Great locale, shame about the accompaniments
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.