[Tupelo, MS] Harvey's

When we started to research our trip to America, we noted three or four places in Tupelo that might do for dinner. In the event, we booked Harveys for no other reason than it had an online reservation system, which is always the easiest way, particularly if you’re six time zones away. And it proved to be an excellent choice.

We started sharing a plate of “broccoli bites”, which came with a tangy dip. They were a house special and had won a state competition for “best appetiser”. They were pleasant enough and it’s perhaps a bit churlish to say that competition may not have been very stiff that year – not least as, later, our server told us they were being comp’d (as we were first time visitors and foreigners, as well).

Main courses came with soup or salad starter and we both took the house salad, with a lime and coriander dressing. One of us then went with a special – almond encrusted halibut with a rice pilaff. A generous serving of perfectly flaking fish. It was advertised as coming with a beurre blanc but this was pretty much non-existent and, in truth, the plate cried out for a sauce. Pilaff was fine.

The other dish was blackened catfish – a fish we’d not tasted before. It’s quite a mild flavour but the “blackening” gave it a lot of background spice. That was ramped up by the cheddar and jalapeno grits. Now, it’s fair to say that we are never going to be big fans of grits but these were very tasty and were of a good thick consistency.

We both ordered dessert. One was key lime pie – perhaps a little overly sweet and insufficiently citrus. The other was bang-on in-your-face food. A peanut butter chocolate brownie, with ice cream and whipped cream,. All the richness of a normal brownie with the added savoury kick from the peanuts. Really good.

I could do a full 20 minute rant about the style of service you often get in American restaurants. But there’s no complaints here. It was warm and friendly, chatty while still effective, with none of the pushiness and rush that so often characterises the experience. The young woman told us her ambition was to own her own restaurant someday. If given the chance, she’ll absolutely make a go of it as she fully understands the meaning of “hospitality”.

Worthy of note is that the restaurant added an 18% service charge to the check, rather than relying on old-fashioned cash tipping. Good for them.

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold