What’s better than a wandering drive through the Byron Bay hinterland on a sunshiny day when the cobalt sky sits high above the rolling green hills and you have absolutely nowhere to be?
I could waste hours driving carefree through the rainforest valleys and across the farmland ridges of this place we live, but I would eventually get hungry because I get hungry really easily. So when I do have the luxury of free time to take a meandering hinterland drive beyond Byron Bay, I usually plot my course to include a pit stop at the delightful Federal Doma Café.
‘Doma’, as the locals affectionately know it, is located a 25-minute drive west of Byron Bay in the village of Federal. It’s not hard to miss the café – partly because Federal is pretty small but mostly because you will see the line up of visiting cars parked out front. If you’re visiting Doma for lunch on the weekend, follow your ears too, because you’ll probably hear the chilled sounds of a live music performance entertaining patrons enjoying their edamame and eats.
Doma occupies a gorgeous, renovated timber building – a former village classroom – with a welcoming takeaway coffee hatch at the front and a ‘tatami’ style dining space out back. This rear section of a traditional Japanese country house is known as a ‘doma’ for its earthen floor space used for cooking and domestic purposes. In the café however, it is a sunken, timber floored dining space where patrons can sit on comfy cushions overlooking the al fresco area where there is a spacious layout of timber tables and seating with large umbrellas for shade. If you prefer, there is plenty of lawn for a picnic rug too.
Doma is open seven days a week and serves Breakfast from 7.30am – 11.30am, Brunch from 9.00am – 12.00pm and lunch from 12.00pm – 2.30pm and while the menu is predominantly Japanese, there are some excellent alternatives if sushi, temaki and sashimi aren’t your thing.
I recently read acclaimed Australian Chef Shannon Bennett (Vue de Monde, Bistro Vue, Lui Bar, Jardin Tan, Café Vue, Burnham Beeches) describe Doma as the” Best Japanese lunch in the country. I’m not sure if it’s the setting or what but it’s seriously good Japanese food.” *
He’s on the mark there.
The Breakfast menu at Doma is a neat blend of traditional Breakfast Roll favourites – think Bacon, Egg, Haloumi, Avocado combinations – as well as Japanese inspired medleys like the Soba Noodle Salad with Truffle Oil and a Poached Egg, the Smoked Salmon and Korrokes (Japanese style Hash Browns) or for those with a sweeter tooth – the French Toast with Whipped Ricotta, Adzuki Beans and Banana. Most of the ingredients used at Doma are organic and there are plenty of Vegetarian and Gluten Free options available.
If Brunch or a Morning Snack is necessary to fuel your onward journey, how about some Temaki style sushi? The Hand Rolls are made fresh to order using organic brown rice. My favourite fillings are the Haloumi Cheese Tempura and the Organic Pumpkin and Sweet Potato Tempura.
For Lunch I struggle to choose something every time. There are usually blackboard specials to add to my indecision too! Once I have committed to my order I usually convince myself that I need a few sneaky pre-made sushi rolls for ‘entrée’ to tide me over.
On the Japanese side of things, my number one recommendation for Lunch is the Yuzu Peppered Sear Beef Fillet with Green Salad and Ponzu dressing. The marinated grass fed MSA beef tenderloin pieces are melt in your mouth and the colourful salad is light and dressed with sweet and citrus style flavours that are a match made in heaven. If you’re a fan of Teriyaki, the Free Range Chicken Caramelised in an Orange infused Teriyaki Sauce and served with Rice and Salad is also a crowd pleaser. Finally, if you’re just not into Japanese food you won’t be disappointed as Doma makes some of the finest hamburgers you will taste. They also do the most amazing Hot Chips served with Smoked Paprika Aioli. If that’s still not enough to sate you for the rest of your road trip, there are some dessert offerings in the sweets cabinet and the coffee machine runs hot all day.
Next time you’re planning a hinterland drive out of Byron Bay make sure you plan your route to include a rest stop at the Federal Doma Café – or why not just make a special trip up there anyway – you won’t be disappointed!
Read some of my other Byron Bay Restaurant Reviews here:
*Where Chefs Eat – A Guide to Chefs’ Favorite Restaurants (2015), Phaeton Press, Page 74