Story by Caz Parker
Sparkling bi-fold doors are set to swing open to locals and guests at Elements of Byron Resort and Spa in February 2016. Locals will be welcome to use the resort, including the bar and restaurants, except for the actual pool area. So what can we expect?
On arrival at Elements the vision of a contoured roof above pavilions is an indication of how nature has influenced the resort’s architecture and ethos. The roof mimics the rolling shapes of sand dunes allowing the single-storey pavilions to blend harmoniously with the landscape.
The main pavilion features a handsome stone wall with built-in fire place and an enormous copper pennant light snaking its way throughout the expanse. The design of the pavilion was meticulously planned to create a visual journey that captures the best possible views. The spectacle spans from the cosy fire-pit nook (perfect for lazy afternoon cocktails from the Drift Bar), across the shimmering infinity-edge pool and up to Belongil Beach dunes. Graze at Elements restaurant on the terrace offers all-day dining in an ideal spot from which to soak in this intoxicating scene.
‘I want people to feel like they are coming into our home and feel relaxed,’ says executive chef Justin Dingle-Garciyya.
Justin has drawn on twenty years of experience to create unique menus at Elements. His early career was spent in England under the guidance of Michelin-star-awarded chef Raymond Blanc OBE. Before long Best Restaurant awards were gracing the walls of Justin’s restaurants. He has developed his own style in prestigious restaurants and hotels across America, Maldives, Sri Lanka, India, the Middle-East, Bali and Asia. Justin describes Elements’ menus as ‘a collective of a nomadic chef’.
He says, ‘I’m very into health and fitness and that reflects in the type of food I like to serve. The food itself has an ayurvedic quality… food that’s good for your soul’.
Justin has nurtured relationships with local farmers during visits to their properties across the region. ‘Knowing my meat comes from a farmer in Federal, and my veges are grown in Mullum, is very special to me. Relationships like this don’t exist in city restaurants,’ he says.
Justin’s direct collaboration with farming communities facilitates a unique concept planned for the new Mixed Dozen restaurant (Elements’ second restaurant, which will open in June). Each month a different guest chef will present a new menu showcasing seasonal produce from exceptional local suppliers. Winemakers, artisanal ciders, beers, and spirits will be matched with the menu each month to complement this seasonal showcase of Byron’s backyard bounty.
Meanwhile Graze will host an interactive dining experience with an incredible selection of consummate share plates. Flavours will be rustic and bold.
‘Ingredients are cooked in an honest way by enhancing the natural qualities of the produce,’ Justin explains.
The outdoor wood-fired oven at Graze will unleash flavours of juicy legs of lamb baked in clay, fit for a family feast. The comforting aroma of Middle-Eastern flatbread baking in the oven will drift by on sea breezes.
The poolside Barefoot Kiosk will also make a splash, joining the Elements dining scene in February. Sandy-toed beachgoing locals can score takeaway beach picnics from the ‘hole-in-the-wall’ kiosk (in the style of the Beach Café, for example). Resort guests ordering from the kiosk can dine alfresco by the lagoon pool. The kiosk will continue Justin’s passion for healthy ingredients, serving fresh juices, gourmet sandwiches, sublime salads, oysters and seafood creations that will offer tastebuds guilt-free satisfaction.
Guests at weddings, parties, conferences and special events will relish Elements’ range of elegant function rooms, which provide flexible spaces but can also be opened out to seat 450 theatre style, or 250 banquet style. An elevated grassed area, right above the beachfront and providing panoramic Cape Byron views, seems to provide a perfect place for a ceremony.
Within the resort, the vision was to let nature, not buildings, dominate. Peaceful grounds contain rainforest leading down to the creek, 1,200 mature trees and 40,000 newly planted natives surrounding the luxury villas. The colour scheme, drawn from surrounding nature’s palette of dunal, eucalypt, wetlands and rainforest ecologies, evokes a sense of tranquillity.
Elements have made an effort to hire local people, so that guests will be able to interact with staff who know the local area. The upmarket resort promises the ultimate in seaside shindigs for guests when it opens in February, and is also poised to offer Byron locals some interesting new culinary experiences.