By Vivienne Pearson
Who wouldn’t visit Byron Bay as often as they could? For chef Sean Connolly, that’s going to be around twice a month. He’ll be flying in from places as diverse as Auckland, Sydney and Adelaide as he flits around his growing restaurant empire.
Sean first visited Byron Bay nearly 30 years ago. ‘I had a camper van and long curly hair,’ he laughs. It seems that he was a fairly laid-back variety of backpacker. ‘We had lots of quiet time, reading books, eating, cooking … it was a really nice place to relax,’ he recalls. He was left with the overwhelming impression of Byron being a place ‘famous for being hospitable.’
Sean is now on the giving rather than receiving end of the hospitality divide – this week he is officially launching his newest restaurant venture: The Balcony Bar & Oyster Co in Byron Bay. He bought the restaurant in October, along with business partner, restaurateur Fraser Short. Since then, they have gradually worked to improve the kitchen and change the menu to ensure all was up to speed before any official launch. ‘We’re now locked and loaded,’ he says, giving strong credit to local chef Glen Mason, who Sean sees as ‘an extension of me and my recipes.’
The new menu is an extension of various facets of Sean’s culinary experience. His personal favourite is the lamb shoulder, which, along with his signature dish Duck Fat Fish & Chips (and his still distinctive accent), hark back to his Yorkshire upbringing. He knows that these meals aren’t to everyone’s taste, so has created more of a seafood focus than some of his other restaurants. Further vegetarian dishes are being developed, using the ‘great and inspiring local producers’.
His aim, he says, is to have a menu that is, ‘not too tricky … a pork chop is a pork chop and an oyster is an oyster. I’ve done molecular and avant-garde cuisine but I now find having a broad menu more satisfying’.
Sean has a growing taste for raw foods and juices, finding these helpful in balancing the less-healthy eating that can come with a hectic lifestyle. He may have lost his long curly hair and camper van, but Sean clearly has a bit of Byron within.
Balcony Bar and Oyster Co, Corner of Lawson St and Jonson Street Byron Bay
Ph 02 6680 9666
Mon-Fri 11.30am lunch, 3pm limited menu, 6pm dinner
Sat & Sun: 9am Breakfast, 12pm lunch, 3pm limited menu, 6pm dinner.