Chef prescribes comfort food for lockdown
Toilet paper was the first supermarket pandemic victim, then it was flour. As a nation, it appeared that when we weren't stacking toilet rolls up to the rafters, we were spending our days of isolation comforting ourselves with baked goods, so much so that the country's flour mills could not meet demand and the shop shelves were bare. It's as if cooking bread, biscuits and cake offered a soothing sense of accomplishment and a nurturing of family as an antidote to a world rocked by uncertainty.
And chef PJ McMillan, owner of Fortitude Valley's spacious James St canteen, Harveys, believes that's what people want right now - reliable, hearty meals that deliver a sense of solace rather than surprises.
After initially shuttering his busy restaurant when the COVID crisis kicked off, McMillan is now back offering a selection of his greatest hits as takeaways out of Tinderbox, the pizza business he opened at the back of Harveys in 2013, which will also reopen for 10 dine-in guests from Saturday. He will also throw open the doors of Harveys this weekend to seat 10 guests at a time for breakfast and lunch (takeaways for those meals will be available too) with a private dining room to open Fridays and Saturdays for bookings of 10.
On the takeaway menu, as well as dishes such as the Harveys Asian-accented chicken salad, which has roosted on the menu as an unmoveable favourite for the past 14 years, and Coral Coast barramundi, with sides that will change each week, there are seven pizzas and a selection of booze divided into three categories from cheap and cheerful at $25 to decent booze at $40 and good plonk at $70.
Saturdays there'll be a changing meat special for two, first up it was chateaubriand, then a roasted sirloin with gratin dauphinois, broccolini, red onion and red wine jus ($60).
Ordering is easy. I just rang, paid over the phone and nominated a pick-up time. Parking is no issue and I was able to grab and go with no delay.
On a cool night, risotto replete with prawn chunks and fennel ($22), blinged up with a fine dice of chilli and a hint of lemon is warm and comforting. Similarly, duck ragu with green olives and sage, potato gnocchi and parmesan ($24) is almost medicinal in its charms.
Haloumi-crumbed chicken schnitzel ($24) travels in its own cardboard container, and is generous in size. Pureed sweet potato, a small salad of broccolini and pomegranate and
a little tub of lush salted lemon mayo are in separate containers and are quickly assembled.
The pizzas too: Diavola with tomato, soppressata salame, black olives, mozzarella, chilli ($20) and San Danielle, with prosciutto, rocket, parmigiano-reggiano and fior di latte ($22), are freshly plucked from the wood-fired oven.
The fine apple tart ($12) is just cooked when I arrive, a golden disc of pastry and very finely sliced apple, with small containers of James St honey and creme fraiche and brown butter
ice-cream ready to pile on from separate containers.
By the time I'd driven this lot 20 minutes home to the family and we'd worked our way through the savoury dishes, the tart was past its prime but reheated reasonably well. The alternative, autumn chocolate and pear tart with mascarpone, may have travelled better.
Harveys has stood the test of time for a reason. Service is usually slick and the restaurant is roomy and inviting with indoor and outdoor spaces, and while you could say the food is predictable, that's the point. Customers know exactly what they're going to get, with specials and seasonal tweaks adding variety. Harveys@Home delivers in much the same way. It's ready right on time, handed over with a smile and the dishes are of the same calibre as the restaurant's.
Food 3.5 stars
Ease of ordering 4 stars
Value 4 stars
Overall 4 stars
Prawn and fennel risotto
Collect takeaway from Tinderbox
(directly behind Harveys)
7/31 James St,
3852 3744 to order Harveys@Home takeaway dinner Tue-Sat from 3pm, for collection 5-8pm or SMS 0499 331 564 to order any time until 8pm.
Harvey's also open for dine-in or takeaway Sat-Sun 8am-11.30 for breakfast, lunch 12-3pm, for 10 customers at a time. Dinner Fri and Sat nights in private dining room. Tinderbox also open for 10 diners at a time Tue-Sat.
See harveys.net.au for updates and further details
Originally published as Chef prescribes comfort food