On a Sunday morning, the former Pennant Hills Inn is coiled like a well trained army unit primed for a bombardment of family groups. A bank of some 20 high chairs sits in the corridor awaiting ill treatment. The bistro is making fortifying coffees for early-bird parentals. The large team in the open bistro is hurriedly prepping for lunch service.
Yet already, that marvellous glassed-in kids’ playroom is teeming like a petri dish. The room, occupied by a padded play maze in a pirates-slash-tropical island theme, is divided into two sections – one for two to four year-old littlies and one for their rowdier five to ten-year-old playmates – and nobody can get out without passing through the one exit, so it’s easy to keep tabs on them. Cartoons play silently on big screens while, out on the terrace, there’s a bouncy castle that wobbles like a fat man laughing when tykes are hopping around inside it.
The HRH had a slick revamp some years ago and boasts a neutral modern design with lots of olive, charcoal and dark wood, and everything is spotlessly clean: they run a remarkably tight ship here. It’s a bit of a labyrinth – extra dining rooms are hidden around corners, and the gaming areas are well separated from the family sections.
You can get a decent beer on tap here; they have White Rabbit, a bunch of James Squires and Kosciusko, while the menu here is a cut above, with moules marinères, Moroccan lamb, some tricky salads and fillet mignon if you so desire them, alongside the pub staples. (For those who pay attention to these things, the bistro won an AHA Award in 2014.)
The vibe here is crowd control with minimal tears; feed ’em, water ’em, and get them on their way, and make the experience at least painless enough that they’ll gladly come back. And once the mums and dads have taken their broods home, the stage is open for weekend evening acoustic sets.