Italian Tapas

Assaggini
1C Albert Street Mornington

(Visited December ’16)

I was a bit hesitant to walk into the eatery on that Wednesday evening in December. Not that Assaggini, didn’t look pleasing to the eye. Far from it. People were outside, squeezed onto tables, while inside the stylish looking café-wine bar, with its long bar on one side of the restaurant, the spots were quickly filling up.

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I think it was more the possibility that it was a too-fine dining experience for the two of us with child. But when we enquired (as that is always the test, our greeting upon enquiry), we were fortunate enough to be seated by a lovely waitress who was obviously keen to please, as she sat us down in a booth to our liking, and later when an elderly group arrived, they indicated to our spot, which I believe was meant to be theirs! They did get another booth, but I do believe ours was the best booth in the house, by the bar no less 🙂

It was a special Pasta night, and so there was no question as to what I would then order. While baby girl was kept busy with a children’s menu to decorate with pencils, we went about ordering, plus got a couple of drinks too: a Peroni, and the white wine special.

It was a busy restaurant, and so I didn’t feel too anxious when baby girl decided to cry out in glee/agony at various intervals… but still, it was a fairly classy-looking establishment, this eatery around the corner from the Main street in Mornington, and the older, poshy looking people around matched the vibe. They promote themselves as an Italian-style tapas bar, with smaller dishes to please wide-ranging appetites, however there was nothing casual about the atmosphere, tapas or not.

Very soon baby girl’s meal arrived – The Kids Pasta Napoli

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And soon ours followed… My Linguine with Tiger Prawns, heirloom tomatoes, seafood bisque sauce.

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And Hubbie’s Calabrese Pizzette

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Although baby girl’s meal was an adequate proportion, which she appeared to enjoy, our meals fell short of the satisfactory full mark. I do realise that I ordered a meal from the menu which listed all 4-5 pastas as being $20, however for $20, I felt I needed more. The prawns were delicious, pasta was good, and the sauce it all swam together in was moorish. By the end of it though, I was still hungry, and somehow I don’t believe that the pasta from the pasta specials on Pasta Night, is meant to be treated as tapas.

Hubbie had been tossing up between two meals, and had opted for the pizza when the waitress informed that the pizza would be far more filling than his other interest, the sliders, and he was HUNGRY, as was I. However as his pizza arrived, the pizza that had been made out to be HUGE, was actually just a normal type of pizza. He smashed it all easily, and though it satisfied his hunger, it wasn’t necessarily hot or spicy as a Calabrese might be expected to be.

Our meals HAD been tasty, we had just expected more. Since we were still hungry, the smaller plates paid off for the restaurant as we ordered dessert, and coffees.

Baby girl had a babycino, Hubbie had an affogato with Frangelico, and I indulged in the dessert, mostly, before the other two barged in on my affair… of Sicilian cannoli, with strawberry mascarpone and white chocolate.

My cannoli was delicious, and though I joke about my family ‘helping’ me out, with a serving of 4 it was nice to share, empty or not-empty stomach. It was a lovely light flavour, and the presentation of all was brilliant. Hubbie enjoyed his coffee, and the combination with ice cream and alcohol made it all the more so.

We had arrived unannounced, had a fairly pleasant meal, but it also felt like we had been fed unannounced, with our plates cleaned too much, due to the lack of quantity. Quality though, WAS there. Once our dessert and coffee cups were also cleaned up, we paid, and headed off home.

Food: 8/10. I still gave them a fairly high score, because it was good… I just wanted MORE of it.

Coffee: 7.5/10. Kind of hard to tell amidst the alcohol and ice cream, but still, pleasant.

Ambience: It was busy that night, maybe with people coming in due to tapas-style Pasta dishes, but it still maintained an air of class. Maybe the long bar with all the alcohol and empty glasses awaiting your drink order that were on display, allowing you to view your reflection in the turn of their shiny rim, made everyone look and appear more shiny and – cool.

