Ex-stuz mi?

Stuzzi
325 High Street Northcote

(Visited November ’17)

I had been to this Northcote café a few times before, each time there meeting a certain group of chicks for a much-needed catch-up.

It had been years since the last visit. But not much had changed.

It was our annual KK catch-up that had me heading on over after a long day out with Hubbie and baby girl, and the company was the same, my old high school friends.

The original, and the BEST.

It was a hot night, and being free of child for the occasion, I was first to arrive. Sure, things had been revamped and done up a bit. I was seated on a medium-sized table alongside the bar in the middle of the café interior. There weren’t many people about, so I sat and watched waitresses meander around, assisting those who needed food and drink, all the while waiting for the Friday night influx on this November day.

Yep, we were killing the KK catch-up, hitting it up mid-November. The shin-dig thing-a-ma-jig was early, but we had to, you know, find time amidst our very busy lives and all.

It’s a modern café, with a couple of large TVs on either side of the walls for all to watch. Nothing inspiring, but still on trend. I checked out the local news, while I ordered myself a drink during the wait for my gal-pals…

Summer Squeeze – watermelon, orange and pineapple

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This was refreshing, and had me feeling the soon-to-be Summer vibe.

It wasn’t long until I was joined by one friend, and then another, and another, and then another, and then we were right and ready, in amongst chatting and laughing and hilarious youtube videos, to finally order.

We opened our KK pressies and had a grand old time doing so, and then soon after, our meals arrived.

I got the Stuffed Chicken Breast – Whole chicken breast stuffed with prosciutto, bocconcini, sun-dried tomato, served with mashed potato, broccolini, topped with a honey and creamy seeded mustard sauce

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My meal was adequate, perhaps to be expected from a café of that type. Appealing to the masses, huge variety of choice on the menu, but perhaps more a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none type café. My chicken was huge, and as one friend observed about the chicken meals on the table “these chickens are on steroids.” Enough said.

I didn’t notice anything other than tomato stuffed in the chicken – the prosciutto was on the top, and the cheese was possibly in there as well. It was sitting atop mounds of mashed potato, and though I love my carbs, the ‘steroid chicken’ comment had me feeling slightly off, plus it tasted a bit tough. I ate a decent amount of it, but just couldn’t eat it all, making sure I had at least eaten the broccolini. Get those greens in. Thank God for them, or else it all would have looked too beige. I would have rather a smaller, succulent chicken, than one taking pills to be on Gladiator. Also, it was swimming in the mustard sauce, and suddenly everything, not just the chicken, felt overdone.

Big meals were all around the table, and they seemed to be okay… but one friend observed a ‘problem’ with the table parmesan, and that’s all I will say for the sake of being respectful… but it was quickly rectified from our smiley and happy waitress.

The company and conversation far outweighed any food or drink we had that night – but still, it wasn’t as cool as what I remembered it, and nothing to make me wanna come back for in a rush either.

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Food: 5/10. Nothing incredible, but it satisfied my dinner craving. The steroid chicken kind of ended it for me. The fresh juice was the best thing I had that night.

Coffee: N/A.

Ambience: A chilled and relaxed catch-up vibe amongst friends, as we weren’t the only ones on that Friday night catching up in a large group. Casual surrounds on the city outskirts meant it was cruisy, but things were constant, too.

People: Generally a “friends” type crowd… lots of groups, not so much families, and a eating-before-heading-out-later-on-to-party crowd too.

Staff: They were pleasant. Our waitress was the smiliest, others were doing their job. Nothing bad, but nothing overly-friendly either.

Price: Just under $40 for my meal and drink. The price of the meal served the quantity, but sadly not the quality.

Advice: This place will probably do you if you need to catch up in the area with friends, hence our night…

Also, there is parking out the back that leads directly into the rear of the café, so try that first, or else you will need to look for parking along High street at peak hour time – so let’s just say arrive early.

In a nutshell: I think this place didn’t amaze me only because I have had so much better restaurant/café meals since my early visits there so many years ago. It has a vast menu that caters to many, but that is essentially all.

It’s nothing overly bad… but nothing overly inspiring either.

Sorry Stuzzi… nothing ‘appetising’ about coming back here anytime soon.

Stuzzi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

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Green servings at Red Hill

Green Olive at Red Hill
1180 Mornington-Flinders Road Main Ridge

(Visited October ’17)

Our winery exploration continued. We had a free Sunday in October, and though a bit dreary at first, it was also a mild day.

We would wine and dine then.

I had heard about some kids activities, such as duck feeding and trampoline jumping on these Main Ridge fields, and when I saw I had a token for free duck food, it make up my mind EVEN more.

Ok, so really? We all know I didn’t need the duck food token to get ourselves quacking on over.

It was the promise of this:

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Once we had driven some distance through endless tree views, and then parked and walked down a long and sloping uneven gravel surface to the restaurant below us, only then did we get a chance to sample some of the above.

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Ahhh.

It was a busy day. We were amazed just how so, and managed to quickly nab ourselves a table outside where it was free for the picking. The inside tables were all full and reserved, and there were quite a few of them too. We grabbed one just outside of the main doors, and proceeded to try and open up the umbrella as precarious drops from the darkening heavens floated on down.

It never rained though, and so we were able to relax.

It is an order-up-at-the-counter establishment. Once we looked through the menus, scanned out toward the vineyards, and looked through the menus again, I headed on inside to place our orders.

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The store is inside as you line up to order, featuring all of the farm-made produce such as their dukkah, olives, oil, and other fine deli produce. Positioning is fantastic especially on a day like that was, as you had a lot of time to fall in love with the various olive bowls, gourmet pastas and even body creams up for sale as you waited in line.

Fantastic strategy for them. Not a good thing FOR ME.

But I controlled myself, and focused on the outcome ahead of me. Order the food. It took a good while, but finally I was at the counter and baby girl and I were ordering our drinks and food.

Which brings us back to the above image. Now as Robert Zemeckis would be proud to hear me say, Back to the Future.

I got some drawing paper and pencils from a ’help yourself’ area inside the café, and then as baby girl got drawing, we observed the quirky garden elements/accessories around us as we waited for our drinks, which took a bit as they were so busy… A 2017 Moscato for me, and a Mornington Peninsula Pale Ale for Hubbie:

It was fabulous. A sorta sunny Sun-day, out with the fam, enjoying the increasing Melbourne warmth, wine… why, it was divine.

The setting was fabulous, but how would the food fare?

The food is tapas style, but we weren’t overly hungry so we were content to get a piece for each of us and share as we pleased. It was hard to find something for baby girl, so we ended up getting some bread and dip, used the dip ourselves and let her dig into the bread. Ahhh, good ol’ carbs.

Beetroot hummus dip, extra virgin olive oil, farm dukkah, ciabatta

and alongside that was Hubbie’s selection of a BBQ Pulled Pork open sandwich, pickled carrot, chilli salt

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And then my choice was Egg frittata filled with garden vegetables, farm made capsicum relish

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They were tapas, and they were presented nicely, but for what we got, we felt $12.95 each was a tad steep. The group of rich older Italians behind us (don’t ask how we know, we just do) also agreed. The older man who reminded Hubbie of his old boss, was saying loudly how they had just spent $200 on tapas between the group of them and were still hungry (see that’s how we know, typical Italians).

Although the food was ok, not amazing but still good, we were still infuriated by the antics of another fellow European on a nearby table. Don’t ask me how I know, I just know. She was with her husband and child, and she was wearing white pants.

You know who wears white pants? Really young teenage girls, extreme beach-dwellers (generally pensioners)… and Europeans.

Also we could hear a slight accent.

She was really horrible. She had a gripe about something, and I do not lie, but she complained and had two different waitresses come over to listen to her whinge on at least 5 separate occasions. She would not let up. It was upsetting to witness for the poor waitresses, and she looked a total mole so I was in total support for the staff. We were trying to eavesdrop as all good people do, thinking she clearly wore the (white) pants in the relationship, when her husband even started up! OMG just go away. Their problem was food-related, and though I wasn’t exactly dancing myself in the seat from the taste sensations in my mouth, I also wasn’t a horrible person to blame the waitress for thinking my meal should be otherwise. There is a way to distribute criticism, and white pants lady, her way was just SHIT.

