Toyboxes and Happiness Beans

Bean Counter Café
15 Railway Place Fairfield

That Wednesday lunch was catch-up for me, baby girl and bestie, once again in Fairfield. I had wanted to go there because of the kid-friendly tags associated with the café positioned off the main road, and with mentions of books and toys, (and change table – hey you need to be prepared) I thought it would be a pleasing experience for all.

Bean Counter Café is positioned on the corner of a leafy tree-lined suburban street, opposite Fairfield train station, with seating both out the front and inside, as well as further seating out the back of the café, which I was to learn about later. It is a cool and cosy place, with a bit of Fairfield funk. Bestie already had a table inside the cafe right by the door, and with the addition of high chair we were all set.

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The woman making coffees and our waiter serving us were both immediately very friendly to baby girl and us adults, making me surer of our decision to go there. The worst thing is going to a place where you feel your child will be despised for their excited squeals, but here it seemed they were almost expecting it.

We ordered fairly soon after, and I was impressed when without mentioning it, our waiter asked me if I wanted baby girl’s toastie delivered earlier before our lunches. This guy knows. Tick.

Her H.C.T Toastie – Ham Cheese and Tomato toasted sandwich came fairly early.

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She ate most of it in dribs and drabs, as toddlers do, eating a lot, and then none, and then slowly having more in distracted moments while I put it in her mouth.

A fair wait later, we received our meals.

I had the Zucchini Corn and Haloumi Fritters – topped with blanched spinach, fresh avocado, a poached egg and finished with tomato salsa

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And bestie had the Smashed Avocado and Feta – two slices of sourdough toast with avocado mash and sprinkled with feta, topped with sunflower pumpkin and linseeds, served with grilled cherry tomatoes and asparagus

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Now, both our lunches were from the brekkie menu, which we had learned was available all day – tick. However I felt (and bestie even agreed) that it took a tad long to receive our meals… granted it was the school holidays, however we had ordered about 1pm, what you would imagine to be after the lunchtime rush, and though there were
people about it wasn’t really packed.

However, despite the wait, the food was delicious. I omitted avocado for mine because my stomach sadly does not do avocado anymore. My poached egg was done so perfectly and oozing the yellow yolk, the fritters were flavoursome, and the salsa gave it that much needed kick to complement the other earthier flavours. The presentation was amazing, and all in all I loved it.

I know bestie loved hers, as she often frequents the place with her hubbie. Tick.

Soon after we decided to get some coffees and a babycino of course.

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What I loved about the babycino we received was it came in a kind of rubber-type of cup, and I imagine the people who own this place know kids can throw things, which kind of horrifies me to think they’ve had cups of frothed milk flung far and wide from across the café, but having a toddler, I should know better and accept it as a reality. My hand continuously hovers above hers as she gulps it down. All was delicious, however the coffee drinking was halted when the lady making coffees saw baby girl starting to get impatient with us slow-drinking coffee girls, and suggested the back area for baby girl to play with. What? There was a kids ‘area?’ All I had seen thus far was a little corner by the front door that had worn out books and scribbly things, alongside brand new packets of mini colouring books that you could buy brand new (clever people). She helped us move outside, and it was here that I went ‘ahhh, this is where the kid-friendly tag comes from.’

Cafes can sport change tables, and waiters who know how to talk to your baby, and coffee making like-minded Mums who also have a toddler just younger than yours, but when a café has this

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It REALLY is a kid-friendly café.

That chair actually opened up to an empty space underneath, which I’m sure is where the toys strewn out alongside it on the table usually live when visiting children haven’t unearthed the contents. Baby girl happily joined in with some big kids in the toy excavation hunt, while bestie and I chatted away.

It’s a great outdoor area. It was a tad cold on that day, and even though it’s covered out there the wind still got its hooks into all of us. Coffee lady had turned on the nearby heater, though with the icy wind it didn’t do much, and suggested we use the handy throws they have on supply.

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Great idea.

It’s a beautiful space, probably much more enjoyable on a warmer day. There’s a small water fountain against the wall, cute mosaic tables and chairs, and a quote about coffee, and let’s face it who can have too much coffee quotes? Not me.

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Once baby girl had had enough of running around out there (defined by me who knows her best) we up and paid and left.

Food: 8/10. The wait was long, but the food was worth it. Great presentation, equally great flavours.

