Italian Tapas

Assaggini
1C Albert Street Mornington

(Visited December ’16)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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And Hubbie’s Calabrese Pizzette

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:-O

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Toyboxes and Happiness Beans

Bean Counter Café
15 Railway Place Fairfield

That Wednesday lunch was catch-up for me, baby girl and bestie, once again in Fairfield. I had wanted to go there because of the kid-friendly tags associated with the café positioned off the main road, and with mentions of books and toys, (and change table – hey you need to be prepared) I thought it would be a pleasing experience for all.

Bean Counter Café is positioned on the corner of a leafy tree-lined suburban street, opposite Fairfield train station, with seating both out the front and inside, as well as further seating out the back of the café, which I was to learn about later. It is a cool and cosy place, with a bit of Fairfield funk. Bestie already had a table inside the cafe right by the door, and with the addition of high chair we were all set.

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The woman making coffees and our waiter serving us were both immediately very friendly to baby girl and us adults, making me surer of our decision to go there. The worst thing is going to a place where you feel your child will be despised for their excited squeals, but here it seemed they were almost expecting it.

We ordered fairly soon after, and I was impressed when without mentioning it, our waiter asked me if I wanted baby girl’s toastie delivered earlier before our lunches. This guy knows. Tick.

Her H.C.T Toastie – Ham Cheese and Tomato toasted sandwich came fairly early.

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She ate most of it in dribs and drabs, as toddlers do, eating a lot, and then none, and then slowly having more in distracted moments while I put it in her mouth.

A fair wait later, we received our meals.

I had the Zucchini Corn and Haloumi Fritters – topped with blanched spinach, fresh avocado, a poached egg and finished with tomato salsa

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And bestie had the Smashed Avocado and Feta – two slices of sourdough toast with avocado mash and sprinkled with feta, topped with sunflower pumpkin and linseeds, served with grilled cherry tomatoes and asparagus

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Now, both our lunches were from the brekkie menu, which we had learned was available all day – tick. However I felt (and bestie even agreed) that it took a tad long to receive our meals… granted it was the school holidays, however we had ordered about 1pm, what you would imagine to be after the lunchtime rush, and though there were
people about it wasn’t really packed.

However, despite the wait, the food was delicious. I omitted avocado for mine because my stomach sadly does not do avocado anymore. My poached egg was done so perfectly and oozing the yellow yolk, the fritters were flavoursome, and the salsa gave it that much needed kick to complement the other earthier flavours. The presentation was amazing, and all in all I loved it.

I know bestie loved hers, as she often frequents the place with her hubbie. Tick.

Soon after we decided to get some coffees and a babycino of course.

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What I loved about the babycino we received was it came in a kind of rubber-type of cup, and I imagine the people who own this place know kids can throw things, which kind of horrifies me to think they’ve had cups of frothed milk flung far and wide from across the café, but having a toddler, I should know better and accept it as a reality. My hand continuously hovers above hers as she gulps it down. All was delicious, however the coffee drinking was halted when the lady making coffees saw baby girl starting to get impatient with us slow-drinking coffee girls, and suggested the back area for baby girl to play with. What? There was a kids ‘area?’ All I had seen thus far was a little corner by the front door that had worn out books and scribbly things, alongside brand new packets of mini colouring books that you could buy brand new (clever people). She helped us move outside, and it was here that I went ‘ahhh, this is where the kid-friendly tag comes from.’

Cafes can sport change tables, and waiters who know how to talk to your baby, and coffee making like-minded Mums who also have a toddler just younger than yours, but when a café has this

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It REALLY is a kid-friendly café.

That chair actually opened up to an empty space underneath, which I’m sure is where the toys strewn out alongside it on the table usually live when visiting children haven’t unearthed the contents. Baby girl happily joined in with some big kids in the toy excavation hunt, while bestie and I chatted away.

It’s a great outdoor area. It was a tad cold on that day, and even though it’s covered out there the wind still got its hooks into all of us. Coffee lady had turned on the nearby heater, though with the icy wind it didn’t do much, and suggested we use the handy throws they have on supply.

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Great idea.

It’s a beautiful space, probably much more enjoyable on a warmer day. There’s a small water fountain against the wall, cute mosaic tables and chairs, and a quote about coffee, and let’s face it who can have too much coffee quotes? Not me.

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Once baby girl had had enough of running around out there (defined by me who knows her best) we up and paid and left.

Food: 8/10. The wait was long, but the food was worth it. Great presentation, equally great flavours.

Coffee: 7/10. The coffee drinking experience was stalled when we moved outside, so it was a bit cooler by the time I got to it again, but all in the name of keeping baby girl busy, which is the most important thing really (even after coffee, I know).

Ambience: Pretty chilled there on the corner of a suburban street.

People: I’d say fairly confidently a good dose of locals and those who are kind of local. There were a few fams there as it was the school holidays, friends meeting for lunch and a lot of leisurely ladies.

Staff: Really lovely from the beginning, welcoming and friendly to baby girl and I, and engaging and helpful too.

Price: For our three lunches and 3 drinks, the tally was $50 ish, which I think was spot on for what we got, and the area we were in.

Advice: If you have kids, go straight out the back with them, rain hail or shine. Just come equipped, with jackets and scarves and beanies (which shouldn’t be so much a problem now as we’re in the midst of a Spring heatwave) so that kids and adults alike stay warm while adults enjoy their food and drink in peace. Because we all need peace.

In a nutshell: I would definitely come here again, they had some very interesting menu options and a wide variety too, including some spectacular sounding shakes which sounded more dessert than liquid! Knowing the outdoor area caters for baby girl is a huge drawcard for me, knowing that both she and I would be happy on return. And any place with the suggestion of coffee in their café name just reeks cool, don’t you think?

Bean Counter Cafe Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

If one door opens… go through it

4 Doors
28 The Link Mill Park

Hubbie had stopped by the Mill Park restaurant while cruising cars with his work mate one Sunday, and had loved the latte he had there. He’d also loved the atmosphere, and the look of the place, so when we found reason to celebrate days later, we decided on this kind-of local to see if their dinner was up to scratch too.

He had talked up design, and I didn’t really know if it would be up to standards when I saw it, even with his super-finicky taste. So when we walked in on a Wednesday night during the school holidays, the place pumping with people and atmos, I was impressed. It felt like a restaurant that belonged in more inner-city surrounds than in the Northern Suburbs. It looked funky and modern, while its high ceilings gave it an airy, yet still cosy space. Again there were lightbulbs suspended down onto the individual tables below, an industrial touch that complemented the roominess. I immediately liked it.

We ordered fairly quickly, being very hungry, and though our drinks took a while to come out, my Treasures Merlot was amazing. I might just convert over from Cab Savs after that one.

I also noticed that the square table we were on was a decent large size, compared to the all-too familiar smallish tables we often get seated at which makes it so hard with baby girl. Imagine all our food and drink on a table, plus baby girl’s ‘things’ (colouring book for entertainment, random accessories, her water bottle, wipes) and then put a toddler in between the two of us yet at a reasonable distance so to prevent her from reaching out for any accessories to spoil/break/throw. This was a great sized table in that all our/her stuff could go on one end while we sat at the other, and there was still room for the food and drinks.

They were busy, so we had to wait for our food… but it wasn’t an awful wait. Like I said, it was busy, so it was an acceptable wait. Everything else was making us happy, and the discovery of a loud restaurant that seemed to be up to our standards had us giddy in excited anticipation, so the wait was made all the more ok.

I got the spicy penne pasta with additional buffalo mozzarella

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Hubbie got the porterhouse steak, atop mashed potato, asparagus and grilled tomatoes

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And baby girl got the kids penne napolitana

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I loved my penne. I had decided to add the extra buffalo for $4, because 1) I love cheese, 2) I might as well get the meal the way it’s obviously intended, and 3) I love cheese. It was creamy with this hint of smokiness if I remember correctly, and combined with the pancetta and the hint of chilli that lingered in the back of my throat after I had finished my bite, it was truly delicious.

Hubbie requested his steak be medium to well, and it was cooked correctly, though he doesn’t believe it was actually flame-grilled as the menu had read. Didn’t matter, as he still enjoyed it, and even I had a bite and agreed it was very tasty. His accompanying vegetables were yummy too.

Baby girl absolutely loved her pasta. She was starving by the time the food came, as we all were, and I was glad they had been able to accommodate us by replacing the linguini in the kids meal to penne, as I just felt it easier to feed her that style of pasta. The very little she left behind, we ate 🙂 I do realise that being so hungry does make you appreciate EVERYTHING, however not to diminish or downplay 4 Doors’ food, I still give them credit and concur that it was all very good.

Since I’m still in the midst of a doughnut-obsession, I discovered there were doughnuts on display up at the front counter and decided we must at least take-away. I chose three doughnuts: jam, Nutella and white chocolate, and we happily devoured them later at home. But alas, these are no Mick’s. They were alright, but I found the dough too dense, and also a tad oilier, so sorry 4 Doors, Mick’s wins in that department.

Food: 7.5/10. A great range of food on offer, simple enough for the locals yet with some great additions enough to make it exciting and fresh.

Coffee: I can’t score this having not had one, but Hubbie loved his flat white…

Ambience: Perfect for us. It was loud enough to crowd out any of baby girl’s squeals, yet not in a rambunctious fast-food restaurant kind of way. The décor made me feel as if we weren’t local, instead someplace closer to the city, and this feeling of transportation is one which I think makes the people keep coming back.

Staff: Really good. Our waitress was very friendly, yet so real, and was very good with baby girl, happily laughing when she patted her arm. Points. Also, the staff up the front who took our bill, and the guy who gave our doughnuts, were equally awesome. It’s amazing how much you can read from a brief experience, yet I can tell the doughnut guy was really eager to please, almost nervous, and I just went ‘wow.’ A young person in a restaurant role that doesn’t think he’s too cool for school? Someone who actually wants to make the customer feel welcome? Crap, this is unheard of in these parts. Well done.

People: I know it was the school holidays, but still, it was July, Winter, a COLD night, and there weren’t many kids when we arrived, yet still the place was fairly full. Only once we were there for a while did some kids follow their parents in. It was a wide mix, of families, couples, and friends, all sorts really. Including the pair next to us, the girl who kept bombarding her male friend with stories of blind dates gone wrong. Like I said, all sorts.

Price: It was over $100, and at first I went “geez,” until I counted up 3 meals, 2 alcoholic drinks, and 3 doughnuts. It was perhaps, price wise, just a tad up considering the area it’s in, but having said that, the food was definitely up to scratch and worth it, as was the restaurant and the staff, so the price matches the quality.

Advice: We ended up sitting in the outside area which was covered that night, however being up against the sides of the ‘tent’ we could still feel wafts of very cool air at times, despite the heaters that were out there. It didn’t ruin our night, but next time, we’re booking. If you’re going on the weekend/at peak times, probably best to book, because like I mentioned, this place was rocking on a Wednesday night.

In a nutshell: We’ve already said we’re going back for brekkie… I love the menu variety, the atmos, the proximity to home, and even though I wasn’t too keen on their doughnuts, it won’t stop me from trying their other pastries 😉 And most importantly, I need to have a cappuccino there. Priorities people.

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