I am enamoured by lunch. It’s without question my absolute favourite meal of the day. I especially enjoy a lingering lunch – it doesn’t matter whether I am the guest, the host or the paying customer. Recently I visited the Byron at Byron Resort and Spa for a long lunch with special friends. I confess it had been some time since my last lunch there but it was just as good as I had remembered.
For me there a number of essential ingredients that go into a really good long lunch: a lovely setting is a good place to start, followed by a reserve of delicious food for all afternoon grazing, plenty of bottles of good wine to share and, of course, special company. You just need to combine all these essential ingredients together and then let them rest for the afternoon. Happy days.
Byron Bay is a fine place to enjoy a lingering lunch. Over the years I have become well versed in the Byron style long lunch – practice makes perfect after all. Some of the best long lunches have been in the welcoming homes of friends. The climate here is ideal for dining en plein air most of the year and so there have been picnic style lunches under shady figtrees, lip-smacking woodfired barbeques overlooking the green and blue coast, picnics at dams and waterfalls and relaxed family style lunches in private tropical garden settings.
There have also been plenty of other lingering lunches where I was the paying customer. I can think of a couple of standouts. Once upon a time we were members of a loosely formed food club nicknamed LRB after the locales where our members habitated (Lismore, Rosebank, Bangalow). One sunny Sunday afternoon we started a long lunch at Fig Tree Restaurant overlooking the green hills of Ewingsdale with the Byron lighthouse in the distance. The weather was splendiferous and the entire lunch rolled gently from course to course. It was such a grand afternoon that we didn’t want lunch to end so, when we really had to leave the restaurant as the staff was prepping for dinner, we reconvened in Bangalow at the pub for several hours. Around 7.00pm, when our appetites resumed, we walked down the hill for pizza. That lunch lasted 9 hours!
Another memorable afternoon was a long lunch at the Byron at Byron Resort and Spa when our LRB plus a few ‘hangers on’ enjoyed a resort style afternoon that commenced with lunchtime Mojitos and ended as the sun was setting with a taxi ride to the supermarket to gather cheese and salumi for a shared supper at our friends’ accommodation in Wategos. Another 9 hour lunch!
My recent return to the Byron at Byron Resort and Spa was a lunch date with long time special friends. We wanted somewhere relaxed where we could enjoy good food, wine and company and linger for as long as we needed. It ticked all the boxes.
When you walk into the resort it’s hard to believe you are a few minutes away from the jammed streets of Byron’s town centre. The sub-tropical setting is quiet and secluded and, as you sit on the restaurant deck overlooking the sub-tropical rainforest with a beverage in hand, it’s hard not to say: “Ahhh – the serenity.”
We were in for lunch on a Saturday and the restaurant was a lively pace, but all the while tranquil. There was the occasional Summer shower too, but with plenty of room on the restaurant deck for diners to watch the rainfall we avoided getting wet. There was a small conference group enjoying lunch in one corner and a good number of in-house guests who had left their place by the pool to dodge the showers and look for something to nibble. What struck me was that we seemed to be the only locals in for lunch, which I find amazing as it really is the perfect place to enjoy great, local food far away from the crowds in town.
Our group included four locals, two former locals and one out of towner. Lunch started with obligatory glasses of Prosseco for the ladies and craft beers for the fellas as we perused the menu. What I like about lunching at the Byron at Byron Resort and Spa is that the lunchtime menu is always well-thought as it caters for a variety of tastes, moods, budgets and appetites.
For starters we ordered the Crumbed Risotto Balls with crushed peas, salsa rosa, parmesan and mint to share . They didn’t last long. The balls were crunchy on the outside with golden risotto inside. I loved the different textures and colours on the plate – very Italian – and they tasted Buonissimo! Others ordered the lightly fried Zucchini Flowers with goats curd, rocket, basil mayonnaise and lemon, which I am keen to try next time. Such fresh flavours and I can’t say ‘no’ to goats curd!
For mains everyone ordered differently which is strange for our group as there is usually a few double-ups. Once again I think this was due to the diverse menu that caters to all types of diners’ whims. There was a Grilled Market Fish of the day, which was barramundi served with hummus, dukkah, fennel, pomegranate and sunflower sprouts. She who ordered the ‘barra’ said she was amazed at how well the flavours complemented the fish and she would happily order it again. There were the Byron Sliders – on the more casual side of the menu. The pair of mini burgers came filled with hickory smoked pork, red cabbage and chipotle served with fries. The Ploughmans Board was substantial and could either be a lunch for one or a share platter for starters. The board featured a generous and varied salumi selection alongside aged cheddar, olives, cornichons, mustard and toasted bread. The Byron Pork Schnitzel was tender and far tastier pork than your average pub-style “schnitty”. It was served panko crumbed with a fresh, crunchy cabbage slaw. The special of the day was a Pork Tagliatelle, which I heartily enjoyed. There were good hints of chilli and the ragout was meaty and plentiful. The Roquefort Pizza was large but light thanks to a crisp, woodfired base topped with Roquefort cheese, prosciutto, aged balsamic, roasted walnuts and fresh rocket. Finally there was the Resort Club Sandwich. I think that a resort or hotel’s Club Sandwich could possibly be a bellwether for their kitchen overall. This version was substantial – filled with turkey, bacon, avocado, cranberry sauce and a free range egg. It was given a big stamp of approval.
No desserts for us this time, as tempting at the Roasted Stone Fruit and Pear Tart sounded. Instead we ordered another bottle of wine to linger a little longer. The wine list at the Byron at Byron Resort and Spa is extensive with plenty of options by the glass. The cocktail list is great too. We sat on the Josef Chromy Riesling, which we were excited to see available. We had been introduced to Tasmania’s Josef Chromy Wines while visting there last year and were hooked. It’s not often you see them outside of the Apple Isle so try them when you do.
I am happy to say that this long lunch did not break any records, as pleasant as it was. In fact we were thoroughly sated and relaxed and I suspect that the drizzly weather mixed with the lunchtime wine helped us unwind and slow down – literally.
Locals are talking about the new Byron Bay resort Elements giving the Byron at Byron Resort and Spa a run for their money, and maybe it will in the beginning, but for me the Byron at Byron Resort and Spa is the perfect place for a leisurely, locals lunch with great food and great service and I’ll keep returning for that lingering feeling.