Sunday, 1 June 2008

Harveys Bistro & Bar

I recently caught up with a few of my wine buddies for lunch, and we each brought along a special bottle. The hard part turned out to be finding a BYO restaurant that was open for Saturday lunch. After I had hunted around the internet for a while, it came down to a shortlist of Harveys or Sprout. We ended up going to Harveys because we were all coming from the Northside, and it was the easiest to get to.

Usually I try to avoid James Street like the plague, because parking is always an absolute nightmare. Although I wasn't driving after lunch, I had to drive in, and I ran into the usual parking terrors. I eventually got to lunch 20 minutes late, after finding a park about 10 minutes walk away.

I'd only ever been to Harveys for breakfast before, and that was before PJ McMillan had taken over, so I wasn't sure what to expect. We started off with a bottle of 1996 Bruno Paillard Champagne, which is a pretty fine way to kick off any lunch. It was a beautiful wine, with a few years ahead of it yet. After lingering over a glass or two of the Champagne, it was time to order.

I knew we had a bottle of aged chardonnay up next, so I tried to pick an entree that would match the wine. Entrees on the menu include Jerusalem artichoke tart with blue cheese, date, bitter leaves and red wine vinegar ($18), seafood risotto with chorizo, paprika, chilli and rocket ($19.50) and quail saltimbocca, grilled fig, mustard fruits, rocket and cress salad ($18.50). After a fair bit of indecision, I reminisced about the great tapas I had in Spain and ordered the Jamón serrano reserva, simply shaved with artichoke, rocket and goat's curd ($17).

It was about now when we opened the second bottle, a 1999 Giaconda Chardonnay, which sits in the upper echelons of Australian chardonnay. I know Jamon serrano isn't exactly what you'd call the perfect match with an aged chardonnay, but I love the stuff. Although the Jamon serrano was good, with its amazing depth of flavour, it wasn't as simple as the menu had made it out to be. The artichoke, rocket and goats curd had a tad too much dressing on it, which seemed to be mainly balsamic vinegar. It was a shame, because the dressing took away from the flavour of the Jamon serrano, which should have been the focus of the dish. Personally I would have preferred to have no dressing at all (the menu didn't mention a dressing) or maybe just a touch of good olive oil, which is all these lovely ingredients needed. The goat's curd was divine.

We also had one of the salt & pepper calamari with lime aioli and citrus on the table ($15.90) which disappeared pretty quickly.

After the two great white wines, it was time to open a red before the main courses arrived. We eventually had the waiter decant our bottle of 1992 Bests Thomson Family shiraz, which I was really looking forward to. The Thomson Family shiraz is one of those wines that is very hard to find, even if you are on Bests mailing list. One that's 16 years old is something pretty special. It was of course a lovely aged red, that still had time ahead of it in the cellar.

I knew the shiraz was on the way, so it had to be some kind of red meat for my main course. That narrowed the options to lamb rump with pumpkin, sage, roasted onion, peas and horseradish cream ($29) or the grilled eye fillet with potato rosti, wilted spinach, crisp prosciutto and shallot confit ($34). The mains also included Atlantic salmon with crushed potatoes, sweet corn, bacon, fennel and chive cream ($27) and chicken breast with garlic butter on mash with roasted mushrooms and pancetta ($27).

The lamb rump was good, and a perfect match for the aged Victorian shiraz. So good that I was trying to scrape up every last bit off the plate. It was delicious comfort food.

By the time dessert came around, we had already gone through three bottles of wine, so we decided on just a couple of cheeses ($9.50 for one, $13.00 for two, $16.50 for three or $19.00 for four). There are of course other desserts, like passionfruit and lemon mascarpone terrine with papaya and mint salad and autumn fruit crumble with fresh cream, white chocolate and macadamia ice cream (both $11).

Harveys is licenced and BYO. The wine list is compact, but excellent - exactly how a wine list should be. There is a very well thought out selection of wines by the glass, and the whole list is extremely well priced. Harveys also offers a selection of older vintage wines (which you'll find on the blackboard) that have been carefully cellared at Wineaway.

If you're looking for something other than wine, Harveys have a selection of coffees ($3.20 for flat white) and tea to end the meal, but we decided to wander up James Street to Merlos, and grab a coffee there instead.

Service was a little bit patchy to start with, until the more senior waiter realised we had brought along some pretty decent wines. After that small hiccup, the service was seamless.

If you're heading out to a BYO lunch on the weekend, it's pretty hard to go past Harveys. You can sit either inside or out, depending on the weather, and the restaurant has a welcoming, relaxed feel. Harveys is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

What does all this mean? A relaxed modern bistro, perfect for a weekend lunch, where you can either enjoy the smart wine list, or bring your own bottle.

food bling ratings
Food - Good
Service - Good
Ambience - Relaxed, modern bistro
Value for Money - Good
Wine - Licensed & BYO
Vegetarian - OK

Harveys Bistro and Bar
Shop 4, 31 James Street
Fortitude Valley 4006
P - 07 3852 3700
E -
W -

Harvey's on Urbanspoon


Jackie said...

Sounds like a wonderful time was had by all - after the parking of course! :)

mick said...

He's always late.............

Vj , Messy, Ned, Jacko,Veej said...

My mouth is watering uncontrollably! I started off on your review of Breakfasts and am now onto luncheon at Harveys!! Good to see PJMcMillin is keeping up standards at Harveys (although I too only ever went there for brekkie....