Harvest – Mother’s Day Lunch

Harvest was first recommended to me some years ago when I was lamenting the lack of good restaurants in the Fremantle area (at least back then). I felt a little embarrassed to have not heard of a restaurant that was so well spoken of in my neck of the woods but I could be forgiven; Harvest is nestled unobtrusively on a small street in what was once an industrial enclave in North Fremantle. It may not have a bright, neon-lit street presence that demands attention but on dining at Harvest, you’ll soon wish it could remain one of Perth’s best kept secrets. Harvest’s shell may be an unassuming, olde worlde cottage but rest assured, its innards are pure culinary innovation.

North Freo is now home to a number of über trendy diners, bars and cafes (Flipside Burger Bar, Mojos Bar to name but a few) but Harvest is still a standalone, having well and truly sealed itself as a place to experience excellent food and attracting people from all over Perth. Owned by chef Clint Nolan and partner Miles Hull (both with significant kitchen adventures under their belts), Harvest delivers modern Australian cuisine with twists that don’t hint of pretentiousness. Why basil ice cream? Because they can, and they do it well. Harvest is laid-back and honest; qualities that are present in its food, its staff and rustic atmosphere. It may offer world class food but Harvest’s heart remains firmly in Freo.

So it was with much excitement to rock up to Harvest on Mother’s Day to enjoy a lunch with the family, after a fairly long break between drinks. Harvest was offering a $75 per head lunch consisting of three-courses (no drinks). Our two children were charged half-price (for fish and chips and dessert) which on any other day we probably would have balked at but we understand the need for restaurants to maximise profits per table. On the other hand, given it’s inevitable that a mother may be accompanied by a number of children on Mother’s Day, we couldn’t help but consider the irony of the situation.

We were promptly seated in a cosy corner of the restaurant with booth seats which served us well given our toddler daughter is as yet accustomed to sitting on a chair for two hours or more. The drinks menu is a treat in itself; on top of a good wine list, Harvest offers pitchers of refreshing concoctions to share across the table. I wasn’t seeking a boozy lunch but couldn’t say no to some Bloody Bubbles (freshly squeezed blood orange juice and sparkling wine) to kick off. Simple but most refreshing.

The set menu read wonderfully to me but my husband can be a bit of a food xenophobe and he was left feeling underwhelmed, if not disturbed. The entree choices were cured venison with fennel, rhubarb and chimichurri, or cider braised chorizo with Fremantle sardine, escabeche and apple soubise. The main course was a choice of either four spice ox cheek with celeriac puree and sweet bread, or crispy skin fish with a salad of beetroot and quinoa and finished with a rhubarb sauce. I chose the venison and ox cheek while hubby went with the chorizo (I was on the promise of getting his sardines) and fish.

Entree appeared fairly promptly and timed well with the kids’ fish and chips (before I forget, the hand-cut chips were very good!). Where hubby was disappointed with the use of sardines (which I found to be tasty morsels), the amazing flavours of the chorizo more than made up for it. Smoky and sour with a just hint of heat, we probably could have eaten a whole plate of it. Even Master Six thought it was good and he’s just as much a food xenophobe as hubby! My venison was tender and well complimented by the crunchy fennel and zesty rhubarb. Happy days.

Our only annoyance for the day occurred at this stage with the longer than average time it took for the main course to be served. The restaurant was about 80% capacity at this stage but given every diner was having one dish or the other, I would have thought the kitchen could get things rolling along a tad faster. Were we sans children and partaking in grog, we may not have noticed this time lapse as much but with a tired Miss Two pitching a pencil across the room, we were really keen to get the second course happening.

After politely asking our wait person to give the kitchen a hurry along, we finally saw our lovely mains appear. Even better, a couple of bowls of ice cream also materialised at the same time which kept the children adequately busy. Hubby’s fish looked plump and crispy in all the right places and my ox cheek! A generous chunk of slow cooked cheek sat in a mesmerising, dark chocolate pool of four spice reduction. I did tell hubby that he would enjoy the ox cheek and hopefully in future he’ll just listen to me. He more than happily tucked into a few bites of the almost gelatinous ox meat. The celeriac puree helped balance out the richness of the reduction and the crumbed sweet breads were just a wonderful added bonus to the meal. Happy scale right back up there.

Dessert didn’t take as long to come out for which we were very grateful. Both hubby and I couldn’t go past the chocolate brownies with orange blossom poached pear and licorice ice cream even though the orange & almond cake with olive oil ice cream and citrus mint salad was quite tempting to me also (hubby couldn’t reconcile the concept of ice cream flavoured with olive oil). The brownies were crumbly (but in a good way) and bursting with macadamia nuts. The licorice ice cream was flavoured more like Dutch salted licorice which was a pleasant surprise. The saltiness went well with the sweet brownie. Helping to cut through the sweet and salt was the beautifully poached pear. A perfect end to the meal.

I am happy to report that Harvest didn’t disappoint in spite of the two year hiatus between visits. The staff maintained a good balance between professionalism and laid-back cool so as to make your dining experience comfortable but still on the fine side. The cottage is well laid out and no two areas of the restaurant are the same; you can dine semi-alfresco in either of the two courtyards or sip your drinks in front of the fireplace on some cushy lounges. There is also a private dining room set up for twelve people where Harvest will serve diners their special degustation menu. While there is no massive open area for rambunctious children, Harvest is child-friendly enough to not making you feel like a pariah for deciding to procreate and dine with your offspring.

I’ve read a few reviews suggesting that the food portions at Harvest are modest but I think that’s really up to the individual. On arrival, Master Six did embarrassingly comment on the petite size of our entree (but he may have been distracted by the giant dress plates) but how much do you really want to eat?  I found the entree to be a good size in that it satisfied my hunger but left sufficient room for the main course. The main course was a good size and gave me just enough room to get the dessert in. Normally my husband and I struggle with three courses so we usually sacrifice the entree for dessert or vice versa. On this occasion at least, the three courses were all of a good size. If you require more food to satisfy your belly, I’d recommend ordering up some bread (most notably Harvest’s awesomely good fried corn bread). In terms of cost versus what you get, I think prices are charged fairly. It’s not a cheap eat, but nor are you getting served up tired old pasta dishes and uninspiring cuts of meat for which you could spend the same sort of money.

Currently, Harvest has a special on Tuesday nights whereby you can bring your own drinkies and only pay a corkage fee of $10. Not bad if you want to enjoy a bottle of red from home with your meal before heading off to see a movie. I’ll definitely be trying to organise that in the near future as well as a mid-week breakfast. Harvest presents a pretty mean brekkie that you can kick off with their very own blend of Bloody Mary if you so wish. I’m keen to try out their Huevos Rancheros.

Overall, I would very happily eat at Harvest any time. It may not be the dining experience for everyone, especially if you’re into having wait staff swan around you constantly but I feel the restaurant is about providing you with fabulous food in an almost home-like setting. You’re fed and left to your own devices for as long as you wish. It’s somewhere you feel you could hide away for a few hours and not get that subliminal message to leave once you have downed your fork and knives. Having said that, if waitstaff could be a touch more attentive where clearing courses are concerned, that would be an appreciated improvement.

Verdict: Go and enjoy!

1 Harvest Road, North Fremantle, WA 6159
(08) 9336 1831
Tuesday – Thursday – Dinner from 6pm – Late
Friday – Sunday breakfast, lunch and dinner from 8am – Late

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