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.

2015-06-02 12.22.47

2015-06-02 12.22.37

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.”

2015-06-02 14.06.55

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.

2015-06-02 12.12.06

2015-06-02 12.17.00

2015-06-02 12.12.44

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.

2015-06-02 12.12.35

2015-06-02 12.12.26

2015-06-02 12.16.46

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.

2015-06-05 14.59.54

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.

2015-06-02 12.22.06

(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).

Cosy Curry

The Cosy Corner
3 Tenth Street Hepburn Springs

It took us a while before we actually managed to decide on a restaurant to dinner at on the second night of our Hepburn Springs/Daylesford getaway. We first drove to Daylesford, walked in to one restaurant, and I just had this feeling that it wasn’t the right spot for us. Without revealing its name, it looked very romantic and private, and there was only one other couple there. But despite its cosy feel, looking at the menu, I could see no appropriate options for baby girl. When no one came to greet us, we took that as a sign and left.

After driving around Hepburn for a while, we discovered the fairy lights strung outside another comfy-looking eatery: The Cosy Corner. Finally, somewhere to eat. We felt good, because it was near the General Store that we’d stopped at earlier that day when I’d run in to get some takeaway meals for lunch, and come back to the car with delicious pies, that ended up being really yummy. And I’m not a massive pie girl. With those good vibes still running, (despite Hubbie being shitty at me that I couldn’t make a dinner decision) when we finally walked in and discovered, looking at the board menu beside us, that Tuesday night was curry night, we did ALMOST walk out. Nothing against curry, we love spice, we love flavour. But what was baby girl going to eat?

Again, conundrum. Bloody hell. I said to Hubbie “we should have eaten at the first place,” and of course he smirked because I was balancing the scales like a Gemini.

We were seated in kinda an awkward position, near the front door, and baby girl’s high chair was near the pathway to the entrance, so I had to pull her closer to my side. Another decider to help us out the door. I expressed to the waitress my honest concern that there was nothing for baby girl, and she pointed out some non-curry options that she could eat. Arancini, great. That would have to do.

The Cosy Corner is set up simply, with a few rooms containing smaller and larger tables. The décor wasn’t a standout and the tables were covered with paper, so this was no fine-dining expensive table-clothed restaurant. But good food does not necessarily equal bigger $$$ and flashy surrounds. As the night wore on, I was impressed with the number of people who came through the doors. These were locals, and they weren’t accidentally stumbling upon the curry on offer – this was intentional dining.

We sipped our beer and wine, and entertained baby girl the best we could, until all our meals came.

Baby girl’s Vegetable and Cheese Arancini with side salad

2015-06-02 18.52.56

2015-06-02 18.53.00

My Chicken Korma

2015-06-02 18.53.19

Hubbie’s Rogan Josh

2015-06-02 18.52.52

Both mine and Hubbie’s meals came with rice, raita, warm flatbread, papadum and a side of salad. They were large and inviting meals, and because we never really attend curry nights or anything like that, we happily enjoyed the Indian flavours and accompaniments. The curry was flavoursome and spicy, even my mild korma, and the chicken pieces were tender.

The warm flatbread was divine, and we ended up giving a fair amount of our portions to baby girl since she was unimpressed with the cheesy arancini and started refusing after a few mouthfuls. After I tried some for myself, I could see why. The cheese that was in the arancini was overwhelming, reminding me much like the Jarlsberg swiss cheese my Mum used to buy me for school lunches. On its own it’s ok, but it has a strong, almost sweet flavour, and I could only see very little veg in there. Despite being crumbed, the flavour of the cheese was still too strong. We ordered an additional side plate of flatbread which came soon after and which Baby girl scoffed. It was a carb-fest, but at least she had eaten.

Warm, nourishing and hearty are the words that spring to mind. After almost walking out, we were glad we had stayed for a taste of India. I think the place is a bit of a local outing, as we heard the waitresses call out to some locals leaving “see you next week.” That’s always a good sign.

Despite the lovely locals there, waving to baby girl as they entered/exited, she was up to her old tricks, and after she knocked over her chair and gave the restaurant’s diners a real fright, we knew it was time to go. We paid and left, without coffee.

Food: 7/10

Coffee: N/A on this visit

Ambience: Relax, you’re at your local. Go casual.

Staff: Attentive and helpful, and very sweet to baby girl, with our waitress giving her a chocolate mint that she proceeded to eat in the car on the way back (I didn’t know she could tear through plastic with her teeth already!)

People: Locals, more on the older side.

Price: Bang smack $80. That was our two meals, baby girl’s substantial meal, the additional side of flat bread and two alcoholic beverages. Very very slightly above average for that style of restaurant.

Advice: Tuesday is curry night! So beware if this is not up your alley, or you’re attending with fussy children. We loved the curry, the space was just that little bit cramped for baby girl which in turn made it hard for us. Stick to the curry on a Tuesday, I think that’s what’s done best on that night.

In a nutshell: A lovely local that we’d like to check out on a night that’s not a Tuesday, next time we’re in town, when baby girl is older and not knocking over chairs and stuff.

Click to add a blog post for Cosy Corner on Zomato

Boathouse Baked Eggs

Boathouse
2 Leggatt Street Daylesford

I saw the all-day breakfast menu conveniently placed at the front desk when I had checked in at Dayget on Day 1 of our Hepburn Springs/Daylesford getaway, so understandably I immediately approached Hubbie with “we’re breakfast-ing at the Boathouse tomorrow morning.”

Located on the cusp of Lake Daylesford, the location is amazing. The Boathouse is perched on the entry to the parkland and circular track surrounding the lake, with tall trees enclosing the perimeter of the lake. It was looming, but very pretty. Unfortunately the weather was not. It was kind of to be expected, I mean, it was June, in Victoria. It was grey and drizzly as we walked by the wet playground and passed the dedicated gardeners pruning out in the front yard of the restaurant, to escape to the warm comforts inside.

2015-06-02 10.40.15

We were led out to the main room at the back of the restaurant, with windows all around showcasing the huge trees opposite the lake. The room and décor… wow. I was impressed. Huge barrel-like light fixtures hung from overhead, exposed beams were on display on the ceiling, and the tables and chairs were modern with a great pattern on the material in the booths that ran along the side walls. It had a great lakeside/sailing vibe.

2015-06-02 09.49.43

We couldn’t wait for our coffees, so we ordered them first.

2015-06-02 09.49.35

My cappuccino, with an upside down apple design me thinks.

We both agreed, that they were great, nice and smooth. Hubbie didn’t even add a sugar to his latte, a clear indicator of the taste of the coffee bean. He was impressed.

However on arrival of our coffees, the waitress, though she seemed nice, didn’t stick around to get our breakfast orders. Maybe she was busy, maybe she wasn’t. Either way, people are hungry when they come in the morning, and they shouldn’t be left waiting too long. Even more so when they have a hungry toddler with them.

Another waitress soon came and took our orders. It became apparent very early on that she was nothing like the pleasing and warm waitress we’d had the previous night at Rubens. She was ok. Just not so happy.

Baby girl’s meal arrived earlier, and we grazed on her crusts as we hungrily awaited ours. She had Stella’s Sourdough Toast with butter, and in the rush to get her eating and keep her from running rampant around the place, I completely forgot to take a photo until half the plate was gone and there were little pieces of toddler-eating-sized bread scattered on the now half-empty plate, so I decided best not to take one. But, it was just two thick pieces of toasted bread, buttered, nothing you photo-food buffs will lose sleep over.

When our meals finally came, they looked yummo:

Farmers Skillet

2015-06-02 10.12.01

Swiss Skillet

2015-06-02 10.11.47

They both looked splendid. And they tasted as good as they looked too. Hubbie’s Farmers Skillet had chorizo, potato and herbs all combined together by cheese and egg, and though he enjoyed it he was missing out on his most important side, tomato sauce. I had to agree with him, that with his, as with mine, there should have been some tomato sauce, something wet and runny. The taste was still amazing, and Hubbie was happy after he got his little side dish, and I still ate my Swiss Skillet happily. Consisting also of potato, with the additions of swiss, feta, mint, and egg, there was a strong salty flavour from the cheese, which the potatoes and egg then balanced out. I enjoyed mine, but couldn’t help taking a leaf from Hubbie’s book, as I kept thinking back to the baked eggs I had back at Little Henri’s. They were saucy goodness. You know a dish is worth going back to when you keep thinking of it, again and again.

