Coffee in the land of the Docks

A work colleague quite jokingly suggested to me, after I was complaining about some coffee in our work surrounds, that I should do a review of coffee in the area…

She laughed. The wheels turned in my head. Little did she know my alter ego is SmikG.

Never one to run away from a creative coffee-inspired project, and despite all my other ongoing creative endeavours, I decided to do a full-fledged rundown on a variety of Docklands cafes, from the month of July to August of 2016. I have provided my personal experience of the cafés based primarily on the above month experiences, but also have drawn upon my earlier visits there to help paint a greater picture, where relevant. I have a ‘in a nutshell’ section at the end of each review, however with some of these I have also added in a ‘September Update,’ which mentions improvements with any cafés that previously held negatives.

And at the very end of the following 8 café reviews, lies my final say… so keep reading ’til the end!

So if you frequent the land of the Docks, and enjoy your caffeinated beverages to the point that you need to have the BEST one, read on…

 

Story Coffee & Foodstore
700 Bourke Street Docklands

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This café is positioned just on the concourse in between the shops and cafes bordering the Bourke street side of Etihad Stadium, and Southern Cross Station. It’s dimly lit with high ceilings and a touch of industrial style, providing temporary relief from the hustle and bustle of work life. And this place definitely caters to its known demographic, providing a wide range of food and coffee that you can conveniently takeaway to eat at your work desk.

Breakfast provisions like muesli, juices and yoghurts, alongside lunch items such as sliders, cream cheese and smoked salmon bagels and bacon and egg brioche buns adorn the glass display. Their food sells out quickly with much more constantly in production, and their sweet side doesn’t fail to disappoint the eyes either. Doughnut bombs, pastries and other custard-y things are on show next to the register where you order in the middle of the shop. There is no usual bench separating the cashier from the customer here, with the person taking your order standing beside you as they punch in your large cap with 1 thanks.

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The beans used are Dukes of course, since this is a relative of their Chapel Street café. A hipster-type with a long beard was making it that day, and looked seriously into the coffee making. The flavour of the coffee was very smooth, my best description being ‘gentle on the tongue.’ The only issue with their coffee is that it tends to be on the warm to lukewarm side, even if you sip it immediately after they have handed it to you. This is obviously upsetting in Winter time, since as soon as that Antarctic breeze wafts over you it loses a further 3 degrees, and then some as you walk on over back to work. And that’s the thing, if they are accommodating to the office crowd, possibly 99.9% of their clientele, supplying them with food and coffee to take and run away with, well they need to know that their coffee needs to be hotter. I’m not saying burnt. Hot doesn’t mean burnt. This applies in all seasons, but most particularly on the cold July morning that this review is based on.

The service is quick, making sure the orders keep coming in and out due to the high volumes of people and often long lines, but this is where the customer service fails, because in all of this they have forgotten ‘niceness.’ In particular the woman who served me for this review, she was brash at best, and when handing my colleagues coffee to him, hastily slid it across the bench to him. Woman, you are not Tom Cruise in Cocktail. Sliding a coffee cup like that is just a bit rude thanks. It kind of says ‘here; now get out.’

In a nutshell
Coffee: $4:30 for a large. Ordinary sized cup, I’ve seen larger given the description. Smooth taste, just slightly too lukewarm.
Food: Looks delish. Expensive, for corporate types. I mean, $8:50 for a medium sized bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon? I could eat two of those, easy.
Service: To be improved upon. Not speed, but kindness.
Last word: I hope the customer service improves because I like the place.

‘September Update’: Since my initial July review, a few things have improved… first the temperature. Coffee is hotter. Tick. Secondly, the service…though I got a few not-so-friendly greetings on one or two occasions afterwards, there are a few newbies there who are making the experience of ordering and collecting your coffee a joy (maybe there were observations and suggestions made by other slighted customers…?) so again, tick.

The cranky lady is still there, I think she’s just picked up her game.

This place also has consistently continued to produce amazingly smooth coffee, despite ALWAYS being busy, so a huge thumbs up by me 🙂

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

 

Hortus X 7 Seeds
131-141 Harbour Esplanade Docklands

Bang smack in the middle of Harbour Esplanade, across from AFL house and with views of the water, it’s hard not to miss this café reminiscent of a tented greenhouse that’s been plonked down amidst the greyness and height of the buildings surrounding it.

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And the display serves its purpose, with plans for the temporary café that was opened in March ’14 to be slated for an 18 month contract… seeing as it had surely passed that timeframe at time of writing, perhaps this means the impermanent looking space will be a regular amidst the Docklands coffee drinkers?

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It sure has gained steady traction in that time. With its large interior garden plantation growing up from the middle of the café, consisting of edible plants no less, the natural variety isn’t the only reason why people are coming far and wide to view this pleasing affront to the buildings beyond it.

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A fave with cyclists who are constantly riding past, you will also frequently see fellow work-goers using their spare time to borrow some paddles and ball for a free round of ping pong on the table outside. This independent space contains seating inside, bordering the coffee area and surrounding the large plant garden, as well as on the nifty and cute wooden stools and tables outside.

There is a lot of wood in this café, further adding to the natural glasshouse feel, which I just love.

It’s to be assured that Seven seeds is one of the coffees on offer, and with all of the above positive reviews I have just one negative.

The coffee size.

The only takeaway coffee size is a tiny cup, and I don’t even know if they consider that a regular but to me it’s a small. The coffee was incredibly strong upon first sip, evening out as I got halfway through. $4:30 is a decent price to pay for a little cup, yet the hipsters and bicyclists happily fork it out here.

