By: Vivienne Pearson
The Safya family may be relative newcomers to Byron Bay but they have embraced the vibe of how to best do business here – combine good know-how with an ability to go with the flow, trust your feelings, have a laugh, and make strong connections with those around you.
After spending two years looking for a venue for an Egyptian-influenced eatery, they were very close to signing a lease but it didn’t feel quite right. ‘I felt uneasy, so I went for a walk,’ says co-owner Fady Soliman. ‘The For Lease sign here was just being put up, so I rang the number and the landlord met me within minutes.’
The result of that walk was that Safya opened just before Christmas on the corner of Fletcher Street and Bay Lane. Safya is a cafe with an Egyptian influence and a focus on locally sourced and seasonal dishes. ‘It suits all tastes,’ says Fady. ‘Some dishes are exactly what you would expect from a regular cafe; others have a strong Egyptian influence.’
Fady is one-quarter of the Safya family. He and his brother, Andrew, up in Cairo and their cousin, Ramy Meshreky, in Alexandria. Fady’s wife, Caroline, is ‘Aussie through and through’ (according to Fady) and it is she who masterminds the blend of cuisines in the Safya menu.
For those not wanting even a hint of Egyptian flavour, the all-day breakfast menu features straight eggs, granola and dishes such as the Goodness Brekkie (eggs on quinoa with greens and Coopers Shoot tomatoes). That hint can be gained in dishes such as the Dukka Dukka, with eggs on avo and feta finished with a homemade Egyptian dukka. For the full Egyptian experience, you can try Cairo Eggs: fried in cumin-infused butter and served with falafel, labne and fresh mint on pita bread.
Similarly, for lunch (again, available all day), options include a steak sandwich, a falafel wrap or a Siwa Salad – a traditional mix of watermelon, pickled red onion, feta, rosewater and toasted pistachio and sesame.
The Siwa Salad takes its name from the part of Egypt that has influenced the design of Safya. The oasis of Siwa is in Egypt’s Western Desert, just 50km from the Libyan border and situated below sea level. One feature of Siwa are the crumbling ruins of the old town, called Shali, which was constructed of a mix of mud and salt.
Safya has used more modern building materials to create a welcoming space that opens to outside seating. Lights will bring to life the space during evenings, which are planned for the near future and which will see further traditional Egyptian dishes, such as fuul and koshari, served.
Coffee is something that Safya take seriously, with cold drip and chemex brews on offer in addition to usual espresso-based drinks. A range of teas, including a fresh chai, are also on offer. Cold drinks include kombucha, made by Caroline, and two Egyptian drinks that are both magically refreshing on hot Byron days – Kark A Deh (a mix of hibiscus tea and rosewater) and Tamr Hendi (a brew of tamarind and rosewater).
Safya means ‘pure’ and is a word with strong meaning for the family. ‘The feeling I get here is the one we’ve been seeking,’ says Fady.
Safya: open 6.30am–4pm, 8 Fletcher Street (the Bay St/Lane end), @SafyaByronBay