‘Botham’s Up’ for Father’s Day

Hickinbotham of Dromana
194 Nepean Highway Dromana

(Visited September ’17)

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

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

What?! Our time had come.

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

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

I had done well (go me 🙂 )

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

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

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

And years and years.

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

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

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

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

First up, some drinks please.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Soon, the food!

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

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

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

Spiral pasta with bolognaise sauce

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

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

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

Crisp potato puff… mmmmm.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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So just pick up your glass and…

…Botham’s up.

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

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Things that shit me… #14

…People who ask you unreasonable questions that you will undoubtedly give a negative answer to, making you feel like a total effin failure in the process.

Examples:

“Have you made a Christmas tree-shaped watermelon with your daughter yet?”

Nope, I’m a shit Mum. Not carving up fruit together makes all of my Mothering useless.

watermelon

(Pointing to a clearly Masterchef-styled ice cream cake) “Did you make that?”

Nope, I bought it AT A SHOP. I’m a cop-out for not spending 12 hours of my day sweating it out in the kitchen, layering different textures together and freezing them individually, to bring you the absurdly Heston Blumenthal-style design in front of me.

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“Please don’t go to any effort for us.”

Actually, I wasn’t going to, but your passive aggressive request makes me feel like an unhospitable tool for not even considering giving you a 7-course degustation meal in the first place.

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Photo by Lily Lvnatikk on Unsplash

“Can I have some salt?”

Apologies my food tastes like shit.

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Photo by Mira Bozhko on Unsplash

“Wow, that is so good of you to do that, I never would have expected it!”

Because I am a horrible, HORRIBLE person.

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Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

You: “What would you like to drink?”

(Asks for a specific drink that you will not have)

Sorry I am not Dan Murphy’s. But I will give you a good dose of scotch, coke, and a refreshing lemon wedge of swift kick-up-the-arse…

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Photo by Eaters Collective on Unsplash

 

 

 

Men make a Bar out of Brekkie

Eira Café and Lounge Bar
1 Pryor Street Eltham

(Visited August ’16)

It is not good when best mates get together

It is good when best mates get together.

When men get together, shit happens

When men get together, the best stuff happens.

When best mates hatch a plan, watch out…

When best mates hatch a plan… watch out…

And so it is when Hubbie and his best mate are together. It’s a manly match made in heaven: they were each other’s best men at their respective weddings; they are both so fond of their hair and appearance; and they love beer, and alcohol, and COFFEE, oh, so, much.

Oh, and they don’t mind us wives either.

But really, truly. We get along smashingly.

So on a Saturday night at a birthday party, when within 5 minutes of being in the same room as each other, they came looking for me and Best Man’s wife, exclaiming “here they are!” as they walked into the room, you just knew, something was up.

Not up in the way it was many, many, many moons ago when they decided to trespass on the grounds of a piece of Melbourne criminal history and nearly got eaten by Rottweilers. Not that kind of ‘up.’

They’re Dads now. We would actually kill them if they decided to pull shit like that again.

So, this was a more ‘let’s go out, let’s get hammered’ type of hatch plan.

“We’re going out to brekkie tomorrow!” is what they told us.

Like I said, they’re Dads… they’ve mellowed out.

I personally had not been out to brekkie with baby girl in yonks. Other than the times we’ve been on a weekend away and a café has literally been a 5 minute drive so that her morning hunger nerves aren’t extended any more than they have to be, I gave up the thought of breakfasts out a while back, only because I don’t want to torture her, just because I need to be a Melbourne hipster eating my Avocado smash with gluten free mocha/Frappuccino/Matcha blend with raw sugar from the Jungles of the Amazon. Nah. I’ll wait for her to be a little older.

However, as it is when you’re in a group of over-excited-testosterone-planning-the-beer-they’ll-drink-before-breakfast neanderthals, I thought ‘what the hell.’

It was very different the following morning as we, and they, woke up in our separate houses feeling groggy and sleep-deprived from a late night and early morning. We had to beat ourselves out of bed, and after much to-ing and fro-ing, and ringing around, decided on a place not too far from either of us, Eira Cafe and Lounge Bar in Eltham.

It is a café situated on a corner not far from the Main Street, opposite Common Place where we had previously frequented, and near a public car park, with many shops, cafes and supermarkets all around. It was a stunning Sunday for Winter, and we arrived first, sitting at our Reserved table nearby the fireplace.

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It isn’t a huge café, and most tables were taken. There was a lot of wood about, and even the long table we were on had long stools for sitting rather than individual seats, adding to the earthy aspect. As is the norm nowadays, suspended lightbulbs hung down low from the ceiling, which I love to see no matter how many Cafes showcase this trend. And the floor length windows allowed you to get a good look at the passers-by and goings on in the street outside, from wherever you were sitting.

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I FORTUNATELY ordered baby girl’s meal before our friends came. I am so grateful I did that.

We got for her the Pikelets with maple syrup and ice cream, and though she was rapt with the cold stuff, I think the maple syrup was just not to her taste.

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I forgot to take a photo because I was so concerned about baby girl getting some food into her. Here is her 2 and a half pikelets (originally 3), a decent serve for a child I think, albeit a toddler like her. However I hadn’t needed to use the standby piece of bread I had ready and waiting in my bag in case she couldn’t take the hunger no longer. She was occupied with our friends’ kids across from her and their gadgets. She ate a decent portion and seemed happy, and the presentation was nice.

We had all ordered at the same time once our friends were here – our adult meals plus their kids’ meals. Everyone watched baby girl’s pikelet plate as we waited. And waited. And waited. Not even the kids meals were coming out! Our kids plus now a content baby girl walked around, jumped over the nearby couches on the stage area, which was a step up from where we were seated. Some areas of the café appeared zoned, such as this step up area which we assumed might be for a band on a music night; and then there was another couch in front of the fireplace. It was homely and comforting, sure, and it all looked good… we just wanted our food!

The boys were drinking pre-brekkie beer as discussed, but getting hungry. Us girls were getting hungry. The poor kids were getting hungry. It was obvious it wasn’t only limited to us, as around me I could see plenty of empty tables with people looking around with curious eyes, and yet no staff came over to say anything. We withheld comment for over an hour… and then as expected, as soon as baby girl needed a nappy change, our food came out.

Great.

However, it was great, since a waitress informed me they did have a change table in the disabled toilets (take that Lygon street!) I sacrificed my warm, arrived brekkie, and went into the loo with her, only to first hear from the waitress delivering our food that a chef had gone home sick, which is why a huge backlog of dishes had occurred and been delayed.

Well, that made sense. Now we would stuff ourselves.

By the time I came back with baby girl, I pretty much passed all responsibility of keeping baby girl out of trouble (like running behind the counter and making a coffee for herself) over to Hubbie, as I proceeded to eat very quickly.

I mean, it was almost 12. It was now practically lunchtime.

I had ordered some kind of Vegetarian breakfast: mushrooms, eggplant and zucchini atop sourdough bread, cherry tomatoes on the side and 2 poached eggs, with a balsamic glaze.

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Not their fault, but because I had tended to baby girl, my meal was lukewarm. I ate it quickly, and even the sourdough had gotten a bit tougher in that time. I still enjoyed it, as a person stranded in the desert enjoys water, but I still felt I could have had more, and I don’t know if that’s because it took so long to arrive, or because the meal could have been larger.

Having waited so long for the food, I still needed something else to satisfy my Sunday morning craving…. Caffeine. We all got coffees, and both Hubbie and I enjoyed ours, though I forgot to photograph them… again, hunger and thirst pains. But they were good, strong, smooth. Ahh. When I go “ahhh” all is good.

I didn’t however, forget to photograph the best looking one:

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Baby girl’s babycino.

Kudos for creativity, bravo. And baby girl LOVES marshmallows. I found it very clever indeed 🙂

After our marathon wait and then elevator ride finish, it was now lunchtime… and time to go home and eat and catch up on some sleep.

Food: 7/10. I’m not deducting points just because someone was sick in the kitchen – shit happens. The rest of the menu looked really good, with their variety of lunch meals, tapas, main meals, and all kinds of other bits and pieces like desserts and kids meals.

Coffee: 8/10. It touched my soul on that Sunday morning. Strong and smooth.

Ambience: Comfy, with a touch of Eltham class. The wood panelling gives it that homely feel, and I really like the various areas of seating creating little zones within the small café.

People: Family types out for brekkie. Younger families, older families, Dads with kids, Mums with kids, and large groups.

Staff: They were busy. Nice, but shit was happening in the kitchen you see. They did their best and they were good with our requests.

Price: I have no clue on the final countdown because our friends shouted us on this occasion, but the prices on the menu show the $15-$19 mark on all the various ‘adult’ breakfasts, which I feel is on the money… However where my meal felt not so large, baby girl’s was generous.

Advice: Book ahead, and maybe try and go on a night where they have their live music playing… it would be a treat to experience in that homely environment.

In a nutshell: I would go back, and have no reservations despite their unfortunate bad luck that day. Perhaps they could have informed the customers of what was proceeding so that the people in the café weren’t looking around for an hour scratching their heads… but oh well.

Still a nice place to Lounge away on a Sunday. With the big kids, AND the little kids – the little kids being our Hubbies, of course.

Of course 😉

Eira Cafe Lounge Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Umpteen reasons why you should LOVE Winter

It hit me one Saturday morning during a work shift, as I left the warm confines of my place of employment to walk down the road and grab a coffee. Feeling that fresh air, that Winter chill on my face, reminded me of the time I felt it last year, and suddenly I was down memory lane, remembering the things about Winter you choose so hard to forget when it is done and dusted for the year.

So, then, I tried harder to remember. What fascinates me about this time of year, is that once it is upon us, it’s actually not that bad. It’s the anticipation of it – that is the shits, and one of the major factors of making the entire season that much more unbearable.

Hey, calm down… I’m not like, a ‘Winter ambassador’ or something! I am the first to put up my hand and forge ahead with the get-rid-of-Winter fan club. I wouldn’t say I HATE it, since that is a strong word, that I HATE to use (see what I did there?) but I do in fact, detest the coldest of seasons to a degree that once the longest day has come and gone in January, I am in slow grief over the gradual dissemination of Summer.

But like I said above: it ain’t too bad. I’ve been most surprised by my own attitude towards it, in finding that there are actually plenty of great things to enjoy, and celebrate, about the coldest time of the year! You don’t say! Let me hear it! Well ok then, here is my list of things to get your blood boiling…

(And don’t fret, this isn’t one of those bullshit ‘buy a really good coat and scarves’ nonsense post. We all know that we need more than layers to make up for the fact of Winter, duh).

1. But First, Coffee.

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And so one of my fave coffee quotes signals the beginning of this Winter Warm-up list. When else to drink, and enjoy coffee most, than in Winter? Not only does the caffeine hit give you a burst of much needed non-hibernating energy, but it is WARM, and therefore, heats you up from the inside-out. This is a super simple and accessible way to keep you happy, buzzing and hot, ALL DAY LONG. Make it at home, or buy it out and about… really, this one is a no-brainer.

 

2. To café, OR, to café…

And, how to get to your hot coffee? Why, you enter a café of course. Just picture it: you are in the freezing winds, walking briskly to your café of choice so as to remove yourself from the unnerving elements, when you finally, step inside, and –

Ahhh. That moment.

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You know that moment, when the feeling of cold is replaced by the scent of coffee beans, and you are away from the outdoors, but can still see everything including all the fools still stuck out in the real world? And you’re ‘in here?’ and about to get a coffee? Yeah that’s great. Café-ing it, not just for coffee, but for anything in Winter – be it brekkie, lunch or any other fare – is a beautiful way to while away the day. Choose a good one, a cosy spot, and watch the world go by… just see if you don’t feel better about Winter when you put yourself in this supreme predicament…

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3. Walk This Way…

On a contradictory note, on those cold and still Wintery days, sometimes it can be somewhat, what is the word, rejuvenating! to take a nice long walk.

Yes, the air can be biting. Yes, the cold will still seep through your clothes. But there’s something about a fresh, freezing-cold walk that awakens the senses, both physical and mental, as it is often when I am walking in the cold that my creative mind is switched on. I don’t know why, but a brisk walk in Winter allows me to daydream and plan for any future blog posts (how this one came about) much more efficiently than in Summer. Maybe it’s the fact that other than getting into a heated area immediately, there is no other thought trying to take up head space like it does in Summer, where I would be planning future events and social gatherings, and the things I’ll be doing for the next 3 weekends. In Winter, it’s just Winter, and my creative thoughts are allowed to fly beside the recurring thought of ‘get inside.’

I don’t like to be in the cold, and yet a walk like this brings about a whimsical dreamlike effect to my walk, where I find myself observing, being in the moment, and smiling often. I’m not wishing myself out of this hellhole, I’m just smiling. I’m not trying to prove a point… Next.

4. Stay IN

Although I absolutely love Summer, there is one thing that gets tiring by the end of the season: the constant go-go-go. Summer makes you feel like you have to be super-efficient and on top of the world, heading to every social event, enjoying every ounce of sunshine, waking at the crack of dawn, and starting a new body-building course when you’re not preparing your new gluten-free, dairy-free, animal-free, everything of any joy or texture or enjoyment-free diet. It is FULL on.

But Winter allows you to just chill. Hibernate like a bear, and in doing so, drink all the hot chocolate/tea/coffee before doing so. If there is any season where you should feel the least guilt about doing nothing, and where you should completely and utterly embrace the act of doing absolutely nothing, it is Winter. It’s okay, you will be at it again in a couple of months time…

5. Pimp up your home

But, if you absolutely HAVE to, you could always forgo sitting around and chilling on the couch, with doing something around the house. Just as our sanity and ‘me time’ gets neglected in Summer, so too does the house, and house ‘stuff.’ You know those odd jobs. The broken door handle. The 3rd light bulb that has been burnt out in the lounge room for 4 months. The pile of boxes that hasn’t been broken down into pieces. That heap of junk in your garage that you know a charity would love, but alas, Summer time.

In Winter, it is ALL possible. Case in point. We had bought new door handles from Bunnings to replace our old ones, as we wanted to spruce up the 80s-style house we had recently moved into. They remained untouched for months and months, ALL THROUGH SUMMER, and it was only when the cold hit, that Hubbie finally started replacing them.

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Winter is the best time to look outward-in. Look around you and see what needs a little TLC, and then proceed accordingly. Home improvements, up-dos, renos – whatever it is, you will feel soooo much better for it, and not at all like a lazy bear once you are done.

6. Go OCD, mofos

And for those of you like me, that love to sort and clean and organise… well, what are you waiting for? Use these cold months to file away. File to your freaking hearts content. Label and shelve and box. Store those photos in chronological order, organise your home family videos, and clean up your menu folder so that you don’t have crappy old recipes in there that you won’t even sniff at again. There is no better feeling then tackling a long, put-off job, and I swear, as Winter ends and Spring begins, the sense of accomplishment you feel in knowing everything is sorted and ready for another season/year… GOLD. GO you OCD peeps, GO!