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Pastries, pies and sweet treats also adorn the front counter (lycra from the bicyclists too), and from experience I can say that the sweet stuff is GOOD. I had a blueberry-something a while back, and it was incredibly moist and moorish, not at all mass-produce tasting, more like Nanna tasting.

In a nutshell
Coffee: Strong, but in too small a cup. I would go here more often if they up’d their takeaway sizes. Having said that the bean flavour is a bit too harsh for my liking.
Food: Amazing. It’s probably the food that would get me in there again rather than the coffee, and I would get it in a deal to save coin because this joint is on the $$$ end.
Service: Friendly, and sometimes hipster too. I’ll let you decipher what that means.
Last word: I like the concept, but just want an improvement on the coffee and cup size. Otherwise a great idea, and I hope they stick around.

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

 

Banc Café
2/800 Bourke Street Docklands

Aptly named as it sits on the ground level of the NAB building on the corner of Harbour Esplanade and Bourke Street, this high-ceiling-ed, wood-abundant, amply-spaced café sees its share of customers. It has also seen its share of owners, having changed hands in its time, which may or may not be its downfall… that’s yet to be seen, as only time will determine.

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This is probably one of the best spaces for a café, with the large floor to ceiling windows allowing in brilliant sun to heat up the inhabitants within. On a cold Winter’s day as you walk through any one of the two main revolving door entrances, the heat embraces you and tucks you away under it firm café grasp. A long counter displays your everyday assortment of takeaway lunch and breakfast items, including sweet treats and of course coffee. Think egg and bacon muffins, wraps, sandwiches, yoghurts and muffins. The interior is vast with many options to sit at, with the long communal table in the middle of the room, the smaller tables and chairs bordering the café, and also the seating area under the panelled stairs going up into the workspaces on higher levels! The wood fascination continues in yet another Docklands café, with beautiful warm tones everywhere, and in particular I love their long table sitting opposite the ordering counter, it’s like something out of a workman’s shed, lovingly restored and brought back to life.

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Their coffee is fairly consistent, though it has its up and down days at times – strong, generally pleasing, potent – as is their service. Which is where I lead back to my earlier point.

The first lot of owners from a few years back were extremely friendly, which is why the new owners and their staff draw such a strong comparison against. On a good day, they are ‘working a Monday.’ Which is to say, they are only mildly interested in your business and happiness in buying there. I used to frequent this café much more, before the rudeness and arrogance of the staff took shape. When I handed back the bottle that rolled away from the staff member who was angrily loading them into the fridge, and didn’t receive at least a glance of recognition (no thanks or smile at all), and my colleague had his name TOLD to him by another staff member who thought it amusing to poke fun at, and then many more of us from our work received a major superiority complex by the male staff there… well it grows tired. This place may never fail because of the sheer volume of NAB workers and other accompanying nearby businesses which keep it going… but it sure as hell wont flourish with that attitude either. They need to wake up and smell the gratitude coffee this crew.

The food here is ok, nothing fanciful, it fulfils its purpose. It’s more affordable than other places, and this could be its other saving grace. This could be a café that really takes off if some of its lacking components were up to scratch, and simply due to its favourable location both in terms of people volume and capacity to take in the sunlight, I can see this café making itself home to many a business lunch for a long time to come.

In a nutshell
Coffee: $3:70 for a medium coffee of decent-sized cup. Strong (sometimes harsh). Interesting flavour.
Food: Your standard café fare, but it comes up alright.
Service: Minimal care, plenty of ‘tude and ‘I can do without your business’ types.
Last word: The reasonably priced coffee for these parts is not enough to outdo the attitude that comes out of here.. but the Sun in Winter is reason enough. The rays coming through the window is often enough to melt any frosty stares that may come your way… if you so dare.

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

 

AFL House Café 
140 Harbour Esplanade Docklands

I don’t know why it took so long to get over to this café, only a short stroll from my work… oh hang on, I know. It’s the fact that you can’t see it from the main street, that may have something to do with it. Oh, and the fact it’s within AFL House, and you know, for many people it could be quite daunting to walk into an arena of this sort expecting a café to just ‘pop up.’

But it does. You walk through the doors, and immediately to your right just in front of reception you’ll see a little cart-like stand with quaint umbrella rooftop and everything. A few rolls and sweet things displayed in the case, but we don’t care: we came here for the coffee.

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The coffee is smooth, fairly ok, made even more so by the $3 price tag, the discount we received being from a neighbouring work place. Even so their prices are good compared to some other skyrocketing coffee prices happening in Docklands at the moment.

I’m extremely jelly that AFL house should have a cute little café like this offering coffee at such close proximity to its employees. And what a great idea too. For anyone coming into work there at their regular place of employment or visiting the premises for a meeting, the necessary and convenient coffee stop as you wait to be checked in is ideal. Hell it should be a prerequisite for businesses to offer their workers. And for those on a break or with more time to spare, you can sit by the window and watch the road and footpath traffic on the Harbour pass you by… or look past that all towards the boats, amusingly behind a fellow café competitor, Hortus X 😉

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In a nutshell
Coffee: $4:00 for a large coffee. Fairly smooth and non-offending. Lavazza.
Food: Some basic fare, if you need a selection of it keep walking into the Wintry winds outside.
Service: Really friendly, and I don’t think it was only because we are work neighbours, the guys looked pretty nice.
Last word: I’d be happy to go back there for the great service, decent coffee and the proximity to work… but their proximity is also the downfall, as the walk up there and back just doesn’t give us enough gossip time 😉

AFL House Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Blended Beard
818 Bourke Street Docklands

I was excited when my coffee email prompt to my colleagues one Friday morning resulted in one such colleague telling me she had discovered a new hipster café in the area – woo hoo! We hightailed it down Bourke street, past all the other eateries and so-so places ‘doing’ coffee, and I nearly clapped with glee when I saw the shop. She didn’t have to tell me we had arrived. The hipster vibe was all over the name: Blended Beard.

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My colleague commented that it looked a bit like Story, however I felt in Beard there were more metal tones in amongst the wood panelling the place, with copper a prominent theme too. Up at the counter it was a well-oiled production line of taking orders and making coffees, with about 4-5 people going through their paces. Beside the cash register was a display unit of lunch items such as sliders and soups, with some sweet things on top of the case exposed for all to point at. The pastries looked delish, the Nutella doughnuts and bombolones were looking fresh and very mmm-worthy, however my gripe of exposed food items at the counter hasn’t changed: anyone can cough at it, and breathe their Winter germs on it, and for that reason I don’t buy anything that’s exposed. Sure it looks good… but it looks better covered up. A pretty glass dome covering them yet still allowing customers to see what’s inside isn’t going to ruin the appearance.

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Behind us were a bunch of tables and chairs, and I could see there was a further walk-through into the Ericsson building that was connected to it, so this place would definitely get some much-needed foot traffic being a new cafe. The service was pleasant, one of the girls seemed to be focused on remembering her prior customers which was refreshing to see, and as well as being promptly served our coffees, they tasted good too. All three of us agreed, smooth and creamy, though I did find one little un-ground coffee particle at the end of my cup that ended up in my mouth, and I did notice upon drinking through it that there was a ground-coffee taste at times, as if some grounds had high-jacked the coffee tamper and jumped into my cup… I’ll forgive them this one slight due to all their other positives, as long as it stays a once-off slight.

But, taking advantage of the café bearded hipster image… gold. I love it.

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In a nutshell
Coffee: Smooth and creamy. Decently priced too – they had large and regular sizes, and the regular actually looked like a regular, not an itty-bitty teeny-weeny babycino cup that my daughter drinks from… $3.80. under $4? What?!
Food: Sliders, soups and sweet things. It appears they do breakfast too judging by their blackboard out front. Not too bad prices either, for a Docklands café… why I never…
Service: Genuine, and friendly. It looks like they’re trying to show their care factor, and I hope this continues.
Last word: In Winter, I gotta pray for a mildish day so that the longer walk over from our work isn’t made too depressingly cold… yet in Summer the walk along the water would be much-enjoyed 🙂 Which way do you look at it? I like the Bearded man, that is all. Great new find goes to this venue.

‘September Update’: This place has continued its consistency in terms of very pleasing coffee and fantastic customer service. One to watch.

Blended Beard Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Capri @ The Quays Café
New Quay, 28 Aquitania Way Docklands

The location of this café might make you think it is only for the use of local residents living in the apartments in the tall complex above, or accessible only to those visiting nearby… it is not. This café, positioned on a corner within viewing distance of the boats alongside New Quay, is a hidden gem worthy of discovering.

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I had originally and wrongly thought that this was a breakfast location solely for resident holiday-goers within the building to brunch at during their stay in this windy part of Melbourne. Turns out that the café sits on the ground floor of a multi-purpose architectural award-winning apartment building, and that ANYONE can come in for a bite to eat. And a takeaway coffee too.

Since discovering the place, all the times I’ve been here the service has been friendly. One of the guys there was so friendly on one occasion he was terrified (first day jitters?) but I always take softly to workplace jitters, rather than shyness clouded by affronting arrogance (Banc Café anyone?)

There is plenty on offer at this café alongside the Docks, with the large display case up the front showcasing a hefty dose of lunch fare, breakfast items (so many sit down here formally that I believe there may be a more extensive menu) and lots of sweet treats. Here is where you will find a decently-sized macaroon like nowhere else! They are fully licensed with plenty of bubbly on offer, though my visits there are always strictly caffeine-based, you know, being at work and all. I love the lighting, with the suspended lightbulbs strung throughout the café, and along the ample amount of small and big tables for you to sit at, there is a cute and cosy little nook where you can lounge at by the front door and wait for your coffee to be made, or just make yourself comfy reading some mags.

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The coffee comes in regular and large, and though the sizes aren’t really indicative of that – well the small is definitely a small, but the large I’d call a regular to be honest – the prices at least aren’t too ridiculous for coffee.

In a nutshell
Coffee: $3.70 for a small, $4:20 for a large… nice flavour, I don’t mind it, but I do realise they were generous with the sugar as my cap was also tasting quite sweet.
Food: There’s so much to choose from, from your everyday café lunch items such as rolls, sausage rolls, to more interesting kale quiches, and then there is a multitude of cakes which are really good eye-candy. The coconut cream cake looked amazing. The macaroons I will eat at some stage. There is so much quality-looking food, that I might just grab something for lunch from there tomorrow…
Service: Really friendly, part of the reason I like going there, apart from the decently priced coffee. And they’ve been consistently nice with that, despite seeing them being swept off their feet on a Sunday morning with an influx of customers checking out from their nearby accommodation, and having some brekkie right before/after they do their depart from the docks.
Last word: I am quite happy going to this café for either coffee or lunch or cake, and I haven’t even tried the food yet. The cosy corner and cute lightbulbs add a feel that remove you from the harsh unnerving elements of Docklands, and keep you cosily tucked away in a friendly atmosphere of calm and warmth.

Capri @ The Quays Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

De Gusto
766/768 Bourke Street Docklands

The reason for the / instead of the – in the address, is because there are in fact two separate De Gusto shops. One has a red sign, the other blue, both accessible only via Bourke Street, though there is the window in between the two cafes allowing fare to be passed through the eateries.

I’ve been frequenting this one for years. In fact, this is the place I first starting visiting at the beginning of my love-affair with coffee. Back then it was at the blue De Gusto, the more cas one, with a sandwich display, basic yet hearty brekkie fare, and of course coffee. A few small spaces to sit at by the window, but this was primarily a takeaway café.

Then after a while, and after trying out a few cafes in the Docklands vicinity, we went back to De Gusto – the red one now, that is. This café seemed like it catered for office folk, while the blue café (blue-collar) seemed to be aimed at the tradies building up the sky-rises in the city. The red café had sufficient seating and a wider menu. Coffee was still a main focal point, with decent cooked breakfasts, bagels, quinoa dishes and other fancy lunch sausage rolls and quiches up on offer. They were also into their smoothies, with a blackboard showcasing all their trippy-blended concoctions.

I speak in the past tense, because when this café was in its absolute prime, it was PEAKING. And the barista then, the daughter of the owner (the owner worked in the other red café, yet owned both) was absolutely brilliant, not only remembering your coffee order but your name, AND the correct spelling too! (extra points, as those with a ‘different’ name can attest to).

Sadly though, months ago it changed ownership, so the volume of people heading in has considerably dropped as they too like me and my work colleagues have noticed that the love and care, the knowledge of name and coffee preparation and just friendly atmosphere, has disappeared.

We still gave it a shot initially upon transfer, but after a few burnt coffees we left for other (coffee) grounds. We only decided to come back today, on the writing of this review, after hearing there was a new barista.

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Yes, new coffee lady. However, the café is sadly missing its vibe, both with its poppy and really old but awesome music it used to have. The coffee was ok, not burnt, but there is a flavour which I’m undecided about, so I don’t think I would go back when I have other more pleasurable cafes on offer.

There are still the smoothies, the lunch fares, and all the other things that used to inhabit the café of old. Just missing that love we used to feel, which kind of, is everything, and makes everything look and feel and taste that much more lovelier. If you are new to this café, you probably wouldn’t know the difference, and just regard it as a standard city café, nothing too spesh. And probably better it stays that way too, in your head, for their sakes anyway.

In a nutshell
Coffee: $4 bucks for a regular. And the regular is a good size too.
Food: Average city lunch fare – rolls, bagels, quiches and muffins.
Service: It’s nice. Nothing bad, no pretension, I just miss the old crew.
Last word: It’s a decent café, but I just can’t help comparing it to the old one and thinking it’s somebody that I used to know… a bit like Gotye…

‘September Update’: We have been here a few more times since, and there was yet another barista, who did not too bad of a coffee. Nothing to rave home about, but at least it was adequate. It’s still missing the vibe (and all the clientele) but this one may just come up in time…

De Gusto Café Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Mill & Bakery
Central Pier, Shed 9
161 Harbour Esplanade Docklands

The Mill was the first café to really excite us at work a few years back. It was only a short walk away, alongside the water’s edge looking out over the docked boats, with nearby fisherman stationed calmly on the boardwalk and waiting for a catch to excite their disposition. You cannot deny, the position of it is pretty. There is outdoor seating, and inside too there is a large communal table, a smaller round table, and chairs set up alongside the perimeter of the café with some looking out onto the waters beyond.

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This really is a beautiful little café: visually striking, a cross between French provincial and quaint Grandma’s cottage, the space is quiet and comforting, added to by the large window on one side of the café showing through to the bread-making process happening in the adjoining room. They make bread that you can buy in loaves, or in their rolls, and this authentic touch adds some further artisan class to the atmosphere.

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Alongside the coffee, they have delicious rolls, an assortment of VERY pretty almost (almost) too attractive to eat pastries and tiny cakes, and cute little bikkies or fudge sometimes abound the quarters too. It is all very pretty and fancy, and so too is the price… but it is worth it. The quality of the ingredients is apparent and very much valued. I’ve often had some of their rolls, and their pastries too, and can attest that the muffins, bombolone and danishes are amazing. You can tell the difference between a proper pastry place and a try-hard, and this is definitely the former.

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Where the food revels in its consistency, the coffee lacks. In fact, the only think consistent about the coffee is how inconsistent it is.

Back in the day there was a great manager/barista who hailed from France… her coffees were consistent and superb, however she couldn’t stay in the country due to Visa issues, and since her exit the coffee has been up and down depending on who makes it. On the day of this writing, the coffee was strong, and not bad in flavour.

But not bad doesn’t quite cut it always, does it?

The service has always been fairly straight-forward, and where others receive, how shall I call it, more personal service (?!) I’ve never really gotten more than a customer-produced smile. Yep, French lady was the best.

One of the advantages of this café is that it is open every day, even on weekends (yes! when I have to work a Sunday) and is even open, for us/those poor fools who need to work public holidays, on those sacred days too – though in case this does change in the future, best to confirm before heading down.

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In a nutshell
Coffee: A bit of a controversy amongst some of my work colleagues, when the price of a large coffee jumped from $4 to $4.50 overnight. Many were upset. (First world problems I know). The large is more a decent-sized average cup size, while the small (don’t you dare try to tell me it’s a regular) is just not cut out for my caffeine addiction. Flavour: definitely strong, not smooth.
Food: Amazing. Savoury or sweet, you won’t be disappointed.
Service: We’ll call this one ‘just enough.’ Sometimes you get a worthier smile. I think they might just be under-staffed.
Last word: This is a great place to revel in beauty, and calm yourself with watery views. If they improve on their coffee-making skills, alongside the already great food on offer, it will really be a café to be reckoned with.

Mill & Bakery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

THE FINAL SAY!
The most impressive and best-tasting coffee to date has come out of Story. If they keep their coffee temperatures just that little bit higher than what they started at, they can safely hold this top spot of superior Docklands coffee within the area.
However a very close second comes the coffee from Blended Beard, and with their friendly and caring service and delicious menu, Story should watch its heels very carefully…

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I’m sorry…

I’ve noticed a change in me lately. It’s come as a result of being self-aware of some of my ongoing words and actions, words and actions that have upset me very much.

