You love your mum. How do we know this? We are psychics. Also, you clicked on an article called 'The Best Places to Treat Your Mum', so we figured that you care.
Yet, as fellow mama-lovers, we also realise that the annual celebration of maternity known as Mother's Day can be a vexing time for the Sydneysider. Where does one take one's mother (or mothers or grandmothers or amazingest aunts) on such an occasion? Your favourite underground bar is too dingy. Your go-to pizza joint is a bit of a lazy pick for the woman who gave you, you know, life. This is your chance to deliver something momentous. Something memorable.
Take your mum out this year on Mother's Day, for a decadent dinner, a long boozy brunch or a wholesome Meaningful Chat coffee at some of our city's best (but not intimidating) eateries and drinking establishments. You've got enough selection anxiety on your hands with presents, so we've picked out our favourite Mum-worthy spots.
After all those selfish nights of cot-based crying, the least you can do is rise a little early to avoid the lines at The Grounds of Alexandria. Signature homemade granola bowls will rival mum's finest offerings, and a Jack Hanna coffee will probably demolish anything she could brew (no offence, ma). For lunch, nothing says 'thank you for carrying me around in your womb for an extended period' quite like a few local craft beers, local produce, baked goods, and cured meats and cheeses in The Potting Shed. If you've got the budget, The Grounds are hosting special lunch and dinner Mother's Day sittings, with a custom menu from executive chef Paul McGrath.
Your mum might have roasted many a chook for you, so treat her to one of the best in town. The Paddington may be a pub reno, but the venue isn't simply a pub anymore. Gone are the days of the Paddo Arms; it only feels right to call Merivale's reincarnation of the Oxford Street pub by its new, full name. They've taken the space, gutted it, given it one hell of a spit and polish, chucked in a few rotisseries and many a lampshade. It's all white tiling, emerald features and dark timber. It looks good — the word swish even comes to mind. And, downstairs at least, it feels kinda like a big, casual restaurant — perfect for Mother's Day.
If smoky charcoal meats paired and notable international wine list are some of your mum's favourite things, venture off the usual Darling Street drag in Balmain. There you'll find The Provincial, a restaurant that is serving up South American food with a heavy French accent. This cross-cultural food baby comes from real influences; the two owners (who are also brothers) travelled to South America to learn the art of charcoaling before partnering with a French chef and sommelier to develop the menu. As a result, smoky meats cooked on a woodfire charcoal parilla make up the mains, but entrees fly the French flag, making their mark with a mix of more intricate flavours.
Want to treat your mum to a long Sunday lunch in a light greenhouse-like space? Having found that a large number of regulars at the original Bistro Moncur in Woollahra were from the lower north shore suburb, the restaurant group decided to give them the classics a little closer to home. They've opened inside The Buena, which has just undergone a big refurb. Resembling a converted greenhouse, natural light pours into the restaurant from every angle, while cushioned bench seats and a mix of small marble and wooden tables make this bistro feel like a luxury indoor garden party. But while the setting is casually chic, the menu is sophisticated and quintessentially French — one that fully showcases the technical prowess of chef Guillaume Brahimi.
Want to take Mum to a buzzing Surry Hills space with contemporary Middle Eastern cuisine you can really unpack in your lunch chat? Nour's pastel-heavy, airy interior is enough to fool diners into thinking they'll get a 'play it by the rules' middle-of- the-road experience, but we're sorely mistaken. Executive chef Roy Ner's (formerly Aria) lineup is bold and experimental in nature, sporting dishes prepared with a twist. Buzzword overload? If your mum is a super foodie, this is a strong choice.
Has your mum been to Italy, hails from there, or just loves the place from right where she is? If the traffic from Military Road wasn't just behind outside, you'd be forgiven for thinking you'd just stepped through a wormhole and ended up on Italy's southern coast at this relative newcomer. Sotto Sopra has a sun-dappled shopfront that welcomes its diners into a frenzy of rich sensory stimuli — the smell of freshly baked bread wafting down the stairs from the kitchen, the vibrant profile of Prosecco on the tongue, and the sounds of a whole bunch of Mediterranean chefs and waiters cracking jokes in their mother tongue while they work.