Hubbie and I were so peeved at their unrelenting and non-stop negativity that WE almost told them to leave. It affected our mood, but we got coffee and dessert and tried to put her white pants and snarky voice behind us.

The cappuccinos were satisfactory as was the babycino (established by how quickly she smashed it down), and the ice cream also so. We held the sauce on the ice cream for baby girl, and I had the coffee crème brulee with biscotti on the side which most definitely had the caffeine kick, whereas Hubbie had a counter brownie – not anything amazing he said.

After that was done we soon claimed our duck food with voucher (detouring off to the in-ground trampoline below the café that baby girl went psycho on for 5 minutes) before we headed down to the lake.

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It had been a mixed duck-bag of experiences. The setting was amazing and worth the visit. We weren’t sure about the food, and were wondering if we had ordered something else, whether that would have been more to our liking.

These thoughts were on our minds as we headed back home…

Food: 7/10. It was ok, but compared to the scenery before us, it was slightly underwhelming.

Coffee: 7.5/10.

Ambience: It was a very relaxed yet refined vibe. Very refined. You were amongst the vineyard and trees and all-round greenery, and yet this greenery had $ attached. See below.

People: We were in Main Ridge, and the people representing showed us we were not in Kansas (or Mornington) anymore with their super designer threads and fancy-schmanc handbags.

Staff: They were exceptionally busy, but good. The manager or boss (don’t ask me, I just know) helped fix our umbrella for us, and the rest were just doing their job on that exceptionally busy Sunday.

Price: I wasn’t keeping receipts each time we ordered, and the girl behind the counter wasn’t offering either – a clever tactic perhaps to keep you from keeping score, or just busy? – but I kept score, and it tallied to about $95. A bit much for tapas, even with alcohol included. That price should have given us larger meals.

Advice: 1) Sit outside on a sunny day, 2) if going on the weekend with a larger group perhaps best to book ahead, and 3) just keep in mind that you might need to order multiple tapas to fulfill your hunger. The accompaniment of wines will make you need MORE.

In a nutshell: It is a lovely place to while the day away on a sunny day, whether with family or friends, or let’s face it even by yourself as all busy Mums will attest. And it is super kid-friendly in the ‘activities’ department, what with the drawing accessories, trampoline and duck feeding on offer, as well as all the walks you can take exploring the grounds which we didn’t end up doing.

The food store itself gives me reason to go back, but food wise, I’ll probably check out all the other Hills on the Peninsula, Red or otherwise, before going back to taste-test their other menu options…

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Green Olive at Red Hill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

‘Botham’s Up’ for Father’s Day

Hickinbotham of Dromana
194 Nepean Highway Dromana

(Visited September ’17)

We had still NOT been to a winery. In the 11 months following our Sea Change, we hadn’t as much as suggested it, researched it, let alone GONE to one.

Then, Father’s Day was approaching. And this coincided with an online post I had read, that mentioned kid-friendly wineries on the Peninsula.

What?! Our time had come.

And so it was. Hickinbotham was the first one I called off of the kid-friendly list, and they were more than happy to have us for their 11am set lunch on Father’s Day. Hubbie didn’t know where we were going, and even though it wasn’t the nicest of Dad’s days, as we arrived amidst the cold, wind and occasional rain…

… He still smiled at the surroundings. He was really pleased.

I had done well (go me 🙂 )

We were in fact, the first ones to arrive that Sunday. We were seated immediately, and had a good look around the restaurant, taking it all in.

Though restaurant wasn’t quite the word. Sure, the tables were set up nicely, paper table-clothed and all. There was a long bar in the middle of the room, and behind that what appeared to be a tasting area, a large shed/warehouse-type room, with barrels evident from where we sat.

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Wooden tones were everywhere. But this wasn’t a renovated, wooden-accented place. No, this wood had been there for years.

And years and years.

Because that’s what this place was, authentic. You could tell that you had stepped back in time, not too far, but far enough to understand that a winery had been there in place for a long time, way before people started coming in to dine. It was old, vintage, and polished.

There were two other seating areas I could see… one immediately to the front of us, that was completely covered, and another off to the side, which too was sheltered, yet opened up into the greenery outside.

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Shotgun outdoor area on a sunny day. Just putting it out there.

Since it was 11am, and a tad before our usual eating time of 1pm, we decided to just opt for the 2 course menu, rather than do the 3 courses.

First up, some drinks please.

A glass of 2016 Pinot Gris for me; and a pint (ALL the men there were soon getting pints) of Hix Pilsener, Silver medal Royal Sydney Show 2014

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Can I just say it was super exciting to be drinking beverages from the local wine/beer-makers there themselves. We were giddy, and although we had ordered our mains, the alcohol went to our heads and suddenly we were hungry!

Baby girl had received some crackers and dips as part of her kids package that day

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And we all kind of dipped into that one (thanks Pinot Gris)

By this stage the place was filling up. There were Dads galore, and the waitresses were wishing everyone a Happy Father’s Day on arrival.

The fireplace had been lit, and was getting stoked, but the fire just wasn’t taking, so the group of people seated beside us took it upon themselves to re-stoke it.

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It was a beautiful old fireplace, and the warmth that emanated from it was very much required that day.

Soon, the food!

I had ordered the succulent baked chicken breast, kipflers with bacon and thyme, garden greens, chicken jus

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Hubbie had ordered the 250gm grass fed scotch fillet, dauphine fat chips, baby sprouts with Portobello, béarnaise

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And Baby girl had the pleasure of her all-time fave dish… pasta

Spiral pasta with bolognaise sauce

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(Oh woe is me. Back to the time where baby girl actually had sauce with her pasta).

Baby girl happily lapped up her pasta while she watched other children playing with toys on youtube. Of course.

Hubbie was pleased with his steak and how it was cooked, but questioned whether it was in fact, 250gm… otherwise he enjoyed it, yet he left behind a fat chip for me to enjoy… oh my. It was thick and creamy, and all I can say is dauphine chips are the BOMB. They were that GOOD.

Crisp potato puff… mmmmm.

And I loved my meal. It was comforting and warm, the chicken was most certainly succulent, and the jus? Amazing. I dragged my vegies and chicken ALL through the jus, trying my best to soak up every last drop. Yum.

We were very content, but what is a special occasion without dessert? We had spent a good deal of the past month hibernating, accepting and allowing the cold to pass, and also hoping that once that most-coldest of cold seasons was over, baby girl would also be more mature, and happily sit with us as we dined out throughout the Peninsula, ALL through Spring and Summer.

She is well-acquainted with the phone though, so…. say what you like. We were ALL happy then.

We ordered coffees too, and then it all started to arrive:

I had a cap, while Hubbie had a STRONG, heart-shaped latte:

Baby girl had a babycino accompany her kids dessert, which consisted of vanilla ice cream, chocolate cake, marshmallows and snakes

Hubbie ordered the Passionfruit tart, burnt meringue, coulis, clotted cream

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And I had Jo’s stunning chocolate mousse cake, pistachio crunch, two types of raspberry

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Firstly, can I say, when I hear the words ‘chocolate mousse’ my head almost swivels Exorcist-style. True story. I enjoyed the light, yet decadent mousse component, and the base was most definitely crunchy… not sure if the combination worked completely, I understood the textures being in contrast to one another… but sometimes you just need some cream alongside your chocolate-whatever. I appreciated it nonetheless. I had to bypass my 3 raspberries sitting a-pretty on top, ever since that fateful day when I ate a whole punnet of raspberries one night, and then felt a bit awkward and uncomfortable, went to the loo, and promptly threw up the whole thing. I then proceeded to feeling better instantly, and the incident was so bizarre I actually question whether it in fact happened or I just dreamt it all…

But I think, I have developed some kind of aversion to raspberries, or whatever thing it is inside them that irritates my stomach. I would have risked the 3 if we hadn’t had any other plans that day… but we did have plans, and I wasn’t going to ignore history/a bad dream and risk running to the bathroom.

Hubbie thought his passionfruit tart was ok… I think he is not a tart-y, or burnt meringue kinda guy, just saying. He is also an incredibly fussy guy. Just saying.

Baby girl enjoyed mixing every component of her dessert together until it developed into a gooey creamy mess, but funnily enough did not like the marshmallows then (she LOVES marshmallows) and until I tried one, I realised why – they were incredibly cold, either from the ice cream proximity, or what I believe, sitting in a fridge for a while? I otherwise thought it the perfect dessert for a child, just a colourful combination of bright and simple sweet things that children love.

