By S Haslam
One of our favourite Byron restaurants was Cicchetti, and like an old friend that you’re pleased to see again, White Wolf Italian-inspired Bar and Bistro, on the site of Cicchetti under the cinema on Jonson St, has the alluring elements we loved and any changes seem all for the better.
The décor, which I always found both modern and comfortable, has remained amazingly unchanged throughout the massive demolition and rebuilding of the cinema. Cicchetti owner Donna Hobbs (with her husband Marco De Vincentiis, the other half of the team) explained that after they were forced by renovations to move to the Gold Coast, the restaurant was sealed up. Just by chance, they managed to close Cicchetti up north and return to Byron just as the space became available again, with a new partner Michael Runje, and a new name.
The new name, White Wolf, has a spiritual resonance and reflects the fact that the restaurant is no longer exclusively Italian. ‘Another change we have made is to introduce more shared food,’ said Marco. ‘This has become more popular in the last few years.’ But the lamb shoulder, the 500g Black Angus chateaubriand and hot seafood platter share plates are not only popular with groups, with Marco laughing that a single diner ordered the half-kilo lamb shoulder slow cooked in sheep’s milk, but half way through had to call a friend to help him finish it off.
With Italian head chef Stefano Farese in the kitchen you can still order Italian food knowing that you’re going to love it. Spaghetti puttanesca style ($22) is a classic that packs a flavour punch, and my adventurous son loved it. My Thyme forest mushroom risotto ($29) was a wonderful (vegetarian) harmony of creamy camembert, two different sorts of roast mushroom chunks combined with hints of truffle, and the sweetness of port wine reduction – absolutely delicious, especially with a glass of the house chianti, and nothing like the undifferentiated mass that is often served when you order risotto.
Crisp-skin barramundi was a great gluten-free option and it was lifted above the ordinary with lemongrass foam, citron potatoes, beetroot spaghetti, and lime zest.
Even though some dishes have an epicurean bent, the White Wolf team have broadened the menu to include more options such as burgers and salads, so that it’s a very easy restaurant to invite your friends and family to, knowing that whatever the mood there will be something that suits.
For when the family are at home, White Wolf has a backdrop of a wonderful, warmly lit bar that stretches across an entire wall with deluxe stools and beautiful cocktails. We ran into friends who had just popped in for entrees and drinks before heading out to a no-doubt hedonistic night on the town.
Like us, the wine list has slimmed down a bit from 130 to around 60 wines, focusing now more on Australian and NZ wines (but you can still get a $200+ Barolo if you really want to).
Having spent last weekend eating out in Melbourne our expectations of service had been raised, but as we kept hearing in Melbourne, the reputation of Byron restaurants is pretty high, and White Wolf upholds the standard. Friendly restaurant manager Kader Hammadi had us instantly relaxed; I guess he’s learned a few tricks after 30 years in the industry! White Wolf is definitely worth trying.
White Wolf Bar and Bistro
Shops 19 & 20, 108 Jonson St, Byron Bay