We had our meals, finished our coffees and quickly left. We had wonderful surroundings though it was a very grey day, but baby girl had decided our Hepburn/Daylesford getaway was the place she was going to turn up the cheek factor… so off we went to run amuck in another establishment.

Food: 8/10, even without any saucy additions. The rest of the menu looked really interesting, and I nearly swooned when I saw a lady buttering scones on a nearby table.

Coffee: 8.5/10. Smooth, pleasing.

Ambience: Casual and laid back dining by the water. On the quiet side being brekkie time, which made us a tad anxious with baby girl. Refined air brought on by the locals and the staff, though on second thought I revoke the word ‘refined’ for the staff and exchange it with ‘indifferent.’

Staff: See above. Lacking in warmth, which is a shame as a little bit of extra love makes a restaurant that much more revered when the service is brought to you with a smile. One of the waitress’ did smile upon our exit… because baby girl was blowing kisses at her. When you’re paying, you kind of expect them to be the first to blow kisses, if we’re gonna be blowing kisses, right? 😉

People: A few locals on that Tuesday morning. 3 women catching up over gossip, a Mother and her son, an older couple, 2 young girls, and a group of older crew were our other diners that morning. A real mix and meeting ground for all sorts, everyone loves to be by the water.

Price: Our total was $50.50. I think, even with baby girl’s $7-ish meal price, that this was a bit on the steep side for breakfast. We’re talking two meals, one kids meal and two coffees. Still enjoyed it though.

Advice: Try to make it there on a sunny day and sit by the window if opportunity allows. The views are so peaceful. Follow that with a nice walk around the lake and you have yourself a beautiful afternoon. Even if you go on a not-so-nice day, you’ll revel in being in the warmth and beautiful surroundings and away from the cold.
Second tip: If you call out for the ducks out front, they will come for you. Watch out.

In a nutshell: I would go back, and I would hope the staff had improved their attitudes by then. Fortunately for them, the menu options, surroundings and location will keep locals and tourists coming back again and again.

Click to add a blog post for The Boathouse on Zomato

Donutella-uva bomb: the experience

It was everywhere. On social media, everyone seemed to be trying this donutella. I saw one ‘friend’ mention she’d gotten it from a local milkbar. Then I saw a few more things pop up on my news feed, an article in the local paper wrote about it, and even discovered that the news had featured it!

Apparently, Mick’s Place in Thomastown had been selling this thing for ages, and only recently had it exploded on social media, making people travel great distances from all over the state, line up in front of the store, even attracting interest from celebrities, no less! It was everywhere. It still is.

Mick’s Place, from Thomastown. I had to check this fact, several times, and even after sending Hubbie to buy us some of these acclaimed doughnuts, was wondering what he would find there. I mean, this was the milkbar that my roots were steeped in. I walked past it a zillion times with my friends in my teenage years. It was the meeting place and middle ground for me and one of my friends whenever we went on one of our scouts, I mean walks 😉 At home we would confer over the phone and say “ok, let’s leave now!” and both hijack it there to see who would be the first to arrive. (By the way I won, my house was that bit closer, though she would probably disagree with you – ahhh friends 🙂 )

Lots of memories here. And even though these were new owners, this was the same location, the same milkbar, though the name was different and there was a new paint job out front and there were now tables and chairs for those sitting down with a coffee to watch the cars drive past.

If this were true, and the doughnuts were that good… wow. Mick’s Place putting Thomastown on the map? Everyone flocking to our old turf, everyone raving about the doughnuts sold there? That was something this former Thomo girl would be immensely proud of.

It was perfect timing too. I had been on a bit of a doughnut mission before commencing my Winter leave, and after my work buddie discovered that the place we were both hanging to explore, Big Lou’s on Brunswick street, also famous for their doughnuts, were temporarily closed and in the process of moving (that was such a sad discovery) I didn’t know where I would get my doughnut fix from.

Until Mick happened. I don’t even like Nutella that much. But I had to try these.

5000 a day. That’s reportedly how many units they have been selling up to, of doughnuts. A day. That’s insane. Hubbie was headed out one afternoon and I said “get us some donutellas on your way back.”

Hours later I got this message from him:

The shop is full. It’s like a bank on pension day.

He later told me that the line had spiralled around the shop. Everyone was there, solely for the donutellas. He said he felt sorry for anyone stopping to buy smokes, or milk. You wouldn’t want to wait past all the doughnut-ravaging people.

Despite the queue, it went quickly, and he jumped it because he was paying cash and the rest were using the sole EFTPOS machine they have there. One woman came behind him in line and said “Are there still doughnuts? Are they still selling or have they run out?” She then went to the front to pick up her phone order for doughnuts. Yes. They take phone orders. Another person walked by holding several boxes, and Hubbie asked “are they really worth it?” to vehement nodding and “oh yes, so yummy!”

He couldn’t bloody believe it. Neither did I. I made him re-tell several parts of his story bit by bit. “And this is the milkbar I used to hang out at? Corner Vic Drive and Carrington?” I was still in disbelief.

“Yes.”

He said it was crazy like the ‘Flaming Moe’s’ fad from that popular Simpsons episode. Everyone was going there, everyone wanted one, and it was making the people mad. A little place, turned into a sensation, just because of a simple variation on a regular food item. Nothing extraordinary. Just Nutella on a doughnut.

Hubbie wasn’t even asked how many he wanted. He was given a box of 6 for $18. $3 a doughnut. For a considerably sized doughnut too, I might add.

2015-06-05 17.19.44

2015-06-05 17.19.10

2015-06-05 17.19.27

This was more a bombolone, a type of doughnut without your typical hole in the middle, replaced instead with the Nutella in the middle of the dough with a bit on top. The dough was deliciously soft and fluffy, like a cloud if you could eat them, so very tasty and moorish, and with the addition of Nutella in the middle – oh my goodness, as I’m constantly saying to baby girl. And like I said, I don’t even like Nutella that much. This was awesome. I had read somewhere that Mick had conferred with the baker of the doughnuts until they had created the perfect combination of dough and Nutella, coinciding with the creation that flocks of people were now travelling to experience.

The doughnut is a generous size, and you will feel full afterwards. Sweet tooths will love the Nutella, and even if you’re not crazed over the hazelnut chocolate spread like me, I think you will like it. Even Hubbie said it was nothing amazing, and then after the taste lingered in his mouth said “no, it’s good. It is good,” with a smile creeping up onto his face. They’ve gotten the combination perfecto.

Right now it is a craze, but I hope that Mick’s Place ride this wave as long as they can and utilise the opportunity, turning it into an ongoing thing, rather than a momentary sensation. The doughnuts are worth it, worth the travel and worth the queue, and happily, they fixed my temporary craving for doughnuts.

You get swept up in the donutella-mania really easily. We stopped by the milkbar once over this last weekend, and I’ll be headed in tomorrow to drop in with baby girl. There was a 6 per person limit when I went in. I’m considering ordering a massive stash for baby girl’s upcoming birthday, but we’ll see.

My temporary craving has been replaced by a long-term addiction – this donutella is serious stuff. So beware. Not only will eating a dountella make you want more of this soft and fluffy Nutella doughy-goodness, but you will be sucked into the craze, and it’s a train that’s not stopping anytime soon.

Mick’s Place can be found at 91 Victoria Drive Thomastown. (Corner of Carrington Boulevard for my fellow homies 😉 )

Rubens stays warm

Rubens
70 Main Road Hepburn Springs

On the first day of our Hepburn Springs/Daylesford Wintry getaway, the name Rubens came recommended twice. This was both impressive, and yet not so. In a more area secluded area such as this, it can be expected that there may be not so many places to dine out at, making the same restaurant options pop up more than once. However on the flipside, we soon discovered that the countryside location actually had a decent abundance of eateries to accommodate for the constant influx of tourists wanting to spa away.

