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A different ball game

a-green-bistro-Nath

Story & photos Matthew Michaelis

It’s seldom I write on different eateries in the same venue with only months between. Not all eateries get up.

The hospitality industry has a shadowy side with many variables and myriad reasons for businesses to end.

The last time I stepped into the Byron Bay Bowling Club was to have an Echo Christmas party with food served by the previous operators – Bolo Ma. They’ve gone. Now the current incarnation is a totally different ball game. ‘It’s a bowlo menu with a twist’ according to Nathan Sheehan, a self-professed food aficionado.

As a club restaurant operator, you’d expect creative freedom. As long as the club’s membership enjoy a reasonably priced and recognisable meal, everyone’s happy. So, while feeding members, a bistro operator can draw in the locals too with the lure of a family-friendly environment, a budget drink and cheap eats to help forget that the whole family is in tow.

a-green-bistro-dish-2The Green Bistro is the new name and Sheehan has taken on the food here. He brings with him a broad culinary experience ranging from running a sustainable permaculture farm and managing a luxury island to operating Frankie Brown in Byron Bay; he’s even cooked for the Queen at the Royal Regatta in England in 2001.

‘We’ve got the standard and the familiar here served with a twist. We also cater for popular dietary groups with our vegan grill and fryer. Our mains are bowlo classics served with little surprises,’ Nathan said.

I tried his calamari and the twist was apparent and surprisingly good – melt in the mouth, served with house-smoked garlic and citrus mayo – $14 and worth every cent.

The Byron Bowlo isn’t in a salubrious address but this unassuming setting is poised to grab the cheap eats and mid-eats markets. The hipsters will love the place too. The little dining area is as fashionable and rustic as a club diner can be with some – dare I say – retro touches.

It’s really quite chic – the legacy of the previous operators is the fit-out, I believe. Wood panelling complemented with solid wooden tables and a warmth not found in too many small clubs of the likes.

a-green-bistro-playerA turntable sits waiting to spin some old favourites and of course all good bowlos these days have barefoot bowls – not my thing, but when you’re in need of distraction it’s as good as any. Wednesday nights here it’s sharing your BYO vinyl – the vibe you bring with you. Warning!

Don’t bring alto sax schmaltz – Nathan promises to frisbee it if you’ve got the cheek.

You can come in and take advantage of cheap eats with a $14 lunch from Tuesday to Friday or a rotating selection of lunch packages, some inclusive of a schooner glass of Coopers beer or wine for a better-than-pub price. The chicken wings are unusual ‘Hot Mamma’ with a cooling cucumber dip.

The slow-cooked coconut-braised beef ‘Indo taco’ are tender and delish, served in Indian roti bread wraps. Off the mains, a distinctly homely Gran’s Curry. It’s name? It’s gentle, I assume, using a sort of Thai-style base of chicken, kaffir lime leaves, coconut cream and rice, though Sheehan has mixed his own granny curry and created an innocent curry that’s tasty without heat; the twist is he’s spent hours reducing down sixty varieties of chillies.

a-green-bistro-dish-1Three of these accompanied the curry. So, the kids and the faint-hearted can eat a really good curry, while the braveheart can play with unknown levels of heat. The dish is complete with mini pappadums and a mango chut’ for $18.

You’re not left high and dry after. Here there’s no bought-in sweets or shenanigans with my favourite course. The crème Catalan is house made and worth a try – a good brulée with a rich crème anglaise imbibed with lime juice, topped with a delicate sugar crust and sided with vanilla-bean ice-cream. The orange, grape and port trifle is a fine sweet too – both sit on the menu for $9.

Sheehan went on to say, ‘The challenge here is to bring quality food at reasonable prices for locals – I love a challenge – go out to dinner in Byron and it’s $50 for pizza or $100 for Thai take away if you’re lucky.

Here you can get a dinner for two for less than $50. I have my own coffee blend called The Green that is fabulous with a crema that is second to none. I’m not following trends, I’m doing things for my own pleasure and standards. Doing it this way creates fresh new flavours that I promise you’ll see on all my dishes.’

The Green Bistro

Open six days – closed Mondays. Lunch: 11.30am until 2.30pm. Dinner from 5pm. 18–20 Marvell Street, Byron Bay, 6685 6202.

thegreenbistrobyronbay.com.au.

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