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Byron Shire
January 24, 2022

Holding your two hands when eating in Ballina

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Two Hands is situated near the river just off River Street. Photo S. Haslam

Ballina isn’t core Echo territory (though I’m told that any papers that make it there get grabbed instantly). When an Echo drudge found herself at a tucked-away eatery in Ballina, she loved it so much that she said we had to write about it. So we are!

Two Hands is a breakfast and lunch cafe with the hallmarks of a good Byron eatery – a chef with an impressive pedigree, most items made from scratch using the best local produce.

If that isn’t enough to tempt you when your travels find you south, Two Hands’ seriously fabulous range of cakes just might.

All is the work of two chefs. Front and centre is Kylie Simpson, a winner of the prestigious Josephine Pignolet Young Chef Award. This was at a time when she was helping turn an out-of-the-way cafe (Lynwood) in a one-horse town (Collector – on the road between the M1 and Canberra) into a hatted venue (a big deal).

‘That experience taught me, a girl from Brisbane, about the seasons and flavour. I saw how a cob of corn changes in taste over the hours after it has been picked,’ says Kylie. ‘This shaped the rest of my career.’

This experience and expertise means that the Two Hands menu offers more than meets the eye. ‘Sausage and Eggs’, for example, includes kale, handmade sauerkraut and locally made, preservative-free bratwurst. Even the hand-cut chips are made from scratch and served with a handmade lime-and-chipotle mayo.

Working alongside Kylie in the kitchen is her life-and-business partner, Jessica Jackson. She moved to the region to study audio engineering but Kylie persuaded her to use her extensive experience at Two Hands instead. The upside is that Two Hands is not a cafe where you’ll have generic music blasted at you. ‘We curate the music,’ says Jessica, telling stories of having people spontaneously dance, or come in looking weary and leaving with a spring in their step.

The cakes may contribute to the lifted mood! Kylie morphed into pastry cheffing in work including at Bennelong at the Opera House. ‘I have a natural affinity with pastry cheffing,’ Kylie says. ‘I think it’s been handed down in my bloodline.’

The cakes are wondrous to look at, especially the billowy-meringue pillow-topped lemon-curd cheesecakes. Others are plainer to look at but bristle with quality and flavour.

Kylie and Jessica started Two Hands in November last year ready to cater to all sorts of food preferences. ‘There is less demand in Ballina than we were expecting, but we remain very aware of the need to provide vegan, gluten-free and preservative-free options,’ says Kylie. ‘Even in items not made onsite, we know what is in them.’

They are also becoming known for being open later on weekends (until 5pm) and their space being equally appealing for lone eaters, two people seeking quiet conversation, and small groups.

Though you may not make the trip specifically, if work or play take you the Ballina way, check out Two Hands.

Two Hands Collective, 4/2 Moon Street (between River St and the river), 7am–4pm Tues–Fri, 7.30am–5pm weekends. Closed Mondays. Ph: 6686 7756,
Facebook @twohandsnorthernrivers.

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