7. Jump!

Ok, so this is kinda parent-specific. But, you don’t need to be a recently-acquired trampoline owner for a cheeky monkey princess like I have, to jump. You probably do need a child of some kind, so if you don’t have any of your own, borrow one – like you probably have a niece, or nephew, or know someone who would LOVE for you to kindly offer their brood a day out? (You will be on their Christmas card list FOREVER, I promise you).

But my point is, be childlike. Jumping is not only fun, good for you, and is healthy (hey, exercise), but it warms you up too! And if you think jumping is only for kids – 20 seconds on the thing and you will remember what a jumping extraordinaire you used to be 20 or so years ago… and then it will be the kid trying to get you off the trampoline, not you, them.

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8. A good book

So, a no-brainer. Totally. But when else is it more acceptable and necessary to snuggle up with a book and lose yourself within its pages? Never, ever, EVER. Even on holiday, you should be doing things and seeing things, but at home, in Winter? Perfect reading weather.

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Whether it’s at home, on your lunch break, or on the train, waiting for your doctors appointment (that brisk walk/jumping probably gave you a little cough, ahem*) or at the park while the kiddies play, there is really no better time to invest in a good book.

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9. SLEEP

So a totally acceptable place to read is in bed, but if you’d rather not even do that, you can just sleep. I know this is such a ‘Duh, Fred’ point, but still, it HAS TO be said. Fred.

Sleep ’til your big hearts content. Of course this is totally dependant on whether you have a paying job or go to regular schooling (most of the Western population), but in your down time, this is a perfectly acceptable hobby. Yep. Even if you have kids that don’t let you breathe, just pull them in, throw a blanket over your heads, and once the hilarities have died down, watch them fall into a slumber. You will be there too soon, don’t worry.

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Sleep on the bed, sleep on the couch… wherever you wish. Just make sure it’s comfy and inviting, there are plenty of blankets, and a real nice place to rest your head. Ahhhh.

10. Shop ’til you Drop

Let’s change tack and ramp it up a little, to my favourite past-time! Like seriously, how annoying is it in Summer, when you need some new clothes/shoes/pillows/coffee beans, and you head into the confines of a multi-level shopping centre, but it’s a stunning, and I mean STUNNING day out? You don’t want to miss out on that, and stay indoors most of the day? This is so especially true for us Melburnians, as sunshine, even in Summer of all seasons, can be soooo fleeting.

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But in Winter? Hell, bring the shopping on! You won’t miss out on ANYTHING because its so cold and miserable out! YAY. Shop to your hearts content, in fact, shop for all seasons, and stay ahead of the pack.

11. Work it out 

Ok, so I know some of you might wanna swipe me over this one, as I am known for finding gratitude in the most wide-ranging of places… but I tell you, work really IS better when it’s cold. I mean, just look at the below:

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How miserable is the above photo? Okay well it is oddly pretty in the dim light, but you know what I mean… I am not really missing out. It’s taken from my work window… do I wanna go outside? Hell no!

Work is actually not too bad, and you can almost be grateful to be in the confines of work, when it is so shit-faced outside. You will never be sad being at work during Winter, unless of course you had to get up at 5am like me, and are staring out the kitchen window at 7am thinking of Hubbie and baby girl asleep and warm in bed… damn.

TRY to be grateful for work while you can, in Winter, at the very least.

12. Let’s go to the beach

Your welcome. Ok so maybe not Summer-thumping-beach-vibes weather at the mo, but you know where I’m headed.

This may be a bit left-of-centre for some, but for me being fortunate enough to live BY the beach, not so. But either way, a trip to the beach is for most in our fair country, accessible and do-able.

Why should you do it, you cry? Cold, winds, uninviting waters…

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What do you think? I’m not telling you to jump in. No, hell no. I’m just saying that the ocean views bring about a sense of calmness, of peace, of reflection, and retrospection, and the waters don’t even have to be still and unrippled. No. They are in fact most beautiful and spectacular when they are savage, wild and unleashed, ripping against the shore or pier or rocks, and showing you the brutal nature of Mother Earth herself.

Rug up and try it. See how your mind feels afterwards.

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13. Do something NEW

While you’re out and about at the beach, how’s about you keep trying new things, and enrol in a course of some kind. (Like not literally walk down the road, just think about it). Is there something you’ve always wanted to do? Like maybe, learn a new language? Try your hand at some knitting? Learn how to cook like a chef? Drive a manual car? For some creative pursuits, you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your own home – just log in and you’re connected.

Doing something you’ve been wanting to do for a while is not just fulfilling, as you are catering to yours truly, yourself, but you are putting yourself out there in a vulnerable position. Only when you are vulnerable, can you really learn anything. Since everything is on the down-low in Winter, there is no time like the present to focus in on yourself, and give something new a go. Time to study, reflect on where you want to go in life, and centre yourself both spiritually and mentally, is the perfect cold-time creative pursuit. Just try. You won’t lose a thing.

14. Cook up a storm! 

While doing something new, you may want to try your hand at some new recipes.. or old, whatever tickles your fancy. But what I love about this coldest of seasons, is the deliciously warm dishes to match. Or should I say, warm you right up. Whether it be a vegetable curry

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a cauliflower soup

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or some yummy baked goods

there is nothing quite so inviting on a cold Winter’s night, than to indulge in warming, delicious and comforting, Winter-specific foods. Slow-cooked meals, lasagnes, roasts… the list goes on and on and on. And the upside? When you are buying Winter-y things like cauliflower for your soup, you are buying in season, so it is cheaper! Winning 🙂 Go foodie mad.

15. Catch up with some old ‘friends’

Now, I don’t mean ACTUAL friends, and boy would it be appropriate here if I actually  loved the show of the same name. Instead I’m talking of your movies and your DVD box sets. Plop yourself in a comfy place, and get ‘re-acquainted.’ I feel forever-guilty whenever I sit on the couch – I always feel like I should be doing something more worthy, more important, and being a Mum makes the feelings more so. This is an activity I rarely indulge in.

But this Winter, I am really going to take it on board… and what better way to feel better about the blowing winds outside, than to be laughing/crying/hysterically shaking, over the antics of some old faves.

You don’t even have to have the DVDs. Shows like Sex and the City are on repeat on TV, there are streaming devices, and have you heard of Netflix? People even ‘download’… I’m not condoning it, I’m just saying, ok?

It’s never been easier to catch up with, or watch a brand new series to get stuck into. Need tips? Some of my old faves:

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The above mentioned, my fave gal pals. “Abso-fucking-lutely” amazing.

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Angel. An amazing series that is 5 seasons long, and is totally worth investing your life into. Get ready to have your soul literally ripped apart, thanks Joss Whedon (no really, thank you!)

Dawson’s Creek is actually on free-to-air Go! at the moment. My face when I realised this? Bliss 🙂  I know it’s a teenage show, but it’s one of my ol’ faithfuls, and besides, the actors were probably my age when they filmed it, so….

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my current must-watch on TV, Shark Tank. This is splendid in every way. Seeing the investors rip through and tear to shreds some of the up-and-coming entrepreneurs and inventors, is just brilliant. You must watch this show.

So grab a warm drink, snuggle up on the couch (child or partner is optional) and chill-ax….

16. Bust a move.

Exercise. I know I know, it’s not bikini time, and it’s probably the only time of the year when there is no pressure to be beach-ready… but it doesn’t mean you can’t devote time to yourself to be healthy.

