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

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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

Italian Tapas

Assaggini
1C Albert Street Mornington

(Visited December ’16)

I was a bit hesitant to walk into the eatery on that Wednesday evening in December. Not that Assaggini, didn’t look pleasing to the eye. Far from it. People were outside, squeezed onto tables, while inside the stylish looking café-wine bar, with its long bar on one side of the restaurant, the spots were quickly filling up.

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I think it was more the possibility that it was a too-fine dining experience for the two of us with child. But when we enquired (as that is always the test, our greeting upon enquiry), we were fortunate enough to be seated by a lovely waitress who was obviously keen to please, as she sat us down in a booth to our liking, and later when an elderly group arrived, they indicated to our spot, which I believe was meant to be theirs! They did get another booth, but I do believe ours was the best booth in the house, by the bar no less 🙂

It was a special Pasta night, and so there was no question as to what I would then order. While baby girl was kept busy with a children’s menu to decorate with pencils, we went about ordering, plus got a couple of drinks too: a Peroni, and the white wine special.

It was a busy restaurant, and so I didn’t feel too anxious when baby girl decided to cry out in glee/agony at various intervals… but still, it was a fairly classy-looking establishment, this eatery around the corner from the Main street in Mornington, and the older, poshy looking people around matched the vibe. They promote themselves as an Italian-style tapas bar, with smaller dishes to please wide-ranging appetites, however there was nothing casual about the atmosphere, tapas or not.

Very soon baby girl’s meal arrived – The Kids Pasta Napoli

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And soon ours followed… My Linguine with Tiger Prawns, heirloom tomatoes, seafood bisque sauce.

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And Hubbie’s Calabrese Pizzette

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Although baby girl’s meal was an adequate proportion, which she appeared to enjoy, our meals fell short of the satisfactory full mark. I do realise that I ordered a meal from the menu which listed all 4-5 pastas as being $20, however for $20, I felt I needed more. The prawns were delicious, pasta was good, and the sauce it all swam together in was moorish. By the end of it though, I was still hungry, and somehow I don’t believe that the pasta from the pasta specials on Pasta Night, is meant to be treated as tapas.

Hubbie had been tossing up between two meals, and had opted for the pizza when the waitress informed that the pizza would be far more filling than his other interest, the sliders, and he was HUNGRY, as was I. However as his pizza arrived, the pizza that had been made out to be HUGE, was actually just a normal type of pizza. He smashed it all easily, and though it satisfied his hunger, it wasn’t necessarily hot or spicy as a Calabrese might be expected to be.

Our meals HAD been tasty, we had just expected more. Since we were still hungry, the smaller plates paid off for the restaurant as we ordered dessert, and coffees.

Baby girl had a babycino, Hubbie had an affogato with Frangelico, and I indulged in the dessert, mostly, before the other two barged in on my affair… of Sicilian cannoli, with strawberry mascarpone and white chocolate.

My cannoli was delicious, and though I joke about my family ‘helping’ me out, with a serving of 4 it was nice to share, empty or not-empty stomach. It was a lovely light flavour, and the presentation of all was brilliant. Hubbie enjoyed his coffee, and the combination with ice cream and alcohol made it all the more so.

We had arrived unannounced, had a fairly pleasant meal, but it also felt like we had been fed unannounced, with our plates cleaned too much, due to the lack of quantity. Quality though, WAS there. Once our dessert and coffee cups were also cleaned up, we paid, and headed off home.

Food: 8/10. I still gave them a fairly high score, because it was good… I just wanted MORE of it.

Coffee: 7.5/10. Kind of hard to tell amidst the alcohol and ice cream, but still, pleasant.

Ambience: It was busy that night, maybe with people coming in due to tapas-style Pasta dishes, but it still maintained an air of class. Maybe the long bar with all the alcohol and empty glasses awaiting your drink order that were on display, allowing you to view your reflection in the turn of their shiny rim, made everyone look and appear more shiny and – cool.

Staff: Some with Italian accents, and that ALWAYS makes it appear you know, really Italian-like. I don’t know who else has been to Italy, but they have a high-class yet welcoming air about them in the restaurants we have been to. It’s a very European thing. D.O.C like, only less pretentious.

