We have a confession: we were tempted to keep this restaurant a secret! Why? Because we wanted to keep it all to ourselves. At Sounds on West the food is great, the space is great, the service is great. It is, dare we say, our favourite place to have dinner with the kids. It is, we think, the Central Coast’s best kid-friendly restaurant!

That’s a big call we realise – a very big call – and here are the reasons we’ve awarded Sounds on West with this mighty heavy gong.

First and foremost, this is a restaurant. Yes, we know there are great clubs with play equipment and jumping castles and kids-sized slushies, but sometimes – often times – we just want to dine in a restaurant. We want a restaurant that serves cocktails in fancy glassware, a restaurant that does table service, a restaurant that has funky live music. We want to still enjoy these things – even now that we’re parents – and Sounds on West lets us.

Secondly, the food is exceptional. Sounds on West is an off-shoot of Erina’s Six Strings Brewing Co, and in their words, “the evolution of their love of craft beer, smoked meat and BBQ”. They classify themselves as “an Australian barbecue restaurant providing southern-style diner cuisine with an American influence”, and we reckon that description’s pretty spot on. Their specialty is meat that’s been spice-rubbed and slow-cooked in their on-site smoker – think pulled pork, black angus brisket and pork baby back ribs. They also do a 1.7kg Tomahawk steak that’s so large and labour intensive it needs to be ordered 24 hours in advance!

Lighter meals take the form of Korean fried chicken with crushed peanuts and a kimchi slaw, a wagyu grass-fed beef cheeseburger, or wood-smoked mushrooms with handmade gnocchi and truffled butter – everybody say “mmmmm”! We could also very happily make a meal just from their sides. The parmesan truffle fries and burnt ends beans are longstanding faves, but we also love to throw in a few lighter options by way of charred greens, Mexican roast corn and shaved fennel slaw. The holy grail goes to the mac and cheese, though. Neil Perry put this simple pasta dish in the spotlight when he included it on his Sydney Rockpool Bar & Grill menu in 2009, and Sounds on West’s version is a fair rival.

The kids menu is classic in its offerings, but far tastier than most. There’s mac and cheese, chicken tenders and battered fish, and you can also ask for a smaller-sized bangers and mash. We recommend the bangers: the lightly smoked sausage is made at Edwards Butchery in Woy Woy and the burnt end gravy comes with a sticky housemade onion jam. If you’re lucky, your kid will have leftovers… but chances are they won’t.

The sweet stuff isn’t overlooked. You can opt for a creme brulee, sticky date pudding, or a “beeramisu” – a Six String stout chocolate mousse, chocolate ganache, chocolate soil and sponge made to order. Boom boom! We’ll be honest: as amazing as these sound, we’ve never had room for dessert. One day we’ll skip the mains and go straight for dessert!

Kitchen Garden at Sounds on West, Umina

Thirdly, drum roll please, Sounds on West welcomes kids and has been set up with kids front of mind. Rather than packing in the tables, they’ve left ample space in their garden for kids to run and play. The garden is kitted out with a large chalkboard, totem tennis, trucks and a ten pin bowling set. They have a kitchen garden with a scarecrow (that’s not scary), tiny cans for watering and a sign that invites children to eat the strawberries.

Dining here feels like you’re dining at a friend’s house. Everyone sits down to a yummy dinner and when the kids tire of eating they go play. You don’t spend the night repeating, “sit in your seat”, “keep the noise down”; instead, you watch them happily playing, a drink in your hand, and enjoy some conversation uninterrupted.

To top it all off, the decor is fun. The building’s original features are celebrated in its exposed ceilings and brick and timber panel walls. Materials have been refurbished and old doors have been upcycled into bench tops. We love the Astro-turf garden bench that doubles as a drink station, seat and kids jumping platform. And we love that the tables are long and large and encourage groups of friends to sit and drink long after “bed-time”.

Sounds on West

Hours: Wed dinner 5:30pm-10pm; Thu-Sat lunch 11am-3pm and dinner 5:30pm-10pm; Sun lunch 11am-4pm.
Phone: 0243 399 023 – Tell them Playing in Puddles sent you.
Address: 2-3 / 227 West Street Umina Beach.
Email: [email protected]
Website: www.soundsonwest.com.au

So please tell us, Playing in Puddles readers, have you been to Sounds on West? And what other evening restaurants have you visited that make dining with kids a joy?

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