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.
7 am Sutherland Farmers' Market
In addition to bringing a lot of increased foot traffic to the suburb of Sutherland, 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.
9am Rudi's for Foodies
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.
10am Get on the cheese trail
The Grate Cheese Company doubles as a mini showroom devoted to cheeses. Follow your nose to find a range of artisan cheeses -- from creamy bries to sharp cheddars -- that have been sourced from around the world. Fromage fanatics flock to the shop, in Gymea Village, which stocks everything from a 45 kg wheel of grana Padano to tubs of fresh labne and beautiful fresh fetta, King Island brie and Soresina provolone piccante mandarino. Look in the larder for a range of crackers, quince paste, fruit and dried nuts to complement your DIY cheeseboard. Oh and do go for the full lactose overdose and book a Paint, Wine & Dine class.
Noon Lunch at Mr Paisley's
Mr Paisley's is the little café that could in Caringbah North. It's the first café in the Sutherland Shire to be named an 'ocean-friendly café' because of it's eco-friendly ethos. Pete and Toni Nolan -- that's Mr and Mrs Paisley to you -- are making a difference in protecting our oceans by promoting a plastic-free existence with everything from reusable straws to non-plastic utensils for takeaway food. The café has the warm friendly community cafe vibe down pat, rolling out the welcome mat for a mash-up of customers -- from multi-generational families to gym junkies and school mums. The only question here is what to order: a big old burger, the chicken and kale soup with the cult following, or the Paisley plate of poached eggs with Mexi beans and fetta. www.mrpaisleys.com.au
4pm Chow down on chocolate
Vincenzo Morgia is regarded as one of Australia's best chocolatiers: his handmade chocolates are made using the finest Belgium couvertures and traditional European techniques. At Essenze you can 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 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 in Gymea, 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.
7pm Dinner at Yalla Sawa
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.
9am Break bread
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.
Lunch at The Nun's 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. They are an Australian-style cafe is brimming with delicious fare made with high quality and locally-sourced ingredients.
3pm Enjoy a craft beer crawl
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, 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. Complete the trifecta of your craft beer crawl at Sunday Road Brewing where the new Hazy IPA is just out of the tanks.
5pm Dinner at 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.
9pm Nightcap at the Blind Bear
Watch the sun fade out and the lights of Cronulla blink on before heading into Cronulla for a 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 Low & Lofty's to Croydon Lane Wine and Tapas Bar and the Lever Bar, presented by Grind Espresso.
Carla Grossetti is an award-winning local journalist. Follow her food and travel adventures around the globe at @food.travel.stories on Instagram. To read more of Carla's stories, subscribe to www.carlagrossetti.com
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522 Kingsway (Corner of Jackson Avenue), Miranda
T: 1800 004 321
Gerrale Street, Cronulla
Old Princes Highway, Engadine
20-38 Gerrale Street, Cronulla
T: 02 9710 0333
20 - 26 The Kingsway, Cronulla
T: 02 9527 3100
1 Kingsway, Cronulla
T: 02 8536 3600
1229-1233 Princes Highway, Engadine
T: 02 9520 8166
2 Seabreeze Lane, Bundeena
T: 0419 254 981
104 President Avenue, Caringbah
T: 02 9710 0333
Cnr Rawson Avenue & Pitt Street, Loftus
T: 02 9542 3646