It would be fair to say that the Balcony Bar and Oyster Co. up on the second floor at number 3 Lawson Street is one of Byron Bay’s most popular dining and drinks destinations for travellers. Whether it’s for a weekend breakfast watching the town come to life, a lingering lunch on the breezy verandah or a sunset cocktail with freshly shucked oysters before dinner, The Balcony is always a popular choice.
I’ve been visiting the venue for years. Way back in 1999, when it was a similar styled casual bar and bistro named Mango Jam, Mr GFAF and I would climb the timber stairs for “fivesies” while we were staying in Byron Bay on our honeymoon. We moved here 18 months later. During the next 15 years the venue would have several incarnations, but its latest version as the Balcony Bar and Oyster Co. seems to have hit the highest mark for travellers and locals alike.
Owners Fraser Short and Executive Chef Sean Connelly transformed the venue during 2016 into a stylish bar and restaurant. It’s still breezy and relaxed, with freshly whitewashed walls and a seaside vibe. The décor includes lush tropical plants and timber surfaces with nautically themed furnishings, paintings and paraphernalia throughout. There is seating inside as well as out on the verandah, where the daybed lounges are perfect for shared dining and drinks for groups.
I’ll start with The Balcony’s drinks list as the bar is definitely a drawcard for if you’re not in the mood for a sticky table or rowdy session at one of the local pubs. The list begins with a neat selection of cocktails all cleverly named and perfect for pretending you’re on holidays if you’re not. My favourite is the Jinny Hendricks featuring Hendricks Gin and elderflower liqueur with muddled cucumber and juniper berries. Ask for a A Cracking Good Thyme featuring local Ink Gin, peach liqueur, peach puree and tonic. The wine list that follows features Australian and imported varieties. The same goes for the beer list. There is a daily Happy Hour from 4-6pm with specials on selected drinks – perfect for a sunset session.
If you plan on staying for dinner then I strongly recommend a reservation to avoid missing out. The dinner and lunch menus at the Balcony Bar and Oyster Co. are the same, however, so you can always come back tomorrow!
I have three favourite dishes on the regular menu at The Balcony Bar and Oyster Co. The first, and my all-time favourite, is the Crispy Skinned Ocean Trout with avocado, cucumber, watercress, sea vegetables and Japanese sesame dressing. The fish is usually pink to perfection in the middle, the skin is delightfully crisp and the sesame dressing gorgeous and savoury. If it’s a light lunch and rosé kind of day, then the Crab and Lettuce Tacos are great by the half dozen or as part of a few shared plates. The ‘taco’ shell is a lettuce leaf filled with crab meat, chardonnay vinegar, salmon caviar and fresh chilli.
If it’s a cooler night and I’m feeling like something a bit heartier, then I always go back to the Orgy of Mushroom Gnocchi. It’s a ricotta version with a variety of mixed mushrooms in a light sauce that is comforting and generous.
I always encourage Mr GFAF to order the Duck Fat Fish and Chips with mushy peas, mint and gherkin mayo for obvious reasons. Caring is sharing afterall.
Breakfast is served on weekends only. There’s a nice variety on the menu from the three egg Crab Omelette to the House Toasted Granola with coconut yoghurt and seasonal fruits to the old school One Pan Bacon and Eggs using local Richmond Valley pasture raised eggs. Like many restaurants in the Bay, Short and Connelly’s food philosophy is about supporting locally sourced and sustainable produce.
The Balcony Bar and Oyster Co. also does events well. Keep an eye out for special menu occasions like Mothers’ Day or Christmas when they always have something planned to accommodate the travellers.
Don’t miss the annual Oyster Festival or Crab Carnival when Executive Chef Sean Connelly and his team create unique recipes for a limited time only. There are always fun dishes like the Crab Carival’s King Crab Mac’n’Cheese or the Louisiana Crab Broil complete with wooden mallets, crab crackers and plastic bibs for making a right old mess.
If you miss out on the Oyster Festival, The Balcony Bar and Oyster Co. serves $1 oysters every Wednesday from 5 – 6pm. Note – you definitely need to reserve a table. On the weekends from 2pm a giant Seafood Paella is cooked out on the verandah and served until sold out. The perfect way to spend the end of the week.
For drinks, shared plates or a sit down dinner for couples or groups, The Balcony Bar and Oyster Co. is a popular choice for good reason. I recommend making a booking to avoid disappointment.
Price Range Balcony Bar and Oyster Co.:
Breakfast: $15 – $25
Lunch / Dinner: $15 – $39 (Crab & Whoel fish at Market Prices and Communal Free Range lamb Shoulder $66)
Drinks: Cocktails $13.00-16.90