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amor mexico

This Sunday, my oldest friend Rachael came down to stay, the first time she’s slept over at my house since sometime in high school. She lives two hours away now and we don’t see each other often, but whenever we do it’s like it was when she lived around the corner from me when we were four years old, and we ate candy and watched tv and didn’t talk about boys because Teach was in the room, but we would have, believe me. Anyway, so we’re vegetarian and she is most definitely not, and one of the easiest places to deal with such situations is a good Tex-Mex joint. Not too far away from us in Forest Hill is Amor Mexico, a cheerful bright place with stellar service and good food, and they note on the menu that they’re happy to adapt food for allergies, and they mean it. This is only the second time we’ve been there, and they already remembered the Rocket and didn’t bat an eyelid when I ordered the vegetarian La Combinacion without any cheese.

There’s a little dedicated corner with some Duplo, books and toys, and they brought the Rocket a jar of pencils and a page to colour while she was waiting. (In that picture above, she’s not bored, just concentrating real hard.) She had rice and part of an enchilada for dinner, then sat quietly on the floor letting us completely ignore her while the rest of us finished our food. And it’s good, hearty fare, lotsa frijoles and hard-shell tacos and rice and, well, you know the drill. Like last time, I ordered the strawberry virgin margarita and made everyone jealous because it is DELICIOUS.

It’s made it swiftly onto my list of Nearby Restaurants To Take Friends (along with Vegie Hut and basically nowhere else in the eastern suburbs), because I love hanging out with friendly people and they are the friendliest, and they give out free corn chips with salsa when you arrive. Not even my favourite friends do that. NOT YET, ANYWAY, RIGHT GUYS? *pointed glare*

 

Amor Mexico

13 Mahoneys Rd

Forest Hill

ph: 9878 9508

website

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Having a kid changes your life in many ways (for example, today I am Sick, but instead of calling off work and lazing around drinking water and watching daytime soap operas, I am still fielding questions and insistent requests for playing and having to fend off the Rocket from kissing me so she doesn’t get sick too, which makes her cry) but one of the ways I didn’t expect was that sudden urge to make the most of my spare time made me – and this sounds vain – actually a little bit more interesting. As dithering late-twentysomethings, Teach and I had our jobs and each other and our insular creative pursuits, then we had a baby and, I guess, to remind ourselves that we were things other than parents and job-holders, we started to find other outlets. Teach joined a band, was shortlisted for an award for a comic he drew, and has just sent off the final file for his full-length graphic novel to the printers to publish. I have my podcast, I joined a book club full of pretty cool folks, and found myself part of ACWA, which handles the Ned Kelly Awards for Australian crime writing. After months of emails and demands and panic-flailing, this weekend saw the announcement of the shortlist the committee and the judges had worked hard to put together, two hours away at the Bendigo Writers Festival. Teach suggested I take myself off on the train to attend the shortlist announcement on the Saturday night and get a visit in with my very oldest friend, Rachael, who lives up there. I said no at first, because it’s what I do, and the idea of spending my first night away from my daughter was pretty overwhelming. Then I thought more about being there to see the finished product of the shortlist, and spending time with the first friend I’d ever made on my own, and then the Rocket spent a whole day annoying me and I was all: I’M IN, LET’S GO.

The train ride took around an hour and fifty minutes; in that time, I played with my phone, read a book, looked at scenery, ate chips, ate an apple after feeling bad about eating chips, and was just completely and utterly on my own. It was quite blissful, really – I’d brought a book of short stories along (this one), so I could feel like I’d finished something before taking in the passing tiny towns, enormous homesteads, and green landscapes dotted with trees, cows, hay bales, all the kinds of stickers you’d get in a book about the country. It was quite marvellous. Even better was the squeezy hug I got from Rachael at Kangaroo Flat, where she met me with a big beautiful smile and, like always, even when we hadn’t spoken by anything apart from SMS for months, it was like we had never been apart. Back at her place, with her partner and their youngest son at home merrily working on some banging and crashing that tradesfolk and their four-year-olds are wont to do, we hoovered down some lunch and then she spirited me away for a little tour.