I’m overly apologetic.

And I’m sorry for it.

I became quite aware of it, a couple of weeks ago while at work. I was in the company of some new people, and when the mention of my footy team came up, and how I supported it, I brushed it off.

You see, the old SmikG would have just told you that I barrack for a team that you either love, or you hate. If you are from Melbourne, or follow the AFL in any way, you would be lead into knowing who I follow without me saying anything more.

But today, I tell you bang smack in your face, that I am a proud supporter of the Collingwood Magpies.

I always have been. But as I said above, like their colours, you are either white for them, or black against them. Because of the sheep mentality of many AFL fans, where they think it is cool to collectively hate on the most popular team of the AFL, people jump on this unfair bandwagon and throw shit at the club and it’s supporters, only because they feel threatened. It’s easy to hate on another team, instead of focusing on the strength (or lack of, which is where the insecurity comes from) of your own team.

Ok, rant over. But you get my point. Because of this constant negative attention, and because I was in the midst of some new people, I dismissed my devotion to the club, saying that I hadn’t been into the AFL so much this year, and was not following the matches as much as in previous years.

Which was true. I was so busy with other things in life that I genuinely wasn’t watching many games. But the main point, was that I was apologetic for my devotion to them. And I was avoiding the ugly head that would undoubtedly rear in light of my devotion. Sure enough, a snarky comment followed from one said newbie: “don’t bother following them this year, they’re not going anywhere (near the top of the ladder).”

I went home later that day, and told the following story to Hubbie. I was teary. Not for Collingwood. Whatever. You can’t make everyone love you, or the choices you make, or the things you follow, or what you’re passionate about, right?

I was upset at myself. I recalled the story to him, telling him I was upset that I was avoiding the point of who I followed. I also recalled the story, of a little encounter that happened YEARS ago, but nevertheless an encounter that had stuck in my head, because I guess I hadn’t understood it at the time. We had been at an engagement party, and a girl we were speaking to at our table, asked me what my star sign was. And I, the proud Lioness that I am, responded with a silly shrug and said “Leo.”

Hubbie jumped on this indecision immediately. “Why do you say it like that? Like it’s bad?”

I tried to explain it away, by saying “oh, you know how Leos sometimes get a bad rap for being full on…”

I was apologising, for being born in August. I was apologising, for having the best damn star sign there is. I was apologising, for being me.

I recounted all this to Hubbie and said I was shitty with myself. It was not good enough. I was letting myself down.

I think it all leads to insecurity and wanting to constantly please people. Not wanting to upset people. Not wanting to make others mad. Not wanting to say and do anything that might make someone cranky with me. I’m a people pleaser, and yet I’m also sensitive, which means I know how it feels to be hurt easily… therefore I don’t want to be the one that hurts others.

It goes right down to the smallest things. Not speaking up because I might offend someone, when really all I would probably say is to set a fact straight, like telling the  barista they got my coffee wrong. I say sorry, when I walk into a person who I didn’t see… they also didn’t see me, and they weren’t sorry, so why should I be?

Someone saying sorry to me for getting in my way… and then I’ll say sorry back, because they’re sorry! Even justifying, is something I am DONE with.

“I just work 2 days a week.”

“I just did the grocery shopping.”

“I just wanted to get you something for your birthday.”

NO. It should be more like this:

“I work 2 days a week, because the other days are spent raising a small human.”

“I did the grocery shopping and it was a task while I wrangled a climbing, running, easily bored toddler with me the whole time, but I did it, and I did it successfully with minimal yelling and threats.”

“I wanted to get you this gift because I think you’re great, but so I am, because who else would remember to give you a present 3 months after the fact, and not be embarrassed it’s delay?”

You know what, I don’t even have to justify. To over-compensate my words. Just removing the ‘just’ in the first example is enough. But I’m trying to show something here. I’m trying to show that due to my need to people-please, and my inner insecurities, I tend to apologise, a lot. Some of it came from me. And not laying blame, but I can’t deny that A LOT of it came from being in the close company of the greatest narcissist I know. Even that sounds like a compliment, and I definitely don’t wanna hand her any of those and inflate her ego even more. But being forced into hearing about this person’s life difficulties, their high-maintenance ideals and life choices, their constant negative battles, their obsession with how good they are and how our earth rotates around htem, affected me in such a profound and deep way, that I swore vehemently that I would never, ever be like her. Not one bit. Not at all. Not ever.

Self-awareness was the key to my awakening. I have always been aware of my weakness, but when I had to apologise for liking the ‘Pies, I was so mad. I swear. A footy team woke me up to my inner dealings, and I decided that I should never have to be sorry for anything in my life. Nor should anyone ever be. We all have our personal thoughts, emotions, likes and dislikes, and ways of being, and these are the things that make us unique. They make us who we are.

I wanted to be like the people I looked up to. I wanted to be an unapologetic bitch like Madonna, and actually live her words to one of my many favourite songs of hers

“And I’m not sorry.

It’s human nature.”

It so is.

Recently, I’ve been making changes. It’s been a subconscious process, but because I’m making little positive changes to what I normally would have done, I am really noticing them in my day to day activities. Yesterday, when we sat down for coffee, I asked the waiters to clean the table from the previous customers there. Normally I would have dealt with it as is, not wanting to trouble the waiters or appear difficult.

Today, I called the I.T. department at work due to a computer fault. Normally I would have waited for someone else to call up when they came across it – I would have shirked the responsibility of it. But I called, and while I did I also asked for a replacement keyboard, because my current one had dodgy keys.

People now pass me, and if they get in my way and say sorry, I just nod.

I’m not endorsing being rude, or making people move mountains for you while you sit back, filing your claws. I’m talking about voicing your opinion, being YOU, and if you do that while being nice and giving a smile, as I did with all of the above, people will actually want to help you. You won’t be putting them out with your request. They’ll be glad to help you, because of your sincerity.

But, backtrack. Quite accidentally, I got my first opportunity about a week ago, with that person who had told me to give up on Collingwood this season. We were at work, and while making small conversation she asked me “who do you follow? have I asked you this?”

And with a smile, I said “the Pies.” A warm, self-assured smile. I had come full circle, and I was glad to have redeemed my self-worth and self-esteem. She didn’t know it, but I achieved a lot that day. I’m still learning, and I’m still travelling… but like the Leonine Collingwood supporter I am, the only direction is up.

I’m sorry… that it took me this long. But I’m not sorry anymore.

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(not my pic, and I’m totally not sorry either… unless this is yours and then thank you so much 🙂

 

 

Farm in the City

Hectares of park land in city surrounds, where animals are chilled out in their farm life yet the folk visiting come from all high and low ends of the city, is what the Collingwood Children’s Farm is all about. I came to discover this as we ventured out there for the day to celebrate both mine and baby girl’s birthdays.

Firstly, getting there. If you’re walking over (fortunate local) or public transporting it down, well you’re doing it the easiest. If you are driving down on a weekend or a sunny day, BE WARNED. Trying to park at the St. Helier Street car park is probably best done when it’s cold, early in the day or a weekday.

Since we headed over at lunchtime on one of the first sunny Sunday’s in August, we were met with a formidable line leading up to the car park closest to the farm, with the sign up the front of the car park ‘Full’ not seeming to deter many drivers.

If you do happen to find a spot in there, note that the first half hour is free, with fees increasing as the hours tick on. However, this is not relevant on a weekend, which let’s face it is when you’ll most likely go, am I right? Fees all around then. (If it makes you feel better, proceeds go towards the Children’s Farm and the Abbotsford Convent also located there).

After circling around blocks for a while, we parked where many others were, on Johnston St/Studley Park Road, but we made sure to park AFTER a certain section (I think it was over the Yarra River bridge heading towards the Studley Park Road part of the street, past a street sign symbol) because a fellow driver was kind enough to point out to us when we parked in the earlier section of road of the many parking fines on all the cars currently parked there. How the others didn’t see it was beyond me. Park desperation = herd mentality.

This was a 5-10 minute walk to the farm, made slower by the fact that baby girl was set on walking slowly through the gravel car park we cut through.

Entry was $18 for a family. For us this was cheaper than the normal $9 an adult and $5 per child. If you have a concession, it’s even cheaper.

Because we wanted to lunch at Farm Café first, we received a stamp so that we could return to the farm grounds later without having to pay again. After our lunch (read the ‘interesting’ account here) we headed around the corner to the farm.

We saw chooks, birds, roosters, a peacock, cows, goats, ducks and pigs.

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Everything seemed to be within close walking distance, which was great, but I’ll be honest I’m not sure we got to see everything, leaving soon after because baby girl was
a) Getting tired, and
b) Was much too interested in messing about the gravel dirt underneath her feet (with her hands of course) than the animals before her.

It was her birthday, so ultimately she could do what she wanted.

Age wise I think it’s a great place for kids a bit older, say 3-4 onwards, as they would probably appreciate the animals more and not be so distracted by random elements (!) while those a bit older, say 6 up, would appreciate the educational elements: if you’re there at the right time you can even experience the milking of a cow!

We would probably go back to the farm, but to be fair to all of us, in a couple of
years time.

All in all, a lovely day out in the country/city 🙂

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Collingwood Children’s Farm can be visited at 18 St Heliers Street Abbotsford.

(Part 3 of our birthday outing can be read here).

Piggyback Cafe

Farm Café
18 St Heliers Street Abbotsford

This seemed like the perfect place for both adults and children. Which is what I was after (and really every other family out there too) but more so, because we were heading out to celebrate baby girl’s and my birthday. There were meant to be farm animals for the kids at the Collingwood Children’s Farm, and the Farm Café and luscious green surrounds were there for the big kids. I mean really, how could it go wrong?

The weather started off right. It was a sunny Sunday in August, the first weekend that we got a real taste of the impending Spring/Summer. I was excited. I’m constantly telling people how by the time my birthday pops around, the winter cold is diminishing and bursts of warmer weather are starting to infiltrate the cold. Maybe because I’m clutching at (Spring) straws; maybe because I’m defending my birthday month; maybe because I’m right. This day had me smiling in pleased confirmation again.

It’s hard to believe that there is 7 hectares of land nestled along the Yarra River, of which the Collingwood Children’s Farm and the Farm Café lies. I realise that city parks are not a rare thing, but to be so close to the city (5 kms) amidst those busy inner-city suburb buildings and surroundings, it just felt odd. Like how could this happen? Until we got there it was like ‘is this for real?’ It sure was. Driving around for a good 20-25 minutes made us realise that it was definitely real. Almost everyone was trying for a park in St. Heliers Street, and the long wait made us do a U-turn and try our luck elsewhere. The sign up ahead in the cark park had read ‘Full.’

With much focused staring and stalking, we finally found a park along Johnston St/Studley Park Road, and proceeded to walk on over about 5-10 minutes to the farm. (Click here for more info on parking there).

We chose the family pass of $18 to get into the farm, and received a stamp allowing us to first go into the café, before exploring the farm grounds. You can solely attend the Farm Café without payment, because the café is positioned and set in such a way that you can’t eat and then sneak through into the grounds without the entry fee. You can look from there, but you can’t touch.

