Affogatos rock at the Swish Beach House

Beach House Barwon Heads
48 Hitchcock Avenue Barwon Heads

At first, I didn’t want to go into this restaurant. I was dressed up, perhaps a bit too much for the beach locals, and felt that I would stand up insurmountably against everyone else there. People looked casual sipping their drinks and watching people walk by at the front of the premises Parisian style, and I was actually, inwardly groaning as we walked up into the restaurant.

There was not much up our food-alley on offer on our second night there at Barwon Heads. We had parked ourselves once again along Hitchcock Avenue: we had already dined at Barwon Orange, and wanted to try something different; Annie’s was closed that night, and the one I had tried to book before discovering they weren’t open on Monday’s was Café Maritana. That we would discover the following night. At the Rocks had too many recent bad reviews on Urbanspoon for me to want to risk throwing our holiday dollars away there, and everything else in close proximity was either closed, or too cas. We weren’t going to have fish and chips. We wanted to sit in nice surroundings, and eat and relax for a couple of hours.

Hubbie convinced me in. I ignored the looks and walked behind him, trying to hide behind baby girl. I love dressing up, but I hate staring. I can’t stand it. So what if I’m dressed up? You don’t have to ogle.

I was immediately relieved and impressed when I saw the interior. This, was much fancier. In fact, by looking at the exterior, I never would have guessed the interior would have looked like this. The tables and chairs were a dressier version of the outside, with a large bar in the middle of the room and ample space to be seated. Even so, we were greeted by a serious lady who asked if we had booked. Was this a thing in Barwon Heads? As someone said on Urbanspoon, this isn’t Melbourne. This place certainly had the space to fit us, and nearby empty tables didn’t seem to have a reserved sign. In fact, as we had learned the previous night at Barwon Orange, even in that smaller space they had been able to sit us. Fortunately, she seated us, and so become one unexpectedly great night.

Inside it was swish, but the beachy vibe was still there with huge leaf-like fans across the ceiling. Even the people dining in there were more stylish, wanting to make a meal out of the night, as it were.

We ordered drinks and baby girl’s meal first, and I informed our lovely young waitress if they could bring out her meal ASAP – they didn’t have to deliver it with ours. It came surprisingly quick, right after our drinks came, and conveniently right on time as she was starting to fuss.

Mini steak, shoestring chips, garden salad with tomato sauce

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It was $12, so cheap yet so large! We fed her and kept her happy, using her leftovers as our entrée. Hubbie was pleasantly surprised with how succulent her steak was, and said “If our meals are anything like this…!”

I’d ordered an Almost Heaven cocktail, and the name pretty much summed it up for how the night was to become. It wasn’t overwhelmingly beautiful-looking, served just in a tall glass, but it was fresh and summery, and suited the night to a T.

Almost Heaven – Passionfruit infused vodka, Chambord, passionfruit Tiro

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We had ordered something different, different from our usual anyway. I usually go for a pasta, seafood or chicken dish, while Hubbie happily gets his steaks with veggies/chips/salad. Instead, I ordered the

Char grilled Eye fillet, with French fries and a garden salad

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While Hubbie ordered the Confit pork belly, with a rice noodle & crips vegetable salad in ‘Chowhouse’ chilli dressing

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The eye fillet was a very big and thick piece, and for my request of medium-to-well cooked with no blood, looking at it as it arrived on our table I wasn’t feeling confident it had been fulfilled. Even cutting into it and seeing the red ooze out, I went “oh no.” But then I realised that the red was just the juices, not in fact the blood, and the inside was very acceptably cooked: in fact, my butcher Hubbie very assertively said that given the size and request, it was cooked to perfection. Farrrrr. He said perfect? And after I tasted it, I couldn’t agree more. Well you’d hope so for $41.

It had a great flavour, and although the porcini and red wine butter was very distinctive in taste, I actually loved it, and was remembering the taste days after the meal. I had crisp fries and salad on the side, and happily ate it all. The salad was like the salad we’d tasted on baby girl’s plate, crisp and so-fresh tasting. It’s so hard to get a fresh salad nowadays. And the tomatoes, actually TASTED like a tomato, straight from the garden.

Hubbie’s meal of pork belly was baked confit-style, and so he wasn’t used to eating it a different colour than the usual grilled-style colour he gets. However it was soft and flavoursome, and he thoroughly enjoyed the Asian style salad on the side which had sweet and spicy characteristics. The combination was good, different yet still enjoyable.

