Winter’s Cafe

As some of you are aware, my last lunch on Pakington St didn’t have a happy ending. Last week I found myself on Pako St again doing some more shopping and facing yet another lunchtime. The lone worker at Burger Inc told us there’d be a 30 minute wait, so we trudged on. We ended up heading into a very busy Winter’s Cafe to have a look at the menu. Oops, no spare tables and we had no reservation… but not to worry, apparently there is room upstairs. We were the first table up there and had the huge room to ourselves. Some people might feel a bit weird about that, but there was lots of light coming in, colourful paintings hanging on the wall, tables set with fresh flowers, cutlery and menus. Plus there was noise coming from downstairs, so it didn’t seem like we were all alone. A few more tables joined us upstairs after about 10 minutes or so.

There were quite a number of breakfast dishes on the menu, which I assume are available all day. There’s also a salad section and lunch section and a variety of drinks on offer. The flavoured iced tea was refreshing and not packed with sugar, as can sometimes be the case.

We ordered the wagyu burger with beer battered chips and aioli and the Szechuan calamari salad.

Wagyu burger

Szechuan calamari salad

The food was presented really well and I loved how the burger came out. The burger got the thumbs up and the chips were amazing. The calamari salad had a black bean dressing and strong Asian flavours. The calamari tasted good and was tender, but I wasn’t picking up Szechuan flavours.

Winter’s Cafe was definitely the most popular lunch spot on the river end of Pakington St that day. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who is looking for a relaxed place to have lunch. I’m sure the tables at the front of the cafe are highly sought after, so if you are after one of those then definitely make a booking. But if you head into Winter’s at the last minute and you do get placed upstairs – don’t panic. Our waitress was attentive and we certainly didn’t get shoved upstairs and forgotten about. I might check out the breakfast menu in a little more detail next time.

Details:

Winter’s Cafe

330 Pakington St, Newtown

Open: Monday-Sunday breakfast and lunch

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Alfio’s Italian Restaurant

Until today I’d actually never heard of Alfio’s. I guess usually when I go to dinner it’s somewhere in central Geelong or closer to my side of town. Alfio’s is in Newcomb, nestled behind the big Video store on Bellarine Highway (Just past Mc Donald’s and KFC). It was suggested by a family member, and always keen to give new things a try, off we went!

I’m not sure how busy the restaurant gets, but it is quite big and can seat a large number of people. The tables are spaced fairly far apart, so there’s no need for squeezing inbetween seats, and the tables are big – which is excellent if you’re ordering a few pizzas. I’ve noticed at places like Town and Country Pizza the tables are quite small and it can be a big of a hassle when you’ve got a few pizza trays, plates and drinks all fighting for space.

The menu at Alfio’s was a little different to what I’ve seen at other Italian restaurants. Sure they have pizza and pasta, but I’ve never seen a seafood antipasto until today (there’s also the option of ordering a regular antipasto) and I was glad to see baby octopus on the menu in a couple of different forms. The only other Italian place that I’ve been to in Geelong that serves baby optopus is Pizza Land. The antipasto is meant to serve two people an an entree, but we shared it amongst five people without a problem and we also had some garlic pizza on the side. I was really impressed with the antipasto and I haven’t been able to stop talking about it. The seafood was freshly cooked and placed on top of a salad. The only thing I wasn’t that impressed with were the mussels (I think they might have been New Zealand mussels, but don’t quote me on that), everything else was great – large prawns, baby octopus, scallops (small, but tasty) and large pieces of calamari. I’d consider going back and ordering this dish as my main meal.

The best way to judge an Italian place has to be by the pizza (and tiramisu, but we’ll get to that shortly), so of course we ordered a pizza and one of us had a lasagne, which I’m told tasted great and had pieces of egg inside. Everyone at the table loved the pizza – the Aussie was the “best Aussie in a while”, and the vegetarian pizza was definitely up there – nothing fancy schmancy – just a good old-fashioned vegetarian pizza.

Now, onto the tiramisu… One thing I don’t think I’ve mentioned before is that I bake… a lot. Cakes, slices, bread… everything. Which also means I’ve tried my fair share of cakes, and which means my family has also tried their fair share of cakes. Tiramisu can be a tricky thing to get right and often the flavours aren’t quite right. Very tempted by the tiramisu our table ordered one to try, and two minutes later we had another two on their way. I’d say it made it into the top three for me.

When we got our bill we thought it seemed quite expensive, but we did have entree, mains and dessert for five people and shrugged it off. After we paid the owner came over and explained there had been a mistake and sorted it out quickly. We were thankful for the honesty.

Alfio’s is BYO wine and licensed too with beer, wine, spirits and some cocktails on the menu. It was apparently also the first restaurant in Geelong to serve pizza which tells me it’s been around for a while and is obviously doing everything right.

Details:

Alfio’s Italian Restaurant

Shop 5, 163 Bellarine Hwy, Newcomb

Open: Tuesday-Sunday dinner
Thursday-Sunday lunch

Alfio's Italian Restaurant & Pizza Bar on Urbanspoon

Sticks and Grace

I had a couple of things to do on Pakington St today, so decided to have lunch while I was there. I wish I’d chosen somewhere else to eat.

I wasn’t too impressed with the waitress, who was talking to us while coming in from outside, asking us if we wanted menus, then half yelling the same question from near the counter when we hadn’t understood her.

We were told by the same waitress that the menu was new, and everything was available, except the risotto. There were lots of breakfast dishes on the menu, such as pancakes and eggs. There were also some more lunch type dishes like soup, pizza, calamari and flatbread with lamb.  I went with the calamari with asian salad and the person I was dining with ordered the flatbread with lamb.

There weren’t any complaints about the lamb dish, however, the calamari dish is a completely different story. The actual calamari itself was quite tender and tasty, and the aioli that it came with was acceptable, except for the fact that it was starting to form a skin on top. I’d say it had been sitting around too long. The ‘asian salad’ was inedible. I don’t think I’ve ever said that about food from a restaurant before. I had two mouthfuls and couldn’t eat anymore. The carrot was floppy, the purple cabbage was limp, the cucumber had began to rot (you know when it’s been in the fridge too long and goes translucent?) and the salad had that “off” taste about it.

I told the waitress about the salad when we went up to pay. I said I couldn’t eat the salad and was told that “the menu is new”. I wasn’t sure what the menu being new had to do with the rotting food that was on my plate, so I asked her when the salad had been made. I was told it’s all fresh and fine and just been made. I told her to tell the chef to eat some of the salad that I had been served and she said she would pass my message on. I think if someone is making a complaint about the food that is being served at the cafe you work at, you need to show you care, and try not to be too defensive. It’s not easy making a complaint, and most people don’t like doing it – myself included. Keep serving food like that and you probably won’t be around much longer. The complaints are there to help you and the cafe you work at.

I rarely complain about my meal, but this was pretty bad. We weren’t offered any discount on the meal, apologised to or assured that our next experience would be a lot better. I won’t be going back.

In other news… I went to Haruka Japanese Restaurant again last week. The food was fresh and fantastic again and I highly recommend it. You can find my last review on Haruka here.

Details:

Sticks and Grace

4/337 Pakington St, Newtown

Open: Monday-Sunday 8.00am to 4.00pm

Sticks and Grace on Urbanspoon

The Secret Recipes Kitchen

I’m an Entertainment Book user and often flick through that to get lunch or dinner ideas. I rang up Wayans (Indonesian) a few back and they told me they were closed for renovation. I rang up again recently and made a booking. I had the address for the restaurant and remember walking past it in Little Malop St a few times, so off we went. We walked up and down a couple of times and couldn’t find the place… We rang the number on the Entertainment Book docket and found out that Wayans is no longer around, but it has turned into Secret Recipes Kitchen. It would have been good to know this before, as we were all hanging out for Indonesian food, and had we known, we probably would have gone to the Indonesian restaurant on Shannon Ave. I’d been to Secret Recipes Kitchen before and enjoyed the meal (seafood mee goreng), so we thought we may as well head in.

Determined to try something different to last time, I ordered Sizzling spicy calamari on a hot plate with a side of rice. Other dishes that we ordered were curry chicken laksa, beef rendang (from the specials board) and Oven roasted pork hock with Thai salad. My calamari was tasty, but I got the feeling that the vegies on top were either from a can or frozen, not fresh. They had that taste, colour and feel that indicated they weren’t fresh. The laska was packed full of ingredients and was more like a curry and not a soup, which wasn’t a problem. It had plenty of chicken and tasted authentic. I was told the pork hock was excellent, and we were all a fan of the Thai salad that came on the side – crunchy and fresh with the perfect amount of dressing. The beef rendang was also tasty, but the serving was a bit smaller than we were used to seeing elsewhere.

Some of the other menu options include seafood tom yum, duck breast and whole fish wrapped in a banana leaf. There is also an extensive list of different varieties of fried rice, for example pineapple fried rice and honey chicken/beef rice.

I have heard this place also has some good lunch specials, so if you work close it may be worth your while checking it out in your lunch break.

Details:

The Secret Recipes Kitchen

82A Little Malop St, Geelong

Open: Monday-Sunday for Lunch and Dinner

The Secret Recipes Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Rolling Pin Pies and Cakes

My partner and I headed out to Ocean Grove last weekend, as I had a store I needed to visit in the area. We ended up at a few garage sales on the way, and at one point ended up at Coles, as I needed to pick a couple of things up. We found Rolling Pin while we were walking back to the car. I had already been trying to scope out places for lunch, and after seeing all the awards in the shop window I couldn’t resist.

Rolling Pin Shop Window

The shop uses a ticketing system similar to the one you see at the deli counter of most major supermarkets. You need to take a ticket and wait for your number to be called. The shop was really busy when we walked in, so it made sense for something like this to be in place.

Obviously, being vegetarian or even part vegetarian doesn’t usually leave much choice when it comes to pies and pasties. So, I was quite excited to see a curried scallop pie on the list… and then I was disappointed because the customer before me was told there were none left… and then excited again because the lady serving me said they did in fact have them, after I asked if there were any other seafood pies available. Phew! When I asked what was inside the pie, the lady serving me got a laminated sign from behind the desk and pointed to it. I’m not sure if it was a lack of product knowledge or just bad customer service. It may be a bit of both. Perhaps they operate on a “treat ’em mean, keep ’em keen approach”. Either way, if you’re working in a specialty pie and cake shop I would say that knowing your product is a large part of the job.

The curried scallop pie had a fairly thick texture in the middle, containing vegetables of some sort and small scallops. It had quite a mild flavour, and wasn’t spicy at all. I was quite happy with the way it tasted. My partner had the lamb pie, which he said was quite good, but not out of this world.

Lamb Pie

The store also has a selection of delicious looking cakes. I had some freshly baked cakes at home, so I decided to give the Rolling Pin cakes a miss this time.

Details:

Rolling Pin Pies and Cakes

12 Park Lane, Ocean Grove
(In the Coles carpark)

Open: Monday-Friday 8.30am to 5.15pm
Saturday 8am-1.30pm
Sunday 9am-2pm

Haruka Japanese Restaurant

I had driven past Haruka a few times, but had never heard anything about it or seen any advertising. After trying all the other Japanese restaurants in Geelong (Hi Sushi, Fujisan and Sushi 8 ) I was still on the look out for authentic Japanese food from a wide range of regions.

The menu at Haruka is huge… this place seriously gives some of the Melbourne Japanese restaurants a run for their money. There is definitely something for everyone. I’ve spoken to various people about Japanese food in the past, and lots of people tend to think it’s sushi, sushi and more sushi. It’s definitely not the case at this restaurant, although they do have some nice looking (and tasting) sushi on their menu. Something I haven’t seen much of in Australia before is the slightly seared sushi. Below is the ‘half broiled’ (as they describe it) kingfish, but there are also a couple of other options in this type of sushi. It was extremely soft and not chewy at all. I’ll be going back to try out more of their sushi.

Half broiled kingfish sushi

Haruka also has other Japanese staples like edamame, agedashi tofu  and seaweed salad, all of which were on par with others I’ve had in Geelong. There is also ramen, soba, tonkatsu, sukiyaki, and many other dishes you wouldn’t normally find on the menu of Japanese restaurants in Geelong. I only really thought two things were missing… tako yaki and okonomiyaki. Two things I tend to eat a lot of when I’m in Japan.

The dish below is an eel dish, with some rice underneath. It was very tasty, and not muddy at all. It had a good texture and wasn’t boney like some eel I’ve had before.

Eel dish

The dish below is similar to a hotpot. This one is salmon and scallop, with mixed vegetables.  It comes really well presented, with a flame underneath to keep the food warm.

Salmon and scallop dish

We also ordered chicken karaage, which was really tender and sweet and was a big hit at our table; baby octopus in a lovely red sauce with plenty of sesame seeds and a Japanese style frittata with eel and burdock root. I can’t remember the exact name for the frittata, but it came to our table sizzling in the pan it was cooked in. The burdock root was a first for me – earthy and firm, but not unpleasant.

You can BYO, but there is also a small selection of Japanese beers (Kirin, Sapporo and Yebisu) and sake. They also have some non-alcoholic Japanese drinks, in addition to the usual Coke, etc.

The dishes seemed fairly well priced, and I felt the sushi was reasonably priced, considering the high quality. The only slight issue any of us had was that the waitress wasn’t very attentive. It took quite a while to get her attention any time we needed anything. I really hope the people of Geelong support this restaurant, as it’s definitely at the top of my list for great restaurants in Geelong. I’m sure I’ll be back soon!

Details:

Haruka Japanese Restaurant

168 Ryrie St, Geelong
(Close to Moorabool St)

Open: Monday Closed
Tuesday-Saturday 11am-10pm
Sunday 11.30am-10pm
Closed everyday between 3pm-5pm

Haruka Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

V-Gem Vegetarian Cafe

I had high hopes for V-Gem and unfortunately V-Gem didn’t live up to my expectations. I spotted this place a few weeks ago, when stopped at the traffic lights in Market Square Mall. V-Gem is one of those rare places that does only vegetarian and vegan food, and they even include mock meats on their menu, so vegetarians aren’t missing out on their beloved lemon chicken. I had tried a similar place in Melbourne that was absolutely fantastic. It almost tricked a non vegetarian into thinking we were actually eating the real deal. I think the dish was Peking duck wraps.

Anyway, back onto the topic of V-Gem…

The menu looked pretty good – a whole front and back of an A4 sheet of paper, with entirely vegetarian food. The menu is asian based, with things like roti, curry laksa, sticky rice and fried rice. Some of the mock meat dishes included satay skewers on rice and butter chicken. Sorry for the lack of information – I was a little taken aback after eating and I forgot to take a menu.

My friend and I ended up ordering a few entrees and a main to share. The service was fine, and I can’t really complain about that. It seems like your typical family run type restaurant, complete with a kid playing with toys on the back table.

We decided on satay skewers, steamed buns and radish cake for entree and some not-so-memorable dish for main. I think it was assam chicken with rice. Our meal started off okay and then went downhill from there. The steamed buns were small and had a sauce similar to what you would find in pork steamed dumplings. They were tasty enough. The chicken skewers were overpriced at $6 for 2 small skewers and some sauce, but they were probably the most tasty thing we had all night. The radish cake ($4.50) was not something I would order again. Two words that come to mind are thick and gluggy. Then out came the main. Presentation wise, it looked pretty good. A neat bowl of steamed rice, with some vegetables on the side and the mock meat drizzled in sauce. It isn’t something I would order again. I don’t know how to describe the mock meat, but my friend described it as tasting like cat food. Each to their own I guess. I guess I’m lucky I took a very open-minded person along with me, as any other meat eater would have been put off vegetarian food for life.

I’m not sure I’ll go back to V-Gem. If I do, I’ll go alone. Perhaps it was the food we ordered. Maybe it’s a good a idea to stay clear of the mock meat at this place, and go for something without it. I am interested in finding out what the mee goreng and laksa are like, but am not in a hurry to go back. One other annoyance is that all the food, apart from the vegetables seemed like they had come out of the freezer and had been defrosted and warmed up to serve. I’m not sure if this was the case or not. But, I’ve done a lot of shopping for vegetarian food and eaten lots of it. This food really didn’t stand out as unique or delicious.

I’d love to hear what other people have to say about this place.

Details:

V-Gem Vegetarian Cafe

102B Little Malop St, Geelong
(Close to 7-11)

Open: Monday-Wednesday 9.30am – 5.30pm.
Thursday-Friday 9.30am-7.30pm.
Saturday 9.30-4.00pm

V-Gem Cafe on Urbanspoon