Grub a grub grub, doggos and hoomans in a tub

Grub Food Van has become our favourite dog friendly dinner place in the last few months. It is a warm, welcoming, funky hippy place, filled with greenery, love and amazingly good food. It is more well known as a brunch/lunch place, but their dinner menu is sophisticated and modern, and though it seems to be a random mish-mash of cuisines, boy do they do it well. And to top it all off, GFV is dog friendly (in both the indoor AND outdoor areas!)

Words cannot describe how unique this place is: The outside area has a weird trailer park feel (most probably walk in thinking they have the wrong address).The floors are covered with plastic middle eastern rugs, the tables and chairs are old patio furniture repainted bright colours, and is topped off with a strange army camouflage leafy netting that envelops the area. Not to mention the singular food van that seems to be ready to receive anyone/anything that might beam down from outer-space at any moment.The inside area isn’t any less strange. I would describe it as a cross between Bimbo (Yes, the pizza place on Brunswick street that is filled with baby dolls dressed up in S&M gear), a garden garage sale from the 1970s held in a greenhouse.

From instagram

Dog friendliness rating: Excellent
Shared space for dogs and humans: Great. As mentioned above, dogs are allowed in both the indoor and outdoor area, so Grub Food Van is good for all seasons. If your dog struggles with hot weather, I would recommend you come when it is slightly cooler in the evenings and sit outside. This is the only dinner place we currently know of that has an indoor dog friendly area.
Personal space for dogs: The indoor and outdoor areas are very spacious. There isn’t much space under the tables, but there is sufficient space between tables and in the surrounds.
Dog loving staff: The place can be quite busy, but the staff are at heart dog lovers.
Dog amenities: Dog bowls and, yes free dog treats! are always offered.
Bonus: The place is also very kid friendly.

On to the amazing food…Grub Food Van’s menu changes often. But so far we’ve have had:
From land
Coconut chicken salad with peanuts, kaffir lime leaf, chilli, coconut dressing: This was a light refreshing dish. A good dish to throw into the mix if you have other heavy dishes
sautéed chicken livers with hazelnut, port poached pear, frisee and queso valdeon salad: This was a standout dish. The livers were cooked well, well seasoned and the accompaniments chosen were perfectly complimentary. A must have!
braised lamb shoulder with Israeli couscous, glazed carrots and bbq garlic chives: The other standout dish in our opinion. Not your typical lamb shoulder, this one is more dark and earthy rather than being tomato based or citrus matched. The crunchy baby carrots done rustic adds the texture balance.
Rustic Chicken pie: Best chicken pie I’ve ever had. Seriously creamy, cheesy chicken casserole filling encased in buttery pastry (not too flaky, juust right!)

From sea
scallop ceviche with lime, chilli, toasted coconut on betal leaf: A refreshing dish, perfect for summer or as a starter.
grilled sardine bruschetta with tomato compote, capers and lemon: I’ve been to some (expensive) Spanish tapas places where they actually serve marinated sardines in the can with a few pieces of crusty bread on the side?! I was pleased when this dish consisted of proper whole small fresh sardines, grilled nicely and served with the right citrus. Good with vino 😉
Assam curry of barramundi with okra & tomato, crispy lentil and fried curry leaves: If you know what Assam curry tastes like, you will be disappointed as GFV’s version of assam curry is neither sour nor spicy. But it is nonetheless tasty with perfectly fried barramundi, served with a thick (from the okra) dahl like sauce. A good dish to order if you want a lighter main dish.
pan seared scallops in curried soup: served in a pool of curry lobster bisque-like liquid gold

From the garden
triple cooked chips with native spice salt and bush tomato sauce: If you watch enough cooking competition reality TV shows, triple cooked chips are often not worth the effort. The chips were decent, but I do still prefer my auntie’s humble par boiled potatoes finished off in the oven with rosemary and olive oil.
– roasted half broccoli with otway shiitake, whipped tofu, shaved broccoli, black vinegar & Sichuan chilli dressing: To be honest, I am partial to any half/whole roasted broccoli or cauliflower, despite how overpriced they are. This is a good main if you are vego/vegan, or a good side if you are sharing. A bit on the fusion side, but trust me – the creamy, tangy and spicy sauce wraps up the roasted broccoli in a perfect red bow.
broccolini with whipped tofu with amazing fried bacon bits

I also hear that Grub Food Van serves some amazing cocktails, so I am keen to go back to try this. And also to explore their brunch food 🙂 It’s gonna be hard to keep away once you’ve tried this place!

Hope you try the place!





Mornington Peninsula for doggos

Our dad was visiting Melbourne for 10 days, a rarity as he usually has a 3-day turnaround. We decided to head down to the Mornington Peninsula. Although my dad and I have made countless trips together down to the Mornington Peninsula over the years, I was particularly excited this time because we had Sarah in tow ❤

We headed first to The Rock in Mornington. Schnapper Point Drive in Mornington is a great stop if you are heading to the more eastern/North eastern parts of the Mornington Peninsula (it’s about a half an hour drive away to e.g. Rye or Redhill from there). The Rock is one of our old favourites because it is semi-open air restaurant, one level above ground, granting diners a great view of the Mornington pier, the sea spotted with boats and a little beach slip. To our great disappointment, The Rock is not dog friendly (I repeat – NOT dog friendly).

But no matter, we diverted our attention straight to Schnappers, a more casual café on the ground floor at Schnappers Point which is obviously much more friendly to people with mobility challenges (to get to the Rock, you will need to climb one decent flight of stairs)  but also very welcoming to dogs. In fact, we met three other pooches when we arrived – a sweet Italian greyhound (all Italian greyhounds are sweet!), a schnauzer and a little white fluffy.

Dog friendly overall rating: Good
Shared space for dogs and humans: As mentioned, a serene, picturesque look out to Mornington Pier. Exposed to the elements – as like most piers it can get pretty windy and the cold air from the South can cut, but if you catch sunshine, it’s bloody worth it.
Personal space for dogs: If your dog needs it personal space, it may struggle as the tables facing the pier are quite close together.
Dog loving staff: They seemed pretty used to navigating doggos.
Dog amenities: From memory dog bowls were available.

The food at Scnhappers: Exceeded my expectations! I had poached eggs and smoked salmon with hollandaise sauce and dad had, no surpise, the beef pie. Both were pretty good for a low key café.


To make most of the day, we decided to head to a winery. Montalto was the first wine-tasting place that came to mind – it has a big outdoors alfresco area where they serve casual food like pizza and the like, with a view of outdoor art work and countryside greenery, ideal for absorbing Vitamin D on a sunny day. Again, not the most handicap friendly place as you have to descend a few precarious sandy steps to get to the Montalto gateway. Halfway down the steps we were gently turned away because dogs are not allowed, but the hostess gracefully ushered us to their neighbouring and sister venue, Tuck’s Ridge.

If possible, the ambiance at Tuck’s Ridge is even better than at Monalto. You have a view of rolling hills of vineyards, a big overhanging tree (complete with a really romantic floating/swinging platform) frames the left side of your view with deck chairs casually dotted across the lawn. The outdoor area is complete with long picnic tables, perfect for a casual but classy setting.

Dog friendly rating: Very good
Shared space for dogs and humans: As mentioned, the view is amazing. Perfect for a lazy brunch, lunch or afternoon tea. Just such a great place to breathe in the fresh countryside air. Exposed to the elements – the space is not sheltered so get your hats, sunnies and jackets out (yup, that’s Victorian weather for you).
Personal space for dogs: If your dog needs it personal space, there is plenty of room at the ends of each table and under each table. If your dog is getting fidgety, take them for a wander around the big grass field.
Dog loving staff: They are true dog lovers, generous with pats, kisses and complements. They are so happy that the owners of Montalto have opened a sister restaurant that is dog friendly.
Dog amenities: Dog bowls available.

The food: Amazing. We had:
– pea and ham croquettes with smoked aioli
– spiced lamb shoulder with preserved lemon and garlic yougurt and
– shaved cabbage, soused onion, mint and almond (and from memory it had raisins as well)

The croquettes were definitely not your every-day croquettes – they were like fried mash potato, silky and almost runny on the inside, the ham was a good flavour punch, and the aioli was nice and rich and garlicky. The lamb shoulder was probably the best lamb I’ve ever had. The honest earthiness of the lamb achieved with the rotisserie was paired brilliantly with the cool yougurt. I most appreciated that the lamb wasn’t overly fatty. The fresh salad lightened the meal as a whole nicely.

I would definitely go back, and have even recommended that a friend hold their wedding there!

We had dinner at Pep’s beachfront (which I think now has been renamed/has changed ownership recently). It is right opposite the Rye Pier, it’s a corner restaurant – you can’t miss it.

Dog friendliness: Not bad
Shared space for dogs and humans: Not great. The space is pretty much right next to the road. Hoomans dine on cheap-ish cold metal chairs and tables (unlike in the picture – as I mentioned, I think it has changed ownership recently). Sits about 4 parties (so you might have to fight with other parties with dogs for a table!). Doggos lie on the exposed concrete floor. It is completely exposed, not ideal as the winds coming straight from the Pier are cutting and cold. We just gobbled our food up quickly and got out of there! Better if you go at lunch to get some sunlight.
Personal space for dogs: Not bad. I brought darling Sarah down to Rye Pier while the others waited for the food. I would highly recommend a wander down – the pier is humble but like many things in life, just beautiful in simplicity.
Dog loving staff: Quite friendly but the main gig is the inside more ‘fine dining’ restaurant.
Dog amenities: Dog bowls available.

From Instagram!

Food: Exceeded expectations! We had:
– The calamari Fritti – yummy, decent serve
– Mussels served in tomato, chilli and parsley sauce: You won’t be able to resist eating this dish with your hands and licking the sauce off afterwards. A big warm-the-belly serve.
– Pasta with peas, ham, mushroom and a touch of cream: Hard to get this wrong, but it did the trick after a long day of touring the MP.
– Diavola pizza (Mozzarella, hot salami, peppers and chilli): This had legit hot, spicy salami. The salami was baked such that it was just slightly crispy on the edges, but still oozing its natural oils (like when you correctly fry chorizo). I was very impressed as the hot salami at other pizza places are usually not spicy/spiced, and either limp & anaemic or too crispy.

From Fran's insta post!

Finally, for lunch the next day, we went to a place which reputation precedes itself – Just Fine Food in Sorrento. I was introduced to the vanilla slice from JFF back when I was in university and I have been in love ever since. Once my dad and I even drove all the way down to Sorrento just to get some of these bad boys! A lot of time we will call ahead to reserve a tray, afraid that the early afternoon tea breakers would result in us leaving us empty handed.

Dog friendliness: Good
Shared space for dogs and humans: Most of JFF’s seating is outdoors. Usually crowded since it’s on the main shopping stretch of Sorrento, it’s a great casual café for breakfast, brunch, lunch or afternoon tea. The outdoor area is pretty basic, rough concrete style, complete with basic tables and chairs under umbrellas.
Personal space for dogs: There isn’t much space under the tables and the tables can be quite close together.
Dog loving staff: JFF is always busy, so the staff seemed more tolerant rather than friendly.
Dog amenities: No dog bowls available.

The food: My favourites are the vanilla slice (described above) and the passion fruit sponge (it is so light and fluffy!). We also had:
– curried egg sandwich: The relish was a bit on the sweet side, but the sandwich was still tasty. This was under the ‘Seriously big sandwiches’, but I think JFF underestimates my appetite!
– Cous Cous Roasted Pumpkin salad: This had yummy giant Lebanese cous cous (great texture with just enough give). Fresh, filling and healthy.
– Chicken and avocado sandwich: Can’t go wrong with this either!

Other doggo tips: We found out that doggos are not allowed on most beaches during the summer daylight saving months – a big big pooh bear!! But I found out from a friend that Somers Beach is a dog friendly beach (I believe it is on the non-bay side of the Mornington Peninsula).

All in all the great trip down to the Mornington Peninsula – I hope with the above you are more confident about the area and will bring your doggo down for a day trip or even an overnighter.

To more adventures with Sarah!



Gold at the end of the rainbow

Those who have read our post ‘Dogs and brunch’ would know that Fran was on the hunt for a furbaby to call her own. On her fourth visit to The Lost Dogs home, she meet our now darling Sarah. It was not love at first sight, but it was love at first walk. Fran describes how she fell in love with Sarah when Sarah was so gentle and calm on their first walk together. And the rest is history.

Since then, our darling Sarah, a 7 year old rescue greyhound, has become the love of our lives and the center of our universe. We try to bring her wherever we go, which has led to a search for dog friendly cafes, restaurants and parks.

High on our list is The Rainbow Hotel in Fitzroy not only because it serves amazing food that doesn’t break the bank but it also is an ideal shared space for humans and dogs.

Dog friendly overall rating: Very good
Shared space for dogs and humans: A bright, clean and casual outdoor beer garden area, “closed off” such that you are shielded mostly from the harsh Melbourne winds. The space can accommodate at least 10 parties.
Personal space for dogs: Complete with decent sized picnic tables (each fits around eight people and a pooch on each end). Ideal if your dog needs a little more personal space.
Dog loving staff: In abundance. The staff at The Rainbow Hotel must have been trained in yoga and/or acrobatics judging from the way they navigate over and around the doggos whilst juggling food and drinks.
Dog amenities: Dog bowls are scattered across the beer garden area, self service style.
Human bonus: Pool table in the beer garden!

So onto the food…

The Rainbow Hotel has an extensive menu and an ever changing specials board. To date, we have tried:

  • The 300g porterhouse steak complete with sides ($16 dollars on steak night Wednesdays): Amazingly tender and juicy steak, straight up just the way we like it, complete with silky smooth mash potato and the most amazing mushroom sauce (though you can choose roasted garlic butter, red wine jus, chimichurri, peppercorn sauce instead) plus one other side. Such good value on steak night Wednesday.
  • The epic chicken parma: It’s hard to find a chicken parma with the right thickness of chicken to ham to Napoli sauce to cheese ratio, and accompanied by a crispy but not mouth ceiling cutting crust, and awesome side of chips an salad. But you can find such an epic chicken parma at the Rainbow Hotel, not to mention it is a massive serving as well.
  • Vegan dairy-free mushroom pasta (a special of the day): Fran rarely ventures into the vegan arena, but she did on this instance. And she did not regret it. The sauce was smooth and creamy made up of blended cashews. The mushrooms were aplenty as well.
Chicken Parma, Porterhouse Steak and Vegan mushroom pasta

Fran’s excellent photography!

  • Blue cheese beef pie: Mat ordered this. He is a man of little words, but he did say that it was goood.
  • Marinated lamb rump with eggplant and yogurt (a ‘regular’ special of the day): Tender and juicy (yes, just like the steak), full of flavour, middle eastern style.
  • The oxtail stew (a special of the day): This is the dish that kept Fran coming back for more. It was a melt in your mouth, rich saucy stew that came with south American dumplings. She froths as she recounts eating this every time.
  • Sausage ragu pasta (a special of the day): Decent pasta, full of herbs and flavour.
  • Tandoori fish complete with spicy pickles and vegetables (a special of the day): Fresh fish cooked well with a slightly tangy marinade – just another example of how The Rainbow Hotel is a master of all cuisines.
  • Iraqi black pepper chicken (a special of the day) with pomegranate salad: Such a unique dish which Fran describes as a black pepper crab (Singapore style) but on a chicken. I know that sounds weird but she swears it is good.
  • Spicy kungpao cauliflower: Fried battered cauliflower dosed in kungpao sauce – interesting!
  • Seared tuna salad (fish of the day): The portion was a little small, but it was light and refreshing.

I personally am dying to go back for Steak night, the chicken parma, and to taste another one of their big selection of non-mainstream beers on tape with our dear darling!!

And just in case you were unsure, the gold at the end of the tunnel is of course our dear darling Sarah ❤

With love from

britt and fran