Considering we had both ordered different meals to our usual choices, at a first-time restaurant for us, and been happy with the results, I thought of as a very good outcome. It’s hard to win at that, but we did. All the food was soon gone, even baby girl’s with our assistance.

I was feeling really content after my meal, but not overly-full like I’d felt the previous night. We decided to do it, and boy were we happy when we both ordered and got this:

Affogato – Genovese espresso, vanilla ice cream, liqueur of choice, hazelnut biscotti

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While baby girl got scoops of vanilla ice cream. At only $3 a serve, why the hell not?

I had requested bailey’s on the side while Hubbie had asked for cointreau. The presentation of the ice cream with coffee on the side, a shot of liqueur to the other side, and a biscuit in the ice cream, was PERFECT. It looked divine, and it TASTED divine. I loved the biscuit. LOVED LOVED LOVED it. Tell me where you buy it and I’m buying it in bulk. Beautiful accompaniment to the coffee, a great crunchy and nutty texture. YUM.

The only fault with this dish, that kept it from being a 10/10, was the quantity of coffee. The quality was excellent, but there was just that little bit too little coffee in the cup. But if that’s the only fault, you know they’re doing well.

Everything went superbly that night. Along with our amazing food, our waitresses, in particular our main one was very, very nice and friendly, including to baby girl, and it was on that night we were starting to realise just how much of a difference that makes to her. When she shrieks, she does it out of joy, or for attention, and with the waitresses actually responding and smiling at her, as the other very friendly nearby diners were, she was absolutely rapt. She was a happier baby, which made our time there much, much happier. Some people may not care much for ratings on ambience and the nature of the staff and the people who frequent the restaurants we go to, but trust me, with children in tow, these things are vital. Because if your child is happy with you, your experience will be all the more enjoyable. Especially with children, friendliness matters.

The waitresses here seemed nicer than those at Barwon Orange (and s!&t all over the ones at Annie’s – sorry to be so frank), and maybe that was solely because they had actually smiled and spoken to her. I don’t need waiters to pick up my girl and twirl her around. I just want them to acknowledge her with a smile, when she smiles and waves at them. I want her growing up knowing that there are good people in this world. I don’t think that’s too much to ask for.

The friendliness of those around us, along with the more spacious nature of the restaurant, meant that even when baby girl shrieked with glee at all the attention she was getting, it was drowned out, meaning no chefs were looking over from their kitchens this night. LOL. Family-friendly, tick.

Food: 8.5/10. Simple food, done well. I like how the colour of our fries was golden, meaning fresh oil. That affogato… OMG. Almost 10/10 on its own.

Coffee: 8.5/10. Would like to try their cappuccinos one day, if their short blacks are anything to go by.

Ambience: Fantastic for families. Big and loud, but still that bit special and fancy.

Staff: Apart from the door-lady, our waitresses were very friendly and very nice. Our main waitress was constantly on-the-go, yet despite this still managed to give attention to baby girl. At one stage she was so busy she forgot to bring us our dessert menu, but we totally didn’t mind as we were having the best time. She didn’t forget the other crucial thing though, which was the smiling of course. 🙂

People: Fancier inside, but really lovely. Two large groups of people were seated near us throughout the night, and both times they were all so nice, and unexpectedly giving baby girl loads of attention. I mean LOADS. This was baby girl’s night, she was loving it. This kept her distracted, occupied and busy, which made things easier for us, and a distinguishable key in the success of the night.

Price: Well, we ordered 3 meals, 3 desserts, and 3 drinks. Some large, some small. For a total of under the mid $100s, which was expected. On key, I think, price-wise.

Advice: Book in advance. I think this is a Barwon Heads thing. Or a holiday-period thing. Or a Summer thing. Either way, just book, anywhere in Barwon Heads. And that’s it. Nothing else. Loved it.

In a nutshell: Simple food, served well and fresh and wholesome, in a great bustling environment that’s still fancy enough for those wanting something finer – just dine inside if you want fancy. We were really happy with our night, our meals, and how happily everyone there responded to our baby girl. A lot of great memories were made on that particular night in Barwon Heads, at Beach House Barwon Heads, which means we’ll look back on it fondly. We will definitely go back on our next visit in town, and I will end on this note: Thank God I didn’t let the exterior form my final opinion on dining there.

There’s a good moral for ya. 😉

Beach House Barwon Heads on Urbanspoon

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Orange by the Seaside

Barwon Orange
60 Hitchcock Avenue Barwon Heads

We were lucky to just stroll into Barwon Orange and get some seating on our first night at Barwon Heads. Even though it was a Sunday night, during summer and holiday season, we snuck in at about 6:30pm right before the onslaught of diners embarked within the next half hour. We were surprised at just how many ‘reserved’ signs were scattered throughout the tables of the restaurant, and it made us appreciate our good timing that night.