Staff: Some with Italian accents, and that ALWAYS makes it appear you know, really Italian-like. I don’t know who else has been to Italy, but they have a high-class yet welcoming air about them in the restaurants we have been to. It’s a very European thing. D.O.C like, only less pretentious.

People: Older groups, families and couples, but I don’t think I say ANY with kids. Yikes. It’s not like they’re not welcome, I mean there was a kids menu… but I think it is best said on their website:

“We welcome reservations as well as walk-ins, and we do welcome, well-supervised kids.”

:-O

Price: $97.50. Personally too much. Not even I will justify to say this is on the ‘up-side.’ Plainly, the price is representative of the atmosphere being emulated. If I had walked away completely satisfied, and Hubbie had to take his meal home, I would have understood the reason for the price. Yet though the quality is there, I still believe there should have been more, if only slightly so.

Advice: Make sure your kids are behaved, 1. 2, Order several tapas if you like your food. A pasta special will not quench your stomach hunger. 3. When they say the pizza is huge, just know it is like a large pizza size, maybe even a medium. You will be fine eating it.

In a nutshell: I would go here again, despite my agonies over the serving sizes. The food was of quality which I appreciate, and they were accommodating to us being ‘walk-ins’ and all…

I also like the tapas idea, as it reminds me of that amazing place place in Barwon Heads we dined at years ago… though there, we left FULL.

Never mind. Head on over to Albert Street, give them a shot, and don’t forget to order one, two or three, samples, courses, whatever.

Assaggini – treat everything as tapas, and you will know what to expect.

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

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Mediterranean in Mornington

Manhattan in Mornington
55 Barkly Street Mornington

(Visited October ’16)

Lucky Duck. This was our first restaurant birthday celebration in our Sea change location, and it was going to be for Hubbie’s birthday, just a few weeks after moving in.

We had booked ahead, and arrived to a small table awaiting us just opposite their front door.

Opulent, classy, yet warm and inviting. That is the upper-class yet traditional Italian vibe I got as we sat down. There was seating on the ground level, and I could see the stairs beside me spiralling up onto another higher seating level. Elvis watched us from one wall. Waiters and waitresses were in professional uniform. It was a perfect place to celebrate something special.

We soon ordered some drinks – for myself the Di Giorgio’s Cab Sav from Coonawarra – an old fave from a certain questionable restaurant that will not be named in this review for fear of unfairly negatively influencing this review in a bad light – and a beer for Hubbie, along with some Chefs Dips – tuna, pesto and beetroot with house-made bread

I enjoyed all the dips, and interestingly the tuna was good as well, which I didn’t think I would like. The waiter took great care to explain to us which dip was which, which showed the much-appreciated attention to detail.

Baby girl received her ‘no delay’ order soon after the dips arrived: Chicken tenderloins and chips.

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I was really impressed with the quality of chicken. I am always happy when they offer a softer piece of chicken meat for the kids meals, as I think it says a lot about food care and consideration, especially for our most fussiest of eaters.

By this stage the restaurant was quickly filling up, and suddenly I was grateful that we hadn’t just fluked it and walked on in because it was a Wednesday night – because for a Wednesday, this place was packed! It certainly seemed like the place to be in Mornington.

After much talking, drinking, and pecking at baby girl’s yummy chicken and chips, our meals finally arrived.

Birthday boy had ordered the Pancetta Di Maiale – Twice cooked pork belly resting on sweet potato mash served with an apple crackle salad

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While I had ordered the Mare e Monti – Linguini pasta, fresh prawns, scallops, calamari, pan seared Moreton Bay bug, chilli infused virgin olive oil, baby spinach, cherry tomatoes

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Hubbie really enjoyed his meal. Like, so much so, that he has continued to order it on repeat visits to the restaurant, a clear good sign of a winner dish. Crunchy crackling with super-soft falling-away-at-the-fork pork underneath it, make him a very Happy Birthday Boy.

