Few Buoys

Two Buoys Tapas and Wine Bar
209 Point Nepean Road Dromana

(Visited April ’18)

We headed on down the coastline on Easter Monday, to do, what else…? Well wine and dine the day away of course. After stopping in Dromana, we walked up and down the main road, umm-ing and ahh-ing at every possible restaurant and café, until we just said “stuff it!” and decided on here.

Two buoys it read… only out the front, there was a buoy, and a girl.

The restaurant holds prime real estate, part of the reason why we chose the place. Across the road there are views of the ocean, and to the left was a park where many holiday-goers were venturing to, and which baby girl had her sights on already.

Although we were seated near the front, it almost didn’t happen. As in, the sitting there part. Hubbie experienced a bit of haughtiness coming from the buoy who first spoke to him, which almost had us floating away from them like a sailboat out at sea. But holiday vibe prevailed of course, and Hubbie chose to ignore it.

It is a VERY tapas-style menu. Dining out for lunch with a fussy baby girl, a just as fussy Hubbie, and me, someone who just wants to please them all while also satisfying my tummy, well it can be a challenge at times. We pondered our selections over a preliminary beer and Totara sauvignon blanc…

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Before finally deciding on what we would have.

Some sea-gazing…

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And then our meals arrived.

Baby girl got the House crumbed chicken strips, chips, tomato sauce

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Hubbie got the Beer battered fish, chips, sumac, herb mayonnaise

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I got the Potato gnocchi, ricotta, morcilla, peas, burnt butter, herbs

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And we had a side of Wild rocket, parmesan cracked pepper to share

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I was happy with the presentation of baby girl’s meal. I set off cutting up her chips and chicken so they could cool quicker, and was a little surprised to find many unclean pieces. Sinew? Grain? Tough meat? Whatever you call it, if I don’t eat it, I don’t expect my child to. I was suddenly thoroughly unimpressed by this, because when a child is given budget cuts for their meal, I find the disrespect to the little ones meals highly degrading.

She ate the chips, and some chicken bits, but most were left untouched.

Hubbie enjoyed his meal… but for the price tag of $24 he didn’t feel it to be anywhere worth it. This restaurant was definitely tapas-style in their sizing, and yet for some mayo with a dash of herbs in it, he didn’t feel it was anything especially fancy deserving of that price.

I didn’t mind it too much I must say. That had been my first option, but when he had said he was getting it, I couldn’t get the same thing for the sake of my blog, NOOO.

But I wish I had. I did enjoy my gnocchi. It was definitely an interesting combination of flavours, and I even tried the morcilla (blood sausage) on my plate. It was all yum and inviting, but again, so small. No fault of the waitress we ordered with, she did advise it was small upon my asking. But definitely, if lunching out maybe make sure there is a side to peck on. Which I had which I LOVED. Rocket is my friend, and when combined with parmesan OMG. I loved this salad, just loved, and it won the table for me, HANDS DOWN.

We sipped some more of our drinks… looked out over some more views…

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And then Hubbie went over to pay since an increasingly squirmy baby girl was keen on getting on the swings across the road.

When Hubbie got back… he was NOT happy.

Because it was the Easter Monday public holiday, we had been charged a surcharge… so instead of simply paying for our bill of food and drink that we had consumed, I mean, as is normal, we were slogged an additional 15% because management decided they would be open, but the café-goers would be paying for the holiday rates awarded to their staff.

Fair? I think not. My first encounter of ‘the surcharge’ appeared in my review of Lilo Café back on Australia Day weekend… and despite my love of the café, I was not impressed.

In this case? Well they didn’t inform us beforehand of the surcharge. Certainly there was no sign of it outside where we sat, inside I don’t know. And when you pay an extra $12.75 to cover wages, when let’s face it management are actually receiving more business because of the public holiday, well that just sucks.

We walked off… cranky-pants.

Food: 6.5/10. The presentation was mickey mouse. Some of the food though wasn’t up to scratch, and when you are getting tapas size meals and paying good coin, you expect it to be worth it.

