Mother’s Day at Hooters

Mother’s Day has come and gone, and for the first time ever, I celebrated it as a mother myself. Every day, I thank God for giving me my precious little bundle of joy in the form of Little J. No matter how tired I am, or how stressed I am after work, seeing him just lifts my mood up! :) Come to think of it, he’s now exactly 10 months. Can’t believe how time flies by when you’re preoccupied with work and mommy duties. There’s almost no time for myself anymore. But it’s just so rewarding when he’s growing well, healthy and happy. That’s all that matters, isn’t it? For Mother’s Day, we decided to go to Hooters, just because they had a promotion that entitled mothers to eat for free. :) What an unconventional place to celebrate, you’d think? But you’d be surprised to see that the Hooters here is actually really family-friendly! More than 50% of the tables were occupied by families with kids, so we felt right at home. :)

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With Little J on Mother’s Day

All the mothers got to be a Hooters girl for the day too. We were given this customized bib that was drawn with the signature Hooters singlet with the accompanying bosoms to wear. I thought that was quite cute, LOL! I don’t think I’ll ever qualify as a Hooters girl so a fake one will have to do for now. :)

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Hooters bib on Mother’s day

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Little J looking suspicious

For lunch, we ordered ribs! Lots of them! You see, with this promotion, the cheapest meal came free so we thought we might as well order 2 items of the same value. Since Saucer wanted to have ribs, he ordered the Full Rack of Pork Ribs (1kg) all to himself. There was a half-rack portion available but it just wasn’t good value since it was around $33 compared to the full rack at $50. Just look at the glorious slab of ribs that arrived soon after! It was just shiny, sticky, juicy and yummy! The sauce was sweet and caramelized, the meat was tender and came off the bones easily, and the surface had a slight char on it, making it perfect. Saucer polished off bone after bone without realizing how much ribs he could actually eat!

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Full Rack of Pork Ribs 1kg (AUD$49.95)

Saucer and his ribs

As for me, I opted for the Combo which came with half rack of pork ribs and a 350g piece of steak. It was expected that the steak was outshone by the ribs, rendering it neglected throughout lunch. We ended up packing most of the steak back because our tummies were just filled with the gorgeous ribs. :)

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Combo of Half Rack of Pork Ribs and Steak (AUD$49.90)

Halfway through our meal, the music suddenly came on really loudly and the Hooters girls all lined up in front of the dining area getting ready to dance. I was a bit worried at first as to how Little J would react to the loudness. It was the level of loudness where you wouldn’t be able to hear the person in front of you speaking. Luckily he didn’t seem too perturbed by the volume of the music, but more intrigued with the girls dancing to the likes of YMCA in front. :) Overall, we had an enjoyable lunch out, thankfully drama-free and Little J behaved really well. That was a great enough Mother’s Day present for me.

Canberra Ibis Styles

During the Easter long weekend, we brought Little J to Canberra to register his birth with the Malaysian Consulate before he turned 1 year old. I purposely chose the day before the Easter break to go so that we could stay an extra day there and still had a few days of holidays after that to recover in case the trip turned out to be a disaster. *paranoid* I will write more about our trip to the consulate in the next post, because I would like to write about our experience staying at Ibis Styles Canberra, for the night. It was actually quite a last minute decision deciding to stay overnight, simply because Little J had never slept overnight anywhere else so I was worried that he might not sleep well and keep us awake, which then defeated the purpose of staying a night there. But it would also be too tiring for us (Saucer actually) to be driving 3.5 to 4 hours each way, which meant a total of 8 hours, if we did a day trip! As if fated, there happened to be a Groupon deal for a night’s stay at Ibis Styles just a few days before we were due to leave, and I called up the hotel to check for availability before making a purchase. There were still rooms available and the deal was quite reasonable at $109 for 1 or 2 Queen beds Superior room including breakfast for 2, so I decided to go for it.

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Double Queen Superior room

Given a choice of either 1 Queen beds or 2, of course we opted for the latter to have more room and for Little J to crawl on. We managed to check in a little earlier at 12pm (as opposed to hotel’s policy of 3pm) after we were done at the consulate. I had actually requested for a cot the day before, but was disappointed to see that it wasn’t there when we arrived. No matter, I informed the staff at the front desk and she said it would be set up in no time. We left for lunch and returned about 2 hours later, only to find no cot in the room still! So I went to the front desk again and upon investigation, we found out that the cot was actually set up in the wrong room! There was clearly some miscommunication regarding the room number. So we had to wait patiently for the cot to be set up again while Little J was fussing for his nap. Luckily, we managed to get him to nap quite soundly in the cot after a tiring morning for all of us.

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 The 2 Queen Beds

Now that the cot drama is settled, I shall proceed to talk about our experience at the hotel. Generally, the hotel staff were helpful and nice (despite the miscommunication earlier), and the room looked neat and tidy. However, Saucer mentioned that he thought the sheets felt a little dusty when he slept on the bed, giving him the impression that they were not slept on for a while. Not really sure how true that is, but he could be a little picky when it comes to tidiness. *LOL*

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40 inch LCD TV, table and chairs for our takeaway food

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Sorry mommy has to take pictures before you can crawl around :P

I loved that there’s a dining table and 2 chairs in the room, which was very useful come dinner time. You see, ever since Little J was born, we never have the chance to dine out anymore, because his bedtime is around 7.30pm. So we usually eat at home, or in this case, ordered delivery. The bathroom came with a bath tub, which was essential for me to bathe Little J. He enjoyed the bubble bath tremendously although he did appear amused with those bubbles (we usually use bath oil at home with no bubbles).

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Toilet and bathroom

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Bath tub and shower

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Toiletries

As with most hotels/inns here, tooth brush and tooth paste are not provided, so make sure you bring your own. We had had enough experience of these to remember bringing our own toiletries to avoid making last minute, overpriced purchases. :) There was an ironing board and an iron in the closet, which were useful if you had business meetings to attend to, or if you’re like me, for emergency workaround to dry up clothes. (cue baby clothes wet from drool)

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Ironing board and iron

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Coffee and tea making facilities

The standard coffee and tea making facilities were available, although we did not use any of them. The kettle looked a bit too old and suspicious, so I was glad that I brought boiled water from home for Little J.

I put Little J to bed around 7.30pm as usual, and only then I realized how thin the walls were! The occupants next door must have just returned from their day out for I could hear each of them taking a shower one after another, and the sound of the shower was quite loud. It was as if the shower was just next to us! I was so worried about it waking Little J up but thankfully he managed to sleep through the noise. Still, I could hear them using the water tap every time, as well as their chatter (although I couldn’t make out what they were saying). But this really annoyed me because if the occupants next door were taking their shower or going to the bathroom late at night, we would be able to hear it as well. It was too late to do anything about it, plus if the hotel structure was built as such, there was no point changing to other rooms anyway. So we just had to live with it praying that Little J didn’t wake up every time someone used the shower or toilet next door.

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Yes, now you can have the bed! :)

The next morning, we woke up early (thanks to Little J) and had buffet breakfast at the restaurant downstairs. The variety was quite standard for an Australian hotel – toasts, croissant, bacon, egg, beans, tomatoes, sausages, pancakes, cereal, yogurt, fruits, and the like. I thought the hash browns were gorgeous! They were crispy and fluffy even though they’re left on the serving platter in a huge volume. Usually, most hash browns would have been soggy.

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Where’s my breakfast?

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 My plate

After the filling breakfast, we took a walk outside the hotel. It was cold and misty, as you can probably tell from the pictures below.

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A walk in the morning

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With Little J who’s not so little anymore

Overall, our stay at Ibis Styles Canberra was just decent. It served the purpose of being close enough to the Malaysian Consulate (about 10 minutes drive) and allowed us to rest overnight after the long drive. However, its a little away from the city centre, which limited our dining options tremendously. The closest option was at Kingston but most of the shops there were closed on Good Friday. And, as you can probably tell, I was most annoyed by those thin walls that disrupted our sleep at night. On the other hand, the hotel did have pretty good breakfast and the staff was polite and nice. And it did help that we got the room at a discounted price!

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Ibis Styles Canberra

Ibis Styles Canberra
203 Goyder St,
Narrabundah
ACT 2604 Australia
Tel No.:(02) 6295 2944
Website: www.ibisstylescanberra.com.au

Modern Cuisine Kinn Thai

Ever since Little J started solids, we would usually have lunch out at least once a week during the weekends. It’s just a little easier feeding him solids on the high chair compared to feeding him milk in a restaurant.:) We would normally wait for him to wake up from his morning nap, then steam his lunch of mash potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots and broccoli, pack it in a container and off we go. 2 weeks ago, we decided to have something hot and spicy at a local Thai restaurant. Kinn Thai Restaurant used to be called Red Spoon in Castle Towers, and we heard quite a lot of good feedback from our friends on it. So we decided to drop by on a Saturday, and were pleased to get a table even though the restaurant was pretty busy.

Kinn Thai

Appetizer

We pushed Little J in while he’s on his pram, so one of the waitresses showed us to a table near the corner of the dining area, away from the busy human traffic. However, when I requested for a high chair, she seemed a little taken aback, almost as if thinking why I still wanted a high chair when the baby was already in his pram. Sure enough, she actually said out loud (with a sort of sour face), “Where are you going to place the high chair?” indicating that the pram had already taken the space. So I said I’d push the pram out of the way, so could you please place the high chair here? She reluctantly got me a high chair and we settled Little J in it. That wasn’t a nice start to my lunch, but thankfully she seemed to be the only bad apple I met that day. The next waitress who came was all smiles and served us politely throughout our lunch – refilling our water and entertaining Little J when he started to make noise. So fine, I’ll let it go, Miss Sourface.

Dining in a Thai restaurant is never complete without the customary order of the Tom Yum soup. For us, this soup makes or breaks a Thai restaurant, and sadly, we have never had any memorable ones in Sydney. They are usually not spicy enough! At Kinn Thai, the Tom Yum soup was served in a nice little steel pot that reminded me of how Thai restaurants in KL used to do it. The soup arrived steaming hot and very fragrant. It had 4 sizable and succulent prawns, lots of mushrooms, baby corn and lots of flavour! While this may not be the best Tom Yum soup that we’ve had, it was the best that we’ve had in Sydney. It was spicy, flavoursome and had a nice kick to it. We also loved that the portion was not too big or small, just perfect for the 2 of us to share.

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Tom Yum Prawn Soup (AUD$11.90)

For our mains, we actually ordered out of our comfort zone. Instead of the usual basil stir-fry, or the green or red curry, we opted for the Chilli Kaffir Lime Barramundi listed in their ‘New dishes’ page. It was a plate of crispy barramundi strips, wok-tossed with Thai water spinach (kangkung) in chilli kaffir lime jam. And man, was it spicy! Yes, even for our taste buds, this had a good spicy kick to it, which made me wonder how this would go down with those who are not so accustomed to spicy food. But we absolutely loved it! Saucer was sweating buckets but he kept going for more. Maybe it’s the fact that he loves fish, or the fact that they used kangkung, reminding us of good old Malaysian food, or the awesome fact that their chilli jam was really like our sambal. Fiery and pedas. Just so close to home.

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Chilli Kaffir Lime Barramundi (AUD$22.50)

Last but not least, we also tried the Caramelised Pork Hock, another item in the New Dishes list. There were 4 huge pieces of tender meat on thin, crispy pork skin served on caramelised sauce with chilli and lime sauce on the side. The pork was lean, which I loved, but also soft and moist. I wonder how they did it! And the skin, oh the crispy skin, I wish there was more of it. And the sauce, it’s caramelised, but it’s not overly sweet. It was just perfect with the pork, and with rice too. This was modern Thai at its best, I think. Even though there were only 4 pieces of it, they were generously sized and very filling too, since each piece was solid meat.

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Caramelised Pork Hock (AUD$28)

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Father and son at lunch

While we enjoyed our lunch, Little J was busy banging his hands on the table and looking around curiously at the other diners, at the waitresses, at everything! Every so often, he would scream for attention and then smile when he got it. But otherwise, we immensely enjoyed our lunch there (bar my experience with Miss Sourface). It was nothing like the old school Thai food that we’re used to, but we didn’t mind it one bit. The portions were generally above average so we left feeling stuffed even until past dinner time. We certainly have no qualms returning!

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Whatchu lookin’ at?

Kinn Thai Restaurant
Shop 7, The Piazza Castle Towers,
6-14 Castle St
Castle Hill,
2154 NSW, Australia
Tel No.: (02) 9899 5669 / (02) 8677 9044
E-mail: info@kinnrestaurant.com.au
Website: www.kinnrestaurant.com.au

Red Spoon Castle Hill on Urbanspoon

Yum Cha at Jin Yan

It was a Saturday afternoon, and Little J was up from his morning nap, fed and changed. In other words, he was in a good mood. And when he was in a good mood, mommy and daddy were in an awesome mood! :) So out we went for lunch at Jin Yan Asian Cuisine, using a voucher that Saucer bought. We seldom use group buying vouchers now unless it’s for something that we really like or we know it’s tried and tested. For Jin Yan, it falls into the former category, because both Saucer and I (well, it’s me, really) are suckers for dim sum. Fortunately, booking was a breeze and we managed to get a reservation for Saturday afternoon, which I assumed would be the peak time to go.

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Check out my new shoes!

The restaurant is located in Castle Hills RSL club, and our address happened to be within 5km radius of the club. According to the NSW Registered Clubs Act 1976, we have to be club members to be able to enter the club. Since we only found it out at the entrance of the club itself, we had to quickly decide if we wanted to be members, which cost $22/year per person. We were definitely not inclined to join the membership just for what might be a single visit to the restaurant, and wondered what to do with our voucher. The receptionist then said that she would be happy to let me in if I could get a member, any member, who would be willing to sign us in. So I turned around, spotted the first family I saw, and approached the father. He turned out to be a member and was kind enough to sign us in. So yay! Problem solved!

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Prawn dumplings / Har Kau

The voucher we bought entitled us to 9 courses, starting with the Har Kau or Prawn Dumplings. I thought the prawn dumplings were done well, with thin translucent skin and decent-sized succulent prawns inside. Loved that the skin did not break easily too despite having let them sit for a while since I was feeding Little J his lunch.

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Pork dumplings / Siew Mai

The Pork Dumplings or Siew Mai were also generously sized with bits of prawns mixed on top. The addition of prawns gave the dumplings a succulent crunch on top of the juicy pork within. Oh, did I mention that service was pretty quick too? Once it was made known that we were there on a voucher deal, we were given a table stand with a label “Special” on it. Since then, the dishes came one after another (sometimes too quick), until all 9 courses were on the table.

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Spring rolls

The Spring Rolls were nothing out of the ordinary. They were freshly fried and they arrived hot to touch with crispy skin. The star of the day, according to Saucer, was the Salt and Pepper Calamari. They arrived with a distinctly fragrant aroma and were super crispy! The batter they used was also nicely spiced, making this dish very addictive. In fact, while I was busy feeding Little J his lunch, Saucer finished almost half of this plate. LOL! Good thing the portion was pretty generous, which left me quite a few pieces to munch on after.

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Salt and Pepper Calamari

The BBQ Pork Buns were slightly smaller in size and did not have much filling. The bun was a little too doughy for my liking too, so I thought they could do better with this. The vegetables came as part of the 9-course menu and was worth a mention because we would otherwise not order this on our normal yum cha. The greens were nothing to shout about, in fact, I thought they were a little too matured. So the stems especially, were rather tough to chew on.

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BBQ Pork Buns / Char Siew Pao

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Choy Sum

The Special Fried Rice is a common dish in all Chinese restaurants here, but it’s not so common to find good ones. This was not the best, but it was certainly above average. At least it did not taste like it was scooped out from a tray of pre-fried rice from the morning. It was nicely peppered with bits of golden egg and had 2 sizable prawns inside. I also liked that it did not have the typical chicken breast fillets inside, which is a common occurrence in most fried rice in Sydney. I mean, who puts chicken breast in proper fried rice? Give me BBQ pork anytime! :)

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Special Fried Rice

Oh, now it comes to my favourite of the day. The Egg Tarts! They were absolutely heavenly! The egg custard really melts in your mouth. I have eaten a good number of egg tarts before and when I said the custard melted in my mouth, really I could still feel it being a gelatinous form on my tongue before it dissolved. But this one, I could not even really feel its presence on my tongue because it dissolved almost immediately. It was almost like a transition from solid form to liquid in an instant, and I just loved the feeling of the smooth, silky egg on my tongue. Of course, the pastry did not disappoint. Flaky, crispy and buttery – an absolute yum!

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Egg Tarts – Heavenly!

The last item on our menu was the Coconut Jelly, which was mixed with red bean. This was served slightly cool, so it was a nice ending to our otherwise hot lunch. We were also given a glass of wine each, which I thought was a rather weird combination with dim sum, but it came with the voucher so, whatever. But just let it be known, that dim sum only goes well with Chinese tea, and you don’t need wine for every meal of the day. There, I said it.

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Coconut Jelly

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White Wine

On another note, Little J was a charm that day! He finished his lunch of mash potatoes, sweet potatoes and carrots while we enjoyed our dim sum. I guess he also loved the racket there because he was just laughing and banging his arms on our table the whole time. We had to clear our table on the area within his reach, so most of our dishes were crammed to one side of the table while the other was empty. It was really quite funny. But it was overall an enjoyable experience and a satisfying lunch too. We would certainly not mind going there… now if only we know another RSL member who could bring us in.

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Happy boy having his lunch!

Jin Yan Asian Cuisine
Castle Hill RSL Club
77 Castle Street
Castle Hill NSW 2154
Phone: (02) 8858 4848
Fax: (02) 8858 4881
Email: jinyan@castlehillrsl.com.au
Yum Cha Lunch: 11AM – 3PM

Jin Yan on Urbanspoon

More Milestones Unlocked

Is it April already? Is it just me, or does time fly by when you have a baby? Well it certainly feels that way! Even though I do the same things every day, it doesn’t feel boring or routine like I would have pre-baby. Pre-baby, everything was just so… predictable. Wake up at the same time every morning when the alarm rings, take a shower, get ready for work, spend the day at the office, leave office, reach home, prepare dinner, have dinner, wash up, some TV or social media time, sleep. Weekends? Food-hunting mostly! Movies, dinners, walks on the beach, occasional trips to the coast. Yes, that was life pre-baby, and I have to admit, even though I like routine, I did feel that my life was uninteresting. Fast forward to present, and a small part of me actually misses that predictable routine. Fine, a big part of me. I guess it’s true when they say that you won’t miss what you’ve got until it’s gone.

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Life-changer, this little one

I do miss having my 8-hour sleep every night. I do miss leaving for office and going back home driving at leisurely speed. I do miss having my own sweet time to prepare dinner every day and to experiment with different recipes when I felt like it. Now? I will be very lucky if I get 6 hours of uninterrupted sleep at night. I am normally awaken by the baby even before my alarm rings. I drive to office in a rush because of the extra time I take to fetch Little J to child care in the morning, and I drive back in a rush too, so that I can reach the child care before it closes at 6pm. And dinner is now an express affair with a maximum of 15 minutes spent putting the rice in the rice cooker and whipping up a very simple stir-fry dish or oven-baked dish. I can’t even remember the last time I tried out a new recipe. Don’t even get me started on holidays. What holidays?

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Back when he still had not learnt to stand

On top of all this, there are also the occasional days when Little J gets sick at the child care, and I would have to leave office in the middle of the day, pick him up, bring him to the doctor’s and worry about him until he gets better. Seriously, MOTHERHOOD. It amazes me what motherhood has made me do, things that I’d never thought I could.

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Waiting at the clinic – check out his drool!

Can you blame me for missing my predictable care-free life pre-baby? On the other hand, every day when I go home to see this little bundle of joy, I am reminded of how lucky I am, and how much love I have for this little baby. It makes all the dark eye circles, the incessant yawning during meetings at work, the constant worry of getting a call from the child care at work, worth it. At 8 months now, he is so much more active. I have always known that he’s an active baby because he just wouldn’t keep still even when he was newborn. His hands would always be moving and his legs kicking. And now that he’s learnt to crawl, he is going everywhere! He’s also learning to stand, so he will pull himself up whenever he is able to anchor onto something – a couch, cot bar, TV table, you name it.

Every time I look at Little J, I am filled with pride and amazement, mostly from the fact that I have managed to take care of him full-time on my own for the first 6 months, and more than part-time once I start working. I never thought I could do it, juggling work, baby and housework at the same time, but here I am still alive, albeit exhausted. I really don’t know what a good night’s sleep feels like anymore, but I am sure it will come to me soon. It’s just a matter of time, right?

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Our precious cutie <3

Breakfast at Arthur’s

Finding time to blog is beginning to be a luxury these days, what with juggling work, house chores and caring for baby at the same time! Anyway, I’d hate for my blog to die so I’ll try my best to blog even if it means once a month or so. A few weeks back, Little J was due for his immunisation shots at the clinic so I got him ready and dressed in the morning, waiting for Saucer to come back from his appointment to fetch us all out. Little J had just got better from his bout of fever and cough then, and upon asking the doctor, he advised us to wait for a few more days before administering the shots. After all, there’s no disadvantage for taking the shots a few days later, he said. But we were all dressed and out early in the morning! So what did we do? We decided to drive to a neighbourhood cafe for breakfast. Arthur’s Cafe is a nice joint which we had heard a lot of good things about, but never had the chance to visit.

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Hot chocolate AUD$4

Apparently it’s usually quite packed during the weekends, so we were lucky to get a table right next to the kids’ play area that morning. Arthur’s Cafe is well-known for its good coffee, and the fact that it’s a very kids-friendly cafe. There’s a play area with a train table at the back, next to a rack with books as well as a Lego wall. I’d imagine it would be enough to keep kids entertained at least for an hour or so while the parents lay back and sip their morning coffee and read the papers. Since Little J was still too young to play, he was seated on the high chair next to us, hands banging on the table. :)

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Poached Eggs AUD$9.90

Saucer had a cup of their Cappuccino while I ordered the Hot Chocolate, which came served with 2 marshmallows. Cute! I did not try the coffee but Saucer (and everyone else who tried Arthur’s coffee before) had always had only good things to say about the coffee there. The hot chocolate was pretty good too – rich and smooth without being overly cloying. I am sure Little J would love this when he’s bigger.

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Perfectly done poached eggs

For breakfast, I picked Poached Eggs that were served on English muffins with tomatoes and avocado. The eggs were faultless – they were perfectly poached and very consistent too. Loved the combination of eggs with avocado, and the fact that they all melted on top of the toasted English muffin was a plus. Normally 2 eggs would have made me full for a meal, but these were so good that I wished there were more! :)

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Eggs Benedict with Ham AUD$13.90

Saucer, on the other hand, chose the Eggs Benedict with Ham. It’s only after our orders appeared did we realise that we actually ordered pretty similar items! LOL! I guess great minds think alike eh? :) The difference with his order was the Hollandaise sauce drizzled on top and the additional serving of ham. I loved the creamy Hollandaise sauce that mixed very well with the gooey egg yolk.

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Father and son moment

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Something was distracting Little J

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Now we’re talking! :)

Little J was being very good that morning (perhaps he realised that he had just escaped getting the needles) and had fun hanging out with us. We loved the fact that the cafe was small and  cosy but not cramped. We would definitely return especially when Little J is a bit bigger so he can play with the toys and the trains there. Of course, it helped that the food was splendid too!

Arthur’s Cafe
26 Arthur St,
Baulkham Hills
NSW 2153
Australia
Tel No: (02) 9639 2255