirrawee. Gyoza are tiny meat-filled parcels made with a pinch and best served with lettuce and soy. Order a few of these alongside a seaweed salad, karaage chicken on rice and California roll (which is an American construct but a delicious one at that). Leave it to the chef to fill your bento box with teriyaki salmon, edamame and chicken katsu. moimkitchen.com
Italian Stallion Bar & Griglio
The Italian Stallion restaurant shares its name with a low-rent 1970s’ B-grade film featuring Sly Stallone. And while the restaurant may be an ode to the pulp soft-core film, the menu reads like #foodporn. As well as pumping out seductive seasonal fare, such as eggplant parmiagiana and pork tacos, the New York-style bar and grill deliver a Balboa-worthy upper cut with cocktails such as the blueberry mango margarita. Expect the volume to be turned up at the Italian Stallion on everything from the food to the drinks and the vibe. facebook.com/italianstallionbarandgrill
Salt Meats Cheese
Salt Meats Cheese is housed in part of the original Commonwealth Bank precinct, which was constructed in Cronulla Plaza in the 1930s. While the interiors reflect the heritage of the building, the menu reflects Italy with a few modern twists. The space has a lot going for it and sunlight bounces around the space, which reverberates with the clinking of glasses befitting special occasions. Here, you’ll find old mate with his missus on their 30th wedding anniversary, a gaggle of tanned 20-somethings that know their way around a cocktail list as well as families noshing on gnocchi, fried calamari, lamb ragu pappardelle and pizza. Vegetarians will appreciate the attention given to the salads and sides. saltmeatscheese.com
You get what you’re given at Giro Osteria and that’s a good thing as the chefs know what they are doing. Book ahead to nab a seat at the aubergine banquette where you can feast on dishes for every occasion at this wonderful waterside restaurant, which is the sort of updated and elegant trattoria that Cronulla deserves. Giro Osteria is another destination restaurant run by Joe Natale and Oriana de Luca in the Shire and what sets it apart is its plates of antipasti with ribbons of prosciutto and fat olives and beautifully constructed homemade pasta dishes such as the one doused in ragu. giro-osteria.com.au
Named in honour of the secretary of Mr Sheffield in the US TV sitcom, The Nanny. Here, Josh Davidson (ex-Apollo) is at the helm, cooking the chooks to crisp perfection at the user-friendly corner eatery. The menu at C.C. Babcoq is not complicated: it's fancy chicken basted just so with different flavour combinations and served with peak-season produce. It is about simple but amazing food everytime. Order 'chook and chips' a wildly comforting combination of a soft white roll stuffed with crazy-tender chook and crinkle-cut chips, chicken salt and gravy or the ras el hanout chicken with potato salad on the side. ccbabcoq.co
Queen Margherita of Savoy
AVPN-approved pizzaiolo Lee Carroll has taught his daughter Jorja the tricks of the trade at this family-run restaurant in the heart of Cronulla. It’s the pizza that provides comfort here, but the designed-to-share menu has something to please everyone, making it a top spot to celebrate a milestone or meet up with the extended family. Purists will appreciate the Napoli-style pizza and know to order the eponymously named margherita, which arrives swirled with San Marzano tomatoes and topped with basil and melted circles of fior di latte. qmos.com.au
Watch the sun fade out and the lights of the Sutherland Shire blink on. Head out for a pre - dinner drink or night cap. Start at the Blind Bear -- Cronulla's first small bar -- then connect the dots between a few of the Shire's best bars -- from Papa J's, Next Door, Apres Beach by the Pines, Croydon Lane Wine and Tapas Bar in Cronulla, up to the Black Swan Wine Bar in Caringbah then The Snug in Gymea.
See our blog 21 of the best places for cocktails in the Shire for more shire bars, pubs & restaurants to try.
If you feel like cooking up a storm yourself, check out these three local cooking schools. Head to Regina Della Pasta to make beautiful fresh pasta and package it up with a spritz on the side , The Village Cooks focus on a broader italian cuisine, including pastry making, handmade pasta, preserving and seasonal Italian home-style cooking and Sutherland Shire Cooking School who run classes for beginners through to experienced chefs, teaching up to date culinary food trends.
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