The man at the Dayget office mentioned the above when I first went to check in, and then the mobile masseuse lady who came for my massage also recommended it. Still, we drove into Daylesford town, and after finding not much open on a Monday night, decided to then Ruben it.

We were able to be seated near the front entrance door, with a high chair for baby girl in the passageway, or outside in the alfresco area. At first we opted for inside fearing the freezing temperatures that had all of a sudden appeared on the first day of Winter (even Melbourne usually waits a couple of weeks before really freezing us), but after Hubbie checked it out he discovered that the alfresco area was completely enclosed, and had some of those outdoor heaters warming the area. Deciding on the extra space, we went out. The staff were very accommodating with our change of mind considering we hadn’t booked on a night they already had a few functions and they had already arranged our table.

Ruben’s had been flagged as an Italian-style restaurant, and like the Dayget man had said there were several pages of menu to leaf through. The interior was fairly standard, and in the alfresco there were probably about a dozen or so tables.

I decided I wanted a bottle of red. So I got this:

2015-06-01 18.55.10

Sandy Farm 2013 Cabernet Merlot

And was very happy indeed. 🙂

Perusing the kid’s menu, I was very pleased to see this option

Vegetables with chips

2015-06-01 18.51.37

So I got it for baby girl. It was refreshing to see something other than your usual chips and nuggets, or spaghetti bolognaise options that you see in so many other places. I wanted something fairly healthy for her, and despite the vegies being drizzled with a olive oil dressing and some other flavour, it was still pretty healthy and had baby girl eating a fair decent portion of it all. I was rapt. We taste-tested too and it was yummy indeed. She got her meal earlier as requested, which helped our cause once again. Tick.

We had the same style of vegies that baby girl had had aside our mains that we ordered.

Tasmanian Salmon Steak- oven baked, with fried Kipfler, sweet potato, and seasoned vegetables for me

2015-06-01 19.11.38

Eye Fillet Steak- char grilled and served with a pepper sauce for Hubbie

2015-06-01 19.11.52

Both were very healthy, comforting and satisfying meals. Hubbie had requested medium for his steak, and it was a deep to light pink all the way through. The way it was cooked, for him was a pass. As he ate it he grew more approving. It would have taken longer for it to be cooked medium to well, yet his steak was still to his liking. I even tasted it and thought it was great, until the pepper sauce hit the back of my throat and sent me on a coughing fit en route to the end. My God, this Winter cough won’t give up. Anyway, it was great.

My salmon was lovely, healthy, and fried all the way through how I like it. We had all had healthy and satisfying meals, which were tasty but simple.

To end it I decided on this:

Affogato

2015-06-01 19.36.06

Which we all ended up sharing. Baby girl had some ice cream, Hubbie had some coffee and I had a bit of both mixed together. 🙂 It was good, but the coffee was very strong. At least if it was going to keep me up, it was going to keep Hubbie up with me 😉

Food: 7.5/10. Simple but hearty. A fairly standard menu, options wise, yet there were a lot of them, so that was good.

Coffee: 7/10. Strong. I wonder how their cappuccinos are like?

Ambience: On the quiet side, especially outside. This made us slightly nervous, with a hungry girl needing to eat beside us, but thank goodness she behaved. This once. Inside it was more rambunctious with a few big groups, and as the night wore on it the volume also increased inside the alfresco. It was warm and inviting, made additionally so by the heaters against the wall!

Staff: The staff were really good, in particular our waitress was amazing and very accommodating to our needs. She was attentive, warm, helpful and genuine. Her service was impeccable, we were very impressed. She also helped me out with the wine. 😉

People: Couples, and groups of people. 25+ up? We were concerned with an older couple beside us who were especially quiet over their meal, hoping baby girl’s possible antics wouldn’t totally piss them off, however she didn’t get vocal while they were there, and then when they left another couple of the same age bracket came in their place who actually acknowledged baby girl with a few smiles, so we breathed a sigh of relief.

Price: It was $130.50 all up, but that also included a bottle of red that came in at $38, so our grand total was a bit more than usual. With our mains averaging at about the $30 mark, baby girl’s meal at $12 (all kids meals are $12) and a couple of drinks, and the affogato, it was about on the mark.

Advice: If going over the weekend, perhaps book. Yes there were a few functions surprisingly on the Monday night we went, but you should be safe just rocking up during the week. If it’s cold out, don’t worry about seating in the alfresco, as it’s still warm.

In a nutshell: A cosy and inviting place that we would be happy to return to on a trip back to the Hepburn area. Happy staff and a vast menu make this an enjoyable place to dine at, and with the healthier kids option, I can see why this was recommended to me not once, but twice.

Click to add a blog post for Rubens @ Hepburn on Zomato

Cafe Mari-tapas

Café Maritana
1 Flinders Parade Barwon Heads

From the beginning, there were very high hopes for this restaurant.

I had seen it listed high on the Urbanspoon Barwon Heads list. We had originally wanted to have dinner there on our 2nd night at Barwon Heads, which was a Monday, but upon calling them I discovered they weren’t open Mondays.

So then, it was to be our last night there, a Tuesday night.

I called after midday that Tuesday, and an initially-sounding poshy lady answered the phone. After requesting a table for 2 adults and a toddler, she asked me if we had been there before, explaining it was no BYO as they were fully licenced.

She then asked how I had heard about them. I said intentionally, vaguely “oh, online. Some restaurant web site.” (Never mind Urbanspoon is a favourite on my toolbar).

“Like Urbanspoon?” she asked.

“Yeah, something like that.” Tee hee hee. I can’t reveal my blogger identity!

She then softened and took on a friendlier tone as she explained that Urbanspoon had been displaying some incorrect trading hours information for the restaurant, and my phone call must have meant they had rectified it. I did know what she was talking about, as their listing had led me to believe they were open on Monday. Also though, I’m a bit of a detective so I don’t rely solely on one website to help me find
what I’m after. When I want something, I enter stalker-FBI territory.

We had already had a great, fantastic night at Beach House the previous night. I wasn’t expecting another night like that. Although the Café Maritana web site mentioned Italian-style tapa dishes that I was really excited about, I wasn’t expecting that the entire night and the atmosphere and the food and the staff and the EVERYTHING, would equal that. It wasn’t likely, and I didn’t want to get my hopes up only to then be let down.

However, my hopes were up. Because it was our last night there, at Barwon Heads. In just less than a week we’d be back at work, our holidays over, and I’d be thinking of our next getaway. I was saying “I just want good food,” but I was lying. I wanted MORE.

We arrived at 6:30pm. We were positioned right near the front door, near a window that overlooked the Barwon Heads Bridge over the Barwon River. I had the view, and it was great.

2015-01-13 19.31.11

The staff were immediately appealing and friendly, very much so to baby girl. Phew, it was a good start. Also, there was already a families in there as well as a group of older women. Even with just those, it seemed echoey. We were sooooo relieved.

The woman who I’m guessing was the boss-lady, and quite possibly the one I spoke to on the phone, very quickly explained the menu concept to us. The menu was comprised of many share dishes, and diners were to tick with the pen supplied what dishes they wanted, and they would then slowly come out in a grazing fashion, the order at which they came out decided completely upon by the chef. I liked this. It was interesting, different, and would keep us guessing.

Boss-lady helped Hubbie work out what beer he should choose, and I got a lovely Jack Rabbit Pinot Grigio. Following that we started to receive the 5 share dishes we had ordered. First up was the –

Saganaki and Chorizo

2015-01-13 18.44.05

I am not the biggest fan of chorizo, but I loved this with the cheese. The saganaki was salty, and the chorizo was a nice meaty offset. With a squeeze of some lemon, this was made a very simple, yet divine dish. Warm, tasty, various complimenting flavours… I could have had more. We ate it up quickly.

Next up was the Garden (Green) Salad

2015-01-13 18.54.32

By name the garden salad sounded simple, but it was oh-so-yum. So yum and fresh. It’s made me think differently about salads to be honest, and now I want to reinvent the way I do salads because of that salad! Salads don’t have to be boring! This one had yellow, green and red tomatoes, fresh lettuce and feta cheese that wasn’t overpowering, and I say this not because I don’t like cheese (I LOVE CHEESE) but because I was surprised it didn’t have a stronger feta taste. As it was it totally blended in to the other ingredients.