The waitress was very friendly and seated us happily despite our lack of a reservation. After we ordered I had a good look around the place. We had been seated inside right by the counter and coffee-making machine, however the fold-out doors were open making us feel like we were outside, as we had a great view of the outdoor diners and even the people passing by on the street. Along with the ocean pictures and sun horizons adorning the walls, their open doors gave it a great beachy vibe, though at the same time black shades enclosed fancy chandeliers hanging above us, and urban furniture inside the restaurant gave it yet another feel. There was a combining of themes happening here, and yet it all worked and gave the atmosphere an interesting and welcoming feel.

I think the welcoming and homely feel was also attributed to the number of people coming in and ordering/picking-up pizzas to-go. I think I could safely say a decent majority, if not all of them were locals, or regular holiday locals. This made the atmosphere more relaxed, with the amount of delivery boxes heading out the doors that we saw that night.

For dinner I ordered:

Linguini seafood pasta

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With a glass of 2013 Montevecchio Moscato. The moscato was light and fresh, with definite fruit notes. A great compliment at the end of a warm summer’s day.

Hubbie ordered:

Scotch fillet with broccolini and potatoes

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With his usual beer.

My dish was the classic seafood dish you’d come to expect at restaurants that are positioned seaside. There was a definite and clear seafood flavour in the dish with pieces of tomato throughout, and I was happy to see there was plenty of seafood alongside the pasta. I enjoyed the bits of fish, prawns and mussels I found in there, however I didn’t quite enjoy the calamari, and that’s just because I’m pretty fussy and don’t enjoy it much at all. You may say that I’m not a proper seafood enthusiast – whatever. This was a tad chewy, and I don’t think it’s meant to be so. I don’t expect much from calamari as it is, so I didn’t mind so much.

I left a little behind on my plate, only because we’d had a late lunch, followed by coffee and cake at Annie’s, so I was feeling REALLY full. I would have had it all if I could, I just wanted to leave a little room for dessert too.

Hubbie enjoyed his scotch fillet. It was a real hearty, simple meal that catered to his palate. The piece of scotch fillet was huge, so the slice was thin, and Hubbie said had the piece been smaller and the slice thicker, it would have retained more of the juices, especially with his medium request. (You butcher, you 😉 ) Still, he enjoyed the meal, despite like me, still being full from the earlier meals of the day.

Because we were both struggling with finishing our meals, we knew that having either a coffee each or a big dessert would quite frankly be a waste of money, and something we just wouldn’t enjoy as much as if we were actually craving it. So we met in the middle and decided to share this:

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The affogato.

There’s not much to actually making a good affogato. All you need is decent coffee, decent ice cream, and the key, the ABSOLUTE key:

Placing the damn coffee on the side so you can pour the quantity yourself over the ice cream.

Very, very simple. And yet some places totally f$%k this up.

Happily, Barwon Orange complied. We both tasted the coffee first to see just how strong it was, to discover, yep, it was freaking strong. So we quickly poured it over the ice cream, and ahhh. Much better.

Combining ice cream and coffee is truly a magical, wondrous mix.

They also had placed a straw on the side. When the coffee and what was left of the ice cream melted together into a caramel-gold liquid, we sucked it up and… wow. What a coffee hit. It was so much stronger through the straw than eating it from a spoon. Maybe because the coffee remains from the bottom of the cup hit us right on the palate in concentrated form? Interesting.

Food: 7.5/10.

Coffee: 7/10. This score, the coffee on its own.

Ambience: Although relaxed and outdoorsy with the fold-out doors, the crowd was still a bit fancy-schmancy, even with the families around. Baby girl was having fun squealing out loud and being especially vocal both before, during and after her dinner, and so we had to contend with a few looks and moments of silence as her vocals silenced the other diners, and made the chef in the kitchen look over a few times. Look, I don’t blame them. The place had a bit of a noisy vibe to it, but still, not enough to make me feel like I could relax and not worry about upsetting the other diners while baby girl experimented with her voice. It wasn’t a huge space to be drowned out by the general noise, both inside and outside, so you could hear what was happening on the next table a lot better, especially if there was a toddler shrieking (intermittently I add, in her defence 🙂 )

Staff: Very friendly and very smiley. Didn’t grimace when we walked up without a reservation despite how busy they got (and knew they were gonna get with all those ‘reserved’ signs).

People: Fancy-schmancy families, and locals who are just going about their business.

