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I can't quite make up my mind about Rivers Cafe in Yarambat.
I'm an Eastern suburbs girl, so it was a bit of a trek. And it seems one of the certified competencies of living in the Northern suburbs is the ability to drive undaunted through some of the world's largest and busiest roundabouts.
I arrived in the multitudinous car park nerve wrecked and white-knuckled.
Especially when arrival didn't mean we were there. There was a hub of low-slung buildings with signs pointing in every direction for podiatrists, a councillor, a beauty therapist and even a day spa.
But where, oh where, was the Rivers Café & Providore.
We discovered the hard way that there was no outside entrance. The only access was through the cavernous barn of the plant nursery's gift shop. It brought back unpleasant memories of theme parks -- where the exit is always through gigantic gift shop. That sense of trying to squeeze every last dollar out of the tourists before they can disappear beyond reach.
Eyes straight ahead we managed to find the cafe, with a queue of people all being asked to wait a few minutes until a table became available. Thankfully I had booked in advance, so we waltzed straight through.
Here was another barn like space, but this one was chockas with people. And the noise!
But thankfully we were lead out onto the slightly quieter undercover terrace overlooking the water.
When I say water, this ain't no river. Try dam with scrummilly laid concrete clearly visible around some of the edges.
At least other river cafes in Melbourne live up to their names, such as the Happy River Café on the Maribyrnong River or Riverland, a cafe on the banks of the Yarra.
The bending of the truth got my gander up as I looked out over the water at ducks huddled on a man-made island in the centre of the dam.
I needed a drink.
Things brightened with the arrival of the champagne cocktail. It was a cheery concoction, with a dash of berry syrup and a raspberry ensconced down the bottom ($10). While a bit of a lash out, I needed it.
Some of the dishes sounded interesting. There was River's ploughman's lunch which consists of a pumpkin and cashew soup shooter, balsamic marinated Spanish chorizo, smoked trout and watercress salad, mini Wagu burger on a garlic crouton, with home tomato chuntey, Danish blue cheese and home baked bread ($29). Yes all in one hit.
Or a pan omelette: cheese and fresh herbs topped with tomato and chickpea bake and Lebanese flat bread ($22.50.) Other dishes included fish of the day, lamb cutlets and focccacias. I am afraid there are no fancy names here.
But I continued with the berry theme and had the River signature berry crepes, which were stuffed with raspberries and served with double cream ($14.90).
My companion had the cottage pie ($22). It was made from succulent piece of beef in a rich gravy. There was a crescent of puff pastry on the top, a mound of creamy mash and some bright green broccoli by its side.
Both dishes were beautifully presented.
This was followed by coffee, which was nothing to txt home about.
Paying the bill at the counter I could see where the Providore label came in. All sorts of home-made breads and cakes, plus a few take-home meals were available.
As we were leaving, it was easy to spot what was pulling the crowds. The food here is good. It is beautifully served. I saw some kids having fun feeding the ducks from one of the several duck feeding stations, while their mothers chatted and laughed. It is amazing how much fun kids can have with a $1.50 bag of duck food.
Well, we love Rivers..I imagine it's named after the Plenty river at the bottom of the gorge there. Yes, it's very commercial, but they have had to adapt to stay in business in the nursery department,which is where it all began. This is the country,and it's not always pristine,and edged like the Eastern suburbs. Do you think the vista from Beasley's, or the nursery in Warrandyte by Jumping Creek Road is any better? I believe they have done a remarkable thing there in providing many diverse business opportunites for locals, and so I enjoy dining there on occasions, looking for plants and I regularly attend Pilates classes there also.