Farm Vigan-OH!

Farm Vigano
10 Bushmans Way South Morang

I had known about this place for a while. Some friends of ours had gone there, and had mentioned that they primarily did pizza. I saw the same online, and along with some inconsistent reviews, decided that ‘pizza’ wasn’t enough to get me over to South Morang (say Moranj*) alone.

Boy was I wrong.

Another friend recently mentioned the place and its sprawling landscape, which spiked my interest in it again. So on a Sunday afternoon, Hubbie, Baby girl and I ventured over to Farm Vigano to see what the fuss was all about.

As soon as we entered the driveway, I could sense it. It was different. The tall trees gave the outdoor area a definite refinement, and by the drop in landscape along one side of the dwelling, and those green tree views of the surrounding parkland – WOW. Even after parking and starting our steep decent down towards the building, I kept getting the thought ‘where are we going?’ ‘and how does this place exist in these parts?’

We were not in Kansas/South Moranj anymore.

Outside, there were umbrella’d tables sitting upon concrete, with a few diners present there. That gave it a strong European feel, and inside, the Monaco feel just intensified. White surrounds, clean finishes, splashes of yellow with white stripes, a classic gold and unobtrusive cross on the wall, and elegant black shade lamps and black lantern candelabra-style fixtures adorned the place. I really felt like I was dining in a European café. It was poshy, yet very reminiscent of a certain time, and a certain place.

The place does perfectly at that too. The estate used to belong to the late restauranteur Mario Vigano and his artist wife Maria Teresa, and the culture they upheld certainly has stood the test of time and made its way splendidly to the present day. The attention to detail and immediate atmosphere you get upon entering, are unmistakable. I want to come back in my next life as an Italian. I’m already half way there, I have the prerequisite of loving pasta.

We had been lucky at arriving just after 2pm, and naively hadn’t booked. We were queried this, but despite it were still seated by the window, with an amazing outlook of the acreage below.

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We were so lucky to be early and naïve, rather than late and so, because in half an hour this place was rocking, and really full. From walking in to a room of NO ONE, to a room that was brimming with voices just a short time later, left me stunned. It led me to the conclusion that they MUST open for lunch after 2pm, but having looked through their web site I didn’t find anything to confirm that, so I still don’t know. It was our stupid luck indeed.

After I started sipping on my pinot grigio looking across the expansive landscape

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(it’s a hard life) we got this:

No 201 Pappardelle Con Salsiccia – pappardelle with Italian pork sausage ragu

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Gamberetti – flash fried school prawns, w/ coriander, ginger, chilli & sriracha hot sauce

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And the Schiacciata – rustic pizza w/ garlic, rosemary and Spanish onion

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First I’ll mention that the meals came really quickly, but maybe that’s because we’d managed to order before everyone else arrived and subsequently ordered. It was surprising.

The pasta was for Hubbie as he hadn’t actually eaten yet. He liked the saucy and meaty pasta dish, and I loved the texture of the pasta itself, but other than that he didn’t think it was anything unbelievable or life-altering.

The waitress had informed me it was “baby prawns” I was getting in the Gamberetti, however I didn’t realise what she meant until I got them – a whole bowl of actual tiny prawns, with their soft shells intact. Having never eaten these in my life, I didn’t know whether I was meant to peel them, or eat the thing as is sardine style. I soon realised that shelling it was necessary, though a few pieces went devoured unchecked… getting through that bowl and peeling each piece properly was both time-consuming and messy!

The pizza was mainly reserved for baby girl, who enjoyed holding the slice herself and chomping in. Bless 🙂 It was a great tasting pizza, so simple and fresh with its tried-and-tested base ingredients.

Although there were aspects of our meal that we wouldn’t revisit, I felt that was partly due to the fact that we hadn’t been properly prepared for it (both baby girl and I had already eaten) and also as those previous reviews had informed me, the menu selection was a bit narrow. A huge range of pizzas was accompanied by some side dishes, two pasta options, and the only meat on the menu was pork and lamb, both advised to be shared by at least two people. However, with the antipasto selection as well, along with the quality of all they offered, I could suddenly understand why the place had become packed instantly on a Sunday at 2pm. Did I mention those green surrounds? OMG. This place, even if it only did pizza, was worth it.

We decided to get some coffees, and they too arrived very quickly.

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Baby girl loved her babycino, but then again she won’t knock back any frothed/chocolatey milk she gets. After her half cup of froth, she happily drank the rest of the mix, leaving beautiful chocolate marks alongside her mouth, cheeks and forehead. A good sign.

Although I had really enjoyed my coffee, I hadn’t noticed until the other day when we ventured there again for coffee only…. that the coffee was REALLY good. It was hot – so hot Hubbie burnt his tongue first time he went to sip it. Coffee is never that hot. If anything, it’s lukewarm when it arrives. This was hot, not burning hot, but HOT. Secondly, it was smooth, with not ONE little tenth of a taste of any bitterness. Thirdly, it was strong, but not so strong that it would leave me with the fear of being up ‘til 1am that following morning. And, on both occasions of having this coffee, it was consistent. Both at busy times, and not.