Price: On the upside, but totally acceptable for this type of restaurant with the style, food and presentation on offer.

Advice: This may have been a once off, but as of now, we are ALWAYS getting our bill at the table. As I went to pay (Hubbie was walking an impatient baby girl up and down the side of the restaurant) I asked the
waitress if the bill came to the table or if I should go up to the counter. She said I could do either, so I decided to just pack up our things and walk up.

When I pointed our table out to the girl behind the counter, she tallied up our two mains, two drinks and affogato to $132. I was surprised but I didn’t think quick enough to remember all we had ordered, and so paid, not wanting to cause a scene, all the while trying to remember and second-guessing the number of drinks we’d had, feeling like something was amiss.

I told Hubbie and when he too confirmed that that didn’t sound right, I immediately went back and asked for our bill to be checked. Turns out the previous bill hadn’t been cleared, and the amount of $47 had been added onto our bill. $47 extra! Imagine if I’d gone without checking. That’s about the amount we paid for lunch that day. The girl was very sorry and I know these things can happen, so I don’t hold it against her, however like I said, bills to the table from now on!

In a nutshell: Great presentation of food, a great vibe and interesting surroundings, as well as a good variety of meals on offer to suit many palates makes this a great place to eat. The staff were friendly and very welcoming. I would definitely go back, this time with toys for baby girl so that we don’t upset the people holidaying.

Barwon Orange on Urbanspoon

Food for thought on writing

The challenge isn’t in trying to write when your circumstances back you. The challenge isn’t in trying to find the time, the opportunity, the inspiration or the drive, when you’re in the mood.

When your geared up on coffee, had a couple of glasses of red, or sitting by the window on a rainy day, your muse will come. In fact, in those instances, your muse will be waiting for you to jump on the writing train. The words will flow and the ideas will spring to mind faster than your fingers have the time to get them out. This is me, most of the time.

The challenge comes when you don’t have a 1 hour block (or 2, or 3 hours, however you work) to get into a real writing flow. The challenge comes when you’re tired, when you’re sick. When you’re just not feeling like it, when the ideas fail you. The biggest one for me, is when I’m sad. Anger drives me, frustration gets me writing furiously, but sadness…. This is a hard obstacle between me and my writing.

But I remind myself, this separates the real writers from the occasional writers. And I don’t want to be ‘occasional.’ I want to be there, on cue, always, showing up.

Besides, if I rely on the unpredictability of Melbourne weather, those rainy spells only really last for 5 minutes at a time, so yeah.

Write for life.

Things that shit me… #5

Someone please tell me: what is the deal with the wide inconsistency of coffee cup sizes?

I currently have a takeaway cappuccino on my desk at work. It resembles the size of what I call a medium, yet when I ordered it I had to ask for ‘large.’

Yesterday I ordered from another café, and their version of a medium is actually slightly bigger than the large I’m looking at right now. The size matches what I would call a medium, but how is today’s large coffee smaller?

This shits me. Cafes that only serve regular coffee sizes, shit me. Especially when they border on the ‘small-pathetic-size.’ (Small sizes should not exist in coffee world). Cafes that serve itsy-bitsy coffees, and market them as ‘large,’ shit me.

All you cafes, you shit me. Call a medium, a medium. A large, a large. And call a small, a pansy. That’s it. Simple.

A rose by any other name would not smell as sweet… in this case the coffee still smells good but there’s not enough of it, damn it.

Annie are you ok, are you ok…. are you ok if I bring my kid?

Annie’s Provedore
Shop 2, 50 Hitchcock Avenue Barwon Heads

Annie’s was our first coffee stop during our Barwon Heads getaway on that brilliantly sunny first day. We were along the coastline, on the other side of the city, that part of town that Hubbie’s work mates affectionately refer to as ‘Little Essendon’ due to the number of their customers that holiday there.

Their exterior displayed eclectic beach/bush-funk, and a peek into the interior showed what looked like an exclusive little deli and bakery amidst indoor seating. I overheard one woman saying to her friend as they peeked inside “Oh, I wish we had seen this place first before having our chips!” I would have been spewing too.

There were quite a few tables adorning the sidewalk, all with umbrellas, expect for the one free table we made a beeline for. Despite the cool wind we had bright sunlight in our eyes, which made our initial visit there short and sweet, just like the subsequent coffee and cake that we had. We sat Parisian style, all of us facing the sidewalk watching the people and dogs (which baby girl loved) walk by.

We ordered coffees, a babycino for baby girl and a lemon and lime tart, as the vanilla slice hubbie had requested was unfortunately sold out.

