Brisket District

District North Cafe
678 Mt Alexander Road, Moonee Ponds

(Visited September ’16)

Spring and sunshine. That was the mix and the fresh smell in the air as baby girl and I headed to Moonee Ponds on a Saturday at the onset of September.

A few weeks earlier we had organised for a little catch up – some of the ‘gang’ with our kiddies. As it was, one of the Mums left hers at home (lucky thing) while myself and another friend had our scallywags accompany us.

District North is an expansive, neutral-coloured, clean space. Seating is aplenty, but still, being in a busy eating precinct on a sunny Saturday morning, you can never be too sure. We had booked ahead, and got a booth location up against the wall.

Once the kids were both seated, they fortunately received this:

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Thank God for colouring pencils. Well, it kept them busy for all of 46 seconds.

Anyway, we very quickly ordered, rushing the kids’ meals. It was a busy place, and definitely one that your child’s voice would get lost in the crowd – this is good. However kids being kids, we just didn’t want to test them, 11:30am and all.

Baby girl got the kids serving of pancakes with ice cream

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While I got the Bloody Brisket Benedict – Dr Marty’s crumpets, slow-cooked beef brisket, poached eggs, bloody mary hollandaise

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Now to be perfectly honest, I didn’t really understand what I was ordering. I kind of did, but somehow in amongst keeping baby girl in line and handing over pencil after pencil, and trying to keep her hands from taking the trucks out of her opponent’s (my friend’s son’s) hand, I kind of missed the ‘slow-cooked beef brisket’ part of the description, and thought Brisket was just, well, sauce or something.

Shame shame shame.

Anyway, I now know what brisket is. And it was delicious. When I received it I was initially a bit “okaayyy.” I’m not huge on meaty dishes, only because of how fussy I am when I eat it. I don’t trust many to give me clean pieces of meat that have no icky bits in them. Even Hubbie was surprised to later hear that I’d had ‘brisket.’

“No, but it was good!”

And it was. The meat was super soft, there was a lot of it, but because of its shredded properties it all kind of melted in the mouth. I didn’t even find it all that overpowering, and it helped me to make the decision months later, to choose the brekkie brisket meal over at The Winey Cow in Mornington (post coming soon).

The eggs were fantastically poached, the bread was good, having gotten nice and soft under all that brisket and egg, and the hollandaise had definite kick… I would never have normally ordered a meat brekkie dish, but I was so glad I hadn’t read it properly, otherwise I never would have tried. Delish!

My friend, who had already been there with her son, had only gotten him one pancake on his own plate – and now I could see why. The pancakes were huge, and though baby girl had a very good crack at them, she didn’t finish them all. They were of a very good portion.

Now pumped up with much-needed fuel, we immediately ordered coffees:

Babycino and cappuccino for baby girl and I

My cap was very smooth, something I half-expected having already experienced this well-run operation of eatery. And baby girl, well… when doesn’t she like her babycinos?

After a couple of toilet breaks, a short sitting outside on the small patio, and the kids finding the bucket of chalk to draw on the blackboard wall opposite the bathrooms, we went to pay, ogling the desserts up at the counter, but promising ourselves we would be back for those… another time.

Food: 9/10. Tasty, generous, and inventive. Why, bloody Mary hollandaise? Why not?!

Coffee: 8/10. Smooth and pleasing.

Ambience: Busy and bustling, not necessarily loud, but there were many people about on that Saturday morning.

People: There were lots of friends and couples meeting for brunch, but then there was a decent dose of family types about as well, like the couple who came to sit beside us with their under 10s son and daughter, making me all jelly as their kids were just sitting there… reading the menu… like they didn’t have to do anything to entertain their kids. What?!

Staff: Friendly, but busy too so we didn’t really get a chance to get personal.

Price: I shouted one friend for a past favour, and the other gave me cash so I could pay with my card, so the individual total I was unclear on… but I believe it was about $80ish, for 3 brunch meals, 2 kids meals, and a few coffees? On par for that area.

Advice: Definitely book ahead if going in ‘prime’ time. Head over earlier too, just because you will need a bit of time to find parking on or off the busy Mt Alexander Road. If you have toddlers in tow, be mindful, the meals are generous. And don’t shy away from the Brisket!

In a nutshell: The food and coffee were fantastic. The venue itself, with its hipster pulled-back palette, is nothing inventive or inspiring to me, so in that regard it was lacking some character. I would definitely go back for the menu, but I’ve seen that kind of café and accompanying atmosphere around many times before. Nonetheless, if you are local to this area, you should check it out, that I recommend.