Which when added up, leaves me with a pretty perfect coffee.

What?! A perfect coffee? Like the food and the surrounds and the EVERYTHING, I just wasn’t ready for this.

Food: 7.5/10… though this rating would have likely gone up had we indulged in the desserts. Did someone mention Nutella doughnuts? OMG that’s right, the top selection of their desserts lists this scrumptious bombolone, which means… (check ‘In a nutshell’).

Even though we weren’t overwhelmed with happy vibes over our particular selections that day, we still can’t wait to come back to try more… hungrier this time.

Coffee: 9.5/10. Like I said, I wasn’t ready for this! Am I right, to possibly give this café the highest score in coffee, something previously never before done by me? Because I wasn’t expecting this, and I didn’t fully critique the taste in the moment, I will almost give it the highest score, in the knowledge that it was consistently good on both occasions, but also I didn’t get a chance to really savour it, if you know what I mean. But decently strong – tick. Smooth – tick. Hot – tick. I need to know what type of coffee they use, because I just can’t stop thinking about it.

Ambience: Laidback Euro-style mixed with $$$. It was relaxed, certainly more so when the volume rose several octaves and the restaurant was brimming with voices, but there was a definite refinement to the air, or maybe that was the fresh bush surroundings…

People: As above. These are the rich folk who come out to party with their (well-earned) cash. It was painfully obvious. There were several functions happening all at the same time, comprising of anything from 5 to 15 people, many groups of older people dining out, and families. Not really a ‘young person’ thing, but I have to say it has nothing to do with the pricing accessibility of the dishes, it’s not that expensive… yet for some reason, it’s just all the older generation hanging off the parklands. Interesting. All are certainly welcome though, as there was like us, another family with littlies on the next table, who up’d and left after literally half an hour of juggling their two boys. Leaving all their uneaten food on the table. (Like I said, $$$).

Staff: They were lovely and attentive. Didn’t really get any special personal ‘warmth’ like what we receive in other restaurants, where you feel like you get on a first-name basis with the waitress to the point of catching up for after-work drinks, but still they were professional and on cue.

Price: $81 for our 3 meals, two alcoholic beverages and 3 coffees. They charged us $1 for baby girl’s babycino! All it was was frothed milk. There was chocolate milk underneath the foam rather than just plain milk, but still, come on guys. I have a massive grip (see here) with restaurants charging for babycinos, especially since the kid’s parents are usually paying for other items, and therefore shouldn’t have to pay about the $1 mark for a few tablespoons of froth. I can somehow turn the blind eye when for example baby girl gets marshmallows, or some bikkie on the side, but still, come on. It’s the freaking moral. Restaurants unfairly charging for babycinos won’t keep me from ordering them, but it will keep me continuing to shout from the rooftops “Babycinos should be for free!”

Advice: So definitely book. Here, I think it’s a thing. It was dumb luck that we came in before everyone else and got one of the best seats in the house. If it’s a weekday you’ll probably get away with it though. The driveway down to the restaurant is steep, so be aware high-heeled ladies and walking-impaired others.

In a nutshell: I need to come back here, for so many reasons. 1) the coffee (what bean do they use?) 2) their other pizzas (there are so many!) and 3) the bombolone. Did I mention the Nutella doughnuts? Nutella doughnuts people, and I’m not even a Nutella fan!
And 4) the view. Oh the view. An amazing find, a true gem in this part of the ‘burbs, and a lucky treat for the locals.

(*I can make fun of the Northern suburbs because I live there 😉 )

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If one door opens… go through it

4 Doors
28 The Link Mill Park

Hubbie had stopped by the Mill Park restaurant while cruising cars with his work mate one Sunday, and had loved the latte he had there. He’d also loved the atmosphere, and the look of the place, so when we found reason to celebrate days later, we decided on this kind-of local to see if their dinner was up to scratch too.

He had talked up design, and I didn’t really know if it would be up to standards when I saw it, even with his super-finicky taste. So when we walked in on a Wednesday night during the school holidays, the place pumping with people and atmos, I was impressed. It felt like a restaurant that belonged in more inner-city surrounds than in the Northern Suburbs. It looked funky and modern, while its high ceilings gave it an airy, yet still cosy space. Again there were lightbulbs suspended down onto the individual tables below, an industrial touch that complemented the roominess. I immediately liked it.

We ordered fairly quickly, being very hungry, and though our drinks took a while to come out, my Treasures Merlot was amazing. I might just convert over from Cab Savs after that one.

I also noticed that the square table we were on was a decent large size, compared to the all-too familiar smallish tables we often get seated at which makes it so hard with baby girl. Imagine all our food and drink on a table, plus baby girl’s ‘things’ (colouring book for entertainment, random accessories, her water bottle, wipes) and then put a toddler in between the two of us yet at a reasonable distance so to prevent her from reaching out for any accessories to spoil/break/throw. This was a great sized table in that all our/her stuff could go on one end while we sat at the other, and there was still room for the food and drinks.

