‘Botham’s Up’ for Father’s Day

Hickinbotham of Dromana
194 Nepean Highway Dromana

(Visited September ’17)

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

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

What?! Our time had come.

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

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

I had done well (go me 🙂 )

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

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

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

And years and years.

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

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

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

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

First up, some drinks please.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Soon, the food!

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

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

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

Spiral pasta with bolognaise sauce

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

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

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

Crisp potato puff… mmmmm.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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So just pick up your glass and…

…Botham’s up.

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

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Warm olives, cold Cowes, but fond memories

Fig & Olive
115 Thompson Avenue Cowes, Phillip Island

(Visited August ’17)

We had trekked over to San Remo for a couple of nights during mine and baby girl’s birthday period. While café-ing out in the main strip one windy Tuesday, Hubbie asked the nice guy delivering coffees out to everyone, “can you give us a good dinner recommendation?”

The first name he rattled off was Fig & Olive.

He mentioned a few more, but his description of the place and the food it delivered won us over, and we planned to book ahead. Upon driving back to our accommodation a short while later, we looked at the area in which it was meant to be, as directed to us by kind waiter.

And suddenly, we were time lapsed to 5 years earlier.

Because we had been there before. Pre-food blogging days. Pre-baby days. Pre-Sea change days.

It felt like a long time ago, and yet the memory of that visit was strong because we had sat outside on a warm Summer’s evening, had enjoyed a delicious drink and dessert, and snapped an amazing selfie of ourselves, and let’s face it when you get one where you BOTH look great, it’s immediately one for the memory bank (and photo album – old school, yes).

It made total sense to be returning to this restaurant 5 years on.

Although things were a bit different. We were with baby girl. We absolutely HAD TO sit inside. And we absolutely had to, because we almost didn’t make the drive over from San Remo to Cowes, it was raining that much.

We burst in through the doors a bit sprinkled on from our mad dash from the car, and chose a table alongside the wall with booth to sit at, alongside another couple who were entering at the time.

I honestly can’t speculate at what had changed in the 5 years or so that passed between our visits. I couldn’t remember. All I remember was we had been seated at some kind of outdoor alfresco area, so the interior – I wouldn’t have a clue.

Now it was warm, illuminated by warm and sparkly lights, and the ample seating and ambience made the setting quite refined. However the orange-red wall brought it a playful burst of colour, taking it closer to its ‘Relaxed Casual Dining’ web site tag.

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I was happy when they brought over some pencils and colouring-in paper for baby girl, as there is never such a thing as ‘too much distraction’ when a toddler is out with you.

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We perused the menu and settled on some

Warm marinated olives with bread

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Hubbie got a VB, and I got a glass of the ‘Dance with the Devil’ Cab Sav

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Of course we had to try the appetiser of the restaurant name, didn’t we? I’ve been getting right into olives as an entry to main meal, ever since we started getting them at Manhattan. They were great and the bread was lovely to dip into the oily concoction and soak up all the goodness.

It was pretty quiet, being a midweek Winter’s night and all, but happily for us (those noise levels are preferred to be always loud in case a certain toddler decides vocal aerobics are necessary) some more groups of people soon came in, though at the most there was still only 4 or 5 groups that whole night.

Baby girl’s meal of spaghetti bolognaise immediately followed the olives

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And then soon after ours came. Mine was the pumpkin risotto with goats cheese, cherry tomatoes and rocket

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While Hubbie had the 300g scotch fillet, with potatoes, broccolini, and creamy peppercorn sauce

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So baby girl loved her spaghetti, though it may have been hard to notice since I literally had to spoon-feed it to her – as I said before, distractions. She was quiet, so it was good. Even Hubbie and I took fork stabs at it occasionally since it did look so delish. Sometimes it’s the simple things… like taste-testing from your child’s plate.

My risotto was sensational. Rich, but not too rich. It was quite liquid-y when it arrived, leaving Hubbie with a puzzled look on his face as it was brought to the table, but this is why I am the food blogger and not him. There were pumpkin pieces in there that brought it texture, the liquid made it moorish and smooth, and the complimentary tastes of goats cheese and rocket were YUM. Did I mention anything with rocket added is immediately made better? Well there it is.

ANYTHING WITH ROCKET ADDED IS IMMEDIATELY BETTER.

So I loved mine. Hubbie enjoyed his too, and that in itself is a God-send. Angels sing! The meat was cooked exactly to his liking, and it was tender too. All hail Fig and Olive.

Since it was our last night on that side of town before we were due back home the next day, and also as I already mentioned, ‘birthday month,’ I had to have dessert – whether I was full or not.

I was kinda full. But it would fit, I assured myself.

Hubbie went with our old holiday fave, the Affogato, and got himself a shot of Frangelico in addition on the side.

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He ended up pouring all the coffee over the ice cream, which he immediately regretted since he and I could not then actually taste the coffee on its own. Oh well, it still tasted good.

I went for the warm chocolate fondant – chocolate sauce, crumble and vanilla ice cream – because really, how does warm and melted chocolate NOT sound good on a cold Winter’s night?

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And baby girl was more than content with her vanilla ice cream and strawberry topping

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My dessert was oozing with thick melted chocolate, so my heart naturally followed.

I enjoyed it very much, and the chocolate crumble, was a really lovely addition to break away from the gooey-ness of it all. Vanilla ice cream to lessen the sugar-rush impact. Yes.

We had been first to arrive, and almost a couple of hours later, we were last to leave. We paid our bill, said our byes, and hurried back to the car, to drive through the rain once again.

Food: 8.5/10. The standard was there as it was years ago, and whether or not a change of ownership has occurred, I don’t care. It was wonderful. Dreaming of that risotto.

Coffee: Since it was had alongside the liqueur and ice cream, it was hard to ascertain on its own, other than to note that it was strong, so I can’t give a proper score here.

Ambience: Quiet and refined, though there was a casual element to it too.

Staff: Professional and friendly, and helpful when it came to our main orders.

People: There was only a handful that night: an older couple; a group of tourists from out-of-town; and another group of 3 that I can’t remember, other than to note they were near us… a real mixed bunch.

