Warm olives, cold Cowes, but fond memories

Fig & Olive
115 Thompson Avenue Cowes, Phillip Island

(Visited August ’17)

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

The first name he rattled off was Fig & Olive.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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We perused the menu and settled on some

Warm marinated olives with bread

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ANYTHING WITH ROCKET ADDED IS IMMEDIATELY BETTER.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Royally great time

The Royal Hotel
770 Esplanade Mornington

(Visited March ’17)

Minutes before we were due to head out of the house that Tuesday night for dinner, we looked out the window… and saw a storm about to unleash. The weather report had warned of extreme weather and rain, and the south-east was about to cop it, BAD. We stood there, already dressed, asking ourselves “Should we just stay in?” Was it worth going out when the weather was going to be so terrible – hell, even dangerous to drive in?

But then, we realised what we were saying. I mean, what, the weather was going to hold us back? Since when? No bloody way. Besides, we were locals now. We’d be in the car, driving an average of 40ks, for 5 minutes, tops.

So how lucky we were then, to arrive at The Royal Hotel and find a park right out the front. Try to get us now Rain.

Although a neighbour to Kirks and also on the Esplanade, both establishments sharing amazing bay views, the feel of the Royal Hotel is completely different. And understandably, why would they want to modernise the place when its history holds such Royal ties? Inside it is all white with seemingly freshly-painted interiors, however unlike the sweeping views from Kirks of a full-length windowed wall allowing uninterrupted views from almost wherever you sit, here at the Royal the windows were small, possibly the same as they had always been, and though from there you could also see out towards the bay, you really had to be near them to get that beautiful view.

Intricate ceiling and wall detail, arches, and pillars that separated the left side of the room from the right: both sides that appeared to have been former large living quarters, with a large bar in the centre towards the right of the room, and a staircase leading up from the centre, this hotel had been transformed with a recent facelift, but the old-style feel remained, and it oozed character. You could just see how this place had been in existence over a century ago, at a time of horse and carriage, and adding to this vibe was one more, fairly prevalent thing: the musty smell.

It actually smelt like an old hotel. But not in a rotting, outdated, unclean way. It smelt earthy, original, and very very cool.

The hotel was renamed to its current name after a visit from Queen Victoria’s second son Prince Alfred. Remaining a site of enjoyment for some of the finest members of ‘societe’ over the years, it is clear to see this reflective in the current day interior retaining old-world charm, and why it has continued to hold onto its strong and proud ties to its noble past.

The hotel shows its age with its great, expansive spaces, something I learnt soon after as I took baby girl to the bathroom… on the way there and to your left, is the open-view kitchen that allows you to look in and see the chefs at work. And in the bathroom itself, old-world grandiose continues in the little details, fixtures and fittings, with large amenities too. New hotels are not the size that these magnificent pieces of history are. You can tell this is an old, old building, in the most fabulous and appreciative of ways.

The hotel is open 365 days a year and as well as having rooms for accommodation, it also has the fine restaurant we dined at that Tuesday evening in March.

We were showed to a table that wasn’t in front of the ‘bay’ window, but we could see out through it still from our distance… instead we had a window that showed out the side towards Kirks, and it was nice to see that while we were deliciously snug, it was rainy out.

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I had called that day to see if we needed to book ahead, and I think being a non-peak season period the man suggested it was ok if we just ‘rocked up’ as I would say, or ‘arrived,’ as he probably would.

We were brought menus and ordered our drinks, but realised fairly soon after our French-looking waiter disappeared for a while, that we actually had to go up to the counter and pay and order for ourselves.

We got beer and a Kuku Pinot Noir to start

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while baby girl entertained herself with some pencils and colouring paper brought over by French-man. It was fairly quiet at this stage, so it felt super library-like, and I was super-freaking out over any outbursts baby girl would make. More on that later.

