18 St Heliers Street Abbotsford
This seemed like the perfect place for both adults and children. Which is what I was after (and really every other family out there too) but more so, because we were heading out to celebrate baby girl’s and my birthday. There were meant to be farm animals for the kids at the Collingwood Children’s Farm, and the Farm Café and luscious green surrounds were there for the big kids. I mean really, how could it go wrong?
The weather started off right. It was a sunny Sunday in August, the first weekend that we got a real taste of the impending Spring/Summer. I was excited. I’m constantly telling people how by the time my birthday pops around, the winter cold is diminishing and bursts of warmer weather are starting to infiltrate the cold. Maybe because I’m clutching at (Spring) straws; maybe because I’m defending my birthday month; maybe because I’m right. This day had me smiling in pleased confirmation again.
It’s hard to believe that there is 7 hectares of land nestled along the Yarra River, of which the Collingwood Children’s Farm and the Farm Café lies. I realise that city parks are not a rare thing, but to be so close to the city (5 kms) amidst those busy inner-city suburb buildings and surroundings, it just felt odd. Like how could this happen? Until we got there it was like ‘is this for real?’ It sure was. Driving around for a good 20-25 minutes made us realise that it was definitely real. Almost everyone was trying for a park in St. Heliers Street, and the long wait made us do a U-turn and try our luck elsewhere. The sign up ahead in the cark park had read ‘Full.’
With much focused staring and stalking, we finally found a park along Johnston St/Studley Park Road, and proceeded to walk on over about 5-10 minutes to the farm. (Click here for more info on parking there).
We chose the family pass of $18 to get into the farm, and received a stamp allowing us to first go into the café, before exploring the farm grounds. You can solely attend the Farm Café without payment, because the café is positioned and set in such a way that you can’t eat and then sneak through into the grounds without the entry fee. You can look from there, but you can’t touch.
So, payment = café and grounds entry (with stamp)
No payment = café only entry
We went straight to the café knowing that there might be a wait post 1pm, and sure enough there was. We received a buzzer that would inform us when it was our turn to be seated, and while we waited I took the opportunity to explore with baby girl and take photos of the surrounds.
It didn’t end up being the half hour wait as told, perhaps a bit less. We sat down in an open area that was still covered, amidst tables tightly crammed next to one another, with views looking out to the farm beside/below us, of chickens roaming about, and a peacock doing a casual little walk.
There was an outdoorsy feel. It was a farm after all.
We had to quickly order, as we were now very hungry and I didn’t want our little birthday girl getting cranky on her special day.
I got the Mushroom Pie – Mushrooms, roasted chestnuts and white wine served with potato salad, greens & spiced relish
Hubbie got the Organic Beef Sausage Roll – House-made served with potato salad, greens & spiced relish
While Baby girl had the Kids Egg & Bacon –
Poached Fried egg on toast with bacon with a side of cheese
I was a tad disappointed that I couldn’t get the kids lunchbox (cheese sandwich, a house-baked treat and a piece of fruit) for baby girl, but they had run out. Instead I swapped the poached egg for fried, removed bacon and added a slice of cheese, which they quite simply placed on the side of her dish. It was fairly uncreative, really. They could have at least put the cheese, on top of the bread, under the egg, so it melted slightly.
Mine and Hubbie’s meals looked ok, but in the end they were nothing special. To be honest, they were below average and fairly bland. My mushroom pie had no other discerning or interesting taste to it, all I could taste was mushrooms as I bit in. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE mushrooms. I just expected the sauce or gravy of the pie to have some hint of salt or flavour in it, to further complement the earthy mushrooms. None.
The accompanying potato salad was rather standard, again nothing special. Hubbie felt the same about his meal, and the only reason that we ate it without much antagonism was because we were spending a lovely day out for our birthdays, we were in such a good mood, and we were hungry. That was it. Baby girl’s meal was very standard, and I concur that most children’s meals out there tend to the ‘plain’ side, but this, with the cheese placed on the side as if it was just tossed there, took the meaning to a whole new level. She also like us was hungry, and ate most of it.
Following that meal, we were almost uninspired, tending to just head out and not worry about a drink. However Hubbie had some kind of surprise location planned next, (link) and kind of hinted that we may have some kind of drink there, but didn’t say what kind. I assumed it was coffee, so suggested we get hot chocolates at the Farm Cafe instead (again, the weather and the day and our birthdays was saving the Farm Café’s arse).
We each got a hot chocolate in a mug, and baby girl got her necessary babycino. The hot chocolates were huge! They were served in mugs, tasting mild and softly sweet, which I didn’t mind, but I think Hubbie would have loved a more sugary, sickly-sweet hit. Baby girl happily drank all of hers, leaving chocolate stained marks on her face. But alas, it was a rather plain babycino, mostly milk and little froth, making the fact that I don’t believe they charged us for it (there is no babycino on the menu) more than adequate.
We then headed out on our way to peruse the farm, happily leaving all memories of the Farm Café behind (read my review of the Collingwood Children’s Farm here.)
Food: 4/10. Below average. Nothing made me want to try anything else, and I just felt the lack of food quality and presentation let down the beautiful location and serene atmosphere of the adjoining farm.
Coffee: N/A, and I’m not overly bothered I missed out either.
Ambience: As mentioned above, it has a very relaxed vibe. The surroundings were calm and placid, best enjoyed on a sunny day, which is fortunately what we had.
People: There were generally those with kids there, but I also saw duos of friends, younger couples, and older couples. I think the location brings a variety of people there, but most prominent are the families.
Staff: They were ok. Again, nothing above average, they weren’t rude or anything, but they didn’t really give us any smiles or necessary attention. They were busy though, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt on that one.
Price: It was about $50ish, and I say ‘ish’ because the lady up at the counter kept our receipt so I have to go off the prices listed on their website. The hot chocolates were the only half-enjoyable items. The rest made the total bill not worth it. Had the food been up to scratch, it would have been.
Advice: If you are going to the Collingwood Children’s Farm, save yourself the hassle and eat elsewhere. You probably won’t have to waste time waiting for food that is below par. If you are seriously not fussed with food, well then you probably won’t mind the quality of it. Perhaps the breakfast options are better.
In a nutshell: The Farm Café should consider itself very lucky. I said to Hubbie very early on into our lunch that day that the only way it was surviving was due to its location and proximity to the Children’s Farm. It was not surviving based only on the food, because if so then on that day we wouldn’t have found the café there at all, just remnants of what used to be one. Which is a shame, when I think of people I know who have put much effort and money into their own little works of art café creations, and poured so much research, energy and time into an amazing menu and superb coffee, only to have to close due to the people in the area NOT WANTING TO SPEND THE MONEY ON QUALITY. It’s sad, yet true. And here is a very average café with such a high turnover that their kids meals run out, who are able to ‘produce’ the kind of food that we got that day, and they still keep on going on, solely due to the high paying folk of the area and their fortune in being alongside an animal farm. I am really surprised. I hold no malice, yet based on our first and only experience there, Hubbie and I will most definitely not be going back to the Farm Café.
(I am a glass half-full gal though, and the experience did not ruin my day, not in the slightest. Read on to find out how our day ended fantastically, here :))