Price: $129 for 3 mains, an entrée, and 3 desserts alongside some drinks. On the money.

Advice: Perhaps book ahead on the weekend in warmer months/holiday season to avoid disappointment. Eat the risotto.

In a nutshell: We really enjoyed this place, and being the destination of fond memories, we will definitely be back. It has something for everyone, and next time we will be back, basking in the sunshine, or basking in its interior orange glow…

Either way, it is sure to be warm. It’s definitely a place I would love to revisit, but I won’t wait 5 years next time 😉

Fig & Olive at Cowes Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Love on the Rocks

The Rocks Mornington
1 Schnapper Point Drive Mornington

(Visited May ’17)

At the end of a very long Tuesday in early May, where Hubbie, baby girl and I pretty much ran to the reaches of all parts of this city, we settled back in our new home turf to head out to dinner. It was at a destination that had been organised as a surprise by Hubbie, so the surprise itself was known to me, with the destination meant to be unknown by me at the same time… but when he said the menu had primarily seafood, well there was only one local place I thought that was fancy enough for the occasion we were celebrating. 8 years of wedded bliss 🙂

And so it was, that we predictably headed down the Main Street, and kept heading down the Pier ‘til we reached the end, to the rocks.

The Rocks, at Mornington.

My, was I glad Hubbie had pre-booked. A fireplace greeted us nearby after we had climbed the winding stairs, and after our waiter glanced through the already-full room that weeknight, he led us to a table for 3.

I was actually, extremely pleased that it was so noisy. It was a poshy destination, that you couldn’t deny, but I was happy to hear the well-to-doers talking loudly and happily from all corners of the room, filling up the room with a bustling and fluid atmosphere. Though it was a ‘nice’ restaurant, it was actually quite cosy, with wooden and sailing paraphernalia throughout to add that necessary beach-side effect, and yet it was done so tastefully. There was fairly ample room in the large dining area we were in, with an outside area that we could view from through our side window, that was currently empty, but would be an amazing spot in Summer. Oh the joys of beachside living.

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We perused the menu first for the celebratory drinks, and I opted for a local red, while Hubbie went with a … beer. Of course, what else.

Yes, my wine was on the $$$ side, but it was fantastic. Divine. Truly a red worth celebrating love with. ♥♥

And soon after we ordered the food, it didn’t take long for the first few plates to reach our table:

Seafood dumplings, shallot, ginger, chilli oil

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And Spaghetti napoletana for baby girl

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It was a basic pasta for baby girl, but even that, it was done well and kept both her, and US busy (and me a bit OCD-mad) as I tried relentlessly to keep her clean from sauce-stains. Fortunately for this order freak, she is a little OCD too.

I turned my attention to our entrée when I couldn’t take it anymore, and was happily impressed. The dumplings were yummalicious, and the combination of flavours made it a delightfully spicy explosion in your mouth. They didn’t last long on our table.

In between those plates and our mains, we kept ourselves busy. Looking out at the dark waters before us, drawing with baby girl, and of course, taking her to the loo repeatedly, because that’s what a toilet-trained toddler is obsessed with of course, the toilets of the world. Some other diners started to head home, we drank some more, baby girl took blurry photos of us, and then the mains arrived!

Hubbie’s Lamb shoulder – free range riverina, slow-cooked overnight on the bone with Asian flavours and roasted chats, with a side of chips

And my Spaghetti frutti di mare – todays seafood, hand-picked tomatoes from Puglia & evoo (chip additions courtesy of baby girl)

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Here is where I explain why I got baby girl pasta, and not chips, since I was having a hellish time keeping her sauce-mouth in check. If I were to get pasta, and she chips, although she loves BOTH, I wouldn’t have heard the end of it, as she would have been hounding me for bites, getting upset at the distinct spices in it, but then getting more upset because she still wants pasta. We had carefully conducted our plan however, and by this stage not only was she fairly full on her napoletana, but she now had Hubbie’s chips to peck on too. Score.

It wasn’t spicy. It wasn’t meant to be, but it had definite kick and flavour. Seafood, without being sea-watery in flavour, and the pasta was just… mmm hmmm. All the seafood was cooked perfectly, and though I’m not much of a fan of calamari, I still ate most of it, just because I was enjoying everything so damn much. I loved the pieces of salmon and the oiliness of the dish held it together so well, although that component did leave me feeling pretty full once my plate was empty.

It was a slightly different story for Hubbie’s meal. His ‘meat’ was cooked beautifully, to the point that it was falling off the bone, and it certainly looked inviting… but the problem didn’t lie in how it had been cooked. The problem lay in what it was. Because the menu said lamb shoulder. And it was shoulder. It just wasn’t lamb.

It was mutton.

I know, I know. Tell him to do his own food reviews. Believe me, if you think I can be critical, he is of a higher power. But he is allowed to be – he is a butcher after all. He knows his shit, and his shit, is his meat. He deals with it all day. Poshy restaurant or non-poshy restaurant, lamb should be lamb, and the overwhelmingly ‘lamb’ smell that was emanating from his dish, told him it was definitely not the above-mentioned dish, but the parent version. The smelly version.

It didn’t turn him off the dish, and he still ate it… but considering the calibre of the restaurant, he was disappointed, and had really believed they would at least put their money where their mouth was in terms of food quality.

The fussy butcher strikes again.

Things like this kill me, really, they do. I sit there across from him, hearing him complain, and I’m like really? Are you sure? But does it taste good? But see how it’s falling apart? ALL TO DEAF EARS. I enjoyed my dish but because he didn’t enjoy his, it just meant we were going home a whole lot faster.

He probably would have indulged in a dessert, but as it was, opted to share with me, and go a dessert wine. He had his vino to forget about the mutton, while I went for

Panna cotta with figs and pistachio crumble

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And baby girl kinda stayed still long enough through her intense excitement, to let me snap a blurry pic of her own ice cream and chocolate sauce dessert

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So yep, she enjoyed hers. After an oily pasta dish, my panna cotta was light and creamy, not too heavy, and the figs on the side gave it that freshness that accompanied my full stomach well. It was the perfect dessert to follow what I had eaten, however my usual preference would have been something much richer and decadent… maybe that’s for the day I eat a salad there. Salad for dinner? Nah, not happening.

We soon paid and left the restaurant with a much lighter wallet.

Food: 8/10. That score was a tough one to make. I don’t take to deception well, and yet I see the quality in the rest of the meals they prepared, bar Hubbie’s… their emphasis is on seafood, and you can find it in most parts of their menu, except for the grill. They also do breakfast, which on a clear sunny day, would be splendid.

Coffee: N/A this time.

Ambience: Really relaxed despite what I would have expected. The wooden beams and sailing decoration added a chilled vibe, reminiscent of a beach-style lifestyle. Well, it IS a beach-style lifestyle where we are! It was cosy, yet happily boisterous too.

Staff: They were attentive and friendly, but we didn’t have much to do with them, beside their taking our orders and delivering our plates/removing them from the table. I didn’t feel they went above and beyond the call of duty like other restaurants we’ve been to, but they did their job.

People: A well-to-do crowd. What does a 20-something guy do when back in his home turf? Why, Mother and Father take him out for some dining. Celebrate a birthday in style with 8 of your closest friends! Go out for a special dinner at that seafood place with your special someone, and smile at that mischievous girl at the adjoining table because she reminds you so much of your own rascally child at that sweet age – oh wait, they were looking at baby girl? The people there were actually really good with baby girl’s insanity: older couples, families and groups alike. An older crowd ruled that night, majority 40 +.

Price: $140ish. Phew. Wowza. Had Hubbie been happy, this wouldn’t have been a problem, it was a special night for us after all.

Advice: Definitely book ahead. Get something seafood (not hard here). Take in the views, (and I say that without even having seen the views!) If your partner is a fussy butcher, make sure he DOESN’T get the meat shoulder!

In a nutshell: I have not given up on this place, not by a long shot. I am yet to eat more seafood here, have a drink overlooking the water, have brekkie overlooking the water, have a coffee overlooking the water… I think I need to have EVERYTHING overlooking the water. The quality of food is above average, and though the price is up there and may make you flinch, remember that its mainly because of the prime real estate… everything is that much dearer when you are on the rocks.

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

A local on the Esplanade

Kirks on the Esplanade
774 Esplanade Mornington

(Visited October ’16)

We ventured to this hotel/pub style restaurant while still on hols… and by hols I mean in the deepest midst of never-ending unpacked boxes. I mean, when your kitchen stuff is God knows where, you really can’t cook up a meal, right? Especially when your potential dine-out view is something like this:

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Yep. It was freezing cold and windy as I stepped out of the car that evening mid-October, and yet I still had to brace myself just to take a photo of the most spectacular coastline.

I could definitely get used to those views.

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We headed into Kirks, and although we hadn’t booked ahead we still got a seat on that Tuesday night. We sat in the glass-house like section at the front of the restaurant, which in my humble opinion (and every other sane person’s I think) is the best seat in the house. There is seating behind this area, but the view of the water is further away, and really, unless you are sick of views like that (who are you, an alien?) I don’t know why you would choose to go anywhere else.

Although we received menus and all, and baby girl conveniently received one of those kid’s packs with crayons, stickers and activity paper, it was an order-at-the-counter type of establishment, so the food and drink were both ordered further into the restaurant behind us, with food at one section, and drinks ordered at the bar.

There are also toilets in between the bar and food ordering sections, while a TAB functions at the left of the establishment once you walk further up the stairs, operational every day of the week. This place has really got something for everybody. Food, alcohol, entertainment, and Port Phillip Bay views.

Hubbie got me a cab sav and himself a beer.

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The surroundings were peaceful, with definite locals around, now ourselves included (!) and there was a calm comfort in the air, the restaurant keeping the cold Spring air out and its inhabitants warm inside, with only the view of the water to remind them of the elements outside. It felt like a pub-style yet classy establishment.

Baby girl’s meal arrived first as requested, and it was hot!

Spaghetti with Napoli sauce

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She had also received a free drink as it was a kid’s meal special. She enjoyed her spaghetti, it was a hit with her, and the serving was definitely generous. With her main came our entrée, which was

Roasted pumpkin bruschetta – Oven-roasted pumpkin tossed with semi-dried tomatoes & basil served on mozzarella toasted ciabatta

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It was exactly as the description told us, with the pumpkin element adding a vegetable warmth usually missing in bruschetta options, and the mozzarella giving a good dose of cheesiness! It was a hearty meal, and we were already half way to full-ville when our mains arrived:

Hubbie’s YG Aged & Grain-fed Portland Scotch Fillet 300g with a red wine and mushroom sauce, with chips and salad

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And my Chilli Tiger Prawns, tossed in a cream & white wine sauce, served with fragrant jasmine rice & a side salad

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Hubbie thought his steak was amazing! Impressing the fussy butcher, WHAT?! Yep, you heard right. Although he had ordered his steak medium to well, it was a tad more medium… but that was acceptable. The other components on his plate were a bonus, because let’s face it, when a butcher orders steak, all we’re really gonna judge is the meat, right?

I had been longing for a classic style of chilli prawns. And this didn’t disappoint. The sauce wasn’t the most chilli-rific, but the prawns… there were 11 of them! Count that! That, made me happy. When I order prawn ‘whatever,’ I want prawns, and a decent quantity too. It was good to see that though the price was equally decent for an institution of that calibre, that the quantity of meal (and components on the plate) matched it. By the end, I was content.

After our decent meals, me giggling my way through the rest of my wine (the quantity of this was decent too, and got me fairly tipsy), and sitting back in our chairs observing the views outside, it soon grew too dark to see the water, and then it was time to go.

Food: 9/10. They are the classic pub-style generous sizes, jazzed up too because of the location and views. I give them a higher score, because of how well they received us on another visit… read on below…

Coffee: N/A, but mark my word I will try it one day soon!

Ambience: Casual and cosy. Intermittent laughter and louder than normal groups were heavily punctuated by longer silences and still moments when people were just chilling. I think being by the bay makes everyone feel that much calmer. You just stop, and stare.