We were now very full, with the added assistance of our caffeine hits, and decided it was time to pay.

Outside the rain had ceased, and now the sun glared down from in-between the clouds. Hubbie and baby girl ran around the yard, mucking about… and then it was time to go.

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Food: 8/10. I loved my chicken, and other components were amazing too. I would love to go there when there is not a set menu, to see how they go preparing and cooking food ‘on the fly.’

Coffee: 7.5/10. It was pleasant, not too strong, and smooth.

Ambience: Incredibly cosy. Honestly, I felt a bit like I was at my uncle’s old house down Warburton way. The abundant wood and fireplace gave it a real homely feel, and seeing the greenery and trees throughout the windows linked us to the outside, making it feel quite idyllic, and very appropriate, for a winery.

People: Being such a family day, there were families of all kinds EVERYWHERE. Young families, old families, families with extended family, smaller intimate families, and many kids too, which was further testament to the review I had read online.

Staff: They were incredibly attentive, polite and friendly, really fine service.

Price: $161. This consisted of mine and Hubbie’s 2 course set menus – both at $60 a head. Baby girl’s set 3 course meal was $29.50. Throw in some home-grown alcoholic drinks, coffees, and voila. Price is justified. Or is it? I think baby girl’s set price was on the upside… and if you break down each of our main and dessert meals to $30 each, I think it is STILL too high. But it is a winery, and so, you reach out into your handbag and pull out the dough (or in my case, the Eftpos card).

Advice: Maybe on weekends it would be best to call ahead in case they are busy, however there was an ample amount of seating in many areas, and they were all covered, so risking it shouldn’t do too much damage either.

In a nutshell: Although it was pricey, and Hubbie didn’t rave about his main meal, he absolutely loved the winery, and the beer. I too love the entire place. Being not too far from our house, with Spring on our doorstep (any day now Melbourne weather), we will definitely come back again. We’ve already planned to sit somewhere outside, in the afternoon sunshine, sipping on some lovely local produce and gazing at the views and water up ahead, while baby girl just RUNS with glee.

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So just pick up your glass and…

…Botham’s up.

Hickinbotham Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Warm olives, cold Cowes, but fond memories

Fig & Olive
115 Thompson Avenue Cowes, Phillip Island

(Visited August ’17)

We had trekked over to San Remo for a couple of nights during mine and baby girl’s birthday period. While café-ing out in the main strip one windy Tuesday, Hubbie asked the nice guy delivering coffees out to everyone, “can you give us a good dinner recommendation?”

The first name he rattled off was Fig & Olive.

He mentioned a few more, but his description of the place and the food it delivered won us over, and we planned to book ahead. Upon driving back to our accommodation a short while later, we looked at the area in which it was meant to be, as directed to us by kind waiter.

And suddenly, we were time lapsed to 5 years earlier.

Because we had been there before. Pre-food blogging days. Pre-baby days. Pre-Sea change days.

It felt like a long time ago, and yet the memory of that visit was strong because we had sat outside on a warm Summer’s evening, had enjoyed a delicious drink and dessert, and snapped an amazing selfie of ourselves, and let’s face it when you get one where you BOTH look great, it’s immediately one for the memory bank (and photo album – old school, yes).

It made total sense to be returning to this restaurant 5 years on.

Although things were a bit different. We were with baby girl. We absolutely HAD TO sit inside. And we absolutely had to, because we almost didn’t make the drive over from San Remo to Cowes, it was raining that much.

We burst in through the doors a bit sprinkled on from our mad dash from the car, and chose a table alongside the wall with booth to sit at, alongside another couple who were entering at the time.

I honestly can’t speculate at what had changed in the 5 years or so that passed between our visits. I couldn’t remember. All I remember was we had been seated at some kind of outdoor alfresco area, so the interior – I wouldn’t have a clue.

Now it was warm, illuminated by warm and sparkly lights, and the ample seating and ambience made the setting quite refined. However the orange-red wall brought it a playful burst of colour, taking it closer to its ‘Relaxed Casual Dining’ web site tag.

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I was happy when they brought over some pencils and colouring-in paper for baby girl, as there is never such a thing as ‘too much distraction’ when a toddler is out with you.

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We perused the menu and settled on some

Warm marinated olives with bread

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Hubbie got a VB, and I got a glass of the ‘Dance with the Devil’ Cab Sav

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Of course we had to try the appetiser of the restaurant name, didn’t we? I’ve been getting right into olives as an entry to main meal, ever since we started getting them at Manhattan. They were great and the bread was lovely to dip into the oily concoction and soak up all the goodness.

It was pretty quiet, being a midweek Winter’s night and all, but happily for us (those noise levels are preferred to be always loud in case a certain toddler decides vocal aerobics are necessary) some more groups of people soon came in, though at the most there was still only 4 or 5 groups that whole night.

Baby girl’s meal of spaghetti bolognaise immediately followed the olives

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And then soon after ours came. Mine was the pumpkin risotto with goats cheese, cherry tomatoes and rocket

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While Hubbie had the 300g scotch fillet, with potatoes, broccolini, and creamy peppercorn sauce

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So baby girl loved her spaghetti, though it may have been hard to notice since I literally had to spoon-feed it to her – as I said before, distractions. She was quiet, so it was good. Even Hubbie and I took fork stabs at it occasionally since it did look so delish. Sometimes it’s the simple things… like taste-testing from your child’s plate.

My risotto was sensational. Rich, but not too rich. It was quite liquid-y when it arrived, leaving Hubbie with a puzzled look on his face as it was brought to the table, but this is why I am the food blogger and not him. There were pumpkin pieces in there that brought it texture, the liquid made it moorish and smooth, and the complimentary tastes of goats cheese and rocket were YUM. Did I mention anything with rocket added is immediately made better? Well there it is.

ANYTHING WITH ROCKET ADDED IS IMMEDIATELY BETTER.

So I loved mine. Hubbie enjoyed his too, and that in itself is a God-send. Angels sing! The meat was cooked exactly to his liking, and it was tender too. All hail Fig and Olive.

Since it was our last night on that side of town before we were due back home the next day, and also as I already mentioned, ‘birthday month,’ I had to have dessert – whether I was full or not.

I was kinda full. But it would fit, I assured myself.

Hubbie went with our old holiday fave, the Affogato, and got himself a shot of Frangelico in addition on the side.

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He ended up pouring all the coffee over the ice cream, which he immediately regretted since he and I could not then actually taste the coffee on its own. Oh well, it still tasted good.

I went for the warm chocolate fondant – chocolate sauce, crumble and vanilla ice cream – because really, how does warm and melted chocolate NOT sound good on a cold Winter’s night?

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And baby girl was more than content with her vanilla ice cream and strawberry topping

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My dessert was oozing with thick melted chocolate, so my heart naturally followed.

I enjoyed it very much, and the chocolate crumble, was a really lovely addition to break away from the gooey-ness of it all. Vanilla ice cream to lessen the sugar-rush impact. Yes.

We had been first to arrive, and almost a couple of hours later, we were last to leave. We paid our bill, said our byes, and hurried back to the car, to drive through the rain once again.

Food: 8.5/10. The standard was there as it was years ago, and whether or not a change of ownership has occurred, I don’t care. It was wonderful. Dreaming of that risotto.

Coffee: Since it was had alongside the liqueur and ice cream, it was hard to ascertain on its own, other than to note that it was strong, so I can’t give a proper score here.

Ambience: Quiet and refined, though there was a casual element to it too.

Staff: Professional and friendly, and helpful when it came to our main orders.

People: There was only a handful that night: an older couple; a group of tourists from out-of-town; and another group of 3 that I can’t remember, other than to note they were near us… a real mixed bunch.

Price: $129 for 3 mains, an entrée, and 3 desserts alongside some drinks. On the money.

Advice: Perhaps book ahead on the weekend in warmer months/holiday season to avoid disappointment. Eat the risotto.