Then, came the Beer Battered chips

2015-01-13 18.58.57

These were the majority of baby girl’s meal! They were great, but as chips go kind of what I would have expected, nothing out of the ordinary or special to be honest. They came with aioli on the side, and I did notice the darker than usual chip colour, at first wondering if the oil they used was as fresh as it should be, and even Hubbie thought the same. But we both realised that perhaps it was the batter that made it look darker, and I had reason to question and compare, as the fries we’d gotten at Beach House the previous night had been golden and crisp.

Fourth of our selections was the Eye Fillet with a beetroot salad

2015-01-13 19.04.32

It was cooked perfectly, pink and moist in the middle, however the marinade on the outside had made it char slightly whilst grilling. Still lovely, but I had preferred the one I’d had the night before. This was Hubbie’s primary dish though, so I didn’t mind.

And finally… the Garlic Prawns

2015-01-13 19.08.46

My dish came last: the garlic prawns in broth. Yum. The prawns were beautifully warm, hot even, kept so in the broth, and there were some hard pieces of bread on the side. With the carb overload on the beer battered chips, my initial response was to leave most of the bread, as by this stage I was starting to fill up. However all that garlic-y prawn-y liquid looked too good to waste, so I decided to do what was clearly suggested to me by the meal and dip some bread into the broth. The flavour of the prawns kept well in the hard bread made soggy, and surprisingly I had most of the bread this way! It made it very edible. This prawn dish was just superb.

I think the order of arrival was spot on. It wasn’t in order in terms of where they had been on the menu, but in terms of what you should graze on first, it was perfect.

We were on a bit of a roll. Our dishes had been great, and the ambience and staff were matching too. The restaurant had steadily filled up post 7pm, and there were more families in there as well as couples. Generally, more of an older crowd were in at this time, and happily, at least one person from each party smiled at baby girl as they walked by us near the entrance. It was hard to ignore her there, what with her waving at them on arrival and reaching out and trying to grab people! They were all so lovely though. The volume of people made the noise in there even more so, so we were blending in really nicely.

Our waitress was really very friendly, and so sweet to baby girl. She acknowledged her all the time, even doing a little peek-a-boo with her as she stood in the kitchen where baby girl had spotted her. She was genuinely sweet and friendly, and this makes a difference too, as you can spot pretension and fake-friendliness a mile away. She was a breath of fresh air.

Unlike Annie’s, this place just had a happy, more jovial mood, and as Hubbie observed, even one of the crankiest looking diners sitting nearby, an older man, smiled when baby girl started her usual squeals of delight.

I wondered: was it the place, the vibe that was different? Was it the fact that people are more relaxed at the end of the day and more allowing of noise emanating from young children, more so than at the start of the day when they need a little longer to get used to short outbursts? Did dinner at Maritana win out over brekkie at Annie’s solely due to the time of day? That may have had a little to do with it, if I’m going to allow that tiny out for Annie’s. But it wasn’t the only thing that made it different. Without a doubt, the feel at Café Maritana was far more welcoming, and I guess I’ll know for sure next time we’re in town and we head over for breakfast to confirm.

We couldn’t fit much more in after all that food, but it was our last night so we had to have our fave, the affogato

And I just couldn’t go past my old faithful, the chocolate mousse

2015-01-13 19.58.12

They arrived as Hubbie was walking baby girl around outside to give her a high-chair break, and having had such an amazing night so far, in all aspects, I was slightly horrified when the affogato was set down at the table, like this:

2015-01-13 19.58.25

Coffee was already poured over it. (If you don’t understand my horror, click here for an explanation). I tried to keep in mind that everything else had been great, trying to still the disappointment that was brewing inside. I waited for Hubbie to return and we exchanged a bit of a look. However, he didn’t seem too fussed as he tasted it, informing that it was spectacular. I had to agree. Even the presentation, though very simple, was done in a rather rustic look, much like the French old-school style that was evident throughout the restaurant, with little French mementos and Parisian city-landscape decals planted on the windows, and the big barrel that sat near the front entrance making you feel like you’d just sat down at a winery on that side of the world.

But still…. I really would have liked to taste the coffee on its own first.

The choc mousse was nice, and at one point I found it a bit much on top of all those share meals in my tummy, but then I think I got used to it and I even found it quite light to eat. I ate almost all of it before hitting a food-wall, which is when I got Hubbie to help me out.

The nice touch that took the restaurant from evening to night was the string of fairy lights that turned on above us, scattered across the ceiling in a romantic fashion, and surprisingly a movie was also projected onto the wall near me, an older movie that I didn’t catch, but I saw Audrey Hepburn and could immediately understand the old-school feel they were trying to emulate with it. I found it interesting how they did appear to go from family-friendly to romantic and still keep everyone happy throughout the night.

Food: 9/10. Taste and presentation, as well as the premise, were on the money.

Coffee: 7.5/10. It tasted good, I just needed to try it on its own!

Ambience: Fantastic, perfect for us. It was busy, family-friendly, yet was still able to retain some sense of intimacy and romanticism as the night wore on… maybe due to the fairy lights, the movie on the wall, or Audrey?! It had a lively happy vibe.

Staff: Great, exceptional. From our waitress to boss-lady, even to the chef who smiled over at baby girl’s shrieks, they were all AWESOME.

People: Family crowd, older couples, mid-40 couples, making way for slightly younger couples and smaller groups as the night wore on (maybe the fairy lights wooed them in :))

Price: Actually, pretty decent considering what you’re getting. Our bill came to $136, slightly less than what we’d paid at Beach House the previous night. And that total included 5 share meals, 4 drinks and 2 desserts. Not bad. The most expensive meal on our bill was the eye fillet, and at $26, for what you’re getting, even with the ‘share’ serve, it was a steal. This place isn’t expensive at all, maybe mid-range I’d say. Definite value for money here.

Advice: Book ahead. I think everyone generally likes that. You can sit inside, or in the two outdoor areas on the sides of the restaurant. Go on a lovely day, so you can work off your scrumptious meal with a short stroll across the road at the park, or the beach.

In a nutshell: Italian-style tapas is something that excited me, and I’ll keep thinking of them for a long time after, until we get a chance to go back and sample some more amazing share meals. We’ll definitely breakfast here next time we’re in town. The price and staff and ambience and amazing location are all the bonuses that make this the best place to dine at in Barwon Heads. Hands down.

Cafe Maritana on Urbanspoon

Affogatos rock at the Swish Beach House

Beach House Barwon Heads
48 Hitchcock Avenue Barwon Heads

At first, I didn’t want to go into this restaurant. I was dressed up, perhaps a bit too much for the beach locals, and felt that I would stand up insurmountably against everyone else there. People looked casual sipping their drinks and watching people walk by at the front of the premises Parisian style, and I was actually, inwardly groaning as we walked up into the restaurant.

There was not much up our food-alley on offer on our second night there at Barwon Heads. We had parked ourselves once again along Hitchcock Avenue: we had already dined at Barwon Orange, and wanted to try something different; Annie’s was closed that night, and the one I had tried to book before discovering they weren’t open on Monday’s was Café Maritana. That we would discover the following night. At the Rocks had too many recent bad reviews on Urbanspoon for me to want to risk throwing our holiday dollars away there, and everything else in close proximity was either closed, or too cas. We weren’t going to have fish and chips. We wanted to sit in nice surroundings, and eat and relax for a couple of hours.

Hubbie convinced me in. I ignored the looks and walked behind him, trying to hide behind baby girl. I love dressing up, but I hate staring. I can’t stand it. So what if I’m dressed up? You don’t have to ogle.

