‘Botham’s Up’ for Father’s Day

Hickinbotham of Dromana
194 Nepean Highway Dromana

(Visited September ’17)

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

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

What?! Our time had come.

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

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

I had done well (go me 🙂 )

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

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

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

And years and years.

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

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

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

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

First up, some drinks please.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Soon, the food!

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

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

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

Spiral pasta with bolognaise sauce

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

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

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

Crisp potato puff… mmmmm.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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So just pick up your glass and…

…Botham’s up.

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

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The Spring Flower Festival of Silvan

Is it coincidence, or simply careful planning by the seasons, that there are an abundance of tulips ready to view and appreciate in Silvan come the September school holiday period?

How is it, that it is so perfectly timed? Tulips are planted before the colder months, and Spring-time seekers, (and those on school holidays) get to reap the rewards of the superbly bulbed flower?

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I have wanted to go to the Tesselaar Tulip Festival for a long time. I was fascinated by the story of the couple from Holland by the surname Tesselaar, and how they had planted tulips in their Silvan property long after first settling in Melbourne, after the outbreak of World War 2.

 

It is a common story to me, at least, the background is. A couple with a dream, a wish for a better life and hope for the future, leave their homeland behind to find opportunity elsewhere… my parents did this too, only they didn’t end up with hundreds of thousands of tulips across a 25-acre property, with tourists traveling from far and wide to witness their floral beauty!

It is certainly a fairy tale story. The couple’s acreage attracted so many passersby over the years, that they eventually opened their farm to eager eyes for a coin donation… it has evolved to the huge floral attraction that it is today, with people travelling from all over the country (I saw the interstate license plates with my own eyes!) to see the tulips in wondrous bloom.

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Baby girl and I attended the tulip festival in the first week of the school holidays, and it coincided with the ‘superhero week!’ What is ‘superhero week’ you may ask? Well all I can ascertain is that PJ Masks were in town, and they got them on board plus added in a few more kiddie activities to make it ‘superhero’-like!

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The great thing about this festival, is that it is so versatile. Superhero week becomes ‘Get Active’ week (Mon 1st – Thurs 4th October), and the weekends have their own special themes, with the one just passed being the ‘Food Wine and Jazz weekend,’ and the next one (Fri 5th – Sun 7th October) being the Irish Weekend.

There is sooo much to do, and it ain’t all tulips either. As already noted, the event occurs over the school holidays, though it is longer than two weeks, and as an adult visiting with kids, you can be assured they will be kept busy! The main stages have constantly-changing entertainment, there are roving princesses, workshops where you can create sand art, learn how to drum… then there are reptile displays, a petting zoo, face painters, and did I mention, the tractor ride?

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Check out my SmikG facebook page for the super-cool video. Hey, as the tractor jumped forward in its start-up around the expansive tulip field, even the adults shrieked in giddy excitement alongside the kids. True story. It probably fits about, oh, 20 people, and lasts all of 5 minutes, if that much, as it does an upside down U shape around the field. It is a heap of fun, the kids could have cared less as we went past the tulips, instead getting excited by the open-air and opportunity to wave at other tulip-viewers outside of the tractor, and meanwhile the adults just took it all in, appreciating the beauty, and revelling in the happy shouts of glee from their offspring.

You HAVE TO DO IT!

Toilets, food and drink are a plenty. Dutch-style cuisine, of Poffertjes, or as you and I may call them, ‘mini pancakes,’ are a must, and The Kibbeling Express, a Dutch-themed fish and chip shop also prominently features in the grounds. But never fear, if none of that tickles your fancy, there are your other cuisines, of Mac and cheese, hamburgers, scones, gozleme, spuds, and of course…

ICE CREAM!

:):):)

It was a wonderfully lazy and self-indulgent 20 minutes or so that baby girl and I spent licking our cones and cups in the sun.

There are opportunities to buy souvenirs, take home gardening tools, purchase your own seedlings, and did I mention the potted tulips?

I bought a pot for myself to take home, and actually have repotted them with purpose… to have them last a long time. I got a small leaflet with some tips on how best to keep them going on, but any decent gardening blog online will give you similar tips on extending the tulips life.

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The fairy shop is another cute place for the kids to enjoy, with little unicorns and fairy paraphernalia decorating the walls of the store. Just try leaving this place with your girl empty-handed. I know, as we now own a magical glittery pen.

:/

The effects of keeping your child entertained while on holiday, I know.

And, the whole reason for going, the ‘piece de resistance’ if you will, of the actual event?

Why, the Tulips of course.

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They surround the festival, however the major drawcard sits amidst the large field with rows upon rows of different coloured bulbs. A large windmill sits at the far end of the field, and various works of art are spotted throughout, to provide your eye with an alternative to the wondrous colour before you… not like you need it, but it is nice to take a break and look at something else interesting.

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This festival is huge, so take precaution when deciding when to go. The cars just keep coming, there are parking people organising where you can park, and then depending on what time you arrive and where you have parked, there will most likely be a short walk for you to make, so if with littlies that get easily bored or tired, you may need to take a pram (or your shoulders will feel the weight!)

By no means should any of this dissuade you – it is a festival for both young and old, with plenty to do and see that will interest people of ALL ages! In my eyes, it is actually a pretty perfect family day out 🙂

 

The deets!

The Tesselaar Tulip Festival is a September – October annual event, coinciding with the bloom of the flowers (and the school holidays!) Check their website for actual dates and theme-specific weeks and weekends.

https://tulipfestival.com.au/

Their address is 357-359 Monbulk Road Silvan.

It runs every day for about a month of the festival’s duration.

Getting there by car takes some time if you’re from Melbourne or even on the other side of it… but once you are in the Dandenong Ranges, man it is a beautifully scenic drive. You could easily make a day of it, or two or three (or a mini-break!) as there are some quaint and exquisite village-like places that you travel through to get there… Sassafras, Kallista, Monbulk… You could be forgiven for wanting to stop about 6 times before reaching your destination, so tranquil and serene is your drive and environment. The views are always so magical in the Ranges, and the day we drove there I had to contain my excitement and nostalgia in going through parts of the world that I had visited with Hubbie many times before, as I have by myself too.

Prices:

Adults are $28, Concession holders are $24, and Children 16 and under are Free!

(Which is why it is such a kid-happy place!)

RULES

Yes, I even have rules. Well their not just mine, the festival insists, with a smiley policeman cut-out and everything… baby girl observed it too…

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Please, for the love of God, KEEP OFF THE FLOWERS. It may seem obvious to most, but most people would not jump behind a rope where there is a sign of a person jumping over a rope with a BIG LINE THROUGH IT.

I saw some people disobey the sign for the sake of the perfect photo, and man oh man did I wish for some Dutch police to take them away and whip them with Poffertjes until they bled like strawberry jam… for the sake of respecting the Tulips, take your photos in front of the rope and not behind it… it is there for a reason after all.

And look! What do you know, a beautiful photo that wasn’t taken while standing on precious bulbs.

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Face palm. Some people.

Tips:

Be prepared to be out ALL DAY. That means comfy shoes, an easy and light bag, and water/snacks of some kind. Yes you can buy it all there, but you don’t wanna be running off to the food trucks when you are in the middle of a field of tulips now, do you?

They have a car park, AND an overflow car park. I suspect I was in the overflow carpark, and that was on a Thursday of the school holidays. My point is… come as early as you can, or try to avoid weekends and public holidays. If the car parks are full, they suggest you drive out to one of the quaint towns for a bit and then come back to try again. This seems absurd due to the sheer number of cars that clearly can fit there… but as I said again, it was a Thursday. And it was practically packed.

Bring your hat, sunscreen and sunnies. It can get a bit dusty, so closed-toe shoes may be the way to go.

And lastly, the MOST IMPORTANT word of advice… take home some tulips. You won’t regret it, trust me 😉

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Brisket District

District North Cafe
678 Mt Alexander Road, Moonee Ponds

(Visited September ’16)

Spring and sunshine. That was the mix and the fresh smell in the air as baby girl and I headed to Moonee Ponds on a Saturday at the onset of September.

A few weeks earlier we had organised for a little catch up – some of the ‘gang’ with our kiddies. As it was, one of the Mums left hers at home (lucky thing) while myself and another friend had our scallywags accompany us.

District North is an expansive, neutral-coloured, clean space. Seating is aplenty, but still, being in a busy eating precinct on a sunny Saturday morning, you can never be too sure. We had booked ahead, and got a booth location up against the wall.

Once the kids were both seated, they fortunately received this:

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Thank God for colouring pencils. Well, it kept them busy for all of 46 seconds.

Anyway, we very quickly ordered, rushing the kids’ meals. It was a busy place, and definitely one that your child’s voice would get lost in the crowd – this is good. However kids being kids, we just didn’t want to test them, 11:30am and all.

Baby girl got the kids serving of pancakes with ice cream

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While I got the Bloody Brisket Benedict – Dr Marty’s crumpets, slow-cooked beef brisket, poached eggs, bloody mary hollandaise

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Now to be perfectly honest, I didn’t really understand what I was ordering. I kind of did, but somehow in amongst keeping baby girl in line and handing over pencil after pencil, and trying to keep her hands from taking the trucks out of her opponent’s (my friend’s son’s) hand, I kind of missed the ‘slow-cooked beef brisket’ part of the description, and thought Brisket was just, well, sauce or something.

Shame shame shame.

Anyway, I now know what brisket is. And it was delicious. When I received it I was initially a bit “okaayyy.” I’m not huge on meaty dishes, only because of how fussy I am when I eat it. I don’t trust many to give me clean pieces of meat that have no icky bits in them. Even Hubbie was surprised to later hear that I’d had ‘brisket.’

“No, but it was good!”

And it was. The meat was super soft, there was a lot of it, but because of its shredded properties it all kind of melted in the mouth. I didn’t even find it all that overpowering, and it helped me to make the decision months later, to choose the brekkie brisket meal over at The Winey Cow in Mornington (post coming soon).

The eggs were fantastically poached, the bread was good, having gotten nice and soft under all that brisket and egg, and the hollandaise had definite kick… I would never have normally ordered a meat brekkie dish, but I was so glad I hadn’t read it properly, otherwise I never would have tried. Delish!

My friend, who had already been there with her son, had only gotten him one pancake on his own plate – and now I could see why. The pancakes were huge, and though baby girl had a very good crack at them, she didn’t finish them all. They were of a very good portion.

Now pumped up with much-needed fuel, we immediately ordered coffees:

Babycino and cappuccino for baby girl and I

My cap was very smooth, something I half-expected having already experienced this well-run operation of eatery. And baby girl, well… when doesn’t she like her babycinos?

After a couple of toilet breaks, a short sitting outside on the small patio, and the kids finding the bucket of chalk to draw on the blackboard wall opposite the bathrooms, we went to pay, ogling the desserts up at the counter, but promising ourselves we would be back for those… another time.

Food: 9/10. Tasty, generous, and inventive. Why, bloody Mary hollandaise? Why not?!

Coffee: 8/10. Smooth and pleasing.

Ambience: Busy and bustling, not necessarily loud, but there were many people about on that Saturday morning.

People: There were lots of friends and couples meeting for brunch, but then there was a decent dose of family types about as well, like the couple who came to sit beside us with their under 10s son and daughter, making me all jelly as their kids were just sitting there… reading the menu… like they didn’t have to do anything to entertain their kids. What?!

Staff: Friendly, but busy too so we didn’t really get a chance to get personal.