Coffee: N/A… perhaps better we didn’t. Can you imagine how much of our money would have gone to the staff’s holiday wages if we added on coffee and dessert?!?!

Ambience: Very chilled, beach vibe with a touch of class.

Staff: They were professional, but lacking in friendliness. Added to our whole annoyed impression by the end of it all.

People: Lots of couples out and about that day.

Price: Over $100, once our surcharge was added on. Grr, argh.

Advice: If you like tapas by the beach, this is a good place to go to. Be aware though that servings are small, and if you like me, prefer not to pay extra ‘just because,’ well don’t go on a public holiday.

In a nutshell: Ahhh…. How do I say this diplomatically?

Nice place. I can see why others would like it.

Great views.

Perfect presentation.

Amazing salad.

But kids meal chicken offcuts, unfriendly (bordering on arrogant) service, high prices for small unsatisfying meals, AND the added surcharge?

Sorry buoys. We won’t be back.

Two Buoys Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

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Green Cafe

Lilo Café
1/725 Esplanade Mornington

(Visited January ’18)

It was the Australia Day weekend that had us venturing for a sea view from a café on the Esplanade. During some of Hubbie’s early morning Sunday drives where baby girl and I kept on sleeping (she doesn’t fall far from my tree) he came across Lilo several times, and seeing the amount of people bursting from the joint, decided immediately that we must go there.

And so it was a Sunday. A steadily approaching 35 degree day Sunday. I had to work later in the day so this was our little venture out as a family, trying to pack in quality time before I headed off. As we were seated in the bustling café, at one end of a communal table where there was an older couple on the other end of it, something started to become apparent.

Green vase.

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Green plants (ok duh, but stay with me).

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Green cup.

Green cutlery holder.

Green clock.

Green on the walls.

And then when I looked behind me at the counter/café section there was green everywhere!

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Green, was the theme.

There was a nice quirkiness to it all, not cliché or overdone or just tacky. It was kind of like your Grandma’s house, but not like your average Grandma – rather this was the cool hippie Grandma who never remarried, swings with other like-minded independent pensioners on twice yearly cruises, and out-drinks the 20 somethings at the Christmas gatherings… and goes to bed after they have fallen asleep on the couch. And she loves green because it reminds her of that time with your Grandad at the park… never mind.

That kind of Grandma.

I perused the menu and while Hubbie got his first latte of the day, I opted for a fresh

Watermelon mint and apple cold pressed juice

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(See, green straw).

It was tasty, and I could have easily had another. Hubbie meanwhile had an extra strong latte, as suggested by our waitress when he asked how strong the coffees were (apparently not that strong if he had to order strength up times two).

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(Green saucer!)

The café was fairly busy and noisy too. You could see outside to the trees across the road, which blocked much of the view of the water, but sitting at certain vantage points right near the window would definitely give you peaks of blue and sparkling.

It was hard at times to flag people over for service, being the public holiday weekend that it was, since everyone was out to play and eat, apparently, and also being Mornington having a 50% increase in general foot traffic through the eateries there… but once that was all done and we had a little wait, our breakfasts finally arrived (we were famished by that stage):

I had the Lilo brekkie – two poached eggs on toasted sourdough, potato croquettes, Istra bacon, peperonata

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Hubbie had the B.L.T. Istra bacon, cos lettuce, tomato, relish, Noisette bun, fried egg

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And baby girl had Pancakes with fresh strawberries, ice cream and maple syrup, and side of strawberry jam

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I really enjoyed my meal. The eggs were poached perfectly, the potato croquettes were so yum and creamy, and that combination with the peppers that tasted like the home-style ones our parents make (Hubbie agreed) was just a fanciful flavour combo. The bacon wasn’t as clean as I liked, but that’s why I have Hubbie you see, to take the fat while I keep the clean bits. It was a simple and classic dish, not too weird to put people off of the standard fare, but still interesting enough to be memorable. It was a safe kind of different.