People: Locals. Locals. Locals. Cold Tuesday night in October, who else but locals? There were a group of 3 guys near us, but predominantly there were older couples, and older groups… um, Mornington is a bit of a Pensioner’s Paradise. Is everyone aware of that? I mean, they even have a pensioner special! That’s telling you something.

There was also a Mum and son pairing, and then later, a family of 5 (applause to the parents) came to sit nearby as we were finishing up, but it was generally an older crowd about, and from repeated visits, we’ve noticed a $$$ one.

Staff: The staff provided friendly service, both in explaining to us straight-up after ascertaining we were new, how we had to order, and also by kindly giving the kids set to baby girl, without us even asking. God Bless. More on the exceptional staff below.

Price: The total price was approximately $120-130, being vague because there were two receipts when Hubbie put the orders through at the counter and bar respectively, and we didn’t keep both. Though Hubbie thought the price too much for pub-style surroundings, I reminded him we weren’t only paying for the food, but for the magnificent view. Something to keep in mind. I for one think it is worth it.

The only downside is the ordering up at the counter part for both drinks and food… it’s places like these you expect to pay a little less, rather than the amount we paid at Kirks.

Advice: Book ahead only so you can be assured a spot in the first sun-room section.

In a nutshell: We have been to this venue a few more times since our initial visit, which shows you without me saying, that we were more than happy to go back!

On one visit we received the most kindest and understanding staff, that I absolutely have to mention it here, and praise praise praise. Baby girl was having an exceptional moment one night, heavily over-tired, and pretty much had a breakdown as I tried to take her to the toilets, which resulted in me almost having a breakdown. One lovely waitress tried to help me settle her, and calm my nerves amidst other diners eye-ing us off suspiciously, and then when we were in the bathroom, that same waitress went to Hubbie and told him to let me know “not to worry. We are a family restaurant, we have kids, we understand.”

When he told me that, I honestly started to cry.

Because so often wait staff, store people, and just generally a lot of the population that have no kids, or have long passed that stage and forgotten how difficult it is, will turn up their nose at you for even taking your child out, let alone when they’ve had enough and scream blue murder at the top of their lungs. So for this waitress to go up to Hubbie and say what she did, was like an Angel singing the most beautiful hymn.

She then continued to be accommodating that night, by giving baby girl one of her own child’s toys to play with, and even another waitress was especially kind to us. It was like, they knew…

…that kids WILL act like kids. Funny huh? This place jumped up high in my books after that night, and eternally it will now be a regular fave. Well done guys.

So with all that said, I will definitely go back again, not only because they were so especially kind and understanding to us and baby girl, but also to finish off my ‘to-do at Kirks’ checklist:

Drink wine in their outdoor section taking in the view

Have brekkie in their outdoor section taking in the view

Have coffee in their outdoor section taking in the view

Did I mention taking in the view?

Basically… do not shirk a visit, to Kirks.

Kirks on the Esplanade Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

An event to ruffle up my feathers

“What?” I stared at my phone in disbelief. I didn’t know what to think. It was a while ago and a beautiful coincidence later, when I had happened across the words ‘Mornington Peninsula Bloggers’ in a Peninsula-based facebook page.

There was a group in my area, for bloggers? I didn’t even realise local blogger groups existed, and then I was soon finding out that they were often hosted by organisations in order for some kind of ‘review’ to be later posted by them…

Surely they were buying a positive review. I balked at the idea of being ‘bought.’

“Yeah right,” I thought. I was going to write a nice review about someone just because they paid for some of my stuff? Don’t forget I waged war on one institution which I will never visit again, and though I don’t go out of my way to bag them, if anyone ever asks me where to go Lygon Street way, I won’t be able to keep my mouth shut.

I like to think I am fair, but also, I am picky.

I couldn’t fathom this ‘pay-for-positivity’ idea circling in my head, and so went to Hubbie.

“They’re going to shout you food?” He looked at me incredulously. I really wanted him to go all moral and high-ground like me, and yet his expression told me otherwise.

“Go!” he urged. “You don’t have to write a positive review.”

“But I feel I’ll have to!” That was the clincher. All those food posts I’d read on other sites. They prologue their review with

“Restaurant X&Y hosted us that evening, but all opinions are my own.”

You know what that translates to?

“All opinions have been diluted through my well-fed tummy… What is an ‘opinion?’… More food please… Nom nom nom.”

I didn’t wanna be one of those food-coma bloggers.

But then my alter ego, SmikG, stepped in.

“I will be hosted, and I WILL have an opinion!”

I needn’t have worried about having my opinions watered down through my digestive system, or of having to lie about my experiences though…

So on an uncharacteristically beautiful and still sunny July day, I found myself driving 17 or so minutes down Mornington-Tyabb road. The scenery was striking. I was used to roads like this since I frequent Bungower so often, however I felt that the further I drove away from the Mornington beach-side, the more the imagery turned pristine and pointed. There were still the huge blocks of land, long winding paths leading to expansive houses and farm-style cottages, however they were both perfectly rustic and exceptionally manicured at the same time. White picket fences, immaculately placed rock trails, even the trees on either sides of the road stretched far and wide, meeting in the middle and opening their branches just enough to allow you a glimpse into the road ahead, providing a magnificently glorious backdrop to the gorgeous day that was.

It was very Castle-esque. I had “how’s the serenity” playing on loop in my mind with my musings, as we drove on ahead.

On first impressions, I felt I almost could’ve kept driving past The Hungry Peacock, our host for that afternoon. Even with my google maps alerting me that it was indeed, a 50 metre left turn away, I still had to slow down suddenly, and heads up for those with lowered cars – watch your bumper bars as you enter the dirt car park.

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(Church hall on left, The Busy Peacock on right)

The setting was quiet and peaceful. I slowly headed into where I thought I needed to be, as fresh as baby girl who was in more knowledge than I was about what lay ahead. Soon though we found our group, in a barn-like shed otherwise known as ‘The Busy Peacock,’ which sits nearby the café ‘The Hungry Peacock’ on the premises. You see, not only were us bloggers getting shouted, but so were our kids.