She drove me past her work, past a vast and entrancing amount of lovely ye olde buildings, around the fountain that one colleague told me to say hello to, and then up to the Capital Theatre for a pre-event scope-out (because when you’ve known someone for twenty-eight years, you know when they are getting anxious about something, especially when she tells you, “I am feeling quite anxious about this”), then to the accompanying gallery for a brief and impressive look-see, then for a coffee at the Basement on View. It’s tucked underneath the theatre and I realised immediately upon entering that this was the type of place I wished was my local cafe. They were flat-out catering for festival-going literary types, but we found ourselves a cosy little nook in a building almost completely made up of cosy little nooks, and sat together with warm drinks and company and well, you know. It was really just the best.

Back at her place after a scenic way back, I faffed about in front of a mirror and then headed out to the event itself, which I’ve detailed better here; suffice it to say that it all went smoothly, the company was delectable and you should read all those books. A tableful of us headed tipsily out for dinner as well, attempting at first to go to Bunja Thai (lookit that glorious heritage interior in the link!) but they were too full to accommodate us, so we tripped a couple of shops up the road to Curry Garden, which, excitedly, had a little sign right there on the menu saying that there were vegan options available. (I was super pleased about that, as I’d been intending on flying under the radar on this particular culinary expedition, maybe having a spoonful of rice and saying I wasn’t hungry, just so I didn’t have to tell my new friends I was vegan, as I’d been frantically Googling “vegan Bendigo” for a while before and found virtually nothing vegan, so I couldn’t even make suggestions.) They had a special list of all the items that were vegan or could be made vegan, and we ordered three appetisers, two mains, rice and some roti I could have, along with a couple of non-veg mains too. The onion bhaji were almost worth losing friends over, and the chickpea masala and aloo palak perfectly serviceable. The service was friendly, but a bit slow; I’d still happily return.

The next morning, I deigned to leave my snuggly cocoon of a sleeping bag and declared that I would take my three hosts out for breakfast. Turns out nothing in Bendigo is open before ten o’clock on a Sunday morning – “We’re on country time, remember?” Rachael said at one point as I stared sadly in a closed cafe’s window at their warm-looking fire – so we ended up at the Pall Mall Cafe, a small but friendly cafe that does a trade in your standard big breakfasts. I just ordered toast and coffee, and the service was ridiculously fast (handy when you have a friendly but bored four-year-old crawling all over the place), and the coffee was HUGE – I didn’t even finish it, I was so overwhelmed. Nothing flash, but nothing to sneer at by any means. Across the road was a park, a playground, a lovely old bridge (seriously, I’m just saying, and this is very unlike me because I am Very Modern and Stuff, but Bendigo’s 82,000+ population gets to see much nicer architecture just everywhere than we do down in upstart young Melbourne), and a giant, gorgeous and historic-looking old school, and so we ran around in the cold for a while before heading over to the Showgrounds Market, a fairly large and sprawling market that seems to survive almost entirely on plants and counterfeit Peppa Pig merchandise. I bought stickers for the kids to be the Favourite Aunt, and I made the surprising discovery in one of the halls of Wings Japanese Homemade Bakery. Wings has cakes, mousse, doughnuts, egg tarts and the like – and about six different vegan options. I was full from breakfast but picked up a little sample of a savoury curry doughnut, which was super yum – afterwards I moaned about not buying some for the train ride ahead. It started raining just as we got out of the hall, Rachael’s son covered in icing from his Japanese cupcake, so we drove back home and retired to the couch for one last companionable snuggle before I went off to the train station again to get home.

Selections at Wings Japanese Homemade Bakery

The trip was, again, delicious in its solitude; Melbourne was wet and freezing; but when I plodded all damp and whimpering up the driveway after walking from the station I was given the loveliest, happiest smile from my Rocket through the front window, and everything was warm after all.

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There are few things more satisfying than opening up your heavy hotel curtains to find the sky as blue as a 90s teen heartthrob’s eyes. It means your day is going to go well, your party hair isn’t going to become soggy, and your kid won’t have to lug around an umbrella and poke other people in the shins with it. So up we all got, ate some cereal, then spent far too long making ourselves all very beautiful for the party we were to attend in the afternoon. The Rocket and her dad had gone out two days before while I was at work and picked her a very froufrou frock, all tulle and sparkles, which she wore with skull and crossbones sneakers; I’d hit up Dangerfield a couple of nights before for my own Melbourne-black frock with a pair of cityscape tights; Teach wore a white shirt with bicycles on it and looked very handsome. We layered up with coats and caught the train to Newtown for our to-do.

