Friday, October 21, 2011

Eat. @ Gourmet Girl

21 Salisbury Avenue, Blackburn 3130 ph :(03) 9894 8417

Situated in a small suburban shopping strip right near Laburnum station, I first came across this cafe in The Age Good Cafe Guide, and decided to visit in my quest to find top notch coffee east of Hawthorn.  We've visited this little cafe twice, for breakfast and lunch, and have found it a popular kid-friendly cafe for the locals.

Seating inside is cosy, and a booster seat is available on request, with a basketful of books and toys in the corner declaring their readiness for little ones.  Outdoor seating gives good access for prams and pets, and would be lovely on sunny days. (Unfortunately it was cold and a bit wet on both our visits.)

Breakfast is served 8:30am - 3pm daily, and lunch from 11:30pm - 3pm, with the menu offering a good variety of the usual suspects and also interesting items on the specials board.

If you're not up for a meal, there's a full cake display to go with drinks for a catch up with friends.  Most items are standard fare that don't look like they were baked or prepared on the premises.

Unfortunately Hubby and I were disappointed with the coffee.  The cappuccino and mocha were both under tamped and too bitter to the palate.  ($3.8 each)


mocha (yes it looks exactly the same as the cap!

On another occasion I had a tea with scone combo ($7), with a generous pot of tea, a large but average tasting scone, and a serve of jam and cream.

The first time I was there I ordered the Bacon and Eggs (I chose poached), served on Turkish Bread with relish and roquette ($14).  This was quite pleasant with a decent serve of bacon.  However I don't think I got turkish bread, and for some strange reason the bread they gave me was sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.  Whilst this turned out to be quite nice, I didn't expect it with a serve of bacon and eggs, and the waitress verified that this isn't usual and that the kitchen might have accidentally served it up incorrectly.

The whole gang was there for the second visit and we started with Gav's Big Breakfast, described as The Works ($20).   Certainly a big serve.  I am used to the avocado being a bit more "rustically smashed" rather than straight from the peel, but not a big problem.  The relish was the best part of this dish, giving an otherwise fairly ordinary and heavy big brekkie a tangy lift.

The Eggs Benedict ($17) was described as poached eggs, ham and sauteed spinach on a toasted English muffin with hollandaise sauce.  A relatively big serve of EB, but I was pretty disappointed that the spinach was not sauteed as described.  Baby spinach is one of those vegetables that is totally transformed in taste when cooked, and certainly this made a big difference to how I envisioned this dish.  Not my favourite serve of Eggs Benedict.

Finally, Alex's Lasagne ($17) with salad was fairly expensive for again a pretty average dish.  Grated carrot thrown on mixed leaves with balsalmic is more lazy-food-court than classy cafe.

Certainly the coffee was a big let down for us, and we wonder if the cafe has changed hands since The Age Good Cafe Guide had visited?

Eat.Play.Shop. Says : Inner Suburb prices for an uninspiring spread in the outer suburbs.  For the same price I would drive to Balwyn for Snow Pony. 

Gourmet Girl on Urbanspoon

Toilets - Yes
Highchair - booster seat

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Eat. @ Axil Coffee Roasters

322 Burwood Rd, Hawthorn 3122  ph (03) 9819 0091

A lovely Spring day in glorious Melbourne.  I packed Macaron Monster and Bubs into the car and drove down to Axil Coffee Roasters for a coffee hit and a relaxing brunch.  I've wanted to come here for a while now, since my friend D invited us to share breakfast there with her lovely little family, but unfortunately we couldn't make it.  Next time definitely!

Despite the photography, the seating area is lovely with the sunlight.

The fit out is grungy-warehouse-cool.  There's one step up to the seating area which was easily negotiable by my stroller.  I grabbed the Ikea high chair I spotted in the corner for Bubs (hopefully they have more stashed somewhere for the busier weekends!)  Mostly ladies-who-brunch and business-over-coffee types this morning, but a lovely couple with 5 month old twins sat down near us and we had a chat about eating out with kids.  I had a lovely view of these cute funky pot plants and the baristas behind them as they worked their coffee magic!

And it was great coffee!  Lovely smooth mocha just the way I like it.  Very tempted to have another one.

MM enjoyed the mini hot chocolate too.
Mummy couldn't wait for the photo before diving into her mocha!

