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Byron Shire
May 18, 2021

Food with a different view

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By Vivienne Pearson

A new year’s sojurn to Victoria found me re-contemplating my Food with a View story (published in this esteemed paper January 2016).

I enjoyed a meal at the Portsea Pub in the early days of 2018 (like many pubs it is known by its nickname but does have a formal name – Portsea Hotel).

The pub is dubbed iconic, not unreasonably given that it was built around 1870, but really for two other reasons. If you can afford to live in Portsea (which is home to the likes of Lindsay Fox and has one of the highest mean incomes of all Australia), you have bought the right to call it your local. Intrepid visitors, however, must survive the traffic sprawls of elsewhere on the Mornington Peninsula to finally reach the last watering hole before Tasmania.

Apart from the possibility of mixing with the polo set, a large part of the appeal is the location. The pub is waterfront in the best possible way – there is no road between it and the waters of Port Phillip Bay, but it is far enough up a sloping grassy lawn to give slightly elevated views, including of the Portsea Pier. The views are even better if you are young or fit enough to climb the substantial trees that provide a natural playground for hungry kids.

The pub is close enough to the water that you can wander onto the beach between drinks to cool your toes. At least you could when I first visited a few (ahem, read many) years ago as a teenager.

For all is not rosy at the Portsea Beach, and therefore the pub. Sand erosion, blamed by many on channel-widening dredging around a decade ago, has seen the natural beach replaced by a sandbag wall. As one online commentator notes: ‘There is still plenty of sand at Portsea Beach, just well stored in bags’.

There are now plans now for rock walls to stem the tide of further erosion (sound familiar?).

You can still wander down to the water between drinks (and the small amount of remaining sand if there at low tide) but this will involve some sandbag rock-hopping (an excellent activity for hungry kids who aren’t into tree climbing or lawn cartwheels) and negotiating an industrial platform and staircase.

All this is hidden from the pub’s dining areas (not deliberately, just because of the natural fall of the land) so it is still possible to enjoy a meal with a view. The food is great quality at inflated-but-not-outrageous Porstsea prices – I shared a pan-fried crispy salmon served with bok choy, baby corn, Asian herbs and a dashi miso broth, and a 350gm dry-aged t-bone steak served with confit roasted sweet potato wedges, sautéed broccolini and red-wine jus.

And, for a meal with a view in our own backyard? Since January 2016 new venues with views are worth noting: Shelter in Lennox Head (separated from the beach by a road but not a busy one), the Ocean Shores Country Club new front deck and the Cape Byron Lighthouse Café deck that is great for larger-scale sea views. If you want a view of the pool try Graze at Elements; if you want a view of the street action try The Balcony or Ryce on Jonson St. Or, choose a picnic (bring your own or take advantage of the growing number of picnic-basket businesses in the Shire), for endless options to find your own top spot for food with a view.

Have we missed a great spot for food with a view? Add your comment at echo.net.au (Good Life tab).

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