Still not sold? You don’t even have to leave the house. There are a world of gyms, gym classes, personal trainers, and get-fit programmes out there, and there as just as many exercise DVDs! Find what tickles your fancy, and do it in the privacy of your own home.

Do as I do, and pop on some trakkies, put on that old Zumba DVD, and get dancing! Exercise gets you going and warms you up at a time when it is so easy to be sluggish and sloth-like. And you know what I was so surprised to find? Even one session a week (baby steps) has given me increased flexibility and energy to run after a certain 3 year-old rascal. True story.

17. A ‘warming’ drink

I couldn’t bulk ‘warm drinks’ with ‘coffee,’ as coffee is just too damn important to me to be watered down like that… but I conclude with the option, that if you don’t like coffee, maybe tea is more your fancy?

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Or maybe a spicy chai latte can rub you totally up the right way

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No? Vino? There’s nothing like a good glass of red to get the fires burning

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Wanna get more creative? I give you, a combination of the last two options, Gluhwein…

https://www.chowhound.com/recipes/german-mulled-wine-gluhwein-30925

Which is German Mulled Wine. It’s a whole lot of fabulous spices and wine/alcohol, warmed up, and you will create some GREAT memories in the making and drinking of it, let me assure you.

If you can’t be happy with a glass of wine/mug of tea/brew of gluhwein, while the winds are raging outside your window, well then YOU CAN’T BE SAVED!

 

So, how did I go? Have I given you renewed (or maybe just NEW) inspiration to totally LOVE Winter? We may be about half-way through the coldest of seasons, but living in Melbourne, we ALL KNOW it’s going to totally screw us up right up ’til November, if we’re lucky.

So guys. Pick a point and get to it. If you think I’ve left anything out, drop me a line!

(I say as I finish off a warm mug of tea…)

 

 

Combing for a Cafe

Beachcomber Café
St Kilda Sea Baths, 18 Jacka Boulevard St Kilda

After our disappointing dinner at Lygon street the night before, we put the bad memories behind us, deciding to take advantage of the continuing summer weather by journeying to the beach.

St Kilda beach.

It was a weekend or two before the huge St Kilda festival, so fortunately for us it wasn’t overrun by people. As it were, it was still overrun by people when we arrived after lunch that Sunday. We found parking on the side of the road and headed on to do the walk, in between the sand and surf on one end, and an array of stylish eateries on the other.

We walked to see, and we were seen. We came across an adorable Rottweiler pup that we stopped to pat, before deciding to be the ones people watching as we stood in line at the Beachcomber Café. We had actually attempted other places, but the lines were actually ridiculous. It wasn’t the St. Kilda festival, and though it was a warm day, it was extremely windy out there near the bay. As one man walking past me observed to his friends “imagine how busy it would be if the water were actually good?”

Touche my friend.

We waited in line at the Beachcomber for about 5 minutes. There were perhaps 2-3 groups of people in front of us, but seats were found for them quickly. Obviously, the most desirable seats were those outside, looking out towards the water. And the best of the bunch was those right at the fringe of this outdoor seating, next to the enclosure that separated the café from the beach walkway.

When it came our turn to be first in line, the door man appeared, disappeared, and then came back with a whisper “did you have a booking?”

We replied no, apologetically. He skimmed the room and then said again in a low tone “there’s a table at the front over there with a reserved sign – you can take it.”

We gratefully thanked him and went on over to see that he had just given us, the best table. Prime position: outside, right next to the enclosure, perfect for people watching. What a star.

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We totally hadn’t planned for this trip, seeing as we had already eaten at home. And we had actually planned for coffee… but after seeing the food and drink being delivered to other tables, we knew we had to go that step further.

As a sharing snack, we got the Turkish Bread with Trio of Dips

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Hubbie got a 500ml Peroni, while I got an impressive Pina Colada, served out of a coconut no less

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While baby girl carried the coffee flag for us and got a babycino

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(note, no actual caffeine in there!)

The dips were really good, so incredible moorish especially considering we had already eaten. All the dips tasted great to me. We finished it off really easily between the three of us.

And my drink was strong. It was summery and everything I thought it would be served out of a coconut, but gee, it gave me a good hit.

Although it was windy it was still relaxing sitting out there, because the huge orange umbrellas covering each table shielded us, while the view before us of the people walking by and the water, gave baby girl plenty to look at and keep her busy while we enjoyed the surroundings. We chilled, orange-topped staff walked around keeping everyone happy, while amazing food and drinks were delivered to eagerly-awaiting beachgoers.

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We had had a spontaneous though terrific time there. Aren’t they the best ones though? We hadn’t been prepared for a meal otherwise we would have indulged there… next time, just another reason to go back.

Food: Just based on those dips, 8/10.

Coffee: Sadly not on this occasion, but baby girl’s babycino did look lovely

Ambience: Relaxed with style… how can you be anything else when you’re by the bay?

People: It was funny to observe, but I later saw the same door man sit another family close to us near the enclosure towards the end of our experience there… coincidence, or was he pro family? Ha ha. There were generally groups of people, but there were couples and friends and just everyone wanting to get a view of the water. The only off-putting thing was the group of 30ish guys sitting on the table next to us, as I easily deciphered their guy code and heard them as they ogled women walking past. Men like that are the reason I get overly paranoid walking alone. I just didn’t like it. But, Beachcomber can’t help that unfortunately. Perves will always come to beaches, to well, perve.

Staff: Really lovely and attentive, and the door man was just my favourite there wasn’t he?

Price: Under $60 for the lot, so it was definitely St Kilda prices. I did have a rather large and impressive drink, and Hubbie’s was more than his usual standard size of beer.

Advice: Either book for front seat, beach-view dining, or come at a time of day where there may not be many people queueing up. When we arrived post 2pm, the line was getting smaller, and soon after we were seated it was non-existent. Either way, wherever you sit you will see the water, the people, and smell the fresh sea air.

In a nutshell: We all loved this place for many reasons, and all the important ones: the atmosphere, the location, the view, and the food and drinks. The current menu does not list the Turkish Bread with Dips, however I’m fairly certain that the other items on the menu should not fall short.

These people live up to their name, as they have definitely identified something of value that people will keep coming back for. Because we will.

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

Cafe Mari-tapas

Café Maritana
1 Flinders Parade Barwon Heads

From the beginning, there were very high hopes for this restaurant.

I had seen it listed high on the Urbanspoon Barwon Heads list. We had originally wanted to have dinner there on our 2nd night at Barwon Heads, which was a Monday, but upon calling them I discovered they weren’t open Mondays.

So then, it was to be our last night there, a Tuesday night.

I called after midday that Tuesday, and an initially-sounding poshy lady answered the phone. After requesting a table for 2 adults and a toddler, she asked me if we had been there before, explaining it was no BYO as they were fully licenced.

She then asked how I had heard about them. I said intentionally, vaguely “oh, online. Some restaurant web site.” (Never mind Urbanspoon is a favourite on my toolbar).

“Like Urbanspoon?” she asked.

“Yeah, something like that.” Tee hee hee. I can’t reveal my blogger identity!

She then softened and took on a friendlier tone as she explained that Urbanspoon had been displaying some incorrect trading hours information for the restaurant, and my phone call must have meant they had rectified it. I did know what she was talking about, as their listing had led me to believe they were open on Monday. Also though, I’m a bit of a detective so I don’t rely solely on one website to help me find
what I’m after. When I want something, I enter stalker-FBI territory.

We had already had a great, fantastic night at Beach House the previous night. I wasn’t expecting another night like that. Although the Café Maritana web site mentioned Italian-style tapa dishes that I was really excited about, I wasn’t expecting that the entire night and the atmosphere and the food and the staff and the EVERYTHING, would equal that. It wasn’t likely, and I didn’t want to get my hopes up only to then be let down.

However, my hopes were up. Because it was our last night there, at Barwon Heads. In just less than a week we’d be back at work, our holidays over, and I’d be thinking of our next getaway. I was saying “I just want good food,” but I was lying. I wanted MORE.

We arrived at 6:30pm. We were positioned right near the front door, near a window that overlooked the Barwon Heads Bridge over the Barwon River. I had the view, and it was great.

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The staff were immediately appealing and friendly, very much so to baby girl. Phew, it was a good start. Also, there was already a families in there as well as a group of older women. Even with just those, it seemed echoey. We were sooooo relieved.

The woman who I’m guessing was the boss-lady, and quite possibly the one I spoke to on the phone, very quickly explained the menu concept to us. The menu was comprised of many share dishes, and diners were to tick with the pen supplied what dishes they wanted, and they would then slowly come out in a grazing fashion, the order at which they came out decided completely upon by the chef. I liked this. It was interesting, different, and would keep us guessing.

Boss-lady helped Hubbie work out what beer he should choose, and I got a lovely Jack Rabbit Pinot Grigio. Following that we started to receive the 5 share dishes we had ordered. First up was the –

Saganaki and Chorizo

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I am not the biggest fan of chorizo, but I loved this with the cheese. The saganaki was salty, and the chorizo was a nice meaty offset. With a squeeze of some lemon, this was made a very simple, yet divine dish. Warm, tasty, various complimenting flavours… I could have had more. We ate it up quickly.

Next up was the Garden (Green) Salad

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By name the garden salad sounded simple, but it was oh-so-yum. So yum and fresh. It’s made me think differently about salads to be honest, and now I want to reinvent the way I do salads because of that salad! Salads don’t have to be boring! This one had yellow, green and red tomatoes, fresh lettuce and feta cheese that wasn’t overpowering, and I say this not because I don’t like cheese (I LOVE CHEESE) but because I was surprised it didn’t have a stronger feta taste. As it was it totally blended in to the other ingredients.

Then, came the Beer Battered chips

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These were the majority of baby girl’s meal! They were great, but as chips go kind of what I would have expected, nothing out of the ordinary or special to be honest. They came with aioli on the side, and I did notice the darker than usual chip colour, at first wondering if the oil they used was as fresh as it should be, and even Hubbie thought the same. But we both realised that perhaps it was the batter that made it look darker, and I had reason to question and compare, as the fries we’d gotten at Beach House the previous night had been golden and crisp.

Fourth of our selections was the Eye Fillet with a beetroot salad

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It was cooked perfectly, pink and moist in the middle, however the marinade on the outside had made it char slightly whilst grilling. Still lovely, but I had preferred the one I’d had the night before. This was Hubbie’s primary dish though, so I didn’t mind.

And finally… the Garlic Prawns

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My dish came last: the garlic prawns in broth. Yum. The prawns were beautifully warm, hot even, kept so in the broth, and there were some hard pieces of bread on the side. With the carb overload on the beer battered chips, my initial response was to leave most of the bread, as by this stage I was starting to fill up. However all that garlic-y prawn-y liquid looked too good to waste, so I decided to do what was clearly suggested to me by the meal and dip some bread into the broth. The flavour of the prawns kept well in the hard bread made soggy, and surprisingly I had most of the bread this way! It made it very edible. This prawn dish was just superb.

I think the order of arrival was spot on. It wasn’t in order in terms of where they had been on the menu, but in terms of what you should graze on first, it was perfect.

We were on a bit of a roll. Our dishes had been great, and the ambience and staff were matching too. The restaurant had steadily filled up post 7pm, and there were more families in there as well as couples. Generally, more of an older crowd were in at this time, and happily, at least one person from each party smiled at baby girl as they walked by us near the entrance. It was hard to ignore her there, what with her waving at them on arrival and reaching out and trying to grab people! They were all so lovely though. The volume of people made the noise in there even more so, so we were blending in really nicely.

Our waitress was really very friendly, and so sweet to baby girl. She acknowledged her all the time, even doing a little peek-a-boo with her as she stood in the kitchen where baby girl had spotted her. She was genuinely sweet and friendly, and this makes a difference too, as you can spot pretension and fake-friendliness a mile away. She was a breath of fresh air.

Unlike Annie’s, this place just had a happy, more jovial mood, and as Hubbie observed, even one of the crankiest looking diners sitting nearby, an older man, smiled when baby girl started her usual squeals of delight.

I wondered: was it the place, the vibe that was different? Was it the fact that people are more relaxed at the end of the day and more allowing of noise emanating from young children, more so than at the start of the day when they need a little longer to get used to short outbursts? Did dinner at Maritana win out over brekkie at Annie’s solely due to the time of day? That may have had a little to do with it, if I’m going to allow that tiny out for Annie’s. But it wasn’t the only thing that made it different. Without a doubt, the feel at Café Maritana was far more welcoming, and I guess I’ll know for sure next time we’re in town and we head over for breakfast to confirm.

We couldn’t fit much more in after all that food, but it was our last night so we had to have our fave, the affogato

And I just couldn’t go past my old faithful, the chocolate mousse

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They arrived as Hubbie was walking baby girl around outside to give her a high-chair break, and having had such an amazing night so far, in all aspects, I was slightly horrified when the affogato was set down at the table, like this:

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Coffee was already poured over it. (If you don’t understand my horror, click here for an explanation). I tried to keep in mind that everything else had been great, trying to still the disappointment that was brewing inside. I waited for Hubbie to return and we exchanged a bit of a look. However, he didn’t seem too fussed as he tasted it, informing that it was spectacular. I had to agree. Even the presentation, though very simple, was done in a rather rustic look, much like the French old-school style that was evident throughout the restaurant, with little French mementos and Parisian city-landscape decals planted on the windows, and the big barrel that sat near the front entrance making you feel like you’d just sat down at a winery on that side of the world.

But still…. I really would have liked to taste the coffee on its own first.

The choc mousse was nice, and at one point I found it a bit much on top of all those share meals in my tummy, but then I think I got used to it and I even found it quite light to eat. I ate almost all of it before hitting a food-wall, which is when I got Hubbie to help me out.

The nice touch that took the restaurant from evening to night was the string of fairy lights that turned on above us, scattered across the ceiling in a romantic fashion, and surprisingly a movie was also projected onto the wall near me, an older movie that I didn’t catch, but I saw Audrey Hepburn and could immediately understand the old-school feel they were trying to emulate with it. I found it interesting how they did appear to go from family-friendly to romantic and still keep everyone happy throughout the night.

Food: 9/10. Taste and presentation, as well as the premise, were on the money.

Coffee: 7.5/10. It tasted good, I just needed to try it on its own!

Ambience: Fantastic, perfect for us. It was busy, family-friendly, yet was still able to retain some sense of intimacy and romanticism as the night wore on… maybe due to the fairy lights, the movie on the wall, or Audrey?! It had a lively happy vibe.

Staff: Great, exceptional. From our waitress to boss-lady, even to the chef who smiled over at baby girl’s shrieks, they were all AWESOME.

People: Family crowd, older couples, mid-40 couples, making way for slightly younger couples and smaller groups as the night wore on (maybe the fairy lights wooed them in :))

Price: Actually, pretty decent considering what you’re getting. Our bill came to $136, slightly less than what we’d paid at Beach House the previous night. And that total included 5 share meals, 4 drinks and 2 desserts. Not bad. The most expensive meal on our bill was the eye fillet, and at $26, for what you’re getting, even with the ‘share’ serve, it was a steal. This place isn’t expensive at all, maybe mid-range I’d say. Definite value for money here.

