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Shire cafes that best celebrate Autumn

By Carla Grossetti
30 March, 2021

Menus are bursting with autumnal produce. Carla Grossetti goes for a forage to find cafes and restaurants that celebrate the season.

Audley Dance Hall Cafe

The leaves have started to turn on the trees planted around the grounds of the heritage-listed Audley Dance Hall Café. Although the café is a popular destination year-round, the appeal of visiting the café in autumn is two-fold: firstly, it is surrounded by pretty deciduous trees that draw from a palette of terracotta, russet red and burnt orange; secondly the menu is loaded with the best of the season’s bounty. For breakfast, order the marmalade preserve to be all matchy-matchy with the foliage, or the pistachio and almond granola with seasonal berries, figs and blackberry panna cotta. Autumn is also peak season for artichokes: expect them to be included on the new menu in the inspired vegetarian sandwiches. Bring a picnic blanket for a post-lunch siesta on the lawn, which resembles a moss-green carpet after receiving a welcome upgrade from the National Parks and Wildlife Service. 2 Lady Carrington Drive, Royal National Park, audleydancehall.com.au

Wayama Restaurant, Sylvania

Wayama doesn’t have a garden. So while you will not be feasting on foliage, you will get a kaiseki feast that absolutely sings of the season. Noboru Takayama was born in Japan’s Yamagata prefecture and trained as a chef in Tokyo for more than 10 years, was head chef at Azuma and worked for the Consulate General of Japan in Sydney. Diners at this unassuming eatery near Tom Uglys Bridge could care less about the chef’s credentials; their focus is on the seasonally attuned food. The kitchen theatre starts as Noboru’s wife, Miki, lays each dish from the Autumn Special Course ¬– Kaiseki menu down. Chawan-mushi (steam ed egg custard), sashimi (fish of the day), white fish karaage, duck, taro and pumpkin stew, and crepe with vanilla ice cream. Rice, miso soup and edamame beans are also included. This multi-course meal will immerse you in autumn the minute you step through the noren (entranceway curtains) patterned with brilliant Japanese maple foliage. 28 Princess Highway, Sylvania,

Lazy Paisley’s

Savour your Sunday, and your oat latte, sip by sip, at Lazy Paisley’s, the new addition to the ever-popular Mr Paisley’s in Caringbah. Think of Lazy Paisley’s as Mr Paisley’s artfully scruffy sibling who mostly keeps to himself, except for Sundays, when he opens the doors to his beat-up garage and invites all his mates around. Lazy Paisley’s is, according to proprietor Pete Nolan, a place to enjoy a Sunday brew with your mates while sitting around on milk crates under the yellow striped umbrellas. And while the long-term plan for the Sunday pop-up is to offer blow-your-mind bagels, the grungy garage will start by selling small bites for those in-between breakfast and brunch. If you head to Mr P’s on a weekday, opt for the earth bowl, with smoky paprika chickpeas, native herb sauerkraut, sliced avocado, baked pumpkin with almond dukka served with a side of tahini maple dressing. 88 Cawarra Road, Caringbah, mrpaisleys.com.au

Hazelhurst Garden Cafe

Hazelhurst Garden Café in Gymea is in prime position to enjoy autumn. Nab a table on the expansive deck overlooking the gardens near the gnarled trunk of the pretty robinia tree before choosing what to order off the new autumn menu. Ask chef James Watson and he’ll likely recommend the following double act to share: miso-roasted cauliflower with cavolo nero, chilli, sesame and Japanese pumpkin and barbecued baby cos lettuce, with black garlic aioli, pickled caper leaves, smoked trout, sundried tomatoes, Sardinian olives and a soft-cooked egg with celery salt and pepper. Oh and the sweet potato bruschetta with goat’s curd, wild roquette, fresh figs and truffled honey is so phenomenal you’ll want to eat it every day for the rest of your life. The end. 782 Kingsway, Gymea, hazelhurstcafe.com

Greenhouse on Flora Cafe

Season’s greetings from the Greenhouse on Flora café in Sutherland. We’re drawing a long bow here in that most of the greenery comes from vertical gardens of artificial plants, but this new laneway café deserves a shout-out for being a cosy place to chill as temperatures start to oscillate. On Saturday mornings, the café is filled with intrepid locals who have been shopping at the weekly Shire Farmers’ Markets. Sit in the booth where the foliage creeps up the walls as the friendly waiter takes your order. My advice: get a load of what is coming out from the kitchen and order what takes your fancy. Will it be the zucchini and sweet potato fritters? What about the eggs benedict with sautéed spinach? Or how about the veggie bowl with kale, spinach, mint, seaweed, shallots, edamame beans and black rice? Corner of Flora + Muston Lane, greenhouseonflora.com.au

The Teahouse at Camelia Gardens

Although camellias are evergreens, autumn is prime time to see sasanquas in full bloom. Stroll around the two-hectare garden, named by the International Camellia Society as an International Camellia Garden of Excellence, to peep at the shrubs blushing red and pink before heading to The Teahouse located at the top of the E.G. Waterhouse National Camellia Gardens. The Teahouse, which has mesmerising views over the gardens and beyond to Port Hacking, is a welcoming retreat after exploring the park, where dishes such as Thai pumpkin soup, beef and Guinness pot pie make the most of the season’s ingredients. Locals also come here for the high tea, scones and homemade jam and desserts such as the white chocolate mud cake with a white chocolate milk crumb. Make an occasion of it and have a three-tiered high tea or plate of plump scones with homemade jam and cream. Families should buy a bag of duck feed from the café and head down to the pond to feed the waddling waterbirds. Cnr Mattson Crescent & President Avenue, teahouse.com.au

Botanica Lane

The industrial area of Kirrawee is not really known for luring leaf peepers interested in oohing and aahing over autumn foliage. But a small pocket of Marshall Road is now daubed with hues of amber, yellow, red and gold thanks to the dinky addition of Botanica Lane pot and plant store, tacked onto the side of The Factory and Black Olive Gourmet grocery store. In addition to selling natives such as banksias and syzygiums, Botanica Lane have pots of crepe myrtle and snow pears, which flower profusely in autumn. While the team behind Site Design + Studios’ landscape architects and designers green up Botanica Lane (its office is onsite); The Factory and Black Olive Gourmet team add colour to the plate, with proper salads and poke bowls that pop with colour. Be prepared to wait in tradie traffic if you’re heading here on a weekday, when The Factory does a brisk business selling brekkie egg rolls to the high-vis brigade. 29 Marshall Road, Kirrawee,  www.botanicalane.com.au; Black Olive Gourmet Food

Carla Grossetti is an award-winning food and travel writer. Follow her epicurean adventures at @food.travel.stories on Instagram. To read more of Carla's stories, visit www.carlagrossetti.com

Sutherland Shire Council acknowledges the Dharawal speaking people who are the Traditional Custodians of the land of Sutherland Shire.


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Carla Grossetti

Carla Grossetti

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