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Both our latte and cappuccinos came with a choccie on the side, which I found a nice touch. They were decent sized coffees, another plus, however for me I found the flavour a tad too strong. Hubbie loved his though. As did baby girl.

The tart was nice and tangy, with a hint of creaminess. Nice and fresh, and a lovely accompaniment to the strong coffee.

On our second day in town, I stopped in to buy some much needed deli brie. I had decided after discovering the deli, that there was no way I was getting it conveniently from the local IGA. Nothing against the supermarket, but when I see gourmet deli, I’m like a little kid in a candy shop.

And so true to the cliché, I was, as I walked in to feast my eyes upon the offerings on that very hot second day. I was perusing the choccies, bikkies, cheeses and hams, and all the deliciously gourmet local/imported deli offerings available to be bought for good dough. Speaking of, they even had many varieties of loaf bread, both basic and gourmet styles. After having a good sticky-beak, I settled on a triple cream brie, some spanakopita to take back and share with Hubbie, some strawberry lollies, and some ginger and almond biscuits with lemon myrtle infused Belgian chocolate, to have with our takeaway coffees.

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That place seriously, is a deli lover’s dream.

I happily bought, paid, and then went to stand by the bread to wait for my coffees. And wait. And wait. And…. wait.

If I had known how long the wait would be, I would have gone there first, ordered, driven my car to the IGA to buy the groceries I had already bought that day, and come back to Annie’s to pick up the coffees which I reckon would have just become ready. Geez. It took forever. It probably felt longer as I was just standing there doing nothing but ‘taking in,’ but it really was a long while.

When I finally did get my coffees after what seemed like a forever of 15-20 minutes, I realised they had earned some brownie points: with the inclusion of two little pieces of brownie beside our coffees on the tray.

“The cappuccino is the one with the brownie on top,” said the young blond kid to me as he handed me the coffees.

I said thanks, but at first I was a bit peeved as I already had a bag to carry, another hand for the coffee tray, and then one of my taken hands also had to hold in place my dress with the massive slit going down the front, in fear the breeze outside blew the wrong way. And now I had to balance brownies, ON a coffee tray. Just to make things interesting. However as the human-multitasker, I even surprised myself with how well I manoeuvred to the car and back to our room with EVERYTHING intact. Score.

And, I had realised why the coffees had taken so long to arrive when I stepped outside. It was now absolutely packed, with what seemed like everyone trying to score an outdoor seat and enjoy some coffee and sweets in the sunshine.

Again, the coffee was strong that day, but I think I was starting to get used to it. The biscuits had great texture, and the filling was decadent and creamy. Finally, the spanakopita was just what we needed as we had pretty much forgotten lunch in our busy-ness that day. Later that day we tried the lollies, and they indeed were strawberry sweet, and the brie was well…. Mmmmmmm. Worth the wait and drive and everything. Perfect with crackers and a glass of cab sav.

On our third day there we went for breakfast. I had been very gung-ho about having to have brekkie there, since that first day when I’d noticed on the menu that they had coconut pancakes. Oh my. I just had to, it was a must. I’m a savoury brekkie girl, but the thought of coconut pancakes? I just had to see what it was all about.

Unlike our first two days, this day was almost pouring. There was consistent rain coming in from early morning, and we ran in with an umbrella trying to cover the three of us. No one was outside, bar two girls who bravely sat under an umbrella at a wet table. This time, the interior was fairly full, but this isn’t hard to achieve as you wouldn’t call their indoor area amply-spaced. We stood, looking around, thinking someone was going to seat us, and then I realised that we had to sit ourselves down. After all, when you pay and order you need to go to the counter, and only after that do you get your order delivered to your table.

I realised that was the odd contradiction to this place. It was homely, earthy, eclectic, and interesting. It seemed au naturel, with its back yard feel of baskets hanging from the ceiling, wooden chairs that were all different colours and sizes, and bakery and deli goods just hanging around waiting to be grabbed by outstretched hands. But there was a definite poshy undertone, and I don’t know if it was the staff, the clientele, or a bit of both that made the air so. Either way, it was a definite mix.

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We sat at a communal table and after asking a waitress clearing plates nearby, she brought over a highchair for baby girl. During our time there we had some difficulty keeping her entertained and shriek-free, having to endure some looks from other diners. In particular was the fine group of three pole-bums at the other end of our table who couldn’t even smile at baby girl as she grinned happily in their direction. I don’t expect people to make conversation and goo-goo ga-ga with her, but I’ve discovered one very important and factual life rule since having her: people, even rude people and mean people, will still smile and get all soft when a baby smiles AT THEM. People change in the presence of such innocence, and so I have to wonder what type of woman would ignore a child and turn away, feigning ignorance, when such a beautiful girl smiles AND WAVES, in her direction. I’m bias, because she’s mine. But like I said, what kind of heart would do this? Someone with the absence of one perhaps?