In a nutshell: We really enjoyed this place, and being the destination of fond memories, we will definitely be back. It has something for everyone, and next time we will be back, basking in the sunshine, or basking in its interior orange glow…

Either way, it is sure to be warm. It’s definitely a place I would love to revisit, but I won’t wait 5 years next time 😉

Fig & Olive at Cowes Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thanks be to Burgers

Thanks Albert
32 Main Street Mornington

(Visited June ’17)

Burgers. That was the request on that Wintery day in mid-June. All Hubbie wanted was a burger. It wasn’t to be a fancy restaurant, a tapas-style menu, or zujjed up Italian-American style comfort food  –

Just, Burgers.

We had already been to YOMG a while back. We had eaten it – takeaway at home – and since the experience had not been IN the restaurant, is why I didn’t write a blog post about it.

When I was done eating it, I didn’t wanna waste my time writing. I mean, I couldn’t write about the entire dining experience anyway, since I hadn’t really had it within its defined doors… but all in all, all I could say was – oily. Salty. Too much of both. The first few bites tasted good, and then I was full.

Maccas tasted better. (Woah food blogger, don’t admit to eating Maccas).

Somehow, we remembered there was a burger joint, at some point down Main street, past YOMG, and across from the Mexican joint – the location was so clear in my mind, because I had walked that strip with baby girl only that day.

So we went. In search, of THE burger.

Upon entering Thanks Albert the contrast was apparent. Where YOMGs had been loud, music thumping, full of people and inhabiting a very LONG space, this eatery was smaller. Quieter. Only two small groups of other people were there at the time, and even with slight background music playing throughout the premises, I still could hear myself think.

And I heard the friendly greeting from the guy up front as we walked in.

I immediately loved it.

The guy asked us if we had a booking – er, no. That was ok, since presently the place was pretty quiet, and honestly if he had turned us down with that many empty seats, I would have been surprised. But with the small size of the joint, I could totally see why it would be a prerequisite on busy nights.

We were seated to our liking in a corner booth, which made us feel so at home, and also especially comfortable and happy with a squirmy, jumpy, can’t-sit-still baby girl. As we perused the drinks and food menu, looked around, settled in, and Hubbie got some beer samples because for the life of him couldn’t decide what beer to try (liar! – he just wanted to taste-test) I was staring straight ahead at me at the circular frames containing quotes on the wall.

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I had already looked and observed the colour red, abundant around me, the suspended light bulbs – hanging a fair distance from the ceiling, further adding to the ‘I have an idea!’ moment – wondering why the place was thanking some dude called Albert, and reading all the signs up on the wall, one by one, in between trying to work out what I was going to order, when I read a quote, that literally had me at a lightbulb moment.

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.”

!

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Why, that was an Albert Einstein quote…. They ALL were!

And his face was on the glasses! Everywhere! (A delayed comprehension I know).

Hence the birth of Thanks Albert.

Sheesh. Now I loved it more. Gratitude and profound thanks to a world-changing game-changer and inventor, someone who would affect the world for centuries to come, an absolute legend in his own right? A restaurant dedicated to him? (Did he like burgers? Doesn’t matter).

Wow.

Maybe he invented that, too. That’s not for us to life amateurs speculate. All we need to know about is the food that night.

After Hubbie finally decided on a pot of Mountain Goat, and I got a glass of Pinot Noir
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(Loved the wine glasses by the way) we ordered some food, and soon after received

A Thanks Albert burger –Angus beef patty, double cheese, Thanks Albert mustard, dill pickle, red onion, tomato, butter lettuce, aioli, with fries for Hubbie

A Simply the Breast burger – Southern fried buttermilk chicken, bacon, smokey BBQ sauce, caramelised onion, tomato, butter lettuce, for me

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And a Kids chicken and chips meal, with free OJ drink, for baby girl

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I had actually wanted to try the house burger like Hubbie, but in Food Review blogging style, there was no chance in hell we were going to have the same meal. So I went for the chicken one, as I eat it so much, I might one day grow wings and fly as my Dad liked to tell me growing up.

Hubbie enjoyed his burger, and yes, it was more to his liking than their competitor down the road. I also enjoyed mine, but with all burgers, was feeling overfull about half-way through.

Thank God I didn’t get any chips. I pecked on baby girl’s, as hers was a decent meal for a 3 year-old, of chicken pieces and chips. We also decided early on, that her chips were better than Hubbie’s.

His contained, and I assume maybe all adult meals, the secret seasoning, making it a tasty yet also very salty combination. With the already overload of burger, bun, salt and oil, it was a bit too over-the-top for me, and US. I guess next time, we would hold the seasoning, and go for the plain ones like baby girl had.

We were definitely full by the end of it all. I had been keeping a cheeky monkey out of trouble by controlling her inate desire to blow bubbles into her OJ glass (it overflowed at least twice and had us grabbing at bar napkins), and as the burgers were soon devoured, we slowly pecked at chips, peck peck peck, ‘til it was time to go.

Food: 7.5/10. Comforting, salty, and inventive. Really filling.

Coffee: N/A.

Ambience: Chilled, cosy yet uplifting, what with all those lightbulbs at almost eye-level.

Staff: The guy who greeted us, who was behind-the-bar and also EVERYTHING guy, was fabulous, and the one who brought out our food was super-friendly too… more on him below.

People: A few couples were floating around, and then a group of high-teens sat next to us. The burger place is definitely the flame to all the teenage moths around (or in this case, the lightbulb to all the teens), as this place showed us that night, even more so YOMG a while back, which was practically a nightclub on a weeknight.

Price: $60.50. For a dine-out, takeaway style meal on the ‘up’ side, with alcohol… that sounds about right.

Advice: If you aren’t keen on too much salt or seasoning, skip their special one and opt for the normal kind. Maybe you, like me, only need a burger to satisfy you (especially if you can peck on the nearby chips of a loved one). And thirdly, if you have a child (or husband) who makes too much mess, sit yourself near the bar for easy napkin access. You won’t be sorry.

In a nutshell: This place was far superior to me than YOMG, and the little extra attention near the end of our experience won me over…

Once we had received our meals, the guy out the back (chef/owner, both?) came out and checked on our meals as we were eating, to see if all was good. Considering by this stage there were a few groups out, and he went over to them too as well as us, in my books, he got massive brownie points for.

That’s the kind of thing I give Thanks for. 😉

Thanks Albert Burger Company Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Love on the Rocks

The Rocks Mornington
1 Schnapper Point Drive Mornington

(Visited May ’17)

At the end of a very long Tuesday in early May, where Hubbie, baby girl and I pretty much ran to the reaches of all parts of this city, we settled back in our new home turf to head out to dinner. It was at a destination that had been organised as a surprise by Hubbie, so the surprise itself was known to me, with the destination meant to be unknown by me at the same time… but when he said the menu had primarily seafood, well there was only one local place I thought that was fancy enough for the occasion we were celebrating. 8 years of wedded bliss 🙂

And so it was, that we predictably headed down the Main Street, and kept heading down the Pier ‘til we reached the end, to the rocks.

The Rocks, at Mornington.

My, was I glad Hubbie had pre-booked. A fireplace greeted us nearby after we had climbed the winding stairs, and after our waiter glanced through the already-full room that weeknight, he led us to a table for 3.

I was actually, extremely pleased that it was so noisy. It was a poshy destination, that you couldn’t deny, but I was happy to hear the well-to-doers talking loudly and happily from all corners of the room, filling up the room with a bustling and fluid atmosphere. Though it was a ‘nice’ restaurant, it was actually quite cosy, with wooden and sailing paraphernalia throughout to add that necessary beach-side effect, and yet it was done so tastefully. There was fairly ample room in the large dining area we were in, with an outside area that we could view from through our side window, that was currently empty, but would be an amazing spot in Summer. Oh the joys of beachside living.

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We perused the menu first for the celebratory drinks, and I opted for a local red, while Hubbie went with a … beer. Of course, what else.

Yes, my wine was on the $$$ side, but it was fantastic. Divine. Truly a red worth celebrating love with. ♥♥

And soon after we ordered the food, it didn’t take long for the first few plates to reach our table:

Seafood dumplings, shallot, ginger, chilli oil

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And Spaghetti napoletana for baby girl

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It was a basic pasta for baby girl, but even that, it was done well and kept both her, and US busy (and me a bit OCD-mad) as I tried relentlessly to keep her clean from sauce-stains. Fortunately for this order freak, she is a little OCD too.

I turned my attention to our entrée when I couldn’t take it anymore, and was happily impressed. The dumplings were yummalicious, and the combination of flavours made it a delightfully spicy explosion in your mouth. They didn’t last long on our table.