Want to treat your mum to a wholesome sitting of farm-to-table goodness? Head for Fred's. The 60-seater dining room is slick, cosy and properly grown-up. The setting emulates the warmth at the heart of a charming country homestead; oversized kitchen islands and freestanding Tuscan grills do away with a traditional restaurant set-up where a custom-made hearth emits a soft glow while head chef Danielle Alvarez's cooking army flits between pans and plates. Alvarez's food philosophy at Fred' is all about sustainable produce from the people who farm it served by an enthusiastic team passionate about elevating your dining experience. Afterwards, pop down into basement bar Charlie Parker's for a cocktail.
She's living in one of the finest beachside cities in the world, yet mum never sees the beach? It's time to get her to Three Blue Ducks. If you wish to avoid the crowds at big-brother-Bondi, Bronte's finest restaurant is the perfect setting for a cappuccino, a glass of white wine or a stuffed coconut concoction. This little pocket of salty hipsterdom is a modest mix of natural and manmade decor, incorporating the warmth of wood and cool concrete for an authentic rustic country-meets-downtown feel. With a peaceful, sunny streetside window and a tender steak sandwich ($18), the effortless slice of paradise will remind mum why she decided to raise you in Sydney all those years ago. If you're closer to the inner west, head to their Rosebery chapter.
Quite the family hub, Sydney's Camperdown Commons — which encompasses Pocket City Farms and adjoining restaurant, Acre Eatery — is a top spot for a big family lunch. The stunning transformation of the dilapidated Camperdown Bowling Club into a full-blown urban farm and restaurant has turned the neglected space into a site for fresh organic produce and a farm-to-table eating. Acre is a gorgeous 350-seater, with beautiful wooden tables and Hamptons-style white chairs and booths. The warm, bustling atmosphere is helped along by the incredibly professional and knowledgeable staff that also seem to have a personal stake in the restaurant's concept.
Two ex-Jonah's chefs Josh McPhee and Dave Moran have built their own casual eatery and hang spot in Dulwich Hill. The laidback pair built The General with their own hands, cleaning bricks, sourcing tables and $1 vintage school chairs, crafting concrete pendant lights, and generally renovating the former butchery into a relaxed casual eatery. The ever-changing menu has pride of place on an exposed brick wall, where it's scrawled with a permanent marker on a giant roll of brown paper. Fingers crossed they're doing the salted caramel tart with coffee meringue ($12) on Mother's Day.
Here's a newbie for trendy mums, or mums who love trying new places. The crew who brought you ACME, the elegant, understated and Italian-ish eatery in Rushcutters Bay, are back (and more powerful than you could ever imagine) with their new project Bar Brose. As you may have guessed, Bar Brose is a wine bar, and it's just opened in Darlinghurst. The nod at rose is a bit of a red herring as they serve up a broad range (a very broad range) of drinks. Their French-inspired menu is just as you would imagine; minimalist and varied, with fair whack of dessert options. Chef Analiese Gregory, formerly of Quay, is the force behind the food, comandeering a menu which includes adventurous dishes such kingfish, quince juice, apple and geranium ($18) and aged beef tartare with coffee and pickled raspberries ($18) alongside more traditional titles: spaghetti carbonara ($20) and Iceberg salad ($10).
First-rate Italian food on a jetty. What moor could you want? Sydney's two-hatted restaurant Ormeggio at the Spit gave birth to a new venue, Chiosco, last year. Located side by side on a Mosman jetty, Ormeggio and Chiosco are mere metres from the water's edge, with spectacular 300 degree views of luxury yachts and sparkling sea. While Ormeggio (which is Italian for 'berth' or 'moor') is a fine-dining affair, Chiosco (which is Italian for 'kiosk') has adopted a casual approach, serving Italian street food and takeaway with a 'barefoot and BYO' ethos. With cheaper prices and executive chef Alessandro Pavoni at the helm, it's a good excuse to go a little overboard.