After not too long a wait (there weren’t many people there so it was to be expected) we received our meals:

Baby girl’s Crumbed chicken strips with fries & vegies

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Hubbie got the Murray Valley Port cutlet, mash potatoes, green beans, walnut & parsley salsa with red wine jus

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While I got the Malaysian chicken curry, jasmine rice & roti bread

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So I’ll start with baby girl, and her meal was fantastic. I was really pleased to see something other than the usual chicken and chips on her plate, and it was vegetables! And green ones at that! When provided with chips I know she will prevail on that, but she is a good eater and at home she eats her vegies… so when given the option, she will graze slightly, and so she did that night. She ate the chips and chicken alright, but she also had her broccoli, and that just makes any Mum happy. The food on offer was real, and didn’t look like crappy offcuts or leftovers, so that made me doubly happy.

Hubbie enjoyed his Pork cutlet, and it showed in how clean the plate was on removal… the only thing that wasn’t to taste was the red wine jus, he thought the marinade had burnt, as there was a slightly off-putting taste to it. If it weren’t for that, top marks from that fussy butcher Hubbie of mine.

And, leaving the best ‘til last… my meal was amazing. The highest honours, if only for that. The chicken was falling apart, it was succulent and soft and delicious. The jasmine rice in the banana leaf I believe, was very appealing and looked great, and then there was that roti bread. Drool. Oh man, if this is what all roti bread tastes like, I HAVE BEEN MISSING OUT. Of course the next roti bread I have elsewhere will not be up to scratch, I guarantee. But this roti bread was warm, puffed up, stretchy and soft. We all had some, I actually don’t know why I decided to share it as much as I did… maybe it was because I wanted to share my sudden intense love for roti bread… but they all concurred with me that it was definitely mmm-worthy.

I cleaned up my plate, easily.

Dinner had been yummo. I would have gladly stayed on for dessert, but for some reason baby girl just wasn’t working with us, and the other diners were now looking over… grrr argh. Great food, but snob-central. That night at least, we would have to give coffee and cake a Rain-check, so to speak.

Food: 9.5/10. Sensational. Fresh and delicious.

Coffee: N/A.

Ambience: Quiet, library-like when there are not many diners present. You can feel the character of the hotel and so silence is almost necessary to sit and soak up the chapters of history that have unfolded there.

Staff: We really only dealt with French-man, and he was fine, very concerned about doing his job properly, ‘to the book.’ But good.

People: We didn’t come across many. There was an old gentleman dining on his own who left before we did; a few couples beside the long-desired for window seats; and towards the end of our meal a rowdy American family sat near us, and this made me happy as their business and family talk almost blocked out any of the noises that baby girl was sporadically exploding with. I say almost, because she was still loud, and there was a couple, what looked like a 30-something woman with a 50-something man, who gave us ‘looks,’ staring pointedly when baby girl would yell out. Well, you all know how happy I am about ‘looks.’ I gave her a really good one as we exited the hotel, making sure she caught full well my intention… her rudeness and the library-vibe was the only thing that made the night difficult, as even though there is a kids meal section, and colouring and pencils for the kids, well unless they are in a straight-jacket, I don’t know quite how accepted they are there…

Price: $95ish for the lot. For 3 meals, and 3 drinks. The prices were slightlyon the upside, but the food was most definitely worth every delicious morsel I mean coin.

Advice: Book ahead if you want to sit by the window. Order the Malaysian chicken curry (you won’t be sorry). Maybe go at a peak time if you don’t want to deal with snot-faced moles when your child decides to you know, have a voice, and just generally be a child. F*&k me.

In a nutshell: I really loved this place, as Hubbie did too. The character and the food both won us over, but I wouldn’t hurry back (even though the Malaysian chicken is calling me), only because I am afraid of the too-quiet ambience and how that gels with a generally rambunctious and full-of-life baby girl.

I do highly recommend it to anyone else thinking of giving it a go, as I think the food and the atmosphere are something unique to be experienced. Stepping over the threshold where a royal has, is reason enough.

*UPDATE*

A year later, and back we went. And guess what? This is my new fave. The food yet again, amazing. And the alternative to possible snobby people inside?

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Sit outside. Ahhh.

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

Locals, take flight

Flock
2/25 Dava Drive Mornington

(Dined November ’16)

From the moment we discovered this little corner café, an awfully convenient, 5-10 minute WALK from our house, and saw its back-street, hidden, beach/park side location potential… we were excited.