I was immediately relieved and impressed when I saw the interior. This, was much fancier. In fact, by looking at the exterior, I never would have guessed the interior would have looked like this. The tables and chairs were a dressier version of the outside, with a large bar in the middle of the room and ample space to be seated. Even so, we were greeted by a serious lady who asked if we had booked. Was this a thing in Barwon Heads? As someone said on Urbanspoon, this isn’t Melbourne. This place certainly had the space to fit us, and nearby empty tables didn’t seem to have a reserved sign. In fact, as we had learned the previous night at Barwon Orange, even in that smaller space they had been able to sit us. Fortunately, she seated us, and so become one unexpectedly great night.

Inside it was swish, but the beachy vibe was still there with huge leaf-like fans across the ceiling. Even the people dining in there were more stylish, wanting to make a meal out of the night, as it were.

We ordered drinks and baby girl’s meal first, and I informed our lovely young waitress if they could bring out her meal ASAP – they didn’t have to deliver it with ours. It came surprisingly quick, right after our drinks came, and conveniently right on time as she was starting to fuss.

Mini steak, shoestring chips, garden salad with tomato sauce

2015-01-12 19.05.12

It was $12, so cheap yet so large! We fed her and kept her happy, using her leftovers as our entrée. Hubbie was pleasantly surprised with how succulent her steak was, and said “If our meals are anything like this…!”

I’d ordered an Almost Heaven cocktail, and the name pretty much summed it up for how the night was to become. It wasn’t overwhelmingly beautiful-looking, served just in a tall glass, but it was fresh and summery, and suited the night to a T.

Almost Heaven – Passionfruit infused vodka, Chambord, passionfruit Tiro

2015-01-12 19.09.36

We had ordered something different, different from our usual anyway. I usually go for a pasta, seafood or chicken dish, while Hubbie happily gets his steaks with veggies/chips/salad. Instead, I ordered the

Char grilled Eye fillet, with French fries and a garden salad

2015-01-12 19.31.45

While Hubbie ordered the Confit pork belly, with a rice noodle & crips vegetable salad in ‘Chowhouse’ chilli dressing

2015-01-12 19.32.24

The eye fillet was a very big and thick piece, and for my request of medium-to-well cooked with no blood, looking at it as it arrived on our table I wasn’t feeling confident it had been fulfilled. Even cutting into it and seeing the red ooze out, I went “oh no.” But then I realised that the red was just the juices, not in fact the blood, and the inside was very acceptably cooked: in fact, my butcher Hubbie very assertively said that given the size and request, it was cooked to perfection. Farrrrr. He said perfect? And after I tasted it, I couldn’t agree more. Well you’d hope so for $41.

It had a great flavour, and although the porcini and red wine butter was very distinctive in taste, I actually loved it, and was remembering the taste days after the meal. I had crisp fries and salad on the side, and happily ate it all. The salad was like the salad we’d tasted on baby girl’s plate, crisp and so-fresh tasting. It’s so hard to get a fresh salad nowadays. And the tomatoes, actually TASTED like a tomato, straight from the garden.

Hubbie’s meal of pork belly was baked confit-style, and so he wasn’t used to eating it a different colour than the usual grilled-style colour he gets. However it was soft and flavoursome, and he thoroughly enjoyed the Asian style salad on the side which had sweet and spicy characteristics. The combination was good, different yet still enjoyable.

Considering we had both ordered different meals to our usual choices, at a first-time restaurant for us, and been happy with the results, I thought of as a very good outcome. It’s hard to win at that, but we did. All the food was soon gone, even baby girl’s with our assistance.

I was feeling really content after my meal, but not overly-full like I’d felt the previous night. We decided to do it, and boy were we happy when we both ordered and got this:

Affogato – Genovese espresso, vanilla ice cream, liqueur of choice, hazelnut biscotti

2015-01-12 20.38.12

While baby girl got scoops of vanilla ice cream. At only $3 a serve, why the hell not?

I had requested bailey’s on the side while Hubbie had asked for cointreau. The presentation of the ice cream with coffee on the side, a shot of liqueur to the other side, and a biscuit in the ice cream, was PERFECT. It looked divine, and it TASTED divine. I loved the biscuit. LOVED LOVED LOVED it. Tell me where you buy it and I’m buying it in bulk. Beautiful accompaniment to the coffee, a great crunchy and nutty texture. YUM.

The only fault with this dish, that kept it from being a 10/10, was the quantity of coffee. The quality was excellent, but there was just that little bit too little coffee in the cup. But if that’s the only fault, you know they’re doing well.

Everything went superbly that night. Along with our amazing food, our waitresses, in particular our main one was very, very nice and friendly, including to baby girl, and it was on that night we were starting to realise just how much of a difference that makes to her. When she shrieks, she does it out of joy, or for attention, and with the waitresses actually responding and smiling at her, as the other very friendly nearby diners were, she was absolutely rapt. She was a happier baby, which made our time there much, much happier. Some people may not care much for ratings on ambience and the nature of the staff and the people who frequent the restaurants we go to, but trust me, with children in tow, these things are vital. Because if your child is happy with you, your experience will be all the more enjoyable. Especially with children, friendliness matters.

The waitresses here seemed nicer than those at Barwon Orange (and s!&t all over the ones at Annie’s – sorry to be so frank), and maybe that was solely because they had actually smiled and spoken to her. I don’t need waiters to pick up my girl and twirl her around. I just want them to acknowledge her with a smile, when she smiles and waves at them. I want her growing up knowing that there are good people in this world. I don’t think that’s too much to ask for.

The friendliness of those around us, along with the more spacious nature of the restaurant, meant that even when baby girl shrieked with glee at all the attention she was getting, it was drowned out, meaning no chefs were looking over from their kitchens this night. LOL. Family-friendly, tick.

Food: 8.5/10. Simple food, done well. I like how the colour of our fries was golden, meaning fresh oil. That affogato… OMG. Almost 10/10 on its own.

Coffee: 8.5/10. Would like to try their cappuccinos one day, if their short blacks are anything to go by.

Ambience: Fantastic for families. Big and loud, but still that bit special and fancy.

Staff: Apart from the door-lady, our waitresses were very friendly and very nice. Our main waitress was constantly on-the-go, yet despite this still managed to give attention to baby girl. At one stage she was so busy she forgot to bring us our dessert menu, but we totally didn’t mind as we were having the best time. She didn’t forget the other crucial thing though, which was the smiling of course. 🙂

People: Fancier inside, but really lovely. Two large groups of people were seated near us throughout the night, and both times they were all so nice, and unexpectedly giving baby girl loads of attention. I mean LOADS. This was baby girl’s night, she was loving it. This kept her distracted, occupied and busy, which made things easier for us, and a distinguishable key in the success of the night.

Price: Well, we ordered 3 meals, 3 desserts, and 3 drinks. Some large, some small. For a total of under the mid $100s, which was expected. On key, I think, price-wise.

Advice: Book in advance. I think this is a Barwon Heads thing. Or a holiday-period thing. Or a Summer thing. Either way, just book, anywhere in Barwon Heads. And that’s it. Nothing else. Loved it.

In a nutshell: Simple food, served well and fresh and wholesome, in a great bustling environment that’s still fancy enough for those wanting something finer – just dine inside if you want fancy. We were really happy with our night, our meals, and how happily everyone there responded to our baby girl. A lot of great memories were made on that particular night in Barwon Heads, at Beach House Barwon Heads, which means we’ll look back on it fondly. We will definitely go back on our next visit in town, and I will end on this note: Thank God I didn’t let the exterior form my final opinion on dining there.

There’s a good moral for ya. 😉

Beach House Barwon Heads on Urbanspoon

Orange by the Seaside

Barwon Orange
60 Hitchcock Avenue Barwon Heads

We were lucky to just stroll into Barwon Orange and get some seating on our first night at Barwon Heads. Even though it was a Sunday night, during summer and holiday season, we snuck in at about 6:30pm right before the onslaught of diners embarked within the next half hour. We were surprised at just how many ‘reserved’ signs were scattered throughout the tables of the restaurant, and it made us appreciate our good timing that night.

The waitress was very friendly and seated us happily despite our lack of a reservation. After we ordered I had a good look around the place. We had been seated inside right by the counter and coffee-making machine, however the fold-out doors were open making us feel like we were outside, as we had a great view of the outdoor diners and even the people passing by on the street. Along with the ocean pictures and sun horizons adorning the walls, their open doors gave it a great beachy vibe, though at the same time black shades enclosed fancy chandeliers hanging above us, and urban furniture inside the restaurant gave it yet another feel. There was a combining of themes happening here, and yet it all worked and gave the atmosphere an interesting and welcoming feel.

I think the welcoming and homely feel was also attributed to the number of people coming in and ordering/picking-up pizzas to-go. I think I could safely say a decent majority, if not all of them were locals, or regular holiday locals. This made the atmosphere more relaxed, with the amount of delivery boxes heading out the doors that we saw that night.

For dinner I ordered:

Linguini seafood pasta

2015-01-11 19.14.58

With a glass of 2013 Montevecchio Moscato. The moscato was light and fresh, with definite fruit notes. A great compliment at the end of a warm summer’s day.

Hubbie ordered:

Scotch fillet with broccolini and potatoes

2015-01-11 19.15.10

With his usual beer.

My dish was the classic seafood dish you’d come to expect at restaurants that are positioned seaside. There was a definite and clear seafood flavour in the dish with pieces of tomato throughout, and I was happy to see there was plenty of seafood alongside the pasta. I enjoyed the bits of fish, prawns and mussels I found in there, however I didn’t quite enjoy the calamari, and that’s just because I’m pretty fussy and don’t enjoy it much at all. You may say that I’m not a proper seafood enthusiast – whatever. This was a tad chewy, and I don’t think it’s meant to be so. I don’t expect much from calamari as it is, so I didn’t mind so much.

I left a little behind on my plate, only because we’d had a late lunch, followed by coffee and cake at Annie’s, so I was feeling REALLY full. I would have had it all if I could, I just wanted to leave a little room for dessert too.

Hubbie enjoyed his scotch fillet. It was a real hearty, simple meal that catered to his palate. The piece of scotch fillet was huge, so the slice was thin, and Hubbie said had the piece been smaller and the slice thicker, it would have retained more of the juices, especially with his medium request. (You butcher, you 😉 ) Still, he enjoyed the meal, despite like me, still being full from the earlier meals of the day.

Because we were both struggling with finishing our meals, we knew that having either a coffee each or a big dessert would quite frankly be a waste of money, and something we just wouldn’t enjoy as much as if we were actually craving it. So we met in the middle and decided to share this:

2015-01-11 19.44.53

The affogato.

There’s not much to actually making a good affogato. All you need is decent coffee, decent ice cream, and the key, the ABSOLUTE key:

Placing the damn coffee on the side so you can pour the quantity yourself over the ice cream.

Very, very simple. And yet some places totally f$%k this up.

Happily, Barwon Orange complied. We both tasted the coffee first to see just how strong it was, to discover, yep, it was freaking strong. So we quickly poured it over the ice cream, and ahhh. Much better.

Combining ice cream and coffee is truly a magical, wondrous mix.

They also had placed a straw on the side. When the coffee and what was left of the ice cream melted together into a caramel-gold liquid, we sucked it up and… wow. What a coffee hit. It was so much stronger through the straw than eating it from a spoon. Maybe because the coffee remains from the bottom of the cup hit us right on the palate in concentrated form? Interesting.

Food: 7.5/10.

Coffee: 7/10. This score, the coffee on its own.

Ambience: Although relaxed and outdoorsy with the fold-out doors, the crowd was still a bit fancy-schmancy, even with the families around. Baby girl was having fun squealing out loud and being especially vocal both before, during and after her dinner, and so we had to contend with a few looks and moments of silence as her vocals silenced the other diners, and made the chef in the kitchen look over a few times. Look, I don’t blame them. The place had a bit of a noisy vibe to it, but still, not enough to make me feel like I could relax and not worry about upsetting the other diners while baby girl experimented with her voice. It wasn’t a huge space to be drowned out by the general noise, both inside and outside, so you could hear what was happening on the next table a lot better, especially if there was a toddler shrieking (intermittently I add, in her defence 🙂 )

Staff: Very friendly and very smiley. Didn’t grimace when we walked up without a reservation despite how busy they got (and knew they were gonna get with all those ‘reserved’ signs).

People: Fancy-schmancy families, and locals who are just going about their business.

Price: On the upside, but totally acceptable for this type of restaurant with the style, food and presentation on offer.

Advice: This may have been a once off, but as of now, we are ALWAYS getting our bill at the table. As I went to pay (Hubbie was walking an impatient baby girl up and down the side of the restaurant) I asked the
waitress if the bill came to the table or if I should go up to the counter. She said I could do either, so I decided to just pack up our things and walk up.

When I pointed our table out to the girl behind the counter, she tallied up our two mains, two drinks and affogato to $132. I was surprised but I didn’t think quick enough to remember all we had ordered, and so paid, not wanting to cause a scene, all the while trying to remember and second-guessing the number of drinks we’d had, feeling like something was amiss.

I told Hubbie and when he too confirmed that that didn’t sound right, I immediately went back and asked for our bill to be checked. Turns out the previous bill hadn’t been cleared, and the amount of $47 had been added onto our bill. $47 extra! Imagine if I’d gone without checking. That’s about the amount we paid for lunch that day. The girl was very sorry and I know these things can happen, so I don’t hold it against her, however like I said, bills to the table from now on!

In a nutshell: Great presentation of food, a great vibe and interesting surroundings, as well as a good variety of meals on offer to suit many palates makes this a great place to eat. The staff were friendly and very welcoming. I would definitely go back, this time with toys for baby girl so that we don’t upset the people holidaying.

Barwon Orange on Urbanspoon

Annie are you ok, are you ok…. are you ok if I bring my kid?

Annie’s Provedore
Shop 2, 50 Hitchcock Avenue Barwon Heads

Annie’s was our first coffee stop during our Barwon Heads getaway on that brilliantly sunny first day. We were along the coastline, on the other side of the city, that part of town that Hubbie’s work mates affectionately refer to as ‘Little Essendon’ due to the number of their customers that holiday there.

Their exterior displayed eclectic beach/bush-funk, and a peek into the interior showed what looked like an exclusive little deli and bakery amidst indoor seating. I overheard one woman saying to her friend as they peeked inside “Oh, I wish we had seen this place first before having our chips!” I would have been spewing too.

There were quite a few tables adorning the sidewalk, all with umbrellas, expect for the one free table we made a beeline for. Despite the cool wind we had bright sunlight in our eyes, which made our initial visit there short and sweet, just like the subsequent coffee and cake that we had. We sat Parisian style, all of us facing the sidewalk watching the people and dogs (which baby girl loved) walk by.

We ordered coffees, a babycino for baby girl and a lemon and lime tart, as the vanilla slice hubbie had requested was unfortunately sold out.

2015-01-11 16.02.49

2015-01-11 16.04.48

2015-01-11 16.02.54

Both our latte and cappuccinos came with a choccie on the side, which I found a nice touch. They were decent sized coffees, another plus, however for me I found the flavour a tad too strong. Hubbie loved his though. As did baby girl.

The tart was nice and tangy, with a hint of creaminess. Nice and fresh, and a lovely accompaniment to the strong coffee.

On our second day in town, I stopped in to buy some much needed deli brie. I had decided after discovering the deli, that there was no way I was getting it conveniently from the local IGA. Nothing against the supermarket, but when I see gourmet deli, I’m like a little kid in a candy shop.

And so true to the cliché, I was, as I walked in to feast my eyes upon the offerings on that very hot second day. I was perusing the choccies, bikkies, cheeses and hams, and all the deliciously gourmet local/imported deli offerings available to be bought for good dough. Speaking of, they even had many varieties of loaf bread, both basic and gourmet styles. After having a good sticky-beak, I settled on a triple cream brie, some spanakopita to take back and share with Hubbie, some strawberry lollies, and some ginger and almond biscuits with lemon myrtle infused Belgian chocolate, to have with our takeaway coffees.

2015-01-12 17.28.36

That place seriously, is a deli lover’s dream.

I happily bought, paid, and then went to stand by the bread to wait for my coffees. And wait. And wait. And…. wait.