People: Older groups, families and couples, but I don’t think I say ANY with kids. Yikes. It’s not like they’re not welcome, I mean there was a kids menu… but I think it is best said on their website:

“We welcome reservations as well as walk-ins, and we do welcome, well-supervised kids.”

:-O

Price: $97.50. Personally too much. Not even I will justify to say this is on the ‘up-side.’ Plainly, the price is representative of the atmosphere being emulated. If I had walked away completely satisfied, and Hubbie had to take his meal home, I would have understood the reason for the price. Yet though the quality is there, I still believe there should have been more, if only slightly so.

Advice: Make sure your kids are behaved, 1. 2, Order several tapas if you like your food. A pasta special will not quench your stomach hunger. 3. When they say the pizza is huge, just know it is like a large pizza size, maybe even a medium. You will be fine eating it.

In a nutshell: I would go here again, despite my agonies over the serving sizes. The food was of quality which I appreciate, and they were accommodating to us being ‘walk-ins’ and all…

I also like the tapas idea, as it reminds me of that amazing place place in Barwon Heads we dined at years ago… though there, we left FULL.

Never mind. Head on over to Albert Street, give them a shot, and don’t forget to order one, two or three, samples, courses, whatever.

Assaggini – treat everything as tapas, and you will know what to expect.

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

Locals, take flight

Flock
2/25 Dava Drive Mornington

(Dined November ’16)

From the moment we discovered this little corner café, an awfully convenient, 5-10 minute WALK from our house, and saw its back-street, hidden, beach/park side location potential… we were excited.

You see, we had always longed to move to a place that was within walking distance to a café. At one point during our real estate search, we even tried searching in relation to how close some houses were to nearby cafes. Our wish for good food, great coffee, and friendly/casual convo with café staff over stupid Melbourne weather, within walking distance from our ideal home, was a high priority.

Somehow that all got lost and a bit forgotten when we saw the beach views of our now home. I did have a quick google search at one stage for nearby cafes, but I mustn’t have searched too well…

Later though, once we had moved, a common name kept popping up on my Google maps.

So on our first walk, we ‘flocked’ there.

And said “My, Mofo, we’ve done it. We’ve got the freaking café within walking distance.”

And we hadn’t even known it.

And we hadn’t even eaten or had coffee there yet. (Now I’m beginning to sound like Bana’s Chopper Read…)

On our first opportunity, we went over to fulfil our café destiny.

We had to drive though, not walk. It was a cold, windy day, rain threatening to spill at any moment. So we rugged up, and walked into the small, intimate café, weaving around tables and chairs and finding our seats at one end of the medium-sized communal table in the middle of Flock café.

There were people sitting all about, but of course it was full what with the tiny space the café occupies. They were so clearly locals, that for us recent newbies on the block, I felt like putting the disclaimer ‘don’t shoot us, we’re not from out of town!’ on my forehead. Instead I stuck my head in a menu on the table and then went up to order and pay once we knew what we wanted.

Hubbie started the ball rolling with a necessary flat white

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… while I looked on in envy. I waited for his verdict. He nodded. The coffee was good.

Soon we all received our meals. Baby girl with her 7 Grain Organic Sourdough with vegemite and butter

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Hubbie with his Breakfast Roll w’ smashed eggs, bacon, swiss cheese, roquette & tomato jam

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And my Shakshouka Baked Eggs w’ organic ciabatta

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Baby girl got really excited when she saw the vegemite, thinking it was Nutella from when we last had breakfast out at The Winey Cow… so excited that she dipped her finger in it, got a huge lob of black stuff and put it straight in her mouth.

A second later, and her face didn’t paint an impressed picture. Classic yankee mistake.

So, after I cleaned her up, and applied her spreads on her bread, she went on to eat. It wasn’t the sweet stuff, but she ate it. Again, the hard crust. I trust the sourdough bread is unreal and super-healthy, but sometimes for kids, or generally for people who don’t wish to cut their gums on hard-toasted crust, a softer bread variety will do. Anyhow.

Hubbie said his breakfast burger did the job, it was ok, but it wasn’t anything that left him wanting or dreaming of future breakfast burgers there.

