Getting grilled on where to eat
People often ask me where they can take their visiting friends and relatives for a good meal around town. Locals too are looking for unusual digs to eat in and enjoy.
There are so many options – some close, some a drive – but when it comes to eating out, for me, a night out is always going to be helped along with some fun stuff added.
Recently I discovered that the popular staple of Brazil, the churrasco barbecue, was being served on a Friday night and right under our noses in Byron Bay.
This is fun dining in the true sense of the word.
It’s entertaining, it’s all-you-can-eat, it’s particularly good here and it has energy about it.
Where? The Belongil Bistro – but don’t take my omnivorous Aussie word for it – I invited a Brazilian national along to do the critiquing and to get me up to speed on this Latin American fiesta.
First a little bit of background on the churrasco itself. In Brazil, churrasco is a term that simply means barbecue (similar to the Argentine, Uruguayan, Paraguayan and Chilean) and originating in southern Brazil.
It uses a variety of meats – pork, sausage and chicken which, in this case at the Belongil Bistro, is cooked on a purpose-built machine that uses charcoal, commonly known as a ‘churrasqueira’ – a barbecue grill, with supports for spits and skewers.
There’s nothing like a good bit of irony – if you know me, you’ll know that I love the twist in a phrase, the double entendre.
When I recently tried the meaty goodness of this churrasco barbeque, my plus-one was a marine biologist, Ivan Gentil, also indigenous to Brazil.
While hungrily smiling at a gigantic skewered chunk of picanha (every Brazilian lad loves this flagship cut of meat), Ivan told me that he’s involved in the rescue, rehabilitation and release of animals caught up in the ever-growing side-effects of human habitats.
I couldn’t help but giggle at the paradox of this scenario. I thought to myself that he could do a whole day’s work simply by refraining from eating his country’s signature favourite – the Churrasco.
All jokes aside though, that’s what he does for a crust; my job, on the other hand, is to discern what foods are good and what foods are great and who to waste those precious kilojoules on.
Belongil Bistro has really got it going on here on Friday nights. If you hate exciting energetic atmospheres, and really despise quality, well-cooked meats and seafood, and can’t abide a fun service; if all-you-can-eat menus give you the heebie-jeebies, then don’t read any further…
For all others; you should try this concept immediately.
I need to state clearly that this is not a good choice for a vegan or vegetarian to make.
Although I had some of the best vegetables I’ve had offered me in a long while as part of this churrasco, the set $49 per head cover price, however, would irritate anyone who wasn’t an omnivore.
The value on offer here you can’t refute, though. It’s a relief to relax and have the good stuff keep coming without the constraint of price and decisions that require too much brain drain.
Skewers of Jacks Creek grass-fed rump nicely salted; Bangalow pork; skilfully cooked lamb; chicken wrapped in bacon; king prawns; all basted in interesting glazes; skewered kranski and some wonderful side dishes to complement the whole affair.
According to my Brazilian guest, this churrasco was well researched and presented. The side dishes he went on to say are very authentic with the things a Brazilian demands, such as cassava chips, black beans and fried bananas, that we like to have at these barbecues.
The Picanha served here is fantastic and if it weren’t on the menu, it wouldn’t be a proper churrasco, he added.
I’ve had a fabulous breakfast at Belongil Bistro too and love the atmosphere and the come-as-you-are feel of the place.
The owner, Christian Poulsen, is an industry veteran and is clearly no novice where the ins and outs of Byron Bay and the hospitality industry are concerned.
After looking after St Elmo in Byron Bay for a year and a half and influencing its menus and service, the owners of St Elmo asked that he do another project for them (which I’m writing about in these very pages): he was asked to create Targa cafe/restaurant.
The brief was to create a traditional Italian eatery from the ground up, he said. This all went well and appears to be working soundly for its current owners too. The next move was over to the Beach Cafe as operations manager for a year before seeking to open his own place.
This gig now is solely his. Belongil Bistro has a tasteful fit out. The decor, the style, the textures – rough, colourful, tactile – all come together to create a comfortable setting in what could be an otherwise pedestrian looking building.
‘A customer of ours suggested the idea of a churrasco barbecue in Byron; there’s a wave of popularity for this style of dining going on at the moment.
So, I started investigating the idea, taking all the good things out of the concept to use here. We began looking for a machine that used charcoal for the purposes of the barbecue – which we found. All in all we wanted to acknowledge the traditional elements of churrasco and at the same time incorporate the things we do really well – our repertoire.
The picanha cut we’ve taken from the Jacks Creek rump and we use other quality meats the likes of Bangalow pork etc – being mindful of where our produce is sourced,’ Christian told me.
This sort of concept dining is at the difficult end of the service spectrum. It involves a smart and intuitive staff to get the courses returning to the punters in just the right amount of time.
While we enjoyed the food here, the service was extremely competent. ‘There is no pride without dignity,’ Christian told me, and added, ‘expectations work both ways, so I like all my customers to know that if we make a mistake then we pride ourselves on the opportunity to rectify that mistake. We take comfort and satisfaction from our customers’ comfort and satisfaction; it’s one of the core priorities at Belongil Bistro.’
If you’re an omnivore with a big hunger, then make no mistake, this churrasco at the Belongil Bistro is the bomb.
Fully licensed. Brunch: 7am until 2pm; Lunch: Midday until 2pm; Dinner: 5.30 until late (spring until autumn).
Churrasco Friday nights $49/head, all inclusive of food.
33 Childe Street, Belongil, Byron Bay. Phone: 6680 9007;
Email: [email protected];