Ashley Hotel


226 Ballarat Rd, Braybrook. Phone: 9317 9257

Like La Morenita, the Ashley Hotel is part of our daily school routine  – so much so that it seems like a case of the more we see it, the more invisible it becomes.

It was on our “to do”, list, however, with the lure of $15 roasts holding appeal.

As we set off on our bikes – Bennie giving his brand new three-quarter machine its first workout – it is the last thing on our minds, with a loose target of Sunday lunch in Sunshine lodged in our minds.

But by the time we get to the junction of Ballarat Rd and Ashley St, we decide that’s enough serious exertion for the day. It’s sunny, yes, but not too hot; and there’s a nice cool breeze helping out. But, frankly, we just can’t be bothered with the whole trek up to Sunshine from there.

We consider the Sri Lankan place just up the road, but decide the Ashley is the go – the final clincher being the big billboard outside talking up $10 lunches.

After locking up our bikes, we meander inside and check the place out. It’s big and spacious, with the pokies hard to ignore but not particularly overbearing in terms of ambiance.

Already, just a touch past noon, there are a number of tables in lunch mode, including some taking advantage of the seniors special offers.

We order – fish and chips for me, calamari and chips for him. Two pots of that Coca Cola stuff ramp the price up to $27 and beyond cheap eats boundaries.

I do the right thing, asking if it’s OK to take photos. “No”, comes the firm reply. I try some halfhearted arguments, but give in graciously – I seriously want to enjoy my lunch. The thought of surreptitiously snapping off a few pics crosses my mind, but I can do without the aggro – or even the potential aggro.

As we wait for our meals, we adjourn to the adjacent Sportsbar, which looks like a pretty cool place to take in a big game, with its comfy couches and bank of telly screens – even if about half of them are showing nothing more than various odds concerning that afternoon’s cricket match at the MCG.

The Sportsbar menu is a little pricier, with likes of chicken parma, burger and rump steak clocking in at $12.

The main menu is far more extensive, with salads at around $15, mains $17 to $24, pan-cooked fish about $22 and grills from $26 up to $32.50.

The usual suspects are available on the kids menu for $8.50.

Our meals arrive and a look of befuddlement accosts our faces.

I wander over to once more take in the large poster, with prominent photographs, that describes the $10 meal line-up. Sure enough, the photos representing our respective meals contain salad offerings.

Our meals are thoroughly minus greenery of any kind, but still OK. However, they look like bare-bones takeaway feeds, which makes the $27 price tag a little galling

Chips, very good.

Fish, modestly proportioned but with a nice crispy batter.

Calamari, a nice sized serve with crunchy crumbed coating, but lacking flavour.

Tartare sauce, whether house made or not I know not, but tasty and a whole lot better than sachets.

As we leave, Bennie points at the poster and says: “Dad, look!” He’s pointing at a narrow strip of relatively small type that runs along the poster’s bottom.

It says, with no equivocation, served with “chips only”.

I have no doubt that the colour scheme –  orange type on a red background – is deliberately chosen so that eyes already diverted by the colour photos above will simply slide past the warning without even seeing it. Bluntly, our meals did not match the large photographs, while the written warning that such would be the case was hidden in plain sight.

There may be bargains at the Ashley, but I figure they’ll take some serious pondering to unearth – and certainly there’s no guarantee that bargains, should they indeed exist, are the “bargains” the establishment goes to such trouble to advertise.

As with the plainly-spoken but slyly camouflaged warning about the lean ‘n’ mean nature of the $10 meals, I seriously doubt that anything about the Ashley – pricing, signage, menu wording, the lot – comes about by accident.

The hotel is owned by the AHL Group, which is 75 per cent owned by Woolworths Ltd, with the balance held by the Bruce Mathieson Group.

They’re in it to make money, of course, and I have no problem with that. But it’s hard to feel well disposed toward it when we a feel not so much like guests or even customers … and more like units of potential profit.

We truly love to love the places we eat at, but when pushed we, too, can bring a semblance of scientific calculation to decisions about where we spend our money.

On the way home, we take the opportunity to have a a quick wheel around Ashley Gardens BIG4 Holiday Village. Wow, it’s really spiffy – lots and lots of real nice looking cabins and units, and a cool pool, too.

I ask the staff if they allow non-guests to use the pool – for a suitable fee, of course.

Receiving a negative answer, I yell out to Bennie: “No go, mate – we’ll have to sneak in at night!”

Just kidding, folks!

Closing in on Yarraville, we stop for coffee at Africa Taste Bar. We know well taking photos is fine with the management, but in this case they oblige by taking one of us.

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