I had been thinking of baked eggs for several weeks, so I was really happy to order a meal like this. It was good, perhaps not my best baked eggs/shakshouka meal I’ve EVER had, but it was good. It was extremely saucy, with many peppers/capsicum within the little ceramic hot pot of baked egg goodness.

By this stage, the corner café was rocking. There were people coming in at an ongoing rate, both newbies trying to cram in for a seat since the weather outside was not beckoning people to sit on the outdoor chairs, and also from locals in trakky-pants dropping in for their usual coffee and toastie order.

After ordering some drinks, we waited a while more before we got our babycino and  cappuccino.

Baby girl scoffed her marshmallows, while I carefully pondered my first sip of coffee. This was the dealbreaker. Would the coffee be good enough to make it a local? The food was good, but only, if only, the coffee were great. Hell, we were so desperate for a local café to call a home away from home, and this one with a convenient park/beach locale, had us even happy with a half-decent coffee. That’s all it needed to be, half-decent.

Dum, da dum dum.

And it was…

GREAT.

It was truly, very, very, very good coffee. It was ultra-smooth, with a swift caffeine kick. I realised in awe, and verbalised to Hubbie, how rare it is to find a very smooth, yet very strong coffee. This was both. I was rapt.

I was so rapt, I talked about it all the way to the shops. The caffeine had surely kicked in, and the realisation it was our now-local had me high as a kite.

Food: 7/10. It was good for a corner café. They have some other interesting menu options that I’m wanting to try in the near future. We also took-away some Nutella and jam doughnuts, courtesy of the locals Chocolat that bake off of the Main street… OMG. Is it possible that there is a doughnut as good as the famous donutella, that rules the roost back in our old neck of the woods?! WOW. Head on over to both Flock and Chocolat to try these babies out.

Coffee: Can you believe… no I can’t. 10/10. Yep. Currently up there on my leader board of best coffees, alongside caffeine greats such as that in Farm Vigano, Dark Rye in Westfield Doncaster, Story at Docklands, and also recently Mercetta on the Main street in Mornington. I really need to start another page on my SmikG site, stay tuned…

STOP! Update!

The above was my true and honest verdict as of the first two times we had coffee there… and unfortunately, on every other visit there, the coffee has been bitter/burnt/tasteless. It has been really upsetting and confusing, and even stopped us from going there for a long while – because if the coffee ain’t good, it just ain’t worth it.

However, because I am so damn eager to make this work, I still go there occasionally, and the nearby park for baby girl makes it difficult to ignore too. And happily, on the last visit, it wasn’t that bad… the coffee was actually good! I have no idea if this has anything to do with the fact that the café itself was up for sale quite recently, and if indeed there may be different owners/managers/baristas there… but I will keep trying, damn it.

For that reason, I can’t score this one. You make up your own mind.

Ambience: Cosy, corner café. Relaxing, charming, and all-encompassing of the beautiful surroundings when the weather is fine and their windows are WIDE OPEN.

Staff: Friendly, and they took the time out to greet us and thank us for coming at the end, despite how busy they were. This is a well-oiled, professional and friendly machine folks.

People: Locals, as I’ve already mentioned, that consisted of some older folk, bike dudes, a gaggle of 20 something girls catching up for brekkie, and random’s dropping in wearing their PJs and wiping the sleep from their eyes. I love it.

Price: It was about $60, but keep in mind we also got some takeaway doughnuts, which means the price would have been much less… price-wise for what you get, you get a lot, so in that respect it is well-priced… however I also think what you get, accurately portrays what you pay… capiche?

Advice: If you’re not a local, do not go there. Please just stay away. It is MY local. Mine and the neighbouring residents of Dava Drive. That is all. Just live vicariously through me, and go have brekkie and coffee on the Main street. Go on… what are you waiting for?

In a nutshell: Well, we’ve found our local haven’t we… or have we? The food is great, the coffee is mmm-hmmm undecided, however I can just see an endless amount of sunshiny days where I am sitting in the café, or taking coffee away to go to the park with baby girl, or walking it over to the beach, or simply dropping in to grab some doughnuts because they are way closer to us than Chocolat… I hope. I sooo hope. (Clutching at straws much?)

I’m just bloody rapt. We’ve got it. (?)

We’ve darn well got it. (?)

