Men make a Bar out of Brekkie

Eira Café and Lounge Bar
1 Pryor Street Eltham

(Visited August ’16)

It is not good when best mates get together

It is good when best mates get together.

When men get together, shit happens

When men get together, the best stuff happens.

When best mates hatch a plan, watch out…

When best mates hatch a plan… watch out…

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

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

But really, truly. We get along smashingly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Great.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Baby girl’s babycino.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Of course 😉

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

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This should be more Common

The Common
26 Commercial Place Eltham

We were looking for a place to eat in the Eltham/Greensborough region one Saturday night, and the picture of the restaurant’s interior on their web site looked bustling. In addition, the menu looked interesting and Indian-inspired, and so the easy choice was made to go to The Common.

When I called there was jazz music blasting through the phone, making it difficult to hear the woman I was speaking to. Was this just background noise, or a band? I asked her if it was too late to make a reservation for oh, an hour’s time. We were wanting to come at 7pm, and she sounded unsure, like the booking was pushing it. She spoke to someone on her end for a moment, and then came back to me saying “can you come 6:30 to 6:45?” Sure thing, we would rush to get out. This sounded good. I could understand why they may not want us arriving at a time when other diners were also arriving, as it may cause kitchen chaos as we then all ordered at the exact same time.

We walked in at 6:50… to an almost empty restaurant.

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It was so weird, I had to question the music I had heard earlier. Turns out, their website says they have live jazz music leading up to 6pm on Saturdays, which would have been great for us, but bad that we were now past that timeslot, and I was slightly concerned that the lack of atmosphere would make any cry for attention from baby girl that much more noticeable.

There was only one other couple there and two individual ladies sitting on their own. It was pretty quiet for Eltham on a Saturday. But then again, we weren’t locals.

It slowly filled up during our time there. A group, a duo of friends, some older groups arrived too. It was more of a reserved dining experience, for those with elegant tastes and quiet voices, even though there was ample amount of high chairs in one corner waiting to be used. It was an earthy-looking restaurant, on the corner looking towards the shops behind Main Road, including the Safeway there. Parking had been a breeze, since there was undercover parking for all the communal shops on that strip, so that was an added bonus. There was a lounge in the middle of the restaurant which gave it a more laid-back feel, encouraging locals and casual diners to sit and sip on their coffee while they flipped through some newspapers. And being the festive season, the place was decked out in Merry cheer and little Christmas trees. I loved it.

From the onset, the staff were very professional and on the ball. Our waitress immediately informed us that their oven was out of order, which meant there were a few dishes on the menu that were unavailable. Fortunately they weren’t any that we would have gone for, so that was great. (Thank God it was the oven and not the stove huh?) We ordered our drinks of wine and beer

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and then the mains of:

My Chilli Prawns – Fresh prawns marinated in a chilli tomato sauce with a trio of capsicums and served with orange infused rice

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Hubbie’s Porterhouse Steak – Char-grilled porterhouse served with roasted baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, asparagus, rosemary potatoes and a red wine jus

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While Baby girl got the Popcorn Chicken – crispy chicken pieces with aioli and lemon, with the Rosemary Potatoes on the side with Dijon remoulade (kind of for all to share).

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The presentation was sensational. Very visually pleasing. I love black servingware, and these colourful flavours were just bursting out at us. I especially loved the black slate that baby girl’s food was served on, it was very modern.

Hubbie had made a point out of checking if the steak he ordered was definitely going to be char-grilled, telling our waitress that he had had ‘fake’ char-grill before. God help me. He is obsessed with this char-grilled thing. He enjoyed his meal, but again, didn’t believe that his Porterhouse was char-grilled. What am I going to do with this man?

I loved my dish. There were many many prawns, which was such a fresh change from prawn dishes that give you like 3, or 4 prawns, if you’re lucky. Everything was saucy and flavoursome, however there was no real hint of chilli. Maybe the slightest warmth, but nothing that I would personally call spicy.

In terms of kids meals, these guys have won on the presentation front by a long shot. So often when I order kids meals out, we get such a sad and boring looking dish, that I feel bad encouraging baby girl to eat it as I am so uninspired myself. Even though the presentation was simple, it was smart, using colour to wow the diner even more. I was very impressed. And the popcorn chicken and the side of potatoes, not only looked good on the plate, but they all tasted good. Baby girl interchanged between the two happily before going walkabout. It was refreshing to see a variation on the standard chicken meal you find so often on offer for the kiddies.