Coffee: 7/10. The coffee drinking experience was stalled when we moved outside, so it was a bit cooler by the time I got to it again, but all in the name of keeping baby girl busy, which is the most important thing really (even after coffee, I know).

Ambience: Pretty chilled there on the corner of a suburban street.

People: I’d say fairly confidently a good dose of locals and those who are kind of local. There were a few fams there as it was the school holidays, friends meeting for lunch and a lot of leisurely ladies.

Staff: Really lovely from the beginning, welcoming and friendly to baby girl and I, and engaging and helpful too.

Price: For our three lunches and 3 drinks, the tally was $50 ish, which I think was spot on for what we got, and the area we were in.

Advice: If you have kids, go straight out the back with them, rain hail or shine. Just come equipped, with jackets and scarves and beanies (which shouldn’t be so much a problem now as we’re in the midst of a Spring heatwave) so that kids and adults alike stay warm while adults enjoy their food and drink in peace. Because we all need peace.

In a nutshell: I would definitely come here again, they had some very interesting menu options and a wide variety too, including some spectacular sounding shakes which sounded more dessert than liquid! Knowing the outdoor area caters for baby girl is a huge drawcard for me, knowing that both she and I would be happy on return. And any place with the suggestion of coffee in their café name just reeks cool, don’t you think?

Bean Counter Cafe Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Mamma is a bit confused, yet revels in the Coffee

Mamma Says
120 Station Street Fairfield

Bestie and I very quickly made our decision to lunch here on a Wednesday early afternoon in Jan. My only requirements for a venue that day on busy Station Street were:

– that high chairs be available
– that a baby change area be present

That was it. That was my short, not overly-reliant or expectant list.

However, I was of course, still wanting to be impressed.

When we passed Mamma Says bestie informed me that it was fairly new. I got excited looking at the image of a child on the stores sign, and just knew this is where I could go, and be comfortable, especially in the curious/discoverer/impatient/must-touch-and-wander-everywhere stage that baby girl is currently at.

I was however, slightly surprised to find people with no children in tow in the cafe, amongst of course the expected young mums meeting over coffee, Mum resting with child and Nanna with her grandkids. We ventured further out through the indoor area towards a door on the side that went alongside the premises leading us to the back courtyard area. Here again, were no kids: 2 young businessmen types drinking coffee.

I was really happy with our positioning. Firstly, we were outside, meaning I felt less bad about letting baby girl roam freely when she got tired of the high chair. Secondly, the men were having coffee, so in my mind, they were going to leave soon – leaving the entire empty courtyard to ourselves. (Yes, and yes!)

However, it turns out that was just their starter, as they soon received some nice-smelling food before we got our lunches. I ordered:

Dukkah crusted chicken on couscous, rocket, feta (salad) and roast vegetable salad

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Baby girl got a fried egg on toast (I requested they omit the bacon)

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And bestie got Atlantic Salmon with Spinach, Egg and Hollandaise Sauce

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Now, I struck out some of the ingredients in my dish above because THEY WEREN’T THERE. Part of the reason I ordered it was the ‘ting ting ting!’ exciting thought of rocket and feta combined, since I love both and thought this particular combination with the other ingredients would rock. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed the dish, once I got into a rhythm of not stopping for a forkful once every 5 minutes in between feeding baby girl. I ate it all, despite the omission of the promised ingredients. It was just a bit dismaying that’s all, especially since I was really looking forward to it. I mean, for a regular menu dish to not have one ingredient as mentioned, you can kind of forgive, only because hey, it’s just one ingredient, and its negative impact is usually lessened when one of the waiters informs you of the omission. But no one said anything to me upon ordering, or delivery of food, and this dish was on the specials menu! Isn’t that stuff meant to rely upon current produce? How are they missing not 1, but 2 ingredients?

Tsk tsk tsk.

Still, I enjoyed it. Chicken was flavoursome and the dressing was lovely. The vegetables consisted of eggplant and pumpkin and were nice…. Just wish it was complete. That should hopefully be the last time they decide to pull the wool over the eyes of ‘another Mum.’

‘She won’t notice, look how busy she is.’

You picked the wrong Mum.

(And you know what, I even wondered if I was in fact mistaking the rocket as just plain lettuce, and it was all getting lost in there… but as any self-respecting rocket-eater would know, it has a very distinctive, peppery flavour, and bestie who is in a ‘healthy’ profession, also confirmed that it was missing. And that still doesn’t explain the feta being AWOL).