I’ll flock here alright. Just try keep me away…

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

How Now, Yellow Cow

The Winey Cow
39A Main Street Mornington

(Visited November ’16)

Each time we drove past this place on the Main Street, we almost drooled with delicious envy. It wasn’t that we could actually witness the plates of food, or the creative coffee designs from our car windows: rather, it was the herds of people frequently overcrowding the front of this premises that told us that it was clearly a revered and local fave.

Herds. Pardon the pun.

So after Hubbie ventured there with baby girl whilst I was at work one day, and made me totally jelly when he sent me a photo of their coffee-babycino experience with the caption ‘it is the bomb,’ well we just had to go there together and get into some tucker.

Very conveniently, we rocked up to The Winey Cow the morning of Melbourne Cup day, and there was a car spot bang smack in front of the cafe. It’s like it was meant to be.

(Angels sing!)

We grabbed a spot at an outside table under one of their many brightly yellow umbrella’d tables, the strong wind toning any warmth from the day right down. It was cosy and packed, what with the public holiday and all, and soon we were placing our food orders.

I was pleasantly surprised when baby girl was brought a personal kids menu that could be coloured in, complete with a handful of pencils. Aww. And I didn’t even have to ask.

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Soon after we received our meals. Baby girl’s Nutella on Toast

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Hubbie’s Chilli Chorizo ‘something’ (I didn’t quite get the description but the photo pretty much says it all)

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And my Winey Cow Benedict: corned beef, poached eggs, toasted English muffin, citrus hollandaise

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Oh man. My mouth is watering just looking/thinking of it again. I loved my meal. It had texture, it had zest, creaminess, and the muffins were soft while the eggs were poached beautifully. I cleaned up my plate easily, however I did pass over a few several slices of my corned beef – I did enjoy it, but it was piled on, so I shared the love with Hubbie.

He too cleaned up his plate, evident of how great the meal was. I tried some of his chilli hashbrown, and it was amazing! Soft and spicy and creamy. Wow.

Baby girl loved her brekkie… but seriously, nutella? Show me a kid who doesn’t. My only gripe was that the toast she received was too damn hard, especially the crust. If it would cut my gums, what would it do to baby girl’s? We cut off the crust and managed somewhat to cut her toast into pieces so she could dip it into the chocolate-hazelnutty goodness.

We got some coffees to come right after our meal, and lucky we ordered them when we did, as it took some time to arrive with all the people brunching out. It was worth the wait:

 

Cappuccino, latte and babycino.

Can I just make a point of saying “I got a photo of baby girl’s babycino, and marshmallows were still in it?”

???

So, for once she held off while I said “wait!” for my mobile to go snap. My cap was strong and smooth, but it had a discernible taste upon the first few sips, something I couldn’t identify… not bad, just different. Their website states they have the best coffee, and it definitely was up there. But in Mornington, really we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to the bean.

We left the Cow with full udders and happily looking forward to our next visit here… this could very well be our regular paddock that we munch grass on.

Food: 9/10. Inventive, satisfying and fresh. If it weren’t for the overly crusty bread, full marks.

Coffee: 8.5/10. Smooth, strong, different.

Ambience: Laid-back beach vibe meets urban hipster meets upper-class ‘Peninsula types.’ The yellow umbrellas, and metal bordering the outside area and wooden tables scale it all back to an everyday accessibility.

Staff: Really friendly, actually amazingly so considering they were so busy. Very impressed with their genuine service.

People: Locals and out of towners. I should know. We used to be the latter, and now we’re the former. Generally a younger, kid-free crowd, but there were littlies too – they are welcome, hence the kids menu and pencils.

Price: $68.20 for our lot. Maybe a bit on the ‘up’ side, but man was it worth it. That’s what I want when I go out, that’s what I’m willing to pay for.

Advice: Head on over early and grab a table before it gets snapped up!

In a nutshell: Having now dined there several a many time since our first encounter almost a year ago, I can confidently say that this yellow burst of café sunshine will inhabit our lives dominantly… and with food, coffee and service this impressive, Udder cafes will have to try doubly hard to match this ensemble.

Okay. I’m done with the puns. Moooo-ving on.

The Winey Cow Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Mediterranean in Mornington

Manhattan in Mornington
55 Barkly Street Mornington

(Visited October ’16)

Lucky Duck. This was our first restaurant birthday celebration in our Sea change location, and it was going to be for Hubbie’s birthday, just a few weeks after moving in.

We had booked ahead, and arrived to a small table awaiting us just opposite their front door.

Opulent, classy, yet warm and inviting. That is the upper-class yet traditional Italian vibe I got as we sat down. There was seating on the ground level, and I could see the stairs beside me spiralling up onto another higher seating level. Elvis watched us from one wall. Waiters and waitresses were in professional uniform. It was a perfect place to celebrate something special.

We soon ordered some drinks – for myself the Di Giorgio’s Cab Sav from Coonawarra – an old fave from a certain questionable restaurant that will not be named in this review for fear of unfairly negatively influencing this review in a bad light – and a beer for Hubbie, along with some Chefs Dips – tuna, pesto and beetroot with house-made bread

I enjoyed all the dips, and interestingly the tuna was good as well, which I didn’t think I would like. The waiter took great care to explain to us which dip was which, which showed the much-appreciated attention to detail.

Baby girl received her ‘no delay’ order soon after the dips arrived: Chicken tenderloins and chips.

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I was really impressed with the quality of chicken. I am always happy when they offer a softer piece of chicken meat for the kids meals, as I think it says a lot about food care and consideration, especially for our most fussiest of eaters.

By this stage the restaurant was quickly filling up, and suddenly I was grateful that we hadn’t just fluked it and walked on in because it was a Wednesday night – because for a Wednesday, this place was packed! It certainly seemed like the place to be in Mornington.

After much talking, drinking, and pecking at baby girl’s yummy chicken and chips, our meals finally arrived.

Birthday boy had ordered the Pancetta Di Maiale – Twice cooked pork belly resting on sweet potato mash served with an apple crackle salad

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While I had ordered the Mare e Monti – Linguini pasta, fresh prawns, scallops, calamari, pan seared Moreton Bay bug, chilli infused virgin olive oil, baby spinach, cherry tomatoes

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Hubbie really enjoyed his meal. Like, so much so, that he has continued to order it on repeat visits to the restaurant, a clear good sign of a winner dish. Crunchy crackling with super-soft falling-away-at-the-fork pork underneath it, make him a very Happy Birthday Boy.

I enjoyed mine too, however it wasn’t as perfect as I would have expected a restaurant of that calibre to produce… I loved the Moreton bay bug, that was delicious and fresh. However at the same time, I found the scallops too undercooked for my liking, so I couldn’t eat those unfortunately. The rest of the seafood infused with the extremely spicy chilli olive oil was delicious, but also, that was part of its undoing when it came to enjoying the meal, because it became too much by the end of it, so much so that I actually felt a bit sickly from the overuse of oil and chilli. If the seasoning and oil had been scaled back a little, I think I would have preferred it a lot more.

I let my stomach settle and took baby girl to the change room, to come back and get some coffee and dessert. I mean, what the hell. It was a birthday celebration after all. We decided to share the Profiteroles because we were really stuffed with food, and get some coffees, a latte, cap, and a babycino.

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We got two big profiteroles which were light and creamy, so that was easily enjoyed. My cap was smooth, not so strong, but that I didn’t mind as it was past 9pm. We received some cute bikkies on the side which I’ve noticed a lot of Italian places tend to offer with coffee, and I do like this tradition… so does baby girl, taking it upon herself to eat ours as well as her own. We were happy, we were full, and we were full of birthday festivity… and when baby girl shoved her hand into the lolly jar beside the counter, we knew it was time to go.

Food: 7.5/10.

I have to explain, the food, the presentation, and the quality of all we received was of the highest standards, but after repeat visits here, I’ve come to realize that all the food I receive here is extra oily and especially-seasoned, something my stomach complains about after every visit. It is the rich Italian style of cooking, something I can’t really fault, even though my tummy does…

It’s an Italian thing.

Coffee: 7/10. Smooth.

Ambience: Classy yet comforting. Warm polished wood undertones are displayed throughout with that coastal mediterranean-style that makes you feel like you’re holidaying away in a little secluded and exclusive town in Boot-country.

