Bitton Gourmet Cafe, Alexandria

Another mum's group meeting in Alexandria takes us to pram-magnet Bitton. I'm first to arrive and take a table out in the courtyard, next to the dedicated kids playroom and a huge stack of IKEA highchairs, and order a flat white.

After reading the French-influenced breakfast/lunch menu I can't decide, so I wait to see if anyone will share with me, especially as I want to tuck into some pommes frites. I'm in luck, and my partner chooses the sourdough toast with tomato, goats cheese and basil oil from the breakfast side of the menu. When our waiter comes I'm tempted by the special of duck liver pate, but I never say no to goats cheese.

The chips aren't cheap and don't look French to me but the fresh tomato sauce is a nice touch and probably pleases people without a lifelong addiction to ketchup. 

I think the sourdough is from Brasserie Bread so no complaints there, but with one huge and one tiny slice I had to cut both in half for sharing. It's tasty though, thanks to that goats cheese.

Of course, we can't leave without trying out that play area, so the babies get into some tummy time, or is that skydiving practice?

Bitton Gourmet Cafe
36-37a Copeland Street, Alexandria, NSW 2015
p. (02) 9519 5111


New Shanghai Chinese Restaurant, Ashfield

For once, Pea Pa is home on the day his mum comes to visit. We decide to go to Ashfield for lunch, because I've been meaning to get my old record player fixed there for about two years, and because Nana Boot loves prawns. It's win-win.

We're not sure whether to go for New Shanghai or Shanghai Nights next door, so we pick the one that looks the busiest. They also specialise in mini pork buns, aka soup dumplings. Yes.

Baby Pea likes it so much he falls asleep, so we get on with ordering far too much food for three people.

Nana Boot can't eat much, so lucky for her the salt and pepper prawns arrive first. They're perfect and I eat them up tails and all.

The steamed rice and eggplant in garlic sauce come out too. Mains before entrees - why not? This is similar to my favourite eggplant dish from Chinese Noodle in Haymarket, but without the same depth of flavour. Solution? Soy sauce - now it tastes the same. Hooray!

Pea Pa and I get the special - steamed oyster in xo sauce. They're huge and meaty.

Finally, the dumplings and shallot pancake arrive. The dumplings are so good, self saucing with the ginger soup inside, though a splash of vinegar doesn't hurt. Vinegar and soy also liven up the lovely shallot pancake, which is the crispiest one I've ever tried.

Somehow we've managed to eat everything except most of the eggplant and half the rice, so they come home with us. The next day, I fry up the last of Pea Pa's radish cake, stir-fry the eggplant with some shallot and a big spoonful of kecap manis, toss them together and have them for dinner with the re-steamed rice.  I swear leftovers have never tasted so good.

New Shanghai Chinese Restaurant
273 Liverpool Rd, Ashfield NSW 2131
p. (02) 9797 7284

New Shanghai Chinese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Malacca Straits on Broadway

Our first big trip as a family is fast approaching, and the last bit of it will be spent in Malaysia eating our collective body weight in street food. Sydney has it's fair share of that too, we hear, so why wait. It's lunch time, after all.

The modern looking Malacca Straits is short walk from Broadway shopping centre. There are familiar favorites on the menu, but we're strangely drawn to something new - char tau kueh, which sounds a bit like our beloved noodle dish if you swapped the noodles for radish cake. We love the yum cha equivalent of this spongy vegie cake so we give it a go, along with a healthy plate of Hainan chicken rice.

First comes the soup for the chicken rice. Ahhhh.

And here's the rest. The chicken rice is satisfying but not mind-blowing. But ...

... the radish cake is amazing. Rich and creamy and full-flavoured with a definite wow factor. The lady seems impressed we've ordered it, and really wants to know if we like it. She even tells us how to make it. So, a few days later, with some organic daikon from Marrickville markets, Pea Pa does. The recipe is here.

Malacca Straits on Broadway
66 Mountain Street, Broadway NSW 2007
p. 02 8021 7069

Malacca Straits on Urbanspoon


La Renaissance Pâtisserie Française, The Rocks

The Family Pea takes advantage of cheap Sunday travel to spend the day in The Rocks. We're actually there on best man and matron of honour duties to taste wedding food at Wolfie's Bar & Grill, but before that we have time to meet a friend for coffee, and it has to be the Renaissance. When I worked across the road from here my colleagues and I enjoyed many a morning tea supplied by this French patisserie, but that was more than five years ago.

It's market day and sunny and all the tables on Argyle Street are taken. We carry the pram and Baby Pea through to the leafy back courtyard with bigger tables and winter-friendly heat lamps.

I love a bowl of coffee, though it's probably not the easiest thing to drink with a baby on your lap.

I have a major weakness for gruyere so the ham and cheese croissant has my name on it. Pea Pa gets a shock when he sees it come out, all buttery and smothered with melted cheese. He's glad he didn't say no though when he tastes the creamy, ham-flecked bechamel filling - it's heaven. Definitely one to share.

Naturally we can't leave without sampling something sweet, and the almond croissant beckons. I cut it into little squares so we feel less guilty, or perhaps so no one notices me eat the last piece.

La Renaissance Patisserie Francaise
47 Argyle St, The Rocks, Sydney NSW 2000
p. 02 9241 4878

La Renaissance Cafe Patisserie on Urbanspoon


Se Joung, Campsie

Pea Pa signing in and on for some relief culinary reportage...
Oh my goodness, we love this place! Especially Baby Pea:

Even the timber tables are yummy!

