Playground Hotel

The Dava Hotel
614 The Esplanade Mount Martha

(Visited December ’17)

I don’t even remember why we ventured over to the Dava Hotel that Tuesday in early December. I think Hubbie had heard of the place, and we were also keen to try something different, yet still close.

It was practically a 3 minute drive there. So the close box, was ticked. √

After waiting some time at the front counter to be seated, we were taken to a table to the side of the middle in the large room. It was LARGE. Open plan, working within the hotel image, where people staying overnight in the rooms within could venture on down and take food from the buffet cases, or people like us could walk in and dine from individual menus.

The expansiveness of the room, meant it wasn’t awfully cosy. But this was a hotel. We were coming to expect different.

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And just like a Hotel, we had to order and pay at two individual counters for drinks and food. Again, not ideal for us, but it happens at the Royal and we love that place. So Hubbie disappeared for sometime at the bar, doing his bit, and then I went over to the counter next to the buffet set-up to order our food.

While we waited for our drinks, I told him how the service I had received at the counter had been colder than the iceberg that hit the Titanic. The waitress was just not in the mood AT ALL, didn’t wanna be there, and hiding her palpable animosity towards, well LIFE in general, was very trying for her. I had sped off hastily.

Some alcohol helped me forget. I got the Wynns “The Gables” Cab Sav, while Hubbie had ordered himself a beer.

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The reason why I wasn’t kicking up a stink in regards to the service, was another huge determining factor of our possible night’s success. It was baby girl. And where she was. There was an enclosed play area just outside the eating area, and although it was around the corner, there was something else that made it easier to spy on your kids, even though you couldn’t see the entrance/exit.

The TV.

They had a TV on one wall showing the play area, and suddenly we realised why many families had sat within view of that TV – to enjoy their meal and yet still watch out for their little one outside.

We were slightly out of view of this TV, so we took turns in each getting up and going out to check on her – she was cool, as excited as a kid at Christmas (well it was coming up), and honestly wasn’t fazed that she hadn’t yet had her dinner.

But in between, we had moments of, what’s that word again… peace? Silence? Um, couple-time?

WHAT ABOUT ALL OF THE ABOVE?!

Hence why I forgot about the Iceberg-waitress fairly quickly.

Our food came relatively fast considering there were so many people there, and we had to herd our girl in for it too.

Hubbie had the 300 gm Grass Fed Porterhouse: served with chips and garden salad, and tomato sauce

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I had the Linguini Marinara: garlic and olive oil base with mussels, prawns, scallops and calamari.

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And baby girl had the Spaghetti Bolognaise

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Hers was a free kids meal because kids eat free on weekdays. It was an effort to get her to eat it only because that was the start of her “no sauce, no lumps” in pasta phase. So we moved things around and wrestled as much sauce free pasta out of the plate as we could, until we were somewhat satisfied with her efforts. Having said that, although it was free, a bolognaise from the jar was a fairly unimpressive kids meal, and I don’t care if it’s free – they are people too! And chefs, don’t you dare tell me that that sauce came from anywhere else!

Having said that, I could see other kids meals floating around, like fish and chips, and they looked much more appealing. Note to self. Order things for kids that is unlikely to come from a jar/packet.

Hubbie really liked his meal, and even likened the steak to Kirks style, even the price, saying there was not much difference. No way! The same? That was impressive, that a hotel could do a steak to the same standard as a restaurant like Kirks. He was impressed. Geez.

Having said that, I was pleased with my meal too. It was a substantial dish, I enjoyed the mild flavour of the garlic and olive oil, and half of the seafood I did enjoy, such as the fish pieces, prawns and mussels, however the scallops were undercooked for my liking, and likewise the calamari was not a fave. Seafood dishes are really hard to get right I find, and when I do find a dish that gets every single component right and seafood cooked perfectly, I’ll let you know. Those not-to-taste bits were easy to pick out, and otherwise, it was yum.

We had been pleasantly surprised with our meals, baby girl was having a rad ol’ time running between our table and the outside playground, and we could actually relax… so we decided what the hell, let’s do dessert and coffees too.

I got a cap, Hubbie a latte, and baby girl a babycino

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(Hubbie’s ‘strong’ latte)

And then the dessert: baby girl got ice cream with choc topping and sprinkles; I got the Toblerone mousse cake; and Hubbie got an opera slice

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Baby girl was rapt with her dessert. Ice cream, sprinkles, chocolate? That makes perfect sense. She ate it ALL. However that’s where the satisfaction stopped. Hubbie’s opera slice was average, whereas my slice of cake was just, ok. I was left feeling overly full, but not in that delightful way where you’ve had the most amazing meal. It was the regretful “I should have stopped at main” feeling. Both our cakes had that bulk manufactured taste, and really, I think the safest way to go for dessert was baby girl’s route – the ice cream.

