Story & photos Matthew Michaelis
Recently at a pre-Chrissie get-together, I was having a hammer and tong with a couple of locals about their favourite eats. The resounding and loudest recommendation was from a Mullumbimby resident who strongly advised me to partake of a haloumi burger at the Punch & Daisy Cafe in Mullumbimby.
I decided to check it out. I couldn’t track down the person who originally gave me the good oil on the ‘fabulous burger’. It was a frenetic conversation at the Christmas party with a beer and wine chaser. Instead I asked another Punch & Daisy ‘virgin’ along for lunch. The idea was to capture some first impressions of this purpose-built refectory.
My very first impressions of Punch & Daisy could probably sum up the place and its food – super organised and clean – just like the concise and well-thought-out menu here. Clean flavours, house-made wherever possible with some raw foods. When I say purpose built – I mean it; the two running this cafe appear to work together like peas in a pod. They’re a couple expecting their first child. With a family on the way, everything you receive here is not only healthy and easy to eat; it also appears designed to be easy to manage for the proprietors. These guys are a pigeon-pair working the floor and the kitchen of this airy eatery. ‘We don’t do fresh juices because there are only two of us,’ I was happily told. It’s sort of reverse economies of scale I thought, and it’s perfect for a suburb groaning with same-ish items (such as fresh juices). Someone down the road will fill that need. Why sweat the small stuff.
One of the advantages for people moving into this region is that no matter what business you’ve come up with, here you can design it any which way you want, and if you’ve got a commitment to it, there will be a perfect market waiting for your business (within reason of course). So if you thought, ‘not another cafe in town’ as I did when I first saw Punch & Daisy, then you’ll appreciate the refinement of choice here and the civil hours they keep – 8am till 2pm Monday to Friday – ingenious and not too foul for the owners, either.
What about the haloumi burger, I hear you say. Unfortunately it wasn’t available. A new menu was up for grabs and so I went hell for leather ordering over a couple of days a mix of things with the help of my guest on the first day.
We tried the grilled local chorizo and padron peppers with a fried free-range egg, Ligurian black olives, harissa yoghurt, lime and coriander. I had a dish that suited my hunger at the time and a favourite when I’m running a light week; a straightforward and flavoursome dressed avocado served with fresh basil, toasted seeds all sitting on thin-sliced organic caraway rye sourdough. This was an innocent and clean example (just like myself), not trying hard, but as expected. For the former dish I’ll allow its consumer to enlighten you: ‘It was pretty flavoursome and not overly spicy… not a masterpiece, some odd combinations, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. I would eat here again, because I could sit out the back. I loved the veggie-patch setting and when I eat in Mullum, other places aren’t that intimate and some places are completely cramped,’ he explained.
I went back into Punch & Daisy again the next day and ordered the Beluga lentil salad. This was extremely generous while keeping my waist firmly belted. So fresh and full of energetic intention and care. A well-balanced placement of candied and raw beetroot was sitting alongside honey-glazed, lightly cooked carrot chunks, fresh basil, currants and a good garnish of toasted seeds and some shards of shattered macadamia nuts. In case you’re wondering if they’ve put caviar in this salad, then no. The tiny lentils that covered this salad are called Beluga as they have shape and colour similar to Beluga caviar.
I’ve had coffee here and it’s well-made local Moonshine brew. I do drink low-fat milk though, and was told when I ordered here a while ago that they don’t provide it, so I don’t drink coffee here anymore. I’ve had every smartarse barista under the sun tell me that full-fat milk is the shizzel and that low-fat milk makes no difference, but believe me I’ve drunk litres of milk coffee and over the years my belly has told me that it indeed makes a difference. Perhaps I should go black, as my vegan daughter urges me to do. I’m just not ready to give it up for a cause or a barista.
Punch & Daisy is a good place to go if you want to feel clear and not hassled by cramped spaces, overheated staff or frenzied fellow diners.
Punch & Daisy
Monday to Friday, 8am–2pm
Closed Saturday and Sunday
105 Stuart St, Mullumbimby