Anyway, back to the brekkie. We got our coffees surprisingly quick, quick compared to how long I’d had to wait the previous day.

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This time with cookies! Great job guys, loving the sweet extras.

Then minutes after, our food arrived. I had ordered:

Coconut Pancakes with pineapple

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And Hubbie had ordered:

Bircher Muesli with berries & Shaw river yogurt

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My pancakes were nice, but not what I had expected. They were warm and beautiful, but a bit doughy. The cream atop them was nice and fresh, and I had most of the pineapple, but together I had expected more. It was lovely, but maybe my expectations of what coconut pancakes would be like were too high, especially with the build-up over a few days. I’m not sure. Then again, I think it was just a case of me being a savoury-brekkie girl. The sweet temptation had tempted me into going the sweet route, and once again I was thinking ‘I should have gotten my usual eggs.’ Next time.

Hubbie wasn’t a fan of his bircher muesli, but then towards the end he didn’t mind it. I should probably explain that here’s a man who’s recently decided to go fairly carb-free, right before going away and then has tried to eat lighter meals while we go out. He never eats bircher muesli, and then he’s ordered it in an attempt to avoid his usual ‘big brekky’ style meal. I tried his meal, and agreed that it was very sweet with a definite all-spice taste, which is probably where the sour yoghurt comes in, to offset it. If I were him I would’ve preferred eggs too. As it was, I was.

Food: 7/10.

Coffee: 7/10. My score would have been lower if the serves weren’t so big, as the coffee wasn’t to taste for me, although I did grow accustomed to it after each visit. Points for free sweets on the side too.

Ambience: Relaxed surroundings, with a poshy, sometimes stuck-up vibe. As we were coming to realise, this was almost like another Noosa, but here unfortunately, we experienced more snootiness. It didn’t contain the commercial aspect that getaway spots like Noosa does, so in that it was good in retaining its local vibe. And despite the nose-up factor, it actually seemed very family and dog-friendly.

Staff: Friendly, but not enough smiles. I did also notice that they are quite pedantic about placing coffees in front of the correct person when they deliver them to the tables, something we experienced and what I also witnessed both times we ate in. I like that kind of attention-to-detail, but it does make me wonder which idiot didn’t know what coffee they were drinking and caused such a fuss due to their own lack of common sense to make the waiters so fussy now.

People: Family-types, with-money-don’t-care-attitudes, though they care enough to want to look at you and see who you are. A good smattering of older customers too.

Price: Medium to the up-side. For example our first visit of coffees and cake only came to $15-ish for the lot, which I thought was not too bad for some afternoon treats. My deli and coffee order the following day was a bit higher, and I think that was due to the $55.00 a kilo brie and $16 packet of cookies. That I was kinda expecting, buying from the gourmet deli and all. And then on day 3 we paid about $41, for 3 drinks and 2 meals. That was a tad much, also because we didn’t walk away totally satisfied. If our brekkies had been worth it, I wouldn’t have minded how much they charged on our 3rd visit.

What did peeve me off though, was that baby girl’s babycino was $1.50, and I reiterate again on this blog that babycinos should be for free. Yes there were marshmallows on the side, but then the babycino was just froth, on top of some milk in a little cup. And $1.50. WTF seriously. Get your menus and replace that price with ‘No charge!’ followed by a genuine smiley face. 🙂

Advice: Get some umbrella shade on a hot day if you can. If you go with kids, don’t expect to feel overly comfortable. When you order, remember what number was on the table you sat at, unless you like being descriptive.

In a nutshell: A really lovely place to have a sit-down and enjoy the relaxed lifestyle that Barwon Heads has to offer. This is one of the prettiest places on Hitchcock Avenue that you can dine at, so definitely do it. The food could be better, however the provedore did live up to my expectations. I would not recommend this as a child-friendly place, solely based on my experience of the people that dine there. I would come back and try the savoury dishes next time we’re in town, but only if I had a tonne of toys to keep baby girl occupied and shriek-free.

Annie's Provedore on Urbanspoon

Worthy Drive to Ambrosia

Ambrosia Café Bar Foodstore
Shop 13, 84 Bemersyde Drive Berwick

We weren’t expecting much for lunch on that hot Monday. We were in Berwick, on the other side of town to see a potential new car for me, and needed to get to an eatery quickly as baby girl was starting to get really irritable; and honestly, having been walking around in the uncovered persistent heat of the car yard, so were we.