As you can see above, there was green lettuce in Hubbie’s burger… ok I am just kidding. Obviously, it cannot be purple (actually it can, aha!) Hubbie loved his burger, and said he would get chips with it next time. Yes, next time. He had added the egg which was optional, and really I don’t know how anyone can’t when you are having brekkie. He had a side of sauce because SAUCE FANATIC, forgetting that there was already relish in the burger… oops. Never mind, two sauces makes my butcher-sauce-loving Hubbie a very happy man.

Baby girl’s pancakes looked fresh and inviting. But at the same time she was firmly not into berries then, and so all she had to indulge in were the two very small pancakes with lashings of jam that we had asked for, and the ice cream. Size was on the meagre side, as I had to give her half of my toast just to satiate her appetite.

While heading over to the toilets one of several times that visit (experimental 4 year-old, that’s why) the theme that had been so prevalent throughout the dining area only expanded…

Because along with the eclectic wall of teaspoons that decorated the area directly opposite the male and female individual toilets…

The large and spacious inside toilet also continued with the green theme! Can I say, Grandma’s old school toilet is very, very cool. A large model of a lady hung on the inside toilet door, and the green continued in fixtures and fittings, towels and posters. It was a very attractive toilet, if I DO SAY SO myself. It really was, and maybe this was part of the reason baby girl had to go like, 3 times during our visit.

We ordered coffees after our meals were done with, and not surprisingly these probably took just as long as our food to arrive, they were that busy.

Cap, latte, babycino and choc-chip cookie.

Honestly, I was surprised the cookie did not come out on a green plate. Even the choc-chips. Come on, why?! :):):)

The coffee was mild and to my liking… and now I am questioning whether they have green coffee. That would just tip me over the edge. Ok I will stop now.

It was a busy and full experience there at Lilo, and since my time with family was limited, once our bellies were full of all things good, we headed towards the counter…

Food: 8/10. It was inventive yet also traditional in that it gave you the good stuff you would come to expect of a café… and based on our second and third experiences there, we have come to learn that they are very good at balancing the right flavours within a dish. Party in your mouth. Yummo Bravo.

Coffee: 7.5/10. Mild.

Ambience: Very busy and bustly, seems a noisy place and even when there haven’t been many around things just seem to echo. Considering the tranquillity of the across-the-road views, this café seems to block out everything else.

Staff: They were very busy that day, however other times we have found them, how should I put it, hard to come by? They tend to appear on the ‘understaffed’ side, therefore ‘stressed’ side, albeit still trying their best.

People: A very mixed bag, really it is everyone in here, with a good portion of the older generation seeming to inhabit. Why of course, it is Grandma’s friends.

Price: $78.65. That included a 10% surcharge for the Australia day public holiday. Although still acceptable, based on a future review of another café we dined at where we were slogged a 15% surcharge, I have to say…

WHAT THE?

I understand that staff need to be paid extra on the public holidays, and I certainly DO NOT oppose that. But I have two questions/statements, one from me, and one from Hubbie…

There is unreservedly a greater influx of people coming in on these days, meaning more customers = extra $$$, which I argue discounts the need to charge a surcharge to cover your staffs wages.

Second, Hubbie asked: If cafes create this imposed surcharge to cover their staffs additional wages, why then don’t the shopping centres charge us extra on public holidays to cover the definite increased wages they need to pay their staff? Safeway, Coles? Do they charge us extra?

(One can argue they already do, but I mean do they charge us additionally because of this day?)

NO!

It does not make sense. Cafes, STOP doing this, it is wrong and very annoying.

Advice: Now that I’m done with my outburst… sit as close to the windows if you want a sea view. Have one of their fresh juices. Go to the loo, and just be in the moment (seriously). Also if you love carbs, the potato croquettes in the Lilo brekkie are GOOD.