If I had known how long the wait would be, I would have gone there first, ordered, driven my car to the IGA to buy the groceries I had already bought that day, and come back to Annie’s to pick up the coffees which I reckon would have just become ready. Geez. It took forever. It probably felt longer as I was just standing there doing nothing but ‘taking in,’ but it really was a long while.

When I finally did get my coffees after what seemed like a forever of 15-20 minutes, I realised they had earned some brownie points: with the inclusion of two little pieces of brownie beside our coffees on the tray.

“The cappuccino is the one with the brownie on top,” said the young blond kid to me as he handed me the coffees.

I said thanks, but at first I was a bit peeved as I already had a bag to carry, another hand for the coffee tray, and then one of my taken hands also had to hold in place my dress with the massive slit going down the front, in fear the breeze outside blew the wrong way. And now I had to balance brownies, ON a coffee tray. Just to make things interesting. However as the human-multitasker, I even surprised myself with how well I manoeuvred to the car and back to our room with EVERYTHING intact. Score.

And, I had realised why the coffees had taken so long to arrive when I stepped outside. It was now absolutely packed, with what seemed like everyone trying to score an outdoor seat and enjoy some coffee and sweets in the sunshine.

Again, the coffee was strong that day, but I think I was starting to get used to it. The biscuits had great texture, and the filling was decadent and creamy. Finally, the spanakopita was just what we needed as we had pretty much forgotten lunch in our busy-ness that day. Later that day we tried the lollies, and they indeed were strawberry sweet, and the brie was well…. Mmmmmmm. Worth the wait and drive and everything. Perfect with crackers and a glass of cab sav.

On our third day there we went for breakfast. I had been very gung-ho about having to have brekkie there, since that first day when I’d noticed on the menu that they had coconut pancakes. Oh my. I just had to, it was a must. I’m a savoury brekkie girl, but the thought of coconut pancakes? I just had to see what it was all about.

Unlike our first two days, this day was almost pouring. There was consistent rain coming in from early morning, and we ran in with an umbrella trying to cover the three of us. No one was outside, bar two girls who bravely sat under an umbrella at a wet table. This time, the interior was fairly full, but this isn’t hard to achieve as you wouldn’t call their indoor area amply-spaced. We stood, looking around, thinking someone was going to seat us, and then I realised that we had to sit ourselves down. After all, when you pay and order you need to go to the counter, and only after that do you get your order delivered to your table.

I realised that was the odd contradiction to this place. It was homely, earthy, eclectic, and interesting. It seemed au naturel, with its back yard feel of baskets hanging from the ceiling, wooden chairs that were all different colours and sizes, and bakery and deli goods just hanging around waiting to be grabbed by outstretched hands. But there was a definite poshy undertone, and I don’t know if it was the staff, the clientele, or a bit of both that made the air so. Either way, it was a definite mix.

2015-01-13 10.50.03

2015-01-13 10.52.15

We sat at a communal table and after asking a waitress clearing plates nearby, she brought over a highchair for baby girl. During our time there we had some difficulty keeping her entertained and shriek-free, having to endure some looks from other diners. In particular was the fine group of three pole-bums at the other end of our table who couldn’t even smile at baby girl as she grinned happily in their direction. I don’t expect people to make conversation and goo-goo ga-ga with her, but I’ve discovered one very important and factual life rule since having her: people, even rude people and mean people, will still smile and get all soft when a baby smiles AT THEM. People change in the presence of such innocence, and so I have to wonder what type of woman would ignore a child and turn away, feigning ignorance, when such a beautiful girl smiles AND WAVES, in her direction. I’m bias, because she’s mine. But like I said, what kind of heart would do this? Someone with the absence of one perhaps?

Anyway, back to the brekkie. We got our coffees surprisingly quick, quick compared to how long I’d had to wait the previous day.

2015-01-13 10.53.24

This time with cookies! Great job guys, loving the sweet extras.

Then minutes after, our food arrived. I had ordered:

Coconut Pancakes with pineapple

2015-01-13 10.55.56

And Hubbie had ordered:

Bircher Muesli with berries & Shaw river yogurt

2015-01-13 10.56.05

My pancakes were nice, but not what I had expected. They were warm and beautiful, but a bit doughy. The cream atop them was nice and fresh, and I had most of the pineapple, but together I had expected more. It was lovely, but maybe my expectations of what coconut pancakes would be like were too high, especially with the build-up over a few days. I’m not sure. Then again, I think it was just a case of me being a savoury-brekkie girl. The sweet temptation had tempted me into going the sweet route, and once again I was thinking ‘I should have gotten my usual eggs.’ Next time.

Hubbie wasn’t a fan of his bircher muesli, but then towards the end he didn’t mind it. I should probably explain that here’s a man who’s recently decided to go fairly carb-free, right before going away and then has tried to eat lighter meals while we go out. He never eats bircher muesli, and then he’s ordered it in an attempt to avoid his usual ‘big brekky’ style meal. I tried his meal, and agreed that it was very sweet with a definite all-spice taste, which is probably where the sour yoghurt comes in, to offset it. If I were him I would’ve preferred eggs too. As it was, I was.

Food: 7/10.

Coffee: 7/10. My score would have been lower if the serves weren’t so big, as the coffee wasn’t to taste for me, although I did grow accustomed to it after each visit. Points for free sweets on the side too.

Ambience: Relaxed surroundings, with a poshy, sometimes stuck-up vibe. As we were coming to realise, this was almost like another Noosa, but here unfortunately, we experienced more snootiness. It didn’t contain the commercial aspect that getaway spots like Noosa does, so in that it was good in retaining its local vibe. And despite the nose-up factor, it actually seemed very family and dog-friendly.

Staff: Friendly, but not enough smiles. I did also notice that they are quite pedantic about placing coffees in front of the correct person when they deliver them to the tables, something we experienced and what I also witnessed both times we ate in. I like that kind of attention-to-detail, but it does make me wonder which idiot didn’t know what coffee they were drinking and caused such a fuss due to their own lack of common sense to make the waiters so fussy now.

People: Family-types, with-money-don’t-care-attitudes, though they care enough to want to look at you and see who you are. A good smattering of older customers too.

Price: Medium to the up-side. For example our first visit of coffees and cake only came to $15-ish for the lot, which I thought was not too bad for some afternoon treats. My deli and coffee order the following day was a bit higher, and I think that was due to the $55.00 a kilo brie and $16 packet of cookies. That I was kinda expecting, buying from the gourmet deli and all. And then on day 3 we paid about $41, for 3 drinks and 2 meals. That was a tad much, also because we didn’t walk away totally satisfied. If our brekkies had been worth it, I wouldn’t have minded how much they charged on our 3rd visit.

What did peeve me off though, was that baby girl’s babycino was $1.50, and I reiterate again on this blog that babycinos should be for free. Yes there were marshmallows on the side, but then the babycino was just froth, on top of some milk in a little cup. And $1.50. WTF seriously. Get your menus and replace that price with ‘No charge!’ followed by a genuine smiley face. 🙂

Advice: Get some umbrella shade on a hot day if you can. If you go with kids, don’t expect to feel overly comfortable. When you order, remember what number was on the table you sat at, unless you like being descriptive.

In a nutshell: A really lovely place to have a sit-down and enjoy the relaxed lifestyle that Barwon Heads has to offer. This is one of the prettiest places on Hitchcock Avenue that you can dine at, so definitely do it. The food could be better, however the provedore did live up to my expectations. I would not recommend this as a child-friendly place, solely based on my experience of the people that dine there. I would come back and try the savoury dishes next time we’re in town, but only if I had a tonne of toys to keep baby girl occupied and shriek-free.

Annie's Provedore on Urbanspoon

Worthy Drive to Ambrosia

Ambrosia Café Bar Foodstore
Shop 13, 84 Bemersyde Drive Berwick

We weren’t expecting much for lunch on that hot Monday. We were in Berwick, on the other side of town to see a potential new car for me, and needed to get to an eatery quickly as baby girl was starting to get really irritable; and honestly, having been walking around in the uncovered persistent heat of the car yard, so were we.

