318 Lygon Street Carlton
We made our way here for dinner on Boxing day, winding down from the massive Christmas that had just passed. It was exciting, because we were returning to our old dinner grounds – sure we had lunched and cafed at Lygon since having baby girl, but this was our first time coming around for dinner with her. That was exciting. She is currently passing Bs in the café culture scene, and is pushing a C+ for her restaurant savvy-ness. She’ll be a coffee and food snob like us in no time.
So it kind of made sense that we would end up at the place that we had visited so often in our pre-baby days, when we talked life, love and our passions, while sipping on a glass of Di Giorgio’s and sculling some beers – Copperwood.
It’s positioning on Lygon street makes it continuously busy, but it can deal with the masses because it’s a long venue, and there is plenty more seating far behind the first seated area you walk into, which they always tightly-pack to make it look more appealing to passers-by.
We’d always had great experiences there. Nothing was particularly mind-blowing, but both food and wine had been thoroughly enjoyed. In my pre-baby era I was in love with the Di Giorgios Cab Sav from Coonawarra, even going so far as to track down the supplier and almost order a box (or 5) to be delivered interstate.
This Saturday that we ventured upon Copperwood, we were seated initially not in the first section, but the seating that passed the little Christmas tree they had positioned high up near the bar. The old man, a regular there that we remember well, led us to a small table with regular chairs. I asked if they had a high chair, to which I received “no.” Just plain old no. No, apologies, no ‘let me try to make something else work for you.’ No. I don’t know if common sense prevailed him, or whether he’d been removed from the child-rearing years for so long that he’d actually lost touch, or maybe they were just very busy and he couldn’t think. I went for the latter in my mind, because we were hungry and we had returned to a favourite Lygon haunt. I gave him the benefit of the doubt, and turned to the booths against the wall in the first section of the restaurant, and asked “can we sit there?”
So, in effect, I seated MYSELF. In light of a high chair, baby girl and I sat in the booth, while Hubbie sat opposite.
Soon, menus arrived. Our waitress was lovely, and when we told her to bring baby girl’s meal first, it came very quickly with no delay. This was a plus.
But first were our drinks. Of course you can guess what I ordered:
My old fave, Di Giorgios, while Hubbie got a beer.
Very soon after came our appetiser of Bruschetta, while baby girl got her chips here too.
The bruschetta actually came with 3 pieces, however we were so keen on getting it in our mouths that I only remembered to take a photo when there was one left. Oh well, you get the picture.
Everything was going well, and we were happy. Baby girl was eating and being relatively good, there was still some festive spirit in the air with a little Christmas tree near the bar, plus a modern take on a decorated leafless tree in the middle of the room. I loved it.
Soon after, the mains. For me:
The garlic prawns – sautéed prawns with garlic, white wine and cream sauce accompanied with steamed vegetables
And for Hubbie, the Rib Eye Steak, accompanied with mashed potatoes, gravy and steamed vegetables
My description had said vegetables, so I had been expecting many different colours on my plate. To see an abundance of broccoli laying on top of my prawns, I found a tad annoying. It’s annoying because they got away with it, because after all the menu just said ‘vegetables,’ not ‘varied vegetables.’ The broccoli atop the prawns gave it an appearance that I didn’t particularly like. But the meal itself was ok. A very mild garlic flavour, plenty of prawns, and moor-ish rice. I wouldn’t say it was the best garlic prawns I’ve had, but it was good.
Hubbie was in love with his meal. “This,” he told me with passion, “is char-grilled.” Oh Lord, thank you. And guess what? It hadn’t even been advertised as char-grilled, so his adoration was even more intense for this hunk of meat on his plate. I did try a bit, and yes it was very flavoursome, so I could understand his excitement. He was understandably (when you understand my Hubbie) happy. He was talking about coming back already, and just couldn’t get over his amazing steak. But like my meal, his vegetables were also just broccoli.
As we were getting through our meals, I realised that I needed to change our baby girl. I told Hubbie to not let the waitress take away any of our meals, since I was still unfinished, and tried to flag down a waitress to enquire where I could find a baby change table. I was soon informed, and shocked to learn that there was NO BABY CHANGE TABLE. Nothing.
Still in a bit of disbelief that a long-standing restaurant such as Copperwood, on Lygon street, in an inner-city suburb like Carlton, that has toilets, and room for a baby change table, (albeit a fold-out one is more than ok – Common Place had exactly the sort in their women’s bathroom when we went there) yet DID NOT have one, was utterly surprising. I knew the only thing left to do was to quickly scoff the rest of my meal down and pay and leave, with baby girl resigned to being changed in the boot of our car. That was our only option.