In a nutshell: It’s a café with a wonderfully retro character, which follows cleverly throughout. The food is simple yet done VERY well, and when eating you can tell the chef knows what he is doing. With a beautiful locale, it is easy to see how so many flock to this eatery, both for the food, interesting and homely atmosphere, and also for the chance to peak out at the waters nearby…

I guess it is kind of appropriate that a stretch of bushes and trees watch the café from across the road. Green.

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Lilo Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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

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

No. 8 is No. 1

No. 8 by John Lawson
8 Whiteman Street Southbank

We had left home on time to dine at No.8 pre-Valentine’s Day that Saturday night. Feb 14 falling on a Sunday that year, we decided to do a V-Day dinner the night before, because Saturday night – why of course.

The only problem was, there was traffic. Being all outskirts-of-the-city savvy, I thought we could sneak off the freeway through Docklands and towards Crown, but there was an event that night, making the traffic through the docked suburb a nightmare. It held us right back, and even as we tried to make our way in as quick as we could, taking multiple detours due to the event, every time we tried to get closer to Crown – you couldn’t turn left into there, while here, you couldn’t do a hook turn. I wanted to scream in frustration. I very nearly came to screaming point when I received a phone call 15 minutes after we were scheduled to arrive, from the restaurant’s staff, asking where we were. I politely, through gritted teeth said we were stuck in traffic. We were close. I had booked days earlier, and we had been booked into the 6:15-8:15 session, yet I did not realise how strict they were with their ‘sessions.’ The lady informed me it was fine, but we would still be booked in ‘til only 8:15, despite arriving later.

Basically, she was telling me they would kick us out prior our 2 hour pre-booked stay.

We were seriously pissed driving over for the next 5 minutes.

But, we were dressed nicely, it was Saturday night, and it was a comfortably warm night too. We pushed it to the back of our minds and went forward.

We were half an hour late when we walked in. Considering we had just received a phone call, the door girl took a while to find our booking. When we were finally brought to our table, I was a bit disappointed.

It had nothing to do with the surrounds. They were elegant though arty, not offensive to the eye at all. But when I had booked I had been told we would have outdoor seating overlooking the Yarra, and also, a high chair. We were inside, with no high chair.

Sigh. Another speed bump. We flagged a waitress and queried the lack of outdoors and child-seating. She said she would find out.

The ‘talker’ arrived. She explained that because there were bookings from weeks ago, versus my booking of a few days ago, the older bookings were given priority. And, a high chair was on its way. Apparently shared between restaurants. Okay then.

Clunky oversized child seat arrived. Yay.

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After settling in, I was happy to observe that even though we were inside, in a poshy restaurant, it was fairly loud. And soon after that, we received menus, and were introduced to our waiter for the night, who I shall refer to as ‘Louie.’

Louie, because he reminded me of a younger, less dorky, tad cuter, Louie Theroux. We ordered drinks with Louie, and as I perused the drinks menu I noticed most of the glasses were between $15-20 a glass. I ordered a 2015 Yarra Valley Rose – ‘Crudo’ by Luke Lambert,  Hubbie had a Crown Lager, and we also received some complimentary bread with butter, that was exceptionally moorish, but only complimentary as far as the fact that everything else was jacked up in price to compensate.

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Soon after, we started receiving our meals.

First baby girl got her Fish and Chips

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Hubbie received his Porterhouse steak with baked onions

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I received the Chicken breast, with broccolini and mashed potato and jus

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While we all had a go at the side of asparagus

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Now before I continue, my meal descriptions would be far ‘fancier’ if I had found the original menu online. Not only is it seasonal, but sadly the restaurant is no more! I think it is Crown’s constant philosophy to keep updating their restaurants and keeping things fresh and new, no matter if they are popular… Anyway, just imagine the above with the addition of words like ‘jus,’ ‘garden dressing’ and ‘crumb crust.’ The photos show you anyway.