Nestled in the sleepy backstreets of Potts Point, The Butler comes from the Applejack Hospitality team behind Bondi Hardware, The Botanist and SoCal. Located in the freshly renovated site of the popular Mezzaluna (and, prior to that, restaurant royalty and namesake Butler's), it brings a little Gallic decadence to the daring dining precinct on Victoria Street. The fit-out is immaculate. Characterised by colonial French themes and mature botanicals set against crisp white decor, The Butler feels like the sort of dining oasis in which the cast of Made in Chelsea might film their season finale.
Back eastside, our next 'recomumdation' (see what we did there?) is the harbourside dining experience of Rose Bay's Catalina. A Rose Bay waterside institution of 20 years, this award-winning destination from Michael and Judy McMahon offers diners panoramic views of the harbour, impeccable world-class service and a menu sporting much-loved dishes almost as old as the place itself. If you're intimidated by the price and/or reputation of the place, take baby steps into fine dining by booking in the bar area and enjoying share plates like beer-battered and melt-in-your-mouth soft goujons ($15) and Ortiz anchovies with tomato salsa on grilled sourdough ($14).
Challenge Mum to a spot o' bowls. What was once a daggy bowlo has been transformed into a lush, summertime garden bar with million-dollar Sydney skyline views. Inside The Greens, floor-to-ceiling glass doors allow sunlight to stream into a plant-filled brasserie which is fitted out with curved booths and long communal tables. If it's a sunny day, head outside to the rustic garden, where you'll find a plenitude of daybeds and picnic settings adjacent to the lawns.
As a Sydney institution, Sean's is nothing but itself — and the perfect place to while away the afternoon with Mum. There are no pretentions and no shortcuts at Sean's. The roses on the tables are from the garden. They have that long-forgotten scent. The waitstaff are the sort that do this because they want to, not because it's a job that will finance a ticket to somewhere else.
'Your mama' jokes aside, any maternal relation of yours would benefit from a healthy serving of Sadhana Kitchen this Mother's Day. This is the yummy kind of healthy. The menu is extensive — they offer breakfast, lunch, desserts, smoothies, coffee (with soy, almond or coconut milk) and hot tonics. They're also all for grandiosity, offering raw vegan high teas and seven-course degustation menus.
Before we start, expect The Newport to be super busy on Mother's Day. But that doesn't mean you should avoid it — there's plenty of room. Merivale's only venue on the Northern Beaches, The Newport has a strong focus on food and live entertainment. But don't expect a single service counter or a straightforward menu at this renovated pub. Instead, expect to feel a bit like you're walking through a permanent food festival. Lutaud designed the menu with input from some of Merivale's other key chefs, so you'll notice some familiar imports — and a similar stall-type layout to the Coogee Pavilion's foreshore fest. We'd gun for one of Vinnie's (Merivale pizza guru Vincenzo Biondini) pizzas. Live music is also a huge focus at The Newport, with an expansive alfresco deck custom built to showcase local talent. Check the schedule for Mother's Day.
Post-dinner plans? Hit up Messina or go decadent at MasterChef's Reynold Poernomo two-storey, glass-walled dessert bar in the swish new Kensington Street precinct in Chippendale. Downstairs is a patisserie-style cafe with takeaway coffee and ready-made creations, while upstairs is a sleek contemporary dining room, with tufted leather booths and a black minimalistic aesthetic. His big bro Arnold, a former judge on Indonesian MasterChef, oversees the savoury fare while other brother Ronald does cocktails and Reynold does dessert. Why make a dinner of it and do a six-course degustation ($77), which consists of three savoury and three sweet dishes. Or just head straight for the chocolate sphere atop chocolate and almond soil. Splice it open and you'll find frothy chocolate mousse and — *gasp* — an oozing raspberry gel in its core (*round of applause*).
By the Concrete Playground team. Top image: The Provincial.