Melbourne is definitely one of the most incredible cities on earth and not surprisingly, one of my favorites. There is so much to do inside and around this city. Why people keep going to Sydney beats me (plus there is better hot chocolate in Melbourne…more about that in future posts). One of the things that makes Melbourne so fantastic is that there are so many great day trips that you can do within about an hour of the city. One of these day trips is to the Mornington Peninsula.
Melbourne sits at the top of Port Phillip Bay, with the Mornington Peninsula at the bottom, surrounded by beautiful calm clear blue beaches on one side, and the rough but spectacularly beautiful ocean coast on the other. After driving down mid morning we went straight for lunch at the historic Portsea Hotel Pub. At the back of the hotel is a large range of tables all with stunning views over the water, and the food is great. I had one of the best fish and chips I have ever had accompanied by a popular Australian drink, lemon lime and bitters. From here we made our way to the Sorrento back beach to do a long walk along the coast, a must. But the Peninsula isn’t just about the beaches and views. Inland you have all the wine and food you could possibly desire. We made our way to a Strawberry Farm to taste fresh strawberries, and on our way there we passed a range of other farms that were selling or allowed you to pick you own fresh peaches, cherries, tomatoes and even roses. There are countless vineyards to taste the areas popular Pinot wines. We skipped the wine this time and went to Red Hill Cheese instead, one of my favorite spots. For about AUD$2.50 each you can sit on a terrace overlooking gum trees and feast on a small but generous plate of 5-10 samples of cheeses that they make and sell here (today my favorite was a Prom Picnic, a cheese made from sheep milk which tasted like a young pecorino).
After all that walking, fish, cheese and strawberries we decided it was time for a drink, a coffee for everyone else and a hot chocolate for me. By the time we reached Mornington most places were already closed on the main street except La Monicas. We were tempted inside mostly by a sign outside that said you could get a piece of cake with your coffee and provided 5-6 delicious sounding options. We were sold and went inside to sit.The place is quite small but has a lot of character. The walls are a deep purple and are lit up by an interesting skylight. There is a large picture of Juliet’s balcony in Verona, Italy on one wall.
Everyone orders their coffee and cake and I order a hot chocolate. It comes in a large shiny black mug with a sprinkling of miniature marshmallows on the side. I liked that a lot and proceeded to pop the marshmallows in my mouth one by one as if they were peanuts or popcorn. The hot chocolate had almost a 1 inch layer of foamy milk sprinkled with chocolate powder on top which was quite strong so I mixed it into the drink. The hot chocolate itself was fine, and I enjoyed it. It tasted like hot milk with a subtle flavor of sweet chocolate. Northing exceptional but quite enjoyable.
The desserts were all finished within seconds of them arriving on the table which is an excellent sign. The staff here were really friendly. The place is run by 3 “monicas” as the name suggests, Gianfranco, Maria and Juliette La Monica. I think Gianfranco was there and he was going around from table to table speaking to people as if they were close family friends and were eating at his house that night. The menu is mostly classic Italian and what was coming out of the kitchen looked and smelt quite good.
Verdict: I would recomend a day out in Mornington Penninsula to anyone. La Monicas, 67 Main Street Mornington, Australia.