Have you got a hankering for a bit of apres-ski adventure, but not the funds to actually hit the slopes? Don’t worry; Sydney’s pop-up “winter garden” is the answer to affordable urban apres ski-style adventure, complete with alpine-style huts selling sausages, mulled wine and hot chocolate. And Tornado Potatoes.
But more about them later… Although the main attraction, the ice skating rink in the forecourt of St.Mary’s Cathedral, is not what I’d call a cheap activity for a family, it is still a billion times more affordable than a ski holiday/actual alpine adventure. And even if you don’t want to fork out the dollars for skating, you can sit down at the outdoor chairs and tables and soak up the winter wonderland atmosphere for free. Kids can experience weaving their way down the slopes on a mechanical snowboard, a giant slide or for milder fun they can visit the baby animal nursery. They can also float around a pond in a giant Lindt ball. Spider Boy didn’t meet the 140cm height requirement, and I was secretly relieved.
There are also igloos available to “chill-out” in of course…
Because the Winter Garden is in a prime city location, we’ve been to this frozen funland three times in the past two weeks when we happened to be in the neighbourhood. We haven’t ice-skated, because, budget, but we’ve enjoyed sitting in the winter sun with our hot chocolate (and yes alright, our potato-on-a-stick) watching the skaters carve up the ice to a pop-music soundtrack. But if you think the only food available is the greasy fair-ground type, you’d be wrong. Agape Organic has a kids menu including vegetarian nachos and organic fruit juice, there’s teppanyaki noodles, gozlame, wood-fired pizza and of course no alpine-style adventure would be complete without German sausages and Nutella crepes. If you want a really good hot chocolate, try the pop-up Lindt chocolate cafe for a hot sweet, thick beverage and, Lindt balls wrapped in every colour of the rainbow.
But back to the potato-on-a-stick, aka the “Potato Tornado”. I couldn’t resist its greasy, salty allure, so we bought one to share. It was exactly as I imagined plus oh-so chicken-salty. The charming young man working the potato counter (and also the German Sausage counter) had a charming alpine accent: I assumed it was German but my sister Señorita Margarita later pointed out it could be Austrian or Swiss.
I do want to acknowledge Mr. Potato’s great customer service. He patiently explained the Tornado Potato concept to customers, and with his well-groomed northern European style and charming accent, Margarita and I dubbed him Dolph Lundgren. We may have been referencing a character in an Adam Sandler movie. Because sometimes with my sister, I am 15 again. I had mentioned “Dolph” to Margarita on the phone when I called her to get her ETA. She and Spider Boy had an auntie-nephew afternoon planned at the Australian Museum across the road. Later when we all met at the Winter Garden again, Margarita went to the counter of the Tornado Potato/German Sausage Hut, not to purchase a potato, or a sausage, (because, deep-fried carbs and fat) but to hear “Dolph” speak. I observed the exchange from a distance. I couldn’t hear what she asked him, but I believe she went with my suggestion of “How many potatoes are there in a Tornado Potato?” Then to my delight I saw Dolph hold up a whole unpeeled raw potato, on a stick, and point to the machine that spins the potato into a long coil, and then he pointed to the deep-fryer, with the exaggerated and engaging hand gestures of a flight attendant.
The Sydney Winter Garden: Fun, food, alpine adventure and Dolph Lundgren.
As that other* Austrian superstar would say, “I’ll be back.”
*The real Dolph Lundgren is actually Swedish.
Sydney Winter Garden: St Mary’s Cathedral, Cnr College St and Cathedral Square, Sydney.
June 19 – July 19
Skating (including skate hire) $30 (adults) $20 (children). Family skate 4 pack: $90 Rides (Zorb ball, slide, snowboard machine)
1 ride/3 rides/unlimited $6/$15/$20