I enjoyed mine too, however it wasn’t as perfect as I would have expected a restaurant of that calibre to produce… I loved the Moreton bay bug, that was delicious and fresh. However at the same time, I found the scallops too undercooked for my liking, so I couldn’t eat those unfortunately. The rest of the seafood infused with the extremely spicy chilli olive oil was delicious, but also, that was part of its undoing when it came to enjoying the meal, because it became too much by the end of it, so much so that I actually felt a bit sickly from the overuse of oil and chilli. If the seasoning and oil had been scaled back a little, I think I would have preferred it a lot more.

I let my stomach settle and took baby girl to the change room, to come back and get some coffee and dessert. I mean, what the hell. It was a birthday celebration after all. We decided to share the Profiteroles because we were really stuffed with food, and get some coffees, a latte, cap, and a babycino.

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We got two big profiteroles which were light and creamy, so that was easily enjoyed. My cap was smooth, not so strong, but that I didn’t mind as it was past 9pm. We received some cute bikkies on the side which I’ve noticed a lot of Italian places tend to offer with coffee, and I do like this tradition… so does baby girl, taking it upon herself to eat ours as well as her own. We were happy, we were full, and we were full of birthday festivity… and when baby girl shoved her hand into the lolly jar beside the counter, we knew it was time to go.

Food: 7.5/10.

I have to explain, the food, the presentation, and the quality of all we received was of the highest standards, but after repeat visits here, I’ve come to realize that all the food I receive here is extra oily and especially-seasoned, something my stomach complains about after every visit. It is the rich Italian style of cooking, something I can’t really fault, even though my tummy does…

It’s an Italian thing.

Coffee: 7/10. Smooth.

Ambience: Classy yet comforting. Warm polished wood undertones are displayed throughout with that coastal mediterranean-style that makes you feel like you’re holidaying away in a little secluded and exclusive town in Boot-country.

Staff: The friendly but professional Italian-speaking types, if you get my drift. I’ve seen them sooo many times before, and if you’ve eaten at the expensive side of Lygon street, you’ll know what I mean. They did their job well, and our lovely main waitress was kind enough to wave at baby girl every time she walked by, because baby girl just couldn’t stop trying to get her attention!

People: Those with $$$ come out to play here, and the menu prices are indicative of that. Lots of families, young and old, and big groups of people… like I said earlier, this is the place to be when you have something to celebrate.

Price: $151. On the ‘up’ side, for 3 mains, an appetiser, a dessert, 3 alcoholic drinks, and 3 coffees. But the quality of the food and the service were also on the ‘up’ side, despite my extra-rich linguine…

Advice: Definitely book! Everyone goes here! If your stomach tends to get affected by very strong and heavy flavours, best you avoid the linguine… or most things for that matter…

In a nutshell: Despite my meal on this occasion, we have come here on several many other occasions. Their menu is diverse and interesting, and the ambience is spot on, making you want to keep coming back. The service is especially caring and attentive, as it should be. I was also impressed with the baby change room, it was new and impeccably clean. I am really excited about this find, and I think the rest of the Peninsula is too… I think they should have stayed true to their style though, and instead of their existing name, gone with ‘Florence in Mornington’ or something along those lines… it would be truer to their restaurant character. Anywho…

Potat-oe, Potat-o….

Tomat-oe, Tomat-o…

Messina, Manhattan…

Manhattan in Mornington Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Ooh, baby baby it’s a wild (pizza) world

DOC Pizza & Mozzarella Bar Delicatessen
22 Main Street Mornington

(Visited April ’16)

It was a cold Saturday night on the Peninsula, and we had escaped there yet again for the Anzac Day Long Weekend. After walking up and down the Main street in Mornington, we decided on DOC. We had been there on a rainy afternoon YEARS ago, pre-baby days, and thought we would have a go at it again.

