Oliver’s Garden is an easy café to miss. Lately I’ve been on a bit of a run of choosing cafes with crap signage or random locations. This one was no different. It’s actually nestled in a park next to a lake with ducks and swans and overly aggressive seagulls. We didn’t know it was there, and we didn’t know it was popular with young families, but we knew it had to be somewhere because my GPS was telling me so. I started to twig we were on the right track when my partner’s ‘baby radar’ went off and, like a dog following the scent of cooked meat, he led us to the clearing where this charming cottage-style café sits, amongst beautiful trees and birds and designer prams.
It was freezing when we got there so we opted to sit inside. I almost burst into tears when I saw a free table in front of the roaring open fire. I then almost burst into tears again when I noticed the table next to that table had a baby on it. Babies cry. I don’t like babies that cry, Ergo, I don’t like babies.
I became disgruntled while my partner’s elation at being in such close proximity to a dribbling ball was impossible to veil. Luckily the daggy doyleys and fake flowers on each table cheered me up no end, and dusting them gave me something to do until our menus arrived.
Oliver’s Garden is actually an incredibly small café, with only maybe 8 or so tables inside. The rest are outside in the sprawling space that the café offers kiddies to play and run around in. Looking out the window I noticed that there wasn’t one other table without kids. We were the outcasts. The weirdos. The freaks, some might say. My pulling out photos of my cats wasn’t gonna cut it here. It was simple – we didn’t have kids, and therefore we were different.
Different, yes. But unwelcome, hell no. Not only was the service beautiful, so were the staff and the patrons. Everyone was lovely, even the baby on the table next to us. Not once did it scream (I say ‘it’ because I’m yet to master the art of telling a boy from a girl. I rely heavily on stuck on headpieces and miniature Nike runners). My favourite patron was the little whipper snapper outside who I suspect took a sneaky sip of Mum’s skinny latte and ended up doing laps of the café screaming ‘CAPPUCCINOOOOOOO! CAPPUCCINOOO!”
Speaking of cappuccinos, the service on coffee orders is a tad slow, but not without explanation. The staff were quick to apologise for the delay in getting our coffees out and seemed eager to get them out to us as soon as possible.
The meals arrived quickly, but not so quick as to make us think they had pre-prepared anything (you know how that can happen sometimes? You order and 15 seconds later your meal comes out and you realise it’s because it was plated up yesterday afternoon in preparation for your arrival).
Let me cut to the chase. The food here was so good that we didn’t speak to each other for the duration of our meal because we were too busy making love to the food. Everything on my plate was incredible. The toast was the perfect thickness and had a beautiful crunch to it, the avocado was no doubt seasoned by avocado fairies who make everything perfect, the tomatoes were fresh and tasty and the egg drizzled it’s eggie goodness all over the plate upon being speared by my knife. I would never have thought that olive bread would taste good in this combo, but it was probably the thing that made it all so awesome. There was more than one occasion I had the threaten the boyfriend with a fork in the eye if he was to attempt to eat off my plate. Not that he needed to – he ordered the Moroccan Baked Eggs with chirozo: a great way to start the day with what I consider the perfect dinner dish. Amazing.
There’s not much to dislike about this place. It may be super kid friendly, but they cater to groovy parents and people like me with their menu options (note the Hangover Special), and unlike many places that are dedicated to young families, they don’t make people like me feel out of place. It’s rustic, and when I say ‘rustic’ I actually mean ‘rustic’. The tables are wooden and the chairs are wobbly. I swapped my chair at one point for fear of falling into the open fire (as hilarious as it sounded, it wasn’t something I was willing to do in the name of physical comedy).
Delightfully, all the children who were there were perfectly behaved and charming and their parents beautiful and relaxed. It was a pleasure to mingle with the peeps of Moonee Ponds in this outstanding venue and I can’t wait to go back. If anyone has a kid they’re willing to lend me for such a purpose that’d be swell.