Otherwise, presentation was great, and I loved the dark plates our meals were served on.

Baby girl’s meal was fairly simple, and she ate most of it, bar the crust. The crust was way too hard, in fact the entire piece of bread had been toasted for too long. It wasn’t burnt, but it was just too hard. I smeared butter and the yolk over it to help soften the bread, as I didn’t want the roughness sawing at her gums (that happens to me for crunchy bread, let alone a toddler’s sensitive gums).

My bestie helpfully informed me that her meal was great, there was just too much hollandaise sauce, which she spread to the side. Compared to similar dishes, she would have given that one an 8/10.

Despite all this food hoo-ha, I was really happy with where we had decided to sit. We were out of the way out of the indoor diners (some of who seemed surprisingly posh for a venue of this sort, Mum/Bub venue as they’re obviously gearing towards) which meant I was able to let baby girl off her proverbial leash, and let her rearrange the chairs and walk around and around AND around tables (the two men were gone by this point, thank God).

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It had a real backyard feel, with parsley growing along the sides coming out of the tall brickwork that bordered the area, a type of modern rocking horse hung from the wooden exposed beams on the ceiling, and a child-sized model car sat propped up along one wall, and though a child could potentially fit in it, the style of it suggested at $$$ that little fingers should just not get into, or on.

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The staff were slightly odd: I don’t know how else to put it. Our first waiter seemed helpful, generally talking a lot with the 2 men that were initially out there, and then our subsequent waitress, the one we had encountered when first entering the café, seemed… I don’t know, not in the mood. She would smile, but I swear it was like she was saying internally ‘I’ve had enough of this place/diners/kids.’ She was quiet, like she didn’t give a hoot, but smiling politely just enough so as not to allow her ‘unwillingness’ to get her in trouble.

And then there was this other lady, maybe an owner or a chef? But she came out twice, both for no apparent reason (she wasn’t clearing tables or delivering food) and she tried to get baby girl’s attention twice. Look maybe it was even three times she came out. The first time/s she was all “hello!” and waving and baby girl was looking back – cool, that was cute, I appreciate acknowledgement of my baby, thank you. But then she did it again, again for no apparent reason while we were eating, and was calling out to baby girl as SHE was eating, and baby girl turned around and clearly got irritated with this stranger trying to get her attention, and yet she continued trying to get her attention. It was slightly annoying. I wondered if it was me, but bestie agreed.

And then, after ALL that attention, and our plates were cleared – no one came back. We were the only ones out there, and like I already mentioned, that suited me just fine with baby girl’s excessive wandering and touching, but no one came, and we were wanting coffee. It is not nice to sit and wait, WANTING COFFEE. I wonder if they seriously kind of forgot about us, or assumed we were right since we hadn’t said anything when our plates had been taken. But again, we weren’t asked by ‘had-enough’ waitress if we wanted anything else when she took them away. And now that I think of it, when we ordered the waiter didn’t even ask if we wanted drinks.

Tsk tsk tsk.

And then there’s the other possibility. I was asking bestie if chef lady had in fact been annoying as I thought she had, about the time that staff members were ‘out the back.’ Out the back is via a door in the courtyard area, which was right near us, and I’m not sure what was on the other side other than to assume it holds stock, maybe storage and I think I saw a car. But I had kind of forgotten they were there, and they may have heard our discussion about this and thought ‘you think we’re overzealous? Now you can wait.’

So, after waiting a while, I went inside and up to the counter to order some coffees. I was very nice despite our neglect (it wasn’t the barista’s fault) and I knew immediately that the woman behind the counter thought ‘we should have checked on them’ when I asked to get coffees. This lady was very nice and said she’d fix us up, and sure enough the coffees were out in speedy-fashion.

Clockwise: soy latte, cappuccino and babycino.

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Firstly the brightly coloured mugs we received were great. The heart shapes, a lovely bonus 🙂 Thank you barista-lady. And the coffee was really good, and it was only after we’d drank it that bestie and I conversed and both agreed how smooth the coffee had been. She also commented that there was no strong soy taste, and though I don’t drink the stuff what she said made total sense.

So, ending on the coffee note –that was really good. That’s most important, after all 😉

(And after all that I didn’t even need to use the change area – assuming there is one).

Food: 6.5/10. I have to remove points because their menu didn’t promise me what I’d ordered. Food was great though.

Coffee: 8/10.

