Fresh and fabulous
ponds, tea-house and secret, willow-laced groves.
In early spring, the hot pink azaleas are in flower, cascading down the rocks to the lake where fat koi carp wriggle lazily. The air is rich with the damp smell of pond mud and the jostling crowds make it feel as authentic as a garden in China.
Wendy’s Secret Garden is tucked away off Lavender Street at McMahons Point on the city’s lower north shore, haphazardly terraced down a steep site. And while screams from nearby Luna Park sometimes dis- turb the waterfront reverie, this remains an oasis of deep green calm looking out on to a delightful, contained harbour view.
Wendy Whiteley set about making this garden following the death of her artist husband Brett Whiteley, transforming a weed-choked and junk-strewn site into a very personal space (Brett and daughter Arkie’s ashes are buried here). It has since become a place of contemplation for local residents and visitors who take the trouble to find it.
Beneath Moreton Bay figs, narrow, winding paths, made steady by rustic timber handrails, are sketched with the white and apricot trumpet flowers of the Brugmansia providing an extravagant splash of colour.
In the mid-19th century, Cremorne Point was home to a 9ha pleasure garden featuring all manner of entertainment, from band music to archery.
The garden’s success was short-lived but today you can explore a much more intimate garden, this one created by Lex and Ruby Graham in the late 1950s, and established from a single bulb that was found floating in a rockpool.
Enter via a small laneway between 31 and 33 Cremorne Road and follow the narrow stone path, wriggling down beneath large, overhanging rocks. It’s cool and green, with only yellow waratahs, peachcoloured clivias and glimpses of the blue-grey harbour to spark the gloaming.
Christine McCabe was a guest of Destination NSW. IF gardens are sexy, food is red-hot and the two together are Burton and Taylor, it’s hardly surprising Sydney’s gardento-plate trend is booming. A VISIT to is proof Sydneysiders can’t get enough of the River Cottage aesthetic (a trend British food critic AA Gill has dismissed as ‘‘all rather Marie Antoinette’’).
You can queue here for ages to get a table but the wait is very picturesque at this former industrial site that has been transformed into a microfarm with resident chooks, vegetable garden and, until recently, Kevin Bacon the pig and Bradley the lamb. (Both creatures were stolen and a reward remains in place for their safe return.) A quaintly oldfashioned cake and lemonade stand (try the rose-flavoured fizz) and fruit stalls add to the atmosphere. Check out the new onsite florist. More: groundsroasters.com. CELEBRITY chef Matt Moran has taken the garden-to-plate ethos to the heart of the eastern suburbs at in swanky Woollahra. With its garden setting, the once quite posh Pruniers now feels a bit like a country kitchen (albeit a very stylish one), bustling with families and groups of friends tucking into plates of lamb and grass-fed beef raised on Moran’s Central Tablelands farm. Crucial to the restaurant’s homegrown charm is the lovely onsite walled vegetable garden where strawberries peek through cracks in the pavement. More: chiswickrestaurant.com.au. THERE’S no garden at as there’s just no room, but this slip of a restaurant, tucked away in the very nonbucolic Kings Cross, does feel like a funky farm kitchen and for young chefs Mike Mu Sung and Tristan Rosier, every night is a dinner party — make that a very cool dinner party with a superior playlist. There’s only one table, seating 20, and one table d’hote menu (four courses for $55 plus cake). When I visit, dishes include wicked chicken skin crisps with mayo; beef cheek cooked overnight; and an utterly delicious gingerbread cake. More: farmhousekingscross.com.au. AT Three just up the hill from Bronte Beach, former Tetsuya’s head chef Darren Robertson and his fellow chef-owners are living the good life with a permaculture garden and chooks out the back. The simple menu is resolutely produce-driven — perhaps snapper ceviche or a lovely egghopper with eggplant curry? More: threeblueducks.com.
Matt Moran (right) at Chiswick