Price: I shouted one friend for a past favour, and the other gave me cash so I could pay with my card, so the individual total I was unclear on… but I believe it was about $80ish, for 3 brunch meals, 2 kids meals, and a few coffees? On par for that area.

Advice: Definitely book ahead if going in ‘prime’ time. Head over earlier too, just because you will need a bit of time to find parking on or off the busy Mt Alexander Road. If you have toddlers in tow, be mindful, the meals are generous. And don’t shy away from the Brisket!

In a nutshell: The food and coffee were fantastic. The venue itself, with its hipster pulled-back palette, is nothing inventive or inspiring to me, so in that regard it was lacking some character. I would definitely go back for the menu, but I’ve seen that kind of café and accompanying atmosphere around many times before. Nonetheless, if you are local to this area, you should check it out, that I recommend.

I would go there more often myself, if it were in my beach-side District…

District North Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Coffee in the land of the Docks

A work colleague quite jokingly suggested to me, after I was complaining about some coffee in our work surrounds, that I should do a review of coffee in the area…

She laughed. The wheels turned in my head. Little did she know my alter ego is SmikG.

Never one to run away from a creative coffee-inspired project, and despite all my other ongoing creative endeavours, I decided to do a full-fledged rundown on a variety of Docklands cafes, from the month of July to August of 2016. I have provided my personal experience of the cafés based primarily on the above month experiences, but also have drawn upon my earlier visits there to help paint a greater picture, where relevant. I have a ‘in a nutshell’ section at the end of each review, however with some of these I have also added in a ‘September Update,’ which mentions improvements with any cafés that previously held negatives.

And at the very end of the following 8 café reviews, lies my final say… so keep reading ’til the end!

So if you frequent the land of the Docks, and enjoy your caffeinated beverages to the point that you need to have the BEST one, read on…

 

Story Coffee & Foodstore
700 Bourke Street Docklands

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This café is positioned just on the concourse in between the shops and cafes bordering the Bourke street side of Etihad Stadium, and Southern Cross Station. It’s dimly lit with high ceilings and a touch of industrial style, providing temporary relief from the hustle and bustle of work life. And this place definitely caters to its known demographic, providing a wide range of food and coffee that you can conveniently takeaway to eat at your work desk.

Breakfast provisions like muesli, juices and yoghurts, alongside lunch items such as sliders, cream cheese and smoked salmon bagels and bacon and egg brioche buns adorn the glass display. Their food sells out quickly with much more constantly in production, and their sweet side doesn’t fail to disappoint the eyes either. Doughnut bombs, pastries and other custard-y things are on show next to the register where you order in the middle of the shop. There is no usual bench separating the cashier from the customer here, with the person taking your order standing beside you as they punch in your large cap with 1 thanks.

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The beans used are Dukes of course, since this is a relative of their Chapel Street café. A hipster-type with a long beard was making it that day, and looked seriously into the coffee making. The flavour of the coffee was very smooth, my best description being ‘gentle on the tongue.’ The only issue with their coffee is that it tends to be on the warm to lukewarm side, even if you sip it immediately after they have handed it to you. This is obviously upsetting in Winter time, since as soon as that Antarctic breeze wafts over you it loses a further 3 degrees, and then some as you walk on over back to work. And that’s the thing, if they are accommodating to the office crowd, possibly 99.9% of their clientele, supplying them with food and coffee to take and run away with, well they need to know that their coffee needs to be hotter. I’m not saying burnt. Hot doesn’t mean burnt. This applies in all seasons, but most particularly on the cold July morning that this review is based on.

The service is quick, making sure the orders keep coming in and out due to the high volumes of people and often long lines, but this is where the customer service fails, because in all of this they have forgotten ‘niceness.’ In particular the woman who served me for this review, she was brash at best, and when handing my colleagues coffee to him, hastily slid it across the bench to him. Woman, you are not Tom Cruise in Cocktail. Sliding a coffee cup like that is just a bit rude thanks. It kind of says ‘here; now get out.’

In a nutshell
Coffee: $4:30 for a large. Ordinary sized cup, I’ve seen larger given the description. Smooth taste, just slightly too lukewarm.
Food: Looks delish. Expensive, for corporate types. I mean, $8:50 for a medium sized bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon? I could eat two of those, easy.
Service: To be improved upon. Not speed, but kindness.
Last word: I hope the customer service improves because I like the place.

‘September Update’: Since my initial July review, a few things have improved… first the temperature. Coffee is hotter. Tick. Secondly, the service…though I got a few not-so-friendly greetings on one or two occasions afterwards, there are a few newbies there who are making the experience of ordering and collecting your coffee a joy (maybe there were observations and suggestions made by other slighted customers…?) so again, tick.

The cranky lady is still there, I think she’s just picked up her game.

This place also has consistently continued to produce amazingly smooth coffee, despite ALWAYS being busy, so a huge thumbs up by me 🙂

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

 

Hortus X 7 Seeds
131-141 Harbour Esplanade Docklands

Bang smack in the middle of Harbour Esplanade, across from AFL house and with views of the water, it’s hard not to miss this café reminiscent of a tented greenhouse that’s been plonked down amidst the greyness and height of the buildings surrounding it.

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And the display serves its purpose, with plans for the temporary café that was opened in March ’14 to be slated for an 18 month contract… seeing as it had surely passed that timeframe at time of writing, perhaps this means the impermanent looking space will be a regular amidst the Docklands coffee drinkers?

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It sure has gained steady traction in that time. With its large interior garden plantation growing up from the middle of the café, consisting of edible plants no less, the natural variety isn’t the only reason why people are coming far and wide to view this pleasing affront to the buildings beyond it.

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A fave with cyclists who are constantly riding past, you will also frequently see fellow work-goers using their spare time to borrow some paddles and ball for a free round of ping pong on the table outside. This independent space contains seating inside, bordering the coffee area and surrounding the large plant garden, as well as on the nifty and cute wooden stools and tables outside.

