Change can be hard, especially when it comes to something well loved. But change is not bad, especially when it brings opportunity and renewal.
Monique Emilio, new owner of Poinciana, is conscious of how changes to this iconic cafe are perceived, especially in relation to the tree from which the cafe takes its name. ‘Nothing has been chopped down,’ she notes. ‘We simply removed an awning, so the outside area is lighter and brighter.’
There is an addition to the tree: Fibre-optic lighting, modelled on the Avatar movie, has been installed by local lighting expert Ricardo Lorenzini. ‘It is soft, white light,’ Monique explains. ‘I wanted the most ambient way of creating atmosphere.’ Another local artist, Oliver Buckworth, was engaged to create something that would inspire imagination. The result is a striking ‘sinking pirate ship’ sculpture.
Monique has been local to the area for nearly 20 years but her accent gives her New Zealand origin away. She has worked in hospitality for 25 years and jumped at the chance to take on the Poinciana when she heard it was for sale. ‘I think they liked the idea of a weathered female publican taking it on,’ she laughs. She is keen for Poinciana to retain its family-friendly reputation – the sandpit may have gone but the vibe remains.
Other changes include a revamp of the kitchen and menu as well as sourcing coffee from Paul Basset, a Byron Bay born-and-bred coffee roaster (for more on Paul see www.echo.net.au/caffeinated-competition). And, the name is Poinciana. No The and no Café. Just Poinciana.
What won’t change is the music. The outdoor stage remains and the tradition of live music will continue, with the first gigs already underway.
For Poinciana, change is perhaps less hard than many regulars feared. Certainly the water dragons are still around and, of the regulars, Monique is pleased, saying: ‘People have said they can see we are keeping the best bits’.
Kahlil’s in the Kitchen
Poinciana’s new chef, Kahlil Perazzo, brings his experience in the Sydney fine-dining scene to combine with his passion for local and organic foods.
The menu has been devised after extensive perusal of local markets and discussion with farmers. ‘The produce should speak for itself,’ says Kahlil.
Local produce will be showcased, including native greens, sea vegetables and the often-disregarded sea mullet. ‘It is a good-for-you oily fish, locally sourced,’ enthuses Kahlil, going on to explain how, when cooked well, is also very tasty.
Kahlil will also draw on his multicultural origins for inspiration. He was given his Arabic name by his ‘hippy parents’, who also inspired his travels around the world, including to his father’s country of Brazil.
There will be an ‘element of theatre’ in how some dishes are created and presented, such as the ‘pulled mushroom’ (cooked like pulled pork) and the ‘vegetable coals’ (root vegetables dyed with squid ink, complete with decorative ‘ash’). Share plates will take up one section of the menu. Standard breakfast options will also be available, as will kid-friendly options.
• Poinciana, 55 Station Street, Mullumbimby
Open 7 days from 8am
Dinner Thursday, Friday and Saturday