Staff: The friendly but professional Italian-speaking types, if you get my drift. I’ve seen them sooo many times before, and if you’ve eaten at the expensive side of Lygon street, you’ll know what I mean. They did their job well, and our lovely main waitress was kind enough to wave at baby girl every time she walked by, because baby girl just couldn’t stop trying to get her attention!

People: Those with $$$ come out to play here, and the menu prices are indicative of that. Lots of families, young and old, and big groups of people… like I said earlier, this is the place to be when you have something to celebrate.

Price: $151. On the ‘up’ side, for 3 mains, an appetiser, a dessert, 3 alcoholic drinks, and 3 coffees. But the quality of the food and the service were also on the ‘up’ side, despite my extra-rich linguine…

Advice: Definitely book! Everyone goes here! If your stomach tends to get affected by very strong and heavy flavours, best you avoid the linguine… or most things for that matter…

In a nutshell: Despite my meal on this occasion, we have come here on several many other occasions. Their menu is diverse and interesting, and the ambience is spot on, making you want to keep coming back. The service is especially caring and attentive, as it should be. I was also impressed with the baby change room, it was new and impeccably clean. I am really excited about this find, and I think the rest of the Peninsula is too… I think they should have stayed true to their style though, and instead of their existing name, gone with ‘Florence in Mornington’ or something along those lines… it would be truer to their restaurant character. Anywho…

Potat-oe, Potat-o….

Tomat-oe, Tomat-o…

Messina, Manhattan…

Manhattan in Mornington Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

A local on the Esplanade

Kirks on the Esplanade
774 Esplanade Mornington

(Visited October ’16)

We ventured to this hotel/pub style restaurant while still on hols… and by hols I mean in the deepest midst of never-ending unpacked boxes. I mean, when your kitchen stuff is God knows where, you really can’t cook up a meal, right? Especially when your potential dine-out view is something like this:

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Yep. It was freezing cold and windy as I stepped out of the car that evening mid-October, and yet I still had to brace myself just to take a photo of the most spectacular coastline.

I could definitely get used to those views.

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We headed into Kirks, and although we hadn’t booked ahead we still got a seat on that Tuesday night. We sat in the glass-house like section at the front of the restaurant, which in my humble opinion (and every other sane person’s I think) is the best seat in the house. There is seating behind this area, but the view of the water is further away, and really, unless you are sick of views like that (who are you, an alien?) I don’t know why you would choose to go anywhere else.

Although we received menus and all, and baby girl conveniently received one of those kid’s packs with crayons, stickers and activity paper, it was an order-at-the-counter type of establishment, so the food and drink were both ordered further into the restaurant behind us, with food at one section, and drinks ordered at the bar.

There are also toilets in between the bar and food ordering sections, while a TAB functions at the left of the establishment once you walk further up the stairs, operational every day of the week. This place has really got something for everybody. Food, alcohol, entertainment, and Port Phillip Bay views.

Hubbie got me a cab sav and himself a beer.

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The surroundings were peaceful, with definite locals around, now ourselves included (!) and there was a calm comfort in the air, the restaurant keeping the cold Spring air out and its inhabitants warm inside, with only the view of the water to remind them of the elements outside. It felt like a pub-style yet classy establishment.

Baby girl’s meal arrived first as requested, and it was hot!

Spaghetti with Napoli sauce

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She had also received a free drink as it was a kid’s meal special. She enjoyed her spaghetti, it was a hit with her, and the serving was definitely generous. With her main came our entrée, which was

Roasted pumpkin bruschetta – Oven-roasted pumpkin tossed with semi-dried tomatoes & basil served on mozzarella toasted ciabatta

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It was exactly as the description told us, with the pumpkin element adding a vegetable warmth usually missing in bruschetta options, and the mozzarella giving a good dose of cheesiness! It was a hearty meal, and we were already half way to full-ville when our mains arrived:

Hubbie’s YG Aged & Grain-fed Portland Scotch Fillet 300g with a red wine and mushroom sauce, with chips and salad

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And my Chilli Tiger Prawns, tossed in a cream & white wine sauce, served with fragrant jasmine rice & a side salad

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Hubbie thought his steak was amazing! Impressing the fussy butcher, WHAT?! Yep, you heard right. Although he had ordered his steak medium to well, it was a tad more medium… but that was acceptable. The other components on his plate were a bonus, because let’s face it, when a butcher orders steak, all we’re really gonna judge is the meat, right?