Although it looked quite simple, baby girl’s meal had her rubbing her tummy after most bites! That was a good sign. When offered chips and something else, it’s often hard to get her to eat the ‘something else,’ but in this case she did have quite a few pieces of the fish, picking up the chunks with her hands and feeding herself! What?! I didn’t have to beg her? And a lovely fish it was, delicately grilled pieces, which I was very happy about, since there is so much batter on offer for toddlers at restaurants, it becomes a bit boring. Not to mention unhealthy.

We were hoping she would have the asparagus, but it had a certain dressing that I can’t recall which left her opting out. We ate it instead with our meals, it was different, salty, but enjoyable.

Hubbie said his medium to well steak was grilled perfectly. In fact, his meal was amazing, perfect. Woah. Butcher approval? That’s a good sign. I also, LOVED my meal, in particular the crispy chicken with the jus… it was a tender, wholesome, comforting chicken, and until I ate that one I never realised I could be so damn pleased with chicken. The best word I can use to describe it would be ‘homely.’ I don’t know, it’s like the stuff that reminds you of home and your Mum’s cooking on a Winter’s night. Only this one was super-amazeballs.

Then there was the mash, and the crusty stuff on the mash – extra heartiness added there. We just couldn’t stop commenting about how good it was, and we only had positive things to say. There was one negative with the whole dinner experience, but it didn’t come anywhere from the food, the service or the restaurant itself… we actually could not eat together. Baby girl was extra fidgety, and did not want to stay in her high chair (it did look quite ugly) a moment longer beyond her meal being finished. So it meant that I walked with her and showed her the Chinese New Year display outside while Hubbie ate, then we did tag team and he went out with her while I ate solo. So, as far as Valentine’s Day was concerned, there was not much ‘connecting’ there.

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We had one of those moments: “What’s the point of going out?” But then Louie told me we were raising a fine girl, so I guess that counts for something right? Oh Louie.

That’s how it is peeps. It ain’t easy with a kid.

After I finished my main and Louie came to take our plates, he asked if we wanted to see the dessert menu. Personally, I really did, but I knew the time – it was after 8, meaning our time was almost up. I politely queried him, aware of the few empty tables around, fairly sure of the response.

He went away to check which I hadn’t expected, but upon return said there was no issue. Of course 🙂 It was interesting to note as we waited for the desserts, that the lamps on the wall came on at the same time, giving the room a romantic and atmospheric feel, and it was then I saw the time: 8:15. Coincidence? It was all very timely and appropriate, but that kind of attention to detail, I liked.

We managed to rope baby girl back in with promises of dessert after we ordered, and received this:

Dark chocolate ganache with berries and sorbet

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And a Panna cotta with fruit and celery granite

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Ha ha! I thankfully remembered the detail of the ‘celery granite,’ as that was my dessert. I loved it. It was cold and refreshing, light and creamy, and considering I’m not a celery fan, this granite did not taste at all like it, thankfully. It was frosty and cool, I really enjoyed the flavour. It was in cold contrast to Hubbie’s dessert – also good, but so intense with the chocolate. Hubbie was personally like “I’m paying how much for that?” He thought it was overpriced for the quantity of what he received, but I reminded him it was the presentation, attention to detail and the restaurant. That’s just how it was.

We asked for the bill soon after – and then it was definitely time to go!

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Food: 9/10. The quality was fantastic, yet if there was slightly more on the plate, especially in reference to the dark chocolate ganache, the score would have hit the top. Exceptional food and presentation.

Coffee: N/A.

Ambience: Calm, though loud which I did not expect. It had us feeling more comfortable because we didn’t feel like we had to whisper like in a library. It was a fine dining restaurant, with simple, modern and classy surroundings, and that cool, relaxed vibe followed through.

People: Poshy. Don’t be mistaken. Generally the age ranged from mid-30s to up, but that suggests that there were many people in their 30s, which there weren’t, as there were older couples and groups abounding. There was one family who had a baby, but this baby was in a pram… there were no other toddlers I could see! There was a hen’s party near us, who provided some of the loud laughter, which I very much appreciated.

