So two blog posts later, I am already eating my words about writing less foodie reviews. Well, if a place is good, it’s a shame to not say so really. The Woodlands Hotel in Coburg is one of these places.
It’s easy to walk past this beautiful old rusty coloured building as there is no obvious signage. But when you stop and look through the windows, you almost can’t help but wander in. This is exactly what we did mid last year making a mental note to come back. It was Twitter that brought us back – nothing much open during the January school holidays and the Woodlands Hotel tweets about their new kids menu.
The only way to check out what’s hidden around corners in an unfamiliar place is to explore first. Stop one is the beer garden. It has the same airiness and brightness as the inside space. Unfortunately, I don’t even get past the entrance as the first whiff of cigarette smoke I encounter puts me off. I respect a person’s right to smoke (in their own space) but it’s a general bane I have with beer gardens. A shame as I really wanted to have my first drink at the Woodlands in their beer garden so better luck next time hopefully.
Upstairs is a more formal dining space upstairs but is closed during the January holidays. We are allowed a quick look and another beautifully thought out space with its dramatic and bold yet distinctly classy tones beckons us to come back again.
The first thing son Harvey spies are the board games resting on the window sill. Being summer and into cricket, he quickly grabs an old board game. In the meantime, we are at the bar deciding on which of the many beers (over 60 Victorian craft beers apparently) and wines to have.
As soon as we settle down at our table. Harvey pesters husband Dean to set up the 1970s board game which, in itself, is a conversation item. The iPad doesn’t even get a look in.
The fit out is intriguing to say the least. What looks to me a bunch of eclectic items the owners have collected over the years and finally found a space for. Perhaps they are trying to bring the outside in. Not sure really. There are garden pots resting on top of other garden pots, bits of greenery dotted around, 2 massive concrete eagles staring at you just inside the entrance, outdoor lamps, an old cinema projector, circa early 1900s airplanes dangling from the ceiling, and various other metal and timber objects. So perhaps it’s my beer garden compromise – with all the windows open, the high ceilings, the natural light – I could pretend I am outside! Different story in winter I guess.
So, now I have to get to why we are really at the Woodlands. To test out the food. Hard to choose as everything sounds tempting – from the grazing section to the mains. They have meals for little kids, for big kids and for grown-ups. The only way to test it out properly we figure is from the grazing menu. From the menu, this is what we eat:
- Gateaux Piments – spiced yellow split pea fritters from Mauritius with tomato chatini, chilli and aioli
- Chargrilled chicken ribs, roasted peanut & lime dressing, shaved coconut, chilli & mint salad
- Mauritian beef curry with roti
- Big kids grilled fish and chips
Description is the proof of the pudding here. Servings are big, prices are down and food is yes, good! I love the crunchiness of the split pea fritters and the shaved coconut with the chicken gives it great texture. The curry certainly made me think their $15 curry and pot nights on Wednesdays are definitely worth coming back for.
Without a shadow of a doubt, the best kids fish and chips meal we have come across so far. Where else would they serve a kid a perfectly crisp grilled piece of fish for $12?
We are full but we have to finish a great meal off with a dessert. One scoop of ice cream for Harvey and for us, the tart banane (sic) with vanilla ice cream and coconut cream. We take a few moments to appreciate the presentation and then we dig in. It tastes as good as it looks. The pastry is fresh, light, buttery and just the right amount of crumbly. Little bit too sweet for me so glad we decide to share.
And no complaints about the service on this night which is friendly, quick and attentive.
A couple of weeks later, our friends pay them a visit and report back with a similar story but they choose to play Connect instead of cricket.
Nearly forgot to mention the toilets. Call me strange but they are my final test of a place. I like people that think toilets are worth spending the money and effort on. Go even though you may not have to!
Woodlands Hotel, thanks for the tweet!