The Byron Shire is fast becoming a foodie destination, but the boutique bar is starting to proliferate as well, writes Samuel J Fell.
As with most places in Australia, the Byron Shire is rife with pubs. Whether on the river in Brunswick, the beachfront in Byron, back off the beaten track in Billinudgel… there’s no shortage around here of places to rest your weary soul while enjoying a schooner off the wood.
However, with the proliferation of higher-end restaurants and cafes – the Shire is indeed becoming somewhat of a foodie destination – comes a new beast, something challenging the local pub for domination in the drinks market. The ‘cool’ places to get a drink, the hip little hideaways, the holes in the wall that have people talking about town, as one would in cities such as Sydney and Melbourne – there’s always a time and a place for the old Aussie pub, but these days around these parts, there’s becoming a time and place for the boutique bar too.
It’s not that new a phenomenon in Byron Bay itself. The Treehouse, out in Belongil, and The Balcony in the middle of town have been plying their trade for years now. Both have become a part of the fabric of Byron, each offering something different – whether it’s The Treehouse’s wood-fired pizza, or Balcony’s impressive cocktail list, each provide a unique place to sit and enjoy the popular tourist town’s ambience.
In recent years however, it’s become a booming business. Byron and Brunswick Heads in particular, with their high tourist turnover and popularity among interstate visitors, have become home to a number of cool little places to grab a pre- or post-dinner drink. The Roadhouse, out towards Red Devil Park, has made a name for itself as somewhere to enjoy myriad whiskies; Fleet in Bruns, known around the country for its food, also offers an inventive and adventurous cocktail experience.
Others in the small seaside town offer this on a casual basis – Gringos, the Mexican restaurant next to the Massey Green campground – put on two-for-one margaritas on Mondays. The Torakina cafe, next to the pub, have a $10 margarita happy hour Tuesday through to Saturday, with the purchase of a small food item. Both are cool places to sit for a sip.
In Byron, punters have myriad other options. The Bolt Hole, upstairs at the surf-club end of Fletcher Street, is fast making a name for itself as ‘the’ place to grab a drink in Byron. Selling only cans of beer, along with another impressive cocktail list, you’d most likely come in for a drink and stay for dinner, such is the allure of their Southern smoked barbecue-oriented menu. They’ve introduced Sunset Sessions too, where, prior to seven o’clock you can knock back $5 Pistonheads and $10 craft cocktails.
The Sticky Wicket on Jonson Street, a self-styled sports bar offering live music downstairs and DJs upstairs, while more of a club, is adding yet another string to the Shire’s bar bow, as is Republik (its ‘well-travelled bartenders’ mixing up a variety of cocktails with fresh ingredients); Cicchetti, an Italian restaurant with a world-class wine list; and The Farm out towards the highway, fast becoming a fixture in its own right thanks in large part to its ever-changing range of boutique tap beers.
So the next time you’re after a drink and don’t want to hit the pub, there’s no excuse not to find somewhere cool.