I always feel a certain degree sadness when the weather warms slightly and how with each passing week, I trade my Winter warmers in for thinner cardigans. I do love Winter; every single thing about Winter from the food, to the clothes, to the actual coldness of the atmosphere elates me. (Yes, this is why I had a blast expating in Moscow; hurray for -20 degrees!) This year particularly, I found Perth's Winter to be particularly mild and it didn't help that I having a whole month of 38-40 degree days in Shanghai during July. In all truth, there were only two things that I felt like truly embracing about Spring; my looming final weeks of University (ever!) and Harvest Espresso's Spring Menu.
Some may think that it's a little sad that I would so passionately look forward to a seasonal menu change but I guess I get as excited as fashion enthusiasts do every time a new season rolls in. Food is a big part of my life and always has been, so why not anticipate and celebrate this gift that just keeps on giving?
FRESH RED AND RED ESPRESSO
I came across Red Espresso about 2 years ago when a dear friend and I were having an important catch up over coffee at Moore and Moore in Fremantle. I was rather taken aback as I watched her plunge a shot glass of a dark, frothy mysterious looking liquid into a tall glass of fresh apple juice - what was this strange looking concoction?
Ever since that day, I've been a fan of this caffeine free and delicious discovery known as Red Espresso. In the last year, it's presence in local cafes have shot right up and I like that there's a reliable alternative available when I'm just not feeling coffee. You can read more about the origins of Red Espresso from my tasting at The Little Concept.
In my last couple of visits to Harvest Espresso, the coffee unfortunately hasn't retained it's usual standard. Nevertheless, I've found Fresh Red to be a great alternative and I would highly recommend it to anyone who feels like trying something different along with their breakfast!
It's very light and has a subtle sense of earthiness to it from the Red Espresso - I think completing my 30 Days of #CoffeeOfPerth challenge might also have something to do with my desire for a lighter, caffeine free beverage.
SEASONAL MUSHROOM RAGU
Menu appeal wise, this was the first dish that caught my attention and beckoned a serious tasting. I love the combination of mushrooms with feta and this definitely leapt away from the path that most cafes in Perth undertake when approaching such classic flavours. A ragu for breakfast - who would have thought? Clearly, the Harvest Espresso team have been doing some great out of the box thinking and it's gallantly shown throughout the rest of the Spring menu too.
I'm split right down on the middle when it comes to micro herbs. As a photographer, they look great on camera, but as a consumer, sometimes they can seem like garnishes that just don't really do anything, flavour wise. I found that these little frills can get weedy quickly and it leaves a bit of an odd texture in the mouth. The Goat's Fetta on the other hand, was the complete opposite. It was a very flavourful garnish and tasted distinctly of rich goat's milk. I understand that this may not be to everybody's taste but I certainly enjoyed the flavours.
The general consensus around the table was that it would have been mighty impressive if there was a jenga stack of polenta chips on the board instead. Having said that, the ciabatta is no consolation either - it's crusty, flavourful and probably some of the best I've had around town. It's a joy to spread each slice generously with Lurpak butter and dunk it in the rich ragu.
I was expecting a rich, yellow foundation of polenta to be supporting the mushroom ragu, but after a little digging around, we found a formidable amount of lentils instead. The texture of the dish is quite insipid at first, but as the feta gradually melts and the polenta soaks up the rich mushroom juices, the ragu thickens into a thick, gravy like consistency. The dish as a whole was probably my least favourite of the bunch and it was largely because I'm not a fan of soft, pulpy "porridge" like textures.
We were all astonished when the porcelain pan of golden baked pie arrived at the table - it was definitely larger than the usual Harvest dish and the initial expectations that we had in mind. How could you not be impressed with such a flaky looking pie crust? It looked so generous and much like homemade food done with sophistication and care.
The menu does state that customers should allow for 15 minutes for the pie to be ready - which I never really mind because I like the idea of everything being freshly prepared. The visibly risen layers of crispy, golden pastry was definitely well worth the wait! I also really appreciated the celeriac remoluade which is showcased a wonderful, rich and herby sauce. The creamy, crunchy celeriac was such a winning combination and I couldn't stop dipping my fork into the adorable porcelain pot!
The gravy was thin, but very meaty and flavourful. Despite not being a braised meats person, I thought that the beef cheek pieces tasted great. It was joyously satisfying eat time we got to break open the pastry and the remoulade provided a little bit of freshness and contrast in textures in between mouthfuls. I kind of associate pies and beef cheek with Winter, so I was surprised that this made an appearance in Spring but never the less it was an appreciated, tasty addition. I definitely recommend sharing this one between two or more amongst the rest of the dishes, it's a feat in itself and very worth trying!
It's a rare thing that I'll enjoy a salad when dining out; they're often bland, boring and if they feature any form of meat, it's usually an excuse to use up left over cold cuts or old produce. I was even more skeptical of ordering this salad as the words "poached chicken" don't really excite me - I avoid chicken as much as I avoid salads because it's generally a consistently crucified dish everywhere I go.
Co-Owner of Harvest Espresso, Catherine Tan reassured me that the Harvest Chicken Salad would definitely change my mind. I thought on it for awhile and concluded that if the chicken was poached perfectly and there was enough gribiche on the plate to pull it all together, we would definitely have a winner.
Radishes and carrots are available all year round, so it definitely was no surprise that they featured in the salad but it the beetroot did strike me as more of a Winter vegetable. Personally, I loved the sweetness of baby beets and I enjoyed having them on the plate regardless. I'm a sucker for Harvest Espresso's poached eggs which I've found to be perfect ever since my very first visit and I was sad that they didn't feature in the salad. Perfect yolks make for great salad dressings too!
Honestly, this ended up being a clear favourite for me amongst all the Spring Menu dishes because it was unexpectedly packed with delicious flavours and textures. Catherine was right - it definitely did deliver. It's the salad that I'm wishing that I could dig into right this very moment, with the poached chicken especially being a stand out and I'm elated that finally, somebody has done it right! I'm also impressed with how there was a perfect amount of gribiche to coat every salad leaf without it becoming too heavy; it's a delicious sauce that I wish I saw more of on menus. I know what I'll be having next time I visit Harvest Espresso!
BAKED ALMOND BRIOCHE
Pretty as a picture and after this tasting, it was the dish that I pegged to be the most popular this Spring...and I was right! By 11:20AM on the second day after the Spring menu was released, the Baked Almond Brioche had sold out. It has an amazing wow factor due to the perfectly set, dancing chamomile pannacotta. I didn't mean to play with my food but I couldn't help but to literally prod my pannacotta only to see it enthusiastically bounce and wobble back! I highly commend them for doing the brave thing and not setting the pannacotta in a bowl, it's definitely paid off and probably the most perfect pannacotta I've ever seen.
The chamomile was very mild in flavour, but it was still a fresh, creamy element that was essential in elevating the delicious baked brioche. I liked that there were so many different textures on the plate and some aspects that I even quite couldn't put my finger on until a few mouthfuls in. In short, it's the dish that I don't have to describe extensively. It tastes better than it looks and I'm sure that a lot of customers will really enjoy it.
For those who are curious, I can't really say that edible flowers really taste like anything in particular but they do make for a great looking garnish. The strawberries, like the chicken before it were poached perfectly - there was still some bite in the fruit that went very nicely with the toasty museli topping. I know that last season's Poached Pear French Toast captured quite a loyal fan following and I'm sure that the Baked Almond Brioche is going to have very similar, if not greater effect than it's predecessor.
CHOCOLATE AND SOUR CREAM CAKE
The Harvest Tarts have been evading me in my last few visits too and it's honestly quite a shame - I do feel very disappointed every time there's a missed tart opportunity. I do understand how relentlessly time consuming producing them must be and in a way, it's a good sign that the cafe is growing and growing which I'm always happy to see.
Their other baked morsels definitely are by no means inferior and I've actually managed to venture into becoming a fan of their Almond Croissants, Banana Bread and now, the Chocolate and Sour Cream cake. There's a subtle hint of strawberry coming from the cake itself, which is gorgeous, light and fudgey. Thankfully, the double cream was more of an extra sinful additive rather than a necessity to dull out an overwhelming richness - this was definitely a cake well done!
I continuously have enjoyed how Harvest Espresso are able to innovate and deliver something fresh and exciting every time a new season comes along. The consistency and the unique menu is what keeps me coming back as well as the great service that myself and fellow diners receive every time. I hope that I could share my favourite menu to date with as many locals as possible because I do think that there is something for everyone and that Harvest Espresso deserve every sense of success that keeps coming their way. Good food, done fresh, done well and done right - how much more can you really ask for?