Ambience: Funnily enough, it had a poshy vibe inside, and I don’t know if that’s because of the modern/rustic-Provincial interior, or whether the customers made it so? Surprisingly I say this, as focused towards the Mum/Bub demographic, I would imagine cas-vibe would be more applicable, and appropriate.

Staff: A bit of everything. A normal one, a had-enough one, an over-zealous one, and then the barista, thank God. A bit confused with them really. But most of them did smile at baby girl, and I guess that’s a bit of a requirement with the name of the place and all.

People: Young mums, Nans, older people and a couple of businessmen made it a truly diverse mix. Which is good for the café, as they are certainly attracting a wide variety of clientele.

Price: 3 meals and 3 drinks added up to under $50. Individually, our dishes were on par at $17 each. AGAIN, we were charged $0.50 cents for a babycino! Come on guys. Froth in a cup, that’s all it is… she didn’t even get a nibblie on the side to make it justifiable (even then, it’s definitely NOT justifiable… see my babycino explanation here). I’m starting a no-pay-for-babycino-movement, damn it.

Advice: Go outside if you’re with kids. It’s just easier. And when there, don’t talk about the staff if they’re out the back, or else you’ll have to stalk them to order your coffees.

Ha ha, only kidding (kind of). If you’re really keen on a dish, maybe just make sure it will come exactly as promised on the menu? Make sure you order drinks of any kind before they walk away from you, and also, grab a coffee. It was yum.

In a nutshell: Despite all of the above – and look, maybe I have been a bit nit-picky, but unfortunately for Mamma’s Hubbie and I have come off the back of some very memorable and awesome dining experiences of late, so fussiness is at a high – I would go back. I would just take my own advice (above) and try some other dishes, as bestie and I were at a loss of what to order at first due to the delicious and vast menu on offer. Glad there’s a place like this in Fairfield that Mums can (hopefully) feel at home at with their littlies.

Mamma Says on Urbanspoon

House with a (Boat) view

Fairfield Park Boathouse & Tea Gardens
Fairfield Park Drive Fairfield

On a gorgeous sunny day in late December, baby girl and I found ourselves heading down a scarily steep path on the way to meet my friends for our fabulous KK Christmas catch-up.

That was the only downhill we encountered that day. Everything else was rad.

If I haven’t already mentioned it, I love Christmas-time, I love catching up with the girls, and I love Summer. And food. And coffee. Combine them all for a truly fabulous mix that coincided with a pretty fantastic view.

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After mine and baby girl’s steep descent towards the Boathouse sitting along a river named Yarra, we were on time and I took the best seat on the reserved table out on the verandah just so, because I could well damn it.

Shortly the rest of the girls joined me, and we started in our food orders.

The Boathouse in Fairfield is set up a little different. Not bad, it just may have been difficult if let’s say we all had bubs with us there. Fortunately for baby girl who got ALL the attention, even the other mother’s there had left their kiddies at home, and fortunately for me, I had people to help me out when it came to ordering. When you order drinks or coffee/tea, you go to the drinks section to pay, and then pick up your drink (which is made fairly quickly); likewise with the food, you go to the grill section, pay and order, and are given a little buzzer that goes off when your food is ready, to let you know you can go and pick it up. I had to feed baby girl fairly soon after arriving so when I went to pick up her food (after the buzzer buzzed) I had to contend with carrying her on one arm (she didn’t want me to leave her) while carrying a tray holding her plate of eggs on toast in the other, outstretched so she wouldn’t reach out and grab it. Fun.

But like I said, I had friends there and they helped with the rest of my ordering. However, if you’re with a bub, make sure you have a spare hand, on hand.

I didn’t get a photo of baby girl’s meal, but fairly basically it was just two fried eggs on two pieces of bread. I was excited as it was the first meal out I’ve ordered for her, and she enjoyed it, even imitating the way I dipped the bread into the yolk for her, and getting herself into it by getting her fingers right into the yolk. Lovely.

However I took a photo of my starting drink which was this:

Purple heaven: A fresh vegetable and fruit juice of carrot, beetroot, celery, ginger and apple

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(Penguin cookie not included with juice!)

