Somewhere in Queenscliff…

Circa 1902
59 Hesse Street Queenscliff

(Visited February ’18)

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Funnily enough, this was the only new place we dined out at, at the back end of our Barwon Heads getaway. We had returned to BeachHouse Barwon Heads, from a previous trip over, so no foodie review there, and then the following night we decided to stay in and do our own bbq while away – a very good idea.

But upon returning home via the Queenscliff to Sorrento ferry, we had a little extra time on our hands, and decided to chill, hang around, and grab some lunch on what was a still and sunny February Summer’s day.

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Circa seemed like the perfect choice. Both a hotel and restaurant, the seating outside was ample and in a nice and bright position, the menu looked appealing, and then there was the greenery abounding which made us feel relaxed and like we were eating in someone’s friendly and quaint backyard.

 

It was an order up at the counter type thing, so after perusing the menu and making selections, Hubbie went up to make our food and drink order, coming back with some necessary holiday-lunch BOOZE.

Well for him anyway. I had an OJ.

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We were positioned with one of our favourite table numbers, so that was already reason enough for feel good vibes. There were other families about eating there, but it wasn’t packed, oddly enough, being a Saturday in Summer.

Soon, after several trips to the loo with baby girl (she gets slightly obsessed with new outhouses when in new places) our meals arrived.

And they looked good.

Now, seeing as the website was still in production as of this writing (and by now let’s face it they’ve probably changed their menu), I have to best describe our meals without their insider chef’s knowledge. So here goes…

I had the Chicken Curry with rice and pappadums

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Hubbie had a Pulled Pork Burger with chips on the side

And baby girl had a Fish Fillet atop chips, with a side salad and tomato sauce

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We were all pleasantly surprised by our meals. Hubbie loved the Pulled Pork, I was in awe of how moorish and comforting my curry was, with the oh-so-necessary and amazing addition of rice and pappadums, and baby girl happily ate away at her clean piece of fish… and when a child is catered for as well as her parents, in terms of quality pieces of food… not only is she happy, but I am too.

It was really very good. We weren’t expecting it to be horrible, but we knew being a hotel it might just be, you know, ‘casual’ lunch fare. Meanwhile the tastes were impressive and spectacular, and we immediately vowed we would we back on our next ferry ride over the Port Phillip Bay.

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Food: 7.5/10. Simple, but scoring high because it was what it was, and was amazing at that. Points for that.

Coffee: N/A on this visit, we were only slightly spoilt by coffee choices back over in Barwon Heads 😉 But judging on their food, next visit, a must.

Ambience: Very casual and relaxed out there in the front yard, with the sun shining down, local folk striding by amidst out-of-towners (ahem, US) and holiday vibes just abounding. Inside there is seating but I wasn’t privy to checking that out, though on a warmer day, I reckon head out, it rules.

Staff: We didn’t actually have much to do with them, other than at ordering, and them delivering our food to us. I often bemoan the task of going up to a counter to order and pay for food, rather than receive the full table service usually afforded to more formal eateries… but having said that, in this case once you have eaten your food and are done, you can just up, and walk off! Bill has already been settled! Quick exits are sometimes necessary with unpredictable kids… and ain’t that a positive 😉

People: Locals and out-of-towners as already mentioned. Many groups. It’s a hotel, so a mix of all, though probably an older, family-friendly generation is the majority.

Price: $ 76.00 Pretty decent wrap-up. 3 meals and a few drinks. And of course since it was so tasty, worth every cent.

Advice: Sit outside on a warm day. If there is a curry on the menu and you don’t mind some heat, eat it, don’t be afraid. It is amazing.

In a nutshell: A really lovely place to dine at that is unassuming but delivers on taste. If you want to sit outside, enjoy the local surroundings and watch the world go by, then this is definitely your place.

And I mean, who wouldn’t want to enjoy some fine food and think about, I don’t know… how amazing life is?

Oh that’s right, the frame ‘circa’ their interior walls covers that TOO. 😉

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Afterword: This restaurant does not operate under the name Circa anymore after some new owners took it over last year… but I sure hope they kept that curry recipe…

 

The Fox that ran away

Dr Fox
37 Main Street Mornington

(Visited February ’18)

(Foreword: Ok… so this is awks much? This ‘reincarnation’ has since closed down, so lucky for me they didn’t see this review or else I would have felt a tad guilty… here it goes, unedited as per the day we visited):

It was a very sleepy Monday as Hubbie and I headed on down to Main Street for brekkie… after dropping off baby girl at kinder.

What? We were ALONE? This was unheard of. Sure we were on holidays, but being able to actually enjoy each other’s company, and enjoy our town at the same time, without having to herd a cheeky 4 year-old along with us, was at the time unimaginable.

But it WAS happening. We hauled our tired selves, spent from the weekend holiday-going-around, to the ‘main’ strip, and soon decided on a place where baby girl had months ago promptly sat herself down at, almost demanding she have a babycino.

The staff had been so lovely I decided I would be back. So here we now were again, at Dr Fox’s.

Why ‘Dr. Fox’?

Why, I have no idea where the name comes from. All I know is we stepped in, found a small spot inside, away from that unusually cool Summers morning in February, and I saw staring across from me this quote:

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I don’t know the story Alice in Wonderland too well to know if there is a fox in it, but my investigate prowess tells me the above quote is loosely based on the quip Alice makes in the film, so…

A café where things are as they shouldn’t be, and they shouldn’t be as they are? This would be interesting.

