“Quick, there’s one!”
Mandy indicated what looked like the last parking spot so I eased the hire car in and turned off the ignition.
We had just made the 15 minute drive through the spectacular hinterland surrounding Byron Bay to the tiny hamlet of Newrybar where, Mandy assured me, I would find a dining destination to savour – the Harvest Cafe.
Banks of garden beds growing all manner of leafy greens lined our path to the entrance; a good sign that components of our lunch today would be freshly picked and as lively as the salads I make from my own garden produce.
Standing outside the cafe, a refurbished 1900s cottage, I took in its beautiful weatherboard exterior, wide verandas and large windows.
I love homestead-style buildings and this was no exception.
Despite not having made a booking, the maitre d’ was charm personified as he led us past the cosy fireplace and found us a table on the deck where we could bask in the late winter sunshine while we perused the extensive wine list and lunch menu.
The wine list highlights more than 50 wines, with a great mix of Australian and imported wines.
More than 20 of these are offered by the glass and this made our choice for a lunchtime tipple challenging.
Following Mandy’s recommendation, we selected the Gregoris Soave ($9 per glass) from Venetia, Italy.
My first impression of this delightful wine was like drinking rose petals, but Mandy suggested it was chamomile.
My palate agreed, of course it was, I obviously just need more practice with these imported varieties.
The lunch menu featured an excellent array of fresh local produce ranging from goats’ cheese tart, duck, pork, pasta and three types of fish dishes.
As tempting as it all sounded, the daily specials of mussels in a bouillabaisse-style reduction or scallops on half shell tempted us more and we chose those and added a green salad to share.
My perfectly seared scallops, served on a base of chorizo and topped with a garnish of fresh parsley pesto, were still translucent at the centre, indicating that this chef understood seafood.
Each mouthful was a delight and my concern about the choice of adding chorizo to the delicate flavour of the scallop was allayed from the first bite.
The dish was beautifully balanced with the freshness of the parsley pesto and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
Mandy’s mussels were petite but plentiful and when sampled, I found them tender with a bouillabaisse that did not disappoint.
It displayed all the complexity of a well-designed broth and I noticed that not a drop was left at the end of the meal.
Lunch prices ranged from $19 to $32 with sides about $8 a serve.
The Harvest Cafe creates the most amazing range of sourdough breads from its own wood-fired bakery situated just behind the main building.
These breads are available for purchase from the newly created Harvest Store right next door to the cafe.
The store contains a wide array of local and imported produce ready to set any gourmet’s heart racing.
Western Australian truffles rub shoulders with the imported varieties; local charcuterie complement imported soft cheeses, and the range of coffees all from the Byron Bay area is impressive.
I couldn’t resist buying a slice of the sienna cake, which I was assured was made locally by the restaurant owner’s mother.
We could have stayed longer in Newrybar, but that would have meant cutting short our walk along the beach at Byron and perhaps a swim if the water was calm, so we piled back into the car and vowed to return to Harvest Cafe the next time we were in the area.