I had perused Berwick eateries on Urbanspoon the day before, so I knew some names that rated up high on the leaderboard. When I searched for ‘local cafes’ on my phone, Ambrosia wasn’t too far away from our location, and I remembered it sitting high and pretty on the café-Berwick list.

We almost didn’t go in. It was more me and my anxiety and paranoia than anything else. The restaurant/café/bar/foodstore looked fancy from the outside, and with baby girl’s incessant cries of “not happy!” I worried that the place would not cater to the family crowd. I was worried her shrieks would annoy the other diners, and that we would get those dreaded ‘looks.’ Hubbie however liked what he saw, and pushed us inside.

I was so relieved when the waiter who immediately came up to us upon entry offered a high chair. Phew. Well clearly they were prepared for kids, in some shape or form.

It was noisy, and busy. The noise could drown out the sound of baby girl’s impatient yells. Uh yeah, no. That’s not possible. However we didn’t receive any looks even with diners nearby, and I think the nearby wedding function underway in the adjoining section of the restaurant was keeping the attentions of everyone occupied and elsewhere.

We were seated near this funky-looking picture

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Kind of tucked away. Right to my liking on that anxiety-riddled day. Not hidden away, it was just a little cozy corner.

We ordered Warm Flatbread with Dips for baby girl

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I got the lunchtime special which was the Roasted Pumpkin and Spinach Risotto with Chicken and Parmesan

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Which came with a glass of bubbly for $19.50. I thought this was a great deal, since I was going to get the same risotto from the regular menu, which outside the lunchtime hour went for about $24-25. And I got it cheaper, with alcohol. I did wonder if the ‘special’ menu meant the portions were different, smaller. I’ll take a punt and say yes. Still, by the end of our visit I didn’t leave in the slightest bit hungry.

Hubbie ordered the Ambrosia Burger: fried onion, Swiss cheese, bacon, & egg w a salad of homemade dill cucumber & beetroot, aioli, served with fries & salad

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And his usual pint of beer.

We had asked for the flatbread to arrive first, as we wanted to get baby girl eating and becoming her usual content self again. Our mains arrived first however, and we had to ask for the flatbread which had apparently been forgotten. We didn’t mind, because there were things from our plate to feed to baby girl. Luckily. Our flatbread arrived soon after and by that stage we were all very happily digging in.

The flatbread was warm and delicious, clearly super fresh since we know it hadn’t been ready! It came with a pumpkin and a beetroot dip that was fresh and tasty, but to be honest I love eating warm/fresh breads as they are, on their own, no extra condiments/dressings/sauces/dips required. Baby girl loved it too, and happily chewed on a piece and was kept busy for a while, while we had our mains.

My risotto was creamy, with a good hint of garlic. I loved it, I could easily have had more. I would have liked more chicken too, and like I said, I reckon if ordered outside the lunchtime menu, I may have gotten more of a serving. It did come a bit lopsided though, looking as if someone had poured it into the dish only to then teeter it on an edge and have the whole lot slide to one side. The taste was very yum despite this.

Hubbie’s burger was great too, as I tried a few bites. Wholesome burger patty with, egg, bacon, and an interesting tasting relish that I couldn’t put my finger on the taste. He loved his burger, and all the food on the table hit the spot for us very hungry bunch of car-shoppers. We scoffed it down happily.

Because we’re on holidays, Hubbie said “f$&k it” and we ordered cake and coffee too. Well the coffee was a must, the cake was a “I’m gonna squeeze this in I don’t know where” cake.

We shared a Tiramisu

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Hubbie got his latte; I got my cappuccino

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And baby girl got her babycino

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Before ordering our coffees we had gotten very excited when Hubbie had noticed the coffee beans displayed on one of their counters. It read Melba, and it’s the brand we buy for our own coffee machine at home, from a great organic café in our fave shopping haunt. So we had high hopes for our daily caffeine fix. However, hubbie’s latte was too milky, which is why there is no photo to display above – he was disappointed. He says it still tasted alright, but it wasn’t strong enough. I admit, it looked rather pale. My cappuccino was great, and though like hubbie’s latte it wasn’t strong, I did enjoy the smoothness. So we’re not sure if Melba was the coffee used, but if it was, it wasn’t made like our café back home does it.

Baby girl LOVED her babycino, and got upset multiple times that we didn’t spoon-feed it to her fast enough.