So, payment = café and grounds entry (with stamp)
No payment = café only entry

We went straight to the café knowing that there might be a wait post 1pm, and sure enough there was. We received a buzzer that would inform us when it was our turn to be seated, and while we waited I took the opportunity to explore with baby girl and take photos of the surrounds.

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It didn’t end up being the half hour wait as told, perhaps a bit less. We sat down in an open area that was still covered, amidst tables tightly crammed next to one another, with views looking out to the farm beside/below us, of chickens roaming about, and a peacock doing a casual little walk.

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There was an outdoorsy feel. It was a farm after all.

We had to quickly order, as we were now very hungry and I didn’t want our little birthday girl getting cranky on her special day.

I got the Mushroom Pie – Mushrooms, roasted chestnuts and white wine served with potato salad, greens & spiced relish

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Hubbie got the Organic Beef Sausage Roll – House-made served with potato salad, greens & spiced relish

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While Baby girl had the Kids Egg & Bacon – Poached Fried egg on toast with bacon with a side of cheese

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I was a tad disappointed that I couldn’t get the kids lunchbox (cheese sandwich, a house-baked treat and a piece of fruit) for baby girl, but they had run out. Instead I swapped the poached egg for fried, removed bacon and added a slice of cheese, which they quite simply placed on the side of her dish. It was fairly uncreative, really. They could have at least put the cheese, on top of the bread, under the egg, so it melted slightly.

Mine and Hubbie’s meals looked ok, but in the end they were nothing special. To be honest, they were below average and fairly bland. My mushroom pie had no other discerning or interesting taste to it, all I could taste was mushrooms as I bit in. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE mushrooms. I just expected the sauce or gravy of the pie to have some hint of salt or flavour in it, to further complement the earthy mushrooms. None.

The accompanying potato salad was rather standard, again nothing special. Hubbie felt the same about his meal, and the only reason that we ate it without much antagonism was because we were spending a lovely day out for our birthdays, we were in such a good mood, and we were hungry. That was it. Baby girl’s meal was very standard, and I concur that most children’s meals out there tend to the ‘plain’ side, but this, with the cheese placed on the side as if it was just tossed there, took the meaning to a whole new level. She also like us was hungry, and ate most of it.

Following that meal, we were almost uninspired, tending to just head out and not worry about a drink. However Hubbie had some kind of surprise location planned next, (link) and kind of hinted that we may have some kind of drink there, but didn’t say what kind. I assumed it was coffee, so suggested we get hot chocolates at the Farm Cafe instead (again, the weather and the day and our birthdays was saving the Farm Café’s arse).

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We each got a hot chocolate in a mug, and baby girl got her necessary babycino. The hot chocolates were huge! They were served in mugs, tasting mild and softly sweet, which I didn’t mind, but I think Hubbie would have loved a more sugary, sickly-sweet hit. Baby girl happily drank all of hers, leaving chocolate stained marks on her face. But alas, it was a rather plain babycino, mostly milk and little froth, making the fact that I don’t believe they charged us for it (there is no babycino on the menu) more than adequate.

We then headed out on our way to peruse the farm, happily leaving all memories of the Farm Café behind (read my review of the Collingwood Children’s Farm here.)

Food: 4/10. Below average. Nothing made me want to try anything else, and I just felt the lack of food quality and presentation let down the beautiful location and serene atmosphere of the adjoining farm.

Coffee: N/A, and I’m not overly bothered I missed out either.

Ambience: As mentioned above, it has a very relaxed vibe. The surroundings were calm and placid, best enjoyed on a sunny day, which is fortunately what we had.

People: There were generally those with kids there, but I also saw duos of friends, younger couples, and older couples. I think the location brings a variety of people there, but most prominent are the families.

Staff: They were ok. Again, nothing above average, they weren’t rude or anything, but they didn’t really give us any smiles or necessary attention. They were busy though, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt on that one.

Price: It was about $50ish, and I say ‘ish’ because the lady up at the counter kept our receipt so I have to go off the prices listed on their website. The hot chocolates were the only half-enjoyable items. The rest made the total bill not worth it. Had the food been up to scratch, it would have been.

Advice: If you are going to the Collingwood Children’s Farm, save yourself the hassle and eat elsewhere. You probably won’t have to waste time waiting for food that is below par. If you are seriously not fussed with food, well then you probably won’t mind the quality of it. Perhaps the breakfast options are better.

In a nutshell: The Farm Café should consider itself very lucky. I said to Hubbie very early on into our lunch that day that the only way it was surviving was due to its location and proximity to the Children’s Farm. It was not surviving based only on the food, because if so then on that day we wouldn’t have found the café there at all, just remnants of what used to be one. Which is a shame, when I think of people I know who have put much effort and money into their own little works of art café creations, and poured so much research, energy and time into an amazing menu and superb coffee, only to have to close due to the people in the area NOT WANTING TO SPEND THE MONEY ON QUALITY. It’s sad, yet true. And here is a very average café with such a high turnover that their kids meals run out, who are able to ‘produce’ the kind of food that we got that day, and they still keep on going on, solely due to the high paying folk of the area and their fortune in being alongside an animal farm. I am really surprised. I hold no malice, yet based on our first and only experience there, Hubbie and I will most definitely not be going back to the Farm Café.

The Farm Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

(I am a glass half-full gal though, and the experience did not ruin my day, not in the slightest. Read on to find out how our day ended fantastically, here :))

Born Again

There isn’t any religious theme or Christianity embedded within this post, despite the suggestion of the above title, however the element of re-birth is very strong, and quite appropriate given the subject matter.