Having decided to looker further afield for baby friendly digs, we spend a wonderfully cool and clear afternoon exploring the domestic and culinary potential of Campsie. While the domicile disappointed, the grub most certainly did not. As usual I can be persuaded to do almost anything provided there is a meal at the end of it, so the merest whiff of kimchi is all that is necessary to send me a couple of suburbs further south west to look at a house, and lunch.

The restaurant, Se Joung, highly recommended online, is on a side street next to one half of a certain grocery duopoly. Oh dear.

Once inside though, any concerns disappear. It is mercifully quiet and spacious. Large timber tables in the main dining room each have a very cool old-school grill in the middle, very well-seasoned, ready for action. Given our Baby Pea, we opt for non-barbecued dishes, this time. Another dining room is chair free...floor barbecue action! Not sure how that rates on the baby friendly scale, however.

First to arrive are the condiments: baby eggplant, bean sprouts, sweet potato, some delicious pickled greenery and - of course - kimchi. All absolutely delicious, and very very generous serves!

The generosity of the little dishes should have warned us, but we ( I mean me, really), still order waay too much, starting with a truly great haemul pajeon. Generous with the seafood, crispy, full of flavour, this pancake is also enormous. So big, we must take some home with us...

Next up is an old favourite of mine, dol sot bibimbap. Very very good, lots of fresh veg, a nice mix of crisp veg/rice crunch and soft savoury goodness. We eat this so easily. I could eat this every other day. The best bit is the crunchy rice base...

Ok, so, here is where we should have stopped ordering (ah the power of hindsight). The final dish, kimchi jigae, while good, is not truly appreciated due to our having already stuffed ourselves silly. Fortunately, the lovely proprietor is more than happy to parcel up our leftovers for tomorrows lunch! Lovely!

We will definitely be back, there's more tables what need licking, and kimchi eating.

Se Joung      
68-72 Evaline Street Campsie NSW 2194(02) 9718 4039

Se Joung on Urbanspoon


Paper Cup Espresso Bar, Stanmore

A new baby sister cafe to Clipper in Glebe, cute little Paper Cup is the ideal venue for a lunch date with a friend who's halfway through brewing her own bub. Pea Pa and I deliver some baby booty to her place in Petersham and with no room in the car for the pram, we get him to drop us off outside the cafe so we won't be late to meet our friend and her six-month-old.

I'm pleased to be pramless so I don't take up too much space at our footpath table. I feed Baby Pea then hand him over to sit with the bump so I can enjoy my flat white. It's strong, serious coffee.

There are a few breakfast things on the menu and just three sandwiches - good news for the indecisive diner. I go for prosciutto, mozzarella, tomato and pesto, and my fellow mum nabs the last one with smoked salmon, ricotta, capers and hard-boiled egg.

They come on toasted Turkish, quartered and prettily plated. Mine is a full-flavoured combination and I pull out some of the salty prosciutto to eat on its own so I can enjoy the simple trio of tomato, basil and fresh mozzarella. It's delicious either way, and my friend is just as happy with hers.

We love the service too. Filled water glasses are brought to the table without needing to ask, and they don't even mind when we have a baby brain moment, leave without paying for one coffee and don't realise our mistake for about half an hour. I want to come back again soon and bring my sweet tooth.

Paper Cup Espresso Bar
157/161 Cambridge St Stanmore NSW 2049
w. http://www.papercupcoffee.com.au

Paper Cup on Urbanspoon


Locantro Fine Foods, Leichhardt

I allow plenty of time to walk to Leichhardt for this week's Rippas lunch, so I can browse the baby shop round the corner and feed the Pea before the others arrive. Fifteen minutes early, after splashing out on a Bumbo play tray, I wheel him into Locantro Fine Foods, hoping to find a table to accommodate us.

I'm hovering near a lady who looks like she's about to leave when a man in the corner leaps up from his table and offers it to me. He even cleans it for me, and brings over extra chairs when I say I'm meeting three other mums. Owner Vittorio Locantro clearly values his customers, and it turns out mums make up a hefty number of them – during the week, he says, there's often a pram at every table, or mother's groups of five at a time.

I order a hot chocolate and get feeding, looking out past a stack of food show medals posted on the window. Vittorio's son Pino is the award-winning pastry chef, and the walls display posters of his new cookbook, Dinner with the Baker.

The others arrive and as usual we comment on how fast our boys are growing up. Baby Pea demonstrates this by stealing the opportunity, while I'm cooing over the other babies, to get his hands onto the table and knock my now-cold chocolate all over the table, pram and floor. Oops.

From a limited savoury selection of pies, quiches, sausage rolls and pizza slices, I pick a salami, artichoke and olive pizza and turn down the side salad. This is wise as I manage to cut it up and eat it one-handed. It's a good size for the price, with a light foccacia-style base, lots of cheese and lovely hot salami.

I should follow it with something sweet but instead I channel my change into take-home goodies - thickly sliced ham to go into the pasta dish I've planned for dinner and a loaf of ciabatta to go with it. I'm lucky to sneak a piece of someone else's treat though - an Italian custard-filled doughnut that reminds me of the Very Hungry Caterpillar before he turns into a butterfly.

Locantro Fine Foods
9 Catherine Street, Leichhardt NSW 2040
p. (02) 9568 3637

Locantro Fine Foods on Urbanspoon