For so many of us, the local cafe isn’t just a source of essential caffeine – it’s a daily dose of connection as well. Feeling part of your local community can raise your spirits and fill your cup – but what about the lovely people behind the counter? In this very special series, we take a look at six beautiful cafes both in Australia and beyond – speaking to the owners and staff to find out what their cafes and communities mean to them, and how they manage to fill their own cups. Next up is Kate Harvey of Brisbane’s Wild Canary – a beautifully botanical space with cakes that draw a crowd…
How long has Wild Canary been open?
We’ve just had our fifth birthday, which we’re all really proud of. We’re nestled amongst established trees and plants in Brookfield Gardens, in the leafy western suburbs of Brisbane. It’s the perfect home for a botanically minded bistro!
What’s the ethos behind Wild Canary – what drives you guys?
Produce and people! The network of friendships within the community is integral to our philosophy – we pride ourselves on building a unified and holistic team, and we love nothing more than when our farmers proudly drop off their beautiful produce with a smile and a chat. We work with the rhythm of nature to create a seasonal, locally and sustainably sourced, produce-driven menu. We’ve built a wonderful community around the bistro, ranging from farmers and artists through to our customers.
The network of friendships within the community is integral to our philosophy
What kind of food and drink do you serve, and what are your most popular dishes?
We serve breakfast and lunch seven days a week, and have recently started hosting bespoke wedding receptions. We’re famous for our cakes that are made in-house and decorated with floral confetti – they’re show-stoppers and have an incredible following on Instagram! One of our most popular breakfast dishes is the Wild Canary macadamia granola and camel milk panna cotta with coconut yogurt, pineapple, passionfruit and kiwifruit. It came off the menu once to much outcry from our customers, so it’s now a permanent fixture! The accompaniments change with the season. People also love our market fish with seasonal accompaniments, and this dish changes every day depending on the best fish and produce available.
Why is it so important to you to source food from local suppliers?
Sourcing local food is one of our core principles. Everything we do is done with honesty and integrity, and we source our ingredients mostly from within a 150km radius. Over the years we’ve built relationships with the farming communities that surround Brisbane – we have a motto that to have great ingredients you have to find the best farmers. We seek out the top producers that follow regenerative agriculture principles, which is known for healing land and community as well as producing quality food. We believe healthy soil = healthy humans.
One of the many really good farmers we’re particularly connected with comes to mind – our dear friends and suppliers Dave and Kay Tommerup, who are fifth generation dairy farmers in the Scenic Rim. We’ve been on a journey with them for many years – we’ve supported them by purchasing their heritage pork and their incredible rose veal on a regular basis, and co-hosted two amazing long lunches on their farm, featuring their amazing produce alongside produce from the region.
We also harvest daily from our own kitchen garden – gathering abundant leaves, herbs, edible flowers and seasonal vegetables. The beautiful kitchen gardens are part of the daily rhythm in the bistro, and you’ll often see staff in the garden gathering produce. It provides a welcome balance to the busy bustle of the bistro!
In what ways do you operate sustainably?
We work with Samford Valley Loop Growers, and each week we take several bins filled with kitchen ‘yields’ separated into fruit and veggie scraps, Allpress coffee grounds, eggshells, acidic scraps and other organic matter out to them. The yields are then used to feed worm farms and chickens, build hot compost piles or added directly to soil. The various fertilisers then feed the microbial life in the soil and in turn grow strong, happy crops. To complete the cycle, we buy the nutrient-dense food grown in this incredibly microbial rich soil. We have a nose-to-tail and root-to-tip philosophy (eg carrot-top pesto, which is delicious!), using surplus or seconds to make preserves. We’ve also eliminated plastic as much as possible, and we’re always finding new ways to reduce our impact.
You’re set within Brookfield Gardens – what do you love about your space?
We have a working kitchen garden out the front of the bistro – what’s not to love?! There’s such a relaxed atmosphere. It’s scientifically proven that plants and greenery are good for your wellbeing, and we can see our customers’ shoulders relax as they walk through the beautiful nursery and up the garden path – they’re ready to enjoy food and company and take some time out. It also provides a wealth of inspiration for the home veggie patch.
Tell us about the community that’s built up around you.
Our community’s hugely supportive and interested in what we’re doing. It’s a community based on true friendships, with farmers and locals, gardeners, and mums and their kids – everyone’s hugely supportive and it feels like a family. We’ve hosted many milestone birthdays and occasions with local families. And dogs! There are always a few pooches about. We’ve also hosted Producers’ Lunches (and now dinners) for many years – these have a cult following and always very well subscribed. Guests have an opportunity to meet farmers and hear their story over dinner. We’re also a collection point for a local food-box start-up, where people can collect their farmer-direct beef, pork, chicken and eggs.
How do you think food and drink serves to bring people together?
Everything meaningful in life happens when people come together around food and drink. When nurtured soil produces food that’s lovingly prepared and brings people together for connection and conversation – that’s living!
How do you fill your own cup?
As a family we cook and connect every night. We sit at the dinner table, enjoy beautiful food and catch up on the day. As the numbers fluctuate between 2 and 20, there’s never a dull moment! It’s one of the greatest pleasures in my day. I also adore my morning swim, being in the garden and walks with my dog, Pip.
What’s your own coffee order?
Long black with cold milk on the side. Allpress of course!