In between those plates and our mains, we kept ourselves busy. Looking out at the dark waters before us, drawing with baby girl, and of course, taking her to the loo repeatedly, because that’s what a toilet-trained toddler is obsessed with of course, the toilets of the world. Some other diners started to head home, we drank some more, baby girl took blurry photos of us, and then the mains arrived!

Hubbie’s Lamb shoulder – free range riverina, slow-cooked overnight on the bone with Asian flavours and roasted chats, with a side of chips

And my Spaghetti frutti di mare – todays seafood, hand-picked tomatoes from Puglia & evoo (chip additions courtesy of baby girl)

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Here is where I explain why I got baby girl pasta, and not chips, since I was having a hellish time keeping her sauce-mouth in check. If I were to get pasta, and she chips, although she loves BOTH, I wouldn’t have heard the end of it, as she would have been hounding me for bites, getting upset at the distinct spices in it, but then getting more upset because she still wants pasta. We had carefully conducted our plan however, and by this stage not only was she fairly full on her napoletana, but she now had Hubbie’s chips to peck on too. Score.

It wasn’t spicy. It wasn’t meant to be, but it had definite kick and flavour. Seafood, without being sea-watery in flavour, and the pasta was just… mmm hmmm. All the seafood was cooked perfectly, and though I’m not much of a fan of calamari, I still ate most of it, just because I was enjoying everything so damn much. I loved the pieces of salmon and the oiliness of the dish held it together so well, although that component did leave me feeling pretty full once my plate was empty.

It was a slightly different story for Hubbie’s meal. His ‘meat’ was cooked beautifully, to the point that it was falling off the bone, and it certainly looked inviting… but the problem didn’t lie in how it had been cooked. The problem lay in what it was. Because the menu said lamb shoulder. And it was shoulder. It just wasn’t lamb.

It was mutton.

I know, I know. Tell him to do his own food reviews. Believe me, if you think I can be critical, he is of a higher power. But he is allowed to be – he is a butcher after all. He knows his shit, and his shit, is his meat. He deals with it all day. Poshy restaurant or non-poshy restaurant, lamb should be lamb, and the overwhelmingly ‘lamb’ smell that was emanating from his dish, told him it was definitely not the above-mentioned dish, but the parent version. The smelly version.

It didn’t turn him off the dish, and he still ate it… but considering the calibre of the restaurant, he was disappointed, and had really believed they would at least put their money where their mouth was in terms of food quality.

The fussy butcher strikes again.

Things like this kill me, really, they do. I sit there across from him, hearing him complain, and I’m like really? Are you sure? But does it taste good? But see how it’s falling apart? ALL TO DEAF EARS. I enjoyed my dish but because he didn’t enjoy his, it just meant we were going home a whole lot faster.

He probably would have indulged in a dessert, but as it was, opted to share with me, and go a dessert wine. He had his vino to forget about the mutton, while I went for

Panna cotta with figs and pistachio crumble

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And baby girl kinda stayed still long enough through her intense excitement, to let me snap a blurry pic of her own ice cream and chocolate sauce dessert

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So yep, she enjoyed hers. After an oily pasta dish, my panna cotta was light and creamy, not too heavy, and the figs on the side gave it that freshness that accompanied my full stomach well. It was the perfect dessert to follow what I had eaten, however my usual preference would have been something much richer and decadent… maybe that’s for the day I eat a salad there. Salad for dinner? Nah, not happening.

We soon paid and left the restaurant with a much lighter wallet.

Food: 8/10. That score was a tough one to make. I don’t take to deception well, and yet I see the quality in the rest of the meals they prepared, bar Hubbie’s… their emphasis is on seafood, and you can find it in most parts of their menu, except for the grill. They also do breakfast, which on a clear sunny day, would be splendid.

Coffee: N/A this time.

Ambience: Really relaxed despite what I would have expected. The wooden beams and sailing decoration added a chilled vibe, reminiscent of a beach-style lifestyle. Well, it IS a beach-style lifestyle where we are! It was cosy, yet happily boisterous too.

Staff: They were attentive and friendly, but we didn’t have much to do with them, beside their taking our orders and delivering our plates/removing them from the table. I didn’t feel they went above and beyond the call of duty like other restaurants we’ve been to, but they did their job.

People: A well-to-do crowd. What does a 20-something guy do when back in his home turf? Why, Mother and Father take him out for some dining. Celebrate a birthday in style with 8 of your closest friends! Go out for a special dinner at that seafood place with your special someone, and smile at that mischievous girl at the adjoining table because she reminds you so much of your own rascally child at that sweet age – oh wait, they were looking at baby girl? The people there were actually really good with baby girl’s insanity: older couples, families and groups alike. An older crowd ruled that night, majority 40 +.

Price: $140ish. Phew. Wowza. Had Hubbie been happy, this wouldn’t have been a problem, it was a special night for us after all.

Advice: Definitely book ahead. Get something seafood (not hard here). Take in the views, (and I say that without even having seen the views!) If your partner is a fussy butcher, make sure he DOESN’T get the meat shoulder!

In a nutshell: I have not given up on this place, not by a long shot. I am yet to eat more seafood here, have a drink overlooking the water, have brekkie overlooking the water, have a coffee overlooking the water… I think I need to have EVERYTHING overlooking the water. The quality of food is above average, and though the price is up there and may make you flinch, remember that its mainly because of the prime real estate… everything is that much dearer when you are on the rocks.

The Rocks Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Superfood Store

Store Fifteen
15 Main Street Mornington

(Visited April ’17)

Breakfast. I mean, it’s a lazy and rich man’s prerogative to have someone else make him breakfast, right? Perhaps the simplest of the three main meals, if you can have someone, more so, pay someone to provide you with this most fantastic of luxuries, well then, you are doing well.

Or maybe that was the case 10-15 years ago. Nowadays, it seems like most new Mums, students, hipsters in inner city-Melbourne, suits and even pensioners are getting in on the café-culture bandwagon and paying for the privilege to have their aerated muesli, gluten-free toast, or organically produced eggs, tomatoes and spinach leaves in a breakfast burrito, bought to them on an artisan piece of table-wear.

I for one, think it’s FANTASTIC. Not just the table-wear, but the breakfast too. I was perusing the local haunts in my fair town over on the Zomato site, when I came upon the most spectacular looking bowl of ‘something’ that I have ever feasted my breakfast-hungry-to-go-out eyes on.

I vowed then and there, that at the next opportune time, I would go there and eat the bowl. Of food that is.

Which is how I came to be at Store Fifteen, the beach end of Main street in Mornington, one sunny and still Autumn’s day in April. I had dropped off baby girl at kinder, and was unashamedly going to indulge in some much necessary and selfish (though not guilt-free) ME time.

I find it a bit nerve-wracking eating on my own. It is a freeing experience, one I think all people should try – but I always end up feeling all introvert-like rather than the confident “look at me people, I am my own best company!” version of myself I should be when I do this. It becomes sooo apparent I have no friends, when really the case is –  I have no friends… in Mornington. Sea changing has its advantages, and not-so ones when wanting to dine out with company, still so soon after a huge demographic shift.

I was a bit unsure of what to do, standing there awkwardly for a while, reading the menu in front of the coffee machine, while trying to work out where to order, where I should sit, and what I was going to eat.

Oh, and of course, I was trying to find the delicious bowl within the menu’s contents.

I could have easily sat outside in the glorious sun, if most spots hadn’t been taken. There are crate-like seats which you can plonk yourself onto, with quite low tables beside them, as well as a higher long table running beside the outer entrance looking in on the coffee making area, with adjacent stools. Inside there were more tiny tables and chairs, and I had to admit defeat and position myself on the smallest of those, but with the advantage of looking out into the glorious day.

I had ordered up at the counter right near the coffee machine, before settling into my position gazing inward out. It’s amazing what a difference a couple of blocks can do. Sure, the menu was very different – there was no run-of-the-mill eggs on toast here – and the distinct menu, as well as the industrial yet organic interior, certainly attracted a different type of customer. Wealthier and well-dressed folk came in here, even the gym-type junkie with the full face of make-up – yep, that type. The counter and coffee-making area held the right position of the first half of the store, with a long thin table placed up against the opposite wall, and then small tables dotted throughout. I was actually sitting on a sack style-stool of some sort, that was the kind of furnishings within – it made you feel like you had just pulled up whatever to sit on at the local man’s barnyard.