Now I don’t usually do juices (look up my tag of coffee on this blog and it’ll start to paint a picture) but I just went ‘yes!’ after reading the description, even though I don’t like celery. Sure enough, it looked amazing and tasted really fresh. Two of my friends also had it, being tempted by the purple colour, however they weren’t big fans. I don’t know, but it appealed to me, even though I could taste the celery. And I don’t like celery! I think I fell in love with the idea of a fresh, healthy juice, and I certainly was buzzing for hours later and felt really energized (nothing to do with my subsequent coffee I guess 😉 )

Now, for lunch. My friend ordered for me (thank God) and the food was already on the table after I came back from changing baby girl. I stupidly ordered this:

Boathouse Beef Burger: relish, aioli, tomato, lettuce, bacon, cheese, with chips

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Now let’s be clear: I wasn’t stupid about the burger. It itself was very wholesome and hearty. No, I was stupid because I ordered like I was born a Mum yesterday. Like seriously, who in their right mind orders a massive burger that they barely manage to manoeuvre with both hands, while their bub sits nearby waiting to be entertained on her high chair? Should I add here that this was the same high chair she fell in earlier? She fell off the freaking high chair! She actually fell off the f^$king high chair, like seriously. And then I order a burger, so that both my hands are full, of burger. Not baby.

So anyway, due to some miracle, baby girl actually was really good while I ate this burger. I totally forgot to take a photo of my meal before I started eating, which explains the above photo. Also, I totally demolished the burger, because

a) I was hungry
b) Baby girl was sitting nearby in high chair she had recently fallen down with (see she didn’t fall out – the WHOLE thing tipped over)
c) I actually couldn’t let go of the burger once I started (see above)
d) I was really hungry

I loved the fact there was plentiful aioli, and the burger tasted really good too. There was lots of bacon, and even after taking out all the fatty strips there was still plenty of fleshy-meat bacon in there (which is great because when I usually remove all the fat there’s one tiny strip left). I took the long toothpick out too early though, and somehow, though I struggled for a good while with sauce all over my hands and mouth, I ate it in a somewhat clean fashion… four napkins later.

Again, if you’re a Mum, don’t be stupid. But it was a great burger. Came with fries, which baby girl also enjoyed. Give me a kid that doesn’t like salted chips.

I really needed a coffee after that hard work of eating the burger, and walking up and down the pathway amongst the tables with baby girl, looking at pigeons, the view, and talking to other lovely diners. It’s hard work. And can you believe it…

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I had my cappuccino warm. I know, I’m still getting over it too. And it was really good, hit the spot.

All in all it was a great outing: from being an eating-out milestone for baby girl, having some much needed girl talk, and doing our exchanging of pressies for Christmas (and this year our group of girlfriends grew as one has recently moved back to Melbourne) – we had plenty to celebrate, and be thankful for. The river view made it all the more wonderfully serene.

Food: 7/10.

Coffee: 8/10.

Ambience: Really relaxed and chilled. It’s hard not to be when you have such a lovely view. Also the order-up-front, pay and pick-up thing they have going gives it more of a casual vibe.

We were seated on the verandah as I mentioned, however there was also an indoor area that was empty – maybe used for night time, or busier times? There was also some outdoor seating right near their grilling station, and we could see another little section further down below, right near the river where there appeared to be a Christmas party happening. All in all, very outdoorsy, very cas.

Staff: Friendly and accommodating. I mean, we only really dealt with them when they cleared the table since we picked up our own food, but the waitress who seated me took a photo of us and that’s always nice when they do it with a smile and take an extra five. 🙂

People: Families, older crowd. The Christmas party was a younger 20-30 something crowd bringing them through. It seems to be a real family, get-together place, and places like that always have a really nice homely feel about them, this one no exception.

Price: I think on the up-side, and I don’t know if it’s because we were in Fairfield, or maybe the location and view that made it that way? Baby girl’s two fried eggs on toast were a tad much, and likewise my coffee of $4.60 was more than I expected, more than in other places anyway. My burger was about on the money of $22.50, but I guess when the food presentation is fairly standard, I have to wonder where the justification of some of those prices comes from? I enjoyed it all though, and would go back again.

Advice: Definitely book if going on the weekend (just so you can get a nice table looking out at the Yarra!) and also because as I got there the waitress immediately asked me if I booked. So maybe it’s a thing. Anyway. And if you have a baby, or child, make sure someone with free hands can assist you, with ordering, paying, picking-up food, and feeding you a burger if need be. Just don’t get the burger if you are alone with child, I beg you.

In a nutshell: Thank you Boathouse, for a most spectacular day. And thank you Melbourne, for the gorgeous weather. Once again you made a 23 degree December day feel like 30 in the shade. Thank you muchly 🙂 

Merry KK.

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