Spring is coming. But no, that’s not all this post is about. I only realised it earlier tonight when Hubbie told me tomorrow was the first day of it, and I don’t know how I hadn’t realised it earlier; as much as August is such a festive and happy month, and it’s all anticipatory with excited thoughts of the warmer months ahead and all the opportunities for getting out and about and being out in the sun, I’m always so happy, enraptured in fact, when Winter finishes. I’ve been preoccupied with thoughts of returning to work and dealing with massive separation anxiety from precious baby girl, to even understand that today being August 31st meant the end of the cold season, ’til it was told to me.

We’ve had a pretty spectacular preview of it too. The last week has shown many beautiful, bright, still and sunny days, and it still amazes me just how much weather plays an integral role on my mood, even though every Winter I go “blah,” and then every Summer I go “yippee!”

But it’s more than that. This time last year I had a 2 week old baby. I was severely sleep-deprived, insecure, and in shock, the days stretching out before me like they were weeks, the nights dreaded and never-ending. Slowly, over those first few weeks, whenever I had a breakthrough “I get this!” moment or a parenthood ‘understanding,’ I grasped that glimmer of help, of hope, of happiness that suggested to me that things were going to get better, like everyone who had kids before me was assuring me, which I just couldn’t fathom in my zombie state. As down as I was at times, confused and indecisive about EVERYTHING, I was still that glass half-full gal, and I held onto all those moments where things were on the improve.

Little things. That’s all they were, but by God, they were the big things. Baby girl sleeping an extra hour. Not crying as long. Falling asleep without me trying. Finally breastfeeding! – now that was a task and a half. Bit by bit, things were on the rise, and the weather was getting better too.

The weather, as always, was something I was desperately holding onto. Even during difficult days, if the sun was shining outside it lifted my spirits, and a quick 15 minute walk around the block pushing baby girl in pram, significantly helped my mood. The weather is always – though I hate the dependence – something I rely on so much of the time, even when I’m not thinking about it, and in those early weeks and then months, it was getting warmer and getting easier, at the same time.

1 year later, and I wouldn’t change a thing. I am blessed beyond words, with the most clever, cheeky, curious and very cute baby girl. I look back at those dark days, now just a blurry distant nightmare, asking myself ‘was it that hard?’ I know that, yes, yes it was very hard. No one says parenthood is easy. But that’s what makes it so rewarding. I don’t understand how you can be in such a confused and frustrated state, so devoid of any happy emotion, and then you get that sleepy smile that newborns do, and it’s all ***heart melting*** And that’s it, you’re gone, you’ve succumbed to the power of this little human, and for the rest of your life when they smile, every inch of your heart and soul will smile with them.

The weather saved me, back in those days, many a time. You have a baby, and your whole life is turned upside down. It’s a completely different way of life, and though you are living through the warm months, enjoying them, your way of life is far removed from what it used to be, which at the time you are completely oblivious to. All I was thinking of was the little things and the little milestones that I was slowly accumulating as baby girl got older.

The good weather, reinforcing, telling me to keep going. ‘Things are gonna get better. See that milestone? Things are easier, they’re better.’

Constantly.

And it was only this last week or two, when we had an influx of happy Winter sun, that it hit me: I remembered. I remembered warm weather, and how it used to be.

It’s not like I forgot the warmth. It’s more that I forgot the things we used to do and the life we used to lead while it was warm. I was so focused on getting through, counting the good moments, counting the days, then the weeks: “she’s 14 weeks… 15 weeks… 16 weeks – 4 months!” that I let go of all memories of how our life was, before baby girl. I had to. Thinking too much of the past, looking back, was ineffective. Our lives had changed forever, and for the better. I couldn’t wait to be going out and doing things with baby girl. I counted down the days.

However there was that little part in me that remained, that every now and then reminded me of how things were the year before, thoughts that I pushed away because they wouldn’t do anyone any good. We didn’t regret, we were happy with our little family unit, but as is natural, you can’t help, as is the human nature of things, to ‘want it all.’

I’d forgotten, and ignored, for so long. And finally, just days ago, driving to baby girl’s 1 year maternal child health nurse appointment, looking at the fun hipster-shirt Hubbie had on as the afternoon sun shined down brightly on him, I remembered. And I went “wow.”

Now, as I preview, and look back at the huge, amazing, monumental year we’ve had, with so many changes, and happily now more ups than downs, I can say that I feel re-born. We’ve dealt with death, we’ve dealt with birth, and we’ve dealt with a whole range of emotions in between, every single one on the scale.

And now, things are getting easier. Breastfeeding will be a thing of the past in a few weeks. Baby girl is eating food, so, so well. She’s becoming more independent.

And the sun is out. It’s shining, it’s warm, and I’m thinking of all the things we used to do… and I can’t wait to introduce them to baby girl 🙂

I felt like I was in this little world of our own for so, so long. And now, we’re coming back. I’m back.

Watch out world.

Happiness Is… #4

The weather. That elusive and forever changing intangible thing that is always the source of so much frustration/pain/elation.

It is 20 degrees tomorrow. I can’t remember the last time we had a ‘2’ starting digit on the weather report. And it is only August. In lead up to this fantastic Friday, it was also warm today… so much so I actually felt warm this morning, like I might have to put on a t-shirt.

Woah. Just take it easy there. Really?

Can you smell that? It’s Spring. It’s a coming 🙂

Happiness Is… #3

Happiness Is… August. The month of parties, fun and so much family love that it could make a Disney movie look cold-hearted.

I love it for my family, I love it for me… and now I also love it because of Baby Girl.

Cheers to the freaking August, I’ll drink to that, yeah yeah. (Sparkling water at best for me).

:):):)