Wednesday 13 June 2012

Healesville Harvest Cafe and The Archibald

On the Queen's Birthday holiday this Monday, the Archibald Prize lured us to Healesville.  E drove through winding foggy roads with Kraut Rock on the stereo while I knitted and Sylvia sang "London Bridge is Falling Down". We arrived in Healesville for a spot of lunch before heading out to Tarrawarra Gallery.

My first choice, from my online research, was Mocha and Lime.  We found it cosy and crowded.  No room for us.  This was the first inkling of what an impact the Archibald Prize has on the town.  We wandered onwards and decided Healesville Harvest was worth a try.  It is the more casual cousin of the Healesville Hotel. It was busy but there was space for us.

Brightly lit, it feels fresh and contemporary.  One wall is filled with shelves of upmarket groceries and a large refrigerated display cabinet .  We seated ourselves at one of the old wooden tables of varying sizes.  I queued to place our order.  As I stood viewing the sandwiches, fritatta and salads on offer, I worried that I could see nothing plain enough for Sylvia. 

The woman in front of me started telling me how good the salad was and we struck up a conversation.  She worked at the gallery where we were headed.  Apparently when the Archibald Prize finalists were displayed in Melbourne city years ago it wasn't as popular as it has been in the beautiful surroundings of Healesville.  She also advised that we could order chips from the Healesville Hotel bar if we sat outside between the bar and the Harvest cafe. 

It was too cold to fancy sitting outside in the pleasant beer garden.  It would be lovely in milder weather.  Instead of bar food, I was relieved to find a plain croissant for Sylvia.  E had a ham and cheese toastie.  I took my new friend's recommendation and ordered the spinach and cheese borek with tzaziki and salad, plus a small serving of the sweet potato, silverbeet, chickpea, avocado, and spiced nut salad.  I would have loved some good bread rolls to order with a selection of salads.  The cauliflower salad and grain salad also looked wonderful.

When my meal arrived, my joy at the salad was overshadowed by my disappointment at how little of it my $9 bought me.  All was forgiven because the salad was just so so so good.  Fresh and tasty and full of different textures and flavours.  E also thought his toastie was pricey at $10 but conceded it was rather good.  Sylvia was very pleased with her croissant.  I thought they might have heated it but at least it had some good raspberry jam with it.

We then headed off to the shops to do our bit for the local economy.  Sylvia got a green bird and some pink erasers that she promptly lost.  E bought a horror novel at one of the op shops.  I couldn't resist the fancy goods at the Kitchen and Butcher shop next door to the Healesville Harvest (yet another cousin in the Harvest family).  I bought nigella seeds because I was excited to see they stocked Herbies spices.  I also had to have the wild garlic salt because I am really into flavoured salts lately.  Sylvia chose the packet of "Toffee Apples" - dried apple drizzled with toffee.  I might not have agreed to buy the toffee apples if I had known it was over $15 but they are delicious.

We cut our shopping short to head out to the TarraWarra Museum of Art to view the Archibald Prize finalists.  The gallery is a modern building sitting atop the ridge of a vineyard.  As we arrived, a gentle autumnal sun lit the landscape, glowing warmly on the honey coloured walls of of the gallery.  Spectacular views of rows of vines and mountains greeted us when gazing out from the archways or the generous windows.

We took it in turns to view the artwork and mind Sylvia.  The Archibald Prize is Australia's most prestigious portrait painting prize.  It has a high profile in the mainstream media here.  Yet there is nothing like being there.  I loved seeing the vast canvases, standing close, standing back, noticing each brush stroke, reading the notes.  Then Sylvia would insist we went to see the big bad wolf or Tiny Tim yet again.  I loved so many of the portraits that it was hard to pick a favourite.  The exhibition is on until 8 July 2012.  I highly recommend it.

Healesville Harvest
256 Maroondah Highway, Healesville
03 5962 4002


  1. Sounds like a lovely day trip! $9 is a lot to pay for a little bit of salad even if it was a nice one. Hope the nigella seeds weren't too expensive, I usually buy them from an Indian spice shop for $2-$3. The wild garlic salt sounds interesting, I've been on the lookout for smoked salt for ages but haven't found any yet.

    1. Thanks Mel - your nigella seeds were definitely cheaper but I sometimes don't mind paying a bit more if I finally find the seeds I've been wanting to try and I want to support a local business

  2. Way to support the local economy:) that's so important! it sounds like a great excursion! And the food looks delicious, despite the price tag :/ thanks for sharing your adventure!

    1. Thanks GF happy tummy - supporting the local economy in this way is a win-win

  3. What a great outing - and so nice to be in amongst the thick of the events (even if it meant croweded lunch spots!). It's always a shame when prices are well above what they could justifiably be, but at least the food was enjoyable - it's worse when it's overpriced and doesn't taste good! The nigella seeds have me intrigued too, I'll be on the look out for them appearing :-)

    1. Thanks Kari - it is nice to ride the moment with others - especially like minded others who also appreciate good art and food :-) Funny how I was complaining about the small salad for the prices because today a colleague was complaining about large serves - must be hard to get right in a business!


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