Those clever minxes.

So the whole idea behind the The Busy Peacock, is that kids get a 45 minute session, in where they engage in sensory play.

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There are two sessions a day – one early morning and one late morning – and they run from Tuesday to Sunday. The children come in, put on smocks, and then just go where their curious hands and minds lead them…

There are water-based activities, sandpits, kid-sized building box areas, hammering and craft tables, gooey water ball tubs, and so much more. The great thing is, these activities change every two weeks, so you can be sure you’ll get some new play areas for your little explorer, even if you do frequent the place often.

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Baby girl of course LOVED the water areas, and after having a good sticky-nose into almost every other section, spent a significant amount of time spraying a white board and applying human features to it to make a face, followed by the rest of the time counting gooey balls in a tub.

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I mean, simple things. And little details too, as I loved how there was a bucket of fresh water with some old rags for the kids to wash their hands with and dry when things got a little bit messy. As you know it undoubtedly would. I know kids dig that stuff, but baby girl is a little OCD like me (proud as punch Mama) and so when a smidgen of sand touched her fingertips, she was holding them high in the air and high-tailing it to the bucket of water that was now blue.

That’s right, blue, because there was paint too!

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My honest-to-goodness thoughts? I honestly can’t fault the space. I mean, for $10, you keep your kid entertained for 45 minutes, they get their fill of all kinds of fun and exciting play areas and sensory experiences, and then after that you get to eat and drink next door, and they have MORE areas to play in?

What? There’s more?

So after three quarters of an hour following the kiddies around, making a mess and getting their hands into all kinds of gunk, we tidied them up and followed the owner, Rebecca, into the renovated church nearby which is also a space for functions. Rebecca is part-owner with her behind-the-scenes chef Hubbie, and they have been running the place for a while now, ever since their previous partnership running the joint with another couple, went bust. As it happens. They’ve since renovated the interior café too (which we’ll get to) and put their own personal mark on the premises which I can see will be a terrific kid-friendly mainstay.

And these were my thoughts before I’d even had any food.

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The church is a gloriously beautiful building, one that would easily cater for a large number of people in any kind of function, and this was perfectly demonstrated that day as our kiddies began to run amuck and show us just how grand the space was.

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Give them an empty room, and they run for their lives, giddy with joy. God Bless. Oh how appropriate that was…

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That was our brief stopover, before heading into the last area of our afternoon, the actual Hungry Peacock café.

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Being my first time there, I actually can’t comment on the renovation itself, other than to marvel at how many kids play areas there were! It is actually a quite genius, and fairly simple idea.

What do parents want more than anything?

A break.

What keeps kids busy (and away from hassling their folks?)

Why, novelty play things of course.

(Butcher pic thrown in for Hubbie)

A track running along the wall for mini car enthusiasts (i.e. ALL kids), a shop corner complete with play food, and colouring pencils and paper for the creative kiddies completed the tables and chairs inhabiting the café. The café consists of two large rooms, the first one containing the counter/coffee area and kitchen entrance, while the other had more places to sit, a couch and a fireplace.

It really was the perfect place to spend an hour or two catching up with an old friend, or just chilling on your own-some… all while your little one ran amuck looking, and most importantly, FINDING interesting and amusing things to do.

But what if it’s a gorgeous day out, and you want to take in some sunshine, you ask expectantly (waiting for me to stammer and halt?!) ?

???

Even better.

There are even more play areas outside for the kids, comprising of cubby houses and a long tube-like contraption to send balls down, all with a decked area for the parents to sit down and wine, dine, AND whine away, conveniently nearby.

The venue itself caters to all types of parents and their kids – those who want to get messy in the Busy Peacock; those who want to chill indoors while their children wind down and explore other avenues; and those who want to sit outside and take in the sunshine, while the kids become backyard explorers of a different brigade.

I have to say though, quite strongly, that I think it is only a place for parents and their kids. It is a parent’s haven –

(let’s interrupt this broadcast for the Angels singing)

Ahhhhhh!

(and back again)

– knowing your child can lose their shit and not be ridiculed by other non-parents. Even if you have already passed the child-rearing stage, you will probably not be able to take the yells and screams so much. It is a serene place, so the backdrop and nature may just win you over… but really, this is a Mum and Dad go-to for some much needed R&R while the little ones take over everything else.

I can’t comment on the food, because I only tasted the slightest morsels from the shared platters we received… and being a European woman, those platters would have been demolished between just Hubbie and I.

So, a Food Review, next time. Hubbie will be pleased to hear beer is on the Menu…

In a nutshell:

16 Mornington-Tyabb Road, Tyabb.

The Busy Peacock runs from Tuesday to Sunday, at 9:30am and 11:15am sessions.

Book ahead. 0416623827

$10 per child, for a 45 minute sensory play session.

There is an old church beside it that can be booked for functions.

Finally, The Hungry Peacock is the café that has even more play areas for the kids to keep them entertained, while offering food and drink for adults and children alike. Also open Tuesday to Sunday, 8/9am to 4pm.

So in its entirety, the concept is fantastic. You go out, let your kid have fun, go to the neighbouring house for some food and drink while they get even more exhausted, and then come home to a clean house, and hopefully a nap-ready child too.

And as for my first hosted blogging experience? The Peacocks feathers are brighter in person, and that there is my metaphor for my first-time blogging out in the open, and not trying to hide the fact that I’m inconspicuously taking xxx number of photos.

I was fortunately pleased to find that I didn’t need to lie, nor blow smoke up anyone’s behind for a false positive experience. It was a fun day for baby girl and I, and we will ALL be back to explore even more.

The only way is up, folks.

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No. 8 is No. 1

No. 8 by John Lawson
8 Whiteman Street Southbank

We had left home on time to dine at No.8 pre-Valentine’s Day that Saturday night. Feb 14 falling on a Sunday that year, we decided to do a V-Day dinner the night before, because Saturday night – why of course.

