At WEST, we know that Western Sydney is filled with culinary gems that everyone needs to know about. We also love meeting local Western Sydneysiders who support and get behind their favourite eateries by sharing their experiences online.
One of these proud Westies is the Queen of the Happy Eating Dance, Clare Hodges, from St Clair. We first met Clare at a WEST Supper Club where we fell in love with her hilarious and warm personality.
Cultivating a colourful and bubbly Instagram account, Clare (@foodenthusiast.sydney) shares her love of so many Western Sydney restaurants, bars, pubs, cafes, and everything in between. She’s authentic and admits that she began her food blogging journey because her life already revolved around good food, and there’s nothing like the feeling of sharing something you love.
A supporter of her local area around Penrith and Blacktown, Clare has a special place in her heart for great venues nearby and is a loyal returning customer to many of her favourite places.
We asked Clare to take us on a tour of five of her must-visit restaurants in her neck of the woods, and she happily agreed. And so, together, we took on the marathon challenge of visiting all five of her picks in one day!
So, here’s Clare’s list of five must-visit restaurants in Western Sydney.
We started the day at modern Australian woodfire restaurant The Birdhouse in Minchinbury. This is one of Clare’s favourite places for brunch, lunch, or dinner and she is a regular. We love that they source their ingredients locally, selecting quality produce from around Western Sydney.
From the moment we arrived, we were blown away by the look and feel of this venue. Surrounded by their beautiful garden on the site of the historic Minchinbury Winery Estate, The Birdhouse is a slice of history and is located inside one of the heritage buildings, home to the famous Minchinbury Sparkling.
The venue feels like you’re in a garden, as you’re surrounded by a variety of greenery and timber. We love their weather-proof al fresco dining too and the in-house bar where all their signature and speciality cocktails are created. You’ll even spot an old upright piano and many decorative bird cages.
Try the decadent Vodka Rigatoni, which was made with 42 Below Vodka, tomato sugo, chilli, and topped with burrata. The owners told us that Clare loves this dish so much, they almost called it the Vodka Clare-atoni!
The Duck Fat Potatoes, Baked Brie, and Lebanese Eggplant were each done to perfection. They perfectly accompanied any main including Lamb Backstrap, Za’atar Chicken, and 350GM Scotch Fillet.
Of course, being a woodfire restaurant, we enjoyed the smell of woodfired pizzas from the moment we walked into The Birdhouse. And their menu of gourmet pizzas is simply too good to pass up at any time.
Heading into Penrith, we next sat down with an idyllic view of the glorious Nepean River at Sinclair’s. This modern Australian restaurant is a celebration of the region with ingredients sourced from the Greater Nepean area. That’s from the Hawkesbury to the Blue Mountains and all around the Nepean countryside.
Clare had warned us that the Sinclair’s House Crumpets were to die for – and she was right! We love the creativity of this menu, bringing in traditional cooking techniques with very fresh local ingredients made by local producers. The fresh and extra-large King Prawns, Baked Kent Pumpkin, and Cauliflower Bake were each sublime.
With the Sinclair’s Grill designed to face the guest, chef Jamie Gannon treated us to the preparation of 500g Little Joe’s pasture fed MB4 Scotch Fillet as well as a delicious corn-fed chicken, cipollini onion, local herb stuffing, chicken jus. Such premium cooking is always enjoyed with a glass of excellent wine – and the view was the cherry on top.
Clare next took us to Brooks in Jordan Springs for a modern Italian reimagining of a classic pub feed.
Brooks is a very spacious and big venue, pumping with groups on weekends and Friday nights. They’ve also got some of Clare’s favourite weekly offerings including Musical Bingo every Tuesday which she swears is a hoot. Fun community events are what we love about the local pub, and Brooks brings that and much more.
Our feast of Clare’s favourites began with the life-changing Ricotta and Honey Flatbread. There’s something so simple yet incredible about freshly made dough, woodfired to perfection, and served with herbs, honey, and ricotta. We couldn’t get enough.
Catching anyone’s eye on the menu is the Veggie Lasagne Burger – a seemingly unlikely combo, yet it absolutely works! The bold creativity of the Brooks menu is what we loved.
We found ourselves licking the plate of the Porchetta and the Beef Lasagne, and just when we thought we couldn’t fit anything else in, we topped it off with delicious Lemon and Pistachio Cannoli.
Brooks is one of those gems that the locals love, and everyone should know about. Clare came in clutch with her recommendations again!
Changing vibes again, we headed into North Penrith, into what looked like a warehouse car park. But here we found a familiar friend of West, Smokin’ Hot N Saucy – for some unforgettable Texan-style smoked meats.
The meat here is an Aussie twist on the classic Texan-style BBQ. Slowly cooked overnight, this meat is some of the juiciest and most delicious you will ever try and the sauces and rubs are award-winning.
We enjoyed the generous “mini lot” which was anything but mini! Incredibly juicy smoked brisket, pulled pork, chicken wings, jalapeno sausage, and pulled pork, corn casserole, and delicious mac ‘n’ cheese. Their famous cheeseburgers are also mouthwatering, super juicy, and indulgently good.
Smokin’ Hot N Saucy is a local favourite in the Penrith area and is the kind of place designed for catchups with mates and watching the footy. They’re masters of the Texan BBQ with an Aussie twist, and like Clare, we know we’ll be back soon.
The last stop was an evening of colour, flavour and fun. Mexican food done well is clean, fresh, and satisfying and that’s exactly what we had a Chechos, right in the heart of Penrith.
Pumping with people and soft tones of pink, Chechos has such a warm, vibrant atmosphere. Shots of tequila, delicious margaritas and other mind-blowing cocktails are the order of the day here. We started with a suite of unique cocktails including the Coco cabana, Mango Caliente, and Madre del Dragon.
Nailing the share plates, we had Chechos Guac, a Warm Eggplant Barbacoa Dip, and deliciously sweet Spiced Corn Ribs. The Kingfish Ceviche was an explosion of flavour, as was the CFC (Chechos Fried Chicken) and Sticky Slow Cooked Lamb Ribs. The Watermelon Salad and Clare’s favourite Patatas Bravas were impossible to stop nibbling on.
Finally, to top it all off, we ate Churros with dulce de leche, and vanilla bean gelato – couldn’t ask for a better conclusion!
We can’t thank Clare enough for sharing her love of food and some of her favourite places in her own backyard. A huge variety of incredible, diverse, and satisfying options for any and every occasion. The WEST team had such a great day, and we made some new friends along the way. Thanks, Clare!