* All reviews are the opinion of Melbourne Mum, and are not sponsored.
Marmalade and Soul is handily located in an old pub on the corner of Queens Parade and Grant Street, in Fitzroy North and is a little slice of the country smack bang in the middle of the city. The atmosphere is truly wonderful. It is a cosy, retro feeling space, housing my favourite recycled chandelier in the whole world (below).
The coffee is single origin. The food is an interesting mix of traditional/modern (“tradern”), with French/British twists. I had a pulled pork ciabatta, with fennel roumelade and tarragon mustard. Really different flavours from the usual northern suburbs fare. And quite delicious. When Husband’s “CLT” came out, he was horrified to discover chicken pate was the centrepiece of the dish. I rolled my eyes and kinda went “well, duh, read the menu” and I got into eye-rolling trouble. Dommies aside, once he manually removed the pate, it was a cracker of a dish. Even better, no doubt, if you like pate.
I’ve also had the poached beaten egg and goats cheese sauce for breakfast here. I could actually swill a huge pot of the goats cheese alone it is SO GOOD. So good. The egg was perfectly cooked too, which is my litmus test for how excellent a place is for brekkie. They so passed this.
The waiting staff are wonderful. On our first visit, the waitress commented on how well-behaved our kids were, so they either don’t see all that many kids (which I doubt – there always seem to be quite a few of the whippersnapper variety here) or the kids they do see are horrors. Or we have indoctrinated our kids well into the Way of the Cafe. Clearly the wait staff have not seen young Inky descend down the bannister of her Terrible Twos. Truly, no-one needs to see that.
There is no kids menu per se and the flavours are quite adventurous (if your kids like black pudding, then you’re totally set) but if you’re coming here for lunch, you can always find something for them from the breakfast menu (the hungry ferrets are fairly typical Melbourne kids and are fans of the all-day breakfast). I’m not sure if it’s still on the menu, but at one point Scout had a coddled egg topped with an egg warmer. Twee perhaps, but it was a hit with both the little folk and the Paton’s pattern poster-child in me screaming to get out.
The best thing about it’s kid-friendliness is that it is licensed. So much nicer to manage the hungry ferrets on a glass of pinot grigio.
- What was the bill?: Lunch for 4 + coffee for 2 – $65
- Where is it? Marmalade and Soul, 162 Queens Parade, Fitzroy North
- How kid-friendly is it?: 6.5/10. Kids are always welcome, but they would have to be fairly adventurous to find something to eat from the lunch menu, although the breakfast menu is more accessible. Picky kids may go hungry. No highchairs.
Anyone who knows me, understands that when it comes to trivia/general knowledge, I am a voracious fact geek. My mum kicked off my obsession when I was 8 by “testing” me on capital cities while waiting at the bus stop for the school bus. I still remember most of them – I just wish they’d stop dissecting countries ‘cos it gets really confusing, particularly when you get to the Balkan region. You’d think they’d have more self-restraint. Of course, having the kind of brain that soaks up random shit and then regurgitates it on request has not gotten me all that far in life, except to drive my husband nuts with my constant requests to do newspaper quizzes.
My mum went on Great Temptation and Sale of the Century when I was still at school. We got to have dinner with Tony Barber and his wife and met Victoria Nicholls (yeah, I’m that old). At school, I was always the “Girl with the Mum that went on Sale”. Better than being known as the “Dork with the Arse-crack that everyone wants to Wedgie”, I guess.
Then when Scout was 18 months old, I went on “Temptation” (the new and unimproved “Sale”). I won three nights and retired on the third night with a Yamaha Home Entertainment system (plus some other random stuff). I was determined to beat my mum’s quiz show run of being defeated on her third night. So, yeah not competitive AT ALL. The day of filming was one of the best days of my life. I had a cold at the time so was drugged up on pseudoephidrine (can this be considered performance doping? I’m not sure.) But an overdose of adrenalin, rapid-fire questions and $5 shopping drives will do that to you. A brilliant time, but somehow I still can’t get past the fact that the makeup artists on the day made me look like a manic Oompa Loompa.
But moving on.
I freaking love my kid’s school community (but you already knew that, didn’t you?). 300 parents and friends frocked up for a Strictly Ballroom theme at the local theatre and we would have raised an absolute bucketload for the school. Probably a big enough bucket for the ladies on our table to perform a late-night Cha-cha-chuck care of the Lindy-hooch.
There was NO infernal “Sports” round, which I was incredibly thankful for. Sport’s trivia is not my forte, and I am lucky to answer a single question, unless it pertains to competitive cocktail drinking. I even learned some more random shit for my already saturated brain (answers at bottom of post):
- Where on your body is your natal cleft?
- Are Polar Bears, right-handed, left-handed or ambidextrous?
- Why did one of our team member’s know the theme music to “Antiques Roadshow”?
Yes, all things that simply knowing them will get you far in life. Not.
The thing that surprised me most about the night was how uncompetitive I was (oh, except for the minor glitch where I wanted to whack three “red dots” (worth double points if you get the question right) on the theme to “Halloween”, but I digress). I think since having kids, my competitive meter has dipped in favour of simply having a good time. I still love to win (who doesn’t?) but I honestly didn’t give a toss whether our table won or not. Gone are the days of my early teens where I was renowned for hitting tennis balls out of the court onto random cars if I didn’t win (not all the time, of course, but often enough to get a reputation). I will always love knowing and learning stuff, but it’s less about the outcome and more about the process (sorry, I really will stop with the cliches soon, I don’t know what’s gotten into me).
- It’s your arse crack.
- Buggered if I know.
I’m getting my flame-retardant vent suit on for today’s opinion piece.
On Monday, I encountered this article, about an ex-student of Geelong Grammar, Rose Ashton-Weir, who, together with her mother Elizabeth, is suing the school for damages because she didn’t get into her chosen field of Law.
I read the whole article, thinking, there’s got to be some kind of extenuating circumstance, something that might make the law suit remotely credible. As observers, we cannot ever know exactly what is going on in a situation (certainly not as the mainstream press reports it), but I think there is a disturbing, litigious trend of suing companies/institutions/individuals for the most tenuous of reasons, out of a misplaced sense of entitlement.
This student was reportedly a clever person, ostensibly “gifted” and apparently the school did not support either her giftedness or the fact that she was struggling academically. One of the mother’s alleged arguments is that, although her daughter was having difficulties with Maths, which the school was aware of, the school had placed her in a standard maths class. Um, yeah, hi, how did mother or daughter expect her to gain entry into Law if she didn’t pass standard Maths?
The thought that a student (or more likely their family, as you can bet in most cases law suits aren’t initiated by the child) would assume that if they waltz into a school and pay $$$, they are entitled to entry to a chosen University degree handed to them on a silver platter, makes my gut churn. It’s not a $30,000 Big Mac. You can’t show up, order yourself a top ENTER score and just, um, receive it. I wonder how many kids are told “You are gifted. You are brilliant. You are so clever” and they believe it to the point where they stop trying, or get exponentially despondent because their perceived intellect was not being reflected in results.
Every Australian has a right to an education. This is not a public vs. private school debate. Of course there are “good” schools, there are not so good schools, you can pay a bucket-load of money and end up a porno star (not that there’s anything wrong with that – it’s better than being Lara Bingle), you can pay basically $0 for a public education and be a rocket scientist, but you cannot succeed academically at either type of school if you don’t put the effort in (unless you are Stephen Hawking). A school can help facilitate your learning, but it can’t force it. If you don’t apply yourself, you cannot expect to get the marks to gain entry to a discipline that requires, you know, discipline.
I was a bright kid, particularly in English/writing, but in Year 8, I started to slack off and got myself an attitude (what? A 14 year old with an attitude?) and stopped bothering at school. I thought “Hey, I’m smart, I don’t even need to try” (in that flippant way that only teenagers can muster – I can hear myself now and my eyes are twitching). My English teacher, Mr. Murray (who had a penchant for throwing chairs across the room and splitting the very tight pants he used to wear, but that is a whole other story), the same teacher who championed me in Year 7 because I displayed such a love of the English language, gave me an “E” for my mid-year report and put me on academic probation. I didn’t deserve an “E” (probably a “C”) but he was sending me a very clear message – just because you are bright, does not mean you get to stop trying. You can be damn sure I got “A”s for the rest of my English days. At the time, I hated the fuck out of Mr. Murray, but I credit him for being the teacher I considered most influential, based largely on him teaching me the most valuable lesson of my entire schooling.
There is incredible value in positivity and boosting a child’s self-esteem so that they are convinced they can do anything they want to, but there is also value in sending the message that they have to work their arse off to get it, even if they have an IQ of 160. Sometimes, the best way for a child to get that message is for them to fail, so they can drag themselves back up. We can’t rely on teachers to be the only ones sending our kids these big messages. It is just as, if not more, important for our kids to get them at home. In the case of the Ashton-Weirs, Rose was a boarder at Geelong Grammar, so was not getting these messages “at home”. I’m not a big fan of boarding schools – I don’t think they can ever replace living in a home environment – but this is not an argument against them as they certainly have their place. As parents, we need to take on much of the responsibility for how our child does at school, through lessons in resilience and by encouraging them to extend their school-based learning through activities or discussions at home. Of course this is simplistic as kids can have problems, emotionally, physiologically and academically, but we cannot rely on the school to do all our work or solve all of these problems for us.
The mother is also allegedly suing Geelong Grammar for lost wages, because her daughter contracted glandular fever and had to stay with her at home. I’m not sure how this is Geelong Grammar’s problem, but you’ve probably already worked out that I think the whole law suit is an absolute crock of steaming shit. We can’t know the dynamics of the family unit, but I wonder how many parents who pay such a large sum to a school and don’t get what they “expect”, end up lashing out at the school. Or the teachers. Or the school chaplain. Whoever seems a suitable fall guy. But so starts the cycle of entitlement. From all accounts, the environment of Geelong Grammar was not doing it for Rose. Given she did so much better at a NSW TAFE certainly goes a fair way to support this. But surely, if a child were unhappy at a school and this, amongst other things, was affecting their grades, would you not take them out and try to work out what school is best for that child. It sucks, and there’s not always an easy answer, but the knee-jerk response of taking a school to court is not it.
Geelong Grammar doesn’t deserve to be sued. They probably made some mistakes, but so does every school, regardless of how “prestigious” it is. We just can’t start expecting financial compensation because our kids don’t get into that longed-for course. I’m going to do another self-inflicted vomit in my mouth with this little cliched gem (which I actually do believe in) – Education starts at home. Not at McDonalds. And certainly, not in the courtroom.
* All reviews are the opinion of Melbourne Mum, and are not sponsored.
Espresso Alley, on the corner of Balgonie Place and Separation Street in Northcote, is awkwardly placed. The closest parking is Northcote Plaza or behind the library so when they first opened, I wondered how successful they would be.
Although clearly not privy to their accounts, they look to be doing a roaring trade. The cafe itself is a converted brick terrace (anyone know whether it used to be a residence?) and typical of other cafes in the area, the interior theme is industrial/vintage and the food is modern, with a mediterranean flavour. I usually order the salami, provolone, olive tapenade and rocket panini for lunch – it’s a simple dish, but worth going back for. I have dabbled in other items, and whilst the menu is small, the flavours and textures of the dishes are all superb (sorry, channelling by wanky inner-Masterchef. Pardon me). There is no kids menu as such, but there are kid-friendly options such as the ham and havarti toasties and the fruit salad with honey and yogurt. I don’t actually think Inky would care if they had any food for her, as long as they keep the babycinos coming.
The coffee is beautiful. I often go in to have ONE coffee and end up ordering three, not because I need them (although I’m pretty sure I could justify it), but because the coffee really is magical. It is a very easy place to spend a few hours in, even with kids. No-one seems to bat an eyelid at the presence of little scampers, although my splatter-radar is set to high given it’s right next to a main road.
The brainchild of Vince Colosimo and restauranteur Vince Mazzone, the “local hero” (or should that be “Street Hero”?) factor certainly hasn’t hurt Espresso Alley, although I’ve only seen Vince once (happy to report, he is still one rather hot man).
The service is pretty efficient and wavers between very friendly and a bit snooty, depending on who you get. Snootiness doesn’t bother me all that much, although I know of people who avoid places like the plague at the mere suggestion of snoot.
I think Espresso Alley is winning over the northern suburbs folks because they have followed the successful recipe of rustic, textural food, wonderful coffee, a laid-back, industrial vibe and adept service. Melbourne Mum and the hungry ferrets always feel welcome here and the cafe’s approach to food and coffee can’t be faulted.
- What was the bill?: Lunch for 4 + coffee for 2 – $60
- Where is it? Espresso Alley, 4 Separation Street, Northcote
- How kid-friendly is it?: 8/10. Kids are welcome and there is plenty for them to eat in spite of no separate kids menu, there are highchairs but it’s BYO activities for kids (and BYO splatter radar for parents).
For the dramatics amongst us.
- On going into your child’s bedroom for the 10th time to get them to sleep - “A thousand times Goodnight!” (Romeo and Juliet)
- On catching your child out on a lie - “An improbable fiction!” (Twelfth Night)
- On having to remind your child that maths homework should not always be embellished with flower doodles – “More matter, with less art” (Hamlet)
- On refusing to carry your child’s bag into the schoolyard – “Asses are made to bear, and so are you” (Taming of the Shrew)
- On being asked by your child “Why do I have to? Why? WHY???” – “I have no other but a woman’s reason” (Two Gentlemen of Verona)
- On surveying the bomb site that is your child’s room - “Chaos is come again” (Othello)
- Then asking them to clean said room and getting no response - “Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears!” (Julius Caesar)
- On being late to school drop-off because your child has forgotten their bag (again) - “I go and it is Done, the Bell invites me” (Macbeth)
- On your child refusing to go to the dentist – “There was never yet a philosopher that could endure the toothache patiently” (Much Ado about Nothing)
- On getting to 7pm without killing anyone - “We have seen better days” (As you like it)
Yes, I know, I’ve only been writing this blog for a little over a month, so it’s a bit like One Direction releasing a Greatest Hits album, but here are some of my favourite blog posts from July. Think of this, if you will, as the Cliff’s Notes of Melbourne Mum.
- Careful she might Hear you. The story of my deaf ear. Warning: explicit memory-bashing.
- The Great Taboo. I thought this post might be divisive, but the response, both on the blog and on the Melbourne Mum Facebook page has been overwhelmingly positive.
- One Question a monogamist doesn’t want to hear. The things people say when there is no verbal filter on their brain. Happens to me all the time.
- Anatomy of a Redundancy. It’s tough writing something that other people involved in the story might read. You want to do the situation justice, be honest, but also make it vague enough to protect the identities and feelings of others. I think I got it right here – certainly lots of people who knew about what I went through said I was being fair in my account.
- The Choices we make. Scout’s “messages” to her mum and dad. God I love that kid.
- Melbourne Mum and the antiflogblog etiquette. Stumbling through the minefield of social media as an awkward, frigid virgin.
- School Holiday Blues. They came, they saw, they kicked my arse. They are gone. Thank fuck.
- 10 X-files quotes you can use on your kids. I’m still stunned that there are so many X-files tragics out there after 10 years absence. Is the Power of the Duchovny really that strong?