There is a lot of wood in this café, further adding to the natural glasshouse feel, which I just love.

It’s to be assured that Seven seeds is one of the coffees on offer, and with all of the above positive reviews I have just one negative.

The coffee size.

The only takeaway coffee size is a tiny cup, and I don’t even know if they consider that a regular but to me it’s a small. The coffee was incredibly strong upon first sip, evening out as I got halfway through. $4:30 is a decent price to pay for a little cup, yet the hipsters and bicyclists happily fork it out here.

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Pastries, pies and sweet treats also adorn the front counter (lycra from the bicyclists too), and from experience I can say that the sweet stuff is GOOD. I had a blueberry-something a while back, and it was incredibly moist and moorish, not at all mass-produce tasting, more like Nanna tasting.

In a nutshell
Coffee: Strong, but in too small a cup. I would go here more often if they up’d their takeaway sizes. Having said that the bean flavour is a bit too harsh for my liking.
Food: Amazing. It’s probably the food that would get me in there again rather than the coffee, and I would get it in a deal to save coin because this joint is on the $$$ end.
Service: Friendly, and sometimes hipster too. I’ll let you decipher what that means.
Last word: I like the concept, but just want an improvement on the coffee and cup size. Otherwise a great idea, and I hope they stick around.

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

 

Banc Café
2/800 Bourke Street Docklands

Aptly named as it sits on the ground level of the NAB building on the corner of Harbour Esplanade and Bourke Street, this high-ceiling-ed, wood-abundant, amply-spaced café sees its share of customers. It has also seen its share of owners, having changed hands in its time, which may or may not be its downfall… that’s yet to be seen, as only time will determine.

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This is probably one of the best spaces for a café, with the large floor to ceiling windows allowing in brilliant sun to heat up the inhabitants within. On a cold Winter’s day as you walk through any one of the two main revolving door entrances, the heat embraces you and tucks you away under it firm café grasp. A long counter displays your everyday assortment of takeaway lunch and breakfast items, including sweet treats and of course coffee. Think egg and bacon muffins, wraps, sandwiches, yoghurts and muffins. The interior is vast with many options to sit at, with the long communal table in the middle of the room, the smaller tables and chairs bordering the café, and also the seating area under the panelled stairs going up into the workspaces on higher levels! The wood fascination continues in yet another Docklands café, with beautiful warm tones everywhere, and in particular I love their long table sitting opposite the ordering counter, it’s like something out of a workman’s shed, lovingly restored and brought back to life.

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Their coffee is fairly consistent, though it has its up and down days at times – strong, generally pleasing, potent – as is their service. Which is where I lead back to my earlier point.

The first lot of owners from a few years back were extremely friendly, which is why the new owners and their staff draw such a strong comparison against. On a good day, they are ‘working a Monday.’ Which is to say, they are only mildly interested in your business and happiness in buying there. I used to frequent this café much more, before the rudeness and arrogance of the staff took shape. When I handed back the bottle that rolled away from the staff member who was angrily loading them into the fridge, and didn’t receive at least a glance of recognition (no thanks or smile at all), and my colleague had his name TOLD to him by another staff member who thought it amusing to poke fun at, and then many more of us from our work received a major superiority complex by the male staff there… well it grows tired. This place may never fail because of the sheer volume of NAB workers and other accompanying nearby businesses which keep it going… but it sure as hell wont flourish with that attitude either. They need to wake up and smell the gratitude coffee this crew.

The food here is ok, nothing fanciful, it fulfils its purpose. It’s more affordable than other places, and this could be its other saving grace. This could be a café that really takes off if some of its lacking components were up to scratch, and simply due to its favourable location both in terms of people volume and capacity to take in the sunlight, I can see this café making itself home to many a business lunch for a long time to come.

In a nutshell
Coffee: $3:70 for a medium coffee of decent-sized cup. Strong (sometimes harsh). Interesting flavour.
Food: Your standard café fare, but it comes up alright.
Service: Minimal care, plenty of ‘tude and ‘I can do without your business’ types.
Last word: The reasonably priced coffee for these parts is not enough to outdo the attitude that comes out of here.. but the Sun in Winter is reason enough. The rays coming through the window is often enough to melt any frosty stares that may come your way… if you so dare.

Banc Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

AFL House Café 
140 Harbour Esplanade Docklands

I don’t know why it took so long to get over to this café, only a short stroll from my work… oh hang on, I know. It’s the fact that you can’t see it from the main street, that may have something to do with it. Oh, and the fact it’s within AFL House, and you know, for many people it could be quite daunting to walk into an arena of this sort expecting a café to just ‘pop up.’

But it does. You walk through the doors, and immediately to your right just in front of reception you’ll see a little cart-like stand with quaint umbrella rooftop and everything. A few rolls and sweet things displayed in the case, but we don’t care: we came here for the coffee.

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The coffee is smooth, fairly ok, made even more so by the $3 price tag, the discount we received being from a neighbouring work place. Even so their prices are good compared to some other skyrocketing coffee prices happening in Docklands at the moment.

I’m extremely jelly that AFL house should have a cute little café like this offering coffee at such close proximity to its employees. And what a great idea too. For anyone coming into work there at their regular place of employment or visiting the premises for a meeting, the necessary and convenient coffee stop as you wait to be checked in is ideal. Hell it should be a prerequisite for businesses to offer their workers. And for those on a break or with more time to spare, you can sit by the window and watch the road and footpath traffic on the Harbour pass you by… or look past that all towards the boats, amusingly behind a fellow café competitor, Hortus X 😉

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In a nutshell
Coffee: $4:00 for a large coffee. Fairly smooth and non-offending. Lavazza.
Food: Some basic fare, if you need a selection of it keep walking into the Wintry winds outside.
Service: Really friendly, and I don’t think it was only because we are work neighbours, the guys looked pretty nice.
Last word: I’d be happy to go back there for the great service, decent coffee and the proximity to work… but their proximity is also the downfall, as the walk up there and back just doesn’t give us enough gossip time 😉

AFL House Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Blended Beard
818 Bourke Street Docklands

I was excited when my coffee email prompt to my colleagues one Friday morning resulted in one such colleague telling me she had discovered a new hipster café in the area – woo hoo! We hightailed it down Bourke street, past all the other eateries and so-so places ‘doing’ coffee, and I nearly clapped with glee when I saw the shop. She didn’t have to tell me we had arrived. The hipster vibe was all over the name: Blended Beard.

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My colleague commented that it looked a bit like Story, however I felt in Beard there were more metal tones in amongst the wood panelling the place, with copper a prominent theme too. Up at the counter it was a well-oiled production line of taking orders and making coffees, with about 4-5 people going through their paces. Beside the cash register was a display unit of lunch items such as sliders and soups, with some sweet things on top of the case exposed for all to point at. The pastries looked delish, the Nutella doughnuts and bombolones were looking fresh and very mmm-worthy, however my gripe of exposed food items at the counter hasn’t changed: anyone can cough at it, and breathe their Winter germs on it, and for that reason I don’t buy anything that’s exposed. Sure it looks good… but it looks better covered up. A pretty glass dome covering them yet still allowing customers to see what’s inside isn’t going to ruin the appearance.

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Behind us were a bunch of tables and chairs, and I could see there was a further walk-through into the Ericsson building that was connected to it, so this place would definitely get some much-needed foot traffic being a new cafe. The service was pleasant, one of the girls seemed to be focused on remembering her prior customers which was refreshing to see, and as well as being promptly served our coffees, they tasted good too. All three of us agreed, smooth and creamy, though I did find one little un-ground coffee particle at the end of my cup that ended up in my mouth, and I did notice upon drinking through it that there was a ground-coffee taste at times, as if some grounds had high-jacked the coffee tamper and jumped into my cup… I’ll forgive them this one slight due to all their other positives, as long as it stays a once-off slight.

But, taking advantage of the café bearded hipster image… gold. I love it.

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In a nutshell
Coffee: Smooth and creamy. Decently priced too – they had large and regular sizes, and the regular actually looked like a regular, not an itty-bitty teeny-weeny babycino cup that my daughter drinks from… $3.80. under $4? What?!
Food: Sliders, soups and sweet things. It appears they do breakfast too judging by their blackboard out front. Not too bad prices either, for a Docklands café… why I never…
Service: Genuine, and friendly. It looks like they’re trying to show their care factor, and I hope this continues.
Last word: In Winter, I gotta pray for a mildish day so that the longer walk over from our work isn’t made too depressingly cold… yet in Summer the walk along the water would be much-enjoyed 🙂 Which way do you look at it? I like the Bearded man, that is all. Great new find goes to this venue.

‘September Update’: This place has continued its consistency in terms of very pleasing coffee and fantastic customer service. One to watch.

Blended Beard Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Capri @ The Quays Café
New Quay, 28 Aquitania Way Docklands

The location of this café might make you think it is only for the use of local residents living in the apartments in the tall complex above, or accessible only to those visiting nearby… it is not. This café, positioned on a corner within viewing distance of the boats alongside New Quay, is a hidden gem worthy of discovering.

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I had originally and wrongly thought that this was a breakfast location solely for resident holiday-goers within the building to brunch at during their stay in this windy part of Melbourne. Turns out that the café sits on the ground floor of a multi-purpose architectural award-winning apartment building, and that ANYONE can come in for a bite to eat. And a takeaway coffee too.

Since discovering the place, all the times I’ve been here the service has been friendly. One of the guys there was so friendly on one occasion he was terrified (first day jitters?) but I always take softly to workplace jitters, rather than shyness clouded by affronting arrogance (Banc Café anyone?)

There is plenty on offer at this café alongside the Docks, with the large display case up the front showcasing a hefty dose of lunch fare, breakfast items (so many sit down here formally that I believe there may be a more extensive menu) and lots of sweet treats. Here is where you will find a decently-sized macaroon like nowhere else! They are fully licensed with plenty of bubbly on offer, though my visits there are always strictly caffeine-based, you know, being at work and all. I love the lighting, with the suspended lightbulbs strung throughout the café, and along the ample amount of small and big tables for you to sit at, there is a cute and cosy little nook where you can lounge at by the front door and wait for your coffee to be made, or just make yourself comfy reading some mags.

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The coffee comes in regular and large, and though the sizes aren’t really indicative of that – well the small is definitely a small, but the large I’d call a regular to be honest – the prices at least aren’t too ridiculous for coffee.

In a nutshell
Coffee: $3.70 for a small, $4:20 for a large… nice flavour, I don’t mind it, but I do realise they were generous with the sugar as my cap was also tasting quite sweet.
Food: There’s so much to choose from, from your everyday café lunch items such as rolls, sausage rolls, to more interesting kale quiches, and then there is a multitude of cakes which are really good eye-candy. The coconut cream cake looked amazing. The macaroons I will eat at some stage. There is so much quality-looking food, that I might just grab something for lunch from there tomorrow…
Service: Really friendly, part of the reason I like going there, apart from the decently priced coffee. And they’ve been consistently nice with that, despite seeing them being swept off their feet on a Sunday morning with an influx of customers checking out from their nearby accommodation, and having some brekkie right before/after they do their depart from the docks.
Last word: I am quite happy going to this café for either coffee or lunch or cake, and I haven’t even tried the food yet. The cosy corner and cute lightbulbs add a feel that remove you from the harsh unnerving elements of Docklands, and keep you cosily tucked away in a friendly atmosphere of calm and warmth.

Capri @ The Quays Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

De Gusto
766/768 Bourke Street Docklands

The reason for the / instead of the – in the address, is because there are in fact two separate De Gusto shops. One has a red sign, the other blue, both accessible only via Bourke Street, though there is the window in between the two cafes allowing fare to be passed through the eateries.

