St Elmo Dining Room and Bar in Byron Bay is both a restaurant serving modern Spanish cuisine and a bar with sophisticated cocktails and an extensive wine list.
It certainly has the vibe going on, with customers liking the groovy bar-like atmosphere, good service, the fact that you can sit out near the street (in good weather the roof rolls back), and the fact that you can just turn up and be welcomed without necessarily having a booking (it’s a small venue, so it’s better to book if you want to guarantee a table).
The modern, tapas-style menu aims for quality and seems to satisfy those familiar with the more upmarket tapas bars of Barcelona. Tapas is a great way to share food around the table, a great way to sample a range of food while drinking and a very warm way to be together around the table.
When we visited for Sunday lunch alt-folk artist Paul Appelkamp (Lionheir) was playing some soulful tunes to an appreciative audience of romantic couples lingering over their meals, young groups just drinking cocktails, family groups and a few people who’d just popped in for a glass of wine and to listen to the music.
With around a dozen wines available by the glass (the blackboard list changes regularly) propping up the bar seemed quite an appealing idea, and we started to wish that we hadn’t brought so many children with us.
The service was excellent, with the staff somehow managing to be young, groovy, knowledgeable about wine and very considerate of the children, who enjoyed trying different food from the tapas menu.
In deference to my vegetarian sensibilities we ordered a range of vego items such as Catalan Tomato Bread ($4) and marinated olives with cornichons and guindillas ($9) together with Empanadilla de Calabaza – pastries filled with butternut pumpkin, manchego, goat curd and almonds served with smoked chilli chumi churri ($14 for six of these really delicious pastries). We teamed that with Escalivada con queso de cabra; caramelised goat cheese with roast baby beetroot, green beans, roast peppers, roast onions and hazelnuts ($22.50), patatas bravas; fried kipfler potatoes tossed in a spicy tomato sauce with aioli ($10).
One standout dish was the Setas Con Manchego: pan-fried portobello and button mushrooms with Jerez vinegar, peas, manchego and enoki ($17). As it was a Sunday we also ordered the regular Sunday special – a very tasty seafood paella, designed to be shared between two. My wife, who eats gluten-free, was very satisfied with the range on offer.
The paella went very well with a beautiful restrained Sancerre; a French sauvignon blanc from the Loire Valley. Unlike sauvignon blanc that we are used to from New Zealand and Australia, this wine has greater emphasis on minerals and citrus and makes a perfect accompaniment for shellfish.
The wine list is extensive, with a number of quality wines on offer from France, Spain, Portugal, and Argentina as well as from all over Australia.
There were a lot of dishes on the menu such as the slow-cooked beef cheek in caramelised red wine with cauliflower puree, fried breadcrumbs and thyme or the seared scallops with piquillo peppers stuffed with potato and prawn salad that sounded worth coming back for. Combined with the interesting wine list, the great range of cocktails and sherries and the range of untried desserts (the almond pudding with orange, citrus curd, Turron semifredo and candied almonds seemed particularly good), we were already making plans to return for some more quality ‘adult’ time in this upmarket but relaxed Byron venue.
St Elmo is open seven nights a week for dinner and also from 12noon for lunch on Saturday and Sunday. On Sunday there’s also live music from 1.30 till 4pm (check out stelmodining.com to see who’s playing)..
ST ELMO DINING ROOM & BAR
Corner Fletcher St and Lawson Lane,
Byron Bay. P: 02 6680 7426