The night was a really mixed bag. There were pros, there were cons… but as we tried to wrangle our girl from the playground and into the car, to protests of tears and “I don’t want to go!” we realised we may have just found ourselves an imperfect paradise for some ‘us ‘ time.

Food: 6.5/10. This was a hard one to rate, due to the difference in meal quality between courses. I have to take in Hubbie’s ‘like Kirks’ steak, just as I need to take in baby girl’s ‘sauce from a jar’ bolognaise.

Coffee: 7/10. It was good.

Ambience: Noisy and busy – just how we like! It allowed us to relax (relax in noise?) as we weren’t concerned about any of baby girl’s sporadic outbursts out of random necessity. Lots of people about, all getting ready for the festive season. And this was a Tuesday night.

People: Families on holiday, pensioners, ladies meeting for a tipple or two. Grown families, young families, really, ALL sorts. The typical Aussie prevailed. You define that as you will.

Staff: Apart from that one cold-from-the-depths-of-her-ravaged-soul waitress, we did in fact have luck with others. The girl who sat us down, the woman who cleared our plates for us, and also the girl who took our dessert order, were ALL very pleasant and friendly, so majority won.

Price: just over $100 for the lot – including drinks, main meals and dessert. Baby girl’s meal was free, so that meant our $64 food order averaged about $32 a piece… decent considering it is a hotel. So those individual prices were a bit high for hotel-quality food, yet overall we did well in the $ department.

Advice: If you come with children – sit as close as possible to the TV as you can. You won’t regret it. If you have really small littlies, there is a smallish room around the corner from the bar, that is the entrance to the playground – you can sit in there and eat, as well as watch your kids go on baby-type play equipment, and you are right there. But so is every other baby in the restaurant, so you choose.

Pick foods that can’t be screwed up for kids. Main adult meals should be ok. Dessert – just go for the ice cream, you’ll be happy you did.

In a nutshell: Having the outdoor playground with monitored TV inside is an excellent concept. So simple, so clever. It is simple food, and when you order what they do well, you walk away with a bargain.

If you want a no-fuss, child-friendly place where you can relax while your kids burn off some steam… then you have found it. And because of the ability to have some child-free moments, you walk away feeling like you’ve actually been on holiday… at a hotel.

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

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…

Things that shit me… #10

Salespeople that put you last because you are with child.

This is very specific, yet unfortunately has happened to me many times. I don’t know if it’s because they see me trying to wrangle a two-and-a-half year-old and think ‘too much work,’ or whether they think I’m not done yet because I’m talking to her more than I am to them, behind the counter. Either way, if I am standing at the counter, or have just asked for your help, chances are I want the help NOW, in fact, rather immediately as if your life depended on it, because that adorable girl you see besides me who is currently drawing on the pad meant for scrawls, well she can go from that to drawing on your walls in 3 seconds if you test her patience.

Today, I had to buy something at Typo. Yes I will name and shame. I love the stationary store; I hated the service today. HATED. I asked if I could get a pencil sharpened in a set I was purchasing, because it was a gift, and really I didn’t want 11 out of the 12 pencils I purchased nice and pointy with the last one non-existent.

The salesgirl who I had been speaking to, and had been helpful up until that point, said she would sharpen it for me. Then all of a sudden a woman entered and started a long discussion over something she wanted to exchange.

If anything, assisting this lady took far longer than it would have taken to sharpen the damn pencil and put my sale through. I watched as the salesgirl even went to the lengths of making a phone call regarding this exchange, while I watched on the sidelines, and another customer wanting to make a purchase entered the scene. Though peeved, I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt. Maybe she thought I was still shopping? When I turned and started talking to baby girl (about where she could draw without damaging their stock) she may have thought I was still deciding what to buy.

But then, as she finished up with exchange lady, she had the gall to turn her head from me and the new customer, and ask with a smile “who was next?”

I responded tensely “I was waiting for you to sharpen that pencil.” Frustrated, I turned to baby girl… and when I looked back, salesgirl was serving the new customer! I would have walked out without question, if they didn’t have exactly what I was after. I waited, paid for my items, gave her a flat tone, and left.

I have worked with customers in a sales position before, and unless the customer says “they can go before me,” or “I’ll take awhile, you go first,” you DO NOT PUT ANOTHER customer who has not waited as long, in front! And my sale didn’t even take that long. This stupid girl just smiled daftly like she was doing nothing wrong! Ahh!

I think the fact that I seem like ‘a lot of work’ with baby girl, trolley and bags in tow, makes certain unknowing sales people think I am… when I’m far from it. I’m more organised and quicker to get out of there than someone without kids, and yet I’m discriminated against because I’m talking non-stop to an over-eager child.

That FREAKING shits me.