However as I tried to eat, I got increasingly frustrated thinking of the ludicrousness of the whole situation, and flagged yet another waitress down in the hopes that the first one had been severely misinformed. She had to find out upon my question, but came back apologetic and saying that they most definitely DID NOT have a change table.
“What era are we living in?” I asked Hubbie. “Seriously, little cafes have change tables, and this place doesn’t?”
Baby girl was in need of a change and starting to get really irritable, and was barely letting me finish the rest of my meal, though I managed it down. Hubbie had to go outside with her while I packed up our things and went to the bar area to pay. It was a quick getaway, and a disappointing one too.
As I approached Hubbie outside, he was holding baby girl in his arms and in the midst of a decent disagreement with the floor manager – you know, the person in charge of overseeing and seating the customers. He was an accented man, and they were going back and forth as people around the front started to tune their ears in. Hubbie had been asked by our specific waitress if everything had been alright – Hubbie had said the food was great, but was disappointed there was no change table, and no high chairs.
“We have a high chair.”
“The waiter told us there weren’t any.”
“It must have been in use?”
“You’re telling me you have one high chair for all of these people?” Hubbie motioned behind him to the people inside.
“I’m sorry we are not a kindergarten.”
Oooh. Ouch. Let me be clear. The way the man said it, was not in malice. He was being defensive in Hubbie’s angry onslaught of complaints. But still. Do you know I could have gone to facebook with that comment? If I had gone online with that quote “we are not a kindergarten” unquote remark from the door manager of Copperwood on Lygon Street, in this day and age of instant news, that would have made it on all the morning shows. That was the wrong, wrong, wrong thing to say.
Hubbie continued angrily, saying it was a matter of seating your guests, not about being a kindergarten, and by this stage I was shooing him off and the manager was apologising for us being upset, as we walked away.
Food: 7/10. That’s averaged because mine was ok, whereas Hubbie’s was great.
Coffee: N/A previously, N/A now and N/A never ever after….
Ambience: It was busy and bustling, noisy, perfect for having kids in tow as you’re not concerned about any noise your child may contribute to. But remember that’s a contradiction, because they don’t have ample high chairs and a change table, so it’s not perfect for kids after all.
It’s modern and dim interior makes it a lovely place to dine and wine away, if you don’t have small children.
People: A mix, there were all kinds, in particular a large group of men on one table near us (must have been some kind of late Christmas party) and some friends catching up for dinner beside us. All kinds were about on this Boxing Day evening. I didn’t see too many toddlers like baby girl, so maybe other parents of younglings have cottoned on to this child discrimination before we had.
Staff: They were attentive, in particular our waitress was ever too nice and bringing over extra napkins and plates for baby girl, especially after she witnessed me taking photos.
Price: It was $102.50 for an appetiser, a side, two mains and two alcoholic drinks. It was on the mark for the amount we paid. However as we walked away that money missing in my wallet stung as I recalled the ‘kindergarten’ remark.
Advice: I don’t think you have to book, unless you want seating in a particular location in the restaurant – there seems to always be seats if you’re not fussy. If you have toddlers and babies that require changing as children often do (newsflash!) and high chairs so that they don’t fall off adults chairs, maybe it’s best you don’t come. You can wing it by hoping your child won’t poop her nappy while you’re there, and just sit her beside you in the booth… but that’s a fun risk to take, parent.
In a nutshell: In a LONG nutshell – the food was great, the ambience was great, the waitresses were good, and yet the deliberate exclusion to children there, was absolutely unacceptable, wiping out any plusses we may have experienced that night.
We used to like it back in the day… and I’m sad to say those days are over. Just like the wine that I used to favour so much, honestly, even before the change table incident, it didn’t taste as good as it used to. As time goes on, tastes change. And unfortunately for Copperwood, a restaurant that should be growing with the times, one that is continuously busy and can afford a couple more high chairs as well as a change table to cater for ALL its customers, has clearly made their minds up over who is important to them.
If you don’t have children, never have and never will, well you’ll love this place. So did we once upon a time.
If you have small children, had them, or are planning on having them in the future, please, I ask you to boycott this restaurant UNTIL THEY GROW SENSE ON THEIR TREES (and not just the lamps and Christmas baubles) and get a bloody cheap arse change table and some more high chairs. Then, and only then, should anyone with an inkling for liking little ones even consider going there to eat.
I don’t know if that day will ever come for us. Because really, in a NUTSHELL –
They don’t care for our kids; therefore, we don’t care for them.
Sit on that wood.
(Just for fairytale ending’s sake, the night did end nicely with superb coffee and cake at Brunettis, where our darling girl received some surprise, special treatment to make up for the other.)