I enjoyed the Smashed Avocado and Meredith Feta on Sourdough Toast ($13) with added poached egg ($2), with a side of Free Range Bacon ($4.5).  I like that it had a really decent serve of avocado and feta.  The poached egg was well done with a lovely runny centre and the bacon was delicious.  I'd definitely have this again! 

There is a good selection of breakfast items, from museli and pancakes to eggs benedict bagels and eggs on toast plus sides.  For lunch the menu offers salads, pasta, sandwiches and even some belly pork.  I will have to bring the whole gang next time so we can order more to share!  If that's not enough there's coffee paraphernalia galore to take home for a spot of post-meal shopping.

Eat.Play.Shop. Says - Another great coffee destination in the Hawthorn area with great coffee and yummy food.  Plenty of space for families gives Axil advantage over the nearby Liar Liar and Porgie + Mr Jones for parents dining with little ones!

Axil Coffee Roasters on Urbanspoon

Toilets - Yes
Highchairs - Yes

Friday, October 14, 2011

Eat. @ Golden Dragon Palace

363 Manningham Rd, Lower Templestowe ph : (03) 9852 4086

Let me begin by saying that I have a strange prejudice that Yum Cha in Melbourne is better in the 'burbs.  There is a high concentration of fairly decent Chinese restaurants in the Doncaster-Templestowe area.  Diners heading that way are spoilt for choice, with Taipan, Plume, and even Kam Fook being worthy destinations.  In my opinion Golden Dragon Palace joins the ranks of these well-loved Yum Cha favourites, with the bonus of it being reasonably kid-friendly.  Yum Cha is always a good option for family catch up's and we've been here on quite a few occasions, this time during the school holidays for lunch with the grandparents.

I apologise for the sub-par quality photos in this post, as I had my hands full sorting out my 3 kids scattered amongst relatives around a large table.  Taking pictures before the food was attacked by hungry kids and adults became secondary on the agenda!

The restaurant, unlike lots of Chinese eateries, is spacious enough for prams if these are needed.  We prefer using their high chairs, which are reasonably clean (as compared to other Chinese restaurants we have experienced).

Their dumplings and dim sum selection were of good Cantonese standard.  The prawn dumplings (Har Gaos) had good sized whole prawns in them and were very tasty.

The Shu Mai are quite kid friendly, as were the Spring Rolls, which came with a sweet and sour dipping sauce, itself a source of entertainment for the kids.

The Chicken Feet are a popular Dim Sum item, although not popular with all adults, let alone the kids.  Fairly average I am told.

My kids are fans of the easy to eat Custard Buns, and also the Roast Pork Buns (Char Siu Baos).  Even Bubs had a go at these and seemed to like them!

I saw some Sago and Taro Baked Pudding on a passing cart and ordered one.  I find that not every Yum Cha restaurant make these and I always order one when I see them.  This one was not too sweet, which I liked, but a little bit too gluggy and not smooth enough for me to order again.

We had many more other dishes which were of good standards, but none that I would say stands out distinctly.  In terms of kid-friendliness, Golden Dragon Palace scores well for parking, access and provision of high-chairs.  The food is of good standard although not spectacular as compared to the standard of other yum-cha places in the area, and the slightly quieter ambience and relative space comes with a higher price premium. 

Eat.Play.Shop. Says - Overall a good standard of Yum Cha for Melbourne and a place that I would visit again with the kids.

Golden Dragon Palace on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Shop. @ Kawaii Kids

33 Cumming Ave, Birchip Vic 3483, or shop online at

I have been a long time fan of Kawaii Kids, the brain child of Andrea, a lovely Mummy herself.  They carry a huge variety of goods, from baby and kids' clothing, toys, jewellery and feeding needs, to goodies for parents (or actually things meant for kids that I've bought to use as my own!) I have a fondness for the Wimmera having lived and worked in the region a few years back, and for those lucky enough to live around there the Kawaii Kids store is physically located in Birchip.  For those who live further away, or like to shop around the clock, their online store is beautiful and user-friendly, and since their recent relaunch they have FREE SHIPPING Australia wide!  Yes I admit I'm a sucker for a free shipping offer!

Andrea stocks Kawaii Kids with lots of unique, quirky and fun items.  The thing that makes Kawaii Kids stand out from other online stores for me is their range of Japanese and Korean sourced "kawaii" goodies.  Kawaii means "cute" in Japanese (well, in any language really!) and if you're after things with that Harajuku-look about them, this is your place to shop.  From bento boxes and Anpanman pants, to Batman Safety Harnesses, gorgeous bespoke leather boots and HipHop Stereo Bags, you'll find lots of goodies you won't find in your average Australian Store.  Harajuku not your thing?  Kawaii Kids also stock lots of gorgeous kids items.  Some of my favourites would be the beautiful and retro pinafores from Olive's Friend Pop, Hairclips from Indy & the Ninja, and the uber-useful freezer pods from Wean Meister.

My most recent purchases include slap watches for the kids (and one for me!).  They are quite useful in teaching Little One to read the time, with their clear numbers and minute equivalents.  For $12 each, I wear mine to work and don't have to worry too much about wrecking it or losing it.  

I also couldn't resist this cute bird house shaped insulated lunch bag. 

I won't post up photos of all my purchases as this will become a really, really long post!  I've always found their service and delivery to be fast and efficient, and Andrea is very friendly and approachable in regards to queries on their stock, with quick email replies. I'm always amazed at how she juggles running the shop, great customer service AND looking after her little ones so well!

Eat.Play.Shop. Says : One of my favourite online shops.  Stock are always changing and being updated, and lots of stock are from limited lines so you might have to be quick with your order, or they might not come back in stock again if someone else bags it first!

Note - this post was NOT commissioned nor sponsored by Kawaii Kids.  I just really, really like their stuff  :)

Friday, October 7, 2011

Eat. @ Mr Tulk

328 Swanston St, Melbourne CBD 3000 ph : (03) 8660 5700

The eponymous Mr Tulk (first name Augustus) of this cute little cafe was the first librarian of the State Library of Victoria.  I'm glad that like the Library itself, Mr Tulk offers fine fare for both adults and children alike, with good coffee and great service!

The decor is casual, many people sat alone having a coffee while they read.  I loved the wall art, the tall windows, and the "wall of books" decoration!

The Age Good Cafe Guide gives Mr Tulk a one hat, and the coffee and mocha we had on the day showed that this was well deserved.

Hubby's Cappuccino

My smooth mocha

I ordered an Ice chocolate for Little One and Macaron Monster to share.  The waitress offered to serve this up in 2 separate glasses, which was fantastic.  These disappeared before our food even arrived!

The cute half-serve ice chocolate, no fighting yay!

I went for a breakfast item as usual, and ordered the Corned Beef Hash and Poached Eggs, with a mustard sauce.  This was delicious, although a touch on the small side in serving.

Hubby's Honey Glazed Duck with Agro Dolce Red Cabbage ($18) is the dish that will bring us back.  The duck meat was succulent, the glaze was sweetly reduced, and the cabbage offset the heaviness of the game perfectly. 

The kids had a serve of Lasagna with Bread ($16.5) to share.  Again the waitress offered to serve this up on separate plates which was great and saved us from having to dish it out ourselves (and much less messy!)  Very home-cooked tasting pasta, well-liked by the kidlets.

A cabinet displays a delicious array of baguettes, Turkish breads and Sweet things.  We did not indulge this time as we had something else sweet planned for later!

There is spacious indoor seating with lots of room for prams (but there's a few steps up once inside), and al fresco dining out front with easy access should you want to enjoy the Melbourne weather on a nice (and less windy) day.

I really do have to sing the praises of the service we received on our visit.  It was a busy (enough) weekday lunch session, Hubby and I rocked up with our 3 in tow, including the pram.   We were promptly seated and offered drinks as we checked out the menu.  I love dining out with my kids, but am also a firm believer that it is my responsibility to keep them under control as not to spoil anyone else's experience while we're there.  I was extremely apologetic when in excitement, Macaron Monster knocked over the sugar, creating a mess on the table.  However the waitress efficiently cleaned it all up with a smile, which is a relief when I had expected the usual annoyed disaffection. (She might have been cursing me under her breath but she certainly hid it very well!)  And the fact that they offered to split the servings for the children made me feel welcomed, and that I'm not the first to have brought kids to this place!  I am looking forward to coming back to sample that duck again!

Eat.Play.Shop. Says - A great centrally located cafe with good coffee and food, and excellent access and tolerance for kids.  My only gripe being that serves are a touch on the small side, but otherwise a top pick for a city cafe dining spot.

Mr Tulk on Urbanspoon

Toilets - Yes
Highchair - No