Back then there was like, 3 other people in the store on that rainy afternoon. That night in April, there was about 300.

Or so it felt like. The communal tables inside the Pizza & Mozzarella bar were crammed, and every other table either inside or outside had people hanging off it too. I don’t know how, but we ended up somehow on a free table outside, and though I was initially scared of the cold, the heaters above our heads were so strong that I had to take off my jacket, and my mobile on the table was kept extremely warm all night. (Warning, due to low-lighting, crappy photos follow).

Soon after sitting down, another party, a family of 3, sat at the other end of our medium-sized table. We didn’t mind, but I just prayed they wouldn’t be put off by any of baby girl’s antics. Soon enough though, she would be plenty busy.

Our waiter arrived with menus, and immediately I could read the type. He was aloof, but not try-hard, with an obvious accent, and I knew it was only a matter of time…

As we ordered I asked about the wine, and by placing my trust in his expertise he suggested I get a red ‘something,’ while Hubbie got a Menabrea

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And then he opened up. He let baby girl keep the torn paper menu she had used up already, even bringing her over a cup of pencils without asking. She proceeded to draw on the torn menu at the table with us, as well as on the floor next to us.

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We eventually received our shared meal. We thought it would be enough, but alas, we were starving. When our waiter told us it would be sufficient to share, I should have told him we’re of European descent, as he was:

Our Pizza San Daniele – San Marzano tomato, D.O.P Buffalo mozzarella, D.O.P San Daniele Prosciutto

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And the Mista – mixed leaf salad with balsamic

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I don’t know why we chose just the San Daniele. It was great, don’t get me wrong. I think the simple ingredients made me think everyone, especially baby girl would enjoy it. Also, but in one of my all time fave movies Only You, doesn’t Marisa Tomei’s character end up going to a Daniele-type Italian village as she chases after her supposed soul mate Damon Bradley? It stuck in my head. And you just don’t know with some pizza places, you order a pizza and it can barely fit on the table.

Despite how light and thin the crust was, and how tasty the evenly proportioned ingredients were on the base, within a few slices we flagged our waiter and said “get us a cap too.”

Pizza Capricciosa Nuova arrived soon after. With San Marzano tomato, mozzarella, leg ham, mushroom, artichoke and olive

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I didn’t know ‘til I’d had a few bites of that one that there was a different taste I had been unaware of. Not unpleasant, just different. The artichoke! It was interesting and definitely not unwanted, certainly a capricciosa that I will remember for future. Nuova indeed. Again the base was thin and all the ingredients were so tasty and fresh, and easily between the 3 of us we smashed both pizzas.

Even the salad was really fresh and appealing, easily consumed and not needing to be forced down like other boring salads. The balsamic really brought it together.

We were having a really great time by this stage. Hubbie had proceeded onto a Peroni continuing in the Italian spirit, my red was still swimming in my head, its bouquet immediately apparent as I had taken the first sip. Baby girl was happy, our waiter was singing as he swum from one table to the next, telling us that this was nothing and that the restaurant would peak in Summer time. How could many more people fit in the joint? He also gave baby girl plenty of attention, even going to the lengths to pick up her pencils from the floor when they fell. We hadn’t moved to the Peninsula yet, and already this place was our locale.

It was certainly an experience when I went to look for a change room for baby girl. We had ordered desserts, and suddenly, nature called. I asked a nearby waiter if there was a change room, and he pointed me in the direction. I was looking in the disabled room, and checking all corners of the ladies loos, but still nope, no change table of any kind. I went back out, holding baby girl’s hand and lugging my massive Van Chi, and spotted our waiter in the main dining room. I asked him for his help, and he was sure they had one too. He personally came with me through all the toilets, checking to see if indeed there wasn’t any as I’d suggested. He barged into the ladies, us following, and after scanning the room pointed to the bench space near the basins up front.

“Just change her there.”

