Sunday 13 July 2014

Waterfront Kitchen, 2 Little Birds cafe and Zen Bakery, Geelong

With some birthdays and school holidays, we have spent a bit of time recently eating out in Geelong.  In most cases I have been pleasantly surprised at the vegetarian options.  Over the past decade, Geelong has developed some cosmopolitan eating spaces, especially in Pakington Street and the waterfront.  Today I will share with you a couple of snacks at small cafes in the suburb of Belmont and an impressive lunch at Deakin University's Waterfront Kitchen.

Let's start with our lunch at Zen Bakery in Belmont.  This is a nice space with a fairly basic menu of sandwiches, foccaccias and pies and pasties.   I enjoyed a vegetable pastie but barely made a dint on the huge dish of chutney.  Sylvia's order went awry and she was given a vegemite and cheese sandwich rather than a toasted cheese sandwich.  She loved the white bread and wanted some of the cute flower shaped biscuits.  Zen also sells loaves of sourdough bread but I wasn't sure what bread was at my parents' house.

My family has raved to me about 2 little birds so I was pleased when my sister Fran suggested afternoon tea there.  It is far bigger than the small door off Roslyn Road would suggest.  Inside the door is a shop area selling clothes, homewares and jewellery.  Through the back is a gorgeous cafe.  A large table sits under a huge chandelier in the middle of the room, while around the sides are tables and benches with cushions and quirky touches like a ceramic cow's head on the wall.

The cakes were really interesting.  Sylvia immediately decided upon the raw strawberry cheesecake ($8.50) and I had trouble deciding between the raw hazelnut chocolate cheesecake and the gluten free dairy free chocolate cake ($6.50).  I went for the latter and loved it.  (I was curious to know what nuts or flour was used!)  Sylvia wasn't keen on her cheesecake.  I liked hers but it was quite rich and not quite as smooth as I expected.  The sweet potato and lentil soup also sounded great.  It was good to catch up with Fran and Paul, and Sylvia had a lovely time with her cousins, Stella and Grace.

The next day after a fun swim with more of Sylvia's cousins, my dad took us to the Waterfront Kitchen at Deakin University's waterfront campus.  It is housed in the old Dalgety's warehouse (top photo) between the city shopping precinct and Corio Bay.  I remember going to a National Celtic Festival there in 2000, presumably before Deakin took it over.

The cafe is spacious with high ceilings hung with white cloths.  I assume these are to dampen the sound, given that it was not that noisy considering how crowded it was when we arrived.  (The below photo was taken at the end of the meal.)

There is a cafeteria service and a waiter service area.  Sylvia had chips, as usual.  My dad chose soup from the cafeteria but I was tempted by the pumpkin fajitas ($18.90) on the menu.  My dad's soup arrived last and he thought it might have been forgotten as it wasn't piping hot.  However it was nice that there was no problem about serving us from both areas.  And he enjoyed his soup.

My fajitas had chipotle roasted pumpkin and mexican rice on two corn tortillas, topped with corn chips, cheese, peppers, onions and sour cream, with some guacamole on the side.  The pumpkins weren't large chunks with some chipotle powder on them but not as tasty as I had hoped.  The meal as a whole, though, was very filling, interesting and satisfying.

I am always fascinated by university buildings and I think it is great that the cafe opens this old warehouse to the public.  There are also some spaces to just sit and read or relax.  Geelong, like Melbourne, has moved towards a greater appreciation of its waterfront recently.  If the weather was fine, I think I would enjoy sitting outside the cafe and looking across the road to the Bay.

I was quite full after my meal.  Sylvia and my dad were up for an ice cream despite the cold weather.  We walked across the road to the ice cream van and bought chocolate covered soft serve ice creams. Even in the chilly afternoon the soft serve melted quicker than Sylvia cold eat it.

There is a great playground opposite the Waterfront Kitchen.  Young boys were scrambling up to the top of a pyramid rope climbing frame.  Sylvia preferred the water dragon and the swings.

I really like the little memorial to the Poppykettle.  It was a book that everyone seemed to know in Geelong when I was young though I can't remember if I ever read it.  I think I liked the name and the little people.  As an adult I find it quite fascinating that they are Peruvians.

We parked at the edge of Cunningham Pier.  This pier dates back to the 1850s but in recent times has been the home to New Year's Even celebrations, Smorgy's restaurants and planning proposals.  I know the name there but don't think I have ever ventured down the pier.

Finally we also wandered past some of the iconic bollards that give the waterfront colour and history.  They are always a delight to stumble across.  In fact the Geelong of today delights me far more than the Geelong that I knew as a child.  Even despite all the job losses with the closure of Ford and Alcoa, there is still a lot of vitality about the place.

Zen Bakery
153 High Street, Belmont
Tel: (03) 5244 1488

2 Little Birds
46B Roslyn Road, Belmont
Tel: (03) 5241 2726

Waterfront Kitchen
Deakin University Waterfront Campus
Western Beach Road, Geelong
Tel: (03) 5227 8641
Waterfront Kitchen on Urbanspoon


  1. HI Johanna,
    I love when you take us on these family excursions. It gives me a feel of your surroundings and morsels of food to think about. My son is going to England in October and has invited me to go along. I'm really thinking about it so, we'll see:)

    Thank you so much for sharing, Johanna. Of course, I'd love to visit Australia one day too:)

    1. Thanks Louise - a trip to England sounds very exciting - can I come too :-)

  2. All 3 places look great and I love the sound of the raw chocolate cheesecake. What a lovely weekend to spend with family

    1. Thanks Katie - I must go back and try the raw chocolate cheesecake some time

  3. love the chandelier. and what about that chutney? enough for a family of four:)

    1. Thanks sherry - I wish I had a huge room where I could hand such a chandelier - it was amazing - and I think even someone more into lots of chutney than me would have struggled with that amount

  4. It sounds like you've had some really lovely outings, and explored new aspects of Geelong as well as old. I particularly like the sound of 2 Little Birds (I would have wanted all of the cakes you mentioned!) but as I also enjoy university buildings, think it's great that Deakin has a public friendly area.

    1. Thanks Kari - visiting the new deakin campus was really interesting - I occasionally visited the waurn ponds campus as a student but the waterfront one is new to me and interesting at how central it is - I think the cafe is a nice way to really invite the public in - especially as it is on the edge of campus rather than having to weave through a labyrinth of buildings as with some other campuses. E didn't come down with so I hope to return to 2 little birds and the waterfront kitchen with him (he has been to zen before)

  5. Thanks for sharing all of these interesting places to eat. I am totally in love with your photos of the Geelong waterfront, especially the Poppykettle and the bollards.

    1. Thanks Cakelaw - the bollards are such a great addition to the Geelong waterfront - there is even a walk you can do to see all the bollards, and I was really pleased to see the poppykettle because I remember seeing it at its old location but didn't know it had moved.

  6. I really like raw cakes but when the texture is really smooth, especially cheesecakes. What a fun family day out :)

    1. Thanks Lorraine - I feel like I see many more raw cakes online than I taste so I was interested to taste this one but I think I prefer raw cheesecakes smoother too. Must go back and try more to see what others are like there.

  7. Geelong sounds so nice. I love the little cafés and the waterfront is beautiful. It's nice that they have a fair amount of veg options too.
    That chocolate cake looks so good!


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