Staff: I realised as soon as the ‘talker’ had left at the beginning of our experience there, that it was their intention that no one leave unhappy. It was impossible. They would not allow it. And too right with the price being asked…

The staff were exceptionally professional. They were friendly too, with Louie talking to baby girl a bit and even another female waitress smiling at her each time she walked by.

I particularly loved Louie’s narration on our food as he brought it over, almost like he was trying to sell it to us once again… “and here is your beautiful chicken… your fine asparagus.”

LOL. Very poshy here.

Price: A very healthy $192. 3 mains, a side dish, 2 desserts, and 3 alcoholic drinks. Not bad for a less than 2 hour stay. I have to add again though, that the food was amazing, as was the service… but still $192 is expensive. You don’t leave the restaurant feeling you may pop out of your clothes the way you think you might for that price, but again, it’s the type of restaurant.

Advice: Firstly, book. It’s a rule at Crown, stated on their website. If you’re really fussy and want outdoor seating, perhaps book over a week in advance so that you can almost guarantee an outdoor seat, overlooking the Yarra, and watching the passers-by, pass by.

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In a nutshell: This is a beautiful restaurant that I would like to go back to, however it’s not something that, at this stage of our lives, I can see happening easily. When you’re forking out that kind of money, you want to be able to enjoy the experience sitting across from your partner, Valentine’s Day Eve and all. So perhaps, unless you have a kid that sits there and does nothing (so really that applies to no parents), I’d suggest making your way over when you have left them with the grandparents. It’s just easier, as you do want to experience the surroundings and food and service in all of its finest…

And even with that being said, we still wouldn’t frequent the restaurant often, just because of the $$$ price tags. Like the chocolate ganache that is served sparingly, so should you too enjoy this restaurant in the same way (unless of course you are majorly cashed up, and in that case would you mind joining us on our food adventures? :))

So, I will come back… soon… one day… maybe when baby girl is 8. Yeah that sounds about right.

Afterword

As already mentioned, this restaurant has sadly permanently closed! Unlike the last food review I posted on the horribly appropriate failed Lygon street restaurant we had the displeasure to visit, I strongly believe this restaurant would have only seen its demise due to Crown’s ever-changing restaurant image.

If you see the name John Lawson anywhere, EVER, do not fear. Great food, is here.

Also, this should serve me right for waiting 11 months to post my review. (Waiting suggests I’ve been staring at my laptop thinking of what to write for that entire time.

Huh. If only life were that boring. NEVER).

 

‘Bel’ Prawns

Bel Cibo
30 Macrossan Street Port Douglas

Since this restaurant had been booked out on night one of our Port Douglas getaway, Hubbie had booked us a table the following day for that Sunday night. It was not only conveniently placed near our accommodation, but it had elevated views of Macrossan street with a distinctly poshy vibe. We had been walking by the restaurant for two days now, looking into the kitchen and watching the all-white uniformed chefs do their thing. Soon they would be cooking for us.

On our arrival to Bel Cibo that night we were promptly seated and menus were brought to us immediately. And so it continued: the service was always there, with wait staff constantly checking in on us, whether it was to top up our drinks, get our food, or see if everything was ok. This was great, and the only reason I was peeved was that it made it a tad difficult for me to discreetly take photos. Not a bad thing to say: ‘we were waited on too much!’

Once again fans were in abundance overhead, however tonight this was in stark comparison to that of Rattle ‘n’ Hum the night before. With the overhead views of Macrossan Street, the sounds of International accents coming from both customers and wait staff all around, and the paper-covered linen tables that immediately characterised what kind of restaurant it was, I knew this was going to be a fine-dining experience. Add to that the humidity, and the increasing bird calls coming from one particular end of the main street from an enormous tree, and it felt like we were on an exclusive jungle safari somewhere in Africa.

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Baby girl was brought pencils straight away which she doodled with on the paper tablecloth, keeping her slightly occupied.

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Since we had arrived pre-7pm, our meals came quite quickly after that.