The only problem was, there was traffic. Being all outskirts-of-the-city savvy, I thought we could sneak off the freeway through Docklands and towards Crown, but there was an event that night, making the traffic through the docked suburb a nightmare. It held us right back, and even as we tried to make our way in as quick as we could, taking multiple detours due to the event, every time we tried to get closer to Crown – you couldn’t turn left into there, while here, you couldn’t do a hook turn. I wanted to scream in frustration. I very nearly came to screaming point when I received a phone call 15 minutes after we were scheduled to arrive, from the restaurant’s staff, asking where we were. I politely, through gritted teeth said we were stuck in traffic. We were close. I had booked days earlier, and we had been booked into the 6:15-8:15 session, yet I did not realise how strict they were with their ‘sessions.’ The lady informed me it was fine, but we would still be booked in ‘til only 8:15, despite arriving later.

Basically, she was telling me they would kick us out prior our 2 hour pre-booked stay.

We were seriously pissed driving over for the next 5 minutes.

But, we were dressed nicely, it was Saturday night, and it was a comfortably warm night too. We pushed it to the back of our minds and went forward.

We were half an hour late when we walked in. Considering we had just received a phone call, the door girl took a while to find our booking. When we were finally brought to our table, I was a bit disappointed.

It had nothing to do with the surrounds. They were elegant though arty, not offensive to the eye at all. But when I had booked I had been told we would have outdoor seating overlooking the Yarra, and also, a high chair. We were inside, with no high chair.

Sigh. Another speed bump. We flagged a waitress and queried the lack of outdoors and child-seating. She said she would find out.

The ‘talker’ arrived. She explained that because there were bookings from weeks ago, versus my booking of a few days ago, the older bookings were given priority. And, a high chair was on its way. Apparently shared between restaurants. Okay then.

Clunky oversized child seat arrived. Yay.

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After settling in, I was happy to observe that even though we were inside, in a poshy restaurant, it was fairly loud. And soon after that, we received menus, and were introduced to our waiter for the night, who I shall refer to as ‘Louie.’

Louie, because he reminded me of a younger, less dorky, tad cuter, Louie Theroux. We ordered drinks with Louie, and as I perused the drinks menu I noticed most of the glasses were between $15-20 a glass. I ordered a 2015 Yarra Valley Rose – ‘Crudo’ by Luke Lambert,  Hubbie had a Crown Lager, and we also received some complimentary bread with butter, that was exceptionally moorish, but only complimentary as far as the fact that everything else was jacked up in price to compensate.

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Soon after, we started receiving our meals.

First baby girl got her Fish and Chips

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Hubbie received his Porterhouse steak with baked onions

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I received the Chicken breast, with broccolini and mashed potato and jus

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While we all had a go at the side of asparagus

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Now before I continue, my meal descriptions would be far ‘fancier’ if I had found the original menu online. Not only is it seasonal, but sadly the restaurant is no more! I think it is Crown’s constant philosophy to keep updating their restaurants and keeping things fresh and new, no matter if they are popular… Anyway, just imagine the above with the addition of words like ‘jus,’ ‘garden dressing’ and ‘crumb crust.’ The photos show you anyway.

Although it looked quite simple, baby girl’s meal had her rubbing her tummy after most bites! That was a good sign. When offered chips and something else, it’s often hard to get her to eat the ‘something else,’ but in this case she did have quite a few pieces of the fish, picking up the chunks with her hands and feeding herself! What?! I didn’t have to beg her? And a lovely fish it was, delicately grilled pieces, which I was very happy about, since there is so much batter on offer for toddlers at restaurants, it becomes a bit boring. Not to mention unhealthy.

We were hoping she would have the asparagus, but it had a certain dressing that I can’t recall which left her opting out. We ate it instead with our meals, it was different, salty, but enjoyable.

Hubbie said his medium to well steak was grilled perfectly. In fact, his meal was amazing, perfect. Woah. Butcher approval? That’s a good sign. I also, LOVED my meal, in particular the crispy chicken with the jus… it was a tender, wholesome, comforting chicken, and until I ate that one I never realised I could be so damn pleased with chicken. The best word I can use to describe it would be ‘homely.’ I don’t know, it’s like the stuff that reminds you of home and your Mum’s cooking on a Winter’s night. Only this one was super-amazeballs.

Then there was the mash, and the crusty stuff on the mash – extra heartiness added there. We just couldn’t stop commenting about how good it was, and we only had positive things to say. There was one negative with the whole dinner experience, but it didn’t come anywhere from the food, the service or the restaurant itself… we actually could not eat together. Baby girl was extra fidgety, and did not want to stay in her high chair (it did look quite ugly) a moment longer beyond her meal being finished. So it meant that I walked with her and showed her the Chinese New Year display outside while Hubbie ate, then we did tag team and he went out with her while I ate solo. So, as far as Valentine’s Day was concerned, there was not much ‘connecting’ there.

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We had one of those moments: “What’s the point of going out?” But then Louie told me we were raising a fine girl, so I guess that counts for something right? Oh Louie.

That’s how it is peeps. It ain’t easy with a kid.

After I finished my main and Louie came to take our plates, he asked if we wanted to see the dessert menu. Personally, I really did, but I knew the time – it was after 8, meaning our time was almost up. I politely queried him, aware of the few empty tables around, fairly sure of the response.

He went away to check which I hadn’t expected, but upon return said there was no issue. Of course 🙂 It was interesting to note as we waited for the desserts, that the lamps on the wall came on at the same time, giving the room a romantic and atmospheric feel, and it was then I saw the time: 8:15. Coincidence? It was all very timely and appropriate, but that kind of attention to detail, I liked.

We managed to rope baby girl back in with promises of dessert after we ordered, and received this:

Dark chocolate ganache with berries and sorbet

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And a Panna cotta with fruit and celery granite

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Ha ha! I thankfully remembered the detail of the ‘celery granite,’ as that was my dessert. I loved it. It was cold and refreshing, light and creamy, and considering I’m not a celery fan, this granite did not taste at all like it, thankfully. It was frosty and cool, I really enjoyed the flavour. It was in cold contrast to Hubbie’s dessert – also good, but so intense with the chocolate. Hubbie was personally like “I’m paying how much for that?” He thought it was overpriced for the quantity of what he received, but I reminded him it was the presentation, attention to detail and the restaurant. That’s just how it was.

We asked for the bill soon after – and then it was definitely time to go!

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Food: 9/10. The quality was fantastic, yet if there was slightly more on the plate, especially in reference to the dark chocolate ganache, the score would have hit the top. Exceptional food and presentation.

Coffee: N/A.

Ambience: Calm, though loud which I did not expect. It had us feeling more comfortable because we didn’t feel like we had to whisper like in a library. It was a fine dining restaurant, with simple, modern and classy surroundings, and that cool, relaxed vibe followed through.

People: Poshy. Don’t be mistaken. Generally the age ranged from mid-30s to up, but that suggests that there were many people in their 30s, which there weren’t, as there were older couples and groups abounding. There was one family who had a baby, but this baby was in a pram… there were no other toddlers I could see! There was a hen’s party near us, who provided some of the loud laughter, which I very much appreciated.

Staff: I realised as soon as the ‘talker’ had left at the beginning of our experience there, that it was their intention that no one leave unhappy. It was impossible. They would not allow it. And too right with the price being asked…

The staff were exceptionally professional. They were friendly too, with Louie talking to baby girl a bit and even another female waitress smiling at her each time she walked by.

I particularly loved Louie’s narration on our food as he brought it over, almost like he was trying to sell it to us once again… “and here is your beautiful chicken… your fine asparagus.”

LOL. Very poshy here.

Price: A very healthy $192. 3 mains, a side dish, 2 desserts, and 3 alcoholic drinks. Not bad for a less than 2 hour stay. I have to add again though, that the food was amazing, as was the service… but still $192 is expensive. You don’t leave the restaurant feeling you may pop out of your clothes the way you think you might for that price, but again, it’s the type of restaurant.

Advice: Firstly, book. It’s a rule at Crown, stated on their website. If you’re really fussy and want outdoor seating, perhaps book over a week in advance so that you can almost guarantee an outdoor seat, overlooking the Yarra, and watching the passers-by, pass by.

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In a nutshell: This is a beautiful restaurant that I would like to go back to, however it’s not something that, at this stage of our lives, I can see happening easily. When you’re forking out that kind of money, you want to be able to enjoy the experience sitting across from your partner, Valentine’s Day Eve and all. So perhaps, unless you have a kid that sits there and does nothing (so really that applies to no parents), I’d suggest making your way over when you have left them with the grandparents. It’s just easier, as you do want to experience the surroundings and food and service in all of its finest…

And even with that being said, we still wouldn’t frequent the restaurant often, just because of the $$$ price tags. Like the chocolate ganache that is served sparingly, so should you too enjoy this restaurant in the same way (unless of course you are majorly cashed up, and in that case would you mind joining us on our food adventures? :))

So, I will come back… soon… one day… maybe when baby girl is 8. Yeah that sounds about right.

Afterword

As already mentioned, this restaurant has sadly permanently closed! Unlike the last food review I posted on the horribly appropriate failed Lygon street restaurant we had the displeasure to visit, I strongly believe this restaurant would have only seen its demise due to Crown’s ever-changing restaurant image.

If you see the name John Lawson anywhere, EVER, do not fear. Great food, is here.

Also, this should serve me right for waiting 11 months to post my review. (Waiting suggests I’ve been staring at my laptop thinking of what to write for that entire time.

Huh. If only life were that boring. NEVER).

 

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

Salmon and Rump

Ribs and Rumps
Northland Shopping Centre, 50 Murray Road Preston

That Thursday night we were looking for a feed, because neither one of us wanted to cook, plain and simple. We ventured out to Preston, in particular Northland shopping centre, because we had discovered that

a) There were a whole lot of seemingly new restaurants situated on the walkway leading into the centre, and we thought we should give one of them a try, and
b) The thought of shopping after you’ve eaten and just wandering about on a weeknight, just feels like you’re living on the edge. You can tell we’re parents.

So off we went, and soon after arriving outside the centre Hubbie got intrigued with the door menu for Ribs and Rumps. We went into the large room asking for a table, but the very sweet waitress informed us as we had not booked, and they were currently very busy with their other patrons, that we would have to wait to be called back in 15 minutes. She was exceptionally kind and sweet, it was hard not to smile and walk off happily, with a wait and all. Besides, it meant we did the window shopping before, not after.

Spot on 15 minutes later, and I received a phone call from them telling us they now had a spot. We went in to a table with a high chair, and baby girl promptly received a little colouring book with crayons. Aha! TGI-style. Tick, regardless of the establishment. Yes they ended up on the floor more often than in her hand scribbling, but the entertainment factor is all that matters.

Ribs and Rumps is essentially a large, warehouse-type room, with coloured rope ends hanging from one side of the room, and great big ufo-style lights suspended from above.

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It had some character, it was loud, and it could certainly house a few people alright. It was the school holidays, which is perhaps why it was so busy… but then again it was a Thursday night, and with the centre open later, and the nearby cinemas upstairs, it’s probably a place that’s always rocking just a bit at the very least. There was an open view into the cooking station on one side, and every so often a sky-high burst of flames would rise up only to be diminished by whatever was cooking there. It looked a sight.

The loud sights and sounds suited us just fine. We love the loud atmospheres, keeps us at ease when baby girl inadvertently vocalises her displeasure with something – usually from being seated for too long. She was good that night, thankfully.

We shortly after ordered drinks – wine and beer – however they took a little long getting to our table. Again, they were probably busy that’s why.

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Soon after that when no one came to take our orders, we flagged down the first waiter we saw and he came over. This was a place where you had to be a bit proactive, and fight for your right to get your order taken against the hundred others doing the same.

A while later our meals came:

Baby girl got the chicken schnitzel with vegetables – that means carrots

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I got the King Salmon – cooked to your ‘liking’ and served with steamed golden rice and an oven-dried tomato coulis

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While Hubbie got the Grain-fed MSA rump – from the Riverina region in NSW, with a marble score of 2+ – served with chips and an additional Greek side salad.

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Ho ho ho, I feel like Santa. Boy do I have a review and a half here.