It wasn’t before long after my deep musings on the folk here began, that I received the first order of the day:

Chai Latte – Love Chai: An earthy and warming blend of aromatic spices, turmeric, organic tea, and Australian bush honey

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Now, this was a proper chai latte. Not the type you receive in other cafes, where the only preparation was adding milk to sachet of powder. No, this had spices and all manner of herby green looking stuff sticking out and threatening to spill over the sieve as I poured the liquid through to strain it. It was magnificent. But it was what was to be expected from a boutique café such as this.

I had gone the chai latte route instead of my usual cap, only because I was feeling sickly, and going to be coming face-to-face with David Boreanaz the next day… so you know. Had to look my best for Angel, and not be croaking like some demon.

And not too long after that, the main event, the star, the whole reason for my going there at all…

The Acai Bowl

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Just observe that work of art in all its glory. This consisted of an Acai berry blend smoothie base (contains soy) topped with house made superfood granola (contains nuts), fresh berries, coconut chips, goji berries, and activated buckinis. Buckinis you say? Well we were close to the beach. Buckinis/bikinis/schmuckinis. Yeah I don’t know what a buckini is either, other than to speculate that they must do well in Summer-time. The bowl tasted great, and there was huge crunch-effect, so if there on a date, or having to go to an interview later on, maybe skip that one for the occasion. It was also really, really cold. The berry blend, which was the most vibrant of purple/red hues, had a temperature like it had been in a freezer. It might as well have been, that’s how cold it was. It took me a few spoonfuls, and then after never having had a brain-freeze in my life (I’ve avoided it well) one early spoon dipped into the icy red blend had such an effect in my mouth, freezing my top teeth and nearly making me wince in pain, that I was forced to resort my spoons to teeny, tiny amounts, more nut and goji than blend, giving the whole thing time to defrost.

Still, I loved it.

It took me ages to eat – both because it is a decent bowl, and because my sensitive teeth. It looked something like this when I was done:

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So I guess you can say I was happy with my choice.

I finished up, and since I had already conveniently paid at the start, headed on out into the sunshine, and into the Mornington town life. Super-food ready.

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Food: 9/10. With only trying one meal, yet seeing all the other food being delivered out, and the amazing display up near the counter of slices, raw juices and lunch options, this place is the real deal, and one to be reckoned with in the raw/vegan/health food movement. Expect the words raw, vegan and organic, A LOT on the menu, and even one such meal, the recent Kimchi Pancake, had me scratching my head and going “What?” Still, I‘d love to try it.

Coffee: N/A on this visit, but going by the Chai Latte, I can’t bloody wait to give their beans a try. Their range of juices, smoothies and health shots sound incredible to this caffeinated girl too.

Update! Coffee is smooth. Slightly strong. Very, very nice.

Can I give a score when it wasn’t tried on my first visit there (my foodie review prerequisite)? What the hell…

9/10. 🙂

Ambience: Really chilled and mellow. It was breakfast time after all. There was easy-going music in the background that not even a pair of two cute (and rowdy) kids could shake the demeanour of, but I have a feeling this laid-back vibe prevails throughout the day.

Staff: There was no over-the-top friendliness here – not to say that anyone was mean, but you know, they are in the business. The business of making sure the cardamom pods in your chai latte are about to burst from plumpness, you know? No time for chit-chat-chai.

People: The prime real estate of the Peninsula. I was pleased to see that I wasn’t the only one dining alone. Quite a few loners came in for their take-away drinks, many drank/ate opposite the counter, and then there were the custom friends with kids meeting, an uptight couple here and there, and your rich but super-nice gentleman type who came by to sip his espresso on a nearby stool, before tipping his hat to the playful youngster nearby and then going off to God-knows where to talk property and stocks with his investor friends… you know… the usual kind…

Price: $21:00 for the lot. Considering I walked away feeling like a superwoman after all of those supercharged superfoods, it was a bargain. Well worth the money spent.

Advice: If your teeth detest icy things, or it’s Winter, perhaps skip the Acai bowl. In Summer though, go for it. Sitting on a crate out front is the gold-medal position, what with the breeze blowing over the sea-spray from down the road.

In a nutshell: A place I would definitely go back to, and one that I hope to make a regular one, a reliable go-to in years to come. I’m glad there is a café catering to this niche market, because not only does it attract those who may have certain food allergies, but it brings forth the health-conscious, organically minded consumer, the one who wants to feel good, and try something different in the process.

It’s worth 15 visits for sure. Actually, 16… it’s my lucky number 😉

Store Fifteen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

A cozy/crazy Social

Fitzroy Social
222 Brunswick Street Fitzroy

(Visited April ’17)

I’m ashamed to say, that the thought of heading over to Fitzroy from the Port Phillip Bay-side of town, on that Thursday night, Good Friday Eve… well it felt like more of an effort and a drainer, than the desire to see my high school friends was.

I mean, the group of us only get together every few years or so. All 6 of us. And so that should have been incentive enough, right?

Yeah, but now high school is over: I’m a Mum, I’m a wife, and I’m an inventive cook too, who was just freaking out over how the hell I was gonna bake all the Easter goodies I was planning on before Easter on Sunday.

But I soon whooped my ass into gear, and as soon as I was all dolled up, I felt much more, Fitzroy ready.

I knew Fitzroy well. I had worked in the area and walked its streets often, many, many years ago. In doing so, I thought I knew what kind of place I could expect. Small, cramped, dark. Meals at the bar, sitting up on some tall stools, looking down the line at each other and barely able to hear ourselves over the band music. I knew we were having dinner there, and one of the girls was pregnant, so I figured it must be somewhat ‘family’ friendly…

I just didn’t know how that would be.

Well, when I luckily pulled right up to the front and parked (my first surprise of the night) I then walked in through the open doors, and got my second surprise.

This place, was HUGE.

It was high, open-spaced, and light. Yes there was a bar, on the left upon entry, and it was long and wide. But also, occupying more than 3/4s of the space, was the seating area. Tables were throughout, along with those that backed onto booths against the wall, and dotted in amongst all of this were purple couches, all high backed and posh and definitely standing out, used as seating as well.

The toilets were out the back, near where our group was eventually seated, and these were spacious and funky looking too.

As I positioned myself in the booth next to my friend, I looked at these seated works of art, and thought ‘damn. I want to sit in one of those.’

They looked out of place, and yet in true eclectic Fitzroy style, they totally fit in.

And then there was the greenery.

Greenery, you say? In a Fitzroy bar? Where the hell could they fit such greenery?

Why, on the ceiling of course.

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It was an interesting and welcoming sight, a nice contrast to the hustle and bustle of all the diners hanging out and catching up on the floor. I loved it.

Once all the girls (and one beau) had arrived, and we were only visited three times by the waitress who was coming to take our order but we were still not ready, we finally ordered.

I got a glass of the Cape Schanck Pinot Noir (from the Mornington Peninsula, of course)

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And soon after as the meals arrived, so too did my meal:

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Now alas, all I can go on is memory, because the guys at Fitzroy Social are so efficient they have already changed their menu, a month on from my visit there! And of course the chicken I had is no longer on it. But I can remember there was a kind of mustard glaze-sauce on the chicken, atop creamy mash, and the carrots were honeyed.

I do recall I enjoyed my dish, however it needed a side, vegies or chips or something. The mash was a small serving. No fault of the menu, it did clearly state what I received, I just should have paid attention more. I enjoyed the mustard flavour against the sweet carrots, and hey… it just meant I had more room for dessert.

After eating, taking the traditional group photo followed by stupid-face photo, a few of the girls headed off, leaving the ones that were left deciding to go for the Dessert Box

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(Apologies for the disgustingly dark photo, the dim lights in that part of the room made it awfully hard)

3 of us went for this, which consisted of full portions of their regular desserts: peanut butter cheesecake, caramel and Nutella pie, salted caramel and popcorn panna cotta, and a scoop each of raspberry and coconut sorbet.

My faves were the cheesecake, panna cotta and raspberry sorbet, but they were all good in their own right. Going the shared dessert box with friends is quite possibly the best idea, you get a taste of everything. Gluttony at its finest.

After this it was my cue to exit, and I left the last two girls behind, with the bright lights and slowly increasing volume and rowdy natures that were on the increase, behind. Back to the beach, driver.

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Food: 7/10. A varied menu for all – burgers, meat, fries, salads and much more.

Coffee: N/A.

Ambience: Bustling and happening, yet still chilled and casual. Sit at the bar… sit at a booth. Sit at a purple couch. Do whatever. But we’re in Fitzroy, outer-city suburbs, so you would only expect just that. It started off at a stable volume when I was there, and the music and chatter only increased throughout the night. It wasn’t too loud that you couldn’t hear your friends talking across from you at the table, so that I appreciated.

Staff: The waitress tending to us was very smiley and polite, and offered suggestions when needed. She was Fitzroy-savvy.

People: A real mix. There were groups of friends, and I expected it to be a much younger crowd, but I did see a couple of kids here and there with their parents! It is definitely a younger crowd, 20-30s, but it was nice to see that littlies were welcome too.

Price: I paid about $35ish for my portion of the bill. I can’t say for sure about the chicken, but the estimate was in the high teens to low 20s, and I do recall thinking it was reasonable for that area – I had the chicken, glass of red, and shared in the dessert box.

Advice: If you’re arriving 7-7:30pm you may just get lucky like I did and score parking like RIGHT OUT THE FRONT. Arrive later, and your risk. There are 2 hour parks around the area, and despite what passers-by tell you – pay for a ticket! The bloody signs are so contradictory, they almost want you to think you don’t have to pay, when indeed, you do. I have seen people getting fines for parking without a ticket, and not getting a new one when their last one expired – trust me. Or if you don’t mind walking, go to a flat-rate car park and walk a couple of blocks…

If you’re into funky, retro things, book a booth. It’ll become your facebook profile pic, I have no doubt.

Finally, go the dessert box. You’re going with someone right? Friends? A Man? Your Mum? Unless you go there alone maybe don’t order it… what the hell, you only live once right? Eat ALL the desserts!

In a nutshell: A real surprise of a bar I must say. Expansive, airy, and contrasting textures and sights, made for a great evening with friends. The menu is varied and caters to most palates, and the room is divided into play and eat, so that you can dine with friends and hear every word they say, or have the club vibe happening and seat (and eat) up at the bar. A cool blend of both, and I think all kinds of Social interactions will work well here, way into the future…

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Fitzroy Social Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Spanish Beach House

Casa de Playa
39 Main Street Mornington

(Visited April ’17)

The reason we ended up at this restaurant on a Tuesday night in early April was pure chance. Sure, our intention was to eat out, we just didn’t know where we would do it.

And then, parking right out the front happened, and Hubbie had to ‘go,’ like immediately.

And so our night was born.

Dining at a Spanish tapas restaurant didn’t require much discussion or twisting of our arms though. Tapas, Barcelona and May, many many many years ago, was a firm memory in our minds, and had been the first, and one of our best, honeymoon destinations. We could rekindle the romance again, but this time, with baby girl in tow.

We were seated right near the middle bar, which was an expansive work of art in itself, that had copper pipes and barrels hanging significantly above our heads, which left us wondering ‘are they for real? Or a gimmick?’ Tiling against the wall behind the bar gave it that little village feel, and the suspended lightbulbs brought it in line with every other contemporary café doing the suspended lightbulb thing at the mo. I don’t knock it, despite its over-abundance wherever you go. In fact, I love it. People were sprinkled throughout the café, and with the front windows open and inviting, it gave it a real casual, all inclusive, spill-out-into-the-street Barcelona-style vibe, however it also left us cold on that cool Autumn night.

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IMAG3578So to warm up, alcohol.

How could I possibly bypass a traditional recipe Sangria, after I had had so many night after night in one of our fave holidays destinations? And a recipe that had been passed down generation to generation, this I had to try. Hubbie, had a schooner of Fat Yak

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The sangria had that distinctive spice, and was fresh enough to disguise any strong alcoholic elements.

After perusing the menu for a long while, and discussing it with two waiters who were attending to us that night (one a male, the other one a woman who appeared more managerial-like) we decided we’d order food and try it as we went along, before deciding what was next. First up on the agenda:

Smoked eggplant dip – charred Turkish flat bread

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This was brought over, large pieces of toasted bread with a lovely and not-too-overwhelming eggplant dip. The smokiness was noted, but not too strong. The bread was a tad too toasted for me, you know, the cut-your-gums-on-bread type texture.

This soon came alongside baby girl’s Calamari and Chips

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I didn’t really think she would eat any of the rings, and sure enough when she tried it they were a tad too stringy for her. But it was only another tapas meal for us to peck on, and kept us satiated until the next items arrived.

Croquettas – manchego, piquillo, mojo

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And, the Pulled Pork Cubano cigar – coffee ash, mojo

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Though we shared the croquettas, Hubbie primarily had the Cubano cigar, albeit one bite which I indulged in. I don’t know the ingredients even though they are listed above, other than to say the inside was soft. Likewise with the eggplant dip, they both had a decent kick of smokiness once again, which I didn’t mind one bit. They were both moorish.

After all of this, we were surprisingly feeling 60% there – what with pick at this, pick at that, nibble here, and nibble there, and ‘hey I’m almost full!’ But we had one more thing that we had to try, and Hubbie being a massive coriander fan, and myself having become much predisposed to it lately, we had

Charcoal roasted chicken tacos – grilled corn, quinoa, roquette, coriander, jalapeno crema

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I liked the simple, fresh and quite pretty presentation, and it was just that, very enjoyable. It was a very light meal, and definitely meant to be had alongside other tapas, due to its small yet delicious portion. Herbs, cream and smokiness, alongside the textured grilled corn, all jumped out on the palate, and it was a meal I would definitely revisit on any other occasion too.

During the evening, baby girl only ventured to the toilets only about, say 3-4 times. Life with a toddler, you just need to take them seriously every time they say they have to go. But, it wasn’t so much an issue. Hubbie had told us to use the upstairs toilets, (remember his early visit?) accessible via winding stairs, since they were spacious and so much more nicer than the small one located around the corner and opposite the kitchen.

This bathroom was lush, with lovely white and new spaces, a huge selection of toilets (you won’t be left wanting here), luxury hand-wash products, and one of those airplane sounding hand dryers that scares the beejesus out of small babies, but is way too much fun for a 3 year-old toddler.

Anyway, in amongst all this, I had looked at the menu way in advance, and decided almost from the moment we left home (I know we didn’t even know where we were going, right?) that we were GOING TO HAVE FOR DESSERT:

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Churros – 54% Valrhona chocolate, Vespa’s crème catalan ice cream

And shock horror, as baby girl and I returned back to the table after one such toilet visit, Hubbie had already started eating the churros. Without us.

Dum da dum dum.

Also you should know, we got some other things too…

Some short macchiatos, and a babycino

After I forgave Hubbie his slight in starting without us (but in a way I couldn’t really blame him – if that image of sweetness were staring at me, I would not be able to hold back either), baby girl and I dug in, however she was much more interested in her marshmallow and the milk and white chocolate buttons she had received.

The churros were crisp and as expected, and the short macchiato exceptionally strong. Baby girl also totally took over in the ice cream eating department, and I loved the shout-out to their Main street neighbour, using Vespa’s ice cream alongside the Spanish signature dessert. It’s so overwhelming, I can’t even handle the camaraderie.

Fuelled on milk and sugar, once baby girl started counting the 1000 tiles up against the bar, loudly, we knew it was time to go.

Food: 8.5/10. Exciting, fresh and different. A blend of international and modern.

Coffee: 7.5/10. Ahem, strong! I’m used to my frothy caps, and yet I didn’t have one that night because I wasn’t feeling it for the milk. Hard to judge, but it was smooth as well as tough.

Ambience: Very relaxed and cas, but in a trendy and upmarket way.

People: Couples and friends were dining out predominantly. Ages up to late 30s seemed to prevail.

Staff: Both our male waiter, and the managerial-like female tending to us that night were really lovely, but the female, more so. She was a natural and totally cool with baby girl, which always puts us at ease. They explained the tapas format really well and let us do as we please, menu-selection wise.

Price: $109.10 all up. Lots of little meals, but little meals still add up! That was for 3 alcoholic drinks, a kids meal, 5 small/sharing plates, as well as dessert and 3 coffees. Still, not too bad, and the quality was up there.

