Located among the specialty shops on Healesville’s main street, the Harvest Cafe stands out for its country-kitchen atmosphere and streamline design, making it an excellent place to either linger, or grab a coffee and a quick bite on the go. In 2003 the owners of the Healesville Hotel converted the unused and rather unsightly 1980s bottleshop into a bustling produce store and cafe.
The Harvest Cafe stands right next to the hotel, with shared outdoor seating in the laneway connecting the street and the hotel’s garden. This is a place where locals, visitors and hotel guests alike can sip excellent coffee, order from a small menu dedicated to seasonal ingredients, and receive quick and efficient service. These days the local produce is largely found next door at Kitchen & Butcher, but the focus remains on fresh, seasonal and simple food inspired by what is grown in the Harvest Farm kitchen garden.
A blackboard hangs outside the entrance to the Harvest Cafe, and it is easily spotted from the street. It advertises the day’s specials, local news, and often a sagacious proverb written by the café staff. Inside, the café is adorned with woven baskets, antique kitchen utensils, and farmhouse pitchers, and the walls feature bright colours and local artwork. Large, sunny windows provide visitors with a view of the main street, and newspapers are spread across rustic wooden tables for customers to peruse.
Of course, the first thing that most people notice is the rich, nutty scent of fresh brewed coffee. Harvest Cafe serves coffee from A. Genovese & Sons, a third generation coffee roaster based in Victoria. Their flagship blend is the Genovese Super Brazil, which was crafted to resemble an espresso coffee made in Italy in the 1950s. Harvest Cafe’s expert baristas prepare a wide selection of made-to-order coffee drinks, and the café also has a selection of T2 Teas as well as a beautiful Two Rivers green tea grown just through the Black Spur in the Acheron Valley.
The cafe serves breakfast and lunch, and the food is created with coffee in mind. Working with a team of chefs and managers, Kylie and Michael design flavourful dishes that highlight seasonal ingredients rather than complicated cooking techniques. Having Kitchen & Butcher next door means it is easy to source just sliced smoky ham, perfect prosciutto and a myriad of ripe cheeses. A Harvest Cafe breakfast might include toasted woodfired Fruition sourdough, thick cut Bill’s smoked bacon and free range eggs raised at Toms Paddock in Glenburn. On Tuesdays and Fridays you might even meet Tom as he delivers his fresh eggs and takes back buckets of kitchen scraps for his lucky chickens.
Each morning the chefs bake Harvest Muffins, raspberry and white chocolate or apple, almond and cinnamon. There are flaky croissants stuffed with smoky bacon and gruyere, little frittatas of sweet potato, thyme & feta and bruschettas topped with fresh ricotta, avocado and smoked salmon. From midmorning, the café’s cabinets fill with an ever-evolving selection of freshly prepared sandwiches, salads, handmade pies with K&B relish, and aromatic hot dishes. In the cooler months, slow cooked soups offer a steaming and delicious warm lunch. Harvest salad favourites are Buxton Smoked Trout, Eggs & Green Beans with olives & dill or a Vietnamese Chicken Salad with Mint, Toasted Peanuts and Prawn Crackers and the Harvest Sausage Rolls are always a hit – puff pastry wrapped around pork and fennel sausages from K&B. For something sweet to finish, there are house baked cakes & tarts, perhaps a poached pear & frangipane tart, a meyer lemon syrup cake or Kennedy & Wilson chocolate brownies.
The cafe offers a wine list featuring local, Yarra Valley wines, and it has a by-the-glass menu with three reds and three whites. Customers can also order off the hotel’s wine list, which has won numerous awards, and features more than 300 wines by the bottle.
After a quick bite to eat, leave enough time to stock up on local produce, something for dinner or perhaps a beautiful ceramic or enamel ware next door at K&B. The shop is always very well stocked with teas and Genovese coffee, regional produce, including Cunliffe & Waters Raspberry Jam, fudge, soaps, candles, and carefully selected homewares. It also stocks its own K&B-brand, just pressed unfiltered olive oil, relishes, jams, rockyroad, spiced nuts & granola.
The Harvest Cafe can also cater off site, a picnic at the races, a lunch, afternoon tea or dinner. Offers include charcuterie boards, fresh sandwiches and rolls, harvest salads, warm pots of osso bucco, and platters of finger food, including caramelised onion tarts and Middle Eastern lamb turnovers.