Sydney's iconic Centennial Park, named during its establishment as part of Australia's centennial celebrations in 1888, turned 125 years old this year. Located to the east just over York Road, is Queens Park, established at the same time and celebrating the same milestone. It is the smaller, lesser-known sibling.
The new eatery, Queens Park Shed, is similarly modest and unpretentious. Originally a women's change shed, it eventually became a disused sports storage shed, until Centennial Park and Moore Park Trust engaged Trippas White Group (who run the event spaces throughout the rest of the parklands) to turn it into a community space and eatery.
On one hand, it's a no-brainer. The park is full of sporting children and adults pretty much every day, and it's adjacent to a children's playground with plenty of caffeine-dependent parents to cater to. On the other hand, it was in "appalling condition", as project manager Fiona Rae describes — "daylight could easily be seen through the roof tiles". As well, the plans attracted some opposition from locals who thought it might disrupt the peace.
The strategy, for both menu and design, is simplicity and quality with a nod to local flavour. Free range, biodynamic and organic all feature on the menu (this is the Eastern Suburbs after all), but you can still get a burger and chips. Okay, so the burger is wagyu with iceberg, beetroot, tomato, onion jam and cheddar ($14), but it's still a burger that any football-playing bloke would love to scoff after a game. Salads and boards have a more delicate palate, with chicken, roast pumpkin, avocado, freekah and watercress ($12) combining in a generous serve. The Tasmanian smoked salmon, toasted rye, lemon caper and parsley salad ($16) is both delicious and artfully arranged.
The look is just right. It's raw and rustic, with concrete floors, original exposed brick exterior walls and interior walls left as found, making you feel like The Shed may have been there forever but you just haven't noticed it. The main area is spacious, with communal dining tables, but there are smaller nooks in a secondary area where gossip can be traded over a Toby's Estate coffee ($3.80 for a small) or Charlie's organic juices ($5). The drinks are a touch pricey, but they've got the monopoly on this park street. Neat touches like garage-style doors and decorative pitchforks allude to The Shed's former life.
It's been so popular since its launch in October that trading will soon extend to after-hours operations with a liquor license recently granted and a summer dinner menu being developed. I bet those residents that first complained will be the first, and the most loyal, customers.
The Shed will be opening for dinner in early 2014 from Thursday to Saturday.