Advice: Book ahead. I think everyone generally likes that. You can sit inside, or in the two outdoor areas on the sides of the restaurant. Go on a lovely day, so you can work off your scrumptious meal with a short stroll across the road at the park, or the beach.

In a nutshell: Italian-style tapas is something that excited me, and I’ll keep thinking of them for a long time after, until we get a chance to go back and sample some more amazing share meals. We’ll definitely breakfast here next time we’re in town. The price and staff and ambience and amazing location are all the bonuses that make this the best place to dine at in Barwon Heads. Hands down.

Cafe Maritana on Urbanspoon

Affogatos rock at the Swish Beach House

Beach House Barwon Heads
48 Hitchcock Avenue Barwon Heads

At first, I didn’t want to go into this restaurant. I was dressed up, perhaps a bit too much for the beach locals, and felt that I would stand up insurmountably against everyone else there. People looked casual sipping their drinks and watching people walk by at the front of the premises Parisian style, and I was actually, inwardly groaning as we walked up into the restaurant.

There was not much up our food-alley on offer on our second night there at Barwon Heads. We had parked ourselves once again along Hitchcock Avenue: we had already dined at Barwon Orange, and wanted to try something different; Annie’s was closed that night, and the one I had tried to book before discovering they weren’t open on Monday’s was Café Maritana. That we would discover the following night. At the Rocks had too many recent bad reviews on Urbanspoon for me to want to risk throwing our holiday dollars away there, and everything else in close proximity was either closed, or too cas. We weren’t going to have fish and chips. We wanted to sit in nice surroundings, and eat and relax for a couple of hours.

Hubbie convinced me in. I ignored the looks and walked behind him, trying to hide behind baby girl. I love dressing up, but I hate staring. I can’t stand it. So what if I’m dressed up? You don’t have to ogle.

I was immediately relieved and impressed when I saw the interior. This, was much fancier. In fact, by looking at the exterior, I never would have guessed the interior would have looked like this. The tables and chairs were a dressier version of the outside, with a large bar in the middle of the room and ample space to be seated. Even so, we were greeted by a serious lady who asked if we had booked. Was this a thing in Barwon Heads? As someone said on Urbanspoon, this isn’t Melbourne. This place certainly had the space to fit us, and nearby empty tables didn’t seem to have a reserved sign. In fact, as we had learned the previous night at Barwon Orange, even in that smaller space they had been able to sit us. Fortunately, she seated us, and so become one unexpectedly great night.

Inside it was swish, but the beachy vibe was still there with huge leaf-like fans across the ceiling. Even the people dining in there were more stylish, wanting to make a meal out of the night, as it were.

We ordered drinks and baby girl’s meal first, and I informed our lovely young waitress if they could bring out her meal ASAP – they didn’t have to deliver it with ours. It came surprisingly quick, right after our drinks came, and conveniently right on time as she was starting to fuss.

Mini steak, shoestring chips, garden salad with tomato sauce

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It was $12, so cheap yet so large! We fed her and kept her happy, using her leftovers as our entrée. Hubbie was pleasantly surprised with how succulent her steak was, and said “If our meals are anything like this…!”

I’d ordered an Almost Heaven cocktail, and the name pretty much summed it up for how the night was to become. It wasn’t overwhelmingly beautiful-looking, served just in a tall glass, but it was fresh and summery, and suited the night to a T.

Almost Heaven – Passionfruit infused vodka, Chambord, passionfruit Tiro

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We had ordered something different, different from our usual anyway. I usually go for a pasta, seafood or chicken dish, while Hubbie happily gets his steaks with veggies/chips/salad. Instead, I ordered the

Char grilled Eye fillet, with French fries and a garden salad

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While Hubbie ordered the Confit pork belly, with a rice noodle & crips vegetable salad in ‘Chowhouse’ chilli dressing

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The eye fillet was a very big and thick piece, and for my request of medium-to-well cooked with no blood, looking at it as it arrived on our table I wasn’t feeling confident it had been fulfilled. Even cutting into it and seeing the red ooze out, I went “oh no.” But then I realised that the red was just the juices, not in fact the blood, and the inside was very acceptably cooked: in fact, my butcher Hubbie very assertively said that given the size and request, it was cooked to perfection. Farrrrr. He said perfect? And after I tasted it, I couldn’t agree more. Well you’d hope so for $41.

It had a great flavour, and although the porcini and red wine butter was very distinctive in taste, I actually loved it, and was remembering the taste days after the meal. I had crisp fries and salad on the side, and happily ate it all. The salad was like the salad we’d tasted on baby girl’s plate, crisp and so-fresh tasting. It’s so hard to get a fresh salad nowadays. And the tomatoes, actually TASTED like a tomato, straight from the garden.

Hubbie’s meal of pork belly was baked confit-style, and so he wasn’t used to eating it a different colour than the usual grilled-style colour he gets. However it was soft and flavoursome, and he thoroughly enjoyed the Asian style salad on the side which had sweet and spicy characteristics. The combination was good, different yet still enjoyable.

Considering we had both ordered different meals to our usual choices, at a first-time restaurant for us, and been happy with the results, I thought of as a very good outcome. It’s hard to win at that, but we did. All the food was soon gone, even baby girl’s with our assistance.

I was feeling really content after my meal, but not overly-full like I’d felt the previous night. We decided to do it, and boy were we happy when we both ordered and got this:

Affogato – Genovese espresso, vanilla ice cream, liqueur of choice, hazelnut biscotti

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While baby girl got scoops of vanilla ice cream. At only $3 a serve, why the hell not?

I had requested bailey’s on the side while Hubbie had asked for cointreau. The presentation of the ice cream with coffee on the side, a shot of liqueur to the other side, and a biscuit in the ice cream, was PERFECT. It looked divine, and it TASTED divine. I loved the biscuit. LOVED LOVED LOVED it. Tell me where you buy it and I’m buying it in bulk. Beautiful accompaniment to the coffee, a great crunchy and nutty texture. YUM.

The only fault with this dish, that kept it from being a 10/10, was the quantity of coffee. The quality was excellent, but there was just that little bit too little coffee in the cup. But if that’s the only fault, you know they’re doing well.

Everything went superbly that night. Along with our amazing food, our waitresses, in particular our main one was very, very nice and friendly, including to baby girl, and it was on that night we were starting to realise just how much of a difference that makes to her. When she shrieks, she does it out of joy, or for attention, and with the waitresses actually responding and smiling at her, as the other very friendly nearby diners were, she was absolutely rapt. She was a happier baby, which made our time there much, much happier. Some people may not care much for ratings on ambience and the nature of the staff and the people who frequent the restaurants we go to, but trust me, with children in tow, these things are vital. Because if your child is happy with you, your experience will be all the more enjoyable. Especially with children, friendliness matters.

The waitresses here seemed nicer than those at Barwon Orange (and s!&t all over the ones at Annie’s – sorry to be so frank), and maybe that was solely because they had actually smiled and spoken to her. I don’t need waiters to pick up my girl and twirl her around. I just want them to acknowledge her with a smile, when she smiles and waves at them. I want her growing up knowing that there are good people in this world. I don’t think that’s too much to ask for.

The friendliness of those around us, along with the more spacious nature of the restaurant, meant that even when baby girl shrieked with glee at all the attention she was getting, it was drowned out, meaning no chefs were looking over from their kitchens this night. LOL. Family-friendly, tick.