It was very quiet. We listened to the staff talk to some other diners there who they knew, as we tried our damnest to WAKE UP.

That was done with Hubibie’s first coffee of the day…

Strong latte

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And an OJ for me.

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Ahh, tangy. Just what I needed.

It was soooo weird to be sitting there across from Hubbie, and not have a 4 year-old grabbing our attentions at every moment. The fact of it being such a still morning, meant that apart from looking at each other sleepily from across the table, the extra calm in the café, just made it odd and unnerving for us.

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We wanted couple time, right? And now that we had it, we didn’t damn well know what to do with it.

But we focused our attentions on food. We ordered, and my position sitting in a booth against one wall, meant I could see half of the kitchen, and the two men in it working away.

It made me feel… awkward? I know they were making our meals, but somehow I felt I was privy to something I wasn’t meant to be looking at. I tried to look away…

But you can’t NOT think of the colour ‘red,’ when I have just told you don’t think of the colour ‘RED.’ See? Impossible.

Soon we got our meals fairly promptly.

Mine was a Vegie big brekky that had the following: 2 hash browns, spinach, asparagus, tomatoes, pumpkin, mushrooms with an additional two scrambled eggs

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While Hubbie had the Big brekky – this had hash browns, chorizo, bacon, two pieces of sourdough, tomatoes, mushrooms and scrambled eggs.

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If we had known how big our meals were, I wouldn’t have gotten the additional eggs on my plate and would have just eaten off Hubbie’s – as it was he could barely finish his meal! My meal was just a whole lot of everything. Sure, when you have the words “big brekky” in the title, you should expect a lot of things. It tasted good, but it was just so overwhelmingly large, and perhaps my own fault I ordered that, than something else from the menu that would have been a bit more inventive or with a different taste. It tasted good, and I appreciated the uncommon vegie brekky addition of pumpkin. But I could barely finish it.

Thank God I had no bread. Hubbie had bread, plus all that meat, and egg, and hash… woah. We were just WOAH. Definite value for money, but nothing mind-blowing either. Wondering now if it is possible to have a big brekky meal and have it be something unusual, not just a lot of stuff piled on?

I chased my brekkie and overwhelming sense of fullness down with a cappuccino, while Hubbie got yet ANOTHER strong latte (holiday hangover season).

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The cap was good and gave me the boost I needed to walk up and down the Main street with Hubbie afterwards and spend $$$ 🙂

Food: 7/10. Hard to tell when it was just a lot of food on a plate, but it did taste good.

Coffee: 7/10. Woke me up and was pleasant-tasting.

Ambience: Cosy is the operative word. Super quiet. More so than the library around the corner. This was clearly because of the time of day, being an early Monday morning in February… but don’t forget it was still Summer too. Takes the folks some time to wake up down ol’ Mornington way…

Staff: There were two girls, the two chefs, and another very chatty guy, maybe the owner. They were around for us only when we needed something – you know, the basics.

People: Minimal. Two girls who knew the staff were having brekkie too. I’d say it’s a mixed bunch that comes here, as per most of the cafes on the Main strip.

Price: $64.50. Fairly reasonable for what we got.

Advice: Well firstly, it is tiny. ‘Small’ space doesn’t really explain how little it is, but with the combined outdoor and indoor areas, it equals up to much more, a necessity for an operating café. So whether you want to visit at low-peak times or call ahead, just be warned…

In a nutshell: I found that visit average, but that I base on the uninspired meals we ordered and the calm of the café. I don’t blame the café itself. I would prefer to go for a different brekkie meal next time, IF we did in fact venture out there.

My ending thought? Well in true spirit of the quote I read upon our entry into the café, it is what it isn’t, and isn’t what it is… it is ok, but I much rather prefer the Cow to the Fox. Now that’s a Main Street riddle for you. 😉

(Afterword: I have since learned that the new café operating from these premises is an improvement on the old, and it has been getting some very, very good reviews…. I will be sure to link to it here when I visit 🙂 )

Dr Fox Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Playground Hotel

The Dava Hotel
614 The Esplanade Mount Martha

(Visited December ’17)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The TV.

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

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

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

WHAT ABOUT ALL OF THE ABOVE?!

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

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

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

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

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And baby girl had the Spaghetti Bolognaise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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(Hubbie’s ‘strong’ latte)

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

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

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

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

Coffee: 7/10. It was good.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perspective

19 degrees in Winter… “Ahh nice, bring it on Spring.”

19 degrees in Summer… “What the?! What is this stupid excuse of a season?”

 

Waking up healthy… “Eh, another day.”

Waking up sick… “I can’t wait to feel good again.”

 

Dealing with a whinging baby… “Stop crying! You are so annoying, I can’t handle it!”

A childless woman wanting a baby, watching a whinging baby… “What I would give to hold one of my own…”

 

Going into work… “I hate work.”

Not having a job to go to… “My work wasn’t too bad.”

 

Feeling overwhelmed by food after a banquet sitting… “I couldn’t eat another thing!”

A starving child in a third-world country feeling overwhelmed by the lack of food… “If only I could find a crumb.”

 

These are trivialities, first world-problems, serious problems, and for us privileged, most are perspective.

Getting consumed by the nonsense of everyday life is both easy yet unnecessary, and can be overcome when you ask yourself “Is there worse out there? How bad is this scenario?”

There are many, many serious problems and issues out in the world. But how much easier would it be to deal with those things when we removed the silly nonsense from everyday life, enjoyed more of what’s around us, and appreciated what we have?

Showing gratitude for simple things every day, is a very easy way to turn your perspective around, and bring more joy, more happiness, more abundance, and generally more of what you want, into your life EVERY DAY. I know this, because earlier this year I started my own online gratitude journey… inspired by a car crash.

If you would like to check it out, or find some inspiration for your own journey, or you just want to see how I can possibly be grateful that I went back to work after time off (my most recent post), you can click here.

If you are reading this, that means you have survived every single bad thing that has ever happened in your life. Wow, are you a superhero?!

Remember, SMILE. It’s all good 🙂

Bacon, Brioche & Co.

Milkbar & Co.
1/42 Lochiel Avenue Mount Martha

It was the morning after deciding to randomly stay over in the Peninsula. Our accommodation in Martha was great, however, when you come unprepared, it means you might suddenly get freezing cold at 5am because you’re up in the hills, and you sleep half-naked because you didn’t bring anything other than your swimwear underneath your dress.

So needless to say, we were a tad tired that Monday morning. We ventured down to the little strip of shops we had run off to the previous night to buy much-needed supplies, to a quaint and funky place called Milkbar & co.

I had been drawn to the place ever since I’d seen the handwritten poster up against their outside wall.

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For those of you who can’t read sun-glare writing (who can?) it says “I hate when people say you don’t need alcohol to have fun. Well you don’t need running shoes to run but it helps.”

This made me LOL inside. It made perfect sense that we should eat there.

However we immediately encountered massive pole-bum attitude from the young waitress who tended to us. She was too cool for school. Literally. Like she had just finished holidays and was jealous she wasn’t out there beach-bumming it like all her friends. She was very sour, we had to call her over several times, and she made it out like we were doing her an injustice by calling her over. She was only moderately-tempered later when I paid at the end of our meal inside the café, and maybe that was because her boss was nearby. I don’t know. I usually save my report on staff ‘til the end of my review, but her disdain for everything was so apparent that mention must be made first.

We sat outside, and placed our orders. A very kind local was sitting alone near us, and heard us telling baby girl to behave. Baby girl, was not. This lady mentioned that we could get colouring pencils from the staff, seeing as she usually does that with her own cheeky brood when they are there with her. That day, she was enjoying some temporary peace. (How I was jelly). Upon her kind suggestion we got some from another passing waiter (not Grinch-girl).

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They kept her kind of busy.

Hubbie’s cappuccino came first. It looked awesome after 5 interrupted hours of sleep.

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And I ordered a freshly squeezed orange juice, which was uplifting and refreshing. Hubbie loved it as much as I did, as he kept stealing sips.

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Then our meals:

My Brioche French Toast, with organic maple syrup and streaky bacon

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And Hubbie and Baby girl got the same meals – Fruit toast with butter and jam2016-01-11 09.49.38

My meal was really nice, however I seriously wasn’t expecting that much bacon. I need to say that I am not necessarily a bacon girl, but I will eat the ‘clean’ pieces if it comes in a meal of mine. If you’re a bacon lover, you would LOVE this meal. Even though the pieces were ‘clean,’ and I was impressed by that, still consuming the lot (I hate wastage) it made me slightly ill later, only because I’m not used to so much of it.

The fruit toast was thick and soft, with very chunky fruit pieces inside. Again, if you are a fruit toast lover, this is fab. The chunky fruit pieces were a bit too chunky for baby girl, however it’s something I know I would have enjoyed. It was a generous fruit toast in my book, and very sweet.

Later I had my cappuccino and enjoyed it for a few lovely and lonesome minutes while Hubbie walked a squirmy baby girl up and down the footpath.

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Their coffee is Dukes, and at first the flavour was quite strong, but like Dukes usually is, it softened and gave way to a gentle smooth flavour by the time I was taking my last sip.

I paid Grinch-girl inside where she suddenly had found the mechanism to turn her face into a somewhat upward turn, and we left for Mornington Beach.

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Food: 7.5/10. It was generous, and done well.

Coffee: 8/10. Dukes: strong, then smooth.

Ambience: Chilled beach-vibe, what with the surf hidden behind the tall trees just across the road. It had a very local feel sitting in amongst all the other convenience stores and eateries there.

Staff: Hmmm. So should I reiterate? Our waitress was ill-mannered. Other wait staff there seemed ok. The management needs to either be careful of who it hires, or put their staff into an aggressive waiter boot camp, where snobbish, rude, arrogant and unhelpful traits are stamped out. You can’t serve people like that, you just can’t.

People: I could heard a lot of ‘local’ talk, and you would, as I said, being on a small strip within Mount Martha. Families, ladies catching up, and older people too. We also saw a well-known underground figure walking his dog… All sorts.

Price: In the $40s for our lot. Within reason.

Advice: Try not to get served by anyone that looks like they have just bitten into a lemon. There are colouring pencils there for the kids, so if you’re not given any and you just can’t handle the whining anymore, call over a ‘lovely’ waiter to pass some over thank you very much. Listen to the menu descriptions too. Bacon on brioche means “lots of!” bacon. Fruit toast means “lots of!” fruit chunks. Take note.

In a nutshell: Despite the fact that our waitress left little of her service to be desired, this would be a cafe we could happily go back to. The food was great, coffee too, the beachside proximity was desirable, and it was a nice lovely strip to stop for brekkie. Plus, we’re kind of in love with the Peninsula. So fortunately for this establishment, we’ll be back.

But Grinch… me (and co.) will be watching you…

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Milkbar & Co Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Main Hotel

Bay Hotel
62 Main Street Mornington

Not even a week after returning from Port Douglas, we were down at Frankston beach, rapt with all the kid and family-friendly features and surroundings – grass, shady trees, big change rooms for children, accessible (but heavily fought for!) parking, nearby café and ice cream – that after we were done there for the day, we kind of drove further into the Mornington Peninsula just to get baby girl to fall asleep in the car… and we ended up staying in Mount Martha overnight. As you do.

It was spontaneous, exciting and so different. We hadn’t packed, we didn’t have nappies for baby girl, and all I had on me was my bikinis with my very tropical-fringed dress draped over me. We were definitely not prepared. After organising overnight accommodation, we bought a few key items, and headed on down to Main Street in Mornington, where we have been so many times before, to get some tucker into us.

We decided on The Bay Hotel after a bit of to-and-fro up the street, only because we were looking for something a bit kid-friendly, both space and food wise, because she had slept very little in the car and we didn’t want to piss her off even more.

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It’s a grand old building, visually striking, and used to be a bank back in the day before being transformed to the restaurant and bar that it is today. There was seating outside but much more within its doors, with some casual lounges on the right by the window to perhaps sip on a coffee and window-watch people stroll by, with the majority of the seating on the left of the venue, beside the long-stretching bar. High ceilings, echoey spaces, and dark wood gave this venue even more of an esteemed aura, making me a tad nervous with baby girl’s intermittent outcries. Add to that the few people actually sitting inside, none of them making noise, and it didn’t feel like the best place to bring along a toddler.

However the staff didn’t make us feel like that. The waiter who served us in between spending the majority of his time behind the bar, and our main waitress, both made us all feel welcome, getting us a high chair, giving baby girl pencils and paper to colour in with, and just being very kind and gracious about her ‘noise.’ They were awesome. And of course, there was a kids menu, so they expected kids to come in and yell, right?

We ordered as quick as we could.

We needed something to peck on first, so we got the

Duo of dips, cumin oil and flatbread

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The flatbread was warm and eagerly devoured by baby girl. In fact we could have just let her eat that, but we had gone and ordered a proper main for her as well which in hindsight we could have gone without going by the flatbread portion. The dips were both great, and though I completely forget which was which, I know I liked them both, whereas Hubbie only liked the green one.

We had ordered drinks too – I had a Pinocchio Pinot Grigio, and Hubbie ‘double parked’ as the waitress coined, with a Johnnie Red and also a Crown

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Baby girl was kept busy with this picture of a cat (colouring in by Mum and Dad)

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After, our meals came.

My Paella – prawns, chicken, chorizo, mussels, saffron, olives and smoked paprika

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Hubbie’s 400g T-bone with chips and salad

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And baby girl’s Kids parmigiana and chips

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While we also had a side of steamed vegetables, for anyone that cared for them

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(Note: the uglier my food photos, the harder the meal was with baby girl. Just a late disclaimer).

Baby girl’s meal was huge! She pecked at most of the chips and we found bits of tomato in her salad too which she loved, but she didn’t have a lot of the chicken, which we tried to finish ourselves despite our huge plates. Nothing against the chicken, but she isn’t a huge fan of meat. Too much chewing required. Sigh, children nowadays. It was a massive kids meal, well worth the $12, and probably better suited to older children than toddlers like herself.

Hubbie enjoyed his T-bone steak, saying it was cooked to his liking, had a great char-grilled favour, and in total was a generous, comforting meal. He was a happy chappy.

My Paella was nice, however there was no overriding smoky flavour, or other discernible flavours as suggested in the meal title. It was a nice dish, but there was nothing noteworthy about it. As a paella, it was fairly bland. However, being hungry, and the fact I had seafood and rice in front of me, I ate as much as my stomach allowed.

Baby girl had been going a bit crazy during our meal time, and we had had to take turns watching her (walking outside with her while she waved at all the passers-by) while the other party ate alone inside. Seriously, this is why parents do not eat out with toddlers. My food posts may cease altogether if we continue at this rate. For some unknown reason, we still thought it appropriate despite her unsettledness, to order short blacks for us, and a babycino for her.

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She was happy with the marshmallows that accompanied her babycino. We both skulled our coffees, however mine was very much on the strong side, a bit too much for my liking. Still, coffee: I drank.

I up and paid and we left. Sorry folks, hope we weren’t too much of a racket. Bloody Melbourne folk.

Food: 7/10.

Coffee: 6.5/10. Based on my short black, too strong for me.

Ambience: A bit too quiet and refined for my liking, with baby girl I mean. Chilled out Triple J-like tunes playing in the background made it out to be more of a place you catch up with friends, than one you take your toddler out to dinner with.

Staff: Really friendly, smiley and helpful, and I’m grateful for this because I’m sure they thought we were a bit annoying. (I say ‘we,’ but I mean ‘baby girl,’ because I’m trying to be overprotective and defensive of her you see 😉 )

People: Couples, an older mother and daughter duo, and another family, but this family had older kids with ipads, with the Mother looking over to me every now and then with the look ‘why have you taken her out with you?’ while I stared back with ‘Have you forgotten how it’s like to have toddlers you nasty piece of *^&%!’

Price: $122.10 all up. That was one starter, 3 mains, 1 side, 3 alcoholic drinks, and 2 and a half coffees (they charged for the babycino…. Grrr, Argh). The price was actually reasonable considering what we ordered. I just wished some of it had been to a higher standard.

Advice: Maybe eat outside if you’re coming with kids – the outdoors will cloud their cries of discontent/amusement/toddler talk.

In a nutshell: It was a lovely place, and though some things we felt needed improvement, the staff more than enough made up for it. The fact that it’s on the Main Street and within a place we love to frequent (watch this space…) we would probably come back in the near future.

Who doesn’t want to be by the Bay?

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😉

Bay Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

‘Bel’ Prawns

Bel Cibo
30 Macrossan Street Port Douglas

Since this restaurant had been booked out on night one of our Port Douglas getaway, Hubbie had booked us a table the following day for that Sunday night. It was not only conveniently placed near our accommodation, but it had elevated views of Macrossan street with a distinctly poshy vibe. We had been walking by the restaurant for two days now, looking into the kitchen and watching the all-white uniformed chefs do their thing. Soon they would be cooking for us.

On our arrival to Bel Cibo that night we were promptly seated and menus were brought to us immediately. And so it continued: the service was always there, with wait staff constantly checking in on us, whether it was to top up our drinks, get our food, or see if everything was ok. This was great, and the only reason I was peeved was that it made it a tad difficult for me to discreetly take photos. Not a bad thing to say: ‘we were waited on too much!’

Once again fans were in abundance overhead, however tonight this was in stark comparison to that of Rattle ‘n’ Hum the night before. With the overhead views of Macrossan Street, the sounds of International accents coming from both customers and wait staff all around, and the paper-covered linen tables that immediately characterised what kind of restaurant it was, I knew this was going to be a fine-dining experience. Add to that the humidity, and the increasing bird calls coming from one particular end of the main street from an enormous tree, and it felt like we were on an exclusive jungle safari somewhere in Africa.

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Baby girl was brought pencils straight away which she doodled with on the paper tablecloth, keeping her slightly occupied.

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Since we had arrived pre-7pm, our meals came quite quickly after that.

Our drinks of French Martini and a Crown

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My Seared King Prawns with crushed chat potatoes / broccolini / dill / lemon and garlic sauce

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Hubbie’s Roast Chicken Fillets with tomato / parmesan polenta / garlic field mushrooms / salsa verde

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To share, some Broccolini with garlic /lemon / evo oil / pistachio

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And baby girl’s Chicken strips and chips

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I really loved my meal. The prawns were cooked beautifully, with the light lemon-y sauce surrounding it complimenting it well. The addition of potatoes and broccolini were definitely needed for this carb-loving girl, and even though I was content on completion of my meal, it was still one of those meals at those posh places, where the quality of the food is high and tasty, yet the quantity of what you get on your plate is not in abundance. Nevertheless I really enjoyed my (approximately 5) prawns, they had a bit of a seafood taste too which Hubbie didn’t like, but all the better I thought, more for me 😉 They were very flavoursome and I enjoyed every bite, wishing there was more. The presentation was also of a high calibre.

Hubbie thought his meal components were perfectly matched and on the ball – chicken, polenta, mushrooms and salsa. He loved his meal too and enjoyed every bite.

We were however a bit undecided as to what to think about his chicken, and in particular baby girl’s chicken strips. It was brown and stringy, not white the way chicken usually looks. Hubbie first thought they had given her a cheaper cut of chicken from an ‘unfavoured’ side of the chicken – this pissed us off because hey, just because she’s a child and she has a cheaper meal doesn’t mean she should get a cheaper cut… then he considered the fact that perhaps it was in fact organic, unbleached chicken, since most chickens are apparently bleached white to get their pristine colour. After telling me that, I was so glad I was eating prawns. The fact that his chicken too was also on the brown side, told us that perhaps all their chicken was like that. But if it were organic, surely it couldn’t be stringy too? When I tried hers, I realised why she wasn’t keen on eating it at all. It was only that confusing factor that left us wondering why everything bar the chicken was of such high quality.

The broccolini was a nice side addition, and the combination of garlic, lemon and pistachios made it quite tasty and moorish.

As soon as we had eaten it was time to go: baby girl was keen to run around, and it was now ice cream time (there was definitely room in our stomachs for that).

Food: 8/10. Even with the undecided chicken verdict. Those prawns were the best I had in Port Douglas.

Coffee: N/A.

Ambience: A refined dining experience, and although there were many families around, these were the families with grown-up kids who had plenty of $$$ to splash. This was on the quieter, rather than rambunctious side.

People: As above, ‘developed’ families, couples, and there was at least one another family with a baby, I remember it well because the baby looked 2 days old and the woman’s partner just walked into the restaurant leaving her to carry 2 day-old baby in one arm and lug a pram up the stairs on her own with the other. Other than the latter, most people seemed a bit head-up-their-ass unable to smile, so just be aware that the people that usually smile at you, will be looking at your child instead with a ‘duh’ expression, their kids’ faces speaking boredom with ‘I hate this family holiday.’

Woe is you.

Staff: They were friendly, very professional, and attentive.

Price: $119.50 for the lot, which makes perfect sense for our dinner of 3 alcoholic drinks, (did I mention my French Martini was YUM!) 2 mains, a kids meal and a side, at that type of restaurant.

Advice: Book like you should with all restaurants at Port Douglas, unless of course dining pre-7pm. Sitting as close to the street gives you a great view, but then again all the outdoor covered dining area allows for fantastic views. And have the prawns.

In a nutshell: A fantastic restaurant that I believe was worth the money, given the quality of produce we encountered that night. It’s worth the fuss, and the booking ahead. Just be aware that it is a finer dining experience so some portions may need to be supplemented with sides. Finer dining can sometimes mean more boring, less adaptable clientele too. However, if you’re looking for some ‘great food,’ you’ll find it at this fine establishment.

Bel Cibo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Happiness Is… # 12

Coffee.

(I’m seriously baffled, mind-boggled, and stupefied that it’s taken me 11 previous attempts in this series before acknowledging this life-saving, world-changing, cure of all evils, magically attributed powers brown liquid)

I’m walking over with some colleagues to get the usual morning coffee. Conversation turns to “what would you buy with the $60 million on offer in next week’s Tatts draw?”

We’re talking the usuals:

money to family and friends

charity

holidays

houses and investment

shopping (my addition)

But then we throw in some exciting extras:

Getting a ‘good accountant’ so that we don’t have to pay tax on our fortune (my addition again)

Setting up a shelter in the CBD to help the homeless and get them back on their feet

Buying a football club

Walking into random bars at night and shouting “drinks are on me!”

And this is all happening BEFORE we’ve had a taste of our caffeinated beverages. That’s just how damn good coffee is. It gives you a burst of energy, in its anticipatory excitement of having it, before you’ve even had it.

Thank you person who discovered coffee beans. 🙂

Now I will proceed to list the many things I would do with my $60 million winnings:

Give a considerable amount to my immediate family and friends, so that they could live debt free and enjoy some luxury. Excluding the people considered in my recent posts Round and Round and Things that shit me… well there are consequences for being a dickhead isn’t there? Oh what the hell, I’ll throw a couple thou their way so they can buy some expensive shoes.

Buy some lion cubs, and set them up in a huge jungle-like enclosure so that they wouldn’t feel confined like the lions in zoo-type scenarios usually feel roaming along the fencing line, and I’d visit them on a regular basis so that they would know me and protect me against the arseholes of this world.

Set up my family overseas who are doing it really tough. Make it so that they don’t have the hardships and struggles that many living in difficult economic times over there are having.

Go shopping. I have this intense feeling of wonder, of how it would feel to go into your favourite clothes shop, and buy every single item that’s desirable to you, even if it’s just a “hmmm, maybe” item, and not ask about any of the prices. Just pay at the end. And comment to the salesperson on payment “that’s cheaper than what I thought it would be.”

Set up a shelter for unwanted animals. They can receive treatment for any ills, and just laze about for the rest of their days, living in happiness and comfort, with an abundance of food and love and attention and walks, yet the shelter would also serve as a rescue house where the public can come in and save an animal for free. Unlike other shelters, these animals would not be put down due to excessive overpopulation. These animals will live as long as they are possibly able to, because they would be in a huge mofo of a shelter.

Buy a holiday house on the beach, in Mornington Peninsula, Victoria; Opatija, Croatia; Positano, Italy.

Set up a shelter in Melbourne CBD for homeless people. The shelter would provide food and shelter, while also providing training for basic tasks like cooking, to more advanced career skills to help them get back into the employment field and get them back on their feet, and any other necessary life rehabilitation. It would provide this assistance until they were employed and able to support themselves, living from their own means and off the streets. Follow-up visits would ensure these people are checked up on and kept on track with their life goals.

Give money to cancer research. Employ the best scientists and tell them to kick cancers butt out of this galaxy and beyond.

Buy a really, really, really nice house.

Employ a full-time cleaner for life.

Get my Nissan 370z (I don’t need no porche).

Buy A LOT of cats.

Organise investments with my full-time for life ‘good accountant.’

Okay buy a porche.

Set up the underprivileged villages in African countries with clean drinking water, organise education and training, and help these children and their families make something of their life, far from the poverty they currently experience.

Walk down the streets, randomly handing out $100 notes with the catch phrase “Hi! I’ve been looking for you! Here’s my overdue payment” and then walk off.

Get a professional coffee machine (barista style) installed in my really nice house.

Go into bars and yell “drinks are on me!” and make friends for life. (Note: do this in my three holiday house locations).

Hire a bodyguard for life.

And with all my free time not working, I would drink coffee, do yoga, indulge in red wine, holiday, and just write write write!

Ahh. What a life.

(And all that from the anticipation of coffee!)

*Try it, it’s a fun game, and leave your comments below!*

A gem’s in the cupboard

Larder
57a Vincent Street Daylesford

We had ventured past the bustling eatery the day before. With people looking out at us seated by the window, sipping coffees and eating delicious-looking meals, it was the kind of place that you wanted to be in, and be a part of. There was an instant attracting vibe.

So when we happened past Larder once again on our way out of Daylesford/Hepburn Springs on Day 3 of our getaway, looking for a place to munch before we took to the road, although everything looked great, we were hesitant. Inside it looked tightly packed, and I didn’t know if it would be too crowded for the three of us, one of us being a recently turned over-confident, super-animated and vocal girl (and I’m not talking about me). I waited outside while Hubbie ventured in to suss out the sitchy.

We had been soooo undecided ‘til that point. Where to eat, how baby girl would be in the surrounds… we were tired, the car was packed, it was too cold. Blah blah blah. I looked through the window and saw Hubbie motion for us to come in. Here it goes, I thought.

As soon as we were brought to our tables and seated, I immediately started to feel at ease. A female waitress, or more a manager-type as she seemed to be working the room and looking after the barristers and orders up front, tended to us, as did our male waiter, who took all of our orders. HE. WAS. AWESOME. With all the whinge whinge whinge and hesitation that had been going on between us outside (and that WASN’T from baby girl) it was amazing how the energy from the female manager (we’ll call her), and our male waiter, flipped our hesitant vibe to a 180 pumped ‘this is going to be incredible’ one. Honestly, the service was impeccable from the moment we walked in. And maybe that was because we had been so ‘blah,’ that we felt the difference so majorly. Our waiter joked with us and enthusiastically took our orders, even saying I was a deer in headlights after I couldn’t work out what he was spelling out to me, until he said “toybox?” and we just laughed. He hadn’t wanted baby girl getting hyped up before our approval. Over the toybox came, with an assortment of little toys and books. Awesome idea. There was a bit of water running down some of them (some kid threw their drink in?) but it was still, great. Kept baby girl occupied for a bit.

With assistance from our waiter, Hubbie got this interesting looking beer while I soaked in the surrounds.

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And wow, what surrounds they were. I loved it. The atmosphere was cosy, with that Brunswick-hipster vibe, but without the pretentiousness you get with some, replaced with a genuine warmth and friendliness. I loved the décor. It was an urban eclectic mix, with the coffee/register section up front boarded up by a multi-coloured picket fence, and individual lightbulbs ran down from the ceiling and hung fairly low over each individual table.

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Behind us was a mini-larder area up on the wall, with a smorgasbord of local produce like teas, including some other little pots and things to buy. The room had a mix of small private tables and communal tables, with one communal table in the far corner of the room raised higher up so people were sitting on bar stools. One of the middle communal tables had barrel-like light fixtures hung above them, and just in general, the structure and levelling of the room, along with the amount of detail so intricate in every corner, made it so interesting to feast your eyes upon, and it was only a small room at that. It was popping. I loved it.

I was really digging this place. The staff were amazing, the atmos was perfect, and I could just sit and absorb my surroundings all day. If I could just pick it up and take it home and have it be my local, I totally would.

Having said all that, even with our excitement at realising that hey, this is going to be our best restaurant experience yet, on our way out of Daylesford, and we hadn’t even had the food yet (but Hubbie had heard our waiter tell some diners that all their food was fresh) it didn’t mean that it WAS going to be a perfect experience. Because of baby girl. Our beautiful, darling baby girl, was just playing up, and wasn’t being helpful at all. It was driving me slightly insane. When our meals came we were relieved that finally there was food in front of her, but if anything she decided to play up even more. I was going to explode. We managed to somehow feed her, and ourselves, on the following:

Baby girl’s Ham and Cheese on Toast

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My Baked Semolina Gnocchi, wrapped in prosciutto with tomato sugo, pecorino, crispy garlic and sage

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Hubbie’s The Roast Beef Sandwich, with house roasted ‘Kyneton Beef’ rump, shredded lettuce with minted chevre, and tomato chutney

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Baby girl, though she ate it sooo slowly because upsetting Mum was much more fun, seemed to enjoy her toastie, but hey she loves all bread. Hubbie and I taste-tasted the end bits and it was really yum, the ham seemed of good quality.

Hubbie enjoyed his steak sandwich, and I didn’t hear much from his hungry munching until it was his turn to feed baby girl and I got a chance to eat.

Although I ate mine rushed, I loved the gnocchi in the sugo. It was so good, and it definitely tasted fresh. Here was the sauce that Boathouse had missed the day before! The large gnocchi pieces were swimming in the delicious sugo, and I lapped it up, with the bits of garlic and sage that were there too. So enjoyable, yes yes yes.

It was getting hard with her at one stage, and she just kept on whining. Whining, whinging, yelling. OMG. Seriously. And you know what happened next? The manager came up kindly, asked baby girl what was wrong, and then handed her a little notepad that was kept up the front counter, and one of her pens to doodle on.

OMG.

She was so kind, and not at all upset with her, or us, even though baby girl’s cries were ruining the lovely atmosphere. We said thank you, and through our frustration started to calm down a bit, as baby girl started doodling, while she kept eating, bit by bit.

It was only then, when baby girl was kept busy by pen and notepad, that we realised how noisy her cries had made the place. It was suddenly so peaceful. My God. Our ears were happy again, and so were the other diners too.

She had calmed down again, so we decided to push our luck and rather than get a takeaway, order some drink-in coffees. For baby girl too, though I told her she didn’t deserve it.

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Once again, Hubbie didn’t need a sugar in his latte. As he says “that’s proof of a really good coffee.”
I added one to mine because I just had to, but together we agreed that it was a really great bean. Smooth, yet strong. Baby girl’s babycino kept her busy only for so long, and then we had to leave. Our selfish time was over, and it was time to bid adieu and say farewell to Daylesford and Hepburn Springs (and with that experience we were sure they were all too pleased to see the back of us, though no one said it :))

Food: 9/10. When we heard fresh, and knowing that so many of those places source locally, well I just get so happy and super-excited. Presentation was great too.

Coffee: 9/10.

Ambience: Perfect. Relaxed, inspired and eclectic, urban edge. I’d love to go there with my laptop and write a whole book. I could do it easily as well, with the quality of their food and coffee urging me on.

Staff: 10/10. I don’t normally rate the staff, but the amount of sincerity, humour, genuine willingness to help and please, patience and fun that they showed us, they deserve a 10/10 rating. Hubbie had said the manager had welcomed him with ease when he had asked for an availability, and our male waiter, he was a hoot. What a great combination we had. We loved them.

People: We had a family come to sit beside us (where I could point out the well-behaved girl to baby girl and tell her to be more like that!) couples and small groups of people around us, even a lone diner, an elderly man sitting near us who seemed to be getting much amusement from baby girl’s antics. Glad to entertain peeps. A big mix of locals who have discovered this gem of a place.

Price: $77, but that included a tin of tea from the Slow Tea Company. It really would have come in at about $60, and for 2 and a half main meals and 2 and a half coffees, for the quality of everything we received, that was impressive. Much better value for money than the Boathouse, and the staff at the Lake can learn a bit about service from the Larder folk too.

Advice: We went for lunch on a Wednesday and were fortunate to get in just as a couple of guys were leaving. For busy times and weekends, maybe you might need to book, but I actually don’t know if they take them. I’d say yes, judging from the notepad manager gave baby girl. 🙂 No other advice, just go and enjoy this place, and if you’re a local to that area, well what are you waiting for/you bloody lucky son of a beep!

In a nutshell: None of this ‘yeah, if back in the area, we will probably go back’ half-hearted crap that I admit I kinda do at times with other reviews. When we go back, WE ARE GOING THERE FOR BREAKFAST. AND LUNCH. It is happening. We need to try ALL the larder in their cupboards, not just some 😉 I love the food, I love the coffee, I love the staff. I love it. Just go there already, just do it.

Click to add a blog post for Larder on Zomato

Don’t tell me, this is Paradise

I saw this place from across the road on Day 2 of our Hepburn Springs/Daylesford getaway. I think in particular it was the words, ’13 room bookstore’ printed somewhere near the building that got my reading juices bubbling. Hubbie, baby girl and I headed in.

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I tell you, within minutes, I just turned this corner to my left and all of a sudden found myself staring at a section of books devoted to writing. Like seriously. I couldn’t believe my luck at having stumbled upon this, accidentally and with no purpose to, and when Hubbie came and found me 5 minutes later I was like “I have to buy these two.”

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After that, we started to really explore.

Set in an old Georgian building on the main strip in Daylesford, Paradise Bookshop has 13+ rooms with every single genre, theme and medium you can think of. New and second hand books collide in this majestic treat, and fireplaces are stoked so that you can stay somewhat warm in the musty old building. Temperature isn’t a factor though. These books and all the varieties, will keep you hot in excited combustion.

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There was even a section devoted to children, including a little toybox that baby girl picked a paddle-stick toy-like thing from, and happily brought it with her all over the building as we went through all nooks and crannies, until we found out at the counter that no, it was not for sale. Great idea to keep the kiddies busy though.

There was a music section with second-hand music sheets and books which kept Hubbie involved for a while, while I discovered there were all kinds of subjects to be explored: philosophy, biography, Australiana, along with old vintage Women’s Day magazines and very old, old DVD sets (did anyone know there was a Sex and The City collection in blue? So retro!) Comic book lovers would love the Comic collection room, and if I were more of a nerd I may have even invested in a copy to hope it paid me dividends in the future. I’m sure you’ve heard of those stories.

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All in all we probably spent about half an hour there and only left because baby girl needed a nappy change. The man up the counter was lovely, and I was left reeling at the volume of books still to be discovered.

Luckily for me, one of the second-hand music books Hubbie had been reading had been on his mind the rest of the day, so we returned to Paradise Bookstore on our way out of Daylesford town the following day so he could purchase it. I was sooo excited by this fact, despite Hubbie jokingly stating that he was allowed back in with baby girl while I was designated to waiting in the car. Boo. Prankster. Still, as we walked back in, me beaming like Charlie in the Willy Wonka factory, Hubbie’s words revolving in my head and my resolve to not ‘actively look for books,’ I somehow again, just walked straight, and saw before me, the cooking section.

For months now, since my love affair with Lebanese food began after watching that Food Safari show on the cuisine, subsequently followed by that amazing experience at Bayte, I have been looking for a Lebanese cookbook. I haven’t been going out specifically to find one, but everytime I near the book section of a major chain, or go by a QBD or Dymocks, I tell baby girl “Mummy has to look for something honey,” and push the trolley by the cooking section, idling to see if any Lebanese keywords pop out at me. Only commercial and recently released titles stare back at me, no retailer wide and diverse enough to stock a cookbook as specific yet still very current and popular as the one which I’m after.

You know where this is headed right?

As soon as I saw the section, and my memory went “Lebanese!” I saw this staring back at me on the middle shelf.

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Yep. So I bought it. This Paradise bookstore and I are a match made in heaven. It kept giving me what I wanted, and I barely had to crane my head around to find it.

A book lovers/readers/writers paradise: that can be sure. I told Hubbie as we exited that if we lived nearby, I would be buying a book a week from there.

Do yourself a favour and head on down there. Rug up and give yourself some hours to spare, you won’t be disappointed.

Paradise Bookshop is located at 46 Vincent Street Daylesford.

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(I also told Hubbie if I could I would buy shares in the place… I mean who wouldn’t want a building full of books with images of cats in every corner? Hrmph).