Escape Southern Highlands eats at Harry’s on Green Lane in Bowral and chats to owners Maureen and Chris Gardner about how from little things, big things grow.
You know you are doing something right with your new restaurant and outdoor garden precinct when Colette Dinnigan comes in for the first time, and right away puts her finger on your original inspiration, which happens to be located on the other side of the globe.
‘This concept had occupied my mind almost exactly as it is now ever since I first visited Petersham Nurseries in London about 10 years ago,’ says Maureen, a former marketing and public relations consultant.
‘Recently Colette came in, and we’d only just met and were chatting, and she said, “This place really reminds me of a favourite place of mine in London. Petersham Nurseries.” Which was a very nice compliment from her.’
Green Lane is a leafy area that leads to The Potting Shed, which the Gardners opened last January. The place is bursting with fragrant plants, cumquat trees, vintage benches, gates, tables, arbours, bird baths, antique gates and mirrors. All is for sale or simply there to admire or sit on. Green Lane is also home to Harry’s, a wine bar and bistro with indoor/outdoor seating, as well as takeaway food bar Green Lane Kitchen, The Orangery, which is full to the gunnels with plants, gifts and garden sculptures, an outdoor bar with a wood fired smoker, and the recently added Botanique, a botanical boutique inspired by a Parisian flower shop. Sandwiched between Dirty Janes Bowral and Suzie Anderson Home, Green Lane is accessed through original French chateau entrance gates. It’s a bit like entering a fecund, hidden world in the heart of the Highlands.
Chris Gardner, a former Sydney hotelier, looks after the restaurant with head chef Jason Hughes, formerly of Bendooley Estate. Maureen’s love is the garden centre, and sourcing vintage and antique pieces. Harry’s on Green Lane takes its name from Sir Harry Veitch, the famed Victorian horticulturist and founder of the Chelsea Flower Show, who sent a generation of plant hunters across the seas from London in search of exotic plants.
‘There’s a saying, there’s no garden in England that wouldn’t have a Harry Veitch plant in it,’ says Maureen, ‘and that story ties back into the restaurant here too, because all the produce Jason uses may well have been originally sourced by Harry’s 19th century plant hunters.’
Dining at Harry’s on Green Lane is casually charming. There is sophistication, warmth and innate good taste here that no amount of styling can mimic. My dining companion and I sit outside, glass of Marlborough pinot gris in hand, and languidly watch the summer lunchtime foot traffic go by. Chef Jason Hughes puts much store in local seasonal produce, and his dishes are neither overworked or pretentious. I have the lamb loin salad with pearl cous cous, dates, pomegranate, mint and pistachio. The lamb is cooked beautifully, and I love the middle eastern influence. My companion goes for the antipasto inspired seafood piccolo misto with crisp fried vegetables and house tartare. We share the poached pears, mascarpone cream and macadamia crumble. It is delicious unfussy food with fresh ingredients that are allowed to shine in a perfectly delightful setting.
Harry’s is open seven days from 10am for coffee and snacks, then lunch from midday with a bar and snack menu until 5pm. Dinner is served Fridays and Saturdays. It must be one of the prettiest, airiest settings in Bowral.
‘The village feel of the place and the alfresco dining were always very important to us,’ says Chris. ‘Our idea was to transport our guests with an experience that speaks to all their senses.’
‘Yes,’ agrees Maureen. ‘It’s like a little village. The architecture creates a little enclave, and we’ve tried to capitalise on the feeling you get as you come into Green Lane. You could be anywhere in the world. Our dream is to say, ‘Step off the street and we’ll transport you to Lisbon, to Berlin, to London, to a cafe on a Paris boulevard. You don’t need to get on a plane.’
Sir Harry Veitch would undoubtedly approve.