Food: 8.5/10. Simple food, done well. I like how the colour of our fries was golden, meaning fresh oil. That affogato… OMG. Almost 10/10 on its own.

Coffee: 8.5/10. Would like to try their cappuccinos one day, if their short blacks are anything to go by.

Ambience: Fantastic for families. Big and loud, but still that bit special and fancy.

Staff: Apart from the door-lady, our waitresses were very friendly and very nice. Our main waitress was constantly on-the-go, yet despite this still managed to give attention to baby girl. At one stage she was so busy she forgot to bring us our dessert menu, but we totally didn’t mind as we were having the best time. She didn’t forget the other crucial thing though, which was the smiling of course. 🙂

People: Fancier inside, but really lovely. Two large groups of people were seated near us throughout the night, and both times they were all so nice, and unexpectedly giving baby girl loads of attention. I mean LOADS. This was baby girl’s night, she was loving it. This kept her distracted, occupied and busy, which made things easier for us, and a distinguishable key in the success of the night.

Price: Well, we ordered 3 meals, 3 desserts, and 3 drinks. Some large, some small. For a total of under the mid $100s, which was expected. On key, I think, price-wise.

Advice: Book in advance. I think this is a Barwon Heads thing. Or a holiday-period thing. Or a Summer thing. Either way, just book, anywhere in Barwon Heads. And that’s it. Nothing else. Loved it.

In a nutshell: Simple food, served well and fresh and wholesome, in a great bustling environment that’s still fancy enough for those wanting something finer – just dine inside if you want fancy. We were really happy with our night, our meals, and how happily everyone there responded to our baby girl. A lot of great memories were made on that particular night in Barwon Heads, at Beach House Barwon Heads, which means we’ll look back on it fondly. We will definitely go back on our next visit in town, and I will end on this note: Thank God I didn’t let the exterior form my final opinion on dining there.

There’s a good moral for ya. 😉

Beach House Barwon Heads on Urbanspoon

Worthy Drive to Ambrosia

Ambrosia Café Bar Foodstore
Shop 13, 84 Bemersyde Drive Berwick

We weren’t expecting much for lunch on that hot Monday. We were in Berwick, on the other side of town to see a potential new car for me, and needed to get to an eatery quickly as baby girl was starting to get really irritable; and honestly, having been walking around in the uncovered persistent heat of the car yard, so were we.

I had perused Berwick eateries on Urbanspoon the day before, so I knew some names that rated up high on the leaderboard. When I searched for ‘local cafes’ on my phone, Ambrosia wasn’t too far away from our location, and I remembered it sitting high and pretty on the café-Berwick list.

We almost didn’t go in. It was more me and my anxiety and paranoia than anything else. The restaurant/café/bar/foodstore looked fancy from the outside, and with baby girl’s incessant cries of “not happy!” I worried that the place would not cater to the family crowd. I was worried her shrieks would annoy the other diners, and that we would get those dreaded ‘looks.’ Hubbie however liked what he saw, and pushed us inside.

I was so relieved when the waiter who immediately came up to us upon entry offered a high chair. Phew. Well clearly they were prepared for kids, in some shape or form.

It was noisy, and busy. The noise could drown out the sound of baby girl’s impatient yells. Uh yeah, no. That’s not possible. However we didn’t receive any looks even with diners nearby, and I think the nearby wedding function underway in the adjoining section of the restaurant was keeping the attentions of everyone occupied and elsewhere.

We were seated near this funky-looking picture

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Kind of tucked away. Right to my liking on that anxiety-riddled day. Not hidden away, it was just a little cozy corner.

We ordered Warm Flatbread with Dips for baby girl

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I got the lunchtime special which was the Roasted Pumpkin and Spinach Risotto with Chicken and Parmesan

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Which came with a glass of bubbly for $19.50. I thought this was a great deal, since I was going to get the same risotto from the regular menu, which outside the lunchtime hour went for about $24-25. And I got it cheaper, with alcohol. I did wonder if the ‘special’ menu meant the portions were different, smaller. I’ll take a punt and say yes. Still, by the end of our visit I didn’t leave in the slightest bit hungry.

Hubbie ordered the Ambrosia Burger: fried onion, Swiss cheese, bacon, & egg w a salad of homemade dill cucumber & beetroot, aioli, served with fries & salad

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And his usual pint of beer.

We had asked for the flatbread to arrive first, as we wanted to get baby girl eating and becoming her usual content self again. Our mains arrived first however, and we had to ask for the flatbread which had apparently been forgotten. We didn’t mind, because there were things from our plate to feed to baby girl. Luckily. Our flatbread arrived soon after and by that stage we were all very happily digging in.

The flatbread was warm and delicious, clearly super fresh since we know it hadn’t been ready! It came with a pumpkin and a beetroot dip that was fresh and tasty, but to be honest I love eating warm/fresh breads as they are, on their own, no extra condiments/dressings/sauces/dips required. Baby girl loved it too, and happily chewed on a piece and was kept busy for a while, while we had our mains.

My risotto was creamy, with a good hint of garlic. I loved it, I could easily have had more. I would have liked more chicken too, and like I said, I reckon if ordered outside the lunchtime menu, I may have gotten more of a serving. It did come a bit lopsided though, looking as if someone had poured it into the dish only to then teeter it on an edge and have the whole lot slide to one side. The taste was very yum despite this.

Hubbie’s burger was great too, as I tried a few bites. Wholesome burger patty with, egg, bacon, and an interesting tasting relish that I couldn’t put my finger on the taste. He loved his burger, and all the food on the table hit the spot for us very hungry bunch of car-shoppers. We scoffed it down happily.

Because we’re on holidays, Hubbie said “f$&k it” and we ordered cake and coffee too. Well the coffee was a must, the cake was a “I’m gonna squeeze this in I don’t know where” cake.

We shared a Tiramisu

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Hubbie got his latte; I got my cappuccino

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And baby girl got her babycino

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Before ordering our coffees we had gotten very excited when Hubbie had noticed the coffee beans displayed on one of their counters. It read Melba, and it’s the brand we buy for our own coffee machine at home, from a great organic café in our fave shopping haunt. So we had high hopes for our daily caffeine fix. However, hubbie’s latte was too milky, which is why there is no photo to display above – he was disappointed. He says it still tasted alright, but it wasn’t strong enough. I admit, it looked rather pale. My cappuccino was great, and though like hubbie’s latte it wasn’t strong, I did enjoy the smoothness. So we’re not sure if Melba was the coffee used, but if it was, it wasn’t made like our café back home does it.

Baby girl LOVED her babycino, and got upset multiple times that we didn’t spoon-feed it to her fast enough.

The tiramisu also seemed to be lacking some of the caffeine strength we were expecting to get. It was good, just nothing spectacular. I have had better.

What I did notice upon looking at our bill later, is that the babycino came in at $1.50. Now that just slightly peeved me off, as it did hubbie. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, I don’t think any dining establishment should be charging for babycinos. All it is is frothed milk with chocolate sprinkles. Now I know there are some out there that come with bells and whistles – a skewer of baby marshmallows on the side, a special gingerbread cookie – and I’ll admit that this one we had seemed to have chocolate milk beneath the froth, with a marshmallow on the side. So ok. But still, I kinda think the least these establishments can do, is not charge already-paying customers for a tiny portion of milk. The babycino probably costs them 5 cents, if that much. Even if you throw in a marshmallow, I think, like I said, not charging is the least they can do for paying customers. I don’t go around expecting things for free, but sometimes giving back, for something so tiny, is more a requirement than a gracious act.

