The Byron Shire is a delicious food bowl brimming with an abundance of fresh, locally grown produce and talented cooks aplenty. While the front gate of the region is the Farmers’ Markets, the front door is the bounty of good places to meet, drink and eat. Even our new Woolies is fabulous! Whether it’s of south-east Asian influence or riding the Mexican wave there are flavours galore. Famous diners Harvest and Rae’s get better each year. Do try something unusual while you’re here and be mindful of public holiday and Sunday surcharges when planning your dining adventures. Be sure to visit Bay Grocer for all your pantry needs and grab’n’go treats, coffee and home essentials. Below is a list of my favourites.
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Great food and service at Barrio which has become number one fave as it’s at Habitat and the Bende studio and F45 studios are upstairs. The menu is set around the mighty charcoal grill with Argentinian-born chef Francisco Smoje at the helm of the fire delivering richly flavoured fare with smoke and spice in every bite. Vegans and vegetarians fear not, the sensational menu has plant-based choices that are as good if not better than the meat. All perfect for sharing for 2 or a table of 20+. Opens early for that pre/post gym/barre class coffee from Mon-Sat. breakfast and lunch, dinner Wed-Sat – and be sure to check social media for special events. No bookings. Catch the Byron Solar Train for an unforgettable experience.
Beach Byron Bay sits on the small cliff over Clarke’s Beach with sweeping views over the water, rain, hail or shine and just a few metres wander down to beach. The Italian influenced menu gets better and better as does the service. With one of the most enviable restaurant views in the Byron Shire this venue is a must-do for breakfast, lunch or dinner. There are sunset cocktails available daily and a terrific kiosk near the entrance of the restaurant, perfect if you’re wearing sandy feet and a sarong. I look forward to the next decade as Beach rides one of the nation’s finest dining waves. Read review
Looking for a healthy spread for your breakfast, picnics, antipasto or cheese plate? Then pick up Black Betty Bam She’s a sultry, smoky, salty and rather sassy umami bomb that’s full of plant-based goodness, essential fatty acids and gluten free ingredients. $17.95 + courier delivery Australia wide Shop Online
Stone & Wood opened their new brewery just before Christmas next to the Ozi Go and across from the new Silver Phallus (that’s anther story). Here you can grab a tasting paddle and enjoy delicious eats like this Ploughperson’s platter and super tasty chicken kariage, perfect beer swilling tucker. The canteen menu is designed and prepared by our mates at 100 Mile Table who have opened Bay Grocer (formerly Green Garage) just a chop, skip and a jump away for the my HQ. Yes I am as happy as a dog with two tails about this news, thanks for asking!
Friday Hut Dining launched at the end of the year in the old school on Friday Hut Road. Creative food and excellent service made for a memorable long table degustation. Joseph Griffin is devoted to local produce and his food is intricate, beautiful and a joy to eat. FHD is a dedicated function venue for weddings a plenty and offering degustation menus when not catering.
Opened naturally with a bang a few months ago. On our first visit was as rowdy as a riot and as dark as the devil’s lair so be sure to pack a flashlight and an ear piece. That said, the food is good, sweet and salty, the way the tourists like it so the joint has been heaving across the holidays. Fragrant curries are complex, full flavoured albeit a little wet so order starchy sides to mop up, and the betel leaves, larb and Moreton Bay bug buns delighted us all. Think Chin Chin by the sea, take my tip and go mid afternoon for tasty snacks and peaceful sips if you’re the nervous type. @bangbangbyronbay View map
If ever a town could be grateful it would have to be Brunswick Heads. As if Fleet wasn’t enough happiness for this local fishing town, Ethel Food Store arrived in 2018 bursting with goodness, take home treats, ready to eat meals, sangas, pastries and fresh bread. Pick up a jar of Black Betty Bam while you’re there and stand by for the spicy La Casita where Mexico meets middle Australia, burning a hole into your heart imminently complete with freshly grown local jalapeño and habanero.
If the mere mention of a mung bean has you packing your bags out of Byron faster than a mouse in a macadamia plantation then rest assured there’s something for everyone at No Bones and all of it’s vegan and all of it’s great. Gone are the days of textured vegetable protein and long live the days of clever seitan steaks and konjac masquerading as calamari. I promise that your parents won’t know it’s vegan if you don’t tell them. Make no bones about it, the rise of plant powered restaurants when infused with a cosy non clinical fit out, full table service, concise wine lists, inspiring cocktails and decent glassware are here to stay. (web image)
This handy brand new temaki shop rolled into Byron Bay earlier this month. Super fresh, made to order and oishii. For a very limited time there’s a $5 special opening special. Heavenly rolls, handmade from traditional to spicy on trend JapMex varieties. Up the end of the arcade by The Balcony on Lawson Street, where Girl Overboard is on the corner.