Soon after this, I had to do a nappy change for baby girl, and thank God they had a change table. It was a fold out compacted next to the sinks in the women’s bathroom, but it was light and easily manoeuvred, and I was able to do my change on baby girl with no problems. It would have been a tight squeeze had someone come into the bathroom while I was doing this, since there are only two cubicles and I was right in front of the basin area, but fortunately this did not happen. The bathroom was modern and new, another plus.

I herded baby girl back into the dining area and we decided to share some dessert, while Hubbie opted for a short black. I decided against caffeine, only because I’d already had two that day. I wonder now why I didn’t just go a third, really, but now knowing how Hubbie’s experience was, maybe it’s better I didn’t.

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We all shared the Deconstructed Cheesecake. With a pistachio biscuit crumb foundation, topped with a light white chocolate mousse and served with a mixed berry coulis, this thing really did look divine. The biscuit was crunchy with great texture, and the cheese part was just that, definitely more cheesecake then chocolate mousse, but still, amazing. There were no problems in finishing that dish between the three of us.

Hubbie’s coffee wasn’t as impressive. The crema looked alright, however it was a very short black, short even for the short cup it was in. And then when he tasted it… he didn’t like it at all. I’ve been trying to ascertain this ‘bad flavour’ he said, so as to avoid writing ‘bad flavour’ in my review, but he couldn’t put his finger on it, other than to say it had a bad taste. Not burnt, bad. Being the end of our meal, it was slightly underwhelming to hear.

It had been an odd night, with some really exciting finds and then some average ones. We were still puzzled by the need for us to be there before 7pm, and arriving to an almost empty restaurant. We rushed so much, for that. The only thing I can think of, which seems the most likely, is that there was only one chef in the kitchen, and perhaps they had to think of that when seating people down and placing orders. There were two other people ‘on the floor’ and towards the end of the night another man was there too, so there wasn’t a huge amount of wait staff. They were all lovely though and it was a great night… just with a dose of puzzlement, that’s all.

Food: 8-8.5/10. I waver here because my prawns were not chilli, and Hubbie’s steak wasn’t char-grilled, OR SO HE SAYS. Everything else was great, and the menu is one to be explored further.

Coffee: 4/10. I have to go off of Hubbie’s rating in lack of my own caffeine beverage there, and he just didn’t like the taste.

Ambience: Quiet, post 6pm. Relaxed, but in a refined manner. I think it’s a different story when the music is on, that’s what it sounded like anyway. Would have loved a bit more pizazz while we were there (which can’t be helped by them I know), it was just really-toned down.

People: Friends and older folk catching up. I didn’t see any other kids that night, but there were high chairs.

Staff: They were really good and very friendly. Informative and professional.

Price: It was about $130 all up – that consisted of 3 and a half mains, 3-4 alcoholic drinks, dessert and coffee. Some dishes were on the ‘up’ side, but having said that the quality and presentation of the food was up to scratch.

Advice: I don’t know whether to say ‘reserve ahead’ or ‘just rock up’ here. They seemed quite definite on the phone about what time of night we were arriving, whereas while there I saw a few people come in with no reservation. Do what you feel is right for your crew.

In a nutshell: Despite some mixed feelings about various components of the night, it was favourably skewed to the positive overall, and I was impressed with the surroundings and elegant ambience of the restaurant. The menu is worth perusing and exploring, and God damn it I’ll even order a coffee next time to see what Hubbie was going on about. Seeing as this is an area we may often frequent in the future, I think we will definitely be coming back to this place, more Commonly.

The Common Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Where the salmon is more than ‘Well’

Wellers of Kangaroo Ground
150 Eltham-Yarra Glen Road, Kangaroo Ground

Booking this place on a Sunday afternoon over the Labour Day weekend was too easy. We’d decided to venture out to dinner Eltham-way, and found this restaurant easily on the Urbanspoon kid-friendly list. I came across the Wellers web site, found their menu, and easily discovered that there was plenty of yummy food on offer. I called, and heard that there was easily more than enough room for us that night. In a space of 5 minutes, we had easily searched, discovered, and booked.

It was too easy.

Off we ventured, driving on a hilly and winding path through Eltham that led us to Kangaroo Ground. Parking on the gravel car park and seeing the view before us, made us feel like we were away, even though our efforts to go away for the long weekend had fallen through: this was just as good.