They were busy, so we had to wait for our food… but it wasn’t an awful wait. Like I said, it was busy, so it was an acceptable wait. Everything else was making us happy, and the discovery of a loud restaurant that seemed to be up to our standards had us giddy in excited anticipation, so the wait was made all the more ok.

I got the spicy penne pasta with additional buffalo mozzarella

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Hubbie got the porterhouse steak, atop mashed potato, asparagus and grilled tomatoes

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And baby girl got the kids penne napolitana

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I loved my penne. I had decided to add the extra buffalo for $4, because 1) I love cheese, 2) I might as well get the meal the way it’s obviously intended, and 3) I love cheese. It was creamy with this hint of smokiness if I remember correctly, and combined with the pancetta and the hint of chilli that lingered in the back of my throat after I had finished my bite, it was truly delicious.

Hubbie requested his steak be medium to well, and it was cooked correctly, though he doesn’t believe it was actually flame-grilled as the menu had read. Didn’t matter, as he still enjoyed it, and even I had a bite and agreed it was very tasty. His accompanying vegetables were yummy too.

Baby girl absolutely loved her pasta. She was starving by the time the food came, as we all were, and I was glad they had been able to accommodate us by replacing the linguini in the kids meal to penne, as I just felt it easier to feed her that style of pasta. The very little she left behind, we ate 🙂 I do realise that being so hungry does make you appreciate EVERYTHING, however not to diminish or downplay 4 Doors’ food, I still give them credit and concur that it was all very good.

Since I’m still in the midst of a doughnut-obsession, I discovered there were doughnuts on display up at the front counter and decided we must at least take-away. I chose three doughnuts: jam, Nutella and white chocolate, and we happily devoured them later at home. But alas, these are no Mick’s. They were alright, but I found the dough too dense, and also a tad oilier, so sorry 4 Doors, Mick’s wins in that department.

Food: 7.5/10. A great range of food on offer, simple enough for the locals yet with some great additions enough to make it exciting and fresh.

Coffee: I can’t score this having not had one, but Hubbie loved his flat white…

Ambience: Perfect for us. It was loud enough to crowd out any of baby girl’s squeals, yet not in a rambunctious fast-food restaurant kind of way. The décor made me feel as if we weren’t local, instead someplace closer to the city, and this feeling of transportation is one which I think makes the people keep coming back.

Staff: Really good. Our waitress was very friendly, yet so real, and was very good with baby girl, happily laughing when she patted her arm. Points. Also, the staff up the front who took our bill, and the guy who gave our doughnuts, were equally awesome. It’s amazing how much you can read from a brief experience, yet I can tell the doughnut guy was really eager to please, almost nervous, and I just went ‘wow.’ A young person in a restaurant role that doesn’t think he’s too cool for school? Someone who actually wants to make the customer feel welcome? Crap, this is unheard of in these parts. Well done.

People: I know it was the school holidays, but still, it was July, Winter, a COLD night, and there weren’t many kids when we arrived, yet still the place was fairly full. Only once we were there for a while did some kids follow their parents in. It was a wide mix, of families, couples, and friends, all sorts really. Including the pair next to us, the girl who kept bombarding her male friend with stories of blind dates gone wrong. Like I said, all sorts.

Price: It was over $100, and at first I went “geez,” until I counted up 3 meals, 2 alcoholic drinks, and 3 doughnuts. It was perhaps, price wise, just a tad up considering the area it’s in, but having said that, the food was definitely up to scratch and worth it, as was the restaurant and the staff, so the price matches the quality.

Advice: We ended up sitting in the outside area which was covered that night, however being up against the sides of the ‘tent’ we could still feel wafts of very cool air at times, despite the heaters that were out there. It didn’t ruin our night, but next time, we’re booking. If you’re going on the weekend/at peak times, probably best to book, because like I mentioned, this place was rocking on a Wednesday night.

In a nutshell: We’ve already said we’re going back for brekkie… I love the menu variety, the atmos, the proximity to home, and even though I wasn’t too keen on their doughnuts, it won’t stop me from trying their other pastries 😉 And most importantly, I need to have a cappuccino there. Priorities people.

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Happiness Is… #11

Cake

I have been eating so many sweets lately (blame this Melbourne cold snap’s requirement for ‘bulking-up’ foods), plus my recent doughnut obsession (blame Mick’s!) that yesterday I felt I actually had an aversion to anything sweet….

Yet today, my Mum brings over chocolate cake, and at work, I get free muffins! What?! The universe is giving me cakes, even when I don’t want it…. But they’re oh so good.

Mmmm, nom nom nom, blueberry muffin.

(Happiness Is…/A.K.A First World’s Problems ain’t that bad).