Many moons ago Aquarius Café and Dining was a modest place. Well, as modest as a cafe can be with a massive rock perched skyward in the middle of the room like a mystic altar to the Byron gods.
Once frequented predominantly by backpackers and those in the know, it has since come of age. With heavenly food, an impressive wine list, and exceptional service to match, the Aquarius is liberated into the realm of one of the most appealing dining destinations under our stars.
While still serving up the popular breakfast and lunch fare that satisfies a volcanic appetite, the dinner menu is so inventive that devotees are coming back for more. This was our second evening within a couple of months. The baked-pumpkin and blue-cheese gnocchi alone had been so memorable we wanted to rekindle the Aquarius experience.
There’s a nostalgic blend at Aquarius of that coveted bygone Byron era, kissed with a fresh sparkle of attentive design. A proudly casual affair, timber abounds and earthy tones dance with splashes of watery blue in the original artwork created by maître d’ Toni Clarke.
The planets aligned with the pairing of Toni and head chef Patrick Hobbs, who has whipped up a menu that oozes creativity. The harmonious selection will gratify those seeking good value as well as the fussiest of foodies.
For value hunters the Locals Dinner Special of two main meals and a bottle of Taylors Estate wine for $70 has diners starry eyed. With 15 per cent locals discount across the food and drinks menu, entrees such as the Mushroom Bruschetta and Vietnamese Fish Cakes are irresistible temptations.
Further seductions lay await on the wine list, such as the charming Grüner Veltliner, a food-friendly Austrian white wine. The cushioned bench seating is a cosy nook to balance your wine glass between two fingers, recount your latest episode of personal enlightenment and graze on the magical mains.
My sumptuous duck confit surrendered itself gracefully off the bone, tickled with a whisky, orange and tarragon jus. Pearly hand-rolled potato gnocchi and asparagus complemented its hero.
The snapper was timed to Swiss-watch perfection, blessed with gems of artichoke and beans, married with a divine sauce.
The finale provided gusts of comfort from a velvety chocolate friand adorned with fresh berries, vanilla ice-cream and lush berry coulis.
While Patrick humbly describes his modern Australian cuisine as bistro style, his superb flavours and glossy presentation could easily rub shoulders with fine dining fare. Such feasting has us venturing out repeatedly for this quintessential Byron dining experience. I’d have as much chance of recreating such delicacies at home as getting a carpark at The Pass on Easter Saturday.
It’s written in the stars.
16 Lawson Street, Byron Bay
Ph 1800 028 909 or 6685 7663