Despite this, we were really happy with where we had ended up, and Hubbie was particularly happy with my Urbanspoon detective work. It was a cool and funky place, it was busy for a Monday in early Jan over the holiday season, and there were a lot of staff on hand meaning we were looked after and our requests were promptly met, but that was probably because of the wedding taking place. That too gave it a nice atmosphere. The waiters were lovely and accommodating, waving to baby girl and giving her attention every single time she cried out for it or waved to them, and God knows that happened at least 20 times.

I was impressed with the bathroom, as they had a handwash that read ‘organic and natural ingredients,’ ‘made in Melbourne.’ That along with the fake lavender in the corner, gave it a lovely atmosphere. I wouldn’t mind getting me some of that organic Melbourne stuff for my own bathroom! Nothing like promoting your own.

Awards outside the bathroom door indicated that this place was as good as we indeed had experienced, a place that all people should check out and enjoy.

Food: 8/10. If that tiramisu were up to scratch, my score would have been higher.

Coffee: 7.5/10. I wanted a bit more strength.

Ambience: Busy due to the nearby wedding function underway, and loud due to the volume of people which suited me just fine every time baby girl screamed…. which happened even beyond her lunch. It wasn’t an overwhelming constant vibe though, it was still very chilled despite all that.

Staff: Kind and friendly. Accommodating to baby girl’s demanding attention-seeking! However two waiters did trip over the legs of her high chair a total of 3 times, nearly causing the high chair to topple… but it didn’t. It is some kind of precarious looking chair, maybe new ones are needed that aren’t so trip-inducing? 😉

People: We had a family near us and some older people, as well as the whole wedding party. I think it caters for all sorts, as we certainly witnessed in the crowd that day.

Price: Mid-range to up-side. The combination of café-restaurant-bar-foodstore makes the price acceptable, as the awards attest to as well.

Advice: A great place to dine at, and I noticed there was an outdoor section that was inhabited primarily by the wedding guests that would have been lovely to eat at, seeing as it was such a sunny day. Go outside if it’s nice out. If your baby is in their old high chairs, a hand on the tray when someone walks behind won’t do no harm. Don’t get the tiramisu if you’re relying on a real coffee hit, but the other cakes behind the glass looked smashing. Maybe the New York baked cheesecake would have gone down better. The mains are yum-city, and if you’re coffee addicts like us, make it EXTRA STRONG.

In a nutshell: It’s a shame this place isn’t on our side of town, as with its set-up, atmosphere, the food and drinks on offer and the style it conveys, it’s right up our alley. If we go back to Berwick to buy that car, we’ll be lunching there for sure.

Look out for the red GTS. You’ll know we’re there 🙂 

Ambrosia Cafe Bar Foodstore on Urbanspoon

Happiness Is… #7

Three nights ago, putting up the Christmas tree. Listening to Buble and Mariah in the background, doing their own equally fantastic versions of ‘All I Want for Christmas,’ decorating the branches, putting up festive expressions of cheer throughout the house… so freaking excited.

Yes, I am that person who enjoys Christmas songs. Suck it.

I get all happy and nostalgic-emotional at this time of year when I enter shops and they’re playing Christmas tunes… bless.

Christmas + Summer + Holiday Season = Good Times 🙂

(How do you Winter Christmas-goers cope? With lots of warm alcohol I bet 😉 )

Blissful bellies in Grey Port Melbourne

Grey & Bliss
193-197 Bay Street Port Melbourne

The sign at the front of this place had me at the word “free.”

‘Mon and Tues Cup special, free champagne with any main meal.’

We quickly located a waitress and once she had confirmed for us they had high chairs, we made ourselves comfortable on an outside table beneath an umbrella.
It was Melbourne Cup day, and we were looking for a nice place to lunch. The main criteria in making our choice was the requirement of ample space (many eateries we’d walked by were packed), the aforementioned high chair, and an interesting looking place.

The addition of bonus booze sealed the lunchtime deal at Grey & Bliss.

It was warm yet windy, but still the lack of sunny stillness didn’t keep the people away from Port Melbourne that Tuesday. Baby girl was given a very cute high chair, and we quickly made our orders (we were hungry).

Now you have to humour me with my description of our meals. I forgot to take a photo of the menu, and I can’t find any recent menu descriptions up on the net, so here goes:

For lunch I had the lobster bisque risotto with tempura prawns

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While Hubbie had the pulled pork with red cabbage on rye bread, with tempura veggies

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Along with a side of chips

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and accompanied by a glass of bubbly of course.

The presentation of the meals was stunning. We were hungry, and seeing such huge, visually-pleasing meals in front of us was very satisfying. My risotto had a decent kick to it, leaving me with a spicyness at the back of my throat, and overall it was creamy and rich, filled with radishes, spinach and cherry tomatoes. I loved the tempura prawns on top.

My confusion came with the term ‘lobster bisque.’ I was expecting some form of lobster, and couldn’t see or taste any in my risotto. I later googled the term ‘lobster bisque’ to properly understand what it was I had been eating, to learn that bisque is a highly seasoned soup strained from crustaceans. I found a few recipes that mention using the broth of the lobster, but the end result always seems to be adding the ‘meat’ of the lobster back into the dish. Unless it totally dissolved into my risotto, I couldn’t find it. Still, my risotto had a different yet great taste which I will attest to the bisque. Would have loved some meat, but we’ll just leave that discussion there.

Hubbie’s meal looked great, and apparently was just as great taste-wise. He left most of the healthy-looking bread behind only because he was struggling to finish his chips and was opting for them rather than the bread. I don’t blame him. The chips were so yummy, and accompanied by tomato sauce and aioli – oh my gosh that aioli was the bomb. I could have eaten it out of a jar. His meal also came with a spicy/herby dip, that was also very good.

All these rich foods left us feeling really, really full for a long time afterwards (maybe the hidden lobster meat filled me up more than I realised 😉 ). The meals were great to eat, and great to look at… and we would definitely go back. But we were soooo full. Maybe not so much creamy food for me next time.

Food: 9/10. What I loved about the simple menu was that it was a little different, offering up interesting menu options while still appealing to the palate that shies away from overly adventurous food. Visually appealing, generous, and very yum.

Coffee: Not this time folks… spewing because I noticed some really rave reviews on Urbanspoon regarding their coffee… but I just couldn’t stomach it after all that food.

Ambience: Relaxed, as we were on Bay Street, and I didn’t get a good look at the interior but from what I could see it looked edgy and cool. I liked how one ‘apparent’ entry/exit point was blocked off by positioning a small table in front of it which a couple were dining on. Imagine people eating in the middle of a narrow doorway. Different.

Staff: Also relaxed, and friendly. At first I wasn’t too sure about one of the guys who came to take our order. But upon returning with our hot jug of water for baby girl’s food (it came ASAP as requested) he struck up a bit of a convo about kids and the dangers of boiling water. Scary thought. We were also served by another waitress who was lovely and accommodating.

People: Bit of a mix – I saw an old man drinking coffee inside by the window, another middle-aged couple, a few younger people stopped by at the end of our meal who sounded like they were on a blind date, and friends meeting up.

Price: $49-ish, which also included Hubbie’s beer. I was happy with that, given the quality and amount of food on offer, as well as the fact we got free champagne for both our meals – WINNING!

Advice: If you love your coffee like me, easy on the rich meals, just so you can actually fit the caffeine into your system.

In a nutshell: A great place that stands up against the other fantastic Bay Street/Port Melbourne eateries. This is a terrific ‘go to’ when you find that other more known places are packed, as there appears to be plenty of room inside. Oh what the hell… go there even if the others are quiet.

Grey & Bliss on Urbanspoon