Nicked from the Wedpics site (pretty handy tool for those getting hitched or not hitched) and taken by the superlative C, party-thrower extraordinaire

Firstly, Sydney public transport requires you to know which station you’re going to and touch-screen your way to a ticket; some other machines have this totally hilarious system with some fifty or however many actual pushable buttons to pick your destination. Melbourne has Myki so I can hardly criticise, but it was pretty fun for us all to jab at the buttons while laughing in a mocking fashion. Anyway, once we were beyond that we moseyed onto our destination, via the quite lovely Hollis Park, which had an elaborate, split-level playground. It’s seriously beautiful around there, all sloping hills and gorgeous close-knit houses looking over parks. Newtown, or at least the small part we went to, was full of giant second-hand bookshops (the Rocket led me to the economics aisle and made me read her the titles), cutesy little shops full of stuff I would’ve spent all my money on if I’d gone through those doors, and vegan restaurants. Our destination was Rubyos, a lovely fresh-looking restaurant where we had our own room walled off and I walked through the door to be greeted by a bunch of people so friendly and just gloriously, colourfully stylish, that I was immediately happy. The Rocket looked shy for a while until complimented on her dress, then foofed around twirling for a while. The non-bride and non-groom were beautiful, polished, and beaming; there was talk, and merriment, and readings, declarations of love for this moment if not an unknown future, and singing and such emotion that I almost couldn’t even. It was sweet and funny and original and I loved everyone by the end, including everyone who was very kind to the Rocket even though she was the youngest by some twenty years. To her credit, she was pretty great: she talked during the ceremony, but only because she wanted to narrate out loud the Maisy book I brought along to shut her up. She had puppy stickers and a book to put them in, but most of the stickers ended up on the guests as she happily shared them with everyone and eventually had people coming over for requests. And the food, guys, OH the food – it was GLORIOUS and there was MOUNTAINS of it. Grazing plates of glory: beginning, I think, with an antipasto that had the most absolutely genuinely best crackers and baba ganoush I have ever, ever had, and a tasty little salad and olives (blech) and other things; there were rice burgers that fell apart but tasted heavenly; steamed green beans with ginger, lime, and cashew nuts (I think), which weren’t my thing but Teach adored; ancient grain and vegetable patties; the best fucking potatoes I may have ever ever had; so much more, I don’t know. It ended with cupcakes that stained people’s mouths blue as everyone kissed goodbye. It was, of course, totally worth the trip, and I’m so glad we went.

Totally stolen from C’s sister. Sorry H! It was just such a loverly picture. x

We went home in the cooling afternoon and tucked the Rocket in for a nap. Teach sent me out to get a coffee and explore the city on my own, and I wandered the streets, excited to be somewhere new, somewhere so familiar – all the stores, of course, are essentially the same as home – yet the streets were too big, or too small, and the buildings were wrong, and so beautiful. I couldn’t find anywhere for coffee but ended up at a now-forgotten chocolate shop where I did some sketching (I remain genuinely terrible but I like drawing pictures of the Rocket doing ridiculous things) and had a fairly average coffee that made me quietly smug about Melbourne’s coffee scene. Just as I finished, Teach let me know that the Rocket had rejoined the waking world, so back I went, we regrouped, and went out for a walk.

Our aim was Bodhi, upon the advice of many friends who said it was great but we had to be okay with spending big. We are very talented at wasting money on food, and seeing as we’d already blown a stack of cash just getting to Sydney there was no point in holding back on a tasty night’s dinner, so off we went. Hyde Park was on our way, and I really can’t tell you how happy I always am to encounter mid-city parks. The juxtaposition of city buildings and grass to run around on – it’s great. So we ran around, then unexpectedly bumped into a street gang of possums who, unlike our local skittish brand, happily came right up, sniffed your sneakers and begged for food. The Rocket was very pleased if not slightly alarmed about the whole scenario; I’m sure our local possum hunts are forever ruined by this version. After getting confused and not figuring out the multilayers of the park, we found our way sideways and underneath to Bodhi, a sprawling, glittery place with outdoor heaters, friendly staff and trees knotted with fairy lights. They could have fed me torn paper bags and I wouldn’t have cared, it was just so lovely. We sat outside so we could get rice on the ground and ordered.