Our drinks of French Martini and a Crown

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My Seared King Prawns with crushed chat potatoes / broccolini / dill / lemon and garlic sauce

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Hubbie’s Roast Chicken Fillets with tomato / parmesan polenta / garlic field mushrooms / salsa verde

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To share, some Broccolini with garlic /lemon / evo oil / pistachio

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And baby girl’s Chicken strips and chips

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I really loved my meal. The prawns were cooked beautifully, with the light lemon-y sauce surrounding it complimenting it well. The addition of potatoes and broccolini were definitely needed for this carb-loving girl, and even though I was content on completion of my meal, it was still one of those meals at those posh places, where the quality of the food is high and tasty, yet the quantity of what you get on your plate is not in abundance. Nevertheless I really enjoyed my (approximately 5) prawns, they had a bit of a seafood taste too which Hubbie didn’t like, but all the better I thought, more for me 😉 They were very flavoursome and I enjoyed every bite, wishing there was more. The presentation was also of a high calibre.

Hubbie thought his meal components were perfectly matched and on the ball – chicken, polenta, mushrooms and salsa. He loved his meal too and enjoyed every bite.

We were however a bit undecided as to what to think about his chicken, and in particular baby girl’s chicken strips. It was brown and stringy, not white the way chicken usually looks. Hubbie first thought they had given her a cheaper cut of chicken from an ‘unfavoured’ side of the chicken – this pissed us off because hey, just because she’s a child and she has a cheaper meal doesn’t mean she should get a cheaper cut… then he considered the fact that perhaps it was in fact organic, unbleached chicken, since most chickens are apparently bleached white to get their pristine colour. After telling me that, I was so glad I was eating prawns. The fact that his chicken too was also on the brown side, told us that perhaps all their chicken was like that. But if it were organic, surely it couldn’t be stringy too? When I tried hers, I realised why she wasn’t keen on eating it at all. It was only that confusing factor that left us wondering why everything bar the chicken was of such high quality.

The broccolini was a nice side addition, and the combination of garlic, lemon and pistachios made it quite tasty and moorish.

As soon as we had eaten it was time to go: baby girl was keen to run around, and it was now ice cream time (there was definitely room in our stomachs for that).

Food: 8/10. Even with the undecided chicken verdict. Those prawns were the best I had in Port Douglas.

Coffee: N/A.

Ambience: A refined dining experience, and although there were many families around, these were the families with grown-up kids who had plenty of $$$ to splash. This was on the quieter, rather than rambunctious side.

People: As above, ‘developed’ families, couples, and there was at least one another family with a baby, I remember it well because the baby looked 2 days old and the woman’s partner just walked into the restaurant leaving her to carry 2 day-old baby in one arm and lug a pram up the stairs on her own with the other. Other than the latter, most people seemed a bit head-up-their-ass unable to smile, so just be aware that the people that usually smile at you, will be looking at your child instead with a ‘duh’ expression, their kids’ faces speaking boredom with ‘I hate this family holiday.’

Woe is you.

Staff: They were friendly, very professional, and attentive.

Price: $119.50 for the lot, which makes perfect sense for our dinner of 3 alcoholic drinks, (did I mention my French Martini was YUM!) 2 mains, a kids meal and a side, at that type of restaurant.

Advice: Book like you should with all restaurants at Port Douglas, unless of course dining pre-7pm. Sitting as close to the street gives you a great view, but then again all the outdoor covered dining area allows for fantastic views. And have the prawns.

In a nutshell: A fantastic restaurant that I believe was worth the money, given the quality of produce we encountered that night. It’s worth the fuss, and the booking ahead. Just be aware that it is a finer dining experience so some portions may need to be supplemented with sides. Finer dining can sometimes mean more boring, less adaptable clientele too. However, if you’re looking for some ‘great food,’ you’ll find it at this fine establishment.

Bel Cibo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Happiness Is… # 12

Coffee.