Always heaving with hungry hipsters, the Byron Bay General Store, formerly Mac’s Milk Bar on the Bangalow Road, offers a range of local products to buy, ubiquitous smoothie bowls, hearty toasted sangas and a terrific Tradie’s Box for ten bucks with your choice of chicken or tempeh. Only in Byron eh?! Image source
Two words: Table service! Tucked away on Childe Street adjacent to the rowdy and fun Tree House, The Belongil is a reliable cafe for tourists and locals. Friendly table service even on the busiest of Sunday mornings. Lots of dogs to meet en route to the beach out front. A varied menu full of many choices and some outside the norm. A specific request for the Gado Gado on the breakfast menu to be served without eggs, and satay on the side was no problem at all on a hectic weekend. Served with a side of cold pressed juice made for a spot-on post yoga pick-me-up.
This luxury hotel spa destination is family-friendly and boasts beach access to our beautiful bay. The $25 per head for the cold breakfast buffet is one of Byron’s best kept secrets and for an extra tenner you can have a hot breakfast choice, locals and visitors welcome. If you’re a house guest you might enjoy crab doughnuts and a glass of French rose by the oasis that is the massive swimming pool. On a staycation last year this transported me to far flung destination memories without leaving my postcode. Or you might fancy pool hopping over to the new adults only pool complete with swim up bar, Summer Salt. What ever floats your holiday boat, there’s plenty for all ages – and the Osprey Spa and conferencing facilities are world class too. @elementsofbyron View map
This hipster cave is the place to be if you like your beard on and your skins on too. That’s Pete in the picture who stems from the famous Krinklewood family in the Hunter Valley and he knows plenty about making natural wine. Krinkledwood led the charge since I began teaching organics nearly two decades ago and their wine would accompany many a feast at my Melbourne Food & Wine Festival food tours and cooking classes. More than 50 wines punctuate the list and most of them are vegan. You’ll find this rebirth of very friendly cool and very tasty tapas in Bay Lane where DUK once paddled.
Finally we have an authentic Enoteca in Byron Bay. A wine shop where you can drop in for a glass, a small plate or larger fare. The wine list is resplendent with Italian varietals both local and imported drops. The menu includes a vast selection of antipasti, to pappardelle with wild boar rage and dessert menu includes a chamomile anna cotta with pineapple, amaretti good value for just $12. This brand new wine bar will heave in summer, so go early to eat well. Bar opens until 11.30pm
At Byron Bay Cooking School, national and international events our inspiring team teaches participants to embrace all things healthy in hands-on private and corporate workshops. With amateur chefs to discover the secret to our food as medicine philosophy, classes deliver an experience like no other. Promising to leave participants aglow with abundant healthy recipes and lifestyle tips to take home, our events are a must-do for those seeking food for the soul.
In a town where smashed avocado or kale is the breakfast norm, 100 Mile Table dishes up the most refreshingly nourishing breakfast in the Bay including a heart-warming, gut healing congee in cooler months, this is Byron’s chicken soup for the soul. Whatever the weather, Sarah Swan’s food is lovingly created and dispensed by her team – the perfect pick me up on any day. As is the mighty fish curry pictured, usually on the menu. Sensational events from formal fancy to pop up, and if you’re lucky, co-owner Jeremy Burn will regale you with great cheer. @100miletable View map
Combi has won the hearts of Melbournians and Byronians alike. The fun-filled, wholesome and honest tucker is dished up with great style and soundtrack. The nurturing nature of the proprietors coupled with their eye for design make Combi the leaders in this town for healthy food. There’s plenty of choice for workers, surfers, mums, kids and yogis. Look out for Bow Wow when you visit – you can’t really miss her! Woof! @wearecombi View map
Home to my Byron Bay Cooking School events, this resort has just open the new dining room and bar – and what a triumph it is! There’s plenty to chose from here whether it be Happy Hour, Farmers’ Market dinner on Thursdays, exclusive gastronomy events, personalised spa treatments or you might be lucky enough to stay a night or two. One of the region’s premier events destinations, the resort is constantly booked for conferences, weddings and makes for the perfect media famil location. @thebyronatbyron View map
When our friends at Brookfarm announced they were building a distillery on the macadamia farm amongst the rainforest they have lovingly regenerated over decades, we all cheered ‘You Bewdy’! Little did we realise just how grand scale the project is. With a whole lot of awards already in their swag for Brookie’s Gin, CBD is a must do tour of the region, and of course there’s plenty of tipples to taste. #webimage @capebyrondistillery View map
The journey to Fleet is like sailing to a home you never knew you needed until you arrive. Astrid and Rob will typically welcome you in like the long lost Odysseus and Josh will dish you up a banquet on request like no other you’ve ever tasted. Above is brain-snapping celeriac with bottarga. Another memorable standout dish was a manicured, plump fillet of sardine, salt cured and steeped in vinegar was served with wholemeal sourdough and Fleet’s cultured butter. Fleet is an indelible signpost in our Australian culinary history as it redefines how we eat and drink. Worth the wait if you’re booking in advance and worth every cent. @fleetrestaurant View map
Once upon a time, a shabby beach shack lived on the roundabout headed out to Cabarita Ocean Health Retreat, where I was Head Chef for a few years. The old Hideaway Motel has undergone such a transformation to become Halcyon House with its feature restaurant Paper Daisy. Chef Ben Devlin’s relaxed food embraces local and native ingredients and is brilliant. The Miami-meets-Montauk-meets-Martinique decor makes this my favourite restaurant in all of the land. Book for Sunday lunch and then pop into Fleet on the way home if you’re coming back to Byron. Drop in for breakfast, coffee, bar menu and cocktails most days. *This restaurant is technically in Tweed Shire. @paperdaisy View map
My love for a certain dish in our local pub is well documented. Imagine half a roasted, semi-boned, crispy skin chicken with tarragon butter, chats and greens and you’ll soon know why this is my non-negotiable, feel good food. All the comfort of home with a restaurant touch makes this Byron’s best pub tucker, and at around $24 bucks, it’s a bargain! Go for Friday night raffles if you’re keen to win the meat tray, go for the free live music seven nights per week, or go for the great food. Just go. @therailsbyronbay View map
Bursting with fresh Asian flavours Foxy Luu’s is an easy going, welcome addition to Byron. Nestled in the not so glam Woolworths Plaza, you’ll be transported to a micro hawker stall here. Lots of different dumplings and buns to choose from, coconut based salads and jumbo rice paper rolls on offer. @foxyluus View map
From fragrant pho to banh mi you’ll find it here at the very new Light Years. Ensconced in what was once the dingiest outdoor ‘dining’ area around, Light Years has installed the most delightful garden that will make you want to sit and sip all day. 12 hour broth for the pho and a terrific wine list including a bottle of French fizz for $85 is sure to be winner amongst locals and tourists alike. @lightyears View map
The site at 111 has undergone many a makeover in the 10 years I have lived in Byron Bay. Over a year ago it reopened as Jonsons, resplendent with a well needed overhaul and now shines with new space and the air of a familiar place where the locals can gather and the visitors meet. On a review visit I devoured a small plate of the most tender calamari I have ever had, so good that I ordered a small plate of crispy duck breast. Excellent. Jonsons is a short stroll from my home, with great food, good wine, tap beer coupled with a lovely sunset street vista – what more could a local want? $15 pasta nights on Tuesdays too! @jonsonsrestaurantbar View map
At last we have some authentic Malay food to write home about like this not-so-humble Rendang, a culinary chameleon that varies in technique and flavour from region to region. This is my all time favourite dish and while most people sadly know poor concoctions of a wet curry loosely based on Sumatran recipes, this authentic Malay Rendang uses different spices and is beautifully laced with kaffir lime. A rich, dry coconut curry as thick as velvet with flavours smooth as silk needed nothing else. You’ll love yours with roti or coconut rice however. A bowl of heaven here in Byron. All hail the mighty Rendang King of Curry!! @tasteofmelakabyronbay View map
Everybody loves a good dimmy. What I miss the most about Melbourne is Chinatown, Quan88 and the Supper Inn, so if you’re yearning for that yum cha feeling visit Red Ginger for a quick snack of grab ‘n’ go dumplings, or sit and take your time with complimentary jasmine tea, then wander around the store and collect a few ingredients to make your own at home. Gorgeous gifts, homewares, tea selection and so much more. @redginger View map
On the Byron back road to Sunrise, manning the entrance to a caravan park you’ll find the good Folk. After four years this humble cafe is evolving beautifully and is thankfully more Malibu than macrame these days. There are kitchen garden planter boxes and a fresh feel to the deck and outdoor areas. The edible flowers are blooming and the menus slip out of old album sleeves. Cute. The Rolling Stones are playing and the food is seasonal, local and mostly organic. What’s not to love? @folkbyronbay View map
My friend Sarah knows a thing or two about crisp and crunch. So much so that she was finally enticed to go-pro with her secret cracker recipe and the local market cheered! Byron Bay Crackers are savoury crackers that are handmade in small batches. They hand roll and hand cut each cracker before baking them in the oven to crispy perfection. #crackeron See also Sarah’s Byron Bay Food Review #webimage
From a white elephant to pink llama love the SSB has transformed this cafe site that has had hit and misses since it was built. As an Italian pizza and pasta diner it was terrific yet no longer. Today it is brimming with artisan loaves – the white, the brown and not all glutinous. For a catering event recently our guests and crew were overjoyed at the dozens of perfect ciabatta ordered at very short notice. There is something for everyone here and all of it’s good. Open 7 days a week 6am – 5:30pm.
The above are my current favourites with more to come, and you might also like these great places….
Bay Leaf 87 Marvell St, Byron Bay
Beach Hotel 1 Bay St, Byron Bay
Byron Fresh 7 Jonson St, Byron Bay
Doma Cafe 3-6 Albert Street, Federal
Fishmongers 9 Bay Ln, Byron Bay
Fishheads 1 Jonson St, Byron Bay
Harvest Restaurant 18-22 Old Pacific Highway, Newrybar
Kinoko (sushi train) 7/23 Jonson St, Byron Bay
Milk and Honey Mullumbimby 5/59a Station Street, Mullumbimby
Miss Margarita 2 Jonson St, Byron Bay
Mrs Birdy 19 Beach Ave, South Golden Beach
Orient Express Eatery 1/2 Fletcher St, Byron Bay
O-Sushi (sushi train) 15/90-96 Jonson St, Byron Bay
Rae’s On Wategos 6-8 Marine Parade, Byron Bay
Safya 1/8 Fletcher St, Byron Bay
Sparrow Coffee 1b Byron St, Byron Bay
St Elmo 22 Fletcher St, Byron Bay
Table View 30 Mullumbimbi Street, Brunswick Heads
Thai Lucy 2/4 Bay Ln, Byron Bay
The Balcony Bar & Oyster Co. Jonson St & Lawson Lane, Byron Bay
The Mez Club 4/85-87 Jonson St, Byron Bay
The Northern 35 – 43 Jonson Street, Byron Bay
The Roadhouse Byron Bay 6/142 Bangalow Road, Byron Bay
The Stockpot Kitchen 21 Byron Bay Road | Bangalow Bowlo, Bangalow
The Top Shop 65 Carlyle St, Byron Bay
Three Blue Ducks at The Farm and Bread Social 11 Ewingsdale Road, Ewingsdale
Town Restaurant 33 Byron St, Bangalow
Trattoria Basilico 30 Lawson St, Byron Bay
Spa treatments, treats & tonics
For the best musculo-skeletal massage Tonic Massage clinic image below is highly effective for chronic muscle pain – and they do HICAPS rebates for private health funds. Fab. You’ll find them in the arcade near Byron Bay Medical Centre. (02) 6685 5993
At Go Vita in Byron Bay the massage room is within the shop and on the street, so you’ll need to tune out of street sounds. Practitioners are world class here.
69 Jonson St, Byron Bay (02) 6680 7464
Where to get bendy & blissed
A Little Company dedicated to living skin. This lush, brand new spa in the Byron A & I Estate is worth the trip, twice. Here you’ll be pampered like no other independently owned spa in town. All treatments are delivered with the unique Little Company ‘living skin’ method utilising modern and traditional techniques to support the skin, and produce sustainable, long-term results. @_littlecompany View map
In case you’re wondering, Samantha Gowing is a green tea drinking chef, nutritionist, mentor, author, blogger and former judge for the Restaurant & Catering Association NSW. She also holds a Diploma of Nutritional Health Science and a Master of Gastronomic Tourism degree from Le Cordon Bleu. This is an unsolicited, often updated blog post for the purpose of happy eating and healing in the Northern Rivers. No chefs were harmed in the process.
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