The tiramisu also seemed to be lacking some of the caffeine strength we were expecting to get. It was good, just nothing spectacular. I have had better.

What I did notice upon looking at our bill later, is that the babycino came in at $1.50. Now that just slightly peeved me off, as it did hubbie. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, I don’t think any dining establishment should be charging for babycinos. All it is is frothed milk with chocolate sprinkles. Now I know there are some out there that come with bells and whistles – a skewer of baby marshmallows on the side, a special gingerbread cookie – and I’ll admit that this one we had seemed to have chocolate milk beneath the froth, with a marshmallow on the side. So ok. But still, I kinda think the least these establishments can do, is not charge already-paying customers for a tiny portion of milk. The babycino probably costs them 5 cents, if that much. Even if you throw in a marshmallow, I think, like I said, not charging is the least they can do for paying customers. I don’t go around expecting things for free, but sometimes giving back, for something so tiny, is more a requirement than a gracious act.

Despite this, we were really happy with where we had ended up, and Hubbie was particularly happy with my Urbanspoon detective work. It was a cool and funky place, it was busy for a Monday in early Jan over the holiday season, and there were a lot of staff on hand meaning we were looked after and our requests were promptly met, but that was probably because of the wedding taking place. That too gave it a nice atmosphere. The waiters were lovely and accommodating, waving to baby girl and giving her attention every single time she cried out for it or waved to them, and God knows that happened at least 20 times.

I was impressed with the bathroom, as they had a handwash that read ‘organic and natural ingredients,’ ‘made in Melbourne.’ That along with the fake lavender in the corner, gave it a lovely atmosphere. I wouldn’t mind getting me some of that organic Melbourne stuff for my own bathroom! Nothing like promoting your own.

Awards outside the bathroom door indicated that this place was as good as we indeed had experienced, a place that all people should check out and enjoy.

Food: 8/10. If that tiramisu were up to scratch, my score would have been higher.

Coffee: 7.5/10. I wanted a bit more strength.

Ambience: Busy due to the nearby wedding function underway, and loud due to the volume of people which suited me just fine every time baby girl screamed…. which happened even beyond her lunch. It wasn’t an overwhelming constant vibe though, it was still very chilled despite all that.

Staff: Kind and friendly. Accommodating to baby girl’s demanding attention-seeking! However two waiters did trip over the legs of her high chair a total of 3 times, nearly causing the high chair to topple… but it didn’t. It is some kind of precarious looking chair, maybe new ones are needed that aren’t so trip-inducing? 😉

People: We had a family near us and some older people, as well as the whole wedding party. I think it caters for all sorts, as we certainly witnessed in the crowd that day.

Price: Mid-range to up-side. The combination of café-restaurant-bar-foodstore makes the price acceptable, as the awards attest to as well.

Advice: A great place to dine at, and I noticed there was an outdoor section that was inhabited primarily by the wedding guests that would have been lovely to eat at, seeing as it was such a sunny day. Go outside if it’s nice out. If your baby is in their old high chairs, a hand on the tray when someone walks behind won’t do no harm. Don’t get the tiramisu if you’re relying on a real coffee hit, but the other cakes behind the glass looked smashing. Maybe the New York baked cheesecake would have gone down better. The mains are yum-city, and if you’re coffee addicts like us, make it EXTRA STRONG.

In a nutshell: It’s a shame this place isn’t on our side of town, as with its set-up, atmosphere, the food and drinks on offer and the style it conveys, it’s right up our alley. If we go back to Berwick to buy that car, we’ll be lunching there for sure.

Look out for the red GTS. You’ll know we’re there 🙂 

Ambrosia Cafe Bar Foodstore on Urbanspoon

Women vs. Men #1

January sales are on. I spot a men’s rack with the beautiful sign: “50% off already reduced prices.”

“Hubbie,” I say. “Have a look here, your brand is half price.”

Hubbie glances over.

“Nah. I don’t need any of it. I’m looking for shorts.” Off he goes.

I stand with baby girl. But it’s 50% off?!

Half an hour later, I’m looking at dresses.

“What about this?” I hold it up to him.

“But you just bought a dress.”

I put it back down.

WOMEN’S CLOTHES FACTS OF LIFE
1. You can never have too many dresses.

2. You can never have too many clothes (or shoes, bags, accessories, jewellery…)

3. The previous dress was a going out dress. Now I was looking at everyday casual dresses.

4. I was on a roll. Don’t stop a lucky shopping spree.

I didn’t buy the second dress. But I bought a skirt. And days later, summer shoes and a top.

Women vs. Men, part 1.