Italian at the Pacific is a relaxed and stylish, contemporary Italian restaurant situated right next to the Beach Hotel at the top of Jonson Street.
Approaching it last week along a winding path with the Pacific Ocean at our backs I appreciated the restaurant’s name for the first time – the group of relaxed diners in the stone courtyard under pandanus trees in the early evening were enjoying food, wine and life in a uniquely Australian way with the accompaniment of the summer ocean.
The restaurant’s website refers to its experience in catering for high-profile celebrities who desire privacy and I imagine the staff do a great job, as even complete unknowns like ourselves were met with charm and warmth at the door and served with unobtrusive attention throughout the night.
This was quite an achievement as Byron is incredibly busy at present and the restaurant was almost full. Families, holidaymakers and locals were everywhere. The main restaurant area that in winter becomes a cosy enclosed space had been thrown open and people spilled out under the stars and under the covered outdoor space – there was a real sense of being in the centre of the enjoyment of summer holidays in Byron.
Maitre D Laurie Rose, well known around Sydney for running Laurie’s Diner on Oxford Street, an early forerunner of the vegetarian / juice bar format, in the late 70s and early 80s, has become well known around Byron for running Fresh and Mokha.
Head chef William Ennis has worked in Michelin Star restaurants such as Martin Wishart in Edinburgh and Patrick Gauilbaud’s in Dublin, as well as winning three chef hats during his time at Sydney’s acclaimed Bilson’s Restaurant.
However, the excellent food was not overpriced. Being a vegetarian I ordered arancini ($16), a generous entrée with five rich flavoursome balls beautifully presented with a strong mushroom sauce, while my gluten-free partner loved her carpaccio of spiced cured kingfish, fresh orange, shaved fennel with fried baby capers and micro-herbs ($19).
Having ignored the seductive range of cocktails being prepared with obvious skill by a black-clad expert in the bar enclosure, we had ordered an excellent McLaren Vale shiraz from a wine list that had plenty of less expensive but appealing options.
The wine went well with my wonderful goat-cheese ravioli in rich tomato sauce ($30 – although I would have been satisfied with the smaller $18 option). I was unable to convince my partner to try the Anatra slow-braised duck leg served with asparagus, the Italian’s colcannon – potato puree, pancetta, cabbage and truffle finished with a duck jus ($37).
Instead, she chose Frutti di Mare – pan-roasted market fish, clams, mussels and prawns with fregula in a rich tomato sauce finished with salsa verde. The restaurant’s gluten-free penne option was excellent.
Too full to eat any more, we wandered off to marvel at the throngs in Byron at this time of year.
Italian at the Pacific
Open 7 days from 6pm until late.
P: 6680 7055
Bay St, Byron Bay 2481 NSW