If you can sit still long enough with the susurrant afrobeat sounds gently filling Café Oska you may be able to study the menu. Full of international specialities such as goat curry and Panamaian coffee, the cafe has a relaxed and cool backstreet vibe evocative of hidden lanes full of culinary promise.
The grandson of an eminent baker and the son of a vegetarian mother, Manie Ackah is a chef who has travelled the world from his native Ghana via Sydney and now Byron Bay, tasting and perfecting his craft, with a focus on global cuisine.
International coffees and curries are the speciality of the house.
Café Oska’s location in the Byron CBD, but just off the main roads, is like a secret treasure – nestled away and full of surprises. Under the English school on the corner of Carlyle Street and Fletcher Lane, Café Oska’s largely international clientele is now broadening to include holidaying visitors who are hearing about the global cuisine and coffee on offer and seeking it out.
Manie has a special relationship with many locals too from his days at African Village, and more recently his healthy curry delivery service Culture Tonic (fondly known as the Curry Truck).
Manie’s curries represent the cornucopia of international curry styles. The West Indian style tends to rely on pimento and thyme for flavour, whereas the West African fusion style relies on cooking down ingredients like tomato and black-eyed beans rich with chili and onion and blending them. He has travelled widely researching different curries and stews and the menu includes authentic variations from India, China, northern Africa, Thailand and South America. There are options for vegetarians and vegans as well as sound basics like burgers.
Manie is confident in his knowledge of genuine international variations on curry and says, ‘If you’re not sure if we can do something special, ask the chef! If it’s not on the menu we can probably make it for you.
‘We source locally and organically as much as we can but do bring in some of the specialised ingredients and coffees.’
Café Oska has its own blend of coffee and includes the option of Aero Press for those who don’t want their beans ground in the traditional way, but prefer the air-pressure grind that yields rich flavour with lower acidity without bitterness.
Manie’s travels have always included researching and tasting local coffees, some of which he has now brought to Byron Bay. Each week a different single bean is featured. Last week there was Ethiopian; next week there will be a brew from Panama. This week he is featuring the simple and balanced taste of Columbian coffee with its floral aroma.
Manie’s advice for aspiring cooks echoes the words of many chefs: ‘Taste your food before you serve it! If in doubt – bin it.’
His kitchen is open to the cafe, giving customers the chance to join in the fun and talk to the chef. Manie regards the interaction as a bonus.
‘To see people enjoy a good meal is priceless. Having a smaller venue with an open kitchen also allows me to meet my customers.
‘Most weekends there is musical entertainment and once a month we accompany the night with a cultural event,’ he says.
With positive comment online, and its liquor licence to be granted on 26 March, Café Oska is ready to be discovered.
Café Oska is located on the corner of Carlyle St and Fletcher Lane, Byron Bay. Open for breakfast and lunch 8am–4pm Monday to Saturday, Dinner Thursday to Saturday 6.30–10pm. Licensed and BYO.
cafeoska.com | 0416 887 884
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