Three Days In Byron
For as long as I can remember Byron Bay held a reputation as a mythical destination, a place of beauty and wonder. Then you get there, or try to get there but there is too much traffic, the streets are filled with dirty hippies and people trying to live an alternative lifestyle, man…. They too flock to the mythical beauty. And then it happens, you chill, swim in the warm water, feel the sand between your toes and you realise Byron is a truly beautiful place.
I first went to Byron as a teenager on a surf safari, I would have resembled one of the hippies with long locks and beaded necklace. We’d smoke weed and get loose. Not much seems to have changed as I ended up in the emergency room, six stitches and a black eye later, I can confirm Byron has the most efficient emergency room I have ever been in. As a guy, you get strange look when you take a bloody and bruised faced girl into the hospital. It was an unfortunate incident of an eyebrow meeting a table introduced by a loose Berkenstock . Babe was not very happy.
Happy to be on tour we were though and this was more a food than surf safari. The Farm At Byron Bay has just opened with the Three Blue Ducks. I’d heard about The Roadhouse and we managed to find some other great food. A couple spots were missed, that happens after a hospital visit, until next time. Doma is at the top of the list when we return, a country café run by Japs doing crazy food, yes please. And The Italian At The Pacific and Folk are also still on the list. If you’ve tried them please let me know what you think.
The Three Blue Ducks have taken their mantra seriously, moving personal to Byron, trips back to Bronte on rotation. Ducks staff tending fields farming their ingredients, it’s a fabulous concept. The set up is much bigger than their Bronte sibling. Most of the food comes directly from the farm. I had a half KG T-Bone steak raised a few hundred meters from where I was sitting. It was a glorious piece of meat, my only gripe is I shared it, must be the quality that had me craving more steak as I only eat half that amount of meat. The bone was mine to gnaw on, my precious…
The Ducks kitchen breaks down their own carcasses so the cut of meat and menu will depend on what’s on hand. Luckily my friends allowed me to try their food. The coffee rubbed brisket is tender and tasty, sweeter than I imagined as the coffee rub becomes a sticky glaze keeping the meat tender and juicy. Served with a slaw with nice acidity and bite to balance the sticky brisket. Snapper and lentils was a daily special I also got to try, light pan fried fish and lentils , to my surprise, this combo works well together and the cream sauce is cleverly at the bottom of the plate so you can easily manage how much indulgence you want on one plate, it’s delightful. And as I’m obsessed with cheeseburgers I had to go back just to sample The Ducks burger, it is sensational, house made bun, pickle, relish, cheese and beef. I don’t know of any other resto that can make that claim. However, I could not get a burger takeaway for Babe, probably too much too soon for the kitchen?
Another stand out in the area is Harvest Café in Newybar, about a half hour from Byron. We could not get a table in the restaurant proper, what make a reservation? We could get great bar food including feta and beet salad with dehydrated olive, grains which added a delicious salty textural element. The house cured charcuterie board included bresaola, salumi and house pickles. There was nice heat from one salami and house pickled carrots and cauliflower, it’s a lovely way to eat, meats on bread. Kingfish carpaccio looked sensational served with micro salad and watermelon radish. It is a good dish but needed more contrast, a bit more zing in the dressing or spices would have elevated this number to exceptional. Simply stunning are the sardine and yes, there from a tin. Sitting in the breeze on the deck of an old Queenslander and eating local produce like this pure pleasure.
Pain and the aftermath of the blood incident Babe needed some TLC so we stayed in. I spied a little hole in the wall pizza joint, cross checked Yelp and Google Maps and got some authentic crisp pizzas from Il Buco. It is the only pizza I’ve had in Byron so I can say, hands down, it’s the best pizza I’ve had in Byron. It is excellent.
The Roadhouse has quickly become a Byron institution. We went for breakfast and I’d heard the smashed peas is a dish to try and of course I had to get the local honey smoked bacon. It’s a giants feed. Served on Paleo nut bread with turmeric pickled cabbage. The sweet smashed peas work well with the local free range eggs and the thick cut salty sweet bacon and the sharp pickle adds balance and bite . I found the Paleo bread a little heavy and very filling, it probably tasted and felt too healthy for me, just give me some old school white bread or leave it for a separate order. The Dood had house granola, it was her first food safari and she said she needed something light, what a lightweight. House made granola toasted crisp, the accompanying yoghurt was delicate and light, the berries sweet and tart. The Coffee here is exceptional. Again, no takeaway bacon and egg roll for Babe.
The best things to do in Byron would be the beach, the hills, visit friends and cook some meat on fire. The water is clean and warm, the sand is so fine it squeaks when you walk. The mountains behind Byron have many waterholes and its worth a visit to find one, you can visit Doma while your looking. We saw friends, ate meat from the fire and watched the sunset from the hills. It is spectacular.
Byron Bay is popular because it is beautiful. Even with a street scape of Subway’s and commercial juice bars Byron forces you to love her. The buskers encouraged by the council, good and bad, the backpacking hordes, the hippies and wannabe’s, millionaires,
surfers and everyone who just wants to be somewhere beautiful to live, make up this gorgeous ocean town.
Where to Stay
Kiah Bliss apartments $500 an night for a modern luxury three bedroom apartment 100 meters from the beach.
Camp in the bush behind the beach
Flights about $220 return from Ballina, Flying to the Coolangatta is also an option, then you get to visit Zepickle in Tweed Heads. You will need to rent a car. Ballina is 30 mins and Coolangatta is 1 hour from Byron.
Drive time to Byron from Sydney is about 10 hours.