Inside it was rustic and warm – the atmosphere that is. More on that later. There was plenty of space, and we saw that yes, there were plenty of places to sit, with the groups of people that were there spaced out alongside the windows so they could enjoy the view of the tranquil countryside laid out before them. We had been secured a table by the window too, which made things all the more welcoming.

Although there was plenty of timber around, there was a cultured quality about the place. The surroundings were comfortable and relaxed, a little poshy but still chilled, and friendly. A cozy refinement, you might say.

The majority of the seating was inside, however out through several wooden double-door routes, was a porch that a few tables for two were lined up on. Also at one end of this, were two long tables for larger groups. I can imagine how enjoyable the outdoor seating would be on a warm day.

I made the point of requesting baby girl’s food arrive ASAP – and fortunately after Hubbie’s beer and my Pinot Noir of Kangaroo Ground arrived, we received both her meal

Chicken schnitzel with steamed vegetables and mashed potato

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And our starter: Turkish bread with minted sweet potato, beetroot and tzaziki dips and olives marinated with thyme, garlic and lemon

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I need to go back a bit. When I had first perused the Wellers web site at home prior to booking, I had noticed the kids menu stated “children 12 and under eat free every Sunday evening.” Hubbie and I thought it might be a tad too expectant that this should still apply on that day, being the Labour Day weekend, even though it was a Sunday. But, it was! We had the children’s menu waiting on our table when we arrived, with the same message running alongside the bottom advising us ‘free!’ I was impressed with the options on offer, with 5 children’s main meal options, and 2 dessert options. And, it was only one kid’s meal you got for free per child, but still, that was already a bonus.

This was a very fancy and wholesome looking kid’s meal. Unfortunately I had started cutting through it before the above photo was taken, so it looked much better when it first arrived – my bad. The chicken was deliciously golden crumbed, still steaming hot, placed over a beautiful pile of mashed potatoes with vivid green vegetables to accompany. The green of the vegetables was a very healthy colour too, I might add.

She ate a fair portion of her meal, which attests to the meal as well as her appetite (!)

I just have to mention again, how homely and yummy her meal looked. I wanted it!

Our dips were good, but there was nothing overly amazing about it. We had three dips, a tzatziki, sweet potato and beetroot one, with a portion of mini breads and some olives on the side. It was definitely mini breads, not Turkish bread. Maybe they had an outage? It was a shame since I was looking forward to it, and it would have been so much nicer rather than the hard little pieces of bread we received instead. It actually wasn’t a whole lot to share between two people, especially for the price of $19, but that’s not to say it didn’t taste good as we ate it all up.

We had ordered our mains when our starters had arrived, so after a bit of a walk outside to help baby girl expend some much needed energy after her filling meal – discovering the old emptied-out tram on one side of the yard, watching the wine-making process in a mega-barrel on another parcel of land below, and picking up rocks – we ventured back to find our mains ready and waiting.

After much internal debate, swaying back and forth towards the seafood pasta, I had decided on the other and gone the salmon.

Tasmanian grilled Atlantic salmon with an Asian style mango salsa served with sauteed Asian greens and jasmine rice

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Hubbie had had his own scale-tipping process, but had decided on the char-grilled port cutlet over the scotch fillet.

Char-grilled pork cutlet with apple and pear confit, smashed chat potatoes and tossed spinach served with a port jus

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I LOVED my meal. The salmon was perfect (I had asked for it to not have any raw parts) and the mango salsa, with its combination of spanish onion, tomato and mango was delicious. Lip-smackingly good. The rice was that extra bit of grain that was necessary in amongst the very healthy meal, while the asparagus, bok choy and snow peas had that same vibrant green colour, which I was very happy about. Texture and taste of the vegetables was perfect. My plate looked so fresh and lively, and taste-wise my expectations were completely fulfilled. I was so hungry, I could have had more. But that’s ok, it meant I had room for dessert.

Sadly, Hubbie didn’t have my same enthusiasm for his meal. He was looking forward to a char-grilled pork cutlet, but didn’t think, with the taste that was there, that it actually was char-grilled. It was a big piece of pork with a thick piece of fat on the side, and the fact that it was such a big piece upset him. When I asked why, he said that a larger than normal cutlet like that suggests at a big pig, meaning an older pig. Smaller cutlets = smaller, younger pigs.

I didn’t ask about the other components of his dish, nor did he tell me, because well, for a butcher, it’s all about the meat. I was disappointed that because he was upset, it most likely meant he wouldn’t want to come back to the restaurant… I was already a little bit in love with the place. The surroundings, the ambience, the yard outside, the staff, the menu… the free kids meal! However when he said “next time I’ll order the scotch fillet,” my shoulders relaxed and my happy smile returned.

It’s why I think it’s so important to look at the whole, rather than just the parts, when you go to a restaurant, and why I do look at so many facets of the restaurant experience to create the ‘big picture’ to then blog about. Sure, food is a very important factor, in fact, many would rightfully argue, the most important one. Right. True. When you go to a place like Wellers though, and see the quality there, and see the results on your plate but the dissatisfaction on your partner’s face, you go ‘well, where did it go wrong? Is the pork to be avoided here? Was it this pork cutlet?’

You kind of forget the pork was ever there and just move on to dessert, which is what we did.

Hubbie got the affogato

Affogato – espresso coffee with vanilla ice-cream and Frangelico liqueur

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I got the Warral honey pannacotta served with Yarra Valley strawberry salad and rose syrup

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and baby girl got some ice cream!

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Let’s start with baby girl. She loved the ice cream (not a news flash). I loved the pannacotta. It was honey-sweet, and though at first it was beautiful, with that lovely hint of honey, the honey grew stronger as I got through more of the dish, so that at the end I was all honeyed out. But still, a really light way to end the night.

Hubbie enjoyed his affogato, and after tasting some of the coffee and ice cream I have to say the flavour of the coffee was really good. I thought the presentation was cute and a bit interesting, the way they had lined up the biscuit and chocolate buttons opposite each other on the plate. I was glad he was pleased.

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(another pic just because I liked the presentation!)

Food: 7.5/10. My meal was amazing. Baby girl’s was of really high quality for a children’s meal. Hubbie was not so rapt with his main. I want to score on my meal, but I have to score on everything… so the above is a present score, with 8/10 being a potential score.

Coffee: 7.5/10. From what I could gather through the ice cream.

Ambience: Refined comfort. An abundance of wood, a fireplace that hopefully gets cranked up in winter, lights scattered across the ceiling to create a romantic, magical quality come night-time, and peaceful views across the fields make this a really special place.

However! The only drawback was the air conditioning. It had been a warm, mid-20s at most, degree day, and although it had been hot during the day, walking in the sun at the peak of its heat, going into a restaurant post 6:30pm for dinner, was not a time of day that it needed to be blasting!

We didn’t get it, and still don’t. It was really cold. I think it was cold throughout, but it must have been really hitting our table hard, especially at Hubbie. He asked for it to please be turned down, and they immediately complied… but it was still cold. He even had to go to our car for his jacket! It was something that just wasn’t necessary, on a not-hot-at-all evening.

Staff: Great. Our waitress was really lovely, with us, with baby girl, and accommodating with our requests concerning air conditioning and baby change tables. She was genuine and sincere throughout, and really we try not to be too demanding, really we try…

People: Lovely. The couple beside us were late 40s-50, and I was initially concerned may not have the patience for an 18 month old to stare at them curiously until they respond, but fortunately they did smile! And talk to her! And give her a little attention, which is more than what I would have asked for, just a smile. The other patrons were of the same age, mostly couples, with some older families there, maybe of the mid-30s to 40 range? I think a few families took advantage of the ‘free children’s meal’ offer for that Sunday.

Price: We paid about $123 I think it was, all up. Some items on the menu were decent, yet the dips were a bit overpriced we felt. The kids’ ice cream was a generous serve at $4.50, while our mains were both $28… and mine was definitely worth every coin. Combined with the alcohol, it all made sense.

Advice: I don’t think I have any, other than to say “go.” I wouldn’t even say book, because of the ample seating available. Even on a non-public holiday weekend, there would be plenty of seating free.

Actually, no, I lie. There is live entertainment that Wellers hosts on special nights, featuring many popular Aussie artists, and I believe you can book a dinner and show package for those nights… so for that, book!

In a nutshell: We will definitely be going again. In fact I’m thinking of making a booking for a family event coming up in a couple of months’ time, and their backyard area would make it a great space for us all to chill out, drinking wine, eating in abundance and letting the kids explore the outdoors. I was really happy with many components of the night, and despite Hubbie not being overly-pleased with his main, I just know he’ll fall in love with something else on the menu…

Easily.

Wellers of Kangaroo Ground on Urbanspoon