First things first. Bay girl’s meal. The menu prices this meal of chicken schnitzel at $15. In fact all kids meals are $15, bar the pricier pork ribs at $17. At first glance you go ‘what the?’ but then you discover that kids receive bottomless soft drink and two scoops of ice cream. Ok that sounds good.

Next: the sides. All kids meals come with either chips, a baby garden salad or vegetables. So you can only pick one of the three: chips, a baby salad – which I admit is a considerable serve for a child – or vegetables, and this one is misleading because I ordered thinking ‘great, healthy veg’ when the waiter then asked me “carrots or beans?”

I think you guys should do both.

We, in this circumstance, chose the honey carrots. Which is why her plate looked fairly plain, on top of the fact that it was served on a large plate, which the waitress admitted to when she came with our food, saying they had run out of small plates. Fine. Whatever.

I get the $15 pricetag, I guess I just wish someone had made me more aware of the bonus options (like the ice cream) when I ordered, so that baby girl had had the option to have some, since we paid for it and all, instead of just going home straight after.

Onto my meal. I will begin by saying I don’t think I will ever order salmon again in a restaurant, but I add that I don’t think it’s the fault of the salmon, or the chefs, or the restaurants. I love salmon, in fact I have had it three times already in the last 24 hours in the writing of this review. But I like it when I cook it.

I had an interesting discussion with the waiter upon ordering. When I told him how I wanted the salmon cooked, I was actually finding it hard to describe what I was after, and that’s me, I know, but I did say I didn’t want any raw parts. I wanted it cooked. It didn’t have to be well-done, but I wanted it cooked through, no jelly please.

“What if I put down chef’s choice, that’s what we put down when the customer doesn’t mind.”

??? I had just told him I minded, how could me saying “cooked through” mean ‘I don’t mind!’

And by the way, we all know how chefs like to cook things, I’ve seen them plate up salmon on My Kitchen Rules – if it ain’t raw in the middle, they consider it a waste. I just can’t eat my salmon like that though, food blogger and all.

“As long as it’s cooked through, no raw bits,” I reiterated.

And what did I get?

A lovely cooked salmon on the outside… jelly in the middle.

I picked at it as much as I could, without actually eating any of the rawer meat in the middle. I ate my rice, the side salad I also got, dabbed the salmon into a bit of the sauce too… and as much as I enjoyed the cooked bits, I still had a really upset tummy 30 minutes later. I just can’t do it. I can’t do salmon not cooked through, because even on previous occasions in other restaurants, I’ve had slightly undercooked salmon, avoided the ‘jelly,’ and still been ill. I can’t do it.

A note to your waiters. Listen to the customer, and don’t push ‘chef’s special’ like some know-it-all. Because the paying customer might just go home sick.

(I’m not saying their salmon made me sick. I’m saying every undercooked salmon makes me temporarily ill).

Hubbie’s steak. Now this is a mystery. He enjoyed his meal he did, and he ordered the baby Greek salad on the side, which for $3 is a very decent serve and price in amongst the other menu offerings. He enjoyed it, and it was cooked to his liking (medium) and even I enjoyed the taste of it too…. But he doesn’t believe it was char-grilled.

“What? You can see the fire rising up over there!” I said to him.

“Nup. They’re tricking us. I know char-grill.”

And this is why all chefs should run out of their own kitchens screaming when a butcher enters the premises.

I’ve perused the website, and immediately in the steaks section I see ‘char-grilled’ in many places. So don’t listen to Hubbie. Maybe the way they char-grill, is different to the char-grill he’s experienced at other restaurants. I don’t know. I did suggest that maybe the steaks are already cooked, and then put on the grill as they’re ordered, but that is an utterly ridiculous thought, and would be way too confusing in the kitchen. So let’s go with the thought that they char-grill, and Hubbie is way fussy. It was enjoyable nonetheless, and he ate all 380 grams of it, saying it was juicy and tender.

After we finished and my stomach started churning, we quickly up and left.

Food: 6.5/10. This takes into consideration the jelly-middle salmon, and the appearances lacking in most of the meals. I liked the board my meal came out on, however there was a big space left in the middle while the components were placed around the sides. I kind of get why they probably did this, but it still looked bare.

Coffee: N/A. I’m always a tad iffy at the thought of trying a coffee at a steak place, or fish and chop joint, or a chicken shop… the thought of all those meat scents infiltrating the coffee beans just doesn’t seem right. However if I were to lunch here again, I may just be curious enough to go down that path.

Ambience: Bustling and loud. Great place to be with your child amidst other shouting voices.

People: All kinds were there on that night. Kids, families, couples, groups of older men eager to cut into some manly meat, even a sweet Japanese family spanning 3 generations, quietly picking at and sitting around a tray of ribs in the middle of the table.

Staff: The girl who initially seated us was sweet as pie, really eager to please. It made me think ‘gee, they’ve had some bad reviews.’ Just looking at how fast they moved and how quick they responded when you flagged them over, gave me further proof of that. It wasn’t just doing their job, it was proving something to someone. Our waiter was ok, he said all the right things, but I just wished he hadn’t influenced the chef’s choice for the salmon on me. I’ll need to toughen up for next time. The girl who brought our bill over was exceptionally sweet to baby girl, so really it was a mixed bag.

Price: $94 for the lot. 3 meals, a baby salad, and 2 drinks. I think considering our experience, it’s a tad steep considering the area. Hubbie loves sauce, yet considered the additional $3 (for sauce) ridiculous. The overall price would have been somewhat acceptable if the food quality had matched the set prices.

Advice: Be firm with your choices, and be aware of what you get if ordering a kids meal (and make sure you get it).
Also, their page on Zomato says ‘Reservation Recommended.’ Along with our experience, I can attest to that.

In a nutshell: Look, I would go back. I wouldn’t drive out of my way there to eat, but I wouldn’t mind going back if let’s say I was at the centre and was hungry. The menu options are fairly wide, it’s a good noisy environment for kids, and also, I think this place is still finding their feet. I’m also diplomatic enough to realise this was just one experience, and there was nothing solely horrific to keep me from going back. So I probably will, I’ll just order a steak next time.

Ribs and Rumps Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato