Brimbank Park, East Keilor. Phone: 9336 3909.
By the time we get to the Leaping Lizard Cafe in Brimbank Park, a great appetite is upon us.
Which is just as well, as the only thing memorable about the food is its pervasive dullness.
That assessment is based solely on foodie aesthetics, and as such may seem a little unfair.
After all, our lunch components are all of an edible nature; are not sprouting mould; involve no other critters, alive or dead, than those advertised; and are of colour schemes generally expected with such fare.
Moreover, the lunch is not much different from what have long been standard offerings at park-style kiosks as found in, for instance, Fitzroy Gardens in the city or Queens Lake Park in Moonee Ponds – even if such is not always the case these days.
And, in an odd sort of way, our trio of bacon and egg bagel ($5), ham-cheese-tomato toasted ($5) and chicken-avocado-cheese parcel ($6.50) are a perfect fit for the old-school ambience and furnishings of the Leaping Lizard.
The cardboardish bagel is a tasteless foil for even more tasteless bacon.
The sanger is OK, but also a tad tasteless and lacking zip.
The parcel has a nice cheesy tang, with an avocado presence that is all but subliminal. The accompanying salad bits and pieces are passable, but we hastily hustle the alfalfa sprouts from the plate. The stuff of vego ’80s nightmares!
Our lunch, with a small bottle of Pepsi, clocks in at $20.80.
As well, there are old-school made-to-order sandwiches and cakes/slices available, but nothing – as far as we can tell – more substantial.
It’s all very snacky.
But really, this sort of catering is doing such a beautiful setting a grave injustice.
The cafe building itself is low-slung, lovely and nestled amid trees.
The park, of which we have been oblivious for a decade, is of stunning beauty – as we ascertain in a brief amble around after our lunch.
Brimbank Park was a tip given to us by our mate Keith, at Heather Dell, and it was in the direction of another of his tips that our Saturday adventure commenced.
Heading for Mt Atkinson Olive Grove & Cafe in Rockbank, we are eventually confronted by half-closed and rusty gate, a winding, rutted road and an old homestead with corrugated iron roof warped and twisted in surreal ways.
Neighbours inform us that the whole shebang had suffered severe fire damage a few weeks earlier.
Disappointed, as no doubt Keith will be on hearing this sad news, we consult the Melways and conclude there is still time for a quick dash to Brimbank Park and a meal that can still viably be labelled lunch.
After some frantic driving, a few missed turns and some backtracking, we get there eventually – only to have a lacklustre meal.
Our post-lunch walk takes in just a small portion of the sprawling park.
We check out a pretty waterfall, while on a bluff overlooking the creek a Muslim family is happily enjoying a low-key picnic of their own making – including a gas burner atop which sits a coffee maker.
And I just know, without even daring to ask, that their picnic is a lot tastier and more interesting than our blandola lunch has been.
With a bit of love, imagination and flare, the Leaping Lizard Cafe could be a shining star of the western suburbs.
Any argument that their offerings are simply devised to give park patrons what they want doesn’t wash with me – not in a region of Melbourne bursting with cosmopolitan, multicultural flavours and character.
Meanwhile, Brimbank Park has shot right to the top of our list for places to hang on school holidays – it’s safe, accessible and gorgeous.
We’ll be packing a picnic for our next visit, though.
The Parks Victoria Brimbank Park page is here.
Music: Johnny Lytle – testifyin’ vibes; Howard Roberts – slinky west coast guitar; Stranger Cole – mega-soulful rocksteady.