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Byron Shire
March 20, 2023

Living deliberately

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Story and photos by Matthew Michaelis

Poinciana Owner Monique Emilio is devoted to living her life deliberately.

What do you get when you cross The Poinciana, Harvest, and The Bruns Pub?

Apart from some sniggering, you’ll get the usual resistance to change along with those genuine folk who were casualties of teething at the beginning of this new endeavour.

Regardless of how it’s panning out, we now have another eccentric and multifaceted experience to enjoy on our doorstep – The Poinciana (3.0).

To understand the vision new owner Monique Emilio has for this space, you’ll need to empty your thoughts of old Poinciana Café memories. Now, take a deep breath. Are you sitting calmly?

To some, this is how you have to start a conversation about their old haunt. You’ll hear, ‘but we tried it and…’, or ‘I heard they’re getting rid of the tree!’ or ‘it’s so pretentious – I just want to order a hamburger’. Rest easy, nobody is touching the tree; its roots are old, but they’re not going anywhere.

Endowed with a legacy from Mon’s mother who has died, the tree is adorned with optical fibres ‘to bring the tree light’, Mon told me. The fairy-lit Poinciana is an icon and now a tribute to Monique’s ‘free-spirited mother’. Yep, there are no toasties or burgers served here; Mullum has other eateries that already cater to these cravings.

You see, the notion that an iconic place such as the Poinciana is there for the locals is true only in that locals need to like what the place is doing – not what the place isn’t doing. After all, new customers don’t have history; therefore you either move forward or miss out on new possibilities.

Head Chef: Kahlil Parazzo, creating an inspired menu. Fresh local produce plated creatively. Chef Sebastian Baltra is an experienced and sensitive cook.

Because nothing is, everything appears to be.

‘I live my life deliberately,’ Mon tells me.

‘That’s to say I’m responsible for everything I initiate and bring into my life. The Poinciana has always felt to me like it has a female energy and now it has a strong woman directing it. I feel comfortable with where the Poinciana will go from here.

I grew up in a large hippy community, so sharing food and entertainment is what I love and know. In keeping with this, we created a sharing menu and a list of what people love,’ Mon said. A casual courtyard by day and a beer garden by night – check. A kitchen with experienced chefs – check. No plastic, ethical sourcing, cold beer on tap, organic wine, vegan options, talented musicians, free filtered and spritzig water. ‘The list gets longer as suggestions roll in,’ Mon added.

It certainly has a lot to offer: family-friendly alfresco dining and, considering the quality, has a well-priced menu that’s finding its feet with the punter. There’s uplifting entertainment in an airy setting. From 8am, seven days it’s a coffee house serving a nice breakfast and lunch menu. The bar opens all day and is a relaxed evening setting in the latter part of the week. Add ex-Harvest head chef Kahlil Palazzos’s new menu and the joint should be jumping (like the crickets just before they’re served on his slow-cooked pork belly).

Kahlil tells me he was mostly inspired by his ‘hippy’ parents while travelling extensively throughout the world. He’s truly had a grassroots education provided by some of the best culinary masters in Australia. His time working in the Rockpool, Paramount, Hugo’s, Tetsuya’s, Jimmy Liks, Balzac, Pier, Quay and Pilu (to name a lot), has put him in very good culinary shape. With roots down in the hinterland, he worked at the reputable Harvest Café in Newrybar. Now passionate about farm to table, Kahlil appears to draw inspiration from locally sourced produce, promoting farmers with ethical and sustainable practices.

Off the menu there’s a selection of interesting dishes designed for sharing. Heavier dishes, such as prime slow-cooked rib-eye for a comparatively small $28 pricing, top the menu. A generous serving of Yacutan roast chicken comes to table for $24 – I know, right? So, like any good beergarden you’ll find a happy hour, beer and drinks and good live local music. The Poincy is shaping up to be an argument for staying in Mullum or driving back into town when in the past you’d have to hold hands to contact the living past 8pm.

So, co-creating The Poinciana into a destination appears to be a credo rather than a cold-hearted business plan. Could this place be the social hub of Mullum?
The jewel in the crown? We’ll just have to find out, won’t we?

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