Overwhelmed by choice, we ordered plain rice for the Rocket, who jabs at all menus and yells “RICE!” at waiters even if we are at a pizza joint; edamame (as always); English spinach gow dumplings; Australian mushroom gow dumplings; smoked soy, coconut, chili and coriander betel leaves; chickpea battered winter vegetables with sour cream and sweet chili sauce; san choy bao and sweet yam tempura spring rolls. Edamame: excellent as per usual (and much better than the night before, slathered in salt); spinach dumplings A++; mushroom dumplings awful as mushrooms are awful (Teach adored them though); betel leaves miniature but absolutely incredible; battered winter vegetables hit and miss (I was also full once I got to them); san choy bao super tasty even though the Rocket, devastatingly, threw half the lettuce on the ground; the sweet yam was nice but way way too sweet. Share with four people, or maybe eight so you can have half each. One made me a little queasy. Still, it was a beautiful, satisfying meal, the service was lightspeed-fast, and it did cost a lot but hey, worth it. I pondered a few times during ordering about getting the peking duck, but kept talking myself out of the $23, and since regretted it entirely after my colleague Alison said, “You went to Bodhi, right, and got the peking duck? I have literally flown to Sydney just to eat that dish.” DAMMIT PAST FIONA, YOU NEVER LEARN. It cost us around eighty bucks and was worth it.
Then back home via the lit-up streets around Sydney Tower (which was closed, pah), and back to the hotel for the Rocket to sleep soundly in her metal prison while her jailers sat on the couch with Nickelodeon and popcorn.

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It was my birthday recently. Happy birthday to me, right! Yay! I know many people get quite coy about having birthdays and let them slide sneakily by while saying airily two weeks later, “Oh, yes, my birthday was ages ago,” but we all know I am terribly childish and have been talking as excitedly about it as a five-year-old. I made a short list of demands of Teach: new cushions (check) and dinner at Smith & Daughters (check). I also got a plethora of other lovely things, but as I am not actually five, I’ll spare you the excited commentary.

We got my folks to look after the Rocket so we could dine properly here, as it’s more a fine food restaurant than the usual Lord of the Fries/Guzman y Gomez type food we’re always stuffing ourselves with on weekends. The poor little spaceship was sick – she’s coughing in bed and wailing afterwards even as I type, breaking my heart completely – but my mother is very good, as mothers can be, at issuing a hug and an icy pole to soothe a sore throat (she would also say honey and lemon on a teaspoon but we didn’t have either.)

And OH. My friends. Smith & Daughters delivered. It’s been open for months and I’ve been desperately trying to get us there the entire time, but have failed to get us babysitting that doesn’t end in us seeing a movie like Godzilla (it’s no Pacific Rim) or Spider-man 2 (it’s no Spider-man 1) or Maleficent (it’s no Sleeping Beauty, thankfully). Anyway, here we were, and I was all flappy with excitement, and the people were immediately lovely. The seats are a touch crowded – we were elbow-knocking distance from the first-date couple beside us – but as more people came along it became fun and rowdy and no one cared any more. The couple beside us were exclaiming over the menu using words like “meatballs” and “chorizo” and clarified with the friendly waitress that everything was vegan, which, yes, it was (I was going to tell them so but no one needs a know-it-all to butt in on your date, even if it is her birthday weekend), and I wanted everything on the menu, especially all those things with corn chips. Eventually we ordered tacos (I had jackfruit, Teach ordered the spicy chorizo), the tuna, cheese and pea croquettes as per all of my friends’ instructions, the patatas bravas (potato and chorizo), and the uh I forget but they compared it to a Cuban shepherds pie. Then I gotan $18 hot buttered rum because did I mention it was my birthday?

Sadly I forgot to take any pictures but I am going to very liberally steal some from Where’s the Beef, absolute five-star food bloggers who are overseas at the moment which hopefully means they won’t remember to come after me with a pointy stick once they return. This was the potato! The chorizo was not sausage-like in slices like we thought it would be, but it was lovely all the same, and spicy just like they said.

First, though, the tacos came out, as swift as anything, and my jackfruit taco was the bomb. We traded bites and both declared our own choices the best, because in love everything is a competition, right? Yes. The croquettes flew over shortly afterwards and were just divine. Cheesy! Crumby! Not-really-tuna-y-but-that’s-okay, and the sauce was gorgeous and creamy. I don’t even like crumbed things. All crumbed things are horrible – all but this. This was amazing. The cheesiness, dear readers! No wonder our table neighbours were suspicious. These people are magic kitchen elves.

There was a slight delay between that and our next courses but our lovely-lovely waitress stopped by to make sure we were okay and let us know food was coming, and I was relaxed and happy in the tummy due to the first things being so great, and getting very warm in the brain from my hot buttered rum (first sip: this tastes strange and was a bad idea; last sip:¬†this is incredible and I will order fifteen more). Their playlist was right the hell up my alley with surf rock all night, the decor is stones and signs and giant candle monsters and playful salt-and-pepper shakers and moody lighting, and we progressively became happier and one with the world. Then the patatas and pie arrived; the patatas were good because they were potatoes and seriously who can’t love potatoes, and the pie was quite good, with this cornbread-type crust that I was all over because back when the S&D owners were running South in the People’s Market their cornbread was heaven on earth. This was Teach’s choice, and it had a mushroom filling, which I liked a bit despite the fact I hate mushrooms, though probably wouldn’t get again, because I hate mushrooms. If Teach got it again (which he was already saying he would when we left), I would totally steal a quarter of it again anyway because the flavours were grand.

Sorry Cindy and Michael sorry sorry I stole this one too but the tart was SO GOOD lookit that ice cream

By the end of that we were far too full to ever eat anything again, so we ordered dessert: I got the salted caramel tart with avocado ice cream and Teach picked the quince-filled donuts because we’d been thinking of going down the road to Big Lou’s and getting some hot jam donuts afterwards. I had my doubts about avocado ice cream because I’m not very inventive and it sounds completely terrible, but when it came and I tried it with that eyebrows-raised British-stiff-upper-lip face that you do when trying new food, it was, hands-down, the most unexpectedly excellent thing I have tried in a long time, and I ate all of it with the tart (well, the half of the tart I could salvage from Teach’s grubby paws) and it was a very good moment in my culinary life. I could only fit one of Teach’s donuts in my belly, but the quince filling was actually a really subtle and beautiful flavour and the donuts were excellently fluffy and sugary, and I could fit two more in my handbag in a serviette so that worked out well.

It was an amazing, perfect, superlative dinner out. Teach and I are usually order, smash-food, pay and run-type diners, clearing a fancy dinner in twenty minutes like it’s a competition (because life is a competition, yes?), but we lazed happily around our meal for an hour and a half. It felt like a proper birthday dinner, with the wait staff and owners as perky and kind as friends. A++ would eat again.

As far as kid-stuff goes, because well this is supposed to be a parenting blog and all, apparently they do have high chairs, and while it’s date-friendly it’s also light and fun enough to accommodate children, especially with the speedy table service. I’d bring the Rocket for sure – but probably for a weekend brunch as the evenings might be too boisterous for her – and not order booze to keep the price a bit more reasonable. I think she’d love the croquettes, and I think she’d love my good mood about it.

And thus ends my 1200-word essay about my birthday, thank you very much.

 

Smith & Daughters

175 Brunswick St

Fitzroy

9939 3293 (but book online)

website

No steps to the door, and I didn’t use the toilets.

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yong green food ii

So I don’t know about sensible people, but it so happens that the way our finances work is that we spend three weeks a month lamenting that we have to put all our income into rent and blueberries, and then one week when we get paid and throw all of our money around like we are celebrities with lavish lifestyles. I mean, it’s Target clothes, dumplings and new crayons out the wazoo. Crazy times.

So that one week a month is when you’ll find us reasoning that we should go out for lunch and dinner instead of making it at home, and also go out for cupcakes and gelati for dessert, and thus these types of posts are born, and not the ones where I post recipes made up of two-minute noodles and an old can of corn I found in the cupboard.

We’ve been to Yong Green Food before, and continue to wander over there if the mood strikes us, if Teach has a hankering for a dragon bowl or the queues at the Vegie Bar are too alarming. Yong Green Food focuses on wholesome vegetarian (mostly vegan) food, some with a Korean/Asian theme, lots of macrobiotic stuff and a decent range of raw options if that’s your thing. The prices aren’t particularly cheap but the servings are lavish and the food always good, so it’s worth what you pay.

