Sunday, July 31, 2011

Eat. @ Auction Rooms

107 Errol St, North Melbourne 3051 ph : (03) 93267749

Auction Rooms was recently named the best cafe in The Age Good Food Guide Awards.  Housed in the old WB Ellis Auction House, it is the epitome of Melbourne cafe culture coolness - old style renovated building, slick fit outs, great coffee, interesting brekkie and lunch menus, mix of communal and small group dining, cool clientele and young, hip staff.  Added to the mix is that it's known as being kid-friendly, we were very keen to come and experience the hype ourselves!

Macaron Monster, in a rare instance, chose to have a babycino today.  (Usual drink of choice being juice or hot chocolate when we're out!)   A standard little drink, no marshmallows or fuss, and quickly enjoyed with a milk moustache.  It was attacked before I could pick up the camera!

I went for my usual mocha, and I'm glad to say it lived up to its reputation!  Oh so smooth, and a great balance between great quality coffee and sweet chocolate.  And of course there's the delicate coffee art.

We shared a Beer Braised and Seared Pork Belly, served with Smoky Baked Beans and House-Made Cornbread. 2 Indulgent slices of pork belly were delicious (but gasp, I left out most of the fatty bits - still a few post-baby kilos to go!).  The Baked Beans were a good mix and provided the "healthy" balance in the meal.  The Cornbread was the winner for Macaron Monster.  This was devoured with a good serving of the beans and I had to be quick to grab a bite.  I preferred the bit that wasn't soaked in the baked beans sauce, but otherwise fantastic taste and great texture.

Cornbread hiding behind greenery, sorry!

The menu is very adaptable for little kids.  The breakfast choices included poached eggs at $8.50 with which you can add a host of extras at a cost.  Lunch offerings included stews and flatbreads and salads.  I gave a chuckle at "La Fin de Elvis Presley" which is French toast filled with caramelised banana and rum puree and creamed peanut butter, served with crispy pancetta and vanilla cream. Love, love, love cleverly named dishes with a nod to obscure trivia.  (I would love to come up with names like those as a new career choice!!!)

I tweeted this instagram pic when I was there!
(look at me, all grown up and learning to use social media ;P )

The atmosphere of the cafe was casual, the air filled with the buzz of conversation, the smell of the food being cooked, the happy laugh and chatter of the staff, and the opening and closing of the doors for coffee take-aways.  Great, as this always makes me less self conscious if one of my kids should momentarily make a noise! 

In amongst the newspapers we found a pencil case full of color pencils and a notebook well loved by its patrons for Macaron Monster who was delighted to add to the art.

We were seated at the end of a large communal table, and unfortunately this was the low light of our visit.  The stools at the table were like elevated bar stools and Macaron Monster (rightly so) was too scared to climb up and sit on it.  Hip Young Waiter Dude had brought an Ikea highchair for Bubs in Pram.  When I asked for another for MM he told me MM was too big for it.  I told him we have the same highchair and MM has no problems fitting, but had to insist on it a few times before he reluctantly grabbed one from the back for me.  MM jumped right in and it was a much safer choice.  At the time I felt a bit funny having push for the high chair.  But taking into account that Young Waiter Dude probably has no children yet,  rather than insisting on a high chair maybe I should have insisted on being seated at one of the many other smaller tables with chairs at normal height instead.

If you have a pram make sure you enter through the door on the right as you're standing facing the cafe - there are no steps there.  A lesson learnt after negotiating my double pram into the door on the left and then requiring help to go down the steps to access the communal table I was directed to sit at.

Eat.Play.Shop.Recommends - Mmmm, the coffee!  Many choices, and house-roasted.
Give it a Miss - during peak hours on weekends.  Due to its recent buzz I've been told there are waits at those times and that's not much fun if the kids aren't patient!

Auction Rooms on Urbanspoon

Toilets - Yes
Highchair - Yes, Ikea type

Monday, July 25, 2011

Eat. @ Cafe Krifi

Victoria Gardens Shopping Centre, Richmond ph : (03) 9421 6006

I've been rather obsessed diligent with getting everything organised at the moment, and when you have 3 kids and a load of toys, pictures and clothes to organise, all within a budget, Ikea is your best friend for storage solutions!   We visited Cafe Krifi for brunch before braving the Swedish Furniture Metropolis with a million other families on a recent busy Sunday.

After finally finding a car park, we needed a drink!  The coffee and hot chocolate are both a bit watery.  Although the hot chocolate is a reasonably generous serve.


First up the Krifi Big Breakfast.  Not spectacular but good to share.

We also tried the Mexican Eggs on the Breakfast Specials Menu.  This was soft poached egg served on homemade potato rosti, fresh salsa of avocado, tomato, red chilli, fresh basil and fetta cheese.  This was pretty tasty, and the salsa is actually quite hot, so not one for the kiddies.  The lowlight was probably the rosti, which was a bit soft and soggy for my liking.

To end the meal we had another Breakfast Special, the Orange Pancakes, which was zesty orange pancakes topped with fresh orange segments, citrus mascarpone and maple syrup.  This was a winner with the kidlets and adults alike.  The mascarpone making a good alternative to the usual ice-cream/cream offerings.

Cafe Krifi is certainly very family friendly.  They had an abundance of high chairs (from Ikea of course), fairly friendly and helpful staff, and the atmosphere was pleasant with a buzz of conversations and kiddy giggles.  There are brekkie and lunch menus for big people and a separate one for little ones, which have the usual suspects of spaghetti, hawaiian pizza and sandwiches.  The big people menu is filled with pizzas, flat breads, pastas, tapas share plates, salads and mains including chicken parma and stir frys.  Not gourmet, but definitely worth considering in this shopping centre, if you want to avoid the Ikea meatballs or the dangerously close by Maccas!

Eat.Play.Shop. Recommends : The Orange Pancakes will rival those from all the funky inner suburb Cafes.
Give it a miss : if you've got time, because Friends of Mine is a short drive away, and THAT is a great place to have brunch!
Cafe Krifi on Urbanspoon

Highchairs - yes, lots!
Toilet - shopping centre parents room less than 10m away

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Eat. @ Richmond Hill Cafe and Larder

50 Bridge Rd, Richmond 3121 ph : (03) 9421 2808

A little trip to the Bridge Road Outlet Stores gave me the opportunity to have brunch with Bubs in Pram in this popular cafe and providore that have been here for what feels like forever.  (In fact it was opened by Stephanie Alexander and Co. nearly 15 years ago!)  The whole dining area was buzzing with families, business lunchers, nurses from the Epworth Hospital across the road and shoppers grabbing a coffee while shop-hopping. 

They are certainly very kid-friendly.  I was seated quickly, offered a high-chair (which I declined as Bubs was asleep) and the staff gave me help to slot the pram in between the tables.  Service was slick and friendly the day we were there. 

Good quality mocha to start.

I ordered the Corn and Coriander Fritters with Smoked Salmon, Poached Egg, Spinach and RHCL Tomato and Capsicum Relish.  It was nicely presented and tasted delicious.  My favourite part was probably the whole corn kernals in the fritter, which were fresh and crunchy.  Absolutely hits the spot for an 11am brunch!

Bubs woke up and I had forgotten to pack some bread for him to munch on, and the waitress kindly offered me a few slices of their bread.  Unexpected kindness always makes me smile.

As well as a cheese room for those who are connoiseurs, RHCL also has a range of gourmet goods including relishes and sauces on offer to take home.

Eat.Play.Shop. Recommends : I know I've only tried the Corn Fritters but they were very good.  When I go back I'm torn between having this again or trying something else! 
Give it a Miss : peak hour at lunch can be hectic!

Richmond Hill Café and Larder on Urbanspoon

Toilets - yes
Highchair - yes

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Eat. @ Pope Joan

77-79 Nicholson Street, Brunswick East, 3057 ph : (03) 9388 8858

This fantastic cafe with the cheeky name (I'm a history trivia buff remember?) epitomises everything I would want in my local cafe - great food, awesome coffee, friendly staff, and a kid-friendly vibe.

Brekkie with Macaron Monster and Bubs in Pram today.  The staff here are some of the friendliest I've come across.  I was quickly seated with a welcoming smile, and Bubs in Pram became Bubs in Highchair today as staff quickly secured an add-on high chair to our table. 

The menu items were readily suitable for kids.  On top of that they have a couple of items like cheese or beans on toast under the "For the Kids" Section of the menu. 

My usual Mocha was great.  Macaron Monster had a kid sized hot chocolate and loved it.


The "Mini Me" Version of the Hot Chocolate
We had the Boiled Eggs, Soldiers, Bacon Bits, Herb Salt to start.  Two beautifully boiled eggs with gorgeous sweet centres ready for dipping with the crusty wholegrain soldiers.  The herb salt is the rock star of this dish! 

Served in a cute ceramic egg carton, with
an old fashioned knife.
Simply lovely!

We followed this up with Warmed Ginger Bread with Smoked Maple Butter.  Lovely combination that went very well with the drinks, and was really quite filling.  I took half of it away for afternoon tea!

Macaron Monster chose a Smiley Face Gingerbread bikkie to go.  Actually I think most of the kids at Pope Joan had one of these this morning!

Our brekkie at Pope Joan made me feel really... happy.  I am actually a bit apprehensive about "Family Friendly" eateries which provide lots of entertainment for kids, but often lack good food, coffee or service.  I find myself much more drawn to "Kid Tolerant" cafes serving yummy food and drinks even if they don't provide crayons or a box of toys - I'm happy to do my part to make sure my kids are behaved and don't bother other patrons.  The staff here are more than helpful and friendly, and I felt they went out of their way to make sure our meal went smoothly.  Pope Joan ticks all the boxes for me and I think it's an excellent example of how a cafe can cater for singles and families alike.

Matt Wilkinson (ex-Circa) and Ben Foster (ex-Kent Hotel) have set up a cozy space that has attracted locals and visitors to this quiet strip on Nicholson St.  Serving up great food and drink with a smile and a wink - I have only one request - can you guys please come and open a sister cafe for Joan in my neighborhood??

Eat.Play.Shop. Recommends - The Friendly Vibe!
Give it a Miss - Don't!

Pope Joan on Urbanspoon

Toilets - Yes
Highchair - Yes

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Eat. @ Cupcake Central

Level 2, Melbourne Central, CBD ph: 9077 4542

Just Me + 3 in the city today.  School holidays are here! In the last few years I've had to learn the art of integrating boring but necessary errands into kiddy friendly activities, and transforming the whole thing into an "exciting adventure", so that dragging the three kiddies around with me is more tolerable for everyone involved.  Believe me, bribery can go a loooong way, and the brand spanking new Cupcake Central store that opened last week in Melbourne Central was perfect for my cunning plan, mwahahahaha.

I took the kidlets up and showed them the dazzlingly colorful display of cupcakes with the promise of sweet treats for afternoon tea if Mummy was happy with how everyone behaved.  A clever plan that worked very well indeed, although truth be known I wouldn't have gone home without grabbing a box of goodies after checking out the display myself!

Cupcakes are $4 each, and babycakes are $2, with discounts when bought in boxes.  I've learnt this is fairly standard pricing for cupcakes these days.

Little one had a Red Velvet Babycake.  A pleasant little red colored cupcake with luscious icing.  "Beautiful!" said the Little One.  Macaron Monster had a Raspberry White Chocolate Babycake.  There was no comment as the cupcake disappeared in no time at all.  Enough said!

I took home a box of 4 which we had for dessert. 

I love Cupcake Central's cute Logo and catch phrase,
as seen here on the take-away box.

The Citrus Lemon was lovely and soft.  The icing was a little bit heavy, perhaps because I'm used to the meringue icing used commonly with lemon cakes.  Nonetheless beautiful with a cup of tea.

Not being a huge fan of S'mores, the S'mores cupcake however was surprisingly good.  Fudgey chocolate cupcake topped with a marshmallowy icing with salty hints of bikkies.

The Cherry Pistachio was very pleasant.  And pretty!

The Chilli Chocolate Cupcake is the star of today's cupcakes, in my opinion.  The chilli heat in the icing is an adventurous surprise that went very well with the fudgey chocolate cake.  I would most definitely have this one again!

Excuse the cracks on the icing, Chilli Chocolate unfortunately ran into
Raspberry White Chocolate during transit.
(hard to keep the little hands off the box on the way home!)

The cupcakes at Cupcake Central are baked daily and that is clearly reflected in the tasty and moist cakes we sampled today.  They also bake different flavoured cupcakes on a rotating basis depending on the day of the week and a calendar of the flavours can be found on their  website.

Eat.Play.Shop. Recommends - The very yummy, rather "adult" Chilli Chocolate Cupcake (might not be so kid-friendly though, this one!)
Give it a Miss - no complaints from us so far

Cupcake Central on Urbanspoon