It shouldn’t come as a surprise that, with the huge number of city dwellers legging it to Byron Bay and its verdant surrounds, there’s a boon in new restaurants and cafes to cater to them. Three Blue Ducks chose the area for its second outpost in 2015 (and added another recently), and Harvest at Newrybar and Fleet in Brunswick Heads were frontrunners in upping the Northern Rivers’ dining game. Here’s some more worth your time.
Earlier this year, Broadsheet reported that Josh Lewis and Astrid McCormack, the owners of Fleet, one of regional Australia's most-lauded restaurants, made the rash decision to buy a Mexican restaurant in Brunswick Heads. They hoped to launch the restaurant formerly known as Gringos in October, but a pregnancy and first-trimester morning sickness hijacked those plans. Now aiming for a soft opening date of January 10, McCormack says they’re calling the restaurant La Casita, which translates as “small house” in Spanish.
“It’s not Tex-Mex,” she says, “but a more authentic take, with a coastal theme. The menu will be light and fresh and focused around local seafood.”
Lewis visited Mexico in late 2018 to research the cuisine. and McCormack says that it’ll be a much more casual dining experience and “quite different from Fleet”; guests will be able to “wander in for tacos and drinks” (bookings for Fleet are much more difficult to lock down). The northern NSW climate means ingredients such as chillis will come from nearby.
In the second half of this year, the team behind Three Blue Ducks opened its first bar, Locura (the name means “madness” in Spanish). The slick venue is in a former nightclub in the centre of Byron Bay, and although they’ve always incorporated flavours of Latin America (the boys get good use out of the Argentinian grill on their other Byron property, The Farm), they’re making a concerted effort to shine a light on the culinary traditions of Central and South America at their new digs.
This means the cocktails are mezcal-infused and the bar snacks involve tacos, ceviche and corn. A restaurant in the space next door is still in the works.
A former chef from Melbourne dining institute Stokehouse is manning the pass at this new restaurant in the centre of Byron Bay. Opened by Matt Hunt, a transplant from Melbourne, the space has been designed by local Ky Drury and is light, bright and welcoming.
The cocktail list walks the line between classic and modern, offering options such as a spicy punch of lychee, coconut and chilli in a classic Martini. Beers veer local with Byron’s own Fixation Brewing Co and Stone & Wood featuring alongside brews from nearby Burleigh Heads and Ballina. Food is “European share-plate style” using ingredients sourced locally, including salumi, mozzarella and beef.
Every Wednesday for the past couple of years, Harvest in Newrybar, in the Byron hinterland, has hosted Wild Harvest Wednesdays. Wild-food researcher Peter Hardwick spends the day foraging for ingredients and, come evening, the haul would be turned into four-course dinners by head chef Alastair Waddell. The series is so popular it’s been extended to every day of the week.
Each Wednesday the restaurant will launch a new weekly menu featuring native food found by Hardwick, such as coastal succulents, strawberry gum, bunya nut and wattle seed, and sustainable, locally sourced produce. Diners will be able to ask Hardwick questions as they eat.
After relocating to London on the advice of British celebrity chef Marco Pierre White, former Masterchef: The Professionals contestant Bonny Porter has returned to Australia to set up shop in Brunswick Heads, an easy drive north of Byron.
Her restaurant, Bounty, seats 80 and is open all day, serving casual breakfast and lunch during the week, then switching gears to a more refined offering for dinner Thursday to Saturday. The ex-Rockpool Bar and Grill chef is using produce from Palisa Anderson’s nearby Boon Luck Farm, and for cocktails gin and vodka from local distilleries.
While you’re in the area
If you’re passing through Lennox Head, a town 20 kilometres south of Byron, and looking for a good dining option, check out Shelter. Three Blue Ducks alumni Andrew Love and Troy Noonan opened the all-day casual diner in 2017, and it’s big on local produce and native ingredients (such as kangaroo, finger lime and sea greens). It serves Aussie natural wines and quality coffee on the beachfront, with views up and down the coast.
Want more to do in Byron? Here’s another story on the region.