I ordered the buckwheat crepes with mushrooms and some kind of tasty dressing (sadly Yong’s has no website for me to check and I have no brain for remembering ingredients – maybe wasabi but I don’t think it was hot?), along with a bowl of miso soup. The crepes were absolutely gorgeous as per usual and look super fancy on the plate; the miso was fine, but not as amazing as Wagamama’s, though the tofu in the soup is much tastier than anywhere else I’ve tried. Teach unsurprisingly ordered a dragon bowl with soy beef, and had to skimp on the super spicy sauce that is served alongside it as he correctly predicted that the Rocket would shout at him to share his rice and he didn’t want to set her on fire. We’d dragged our friend Dani along with us and she ordered a burger; it was ENORMOUS, and she has a pretty small appetite at the best of times but still put a fair dent in it. The Rocket enjoyed my miso soup more than anything, and they had a high chair for her which made life easy with all of our plates and dinosaur sandwich boxes everywhere. The service is always friendly (they forgot Teach’s drink but flew it to him when he pointed it out afterwards), the food arrives speedily, the staff smile at kids and I always leave feeling tremendously healthy and ready to go gorge myself on cupcakes until I am sick.

Yong Green Food

421 Brunswick St

Fitzroy

phone: 9417 3338

 

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Earlier this week Teach went off for a few days on school camp. Which, you know, fun for him (turns out all teachers I speak to love going on camp, I always imagined it was a nightmare for them) but annoying for ME, as this meant three whole days in which I had to change every single nappy, get up for all the night yelling, and could not blame the trashed state of the kitchen on him. Terribly sad, etc. However, I found people who would at least occupy my days, and on Monday I bothered my parents all day (I didn’t get a picture but hot damn the playground in Knox City shopping centre is a great one and it has a FENCE to trap kidskies in), and on Tuesday my friend S came over and stayed until dinnertime. We knocked up a pasta for lunch – our go-to recipe is basically pasta, spinach, dukkah, sun-dried tomatoes – and then drove to Balwyn to bash about in Beckett Park.

I’ve been once before with my mothers group, but it’s not great for crowds of kids as they all run off to different places and let’s face it, 83% of the point of mothers groups is hanging out with other adults, so when you have to run off after your kid it defeats the purpose a little. Anyway, when it’s just your kid, it’s a bunch of fun. There’s a tiny in-ground trampoline for bouncing, a wooden maze that even I could find my way out of (and I am terrible at all mazes), lots of wooden ramps and pathways, four swings (including two side-by-side baby swings for those with twins!) and a big-ass sandpit with two of those ride-on scooper things. Also it has a table, see above. Beckett Park’s actually pretty great – there are toilets, heaps of space to run around, a viewing tower (padlocked and with no note, WHAT IS THE DEAL BOOROONDARA COUNCIL) and an indigenous flora reserve. We didn’t make it to the flora, alas, too busy chasing dogs and patting all the wooden sculptures in artistic appreciation.

After an hour and a half, we were burnt out on playgrounds (Rocket was NOT and threw an appropriate tantrum) and went off for a quick poke around in the new nearby organic supermarket Apples & Sage (no website yet, located on Whitehorse Road between Balwyn Road & the Safeway.) Holy shit, this place has everything a health person/junky vegan/etc could desire – meatless pizza, chick’n & cheeze pies, everything else you’ve ever seen or imagined. All not even particularly comparatively expensive, though S and I were a bit skint so we passed up any purchases though I was pretty pleased to know it exists and will totally return and buy pretty much everything.

For dinner we went to Vegie Mum in Doncaster – we’ve been a couple of times and it’s always been a success. Vegie Mum is a Chinese/Malaysian vegetarian restaurant, and serves up a bunch of mock meats and vegetable dishes. The decor and atmosphere isn’t incredible, but the service is always grand: they’re lovely to the Rocket and have a pile of high chairs, the staff are friendly as anything, and the food arrives at speed. This time, I ordered a laksa for myself ($10), and a plate of fried tofu ($4.50) for the Rocket, along with some rice (usually $2 but I think they charged us less for the small bowl.) S got tea, spring rolls and some other noodle dish I can’t remember and didn’t try because my laksa was far too delicious and I could barely spare some concentration on my daughter as she got rice all over clothes and her hair (but to her credit mostly did a vaguely good job.) S kindly shared some of her noodles (mine were too spicy) and the Rocket was generally very pleased with the whole scenario, especially when she got to dump a cup of water over herself too. (SIGH.)

I didn’t take any pictures of my food, because I have fallen out of the habit due to, uh, not blogging in months (which, mild excuse, is because I now also blog over here!) but my Laksa was a perfect kick of chilli in gorgeous coconut broth, with beans, noodles (ask for the egg ones to be swapped out for rice), eggplant, tofu, chicken, prawn and pork. Turns out I like fake prawn more than real, and I ate stacks of it, and BEST YET, when I was almost done I found SNEAKY HIDDEN PORK AND PRAWNS, praise be. Writing about it is making me a little dribbly so I best stop now.

…well, just after a quick smooch to my olderiest friend Rachael who prompted me to write again. xx

Beckett Park

the end of Parring Rd

Balwyn

Vegie Mum

27 Village Ave

Doncaster

ph: 9816 3222

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Once upon a time birthdays used to be epic in our house. Teach and I would try our hardest to outdo each other for every birthday and Christmas and any other event that could be used to purchase gifts. Christmas is a perfect example: every year the competition was threefold: 1. who spent the most, 2. whose presents were largest in quantity, and 3. whose pile was the highest if you stacked them on top of each other. (Whoever wasn’t working on Christmas Eve usually won the last two.) We loved going nuts on gifts and smooches and dinner at places fancy or crap, whatever the birthday person wanted. Then we had a baby, and all these bills and so on and no sleep, and so birthdays have been more low-key, but also great because now there is a second person to give you a toothy birthday smile in the morning. Anyway, to eventually get to a point, Teach’s birthday was yesterday, and I got him a guitar pedal and a book (not very original of me) and some supercool EC comic cushions, and then we went out to dinner with his dad’s side of the family to Oriental Tea House in Chadstone.

 

Teach and I used to go here a fair bit; we’ve also been to the Little Collins, Prahran and Melbourne Central versions, but Chadstone is the closest. And I hadn’t really noticed this before, but it’s actually super kid-friendly – there are a bunch of high chairs, and the atmosphere is much more loud and vibrant than I’d recalled it being when Teach and I were alone together, staring into each others’ eyes. (This is lies. We have always been abrupt diners–in, order, finish, out, no dawdling.) I had been worried about taking¬† the Rocket since she’s discovered the ability to throw things on the floor and make dinosaur sounds while waiting impatiently for food, but I think the location was a success, actually.

 

As for the eats, well, there are no pictures, but as I doubt anyone comes here for my outstanding culinary photography, it’s probably no problem. We usually order the same things: two spring onion pancakes, buckwheat chili dumplings, vegetarian dumplings, and salt and spicy soy bean tofu. This time we also ordered two serves of the vegetarian san choy bao, because I thought the Rocket would like to try some. (She did not.) It was flat out, due, I guess, to the fact that there was some VIP night on inside the neighbouring behemoth of a shopping centre (this restaurant is on one of those arms that sticks out towards a car park, so, part of the centre but not inside) and it meant both the service and the food, while perfectly adequate, were hit and miss. I’ve often found the food to be great one day and average the next, but on the upside, it’s never been terrible. Teach didn’t eat his san choy bao but hoovered down everything else. I ate so fast I wasn’t sure if I was hungry or full at the other end. The dumplings come in little bowls of three, so you can order a fourth to even up the numbers or just let the birthday guy eat two instead. (I am Very Kind.)

 

The tofu was excellent as always, six little deep-fried cubes accompanied by spring onion and chili. I used to go to bat for these every time we were figuring out where to go for dinner. I think the tastiness of them blinded me to other things, like the fact that the skin on the buckwheat dumplings is usually too goopy, and none of the dumplings ever come close to most other places (like my current superfavourite China Red.) One other specialty of this place is the tea – every single one I’ve tasted has been beautiful, and they sell them instore, along with quite lovely tea sets. I’m trying to cut down on sugary drinks at the moment as I can’t fit into any of my pants, but I recommended the raspberry & lime iced tea to my stepsister-in-law and stared at her drink in jealousy when she ordered it, and did it again when she ordered a second.

 

Her grandfather’s birthday was the day before. We gave him, among other things, this Chinese Zodiac figurine, which the Rocket promptly broke.

 

So, in conclusion (these are turning into essays a bit, aren’t they? I am excited and wordy today) Oriental Tea House remains a decent place for a meal, friendly to those with kids, fairly well-priced (though sparing on the dumpling quantity), and a good atmosphere, probably because the decor is quite fun.

 

 

Oriental Tea House

 

Shop F015

Chadstone Shopping Centre

Chadstone

9949 2071

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