Advice: If the windows are open on a cool night, try to sit out the back of the restaurant.

When you go to the loo, venture upstairs!

Try the chicken taco (if you don’t like coriander scratch that).

Have the sangria (if you say you don’t like sangria why the hell are you even going to a tapas place???)

In a nutshell: Creativity, combustion of food, and fresh flavours make this an exciting and inventive place to be. We did the light, tapas-style meal this time, maybe the huge Paella to share might be next on the agenda. With the blend of Spanish influence with a modern contemporary taste, on the main street so close to Port Phillip Bay, this place is one Beach House that I will definitely say Hola to again.

Casa de Playa Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

A Royally great time

The Royal Hotel
770 Esplanade Mornington

(Visited March ’17)

Minutes before we were due to head out of the house that Tuesday night for dinner, we looked out the window… and saw a storm about to unleash. The weather report had warned of extreme weather and rain, and the south-east was about to cop it, BAD. We stood there, already dressed, asking ourselves “Should we just stay in?” Was it worth going out when the weather was going to be so terrible – hell, even dangerous to drive in?

But then, we realised what we were saying. I mean, what, the weather was going to hold us back? Since when? No bloody way. Besides, we were locals now. We’d be in the car, driving an average of 40ks, for 5 minutes, tops.

So how lucky we were then, to arrive at The Royal Hotel and find a park right out the front. Try to get us now Rain.

Although a neighbour to Kirks and also on the Esplanade, both establishments sharing amazing bay views, the feel of the Royal Hotel is completely different. And understandably, why would they want to modernise the place when its history holds such Royal ties? Inside it is all white with seemingly freshly-painted interiors, however unlike the sweeping views from Kirks of a full-length windowed wall allowing uninterrupted views from almost wherever you sit, here at the Royal the windows were small, possibly the same as they had always been, and though from there you could also see out towards the bay, you really had to be near them to get that beautiful view.

Intricate ceiling and wall detail, arches, and pillars that separated the left side of the room from the right: both sides that appeared to have been former large living quarters, with a large bar in the centre towards the right of the room, and a staircase leading up from the centre, this hotel had been transformed with a recent facelift, but the old-style feel remained, and it oozed character. You could just see how this place had been in existence over a century ago, at a time of horse and carriage, and adding to this vibe was one more, fairly prevalent thing: the musty smell.

It actually smelt like an old hotel. But not in a rotting, outdated, unclean way. It smelt earthy, original, and very very cool.

The hotel was renamed to its current name after a visit from Queen Victoria’s second son Prince Alfred. Remaining a site of enjoyment for some of the finest members of ‘societe’ over the years, it is clear to see this reflective in the current day interior retaining old-world charm, and why it has continued to hold onto its strong and proud ties to its noble past.

The hotel shows its age with its great, expansive spaces, something I learnt soon after as I took baby girl to the bathroom… on the way there and to your left, is the open-view kitchen that allows you to look in and see the chefs at work. And in the bathroom itself, old-world grandiose continues in the little details, fixtures and fittings, with large amenities too. New hotels are not the size that these magnificent pieces of history are. You can tell this is an old, old building, in the most fabulous and appreciative of ways.

The hotel is open 365 days a year and as well as having rooms for accommodation, it also has the fine restaurant we dined at that Tuesday evening in March.

We were showed to a table that wasn’t in front of the ‘bay’ window, but we could see out through it still from our distance… instead we had a window that showed out the side towards Kirks, and it was nice to see that while we were deliciously snug, it was rainy out.

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I had called that day to see if we needed to book ahead, and I think being a non-peak season period the man suggested it was ok if we just ‘rocked up’ as I would say, or ‘arrived,’ as he probably would.

We were brought menus and ordered our drinks, but realised fairly soon after our French-looking waiter disappeared for a while, that we actually had to go up to the counter and pay and order for ourselves.

We got beer and a Kuku Pinot Noir to start

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while baby girl entertained herself with some pencils and colouring paper brought over by French-man. It was fairly quiet at this stage, so it felt super library-like, and I was super-freaking out over any outbursts baby girl would make. More on that later.

After not too long a wait (there weren’t many people there so it was to be expected) we received our meals:

Baby girl’s Crumbed chicken strips with fries & vegies

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Hubbie got the Murray Valley Port cutlet, mash potatoes, green beans, walnut & parsley salsa with red wine jus

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While I got the Malaysian chicken curry, jasmine rice & roti bread

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So I’ll start with baby girl, and her meal was fantastic. I was really pleased to see something other than the usual chicken and chips on her plate, and it was vegetables! And green ones at that! When provided with chips I know she will prevail on that, but she is a good eater and at home she eats her vegies… so when given the option, she will graze slightly, and so she did that night. She ate the chips and chicken alright, but she also had her broccoli, and that just makes any Mum happy. The food on offer was real, and didn’t look like crappy offcuts or leftovers, so that made me doubly happy.

Hubbie enjoyed his Pork cutlet, and it showed in how clean the plate was on removal… the only thing that wasn’t to taste was the red wine jus, he thought the marinade had burnt, as there was a slightly off-putting taste to it. If it weren’t for that, top marks from that fussy butcher Hubbie of mine.

And, leaving the best ‘til last… my meal was amazing. The highest honours, if only for that. The chicken was falling apart, it was succulent and soft and delicious. The jasmine rice in the banana leaf I believe, was very appealing and looked great, and then there was that roti bread. Drool. Oh man, if this is what all roti bread tastes like, I HAVE BEEN MISSING OUT. Of course the next roti bread I have elsewhere will not be up to scratch, I guarantee. But this roti bread was warm, puffed up, stretchy and soft. We all had some, I actually don’t know why I decided to share it as much as I did… maybe it was because I wanted to share my sudden intense love for roti bread… but they all concurred with me that it was definitely mmm-worthy.

I cleaned up my plate, easily.

Dinner had been yummo. I would have gladly stayed on for dessert, but for some reason baby girl just wasn’t working with us, and the other diners were now looking over… grrr argh. Great food, but snob-central. That night at least, we would have to give coffee and cake a Rain-check, so to speak.

Food: 9.5/10. Sensational. Fresh and delicious.

Coffee: N/A.

Ambience: Quiet, library-like when there are not many diners present. You can feel the character of the hotel and so silence is almost necessary to sit and soak up the chapters of history that have unfolded there.

Staff: We really only dealt with French-man, and he was fine, very concerned about doing his job properly, ‘to the book.’ But good.

People: We didn’t come across many. There was an old gentleman dining on his own who left before we did; a few couples beside the long-desired for window seats; and towards the end of our meal a rowdy American family sat near us, and this made me happy as their business and family talk almost blocked out any of the noises that baby girl was sporadically exploding with. I say almost, because she was still loud, and there was a couple, what looked like a 30-something woman with a 50-something man, who gave us ‘looks,’ staring pointedly when baby girl would yell out. Well, you all know how happy I am about ‘looks.’ I gave her a really good one as we exited the hotel, making sure she caught full well my intention… her rudeness and the library-vibe was the only thing that made the night difficult, as even though there is a kids meal section, and colouring and pencils for the kids, well unless they are in a straight-jacket, I don’t know quite how accepted they are there…

Price: $95ish for the lot. For 3 meals, and 3 drinks. The prices were slightlyon the upside, but the food was most definitely worth every delicious morsel I mean coin.

Advice: Book ahead if you want to sit by the window. Order the Malaysian chicken curry (you won’t be sorry). Maybe go at a peak time if you don’t want to deal with snot-faced moles when your child decides to you know, have a voice, and just generally be a child. F*&k me.

In a nutshell: I really loved this place, as Hubbie did too. The character and the food both won us over, but I wouldn’t hurry back (even though the Malaysian chicken is calling me), only because I am afraid of the too-quiet ambience and how that gels with a generally rambunctious and full-of-life baby girl.

I do highly recommend it to anyone else thinking of giving it a go, as I think the food and the atmosphere are something unique to be experienced. Stepping over the threshold where a royal has, is reason enough.

*UPDATE*

A year later, and back we went. And guess what? This is my new fave. The food yet again, amazing. And the alternative to possible snobby people inside?

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Sit outside. Ahhh.

The Royal Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato