In Short: Top flight coffee, and inspired, locally sourced, plates served in a bright, inviting space. It’s a little piece of city café sophistication with a welcoming country charm.
When us coffee-obsessed folk find ourselves beyond the range of the city’s hipster café hot spots, it’s not unusual for a bit of specialty coffee separation anxiety to creep in. Today we’re on a run back from another foodie mission in our other spiritual gastronomic home of Melbourne, and the craving for good food and top notch coffee leads us off the well-worn Hume Highway and into the bright and welcoming space of Highlands Merchant.
Smack bang on Moss Vale’s main drag, Highlands Merchant is an invitingly eclectic café that would just as easily fit into the backdrop of Sydney’s Rose Bay or Mosman. Highlands Merchant has one advantage over its big city counterparts; access to the rich food basket of the Southern Highlands. Priding itself on sourcing its premium, seasonally sensitive, produce from local growers, Highlands Merchant hand crafts its plates with an eye on honest flavours. This simple, yet sophisticated, approach to café fare has obviously hit the mark with locals as we’re lucky to snag the last table in this crisp, clean, and inviting environment.
With wafts of the Allpress extractions chasing us to our table, the order for a cappuccino is with the barista even before we slide our finger down the menu’s enticing selections. The cap is exceedingly smooth without a hint of burn or bitterness. The barista clearly has his frothing skills honed, as the silky top only magnifies the richness of the brew.
The Cajun Spiced Roasted Chicken Breast brings our brunch to life with vibrant greens crowning succulent, spice encrusted breast medallions. The pop of the mango, lime, and pineapple salsa mingles perfectly with the sweet tang of the pickled onions and the chicken’s Cajun seasoning. Top it all off with a toss of marinated feta, and it’s a plate that satisfies and refreshes.
Roasted Pumpkin & Rhubarb Salad fills the next bowl with a bed of beluga lentils and bold chunks of gorgonzola. Like the Cajun Spiced Chicken Salad, this plate is all about combing textures and flavour profiles that lift each other. Season it all with strawberry balsamic, shallots, smoked salt, and you arrive at another health focussed bite that makes you feel good for eating it, and maybe a little less guilty for ordering one of Highlands Merchant’s treats!
It’s a rainy day outside the big front window, and the cozy space means that it doesn’t take long for a comforting mug of hot chocolate to loom large over the empty plates of our table. Highlands Merchant have sourced their chocolate blend from a local family run chocolate artisan and the richness of that craft is evident. The creamy smoothness and depth to the chocolatey goodness is exactly what’s needed to brave the weather outside and put a little hop in our step for the rest of the drive back to Sydney.
Highlands Merchant should be proud of itself for creating a space that not only draws locals and visitors in with delightful décor, but delivers on the promise of quality, local flavours that showcase the region’s best.