I had perused Berwick eateries on Urbanspoon the day before, so I knew some names that rated up high on the leaderboard. When I searched for ‘local cafes’ on my phone, Ambrosia wasn’t too far away from our location, and I remembered it sitting high and pretty on the café-Berwick list.

We almost didn’t go in. It was more me and my anxiety and paranoia than anything else. The restaurant/café/bar/foodstore looked fancy from the outside, and with baby girl’s incessant cries of “not happy!” I worried that the place would not cater to the family crowd. I was worried her shrieks would annoy the other diners, and that we would get those dreaded ‘looks.’ Hubbie however liked what he saw, and pushed us inside.

I was so relieved when the waiter who immediately came up to us upon entry offered a high chair. Phew. Well clearly they were prepared for kids, in some shape or form.

It was noisy, and busy. The noise could drown out the sound of baby girl’s impatient yells. Uh yeah, no. That’s not possible. However we didn’t receive any looks even with diners nearby, and I think the nearby wedding function underway in the adjoining section of the restaurant was keeping the attentions of everyone occupied and elsewhere.

We were seated near this funky-looking picture

2015-01-05 14.16.52

Kind of tucked away. Right to my liking on that anxiety-riddled day. Not hidden away, it was just a little cozy corner.

We ordered Warm Flatbread with Dips for baby girl

2015-01-05 14.12.26

I got the lunchtime special which was the Roasted Pumpkin and Spinach Risotto with Chicken and Parmesan

2015-01-05 14.08.01

Which came with a glass of bubbly for $19.50. I thought this was a great deal, since I was going to get the same risotto from the regular menu, which outside the lunchtime hour went for about $24-25. And I got it cheaper, with alcohol. I did wonder if the ‘special’ menu meant the portions were different, smaller. I’ll take a punt and say yes. Still, by the end of our visit I didn’t leave in the slightest bit hungry.

Hubbie ordered the Ambrosia Burger: fried onion, Swiss cheese, bacon, & egg w a salad of homemade dill cucumber & beetroot, aioli, served with fries & salad

2015-01-05 14.08.10

And his usual pint of beer.

We had asked for the flatbread to arrive first, as we wanted to get baby girl eating and becoming her usual content self again. Our mains arrived first however, and we had to ask for the flatbread which had apparently been forgotten. We didn’t mind, because there were things from our plate to feed to baby girl. Luckily. Our flatbread arrived soon after and by that stage we were all very happily digging in.

The flatbread was warm and delicious, clearly super fresh since we know it hadn’t been ready! It came with a pumpkin and a beetroot dip that was fresh and tasty, but to be honest I love eating warm/fresh breads as they are, on their own, no extra condiments/dressings/sauces/dips required. Baby girl loved it too, and happily chewed on a piece and was kept busy for a while, while we had our mains.

My risotto was creamy, with a good hint of garlic. I loved it, I could easily have had more. I would have liked more chicken too, and like I said, I reckon if ordered outside the lunchtime menu, I may have gotten more of a serving. It did come a bit lopsided though, looking as if someone had poured it into the dish only to then teeter it on an edge and have the whole lot slide to one side. The taste was very yum despite this.

Hubbie’s burger was great too, as I tried a few bites. Wholesome burger patty with, egg, bacon, and an interesting tasting relish that I couldn’t put my finger on the taste. He loved his burger, and all the food on the table hit the spot for us very hungry bunch of car-shoppers. We scoffed it down happily.

Because we’re on holidays, Hubbie said “f$&k it” and we ordered cake and coffee too. Well the coffee was a must, the cake was a “I’m gonna squeeze this in I don’t know where” cake.

We shared a Tiramisu

2015-01-05 14.46.14

Hubbie got his latte; I got my cappuccino

2015-01-05 14.44.34

And baby girl got her babycino

2015-01-05 14.44.23

Before ordering our coffees we had gotten very excited when Hubbie had noticed the coffee beans displayed on one of their counters. It read Melba, and it’s the brand we buy for our own coffee machine at home, from a great organic café in our fave shopping haunt. So we had high hopes for our daily caffeine fix. However, hubbie’s latte was too milky, which is why there is no photo to display above – he was disappointed. He says it still tasted alright, but it wasn’t strong enough. I admit, it looked rather pale. My cappuccino was great, and though like hubbie’s latte it wasn’t strong, I did enjoy the smoothness. So we’re not sure if Melba was the coffee used, but if it was, it wasn’t made like our café back home does it.

Baby girl LOVED her babycino, and got upset multiple times that we didn’t spoon-feed it to her fast enough.

The tiramisu also seemed to be lacking some of the caffeine strength we were expecting to get. It was good, just nothing spectacular. I have had better.

What I did notice upon looking at our bill later, is that the babycino came in at $1.50. Now that just slightly peeved me off, as it did hubbie. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, I don’t think any dining establishment should be charging for babycinos. All it is is frothed milk with chocolate sprinkles. Now I know there are some out there that come with bells and whistles – a skewer of baby marshmallows on the side, a special gingerbread cookie – and I’ll admit that this one we had seemed to have chocolate milk beneath the froth, with a marshmallow on the side. So ok. But still, I kinda think the least these establishments can do, is not charge already-paying customers for a tiny portion of milk. The babycino probably costs them 5 cents, if that much. Even if you throw in a marshmallow, I think, like I said, not charging is the least they can do for paying customers. I don’t go around expecting things for free, but sometimes giving back, for something so tiny, is more a requirement than a gracious act.

Despite this, we were really happy with where we had ended up, and Hubbie was particularly happy with my Urbanspoon detective work. It was a cool and funky place, it was busy for a Monday in early Jan over the holiday season, and there were a lot of staff on hand meaning we were looked after and our requests were promptly met, but that was probably because of the wedding taking place. That too gave it a nice atmosphere. The waiters were lovely and accommodating, waving to baby girl and giving her attention every single time she cried out for it or waved to them, and God knows that happened at least 20 times.

I was impressed with the bathroom, as they had a handwash that read ‘organic and natural ingredients,’ ‘made in Melbourne.’ That along with the fake lavender in the corner, gave it a lovely atmosphere. I wouldn’t mind getting me some of that organic Melbourne stuff for my own bathroom! Nothing like promoting your own.

Awards outside the bathroom door indicated that this place was as good as we indeed had experienced, a place that all people should check out and enjoy.

Food: 8/10. If that tiramisu were up to scratch, my score would have been higher.

Coffee: 7.5/10. I wanted a bit more strength.

Ambience: Busy due to the nearby wedding function underway, and loud due to the volume of people which suited me just fine every time baby girl screamed…. which happened even beyond her lunch. It wasn’t an overwhelming constant vibe though, it was still very chilled despite all that.

Staff: Kind and friendly. Accommodating to baby girl’s demanding attention-seeking! However two waiters did trip over the legs of her high chair a total of 3 times, nearly causing the high chair to topple… but it didn’t. It is some kind of precarious looking chair, maybe new ones are needed that aren’t so trip-inducing? 😉

People: We had a family near us and some older people, as well as the whole wedding party. I think it caters for all sorts, as we certainly witnessed in the crowd that day.

Price: Mid-range to up-side. The combination of café-restaurant-bar-foodstore makes the price acceptable, as the awards attest to as well.

Advice: A great place to dine at, and I noticed there was an outdoor section that was inhabited primarily by the wedding guests that would have been lovely to eat at, seeing as it was such a sunny day. Go outside if it’s nice out. If your baby is in their old high chairs, a hand on the tray when someone walks behind won’t do no harm. Don’t get the tiramisu if you’re relying on a real coffee hit, but the other cakes behind the glass looked smashing. Maybe the New York baked cheesecake would have gone down better. The mains are yum-city, and if you’re coffee addicts like us, make it EXTRA STRONG.

In a nutshell: It’s a shame this place isn’t on our side of town, as with its set-up, atmosphere, the food and drinks on offer and the style it conveys, it’s right up our alley. If we go back to Berwick to buy that car, we’ll be lunching there for sure.

Look out for the red GTS. You’ll know we’re there 🙂 

Ambrosia Cafe Bar Foodstore on Urbanspoon