I cast a doubtful look. “But people come in here, and then wash their hands…” I felt bad. I knew where he was heading, but someone could really get pissed off if I spread my nappy changing crap out and proceeded to change a nappy where women washed their hands after using the loo. People LOVE hanging shit on Mums (pardon the pun).

He shrugged. “Who cares? She’s a baby,” with a wave of his hand as if to say ‘whatever.’

I thanked him. His no-care attitude and support gave me the courage I needed. I got her stuff ready on the bench, waiting until two women who had just come into the bathroom left so I could be at peace. Then in lightning time, I changed her. No one came in. Relieved and very thankful for the waiter’s help (and encouragement), I went back to Hubbie who had started on dessert. He just couldn’t wait.

He had the Nutella calzonoino with vanilla bean ice cream, while I had the sour cherry (I’m pretty sure it was) pannacotta

Mine definitely had the sour flavour, yet I still loved the lightness and creamy texture it possessed. Hubbie’s calzone was filling yet tasty, he adored it. Really he did. But there’s Nutella, so there you go.

And baby girl loved both very much.

Our meal there finished after two lots of people had both come and gone at the end of our table. We were very full. We left happily, with lots of thoughts of when and where we would be moving there.

Now usually my review would end there. My reviews are based on my first blogging experience  – since starting my Food Reviews – at a restaurant… but seeing as we coffee-d there two mornings after, and received distinctly different service from that Saturday night, I have to note it down.

The Main Street had been closed due to the Anzac Day parade, and we happened to arrive there right after it opened post 11am, after we had checked out of our Mount Martha accommodation.

Now I will forewarn this by saying that I believe the staff at DOC that day were understaffed and not expecting the quantity of people who came into their venue once the parade had finished. They were stressed, when crowds of people started lining up for a table.

Stressed is one thing; rude is another.

The man who served us that day was not the same as our lovely waiter from two nights earlier. Once we had been seated by another stressed waiter, this rude one came along.

Woe was us.

He also had an accent (a prerequisite for a job there I think) and took our coffee orders before I went off to check out the display case of cakes at the front. I came back to be told by a very angry Hubbie that while I was gone, baby girl yelled out in a frustrated fashion (as she sometimes does) and when Hubbie looked over apologetically at the waiter, he gave Hubbie a greasie.

He totally gave him a nasty look.

I had to flag the waiter down to take our dessert order, since he wasn’t making any eye contact. He made it out to be a total disservice to have to serve us: he repeated my order of “custard doughnut and salted caramel tart” like I had a learning disability and he thought me incompetent to communicate. After that travesty he angrily walked off and I later heard him condescendingly speaking to a large group of non-Italian people behind us, who were having trouble understanding what “calzone” was. He got lucky with them, as they all laughed at each other and didn’t catch the arrogance in his tone. There was no “restraint exercised” with him (refer to the menu for an explanation). I would not be surprised, in fact I would be expecting that he did not get so lucky with other customers that day.

We got our coffee and our desserts.

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The coffee was smooth, and the desserts were ok. They were delivered by our waiter from the other night but he was so busy he just plonked them down and didn’t realise who we were. Baby girl was going off rude waiter’s vibes and being especially cranky. We were so happy to hear a baby inside the restaurant also crying, I can’t tell you. We left immediately.

Food: 7.5/10. Fresh and simple, done well. Authentic and satisfying. I need to try their cheeses. I mean, it’s in their title ‘mozzarella bar.’ It’s got me drooling at the thought, and will have their food score sky-rocketing I think.

Coffee: 7/10. I’ll be honest, the service kinda spoiled any correct assessment I can make on it. I was too busy being pissed off.

Ambience: It was a really bustling and happy atmosphere the Saturday night that we dined there. They turned all the lights off inside at one stage to sing a type of Happy Birthday song to somebody, and just the way everyone went crazy was awesome. I loved the vibe. It was more chilled outside, whereas inside it was LOUD.