(I’m seriously baffled, mind-boggled, and stupefied that it’s taken me 11 previous attempts in this series before acknowledging this life-saving, world-changing, cure of all evils, magically attributed powers brown liquid)

I’m walking over with some colleagues to get the usual morning coffee. Conversation turns to “what would you buy with the $60 million on offer in next week’s Tatts draw?”

We’re talking the usuals:

money to family and friends

charity

holidays

houses and investment

shopping (my addition)

But then we throw in some exciting extras:

Getting a ‘good accountant’ so that we don’t have to pay tax on our fortune (my addition again)

Setting up a shelter in the CBD to help the homeless and get them back on their feet

Buying a football club

Walking into random bars at night and shouting “drinks are on me!”

And this is all happening BEFORE we’ve had a taste of our caffeinated beverages. That’s just how damn good coffee is. It gives you a burst of energy, in its anticipatory excitement of having it, before you’ve even had it.

Thank you person who discovered coffee beans. 🙂

Now I will proceed to list the many things I would do with my $60 million winnings:

Give a considerable amount to my immediate family and friends, so that they could live debt free and enjoy some luxury. Excluding the people considered in my recent posts Round and Round and Things that shit me… well there are consequences for being a dickhead isn’t there? Oh what the hell, I’ll throw a couple thou their way so they can buy some expensive shoes.

Buy some lion cubs, and set them up in a huge jungle-like enclosure so that they wouldn’t feel confined like the lions in zoo-type scenarios usually feel roaming along the fencing line, and I’d visit them on a regular basis so that they would know me and protect me against the arseholes of this world.

Set up my family overseas who are doing it really tough. Make it so that they don’t have the hardships and struggles that many living in difficult economic times over there are having.

Go shopping. I have this intense feeling of wonder, of how it would feel to go into your favourite clothes shop, and buy every single item that’s desirable to you, even if it’s just a “hmmm, maybe” item, and not ask about any of the prices. Just pay at the end. And comment to the salesperson on payment “that’s cheaper than what I thought it would be.”

Set up a shelter for unwanted animals. They can receive treatment for any ills, and just laze about for the rest of their days, living in happiness and comfort, with an abundance of food and love and attention and walks, yet the shelter would also serve as a rescue house where the public can come in and save an animal for free. Unlike other shelters, these animals would not be put down due to excessive overpopulation. These animals will live as long as they are possibly able to, because they would be in a huge mofo of a shelter.

Buy a holiday house on the beach, in Mornington Peninsula, Victoria; Opatija, Croatia; Positano, Italy.

Set up a shelter in Melbourne CBD for homeless people. The shelter would provide food and shelter, while also providing training for basic tasks like cooking, to more advanced career skills to help them get back into the employment field and get them back on their feet, and any other necessary life rehabilitation. It would provide this assistance until they were employed and able to support themselves, living from their own means and off the streets. Follow-up visits would ensure these people are checked up on and kept on track with their life goals.

Give money to cancer research. Employ the best scientists and tell them to kick cancers butt out of this galaxy and beyond.

Buy a really, really, really nice house.

Employ a full-time cleaner for life.

Get my Nissan 370z (I don’t need no porche).

Buy A LOT of cats.

Organise investments with my full-time for life ‘good accountant.’

Okay buy a porche.

Set up the underprivileged villages in African countries with clean drinking water, organise education and training, and help these children and their families make something of their life, far from the poverty they currently experience.

Walk down the streets, randomly handing out $100 notes with the catch phrase “Hi! I’ve been looking for you! Here’s my overdue payment” and then walk off.

Get a professional coffee machine (barista style) installed in my really nice house.

Go into bars and yell “drinks are on me!” and make friends for life. (Note: do this in my three holiday house locations).

Hire a bodyguard for life.

And with all my free time not working, I would drink coffee, do yoga, indulge in red wine, holiday, and just write write write!

Ahh. What a life.

(And all that from the anticipation of coffee!)

*Try it, it’s a fun game, and leave your comments below!*