Treehouse arthouse


Matthew Michaelis

Restaurants often boast interesting interiors born from a shabby chic aesthetic, eccentric owners and their eclectic collectables. It’s whimsical at Treehouse: part island bungalow, part emporium, and part gallery.

If you’ve left your cash behind, there’s an ATM camouflaged as an arty installation; if you’re a gamer, a working Space Invader glass-top table sits like a cornerpiece in a Zuckerberg time-out room.

Behind the espresso machine is a large wooden frame, complete with dials and controls stuck on the wall like the skeletal remains of a Victorian plasma screen. A collection of paintings from a local artist is on high and a Bruegel print (The Peasant Wedding) suggests baked goods will come flying out of a well-staffed kitchen (albeit not in the morning).

I seldom see a dual personality in a restaurant, but here on some nights you’d be forgiven for thinking the place was a Tim Burton set.

Wandering minstrels upstaged by an animated table service, larger-than-life smiles, smouldering bartenders: all told it’s a vibrant, cheery scene. Alas, I’d come here for brekkie and at this point had been lulled into a false sense of food security – I was quickly brought to earth when I sighted the morning menu.

This is a lightweight breakfast menu embellished with a good helping of friendly banter. Unlike its bountiful evening staffing, it’s order and pay at the counter. Not a problem I thought; I’d nearly ordered the entire menu – four items.

The barista, Alex, proved to be an artist himself. Not the usual flinch or eye-roll from this guy as I placed my long-winded coffee order – ‘double shot ristretto, ¾ length, skim milk latte: small cup please’. No, instead, he set about producing the finest coffee I’ve had in a long while; silky, strong and smooth. Not a Dutch Master, but a master of coffee and a credit to the art of baristing and the Byron Bay Coffee Company roast he was brewing me. 

Treehouse-Easy-2The food in the AM is fresh and fast. Burger-style buns come lightly filled with meaty mushrooms, relish, and eggs on a sesame seed bun (not a jingle in sight). Eggs, bacon, aioli and a ciabatta with generous slices of avo atop goats cheese. But I suggest you save your excitement for the PM tucker.

The Treehouse atmosphere and food from breakfast to dinner is a ­Jekyll-and-Hyde affair.

I’m supposing that’s because the place nextdoor serves a comprehensive breakfast, and conversely the Treehouse caters well to the night folk.

Whatever the case, it’s much more likely to impress at night when the joint is jumping, entertainment is up and the crowds gather to drink and be merry. 

The dinner menu is a world from the sober AM laminate. Smart and popular choices include everybody’s faves; wood-fired pizza, pasta and tapas sit with the likes of a roasted pumpkin salad and desserts served potted in jars.

Wintry fare of pumpkin, orange and cinnamon soup was just the thing on a chilly eve; on asking another patron how they found their fettuccini, the answer was unusually quick, ‘perfect, al dente and I really loved the sauce’, and the smile was convincing too! 

Treehouse-Easy-1The pizza is made to order and freshly fired in an open corner oven, flames licking the edges. I’m a self-professed dessert-o-phile, so plonk a sweet into a glass jar, and you’ve already lost me.

Desserts are a thing of beauty to me; I want it to be love at first sight, and then be seduced by the flavours. But around me were jars and jar lovers, so I quieted my mind, closed my eyes and spooned the delicious and warming chocolate pud into the mouth that previously wasn’t persuaded.

During a cold winter morning, Treehouse is the stuff of good eggs, bread rolls, cardboard carriers and a really good takeaway coffee. When the sun sinks though, large parties of people meet here. Some celebrating, but for the most part, they’re gathered on comfy lounges and long tables to take in some art – the art of friendly service, good food and fun furnishing. 

Treehouse – 25 Childe Street, Byron Bay. Open 7.30am–11pm, Monday to Sunday. Entertainment after 6pm Wednesday to Sunday. Phone 02 6680 9452.

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