You see, we had always longed to move to a place that was within walking distance to a café. At one point during our real estate search, we even tried searching in relation to how close some houses were to nearby cafes. Our wish for good food, great coffee, and friendly/casual convo with café staff over stupid Melbourne weather, within walking distance from our ideal home, was a high priority.

Somehow that all got lost and a bit forgotten when we saw the beach views of our now home. I did have a quick google search at one stage for nearby cafes, but I mustn’t have searched too well…

Later though, once we had moved, a common name kept popping up on my Google maps.

So on our first walk, we ‘flocked’ there.

And said “My, Mofo, we’ve done it. We’ve got the freaking café within walking distance.”

And we hadn’t even known it.

And we hadn’t even eaten or had coffee there yet. (Now I’m beginning to sound like Bana’s Chopper Read…)

On our first opportunity, we went over to fulfil our café destiny.

We had to drive though, not walk. It was a cold, windy day, rain threatening to spill at any moment. So we rugged up, and walked into the small, intimate café, weaving around tables and chairs and finding our seats at one end of the medium-sized communal table in the middle of Flock café.

There were people sitting all about, but of course it was full what with the tiny space the café occupies. They were so clearly locals, that for us recent newbies on the block, I felt like putting the disclaimer ‘don’t shoot us, we’re not from out of town!’ on my forehead. Instead I stuck my head in a menu on the table and then went up to order and pay once we knew what we wanted.

Hubbie started the ball rolling with a necessary flat white

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… while I looked on in envy. I waited for his verdict. He nodded. The coffee was good.

Soon we all received our meals. Baby girl with her 7 Grain Organic Sourdough with vegemite and butter

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Hubbie with his Breakfast Roll w’ smashed eggs, bacon, swiss cheese, roquette & tomato jam

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And my Shakshouka Baked Eggs w’ organic ciabatta

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Baby girl got really excited when she saw the vegemite, thinking it was Nutella from when we last had breakfast out at The Winey Cow… so excited that she dipped her finger in it, got a huge lob of black stuff and put it straight in her mouth.

A second later, and her face didn’t paint an impressed picture. Classic yankee mistake.

So, after I cleaned her up, and applied her spreads on her bread, she went on to eat. It wasn’t the sweet stuff, but she ate it. Again, the hard crust. I trust the sourdough bread is unreal and super-healthy, but sometimes for kids, or generally for people who don’t wish to cut their gums on hard-toasted crust, a softer bread variety will do. Anyhow.

Hubbie said his breakfast burger did the job, it was ok, but it wasn’t anything that left him wanting or dreaming of future breakfast burgers there.

I had been thinking of baked eggs for several weeks, so I was really happy to order a meal like this. It was good, perhaps not my best baked eggs/shakshouka meal I’ve EVER had, but it was good. It was extremely saucy, with many peppers/capsicum within the little ceramic hot pot of baked egg goodness.

By this stage, the corner café was rocking. There were people coming in at an ongoing rate, both newbies trying to cram in for a seat since the weather outside was not beckoning people to sit on the outdoor chairs, and also from locals in trakky-pants dropping in for their usual coffee and toastie order.

After ordering some drinks, we waited a while more before we got our babycino and  cappuccino.

Baby girl scoffed her marshmallows, while I carefully pondered my first sip of coffee. This was the dealbreaker. Would the coffee be good enough to make it a local? The food was good, but only, if only, the coffee were great. Hell, we were so desperate for a local café to call a home away from home, and this one with a convenient park/beach locale, had us even happy with a half-decent coffee. That’s all it needed to be, half-decent.

Dum, da dum dum.

And it was…

GREAT.

It was truly, very, very, very good coffee. It was ultra-smooth, with a swift caffeine kick. I realised in awe, and verbalised to Hubbie, how rare it is to find a very smooth, yet very strong coffee. This was both. I was rapt.

I was so rapt, I talked about it all the way to the shops. The caffeine had surely kicked in, and the realisation it was our now-local had me high as a kite.

Food: 7/10. It was good for a corner café. They have some other interesting menu options that I’m wanting to try in the near future. We also took-away some Nutella and jam doughnuts, courtesy of the locals Chocolat that bake off of the Main street… OMG. Is it possible that there is a doughnut as good as the famous donutella, that rules the roost back in our old neck of the woods?! WOW. Head on over to both Flock and Chocolat to try these babies out.

Coffee: Can you believe… no I can’t. 10/10. Yep. Currently up there on my leader board of best coffees, alongside caffeine greats such as that in Farm Vigano, Dark Rye in Westfield Doncaster, Story at Docklands, and also recently Mercetta on the Main street in Mornington. I really need to start another page on my SmikG site, stay tuned…

STOP! Update!

The above was my true and honest verdict as of the first two times we had coffee there… and unfortunately, on every other visit there, the coffee has been bitter/burnt/tasteless. It has been really upsetting and confusing, and even stopped us from going there for a long while – because if the coffee ain’t good, it just ain’t worth it.

However, because I am so damn eager to make this work, I still go there occasionally, and the nearby park for baby girl makes it difficult to ignore too. And happily, on the last visit, it wasn’t that bad… the coffee was actually good! I have no idea if this has anything to do with the fact that the café itself was up for sale quite recently, and if indeed there may be different owners/managers/baristas there… but I will keep trying, damn it.

For that reason, I can’t score this one. You make up your own mind.

Ambience: Cosy, corner café. Relaxing, charming, and all-encompassing of the beautiful surroundings when the weather is fine and their windows are WIDE OPEN.

Staff: Friendly, and they took the time out to greet us and thank us for coming at the end, despite how busy they were. This is a well-oiled, professional and friendly machine folks.

People: Locals, as I’ve already mentioned, that consisted of some older folk, bike dudes, a gaggle of 20 something girls catching up for brekkie, and random’s dropping in wearing their PJs and wiping the sleep from their eyes. I love it.

Price: It was about $60, but keep in mind we also got some takeaway doughnuts, which means the price would have been much less… price-wise for what you get, you get a lot, so in that respect it is well-priced… however I also think what you get, accurately portrays what you pay… capiche?

Advice: If you’re not a local, do not go there. Please just stay away. It is MY local. Mine and the neighbouring residents of Dava Drive. That is all. Just live vicariously through me, and go have brekkie and coffee on the Main street. Go on… what are you waiting for?

In a nutshell: Well, we’ve found our local haven’t we… or have we? The food is great, the coffee is mmm-hmmm undecided, however I can just see an endless amount of sunshiny days where I am sitting in the café, or taking coffee away to go to the park with baby girl, or walking it over to the beach, or simply dropping in to grab some doughnuts because they are way closer to us than Chocolat… I hope. I sooo hope. (Clutching at straws much?)

I’m just bloody rapt. We’ve got it. (?)

We’ve darn well got it. (?)

I’ll flock here alright. Just try keep me away…

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

Sightings of People as Passionate About (Addicted to) Coffee as I am (SOPAPACAIA) #10

10:40am, Nepean Highway Frankston

Sighted: A woman holding a Maccas bag and a takeaway coffee cup.

Hold up, what? Is this something unusual, seeing a person walk away from a takeaway restaurant with food and drink? Let me re-phrase (and re-paint the picture)…

10:40am, Nepean Highway Frankston. Grey day, the one where it is Summer but Summer rain and every other dark element has decided to reign down on us (pardon the pun). It is raining, the wind is intense, and this woman is standing at the intersection outside McDonalds waiting for the green man to appear, looking fairly calm as she is throttled by the unnatural season.

The coffee cup firmly in her hand, clearly getting soaked.

I don’t know if that says more about her coffee obsession, or the folk that frequent Frankston, but either way…

Bravo.

How to do Port Douglas in 4 nights (with kids) – Part 1

(Travelled: Jan ’16)

It’s been several months now since our tropical getaway, and yet the memories of that trip have not ceased to stand out in the forefront of our minds. Port Douglas was a place I had always longed to go to, and now that I have, I can share it with all of YOU, all the amazing and unforgettable (and difficult) aspects. This information is for all local, national and international visitors alike, as the varied accent in those Northern parts was not uncommon, let me tell you! We travelled with baby girl, 2 years old at the time, so I can also give some advice as to how to go about your days with a toddler… it ain’t easy, but it sure was fun!

Travel + Transport

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We flew from Melbourne to Cairns, meant to be just over a 3 hour trip, though on that occasion the flight was slightly less. We had organised car hire from Cairns, so that we could do the drive up on our terms. There are shared transfer options up to Port Douglas (an hour by car if there are no stops) but having done that for our Noosa trip years ago, we knew that there was the possibility of the van stopping as it picked up other passengers, and we didn’t want to risk upsetting baby girl with the potential delay that could cause. Plus, being in a car of our own, meant we could stop if we absolutely had to, and as it was, she fell asleep for some of the way which was great.

I had read that the drive from Cairns to Port Douglas was a scenic one, and sure enough, that promise delivered. Serene bayside views, picturesque backdrops, driving through quaint beachside villages, people wearing not much but thongs and singlets, and trees trees trees. It was very wind-y. As in winding around and around and around (and around!) the hills to get there.

About 20 minutes away from our destination we got an onslaught of rain. Only this wasn’t just an onslaught, this was a tropical storm of mammoth proportions. We had heard of the tropical rain at that time of year, and wondered if that would be the norm for the rest of our trip. Luckily, no. We got a bit more rain while there, but very minimal, and nothing like what we had driven through. So if driving up at the start of the year, be careful.

Having a car allowed us the luxury of being able to go about wherever we wanted, without having to rely on public transport and the often inconveniences of waiting for it with a toddler. Even though we were situated in the middle of Macrossan Street, we still ended up using the car a fair bit. Consider it if you are with children. We had a child seat added for baby girl, and just make sure there are no km limits with the car you hire, since you would be travelling an hour to and from Port Douglas to Cairns (not including additional travel around the area) it does add up. (And remember to return the car with fuel!)

Accommodation

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We stayed at Saltwater Luxury Apartments, situated right in the middle of Macrossan Street. We had parking underneath the premises, and there is a shared pool for holiday stayers to use, which we did, twice. It wasn’t an Olympic-sized pool, but it was enough. Baby girl squealed with delight and tried to break in every day, so = Pass.

We had a two-bedroom apartment overlooking the main street, which meant at night things got noisy! Our room was closer to the street, with baby girl’s closer to the entrance door which was nearer the other apartments and the shared corridor between them. On several occasions, people coming home would think it acceptable to talk loudly with one another in the corridor before walking into their apartment, despite all the other nearby stayers! On night 1 we discovered ‘the birds,’ loud riotous birds that sang almost all night, there must have been at least 50 of them, and they sounded like they were outside our room. “Don’t birds sleep?” Hubbie and I asked each other at 1am. Along with this there was the noise that eventually waned off from the below restaurant, Bel Cibo, with the kitchen staff cleaning and washing up and making all kinds of racket until they left the premises about midnight.

So, it was a noisy place to stay. I was slightly nervous because I was worried baby girl would wake up from the noise. And she did wake up, but not from the noise… she was just unsure of her surroundings when she opened her eyes in the middle of the night.

It is a fantastic place, if you want to be in the heart of it all, and be able to walk to everything. In fact, you could base your holiday around Macrossan Street, and just go everywhere on foot, especially if you have no kiddies… but then you would miss out on Mossman Gorge. Oh man you don’t want to miss out on that one.

So, great location, but noisy at night. Parents may find it a bit annoying with the constant racket, but then again, it was high season, at the start of January. The 2 bedroom apartment was like a little house, with bathrooms adjoining both rooms, a kitchen aside a kitchen table and then the lounge room, and there was an outside enclosed area that you could sit and view the diners at Bel Cibo and people walking on Macrossan Street below. They are like little houses because you can hire them out for long stays. Definitely a great idea, especially when we go back again with our extended family 🙂

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Weather

If you are going to Port Douglas, be mindful of this: you will be hot. Not like ‘oooh, I think I might change into shorts’ hot, I’m talking humidity seeping into every crevice of your body, overcoming and suffocating you, sweat trickling down the bridge of your nose, give-me-that-pitcher-of-water-so-I-can-throw-it-over-my-head, type hot. Baby girl found it uncomfortable, as she seemed cranky on many an occasion, except for when she was in the water. Then it was bliss for her (and us). I didn’t pack anything long-sleeved or long-panted; it was light and airy all the way. I did pack insect repellent for the rainforests, but I never used it, and we never needed it either. Sunscreen is a must too.

I mean, there’s a reason why all the restaurants have fans.

Food

We ate at many great places while in Port Douglas. I’ll list them by my personal lowest to highest ranking, and note that you can click on each name which links to my actual food review post on the restaurant in question, for a more in-depth analysis of our dining experience there:

Rattle ‘n’ Hum – casual dining where you order your food at the counter.

Bel Cibo – fine dining with great views over Macrossan Street. Lots of accents here.

Whileaway Bookstore and Café – great mishmash of literature and lattes. Coffee was ok, books and surroundings were heaven.

Little Larder – These guys kind of tie with Watergate below. Funky vibe, the place to go, great coffee, food, and service. Gold.

Watergate – Fine dining, but add exclusivity. Fire, fans and all you need is Gorillas (see my review for an explanation!) Amazing food, I will be going back for the coffee and dessert! Loved.

A notable mention goes to Mocka’s Pies which we had one day for lunch. We had coffee and cake there on Day 2 –

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and then later Hubbie got some takeaway pies. Their pies are meant to be some of the best going around, and from the few we tried back at Saltwater, we could tell it was true. We shared a Steak pie (the one with the X)

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A green chicken curry pie

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And a corn and asparagus pie

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The latter pie was perhaps a questionable one, only because it wasn’t to our taste, but the first two were really delicious. I’m not a traditional pie fan, so I love it when I find pies with fillings that aren’t filled with offcuts and random bits and pieces just to fill it in. We were really happy with this find.

I don’t have the names of the other places we got takeaway food at, but one place we grabbed toasted sandwiches and steak sandwiches from was just up from Mocka’s Pies in Grant Street, but closer to the Macrossan Street end. They were ok, just as our fried rice and noodles was ok nights later from a restaurant somewhere around there too! There are so many options in that part of Port Douglas, you can afford to be fussy.

There was also a nearby Safeway, and a couple of liquor shops if you’re taking away to eat/drink at home. If you’re staying in this part of Port Douglas, it’s easy to buy anything you need and just walk on back to your accommodation to enjoy in your own private space. Super convenient surrounds.

 

Stay tuned for Part 2 of my Port Douglas 4 night guide where I discuss the amazing! and so-so Attractions we came across… coming very soon.

 

Seasons that don’t do what they’re told

When you live in Melbourne, you can’t help but be overly concerned with the weather.

You can’t escape it. It’s not just another casual ice-breaker topic like in other, normal-climate parts of the world. The highs and the lows can be so drastic, so contrasting, often from one hour to the next, that us as Melburnians, cannot help but talk so much about our damn weather.

“Beautiful day today.”

“It’s so cold today.”

These aren’t just simple conversation starters with work colleagues. These are real, bonafide issues of debate my non-Melbournian friends. Weather is always, a serious surprise. You can never really know what is going to happen the following day – even the weather presenters guess half the time.

This is true ALL through the year.

One current theme running rampant has been this remark:

“Some summer we’ve had.”

You can’t hear my sarcasm, but we haven’t had much of a summer. Sure, there were hot days; but no real hot, long, drawn-out summer spells usually so characteristic of our humid state. No, we got a couple, at best, really hot days in a row, before a rainy, slightly humid low 20-something degree day came along. And then stayed. For like forever.

I was in denial all the way through. All through summer I kept saying “we’ll get a late summer, we’ll get a stinking hot spell late Feb right into March as usual” (observe my true climate guide for an accurate representation of Melbourne weather seasons).

We are now in March. For those of you who haven’t noticed, we’re actually on the cusp of April. And sadly, we’ve already had the heater on in our house more times than I’d like to count.

I’m a summer gal. I love the sunshine, the warmth, the socialising and the out and about. I love the ease, the mildness that allows you to dress so comfortably, the warm nights that let you dream and gaze at the stars outside, and I love the long, light-filled days. I got caught in the rain a month back, and it was actually fun, and pleasurable, because it was still warm. Summer is just so easy.

I HATE being cold. I hate shivering in the morning as I get dressed, fighting against the coastal wind as I charge my way through the doors at work, and I hate never being able to get the house, and keep it warm, for long enough. It’s always crisp, fresh, and biting.

However, something’s changed.

I constantly remind myself, that winter is always so much worse as we’re in anticipation of it, and that once it’s here, it’s actually not too bad. This concept has helped. But it’s more than that. Summer is easy, but summer means busy too, and finding time to catch up on stuff, to read, to write, has just been so challenging and trying in the last several months. I love to go out, yes. I love to socialise, yes. I love having things to do, places to go and people to see, yes, yes, yes.

But I’m kind of looking forward to chilling at home and hibernating through the cold.

I don’t know what it is that’s made me think this way, this year, and not every other year previously. Is it the fact that I have more on now? The fact that I’m a Mum? Do I need more time for myself and my stuff, because life is just busier now? Perhaps. I’ve always said that winter is only fun when you don’t have to go out, you don’t have to work, in fact you don’t have to do anything at all. Basically, if you’re a bear, winter is awesome. If you can just stay at home snuggled up on the couch with your favourite blankie drinking hot chocolate, reading to your heart’s content and watching all your guilty-pleasure trashy shows, well winter looks kind of rocking in a mellow sorta way.

I am actually looking forward to winter… a little bit. Staying in and lounging in your trakkies ALL day because you can, and the weather doesn’t make you feel bad for doing so. Watching the rain and feeling infinitely inspired to write, and write, and write. (I know I shouldn’t wait for the rain, in order to write, but you know, this shit helps). Using the cold as an excuse to not go anywhere and just basically, be a bear.

Don’t get me wrong, I was still reflecting today, on this gorgeously hot Melbourne day, the (lack of) summer that had just passed, feeling quite depressed that I only got two days at the beach. Just two. I bought new bikinis for this. Baby girl has 3 sets of bathers. 3. She is 19 months old, and she has 3 sets of bathers.

But never mind. It’s something we’ve come to expect, something that is a natural part of life for Melburnians. My most accurate representation of this comes in an early memory, of being a teenager lying on my parents’ bench out on the verandah in the midday hot sun, and then coming inside to green-vision thinking ‘am I going to be burnt?’ to then sitting in front of the heater that night, shivering from the cold.

That’s our city for you. Beautiful one day… screwed if I know what’s next.

Food for thought on writing

The challenge isn’t in trying to write when your circumstances back you. The challenge isn’t in trying to find the time, the opportunity, the inspiration or the drive, when you’re in the mood.

When your geared up on coffee, had a couple of glasses of red, or sitting by the window on a rainy day, your muse will come. In fact, in those instances, your muse will be waiting for you to jump on the writing train. The words will flow and the ideas will spring to mind faster than your fingers have the time to get them out. This is me, most of the time.

The challenge comes when you don’t have a 1 hour block (or 2, or 3 hours, however you work) to get into a real writing flow. The challenge comes when you’re tired, when you’re sick. When you’re just not feeling like it, when the ideas fail you. The biggest one for me, is when I’m sad. Anger drives me, frustration gets me writing furiously, but sadness…. This is a hard obstacle between me and my writing.

But I remind myself, this separates the real writers from the occasional writers. And I don’t want to be ‘occasional.’ I want to be there, on cue, always, showing up.

Besides, if I rely on the unpredictability of Melbourne weather, those rainy spells only really last for 5 minutes at a time, so yeah.

Write for life.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

Coconut Pancakes with pineapple

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And Hubbie had ordered:

Bircher Muesli with berries & Shaw river yogurt

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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.

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