BRUNCH

Great lo­cale, shame about the ac­com­pa­ni­ments

Weekend Herald - Canvas - - CONTENTS - Sarah Daniell

Har­vest Cafe

SET UP & SITE

Google Maps says the trip will take 20 min­utes via the North­west­ern. So we charge off, hun­gry for a change of scene. Hun­gry gen­er­ally. We pull up and find a space in their carpark, and op­ti­misti­cally take a place out­side. But the rain goes side­ways and we head in­side, tak­ing a place at a high bar-style ta­ble with stools. It’s light and pretty in­side. Har­vest is owned by the same crew who have Forester, a restau­rant, and The Chippy (fish ‘n’ chips). This is the ex­alted new kid on the 350sq m culi­nary block called ... River­head Cen­tral.

SUS­TE­NANCE & SWILL

“Har­vest” sug­gests a warm, whole­some lit­tle hub of earthy, bu­colic good­ness where you might find your heart’s rest on a blus­tery Satur­day morn­ing. I’m not sure that har­vest­ing $30 for a small mound of cheese from your din­ers quite fits that im­age of a sim­ple coun­try cafe. The Mas­simo bur­rata, it says on the menu, is made by their friends in nearby Dairy Flat. It’s served with a tamir­illo (sic) and a few nuts. I thought I might get some lovely lavosh, or rye, and some in­ter­est­ing ac­com­pa­ni­ments, a few bits and bobs on the plate, for, you know, $30. But it comes in a small dessert-size bowl with a cou­ple of kawakawa crisps (go to the naughty corner NOW, with your bit­ter lit­tle kale crisp friends who also shouldn’t be seen at the ta­ble) — that’s two green leaves and a cou­ple of great wedges of what ap­pears to be — and tast­ing con­firms — par­ti­cle board. It’s soda bread but so dry and so vast in scale, I de­cide to give it the el­bow and push it to the side of my plate. Ex­cept now I have a ball of moz­zarella, and noth­ing to pair it with. Did I say $30? Well, $29 to be pre­cise, but add a buck for out­rage tax. Both my brunch com­pan­ions com­plain their soda bread is also dry, though Daisy, who is a born diplo­mat, says maybe it’s just a “weird tex­ture”. My sausage side ($5 for one pork and fen­nel) is also dry, un­mem­o­rable and — in terms of prove­nance — if it could squeal, it might say “su­per­mar­ket” rather than hand­made. It’s not burst­ing with flavour and juicy good­ness. Chris has “a pot of steamed mar­ket shell­fish with gar­lic wild herb sauce” (mus­sels, $17, with that bread), and the mus­sels are per­fectly okay, he says. Daisy has the grill ($18) — a scotch egg, which, judg­ing by the small morsel I tried, was lovely and moist, the egg not quite hard. Her ba­con (not free-range, un­like the eggs, but staff say they are “mov­ing that way shortly”) looks like it has been wrenched from the grill be­fore it’s had a chance to crisp and so is flac­cid and pale. The grill (ev­ery­thing is lower case on the menu) is served with “home­made brown chut­ney”, a com­pressed potato cake ... and bread. Daisy’s hot choco­late is great. Chris has a Moun­tain Goat Steam Ale from the tap, which he en­joys ($9), and I have a glass of pinot gris from West­brook, at Waimauku ($12). Cof­fee is Ha­vana, which is usu­ally rich, well bal­anced and strong but here, sadly, it’s not par­tic­u­larly well ex­e­cuted, be­ing wa­tery.

SER­VICE & OTHER STUFF

There’s a bunch of in­for­ma­tive, re­ally friendly wait staff, who, on hear­ing our mis­giv­ings over the bread, apol­o­gised and de­ducted from the bill our cof­fee and hot choco­late. But the staff are not what’s let­ting this place down. I would say this is fairly av­er­age fare at an­other city “Cen­tral” precinct’s prices. Ex­cept it’s not true. It’s just not great value, by any stan­dards. But it is a nice drive.

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