I would go there more often myself, if it were in my beach-side District…

District North Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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An event to ruffle up my feathers

“What?” I stared at my phone in disbelief. I didn’t know what to think. It was a while ago and a beautiful coincidence later, when I had happened across the words ‘Mornington Peninsula Bloggers’ in a Peninsula-based facebook page.

There was a group in my area, for bloggers? I didn’t even realise local blogger groups existed, and then I was soon finding out that they were often hosted by organisations in order for some kind of ‘review’ to be later posted by them…

Surely they were buying a positive review. I balked at the idea of being ‘bought.’

“Yeah right,” I thought. I was going to write a nice review about someone just because they paid for some of my stuff? Don’t forget I waged war on one institution which I will never visit again, and though I don’t go out of my way to bag them, if anyone ever asks me where to go Lygon Street way, I won’t be able to keep my mouth shut.

I like to think I am fair, but also, I am picky.

I couldn’t fathom this ‘pay-for-positivity’ idea circling in my head, and so went to Hubbie.

“They’re going to shout you food?” He looked at me incredulously. I really wanted him to go all moral and high-ground like me, and yet his expression told me otherwise.

“Go!” he urged. “You don’t have to write a positive review.”

“But I feel I’ll have to!” That was the clincher. All those food posts I’d read on other sites. They prologue their review with

“Restaurant X&Y hosted us that evening, but all opinions are my own.”

You know what that translates to?

“All opinions have been diluted through my well-fed tummy… What is an ‘opinion?’… More food please… Nom nom nom.”

I didn’t wanna be one of those food-coma bloggers.

But then my alter ego, SmikG, stepped in.

“I will be hosted, and I WILL have an opinion!”

I needn’t have worried about having my opinions watered down through my digestive system, or of having to lie about my experiences though…

So on an uncharacteristically beautiful and still sunny July day, I found myself driving 17 or so minutes down Mornington-Tyabb road. The scenery was striking. I was used to roads like this since I frequent Bungower so often, however I felt that the further I drove away from the Mornington beach-side, the more the imagery turned pristine and pointed. There were still the huge blocks of land, long winding paths leading to expansive houses and farm-style cottages, however they were both perfectly rustic and exceptionally manicured at the same time. White picket fences, immaculately placed rock trails, even the trees on either sides of the road stretched far and wide, meeting in the middle and opening their branches just enough to allow you a glimpse into the road ahead, providing a magnificently glorious backdrop to the gorgeous day that was.

It was very Castle-esque. I had “how’s the serenity” playing on loop in my mind with my musings, as we drove on ahead.

On first impressions, I felt I almost could’ve kept driving past The Hungry Peacock, our host for that afternoon. Even with my google maps alerting me that it was indeed, a 50 metre left turn away, I still had to slow down suddenly, and heads up for those with lowered cars – watch your bumper bars as you enter the dirt car park.

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(Church hall on left, The Busy Peacock on right)

The setting was quiet and peaceful. I slowly headed into where I thought I needed to be, as fresh as baby girl who was in more knowledge than I was about what lay ahead. Soon though we found our group, in a barn-like shed otherwise known as ‘The Busy Peacock,’ which sits nearby the café ‘The Hungry Peacock’ on the premises. You see, not only were us bloggers getting shouted, but so were our kids.

Those clever minxes.

So the whole idea behind the The Busy Peacock, is that kids get a 45 minute session, in where they engage in sensory play.

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There are two sessions a day – one early morning and one late morning – and they run from Tuesday to Sunday. The children come in, put on smocks, and then just go where their curious hands and minds lead them…

There are water-based activities, sandpits, kid-sized building box areas, hammering and craft tables, gooey water ball tubs, and so much more. The great thing is, these activities change every two weeks, so you can be sure you’ll get some new play areas for your little explorer, even if you do frequent the place often.

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Baby girl of course LOVED the water areas, and after having a good sticky-nose into almost every other section, spent a significant amount of time spraying a white board and applying human features to it to make a face, followed by the rest of the time counting gooey balls in a tub.

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I mean, simple things. And little details too, as I loved how there was a bucket of fresh water with some old rags for the kids to wash their hands with and dry when things got a little bit messy. As you know it undoubtedly would. I know kids dig that stuff, but baby girl is a little OCD like me (proud as punch Mama) and so when a smidgen of sand touched her fingertips, she was holding them high in the air and high-tailing it to the bucket of water that was now blue.

That’s right, blue, because there was paint too!

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My honest-to-goodness thoughts? I honestly can’t fault the space. I mean, for $10, you keep your kid entertained for 45 minutes, they get their fill of all kinds of fun and exciting play areas and sensory experiences, and then after that you get to eat and drink next door, and they have MORE areas to play in?

What? There’s more?

So after three quarters of an hour following the kiddies around, making a mess and getting their hands into all kinds of gunk, we tidied them up and followed the owner, Rebecca, into the renovated church nearby which is also a space for functions. Rebecca is part-owner with her behind-the-scenes chef Hubbie, and they have been running the place for a while now, ever since their previous partnership running the joint with another couple, went bust. As it happens. They’ve since renovated the interior café too (which we’ll get to) and put their own personal mark on the premises which I can see will be a terrific kid-friendly mainstay.

And these were my thoughts before I’d even had any food.

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The church is a gloriously beautiful building, one that would easily cater for a large number of people in any kind of function, and this was perfectly demonstrated that day as our kiddies began to run amuck and show us just how grand the space was.

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Give them an empty room, and they run for their lives, giddy with joy. God Bless. Oh how appropriate that was…

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That was our brief stopover, before heading into the last area of our afternoon, the actual Hungry Peacock café.

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Being my first time there, I actually can’t comment on the renovation itself, other than to marvel at how many kids play areas there were! It is actually a quite genius, and fairly simple idea.

What do parents want more than anything?

A break.

What keeps kids busy (and away from hassling their folks?)

Why, novelty play things of course.

(Butcher pic thrown in for Hubbie)

A track running along the wall for mini car enthusiasts (i.e. ALL kids), a shop corner complete with play food, and colouring pencils and paper for the creative kiddies completed the tables and chairs inhabiting the café. The café consists of two large rooms, the first one containing the counter/coffee area and kitchen entrance, while the other had more places to sit, a couch and a fireplace.

It really was the perfect place to spend an hour or two catching up with an old friend, or just chilling on your own-some… all while your little one ran amuck looking, and most importantly, FINDING interesting and amusing things to do.

But what if it’s a gorgeous day out, and you want to take in some sunshine, you ask expectantly (waiting for me to stammer and halt?!) ?

???

Even better.

There are even more play areas outside for the kids, comprising of cubby houses and a long tube-like contraption to send balls down, all with a decked area for the parents to sit down and wine, dine, AND whine away, conveniently nearby.

The venue itself caters to all types of parents and their kids – those who want to get messy in the Busy Peacock; those who want to chill indoors while their children wind down and explore other avenues; and those who want to sit outside and take in the sunshine, while the kids become backyard explorers of a different brigade.

I have to say though, quite strongly, that I think it is only a place for parents and their kids. It is a parent’s haven –

(let’s interrupt this broadcast for the Angels singing)

Ahhhhhh!

(and back again)

– knowing your child can lose their shit and not be ridiculed by other non-parents. Even if you have already passed the child-rearing stage, you will probably not be able to take the yells and screams so much. It is a serene place, so the backdrop and nature may just win you over… but really, this is a Mum and Dad go-to for some much needed R&R while the little ones take over everything else.

I can’t comment on the food, because I only tasted the slightest morsels from the shared platters we received… and being a European woman, those platters would have been demolished between just Hubbie and I.

So, a Food Review, next time. Hubbie will be pleased to hear beer is on the Menu…

In a nutshell:

16 Mornington-Tyabb Road, Tyabb.

The Busy Peacock runs from Tuesday to Sunday, at 9:30am and 11:15am sessions.

Book ahead. 0416623827

$10 per child, for a 45 minute sensory play session.

There is an old church beside it that can be booked for functions.

Finally, The Hungry Peacock is the café that has even more play areas for the kids to keep them entertained, while offering food and drink for adults and children alike. Also open Tuesday to Sunday, 8/9am to 4pm.

So in its entirety, the concept is fantastic. You go out, let your kid have fun, go to the neighbouring house for some food and drink while they get even more exhausted, and then come home to a clean house, and hopefully a nap-ready child too.

And as for my first hosted blogging experience? The Peacocks feathers are brighter in person, and that there is my metaphor for my first-time blogging out in the open, and not trying to hide the fact that I’m inconspicuously taking xxx number of photos.

I was fortunately pleased to find that I didn’t need to lie, nor blow smoke up anyone’s behind for a false positive experience. It was a fun day for baby girl and I, and we will ALL be back to explore even more.

The only way is up, folks.

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