It’s been a long time between lunches at Rae’s on Wategos in Byron Bay. In fact, it was actually last century, that Mr GFAF and I enjoyed a beachside meal at Rae’s overlooking the turquoise waves and languid long board riders. It was our honeymoon in 1999 when we ditched complicated plans for an overseas odyssey to lap up a bit of luxury ‘R&R’ in Byron Bay. We stayed as guests at Rae’s for one week of indulgence and it was entirely memorable. We loved our time in Byron Bay so much that we sold up and moved here.
Why on earth it took us 18 years to return to Rae’s on Wategos for a meal escapes us. Surely, the restaurant at Rae’s on Wategos would have been the perfect venue to celebrate the past 17 wedding anniversaries? Neither of us can work out why we hadn’t thought to do this previosuly, but we have planted the seed for our next wedding anniversary in Spring 2018.
So, it was with a bit of excitement that we were returning to Rae’s during a recent weekend to celebrate a significant family birthday. The restaurant space has not changed much, apart from a fresh whitewash and a décor update. The sea breeze and that ocean blue with the lighthouse high above remain just as special.
The restaurant at Rae’s on Wategos is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner (breakfast is reserved for in house guests only). The space seeps coastal elegance. The dining space has nooks and corners for couples and small groups, but larger groups can also be accommodated.
There are two ways to dine at Rae’s on Wategos – you can make your own selections from the á la carte menu or you can leave the decision making to the Chef and choose the six-course degustation, with or without matching wines. The dishes on the degustation are taken from the á la carte menu.
I love a degustation with matching wines. If someone else – usually an experienced sommelier – has already done the hard task of pairing the food and wine then that’s less work for me! Our lunchtime trio agreed and chose to dive into the degustation. The degustation at Rae’s is seafood based, so if you’ don’t enjoy seafood, stick with the á la carte menu. Oh, and if your vegetarian or vegan, Rae’s is not for you.
Our lunch began with a little Tuna and ponzu amuse bouche followed by Tempura oysters with yuzu served with a heart-starting shot of locally distilled Brookie’s Slow Gin. Luckily the little and big arms were past 12 on the clock. Spanner Crab with citrus and nori came next served with a Chardonnay from Margaret River. Gosh I love crab when someone else has done all the picking!
Next was a Scallop dish pan fried to translucent perfection with a touch of bottarga and a glass of Vermentino from South Australia. A totally new wine variety to me! It was light, pale and reminiscent of a Pinot grigio. Crispy fried Octopus arrived next with a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc – perhaps my least favourite wine of the day – but it was a great way to serve the thick fingers of ‘occy’ tentacles. The final savoury course was a stunning plate of Moreton Bay Bug filled ravioli and a char-grilled bug matched with a South Australian riesling from the Clare Valley.
For dessert, there was a perfectly sized and elegantly styled plate of refreshing green apple parfait with white chocolate ice cream and fennel and yoghurt flavours. This was appropriately served with a Moscato, again from the Clare Valley. A final little treat of chocolate ganache truffle finished the meal with a shot of whiskey with limoncello. It was an Uber ride home that afternoon.
The restaurant at Rae’s on Wategos was almost full to the brim with a steady stream of couples, small groups and tourists. The service was good by Byron standards – nicely relaxed, yet attentive.
Suffice to say, we left Rae’s on Wategos feeling adequately sated, and still scratching our heads as to why we hadn’t been back in 18 years. Mr GFAF did remind me about the era when Rae’s was serving fish and chips for $40 which had been a bit of a turn off for us. But the lunch we enjoyed there recently was certainly reminiscent of our solid dining experiences 18 years ago. I would recommend Rae’s on Wategos to anyone looking for a special dining experience in Byron Bay. We’ll be back around 30 October next year, unless we can find cause for an earlier celebration.