Take a small group, a dinner and show and a severe time constraint. We ended up at The Balcony for some lively and timely tapas. This is a place that I’ve eaten in only a few times.
I arrived late and choices were already made for me.
The young guy serving us drinks was alerted to our time restriction. We asked if he could send along someone to take our order. With a studied and polite manner, he quickly made our host feel at ease and offered to take our orders, then and there.
No pad, no pen and no mobile device – this guy was in a sense ‘free-balling’.
There were six of us, and there was the usual confusing backward and forward flow of ideas with many changes and thoughts on the selections. The waiter was taking note of every order, a guest asked if he needed a pad. ‘This is what I do all day’, he reassured, and off he went with our complex list of foods, drinks and exclusions.
Impressive – a savant perhaps? While waiting for our meal another older, more composed waiter came forth, enquiring if we would like anything. This was a serious type armed with an acerbic wit combined with very proper service, a combination that might make some diners uncomfortable.
The food came and everyone enjoyed it immensely, including me: Mejillones – a serve of organic black mussels with sherry, coriander, chilli, garlic and the addition of a crusty organic sourdough; Paletilla de cordero – a slow-cooked lamb shoulder with cumin, lemon and coriander yoghurt; arancini, an Italian fave of mine, filled with wild mushroom, thyme and goat cheese with truffle aioli; salt-and-pepper squid, pickled fennel and preserved-lemon aioli; with a finale of ‘Stone & Wood’-cured salmon with blood orange-pickled baby vegetables and goat cheese (Salmón curado). Nicely plated and carefully balanced dishes.
The other guests ran off to their show and I stayed to observe one of my favourite courses – dessert. I asked our sharp old waiter if he could reseat me as the long table wasn’t a fit for one person alone. He jumped on it, and in the fashion that appears to be his style, organised me in a flash. So we worked together.
For dessert I asked for his recommendation without sighting the menu. I wasn’t disappointed. A superb chocolate fondant floated onto the table and I went off into a chocolaty coma (I hoped the drool wasn’t apparent). All that was left on the plate was the reflection of my smile.
The tapas concept is found in every cuisine if you look. This isn’t a cheap eat to accompany a drink as would probably be the case in Spain but, keeping this in mind, a few glasses of good wine and a well-plated meal at The Balcony is an easy recommendation.
9am to 10pm: 7 days
Upstairs, Cnr Lawson and Jonson Streets, Byron Bay
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