I had been longing for a classic style of chilli prawns. And this didn’t disappoint. The sauce wasn’t the most chilli-rific, but the prawns… there were 11 of them! Count that! That, made me happy. When I order prawn ‘whatever,’ I want prawns, and a decent quantity too. It was good to see that though the price was equally decent for an institution of that calibre, that the quantity of meal (and components on the plate) matched it. By the end, I was content.

After our decent meals, me giggling my way through the rest of my wine (the quantity of this was decent too, and got me fairly tipsy), and sitting back in our chairs observing the views outside, it soon grew too dark to see the water, and then it was time to go.

Food: 9/10. They are the classic pub-style generous sizes, jazzed up too because of the location and views. I give them a higher score, because of how well they received us on another visit… read on below…

Coffee: N/A, but mark my word I will try it one day soon!

Ambience: Casual and cosy. Intermittent laughter and louder than normal groups were heavily punctuated by longer silences and still moments when people were just chilling. I think being by the bay makes everyone feel that much calmer. You just stop, and stare.

People: Locals. Locals. Locals. Cold Tuesday night in October, who else but locals? There were a group of 3 guys near us, but predominantly there were older couples, and older groups… um, Mornington is a bit of a Pensioner’s Paradise. Is everyone aware of that? I mean, they even have a pensioner special! That’s telling you something.

There was also a Mum and son pairing, and then later, a family of 5 (applause to the parents) came to sit nearby as we were finishing up, but it was generally an older crowd about, and from repeated visits, we’ve noticed a $$$ one.

Staff: The staff provided friendly service, both in explaining to us straight-up after ascertaining we were new, how we had to order, and also by kindly giving the kids set to baby girl, without us even asking. God Bless. More on the exceptional staff below.

Price: The total price was approximately $120-130, being vague because there were two receipts when Hubbie put the orders through at the counter and bar respectively, and we didn’t keep both. Though Hubbie thought the price too much for pub-style surroundings, I reminded him we weren’t only paying for the food, but for the magnificent view. Something to keep in mind. I for one think it is worth it.

The only downside is the ordering up at the counter part for both drinks and food… it’s places like these you expect to pay a little less, rather than the amount we paid at Kirks.

Advice: Book ahead only so you can be assured a spot in the first sun-room section.

In a nutshell: We have been to this venue a few more times since our initial visit, which shows you without me saying, that we were more than happy to go back!

On one visit we received the most kindest and understanding staff, that I absolutely have to mention it here, and praise praise praise. Baby girl was having an exceptional moment one night, heavily over-tired, and pretty much had a breakdown as I tried to take her to the toilets, which resulted in me almost having a breakdown. One lovely waitress tried to help me settle her, and calm my nerves amidst other diners eye-ing us off suspiciously, and then when we were in the bathroom, that same waitress went to Hubbie and told him to let me know “not to worry. We are a family restaurant, we have kids, we understand.”

When he told me that, I honestly started to cry.

Because so often wait staff, store people, and just generally a lot of the population that have no kids, or have long passed that stage and forgotten how difficult it is, will turn up their nose at you for even taking your child out, let alone when they’ve had enough and scream blue murder at the top of their lungs. So for this waitress to go up to Hubbie and say what she did, was like an Angel singing the most beautiful hymn.

She then continued to be accommodating that night, by giving baby girl one of her own child’s toys to play with, and even another waitress was especially kind to us. It was like, they knew…

…that kids WILL act like kids. Funny huh? This place jumped up high in my books after that night, and eternally it will now be a regular fave. Well done guys.

So with all that said, I will definitely go back again, not only because they were so especially kind and understanding to us and baby girl, but also to finish off my ‘to-do at Kirks’ checklist:

Drink wine in their outdoor section taking in the view

Have brekkie in their outdoor section taking in the view

Have coffee in their outdoor section taking in the view

Did I mention taking in the view?

Basically… do not shirk a visit, to Kirks.

Kirks on the Esplanade Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato