Set in a busy street of country Victoria hides a warm and welcoming kitchen. Overlooking a toy scattered lounge room, pots and pans are sprawled across the floorboards, providing an extra element of entertainment as you watch the chef dance and stumble around the bench space.
The menu doesn’t vary much from day-to-day. The kitchen is always open and no rules apply about when a meal is served.
Breakfast is usually offered anywhere between 7.00 and 7.45, the first course consisting of two, sometimes three, Weet Bix soggy with soy milk. Once most of the first course is devoured, I say most, as the customer usually throws some of the soggy mess onto the floor below with delight, the sous chef offers toast of some description. In a world of sourdough, ciabatta, whole grain, wholemeal and rye, the chubby faced patron has decided that fruit loaf is his bread of choice. Juicy sultanas and spiced bread, a delicious warm comfort to prepare yourself for the busy day ahead. Finally water is offered and sculled, often too quickly and followed by a choking cough, it is then purposefully spilt over the high chair tray and the remnants of toast and Weet Bix become yet another interesting texture to discover.
After breakfast the kitchen closes for an hour or so until morning tea is needed. Petit fours aimed to please the busy toddler almost always impress. Small biscuits, maybe even a piece of fruit are quickly eaten and once again, with a coffee poured for the chef, the kitchen takes a break for a while.
12.00, or thereabouts, lunch is served. Depending on the produce that has been delivered for the week and the prep time made available for the chef this menu is always subject to change. The feel is usually that of a Mediterranean meze platter, cold meats, melon, fruit and sometimes bread are offered up and grazed on slowly.
When there has been a rare extended opportunity for the chef to cook something in the morning, small fritattas, fritters, pancakes and muffins may also appear on the Discovery Plate. On the rare occasion that the head chef decides to close up the kitchen for the day and go out for lunch, she is usually disappointed to find that children’s options are rarely healthy ones. How can we live in a world where quinoa salads, kale chips and free range, corn-fed, organic chicken are the norm, yet our kids are still only offered processed chicken nuggets and chips or a ham sandwich?
After a relaxing mid afternoon nap you may find that a small snack is in order, a generous serving of lactose free yogurt is then served up, teamed with yet another serving of fruit or partly steamed veg. A delicious and nutritious way to tide you over until dinner.
The dinner menu is usually determined by what the adults in the house are having. If not too spicy the small and hungry human will have a serve of this also.
Spaghetti Bolognese is both a specialty of the chef and a messy favourite for the child. When spice is in order for the adults, yet another varied tasting plate is offered up. Portobello mushrooms cooked with a drizzle of olive oil and a touch of butter are a highly recommended delicacy. Roast pumpkin, broccoli, capsicum and beans also make a regular appearance on the rotating menu. As with all meals the drink list has one option only, water, and what can I say? It is divine.
After a big day of constant eating and making full use of the play areas, all you will want to do is put on your PJs and sleep all night long.
There is something so warm and inviting about the kitchen at Leo’s. Happiness beams from the regular attendants and visitors are always welcome. Yes, the floors are messy, and quite frankly, the small, fluffy-haired man who eats there daily has absolutely no table manners what-so-ever. But all of that is overlooked when you see the true enjoyment that can come from loving your food. The chef keeps it simple, she does not over think it or overwork it. Her aim is not that of culinary awards or new gastronomic creations, her aim is to teach her patrons about food, and give every opportunity for her son to develop a healthy relationship with food and eating. Teaching him that food is both a source of enjoyment and energy. That sometimes trying something new is exciting and, importantly teaching him that food preparation can be fun, something that we, as adults, tend to forget.
*Please note: Lactose free/Dairy free options are only available when eczema is flaring up.