Sunday, July 28, 2013

Our Ballarat Mini Break Adventure :: Day 2

Over the next few weeks I’m going to be sharing with you my recent trip to Ballarat with the Bambini family. We were invited by Ballarat Tourism to experience the region’s most popular attractions and to sample some of the locally produced food that Ballarat has to offer families

The best way to start a cold Ballarat day, in my book, is with a warm hearty breakfast. We popped into the Pancake Parlour early Saturday morning with hungry children who were eager to get their hands on some pancakes. I adore the Pancake Parlour, it’s not a place l visit regularly but when we do go we make sure we order a load of pancakes for the table, along with a few large glasses of frothy milkshakes. The Pancake Parlour offers a fantastic kids menu and with dishes like Alice’s Wonderland Surprise and the Mad Hatter’s Special it's sure to make any child excited about the most important meal of the day.  The kid’s meals also come with colouring sheets and crayons which is an added bonus. I found the service to be warm and friendly and the restaurant has a rustic yet cosy vibe to it. The Pancake Parlour is set over 4 levels so it’s not wise to bring the pram or wait for a last minute toilet dash. They are situated right on the top level as Mr 2 and l discovered. And, be warned, the serving sizes are huge. Not ideal for those who are counting calories!

After a fulfilling breakfast it was time to throw the kids into the car and head out to the Creswick Tangled Maze which is about a half hour drive from the main town of Ballarat. We were a little disappointed the day we visited the maze as it was raining quite heavily so we didn’t get to take advantage of the beautiful grounds. We did however take a walk around the maze, luckily we’d brought our gumboots as there were lots of puddles to jump in, much to the children’s delight. Also the maze offers an onsite mini golf course for older children and a life size chess board for the thinkers. On a sunny day this would be the perfect spot to hang out for a few hours with the family.

So what do you do when it’s pouring rain in Ballarat? You go look for a spot to have lunch! After a busy morning the kids were hungry – again, so we popped into The Forge Pizzeria for a quick and easy meal. I do love visiting country restaurants, there is always an open fire on offer and service is friendly. The kids were especially excited as there was a dedicated kids’ corner for them to amuse themselves. Mr Bambini was also excited as Forge Pizzeria offer a fantastic gourmet beer list to choose from. The pizzas were amazing, in fact l’d go as far to say they’re the best in Ballarat. The wood fired pizzas are topped with quality local ingredients, there is not a slice of plastic processed ham or chunk of tinned pineapple in sight. Their menu is fresh and has loads of options for all including gluten free and vegetarian. Our personal favourites were the Margheritta pizza topped with fresh stringy bocconcini and the scrumptious Wild Rocket Salad with Wood Fired Pumpkin. It would have been lovely to stay inside all day grazing on food and gourmet beer but the kids need to be entertained.

The next activity l had planned to do was to swing past the Ballarat Wildlife Park, which is a well-known family run Ballarat attraction. Again we were greeted with rain but we pushed on knowing the kids would get a stack of enjoyment from this visit. We arrived just in time to see a Koala show, complete with a mini cuddle and pat! The boys loved feeding the friendly resident wallaby, peering into the Tassie devil enclosure, chasing emus and checking out the reptile enclosure. l think we went into the enclosure 3 times!. It’s not a huge park but it’s very clean, well-managed and it's an excellent spot to let the kids have a run. I think the wildlife park was the highlight for the boys, that and ice-cream for breakfast at the Pancake Parlour.

To cap off a busy day we decided to pop up to the lake for a tram ride and a spot of dinner. The kids enjoyed exploring the tram museum and l enjoyed learning a bit of history about the Ballarat trams and why they don’t operate around town anymore, daggy but true! We had a ride on the tram which is short 20 minute trip around a small part of Lake Wendouree. Mr 4 even got to see how a whole vintage tram seat is pulled apart thanks to his clumsy ways. He was so excited about looking out the window of the tram that he dropped his wallet between the seat and the wall of the tram, which had to be removed by our conductor, a friendly local gent and a helpful Japanese tourist. You just can’t take us anywhere! After a few red faces and apologies the Lightening McQueen wallet and its contents of $4.25 were safely retrieved.

After the tram drama we stopped into The Boat Shed for a well-deserved glass of vino and some eats. The kids selected a few meals from the kids menu while Mr Bambini and l re-hashed the busy day over a few share plates of nibbles. All in all, we had a fabulous day and even though the rain dampened the ground and our coats it didn’t dampen our experience, Ballarat had put on another fantastic day for us and our family.

Visitor Details

Pancake Parlour - 2 Grenville Street South Ballarat
High Chairs - Kids Menu - Colouring Pages - Crayons

The Tangled Maze - 2301 Midland Highway Springmount

The Forge Pizzeria - 14 Armstrong St Ballarat
High Chairs - Kids Eats - Change Table - Kids Corner - Crayons - Blackboard

Ballarat Wildlife Park - Corner York & Fussell Streets - Ballarat East

Ballarat Tram Museum - Wendouree Parade - Ballarat

The Boat Shed Restaurant - 27a Lake Wendouree Foreshore Ballarat
High Chairs - Kids Menu

**We were guests of Ballarat Tourism. This post reflects my experience of Ballarat and this story is my very own, to have and to hold!**

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Our Ballarat Mini Break Adventure :: Day 1

Over the next few weeks I’m going to be sharing with you my recent trip to Ballarat with the Bambini family. We were invited by Ballarat Tourism to experience the region’s most popular attractions and to sample some of the locally produced food that Ballarat has to offer families.

Friday morning saw me pack the car to the brim with coats, gumboots, scarves and woolly hats, 2 excited boys, a snack bag and some tunes. The trip up the Western Highway is a no brainer really and l found that we made good time and reached Ballarat in around 90 minutes.

Our first stop in Ballarat was to fill hungry little tummies at Such N Such café on Sturt St. We’ve been to Such N Such before so it was fun for us to re-visit, especially now that the boys were a little older, they could really appreciate the indoor cubbyhouse. For lunch we had home-made sausage rolls - complete with saucy smiley faces, red lentil soup and of course 3 iced chocolates. I do believe l had about ten full minutes of absolute silence to enjoy while the boys inhaled their chocolaty beverage.

Such N Such serve up home-made locally sourced eats from soups, baguettes, pies and quiches. If you’re not up for a meal then they can certainly help you out with a hot coffee and a slice of cake. Such N Such is definitely a country café with a twist.  The café also boasts a wonderful home wares store and shoppers could potentially find a ‘little piece’ for each room of the house, even the kids! I was desperate to have a good poke around but I’m afraid the boys wouldn’t sit still long enough for this mama to do some damage on the credit card. Next time! The staff are brimming with good old fashioned friendly service, and with a warm fire to sit by and good wholesome eats Such N Such is a must visit in my book. You can also see our previous review here from 2009.

Next stop on our booked itinerary was an afternoon at Sovereign Hill. The kids were very excited to run up the main stairs to collect our tickets. The first stop was to check into the Hope Bakery to decorate Gingerbread Men (forever the foodie family eh!) At $4 per child we thought this was a fun activity for the boys, especially Mr 4. Kids get a small tub of coloured icing and a small tub of sprinkles, then it’s up to them to create the ultimate Gingerbread Man. The boys loved it, although l don’t think Mr Bambini was too thrilled about carrying them around for the next 20 minutes while the icing set!

Other spots we visited at Sovereign Hill were the Sweet Shop, Tinsmith, Grocer, Candle Shop and of course we threw a few balls down the bowling alley. The boys were probably still a bit young for this but they still had fun throwing the heavy ball down the lane. Although l think Mr 2.5 had more fun skidding in the gravel and the brown dirt streets of Sovereign Hill. Mental note to self – don’t dress the kids in the ‘good clothes’ when we next visit!

And of course no visit is complete without popping down to the creek to pan for gold. Mr Bambini and Mr 4 had a fun time doing this together until Mr 4 fell in the creek. Again mental note to self – don’t dress the kids in the ‘good clothes’ when we re-visit! I’m sure he is not the first or the last kid to do this. On the upside we found some GOLD, after that we had to leave as Mr 4 was a tad wet.

We did however return in the evening with the children to experience the Blood on the Southern Cross sound and light show. We rugged the kids up and re-entered the park and headed to New York bakery for our dinner. It was quite eerie being back in the main street - there wasn’t a single person to be seen, where only a few hours before it had been jammed packed with tourists. I liked the fact that we came back after dark with the shop’s windows dimly lit and not a sound to be heard.


Dinner at Sovereign Hill was a rustic set menu in a dimly lit kitchen hall which by the way was filled with families. The kid’s meal consisted of a chicken schnitzel and vegies, which was gobbled up in record time and the adult’s dishes were much the same – meat and three veg with gravy! So country. They also offered us a complimentary drink on arrival, as well as a sweet treat from the dessert bar. Dinner for us was simple and fun, the kids enjoyed the ye-oldie atmosphere and we enjoyed a cheeky wine before the show.

Even in ye-oldie times folks needed a coffee!
Now let’s talk about the show. The Blood on the Southern Cross show was an amazing light and sound experience set under the stars within the grounds of Sovereign Hill.  Make sure you wear warm clothes as you travel around the park to various locations to take in stages of the show. The show is based on the dramatic 1854 Eureka rebellion between the gold miners and the government. There is loads of gun fire, lighting effects, incredible sounds of daily life from that era and loud scenes of shouting men and a building gets burnt to the ground. Mr Bambini and l really enjoyed it and we were quite impressed on the quality of the show and the special effects. I only wish the kids had stayed awake to enjoy it!

Stay tuned! More Ballarat adventures are heading your way......

Visitor Details

Such N Such Café :: 809-811 Sturt St Ballarat
High Chairs :: Change Table :: Kids Indoor Cubbyhouse :: Toys :: Kids Eats
Sovereign Hill :: Bradshaw St Ballarat
Open Daily :: Change Table :: Kids Eats & Activities

*Please note cameras we not permitted before and during The Blood on the Southern Cross that is why we don't have pictures*

**We were guests of Ballarat Tourism. This post reflects my experience of Ballarat and this story is my very own, to have and to hold!** 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Soup Wars! My Chickpea and Chorizo Soup

There is always a fresh pot of homemade vegetable soup bubbling on my stove in winter, much to the disgust of Mr Bambini. He hates soup. Hates it! He always gets this withering look of disappointment when l announce the nightly dinner, especially if the word ‘soup’ comes out of my mouth. He says it doesn’t fill him up, he says he needs meat. I say he needs to lose a few kilos and a night of vegie soup won’t hurt him.

But we have come to an agreement, and we’ve united my love of soup with his love of having meat in every meal.  Let me introduce to you the Chickpea and Chorizo Soup, where vegie soup and meat become best friends. Yep it was smiles all round when l served this little number last week, even the kids demolished their helping. So if you have the same problem at your place with ‘soup vs. meat’ war then you best be printing this baby off.

Chickpea and Chorizo Soup
Serves 4
Prep and Cook Time 30 Minutes
Cooking Difficulty – SIMPLE!

Pinch of saffron threads
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 (340g) chorizo sausages, chopped coarsely
1 large brown onion, diced
2 (200g) trimmed celery stalks, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
400g can chopped tomatoes
400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1. Combine saffron and 1 cup (250ml) boiling water in a small bowl. Stand until needed.

2. Heat oil in a large saucepan over a medium-high heat; add chorizo. Cook, stirring until brown. Remove the chorizo with a slotted spoon; set aside. Add the onion, celery and garlic to the pan; cook, stirring, until the onion softens. Add the saffron water, undrained tomatoes and stock; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, partially covered for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in chickpeas.

3. Remove two cups of soup and puree in a blender or food processor. Return to soup along with chorizo. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

*Best served with a loaf of crusty bread. And may l just say – it’s YUM and oh so easy to make! *


Related Posts with Thumbnails