People: All kinds, families, couples, friends, everyone. This is the place to be, that was so apparent. You can take anyone you want, and everyone will fit in. There was a line out the door just to be put on a waiting list, and there are genuinely people spilling out the door and in the venue, either already sitting or waiting for one to pop up.

Staff: As above, as I’ve noted in detail. We had an experience of extreme proportions. We had a great waiter, then a shit one. But I’d like to think they’re all good like the first one, and the shit one has had his bags packed off for him by now.

Price: We paid $106 on our Saturday night. Two pizzas, 3 alcoholic drinks, a salad, and two desserts. Pizzas are $$$. Don’t be shocked. We had a great time so for us it was worth it.

Advice: Consider booking ahead, since this place really gets full early on. As I said ‘it’s the place to be.’ Everyone wants to be at this venue sitting on the corner of Main Street and looking out at the passers by. If you by some chance get a dude who looks like he’s just bitten into a lemon, immediately flag another waiter. Trust me, you don’t want him. He’ll ruin your visit. If the DOC is the body governing the standards of various cheeses and wines, then the DO-whatever needs to send rude guy packing and whip his arse into shape. Just saying.

And if you like to eat, trust me, a pizza on your own is no difficult feat.

In a nutshell: We were really disappointed to have such a negative experience on our immediate second visit there, offered by a staff member who frankly had no business at that business: he’s killing it for them. But not wanting a negative to offset such a positive, we are adamant that we will go back to DOC. for the friendly singing-Italian, the beautiful and fresh food, and the bustling atmosphere, rather than the guy who will most likely be gone by the time we revisit.

I always try to focus on the positives, and unless a venue offers me consistently bad experiences, I will usually go back if there has been a problem that could on the next visit be easily fixed/avoided.

So D-O-C, crack the whip on cranky waiter’s B-U-M, so I can hurry on back and get me some C-H-E-E-S-E.

D.O.C Mornington Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - 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.

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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:

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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

Dead on Time

Unlike my previous estimation, in the past week and a half I’ve attended 3 funerals. Not really a record I wanna be making, or breaking.

Death has been not only a present factor in my life, but in the lives of my family and friends. Two functions this month have been cancelled because of said Deaths, with one notably being scaled-down due to a family members passing.

Throw in some other bad news from the media, also of a ‘Grim’ nature, and it just feels like the start of what’s meant to be a very festive month, has started off very, very sad. I don’t know what’s happening, but it’s been affecting everyone. It has to be planetary, it’s too much of a coincidence.

Something occurred to me while I was at the most recent funeral (and which I’m hoping was my last). I had entered the service only a few minutes after the start time, but the Italian priest was already well underway into his piece. He was speaking with such conviction, that I wished I could understand what he was saying. It sounded important, and like it might just change my life. Nevertheless I kept listening, trying to remember what I could of the language I’d dabbled in at high school when I was 13.

Sitting there, I suddenly realised that with all 3 funerals, I’d been, we’d been, late. Not by much, only a few minutes past the hour for the commencement of the service, but still. Few minutes past, and we were late.

I thought of other occasions held in churches, not of a sad nature. Weddings never started on time. Christenings, you could bet your life they’d be running late, babies being surely unpredictable and all. These joyous, happy, memorable occasions never ran to schedule. Arriving as a guest, LATE, you would be forgiven for not being on time… because the guest-of-honour would most likely not even be there yet.

Life. Death. The living are late… and the Dead don’t wait. They don’t wait for no one.

These thoughts kept circling in my head. The living are late: we have all the time in the world, yet really, it’s the one thing we all complain about – lack of time. And the deceased have no where to go, yet they are punctual. On time. For what? The afterlife?

So maybe, we should keep complaining. Keep running late. Running late, we have somewhere to go, someplace happy to be. Someone to see, and company to laugh with.

Tick, Tock, Tick, Tock.