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.
The 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 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.
Three 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.