I’ve been frequenting this one for years. In fact, this is the place I first starting visiting at the beginning of my love-affair with coffee. Back then it was at the blue De Gusto, the more cas one, with a sandwich display, basic yet hearty brekkie fare, and of course coffee. A few small spaces to sit at by the window, but this was primarily a takeaway café.

Then after a while, and after trying out a few cafes in the Docklands vicinity, we went back to De Gusto – the red one now, that is. This café seemed like it catered for office folk, while the blue café (blue-collar) seemed to be aimed at the tradies building up the sky-rises in the city. The red café had sufficient seating and a wider menu. Coffee was still a main focal point, with decent cooked breakfasts, bagels, quinoa dishes and other fancy lunch sausage rolls and quiches up on offer. They were also into their smoothies, with a blackboard showcasing all their trippy-blended concoctions.

I speak in the past tense, because when this café was in its absolute prime, it was PEAKING. And the barista then, the daughter of the owner (the owner worked in the other red café, yet owned both) was absolutely brilliant, not only remembering your coffee order but your name, AND the correct spelling too! (extra points, as those with a ‘different’ name can attest to).

Sadly though, months ago it changed ownership, so the volume of people heading in has considerably dropped as they too like me and my work colleagues have noticed that the love and care, the knowledge of name and coffee preparation and just friendly atmosphere, has disappeared.

We still gave it a shot initially upon transfer, but after a few burnt coffees we left for other (coffee) grounds. We only decided to come back today, on the writing of this review, after hearing there was a new barista.

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Yes, new coffee lady. However, the café is sadly missing its vibe, both with its poppy and really old but awesome music it used to have. The coffee was ok, not burnt, but there is a flavour which I’m undecided about, so I don’t think I would go back when I have other more pleasurable cafes on offer.

There are still the smoothies, the lunch fares, and all the other things that used to inhabit the café of old. Just missing that love we used to feel, which kind of, is everything, and makes everything look and feel and taste that much more lovelier. If you are new to this café, you probably wouldn’t know the difference, and just regard it as a standard city café, nothing too spesh. And probably better it stays that way too, in your head, for their sakes anyway.

In a nutshell
Coffee: $4 bucks for a regular. And the regular is a good size too.
Food: Average city lunch fare – rolls, bagels, quiches and muffins.
Service: It’s nice. Nothing bad, no pretension, I just miss the old crew.
Last word: It’s a decent café, but I just can’t help comparing it to the old one and thinking it’s somebody that I used to know… a bit like Gotye…

‘September Update’: We have been here a few more times since, and there was yet another barista, who did not too bad of a coffee. Nothing to rave home about, but at least it was adequate. It’s still missing the vibe (and all the clientele) but this one may just come up in time…

De Gusto Café Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Mill & Bakery
Central Pier, Shed 9
161 Harbour Esplanade Docklands

The Mill was the first café to really excite us at work a few years back. It was only a short walk away, alongside the water’s edge looking out over the docked boats, with nearby fisherman stationed calmly on the boardwalk and waiting for a catch to excite their disposition. You cannot deny, the position of it is pretty. There is outdoor seating, and inside too there is a large communal table, a smaller round table, and chairs set up alongside the perimeter of the café with some looking out onto the waters beyond.

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This really is a beautiful little café: visually striking, a cross between French provincial and quaint Grandma’s cottage, the space is quiet and comforting, added to by the large window on one side of the café showing through to the bread-making process happening in the adjoining room. They make bread that you can buy in loaves, or in their rolls, and this authentic touch adds some further artisan class to the atmosphere.

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Alongside the coffee, they have delicious rolls, an assortment of VERY pretty almost (almost) too attractive to eat pastries and tiny cakes, and cute little bikkies or fudge sometimes abound the quarters too. It is all very pretty and fancy, and so too is the price… but it is worth it. The quality of the ingredients is apparent and very much valued. I’ve often had some of their rolls, and their pastries too, and can attest that the muffins, bombolone and danishes are amazing. You can tell the difference between a proper pastry place and a try-hard, and this is definitely the former.

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Where the food revels in its consistency, the coffee lacks. In fact, the only think consistent about the coffee is how inconsistent it is.

Back in the day there was a great manager/barista who hailed from France… her coffees were consistent and superb, however she couldn’t stay in the country due to Visa issues, and since her exit the coffee has been up and down depending on who makes it. On the day of this writing, the coffee was strong, and not bad in flavour.

But not bad doesn’t quite cut it always, does it?

The service has always been fairly straight-forward, and where others receive, how shall I call it, more personal service (?!) I’ve never really gotten more than a customer-produced smile. Yep, French lady was the best.

One of the advantages of this café is that it is open every day, even on weekends (yes! when I have to work a Sunday) and is even open, for us/those poor fools who need to work public holidays, on those sacred days too – though in case this does change in the future, best to confirm before heading down.

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In a nutshell
Coffee: A bit of a controversy amongst some of my work colleagues, when the price of a large coffee jumped from $4 to $4.50 overnight. Many were upset. (First world problems I know). The large is more a decent-sized average cup size, while the small (don’t you dare try to tell me it’s a regular) is just not cut out for my caffeine addiction. Flavour: definitely strong, not smooth.
Food: Amazing. Savoury or sweet, you won’t be disappointed.
Service: We’ll call this one ‘just enough.’ Sometimes you get a worthier smile. I think they might just be under-staffed.
Last word: This is a great place to revel in beauty, and calm yourself with watery views. If they improve on their coffee-making skills, alongside the already great food on offer, it will really be a café to be reckoned with.

Mill & Bakery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

THE FINAL SAY!
The most impressive and best-tasting coffee to date has come out of Story. If they keep their coffee temperatures just that little bit higher than what they started at, they can safely hold this top spot of superior Docklands coffee within the area.
However a very close second comes the coffee from Blended Beard, and with their friendly and caring service and delicious menu, Story should watch its heels very carefully…

Spring on over to (glorious!) Panton’s

Panton Hill Vineyard and Winery
145 Manuka Road Panton Hill

Visiting a winery had been an event-in-waiting for over three years. Before we had fallen pregnant with baby girl, I had been desperate to go to one and quite honestly, get nicely plastered before officially getting off the alcohol wagon for my lonngggg stop-over to responsible-parentsville. We had managed to stop at one, but it hadn’t really fulfilled my winery desires: there had not been a menu available on the day we visited, and though we sampled some wines and did take a bottle home, I had really wanted the full winery experience: food, wine, sitting in the splendid sunshine, ALL OF IT.

I’m an elephant, and I don’t forget. These unfulfilled experiences stay in my mind until the mother-fuckers are ticked off my anal to-do-in-life list.

I don’t even know how we came to the idea though – I think it went something like ‘this Sunday is going to be super awesome weather/this Sunday we are free/what can we do on such a nice day/let’s eat out…. Winery!’

Yes something like that.

So, on the first super amazing Spring Day of September, we headed over to Panton Hill Vineyard and Winery to make my winery dreams come true.

Why Panton’s? Honestly, I was looking at wineries close to our vicinity of town. This one was a 30 minute drive, and compared with wineries of similar distance as well as neighbouring town wineries, this one had a menu on weekends and looked really lovely. The website mentioned something about blending Australian and European surrounds, and I immediately went ‘ding! sold.’

I called them on a Thursday to see if I had to book in advance (if you go somewhere with your child and you don’t book beforehand, you’re uber-confident as well as playing roulette with some gangster Murphy’s Law fairies) and when no one answered I left a message revealing our Sunday intentions.

That night I got a call back, advising that yes, we needed to book, especially as it was going to be a gloriously sunny day. The lady I spoke to was lovely and booked us for 1pm.

Come amazing Sunday lunch, and here Hubbie, baby girl and I are, driving through Eltham and then Diamond Creek, via winding roads and greenery in all directions to finally make our way to a gravel-y, slow, long, driveway leading to Panton’s. The first car park we came across was full, but Hubbie spotted a sign alluding to more spaces behind the building, and so he followed it to find it was so.

After walking into one of the buildings, where there was a private party at one end, and wine tastings up the other, there followed a bit of confusion. There were two nearby buildings, one opposite the one we were in, and one further along the trail, but those two I didn’t see people coming in and out of. Then there was the outside seated area besides this building, with some shaded tables and some next to unopen umbrellas. I had booked for 1pm, but where was the person to seat us? Not to come across all high-brow with my demand of being seated, but as I had been told we were required to book, with the time of 1pm given, it was almost expected that there would be a little reserved sign on a table somewhere with someone waiting to say “Hi Smikg, your table awaits.”

Nope.

I patiently waited behind a couple tasting wines to ask the older gentleman (he appeared to be the only one representing the property around) that we had arrived for lunch and didn’t know where to sit. He said “wherever you like,” and proceeded to point out all the areas we could sit. We headed outside, because we’d just come out of Winter and all.

Here too we hung out for a while. We soon realised there were numbers on other tables (the kind you get when you order so when you sit down the wait staff can find you), but again, no wait staff.

Wait! No, then they appeared. We managed to somewhat successfully flag one young lad down who informed us, once we’d explained our situation (we want food and drink please give it to us) that we were to order and pay inside the building with the gentleman who had been handing out wine tastings. Apparently there was a menu there. Alright then, and back I went. I felt a bit like a see-saw by this stage, but the sun was too damn bright to darken my mood.

I ordered some food and drink, before Hubbie went in to do the same while I now did the babysitting duties, making sure baby girl didn’t throw too many rocks into the nearby fountain and what not. She was having a ball, and usually distractions while we’re out and about, especially when dining, are heavily appreciated, however picking up rocks and throwing them into a pool of water, didn’t seem like it would be heavily appreciated by others. So containing her insane excitement at the task was not-so-fun.

But there was a dog! This was very exciting for baby girl, but we couldn’t let her just wander after it and grab at it, and at the same time, though this sweet dog did seem very hungry, sitting at our feet (and everyone else’s) hoping to be fed, its name tag informed us ‘do not feed the dog!’ Ok then.

We also had the issue of the sun. I know, I know us Melburnians, we whinge all the time “it’s too hot, it’s too cold, it’s too windy, it’s too still now I can’t breathe, it’s just too normal can we have all 4 seasons in one day again?” Anyway, yes we were rapt it was an amazingly beautiful day, and I knew so many people who were out and about and planning so many extraordinary things for this fine Spring day. It was the first one in a LONG time, which my facebook feed also gave testament too at the sheer volume of out-and-about posts that featured that day from almost EVERYONE. However, it was still, it was hot, and sitting under the sun without sunscreen (not used to the fear of not-being white yet so early into Spring) was intense, and then of course, was our sweet baby girl, who we protect like a magpie protects its young swooping down on unsuspecting passersby who hold no intention of malice, just because they are near this time of year. Her precious skin is not for the sun. Our umbrella though, seemed very hard to manoeuver, and it was only when a certain lady came out that I went ‘ahhhh.’

Boss lady. Because she was, it was so damn apparent.

She immediately came to us, knowing we needed it lifted without even asking. She moved through the tables, checking on people, getting things, talking to the suddenly present waiters about what to do. And then we had shade.

And then not long after that, food too:

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We had gotten a few things to share, along with a VB for Hubbie and a glass of Verdelho for me. The menu was primarily pizza, and even the specials that day included lamb on a pizza. It was a fairly casual menu, but still, I didn’t care. There was food, there was alcohol, and there was sun.

We shared the Potato pizza, Classico pizza and Cheese and Spinach Burek. What I had found humorous was when I had asked the man how large the burek was, and he proceeded to give me hand configurations adding that a Turkish man on premises made it. Dude, I know what burek is, my family makes it. That’s like describing to Willy Wonka what chocolate is. And his pronunciation of it was gold. He and his missus may have had accents, but that didn’t allow for the correct pronounciation of it. (Say bu-rek. Pronounce bu, not drawn-out ‘boo,’ but a short ‘bu,’ followed by ‘rek,’ rhyming with ‘neck,’ but the r is short as well, the r Europeans sound out, a bit of a rolling r. Anyway).

I now know that that ‘dude’ goes by the name of Teunis and boss lady, his wife, by Dorothy. I’m not psychic, their website says so. He may not know his burek, but he sure as hell knows his land, and his wine, having purchased that block of land in the ‘70s, transforming it single-handedly into what it is today. When you see the property, you know what an incredible achievement that is. I have such respect for individuals who turn nothing into something unique and spectacular, and Panton Winery sure fits that bill.

The classico pizza had salami, tomatoes, olives and cheese, with the addition of chilli. Hubbie, who had the majority of this one, said he couldn’t really taste the chilli, but still, he ate it all. I had most of the potato pizza, and its combination of rosemary, potatoes, Spanish onion and cheese is always a winner. We all shared the burek which was not served as a loaf as previously indicated (!) but cut up into tiny pieces, all the better as we all nibbled on it and easily fed baby girl pieces too. There were some marinated olives and mushrooms on the side too, and together we finished it all.

Hubbie thought it was fairly standard, however I loved it. Yes the menu was basic, but for me it was more the experience of the setting, wine and food together. Also what was perhaps slightly affecting him was baby girl’s inability to sit down and listen. We did the usual taking turns eating while the other watched her, and when it was my turn to keep her busy while he ate, she and I walked around the grounds while I took some photos of the surrounding bushlands, vineyard, and the picturesque buildings.

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It was getting peaking hot, and with it baby girl’s irritability was cranking up a notch. Getting tired, we didn’t want to push her, but before we left, there was just one thing left to do.

Hubbie watched her while I disappeared here for 20 minutes.

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At first Teunis was meant to give me some wine options, but he got busy and Dorothy stepped in. I had 6 wine taste testings, some red, some white, while two of them I tried decanted. She was asking me if I could taste the difference between the decanted and the standard, and you know, I could, but also, by then we were onto the 5th taste test and it all tasted fine by then. Then she tried to sell me a decanter, and that tipsy side of me was loose, very loose, and very easily persuaded, and Dorothy probably knows to try to sell the decanter on the 5th taste-testing rather than the first, but for some reason this narration kicks in when I start drinking, and the narrator was telling me ‘you know you’re well on your way, don’t just buy something for the sake of it.’

Fortunately for me, the narrator in my mind won out again and I didn’t make a flimsy purchase. I know her decanters were cheaper, but I think I’ll wait and buy a pretty one. Loved the tutorial on why you decanter though, it was very informative.

Anyway, from all of that I walked out with this

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All smiling into the sunlight and whispering to Hubbie as I approached “I just had 6 wine tastings and I’m drunk.”

Yep. Life of a Mum.

We left after that, relieved that baby girl was falling asleep in the car, with sweet memories of rolling hills and wine and mispronounced burek.

Food: 7/10. Yes it was a standard menu, but points for the fresh ingredients (I assume the rosemary we were picking from the shrub with baby girl was used for my potato pizza – but shhh!)

Coffee: N/A. We were really close to ordering it, but Hubbie just couldn’t take the heat (weak) and baby girl’s cheeky antics anymore so we thought we best not to push our stay.

Ambience: Very relaxed. Beautiful. Serene. Amazing surrounds. The buildings, reminiscent of something you may see in Tuscany, transport you to another place and make you feel like you are far, far away, rather than just 30 minutes from home.

People: I was surprised and relieved that we weren’t the only ones with cheeky toddlers. A big family was there, mostly though there were couples and older couples. Also that big party inside the wine-tasting building that was going through the bottles (and so they should).

Staff: I hate to say based on our lovely experience, but kind of not present at first. I put this down not to unwillingness to work or help the guests, but rather the demands placed on them by the people visiting and superb weather. Meaning, they were understaffed. Otherwise they seemed ok, but didn’t hang around to talk. Both owners were chatty, but due to the volume of people they also seemed rushed.

Price: We spent under $60 (and that wasn’t including my approximately $30 bottle of pinot noir), that included the two pizzas and burek all for $15 each, and then there was my white wine and Hubbie’s beer at about $6 each. Perhaps, a bit overpriced for pizza, but I get it, you’re paying for the surrounds, as well as the wine-tastings (how else are they going to justify giving each person 6 different wine-tastings?)

Advice: Go on a gloriously sunny day (have I said gloriously enough in this post yet?!), on the weekend, so you can enjoy both wine and food. Pay and order in the building where all the wines are lined up, and then sit ‘wherever you like.’ And just, enjoy 🙂

In a nutshell: I would definitely come back to this place. Taking baby girl with us, I’d probably go when we have other friends and their kids with us so she could play with them, rather than with the water fountain. Or I could even go as a brunch/lunch option when just meeting up with the girls only. It’s the right place for a relaxing gasbag. And a coffee too, must do that next time I’m there.

They have the right ingredients of setting, scenery, wine and food, but a little work needs to go into welcoming the guests and setting them up properly on arrival so they’re not left wandering the grounds, hungry and thirsty. All in all, an amazing find that I can’t wait to revisit.

To-do-in-life List:

Visit winery and drink and eat on sunny day.
Kiss in the rain.
Watch the sunrise come up while watching from a peak/hill.
See the Aurora Borealis.
See Madonna in concert – soon.
Get published.

Panton Hill Winery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato