Byron Bay, on the north coast of New South Wales, is not only a place for amazing beaches, beautiful green hinterland and alternative lifestyles. These days it’s quickly becoming a hub for food enthusiasts – and now we know why!
Perhaps it’s thanks to Byron Bay’s hippy heritage that many a restaurant, bar and eatery here is focusing on local, small-yield produce. Or perhaps they all know they’re onto a good thing.
The green, fertile lands of Cape Byron with its rich, volcanic soils and sub-tropical climate means pretty much whatever you put in the ground will grow, and grow well. The wealth of amazing produce in this area is a chef’s dream and a farmer’s delight – and that means good things for us to eat!
On our recent visit to Byron, Mrs Romance and I were lucky enough to sample some of the edible delights you can find in this region. There are some absolutely brilliant food spots here, serving up dishes from the simple and sublime to molecular-level food artistry, but here are our top 7 things to eat here in the Byron Bay area.
7 best things to eat in Byron Bay
1. Fish tacos at the Roadhouse
Packed – almost too much so – with flavoursome filling, these tacos are a must-order in this funky diner on the outskirts of town. Crispy fish, red cabbage slaw, avocado, roasted baby tomatoes, roasted corn off the cob and picante mayo – delicious.
Since opening about 3 years ago, The Roadhouse changes its menus every 3 months – though I think these tacos are such a hit they’ll stay!
Also worth a try here are the very understated Fresh Greens, and the Crispy Sprouts with smoked hock bacon and parmesan.
As these guys are open at night too, their bar is amazingly well-stocked. They sell Jilly Wines, made 5 mins up the road with indigenous ferments, and Native Cocktails, using Aussie spirits and shrubs.
Open: 6.30am-3.00pm every day and 5.00pm-10.00pm Tues-Sun
6/142 Bangalow Rd,
2. Pork gaddo gaddo at The Farm
This uber-sustainable farm is an amazing place. Hand-rearing pigs, chickens and cattle, and producing some 20,000 tonnes of vegetables on the property only 10 minutes from Byron Bay, these guys have come up with a brilliant concept.
As well as a working farm is the onsite co-operative restaurant complex where – among others – Sydney-born Three Blue Ducks cook their pork gaddo gaddo. And it’s beyond everything.
This clever turn on an Indonesian classic features the most tender, delicious slow-cooked pork with rich chewy-yet-crunchy crackling. The charred cabbage, green beans and house-made peanut sauce make this an unforgettable dish.
The pig’s ear schnitzel is also superb – a rich fatty pork schnit and in fact the best I’ve ever eaten. Yes, it is a real ear – they braise it overnight and crisp crumb it. One of The Farm’s eggs goes on top, which is creamy and perfect.
This is absolutely beautiful food and a wonderful environment to enjoy it too.
Open: 7.00am-4.00 Mon-Thurs and 7.00am-10pm Fri-Sun
11 Ewingsdale Road,
3. Kangaroo loin at Harvest
In the Cape Byron hinterland about 20 minutes southwest of Byron itself is the tiny hamlet of Newrybar. At its heart is Harvest, a café, deli, restaurant, bakery and cooking school built into three beautifully restored buildings that underpin this historic village.
Dinner at Harvest is really the pinnacle experience of this beautifully styled and designed restaurant, though the unassuming menu belies the incredible skill, creativity and complexity of the food that comes out.
To read “kangaroo loin, celeriac, Davidson plum and beetroot” tells nothing of the deliciousness that came forth! The kangaroo loin was superbly cooked – tender, buttery and a delicious umami aftertaste.
The whole roasted celeriac was tender, waxy and worked perfectly with the ’roo, as did the soft creamy celeriac purée. The Davidson plums were rich, soft, sour and sweet, and the sprigs of what turned out to be sea rocket were incredibly intense, spicy, peppery and salty. An amazing dish.
As for other dishes here, well, we had such difficulty deciding what to order, we went for the chef’s tasting menu – a 5-course journey through some of the best Harvest has to offer. I think we chose wisely.
Open: 12.00pm-11.00pm Mon-Fri and 8.00am-11.00pm Sat & Sun
18-22 Old Pacific Hwy,
4. Cheese board at Balcony Bar and Oyster Co.
Recently revamped both in terms of décor and menu, the Balcony has met that easy-going Byron vibe perfectly. And under the stewardship of renowned executive chef Sean Connolly, the food and service here are pristine.
Known more for his love of oysters than cheese, we were surprised to find the latter being the best thing to eat on Chef Sean’s menu – mind you the oysters were extremely good too.
