By Leigh O’Connor.
Iconic holiday hotspot Byron Bay lures visitors with spectacular beaches, scenery and surf. Its haute-boho lifestyle attracts all kinds - from A-list celebrities like Chris Hemsworth to Mum and Dad family groups, looking for a weekend getaway.
Whether paddling out for an early morning surf, or refining your yoga techniques at a local workshop, Byron’s appeal seems timeless. Tourist numbers swell during Easter when the annual Bluesfest takes over the town and those attending are spoilt for appetite choice with many excellent restaurants to sample for before or after music dining.
Stroll along Main Beach at dusk on a balmy evening and take in an eclectic cast of characters, celebrating the sunset with drums, dancing and fire twirling. Byron also boasts a vibrant busking scene, so stop on a corner and catch a polished set from a star on the rise.
Chocolate fruit, aka Black Sapote, with coffee and fruit wine at one of Harvest's Wild Harvest Sessions. Photo: @demetreminchev.
When the hunger cravings start, perhaps head inland to Chef-hatted Harvest restaurant on Old Pacific Highway for a mix of historic country charm and urban sophistication. A widespread verandah circles this airy weatherboard cottage, where a stylish bar and rustic wooden furnishing combine to create an inviting setting.
Locally owned and operated, Harvest showcases the region’s fresh organic produce, with dishes such as an entrée of kangaroo tartare, picone capers, finger lime, macadamias and pandanus vinaigrette. Be enticed by mains like Byron Bay pork jowl with beer, mustard and Davidson plum, or Dorper lamb belly, fermented onion and sheep's yoghurt.
Embracing the laid-back coastal lifestyle which is Byron, Jonsons Restaurant Bar is the place to be seen. Located on Jonson Street, this chic restaurant mixes black subway tiles with rose pink walls and contemporary artwork to create a jazzy interior ambiance or choose to dine alfresco on the deck and enjoy warm sea breezes.
Salivate over dishes like prawn bisque with housemade Maltagliati pasta, King prawns, mussels, calamari, catch of the day, shaved fennel and rouille, served with crusty sourdough bread; or Wagyu beef rump with roasted Spanish onions, radish, asparagus and horseradish cultured butter.
Cumin lamb cigars with tangy ginger and tamarind sauce, peanuts and herbs at Light Years.
For a taste of exotic Vietnamese flavours, head to Light Years restaurant on Lawson Street. Showcasing traditional fare peppered with South East Asian spices, this fun and funky venue blends a mix of pastel pink walls and neon rose motif, with pale aqua and brass ducks mounted on the wall, to set a vibrant vibe to chill out in true Byron style. A large sunny patio is ideal for lazy Summer days, while contemplating a refreshing menu serving everything from traditional pho to barbequed lamb.
Tuck into succulent steamed Hervey Bay scallops with ginger and shallots, or Vietnamese cured beef tartare with herbs and prawn crackers, before a fragrant and melt in the mouth turmeric and coconut fish curry, teamed with jasmine steamed rice.
Family-friendly local hangout, The Sun Bistro on Bayshore Drive nestles in a natural bush setting where little ones can roam freely in one of two children’s play areas, while parents relax in the down-to-earth bistro where timber floors and horizontal ceiling beams inject a touch of inner-city flair.
Team an ice-cold beer with a starter of spicy buffalo wings with the Chef’s own hot sauce and blue cheese dip, then chow down on twice cooked pork belly served with creamy mash, fresh greens, apple relish and red wine jus.
The place to be seen in Northern Rivers for a green tea and steamed treat, Red Ginger emporium on Jonson Street was born from a love of Asian food and culture. Now this dumpling house offers a full range of Asian groceries for the home cook plus decorative homewares and furniture.
Like stepping into the laneways of old Shanghai, Red Ginger beckons guests with sights, sounds, aromas and tastes such as Chinese barbeque pork steamed buns, prawn and English spinach dumplings and sticky rice with chicken and Chinese sausage. For a sweet treat try black rice pudding with coconut cream.
A dessert special of mango and coconut panna cotta at The Beet.
A trip to Byron wouldn’t be complete without visiting a vegan restaurant such as The Beet on Jonson Street. With a modern fitout influenced by raw timbers, geometric tiling, exposed metals and hanging greenery, ambient lighting creates a tranquil space to enjoy vegan fare in intimate surrounds.
Kick start a culinary journey with Glasshouse zucchini flowers fried in light tempura batter, filled with ricotta, baby spinach, pine nuts and truffle oil, served on sweet potato puree. Then move onto a main course such as The Beet burger – a beetroot infused soy and quinoa patty on a local organic bun, with tomato relish, roasted pumpkin and housemade sauerkraut, a side of sweet potato chips and vegan aioli.
One of the stalwarts on the Byron café scene, Espresso Head is a hotspot for a caffeine fix and a taste of fresh, organic fare. Nestled on the corner of Middleton and Byron Streets, sit alfresco streetside and watch the world saunter by or cosy up indoors with a cup of specialty coffee blend, teamed with a choice from a seasonally inspired menu.
Think plates such as buttermilk pancakes with blueberries, coconut chantilly cream and maple syrup for breakfast, or perhaps an omelette with chevre, mushrooms and greens on sourdough; while lunchgoers can tuck into the likes of brown rice salad with avocado, raw vegetables, chilli, sesame and tamari dressing.
Enjoy warm weather dining alfresco with the smell of salt in the air from Byron’s oceanfront just two streets away, at Targa on Marvell Street. Inside this contemporary restaurant diners can admire wall mural art of two old locals chattering over a coffee, while contemplating a European-inspired menu.
Build your own breakfast with free range farm fresh eggs, chorizo, bacon, avocado, halloumi, goats feta and salsa verde, or stop by later in the day and delve into beef tagliata with rocket, shaved Parmesan, olive oil and lemon. Dinner guests may be enticed by house rolled gnocchi with roast pumpkin, gorgonzola and sage.
For a culinary indulgence in tropical resort surrounds, it is hard to go past The Byron at Byron Restaurant on Broken Head Road. Foldaway glass walls and lush gardens make visitors feel at peace with soft breezes drifting through an earthy interior of deep brown wicker décor and honey toned timber floorboards.
Embracing a paddock to plate philosophy under the guidance of Head Chef Gavin Hughes, expect offerings such as seared yellow fin tuna with white soy, toasted sesame and tartare of vegetables; fresh fish sashimi, Brookies gin and tonic pickled cucumbers, samphire, salmon roe and Davidson plum gel, or Clarence River pork, with crackling, colcannon and grain mustard jus.
Want to widen the scope and enjoy other restaurants in the Northern Rivers area? Click here for more recommendations.