Tropico

Lately, much of my time has been taken up with holiday planning – poring over maps of central Europe, planning breathtaking stops in the Austrian Alps, hunting down perfect lakeside cottages and learning all about the whimsical wonders of Germany’s Romantic Road.  Combined with trying to save money for the same trip, going out to eat and blogging about it has taken a bit of a backseat in my life lately. A girl can’t live on home-cooked meals forever though (as good as they might be) so a couple of weekends ago I packed into the car with my girlfriends and we motored our way up the Mitchell Freeway to cafe hotspot Tropico. This bright, airy cafe set one street back from the beautiful North Beach has been on high rotation on all forms of social media lately, serving up all manner of visually perfect grub and we wanted to see if it lived up to its picture perfect reputation! 

Walking in at 1pm on a Saturday, the place was jam packed. A relaxing coastal vibe inside contrasts with the frenzied crowd outside – the muted decor with its simple, clean lines has a calming effect on a busy space. It still feels fun and upbeat though thanks to some splashes of colour here and there from the cushions and greenery.

(Picture: Tropico)

Walking in, we found the greeting process a little strange as we stood in front of a staff member who was texting for a few minutes with very little acknowledgement. The reason the texting became apparent when she let us know it was about 20 minutes for a table, and that we could register for a text when the table was ready. A great system, but possibly could be handled a little better – when we got the text to come back there was confusion about who to see and still a 5 minute wait for the table by the time we had worked that out. Once we got seated in the patio area though all qualms were forgotten, as we got stuck into the menu and started getting inspired by all the beautiful food coming out around us.

The menu is varied, in an ‘I don’t know how I am going to choose just one thing on here’ kind of way. There was snacks, there was raw food, and a ‘small things’ menu with share plates, sliders and tacos by the single serve (great for those who can’t decide!). There was also a small offering of larger plates, and the most delectable dessert menu (stay tuned for that one!)

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Due to a lot of indecision at the table, there was way more food ordered than three 20-something girls should really consume in one sitting. But we have never been one to let full tummies get in the way of good food, and chowed down eagerly on battered sweet potato chips with sour cream and chives ($9), tacos (pork belly, grilled pineaple sherry glaze slaw; and roast chicken with mac and cheese; $7.50 each), sliders (slow cooked moroccan lamb, tatziki; and soft shell crab, spiced batter, iceberg, cassis mayonaise; approx $9), and nachos with roasted corn, cured ham, cream cheese and coriander ($12).

It’s hard to pick a stand out from this bunch, but if you forced me to choose it would have to be the mac and cheese taco – I am sucker for that carby combo! The sweet potato chips were a great bargain and tasty to boot, and I also really loved my tender lamb slider. From all accounts the soft shell crab slider tasted as spectacular as it looked as well. I should note that the gluten free slider came on some pretty sweet GF bread, and that it was all washed down with a very nice glass of chardonnay.

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After all this food, there was nothing left to do but to do a quality control check on the dessert menu. Doughnuts with chocolate hazelnut sauce ($14) were screaming out my name, and after they landed on the table I was SO glad I answered the call. Soft, springy, sugary dough was mind-blowing dipped in the hazelnut sauce, and if that wasn’t enough there was a sweet caramel surprise in the centre of each doughnut. Speaking of surprises, sugar covered hazelnuts were a welcome addition as well.

Not much to complain about on the other side of the table, with a massive bowl strawberries (poached and fresh), aged balsamic and eaton mess ($14) sitting there looking like the perfect sunny-day dessert. The tangy strawberries cut through the layers of cream, and topped off with a little sprig of mint it was perfection in a jar.

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I would definitely go back to Tropico in a heartbeat, to try more of their delicious offerings (potato gnocchi with walnut pesto anyone?) and the fabulous cocktail list. Although the service was a little hit and miss at times, the quality of the food and the vibe of other patrons enjoying their meals meant we had an absolutely fabulous afternoon. A must visit if you’re in the northern suburbs!

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