But this cheese plate is just amazing: three very generous pieces of cheese and enough matching accoutrements to hide most of the serving board. All too often a cheeseboard comes with 2 crackers and a bit of rubbery quince paste, so we were impressed with the array of juicy fruit, crunchy nuts and fig bread.
Our seasonal cheeses – a pungent, rich Nimbin blue, an oozy, ripe Brooklyn brie and a crumby, dense Meredith aged cheddar – are all locally or regionally sourced, and absolutely delicious.
Also excellent is the spicy Crab Bang Bang salad – a huge pile of vermicelli, cucumber, chilli, mint and coriander with big chunks of juicy crab meat. Yum!
Open: midday-midnight Mon-Fri and 9.00am-midnight Sat & Sun
Corner of Lawson Street & Jonson Street
5. Croque-monsieur at Town Café
As cute as its teapot collection on the wall, this jolly little diner has just the right amount of European café and country Australian teashop for the quaint and the cosmopolitan to moderate each other.
Serving lunch until mercifully late (everywhere else in town had stopped serving at 2pm), the sight of croque-monsieur on the menu made me even happier. Think of the most delicious toasted cheese sandwich you’ve ever eaten, then multiply that by about 4 million. That’s about the measure of this!
And it’s something a mere photo could never convey – but if you can imagine local Bangalow ham, Dijon mustard, melting Swiss cheese and a touch of lemon in a cloud-like brioche sandwich, you’re close.
Also highly recommended is Mrs Romance’s char-grilled pumpkin salad. This beautiful mountain comes with quinoa, chunks of feta cheese, baby spinach and a sweet and sharp reduced balsamic dressing
33 Byron St,
6. Burrata at Beach Byron Bay
If you’re looking for a lunch venue with the best view in Byron, you’ve just found it. This place doesn’t have the name Beach Byron Bay for no reason. Overlooking famous Clarks Beach with views out over the bay all the way up to the lighthouse, this light, airy beach café-restaurant is a visitor’s dream.
With a menu that’s Italian focused, we were looking forward to handmade pasta, deliciously prepared seafood and some great desserts – but it was the locally made burrata that we’d come back for. Fresh, oozy and salty, and enthroned in a traditional bagna cauda, this simple cheese dish is a work of art.
Our expectations on the dessert front didn’t go disappointed though – the pear cake served with double cream is incredible. They poach whole pears in red wine for hours before baking them into a rich, succulent cake. Delicious.
Open: 7.30am-4.00pm (but book as early as you can. It gets busy)
7. Roasted Moreton Bay bug tail at Graze at Elements
Only opened in February 2016, this beautiful resort restaurant focuses on harnessing not only local produce but also the four elements of nature. It’s a pretty cool concept and the food that comes with it is outstanding.
For an entrée the roasted Morton Bay bug tail from the specials menu is enormous. But it’s also juicy, tender and divinely moreish, and the crusty top to it adds a beautiful texture contrast. Peas, broad beans and charred pomelo make for interesting additions, and the potato fondant (or posh mash) and bisque foam are clever accompaniments to the asparagus spears.
The other standout for me was the Cape Grim aged 250g eye fillet steak. Even though I ordered this towering steak rare, my plate was clean by the end. The meat was tender and full of flavour, the watercress it came with was light and peppery, and the red wine jus was thick and savoury.
Open: every day: 7:00am–10:30am breakfast, 12:00pm–3:00pm lunch & 6:00pm–9:30pm dinner
Bonus: pea & haloumi fritter at Restaurant Cuisine, Gaia Retreat
Gaia is a very special place. It’s a place of solace and spirituality, of relaxation, recuperation and romance. And the food that comes from its kitchen is absolutely on point.
Breakfast here is a candy-store moment from beginning to end – especially if you’re looking for clean, nutritious food. The buffet is like nothing we’ve ever seen before with everything from chia seeds to smoked salmon, gluten-free granola to tapestries of fresh fruit platters.
They also serve a hot dish with breakfast too, and the pea and haloumi fritter with poached egg truly won our hearts. And this smoked trout, pea, dill, poached egg and hummus creation was absolutely stunning.
However, if you want to eat this, you do have to be a current guest at Gaia, which you should see as a bonus than a hindrance! This place is truly magical.
933 Fernleigh Rd,
We were so impressed with the incredible food options here in the north coast of New South Wales. It’s been quite a few years since we were here last, but after all the mouth-watering moments of deliciousness of our recent visit, I’ve got a feeling we’ll be back very soon.
Have you been to Byron Bay recently? What’s your top food tip? What do you look for in a perfect meal? Tell us in the comments below.